It was a tough decision to make a pit stop in the Marquesas on my way home. After spending 7 years sailing around the world I was definitely fatigued and anxious to get home. Like most people Covid had its negative effects on me. For most of my trip there was some local bar or hangout to meet locals and other sailors. With the lockdowns and social distancing it has been a lot tougher always being the new kid in town. Marquesas added at least 2000 miles and 3 months to my already long overdue return home.
I’ve been telling other sailors that the South Pacific is the Jewel of world cruising ever since I left 5.5 years ago. The best parts of cruising for me is having meaningful interactions with the locals and the cruising community. These are much different in touristy areas where everything has a price and people see countless new faces come and go.
It did not take long for me to feel at home here despite the fact I don’t speak French or Marquesan. The Marquesans reminded me so much of Hawaiians and it was strange to me to hear them speaking French. They have a similar apprehension to the French colonists as Hawaiians do to Americans. Their heart and Aloha does shine through quickly though as soon as you show respect and warmth.
There is some ugliness in the cruising community that causes apprehension from locals. Lets face it, most cruisers are cheap and try to get as much as they can for their dollar or trade. What most people do not understand is these small islands do not have a capitalistic quid pro quo culture. If someone needs a house the whole village gets together and builds it and gives their work, goods, and food freely. We can be needy. Always looking for fuel, water, and dumping trash. All of these things are finite on most small islands making our presence a burden.
With this being my last stop I started going through my gear and simply gave away whatever I don’t need to get home. I did fiberglass repairs on surfboards and canoes. Gave away clothes, hats, and fishing lures. In return I was given far more fruit than I could eat and suddenly I was eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner with local families. Going fishing on their boats and mine. Hiking to hidden Tikis and petroglyphs. I was not treated like most sailors or a tourist. I was treated like family.
There is a saying in the cruising community to “leave a clean wake”. I’ve heard sailors complaining how cruisers are no longer welcomed by the locals in the Society islands which is an avoidable problem I think. There are some touristy places like Galapagos and Maldives where the government and officials try to push yachties out but we are usually welcomed by the locals. The difference here I think is the people that have been cruising here for years have forgotten we are still guests in someone else’s home.
After 2 years in the Atlantic I needed this reminder of what cruising and cruisers should be about. We are a community that is not judged by our nationality, but by our lifestyle and community. Every interaction we have while traveling leaves an impression that reflects on how the next cruiser is treated by local people. Thankfully the Marquesans are an incredibly warm and generous people. All it takes is a bit of humility and consideration to keep this as one of the best cruising destinations in the world.