Monday, July 18, 2011

Securing the Dinghy - The Sequel

Moorea is a great island for hikers. There are roads and trails all over the island with variegated forests, incredibly scenic vistas, and great sites both natural and historic to reward the intrepid walker. Today's walk will take us through the valley lowlands past experimental farms, a natural resource college and grazing lands. Then we'll head up through -- of all things -- a pine and fern forest before breaking through towards the top to a platform with a stunning view of both Cook and Oponunu Bays. The road also takes us past a part of the Ag School which sells samples of local products as well as ice cream. The station is a must-do in Moorea. My personal recommendation is the passion fruit ice cream and the tiare flavored honey. It is also the only place in French Polynesia where I have found whole coffee beans. On the return journey, we'll opt for the walking trail through the forest and pineapple farms, past archeological sites dating back nearly 600 years. 

But first we must secure the dink. The first attempt to secure the dink at Pointe Venus was such a great success, we decide to change up our technique a bit in Moorea. We estimate that today's hike is roughly 8 km round trip (not including getting lost on side trails), so we'll be gone several hours, leaving the boat unattended and exposed to all sorts of mischief. It won't do to leave the dinghy and motor within easy reach on shore. The basic soundness of the idea "drop the family on shore, secure the dinghy to Don Quixote, then swim ashore" is not in question. The problem was obviously in the execution: in particular with my inability to handle the motor or the now somewhat infamous anchor chain. So, we'll just eliminate both obstacles. 

First, we lock the dinghy motor to its stand on Don Quixote, and we grab DrC's home-made paddles for a quick row ashore. This part actually goes quite well. We don't even lose anything overboard. After breaking one of our original oars in Nuka Hiva, DrC made a replacement set out of broom handles, splits of plywood, long screws, and wood glue. Unstoppable! that's my captain. The oars are about 5 feet long and weigh a ton, but they make very good paddles. In fact, I can honestly report that Jaime and I think these are a substantial improvement over our old, light-weight, aluminum and plastic pair. We canoe paddle over the glassy water to shore with commendable skill and rapidity. We make landfall without a hitch, disembarking today's princess (Aeron in her tennis shoes) without so much as a splash. All I have to do now is row back to Don Quixote, lock up the dinghy, and swim ashore.

DrC and Jaime push me off and the dinghy sails into the still waters of the bay with me balanced precariously in the middle looking vainly for a seat. When you canoe paddle, you sit on either side of the boat and try to paddle with a single oar without screaming to your partner that he or she is a complete moron for failing to paddle at precisely the same rate and strength as yourself. Rowing, however, requires that you sit with your back to bow in the middle of the boat with both oars threaded through oar locks (assuming you haven't lost these overboard on an atoll in the middle of nowhere) while you stroke your oars in harmonious and balanced synchronicity. Done right, it is beautiful to watch and great exercise. But as I drift farther and farther off shore, I realize with a doomed sense of inevitability that one of the single most important props necessary to enact my rowing drama is missing. I have no place to sit. 

If DrC can be unstoppable, who am I to quibble at details. I thread my homemade oars through the oarlocks and carefully balance myself in the middle of the dinghy. With legs spread wide, feet braced in the crack between hard bottom and inflatable pontoon, I begin to row. It turns out that the five feet of broom handle is about 2 feet too short to make my first posture feasible, so with a wiggle of my back side, I squat and tentatively take another stroke. It works! Never mind that I can't see where I'm going or that the bow is still pointing at the shoreline, I'm making progress in roughly the right direction. I ignore the somewhat urgent yells of my family who are somewhat unhelpfully pointing out that the dinghy is moving backwards. I put my heart and back into the effort, and the dinghy accelerates, suffusing me with pride and overcoming the niggling worry that in my crouched position I look like I'm taking a crap in the aft end of the dink while simultaneously flapping wooden wings to hurry the process.

From the shore, the frantic calls of my family reach a new pitch. I look up from my crouch to see them urgently pointing to the left. A glance in that direction reveals two jet skis heading straight for me. I am apparently the somewhat mobile target platform for a teenage jet ski race-a-thon, or I might merely be the only interesting way point in an otherwise empty bay. In any case, the two craft zoom up and around my dinghy enveloping me in sound, spray and a rocking wake. Precarious balance shot to hell, my feet fly out from under me and the oars launch themselves into space as my butt hits the very hard bottom. Flat on my back staring at enormous, puffy white clouds, feeling the gradual diminution of the jet ski wake and waiting until I can once again breathe, I ponder the meaning of my cruising existence. As I can not recall ever reading about any other idiot knocking themselves out on the bottom of their dinghy after attempting to row it with homemade wooden oars and no seat, it becomes absolutely clear to me that we're doing it wrong. 

Painfully, I haul myself to a seated position. As my head pops into view, a cheer arises from the shore. My loving family is happy to see I have survived. Although as I clamber up and retrieve the oars a bitter inner voice tells me that they might just be happy to note I am once again underway, back in the poop position which I later learn makes for fabulously amusing photos. Unstoppable we might be, but it would be nice to get through even one day with a bit more grace.


judith said...

Forget about Latitude 38, I think you guys need your own Reality Show!

j-slice said...

Hi. Freaking. Larious.

Pat said...

I about wet my pants laughing so hard! I agree you should consider your own reality show.