Hermit of the North

He was fishing when we paddled up to him. “I use clams as bait,” he explained. I noticed a rusty chunk of metal he used as weight for the fishing line, which evidently worked well because he had five fish on hand. “These two are for the pigs, those two for the dogs, and that one is for me.”

I can’t remember his name, but will call him Tino. He had come from the Austral Islands, which is the colder, stormier archipelago of French Polynesia that we haven’t yet visited. Tino had grown tired of his little island — something about problems with his ex-father-in-law? — so had migrated to Tikehau where he had a cousin.

Six months ago, Tino got a job as the caretaker of this motu, doing the copra harvest for the owner, who came every two weeks. “The owner works in the airport. When he has vacation he comes here for a few days.”

A sailboat from Tahiti had left the yellow kayak for him, but it had holes and he wasn’t able to use it. This seemed a shame since the Broccoli islet and various shallow waterways in this area beckon exploration — and would be good fishing options. I brought back to shore two sticks of underwater epoxy, the type that you cut, mix, and then cures in 15 minutes above or below water. We carry a bunch of those epoxy sticks onboard Aldebaran, they are so handy. I packed the holes with the epoxy, and while it cured, we went harvesting coconuts.

We walked around the motu with a long stick to pull down green coconuts. It’s a Green Coconut Run! Tino also brought a short sharp metal rod, which he used to quickly de-husk the coconuts… without the thick husk, that makes them much lighter & smaller, and easier to open later. De-husking is hard though! The gringos (us) took about 2-3 minutes per coconut, while Tino was de-husking at 20 seconds per coconut.

Tino said the only thing he doesn’t really like about living on the motu are the “no-nos”, aka no-see-ums. They come out between sunset and sunrise and make sleeping miserable. He had a mosquito net in his house but thought it stopped the breeze. I can understand, without a fan pushing air, the cooling effects of a mild breeze are halted.

Tino said he wished he could sleep on the water to avoid the no-nos. We hear this often from the locals — by being a little offshore, the boat has better breeze and no bugs. I suggested that Tino should paddle his repaired kayak and sleep on the Broccoli islet — perhaps there were no bugs there? Or perhaps just sleep on the kayak, anchored inside his protected reef??

We paddled away and left Tino alone with his dogs and pigs, hoping that he’d have better sleeping in the future.. what a life, a hermit on this motu.

One thought on “Hermit of the North

  1. Thank you for patching his kayak’s holes:) It’s a beautiful reminder to the reader that we’re not alone and the world is a better place every time we contribute time, effort, and resources.

    What is the product name that you use for patching? Does it work well on the kayak plastics?

    – Brian

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