Bay of Penises
Sailing away from the crowd of quarantined boats rolling in Hiva Oa’s bay was like escaping from jail. We did our time! Grumpy old Frenchmen with arms crossed over their chests watch us go. Just a day’s sail away from the hardware store is Tahuata Island, and from there an overnight passage will bring us to legendary Fatu Hiva. Tonight we’ll break into a bottle of sake and roll sushi.
Tahuata’s village has a shady tree-lined street. I root my feet into the gnarled roots of a ginormous mahogany tree, strike a tree pose and get grounded. Men sit in the shade carving wood. A catholic cemetery neighbors with a marae (traditional spiritual site), divided by a sharp black fence of volcanic rock. We traded nail polish for mangos. The artist from whom we bought a carving invited us home— her daughter with a lion’s mane of thick black hair clattered across the roof snatching oranges (but they are brown, and my brain insists less flavorful) and pamplemousse from the tree tops. We are stocked with citrus! I hang them off the stern in mesh sacs for fifteen minutes—long enough for the spiders and eggs to let go (I hope).
The coral, too deep to see from the surface, was a beautiful surprise to dive into. Plate corals and staghorns; tangs, damsels, grouper, and blennies. A giant marble ray hovering space-craft style is piloted by a big old ulua. A turtle follows. The water is the perfect temperature. The wall dropped a quick hundred feet and small reef fish schooled in tight bouquets of blue and yellow. Four blacktips, big’uns with white bellies full, stroke their tails across the blue.
Fatu Hiva’s Bay of Penises pokes the sky with thick green spires. The thump of drums pounding on shore is unmistakable. We lay on the tramp, listening under glittering stars. Imagine the emotions such a tribal beat evoked in Captain Cook, arriving to this unchartered bay. Warning, or welcome? A savage and wild rhythm echoes off the walls of the bay.