Trip Reports

The Question Man (29-Jul-2001-21-00):
9:00 PM local time Sunday, July 29th. (0900 July 29th UTC) 18 07 S 178 25 E. Temp. 78, Humidity 68%, cloud cover 30%. At anchor at the Royal Suva Yacht Club, Suva, Fiji. (It really is officially royal, whatever that entails.)

We arrived in Suva, Fiji's capital, Wednesday at about 4:00 after a 26 hour, 120-mile sail from Savusavu. Suva is a big city, the most modern we've seen since leaving California.

We'll have more to say about Suva after we've been here awhile. Meanwhile the Captain would like to take this opportunity to reply to a couple of good questions from Hank Strauss. By the way, when there is space the crew of Maverick would be happy to respond to questions on issues that need clarification; readers are also directed to the excellent resources available on our website, thanks to Tim and Jim, for technical words, etc.

Hank asked us what fears have turned out to be unfounded. Well, some things that we worried about haven't happened. Is that a reason not to worry about them? I don't think so. What should we have feared that we didn't? The Captain hopes that there are no things pertaining to sailing he doesn't fear, and he's always on the lookout for new ones. (The courageous Mr. Shrode does not share the Captain's dark view.)

Another question Hank asked concerns misconceptions we may have had about the trip. There are surprisingly few of these, and weather and sea state are the most obvious. Your correspondent really did expect to see a lot more days with sunny skies and 10-20 knots of wind, which is what the cruising guides and pilot charts would have him believe. But this has comprised somewhat less than 10% of our sailing. Since Papeete, with the exception of two or three weeks in Tahaa and Bora Bora when we were at anchor, there has rarely been a time when we were not either near the middle of a low pressure trough or waiting for one to hit. And when the highs do fill in, they've often cranked the trades up to 25-35 knots, and still not cleared the skies, which have remained almost perpetually overcast and squally. Also it's fair to say that 50% or more of our sailing has been done in sea conditions the weather services call rough to very rough. It's the high percentage of days where the wind blows hard and the sun don't shine and the cockpit is wet and the sea is rough, not the actual severity of the weather, that is bothersome.

As for misconceptions about the people of the South Pacific: The Captain read almost nothing about the people of the this area before coming here, feeling he is quite up to the task of making slapdash generalizations on his own. He knows these folks have been often described as simple, friendly, and traditional. The Captain believes that no person or culture can be accurately described as simple, and a box of crackerjacks could be forgiven for feeling patronized by such a characterization. Even simpletons who think others are simple are themselves not simple, no matter how tempting it may be to think so.

Friendliness is a quality that is found in abundance hereabouts, as indeed it is in Alabama, particularly in view of the Captain's customary standards of grooming. Yet it is certainly not universal, even if you count the hustlers.

As for the third characterization, the Captain is no friend of tradition, which has, traditionally, been the enemy of both freedom of expression and the truth, not to mention adequate medical care, and been used to defend ideas and people we have no other justification for enduring. I see no reason to alter this view simply because I have moved my body a few thousand miles across the surface of the planet. Certainly, there are traditions among these peoples that the Captain makes no pretense of understanding (although they unfortunately do not include the venerable and easily comprehended custom of wearing scanty clothing), and about which he can render no opinion. And one can see there is poignancy in village life being supplanted by shopping malls and rap music, which process is nonetheless unlikely to be reversed to any arbitrary state of cultural purity. But the fact is certainly that even in these societies, each person has, traditionally, found his own little method of flouting the hallowed customs, for this is the way of the human being, may it ever be so.

The Captain has little doubt that Hank meant to ask about something more, something deep in the soul of the Captain, which has come to a crossroads, or experienced an epiphany. I'm sorry to say that in this he will be disappointed. It is no use consulting I Ching, or a psychiatrist, or the sea, without a question, and at this juncture the Captain still doesn't have one, except, Can we do this? That's a big enough question, and it still remains to be seen what the answer will be.

PS to McEntee: Thanks for the news about Howard Tate.

Next report from this location: I Tell You No Lau

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