Marine News from the Great Lakes

Pearls Before Swine

Published: Thursday, June 22, 2017 6:00 am

Pearls before swine. I had heard the phrase for years, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized ‘twas I of which they spoke.

It all started about 10 years ago. Jody and I were sailing out of Apia, Western Samoa on our way to Pago Pago in American Samoa to provision for a voyage up to Hawaii. It was the end of the season in the South Pacific, and we planned on spending a couple months in the Line Islands on the way.

As we made our way around the island, the seas kept building. The further we went around, the higher the seas and winds, and it was right on the nose, of course.

The island we were rounding was Upolu, Western Samoa. We checked the charts and found a bay called Fagaloa, that we could run into and get out of the weather until morning. We figured we could get an early start the next morning and maybe get a little break.

As we made our way around the bend and into the bay, we found ourselves entering a scene from South Pacific. This place had to be Bali Hai. It was absolutely one of the most beautiful bays we had ever seen. The bay was a deep, deep blue ringed by bright turquoise where the water was shallow. That was ringed by a brilliant white beach which, itself, was edged with a stand of tall and regal looking palm trees, which was, in turn, backed by a dark green jungle of greens. About a quarter of a mile behind the green was a rugged cliff that climbed up into the clouds, and a waterfall that fell the complete distance, which looked to be hundreds of feet, into a blue stream that lead to the bay. It was perfect.

Just off the shore was a small group of dugouts with some of the locals who were fishing. As the Lost Soul anchor dropped in the 40 feet of crystal blue water, one of the dugouts made its way over to us. We smiled and waved them aboard.

The first to board the boat was a Polynesian god. I swear I heard Jody gasp as he came up the steps. He was built like you imagine Adonis would have been built, and walked with a natural grace that said royalty. His jet black hair was long and worn down his back in a pony tail, and his upper body was completely covered with a tattoo.

In the old polynesian culture, a tattooed upper torso indicated the first son of the Matai, or chief, of a village.

He told us that we were not permitted to anchor in the bay; that it was off-limits to non-natives. His English was very good. We told him how the weather around the corner was very unsettled and asked if there was any way we might be allowed to spend one night in his bay. In our conversation, we offered to pay for the anchorage and he was obviously insulted. I quickly changed the offer to making a donation to the village’s church. He seemed to like this option, but obviously disliked taking anything from off-islanders. He agreed to a donation to the church in exchange for some food which the villagers would bring out to the boat. They asked for $80, we offered $20, and we settled on $40.

About an hour later, a dugout paddled out in the dusk and handed us a plate covered with a cloth. We thanked the men who brought it out, and Jody brought it below as they paddled towards shore. Once below, she took the cover off the dish.

It was a fishhead.

A fishhead? What the heck were we supposed to do with a fishhead? Was this some kind of insult? We give them good money and they give us a fishhead?

We dumped the fishhead out the porthole in the galley, and the rest of the night we derided the people of the village for their “joke.”

In the morning, we hoisted anchor and headed out. It was a beautiful place, but we’d been insulted and were glad to be leaving.

It was a couple years later, when we were sailing into Taha’a in French Polynesia with my friend, Curt. We’d caught a 180-pound Marlin and called a man who ran a small resort on an outlying motu. He said if we brought the fish in, he’d get a local to clean it and trade us a good meal for the fish.

Once we anchored, we loaded the Marlin in the dinghy and took it ashore. As we stood around watching the local polynesian clean the fish, we offered him his choice of cuts for his labors. He smiled and thanked us, and asked Charles, our host, if it would be alright to take the head.

Jody and I stood there kind of astounded. Why would he take the fish head when he could have any part he wanted?

“That’s the most prized portion of a fish in Polynesia,” was his reply.

In other words, it was a pearl which had once been cast before us.


tags: Lifestyle, Sailing

Go back | Show other stories