Every now and then the wind would shift to blow more onto my face from the direction of the bow with this breeze being noticeably stronger and cooler. Consequently sliding stars around various points on the va’a became that little bit trickier. Sometimes the Lady Gaualofa would point higher into the wind to better keep our course and we could pick up some boatspeed, but when the warmer wind blew we had to go slightly off course to maintain forward movement, so it became a battle between course and speed as to who could tempt us more.
I imagined back in the day the ancestors probably had a story to immortalise the change in conditions. And that when told as story, it is just that, an entertaining tale of truth and observation destined to become legend, then blurred as myth to easily pass on through the oral traditions handed down to successive generations.
But when told using the magic jawbone of Maui that reveals hidden meaning to the initiated, it becomes something more. A cautionary tale of differing weather fronts interacting to force wind and temperature variations which demand constant attention and intense focus from those charged with steering the canoe.
So thought it might go something like this…
A beautiful Samoan girl from the village of Gaualofa went swimming one evening from the treasure of an island named Cocos. She happily swam quite a distance without realising how far she had drifted then soon realised she was losing track of her bearings and became worried. It was at this time she saw in the distance two fit young men swimming towards her, one approaching from off her left side and one from in front, so it was she hoped they might offer some assistance.
The first boy swam up, told her of his island not too far away and offered her a shell. He said if she held it to her ear she would hear the wonder of the sea as the wind would hastily carry them to his island and beyond. The second boy swam up and offered her a calabash with holes in it that when told to hold a certain way to the wind would sing to her of the beauty of his island just below a bright star low on the horizon.
The first boy then produced a fish of such magnificent colour that he said represented the excitement her travels with him might produce. The second boy produced a coconut of such exquisite taste that he said would provide her with all the sustenance she needed if she travelled with him.
And so it went from gifts to promises of such exuberance that, although the girl took them all, she still couldn’t decide between the affections of the two boys. Instead she became weighted down with the gifts but came to a decision to take the travels of wonder and excitement the first boy promised over the safety and security of the second boy’s offerings.
Yet as they swam together she grew tired with all the gifts in tow and the first boy realising his travels would be compromised now with a partner he would have to wait on, decided to leave her and swam off. Slowly the girl let go of all her gifts and began swimming towards where she thought the other boy’s island might lie and noticed the second boy once again swimming towards her. This time upon their meeting all he offered was safe passage to his island and an eventual return to her own if she desired to pass up on the security he offered as a prospective partner.
She accepted, and as they swam a true course to his island, a bond of love was formed that still exists to this day. Together they made decent time and upon settling there lived a life of peace and satisfaction that produced many offspring and also saw her eventually, and often, travel back to her own island and the many other treasured ones, such as Cocos, which were known to the boy.
The moral of the story would then be…
Sometimes when you settle for less you gain more, which in the context of our voyage means sometimes, though you may be tempted, it is better to sacrifice the promise of excitement and wonder a fast ride on the cool winds can offer for the safety and warmth of holding a true course to your intended destination if it means that you don’t become stranded in no winds on an ocean that promises nothing but the weight of missed opportunities and that maybe if the gods favour you…
It’s never too late to change your mind.
Rob and the Gaualofa crew