Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cannibals – Don’t Go There


The Marquesians are well known for being cannibal tribes. There are about 9,500 people, primarily Polynesians, living in the Marquesas today. Its estimated that when the European ships first started stopping by the islands the population was 130,000. The tribes were fairly isolated from each other, living in valleys that had such steep mountains around them that direct connection between tribes was somewhat limited. On the island we are at now, Nuka Hiva, which is the largest in the Marquesas, the tribes were basically allied on a NW to SE line dividing the island into two teams. These teams were pretty much continuously at war. The explanation given to us was that they didn’t have anything else to do. When the wars tapered off between the groups, then each group had time to have some war bonding time with their closer by allies.

The results of being captured by your enemy were not pleasant. Likely a sacrifice for the chiefs and priests- to eat.

nukahivaIMG_0374We got to view a Marquesain dance. There has been a concerted effort to recover the old ways and tribal history over the last few decades. These dancers put on a great show and clearly enjoyed what they were doing. And those are real tatoos.

nukahivaIMG_0383 It could have been a contrived cruise-ship moment – but it wasn’t. If you’ve ever seen the New Zealand All-Blacks do their pre-game Haka, it is pretty obviously derived from these Marquesian dances.

 nukahivaIMG_0405 Vessels hanging in Taeohe harbor, Nuka Hiva. The biggest sailboat you see in the center of the harbor is the 203 foot Athos. (Georgia is one of the specks on the left.)


We took a tour of the island with some other cruisers. Both Chris and I have been reading Herman Melville's book ‘Typee’. This covers his time when he jumped from a whaling ship in Nuka Hiva and worked his way to the Taipivai valley and lived with the Taipi (or Typee) tribe. We visited some of the religious/ceremonial sites he talks about in his book. Above are the deep holes in a stone platform, called a meae, up the valley from Taipivai. The back one is the larger. It held drugged prisoners captured while warring. The forward one is smaller. It held the next sacrifice to be on deck.

nukahivaIMG_0448 That’s Chris and I sitting in front of the prisoner holes. The ceremonial platforms were built around sacred banyan trees, like the ancient one behind us.

IMG_0400 This was tool actually used – and witnessed by a missionary – in a sacrifice.

NukaHivaIMG_0480 The curved stone here has broken off from its platform. In its day, it would have been upright. This is a cruisers re-enactment of a sacrifice. Apparently the sacrificee was face down and a large stick with a stone on the end was smashed down on his head. Then the delicious eyes, heart and liver were shared among the upper class.


Some ancient petroglyphs.

NukaHivaIMG_0470 Today there are many Catholic churches on the island, this one with a tiki in the front.

nukahiva 2 IMG_0429

The iconography in the church includes the classic baby Jesus holding a breadfruit, sacred food of the Marquesians.


The Marquesians are master carvers, as demonstrated by this beautifully carved pulpit in one of the churches we visited.


A larger look at the breadfruit carrier.

nukahivaIMG_0397 Rose (center) is famous among Pacific cruisers. She has had a restaurant, pension, gift shop for decades, having arrived with her husband in the 1970’s in Nuka Hiva. Here she is showing us her small but impressive collection of very old Marquesian artifacts. She is looking for a museum to take over and preserve the collection.


Rose keeps guest books signed by the cruisers who have stopped by her establishment over the years. The older ones are really interesting. Some of them have red notes written in the margins such as: sunk on reef in the Tuamotos, lost in Cyclone…. The page above is from our friend Karl from the Edmonds sailing club (Edmonds CYC) when he passed through on his boat Arkenstone in 1990.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Washing and Cleaning the Outboard


Every few decades I’m told you are supposed to wash your dinghy’s outboard engine in saltwater. The last time I dropped an outboard overboard was over 30 years ago. And that time it was someone else's.  So I guess it was my time. We were getting ready to leave Atunoa, on Hiva Oa, and I was in the dinghy connecting the hoist clip to the harness on the outboard. The harness had slipped over to the side and I blindly connected the clip to a side strap instead of the top lifting strap – that was now on the side. The strap held nicely until the old Tohatsu was about 6 feet in the air. Then it took flight, splashed the water and gently bubbled its way to the bottom, with Chris and I looking at each with certain dismay.

Recovery operations began immediately. Out came the hooka and the assigned salvage diver got into his gear. The water in this bay is pretty murky. I found the outboard lying comfortably on its side in a soft bed of mud in about 22 feet of water. The picture above is just as she was breaking the surface coming back up and gasping her first gulp of fresh air in 20 minutes.

Fortunately there was a water faucet on the dock fairly near by. So got a tow into the dock from Chuck on Free Spirit. After a good wash down, an emptying of her bowels and oiling she coughed back to life. I’m not sure if there was any permanent brain damage done – we’ll see over the next few weeks. One really odd thing about the cleaning was the change in the turning shaft. These old 2-cycle Tohatsu outboards have a steel shaft that is the axis for turning the engine. The exposed part rusts pretty well. There are grease fitting for greasing the bearing portion of the shaft. Our outboard has been really hard to turn the last few years. No amount of greasing the grease nipples – or even taking them out and letting grease out – has helped. Turns out dunking in saltwater cleans this shaft out nicely. It now turns better than before – at least for awhile.

The definition of cruising: fixing your boat in exotic ports.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Almost Easter Island Tikis


Now doesn’t this look like a giant Easter Island tiki to you? It helps that I am actually on my knees for dramatic height effect.

We took a land tour with 3 other boats (Nicha, Free Spirit and Felicta.  US$37 a head) to see the tiki sites on Hiva Oa. These were the ancient ceremonial sites where small time ceremonies, like getting ready to go and fish were done, as well as the bigger time ceremony of eating your neighbor from the next valley or the unsuspecting European who happened to stop by.

HivaOaIMG_0275 This guy is known as the Smiling Tiki.


If you look closely you can see that he is wearing an early version of Google Glasses.


This was Chris favorite’, a tiki in the birthing position.


This was the ankle tattooing spot. The little dark circle to the left of Chris’ foot is the ink well for the artist.


John, our guide, stopped to get us some fresh off the tree bananas on our way back to the anchorage.


This is just a small part of our fruit haul. Every boat got a large stalk of green bananas, pamplimouse (grapefruit) and guave, courtesy of our great tour guide (Mary Jo tours).