Russian Polynesia? Episode 31, Odysseys in Paradise

July 1989 — Perm 35, a prison camp for political prisoners, according to articles 64 and 70 of the law. | Location: The Urals, USSR. — Image by © Pierre Perrin/Sygma/Corbis

Rich anchored at Tatakoto and met with friendly islanders. He and an old man split two beers and a pan full of fish that the old man prepared. Along with it, they ate some sort of soft yellow leafy substance that tasted bland.

He spent a night in a hammock.

The Islanders seemed to have little interest in Rich and he did not force himself upon them. They spoke mainly a local language with some French here and there.

Almost 24 hours later The Odyssey sailed from the sight of the Tatakoto, but nobody bid farewell.

Rich looked forward over the helm and into the wind. “I praise those folks back there on Tatakoto for not acquiring French. I think the French took the most snobbish tones to the human ear and made a language from them, just to show the world how much better they were than the rest of humanity.”

“I can’t think of a French word that appears in English that is not made to make others think you are better and others worse. Or maybe it’s us English speakers who go around feeling inferior and insecure, so we want to falsely boost our intellect by tossing in some French. Ah, c’est la vie, n’est-ce pas.”

“How arrogant it was of any nation to claim these islands as their own. It defies reason. It would be like a rich farmer saying to a poor one, I shall take your land. In return, I will give you religion.”

Rich climbed below and sat at the chart desk. He charted a course to Fangatau. The course covered nearly 200 miles of ocean.

He looked at the map and all the scattered islands. He thought, “the Russians were among the first whites to explore this region. I wonder why they didn’t claim it? What an incentive that would have been to communism; we punish people by sending them to Siberia and reward others by sending them to Russian Polynesian.”

A storm blew The Odyssey off course and Rich sailed within sight of an atoll named Fakahina. Rich was tempted to seek a safe harbor there in the same manner as he did previously. However, the storm, though frightful and challenging, did not achieve the same intensity as the one in Marutea.

After the storm, it was full sail to Fangatau.

Rich anchored near a sandy beach where a small village rested among the palms. He motored to shore where he was met by several children and two men who looked rather imposing, but smiled broadly as Rich reached out to shake their hands.

Using what French known by both parties Rich conveyed the message he would be on the island for a day or two. The two men seemed to convey a message to the children in no uncertain terms; to go and leave the white man alone. They scattered as quickly as they appeared. The men politely smiled, gave a slight bow, and merged back into the village among the palms.

Rich stayed for two days with no human contact; his nights on The Odyssey and days relaxing on the island with a book.

On the third day, he woke and had breakfast. He sat at the chart desk plotting his next destination. “What trip to the South Pacific would be complete without taking in Tahiti and Samoa.”

Rich drew a dotted line. “From here to Tahiti and then Samoa and everything in between.”

“I wonder how long I could do this until the money runs out?” Rich mused. “If I were a scoundrel, Harry’s diamonds and Turua’s pearls would be mine and I’d have enough for a lifetime of island hopping and easy living with no problems. However, scoundrels seldom rest well.”

“Say what you like about the French, they are not the scoundrels the Russians are. Maybe the islands would not put up with them. The Russians wanted land, not water. They wanted gulags, not paradise.”


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