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).

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Tracking Paul Gauguin

When we were on Isla Taboga, Panama we saw the sanitarium where Gauguin was confined after he got sick (yellow fever) while working on the Canal. The Marquesan isle of Hiva Oa, in the cemetery for the town of Autona, is where he is buried. We went to pay our respects.
HivaOaIMG_0085 A close-up of the head board on his grave
We stopped at the museum dedicated to Gauguin in town. Clearly better than reading old National Geographic magazines.
 HivaOaIMG_0079 As we were driving into town to clear customs with the Gerndarmes, we past these guys with this giant sword fish hanging clear out the back of their pickup bed. It must have put a pretty good fight.
We celebrated my birthday on the island of Tahuata with these delicious, house specialty, blueberry-banana muffins. 
taehatuIMG_0197 Less of a house specialty was this fresh octopus that one of the locals gave us. Besides being so cool to watch in the water – they are really rubbery when cooked.
taehatuIMG_0224 We left Tahuata and sailed to the north end of Hiva Oa. We wanted to make our way to an anchorage on the NE end of the island where there are some old tikis. With great strategy we thought we’d make the NE corner, stay the night a little cove and get to the east end in the morning when the winds were light. As we turned the corner of the island the winds were barreling out of the NE and so were the seas. This made the anchorage in the NW corner look pretty un-inviting. So we put our tails between our legs and sailed back Tahuata. We anchored just north of a little village Hapatonia in the Baie Hanatefu, which has this pretty church with an active bell tower.
taehatuIMG_0236  There is an ancient, palm-lined ‘royal’ road, built on the order of Queen Vaekehu, that is supported on both sides by rock walls in the town.
taehatuIMG_0238 It travels right along the bay and is a great walk
And past the town power plant, a diesel generator
There are a lot of in-use out-rigger canoes that seem to be carefully taken care of.
They are all stylishly painted
Some even sport 15hp outboards
The town people make their money as carvers and as copra (coconut) farmers. Here’s bags of dried copra waiting to be exported to Tahiti for processing into oil. The green tags on each bag indicate where it is from and the grade of the coconut meat.
taehatuIMG_0239  I’m thinking about having this fungus-on-a-rock design tattooed on my butt. What do you think? It seems everyone here has a tattoo or ten. It’s a cultural thing.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Meeting Marvelous Mantas

After checking-in to French Polynesia on Hiva Oa, we sailed to the island directly south, Tahuata, and anchored in first bay, Baie Hanamoenoa. In the middle of the bay in about 40 feet of water there were 5 manta rays cruising back and forth feeding. These were not near as big as the ones we saw in the Galapagos, but they weren’t small either. That’s Chris with her GoPro.
taehatuP4030123 These guys are filter feeders, taking gallons of water through their large mouth and filtering out the tasty parts.
They didn’t seem to care much that we were swimming around in their breakfast.
Chris working the close up as the school of reef fish scatter and a  manta cruises by.
A view from the surface

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Marquesas Passage Notes

Sailing downwind in the SE trades at sunset
fatuhivaIMG_9861 Clouds and rain a thousand miles offshore.
Morning rain squalls on the radar around the boat.
We are all checked-in and back within our insurance coverage area (April 1st for French Polynesia, outside the cyclone season). I titled this the Marquesas Passage notes, even though we were originally heading 1,900 miles away- to Easter Island. More on the decision to turn right at the end of this blog.
ge_marquesaspassageOur actual track (click on the image to biggerate).
According to our log (distance through the water) we travelled 3,452miles. We sailed approximately 530 miles due south of the Galapagos (on the right), then went 2,725 miles west to Fatu Hiva (on the left). The trip was 4 days south and 19 days west.
Our best noon-to-noon run was 191 miles and our worst day was 76 miles. We basically had good winds for the first 2,000 miles toward the Marquesas, then very light, and trying, winds at the end.
We ran the engine for a total of 39 hours, most of them on the first 2 days leaving trying to get out of the wind hole around the Galapagos, plus the last 50 miles toward Fatu Hiva we motor sailed to get some extra speed so we could get in the anchorage before dark.
We put about 31 hours on the genset re-charging batteries.
We used about 140 gallons of water. This included liberal daily showers for the Admiral and every other day for the lowly mechanic/captain.
The boat did well, with fairly minor breakage. The rudder bolt – she broken man. Lost a dorade vent over while beating toward Easter. A broken shackle on the boom vang and a lost shackle on a running back.
passageIMG_9865 Broken rudder bolt.
Boom vang shackle metal fatigue.
We started this passage heading toward Easter Island. The plan was to get to Easter toward the end of their summer before the fall weather started to arrive. Easter has no good anchorages and you can be forced to move around the island on very short notice due to changing weather and wind. In addition, you may not be able to get to shore for days at a time because of the swells. Not an optimum cruising destination. Then we were planning to sail to Gambier in French Polynesia. After that the plan was to close reach (or perhaps beat) the 750 miles to the Marquesas.
I watched the weather on the route to Easter for the 6 weeks before we left. The plan was to motor south out of the wind hole around the Galapagos, then stay close hauled and point southerly through the light S-SE winds for another 6 or 700 miles. Then as wind picked up a bit, crack off toward the west to make it more comfortable and eventually end up with the wind behind the beam when it picked up to the stronger SE trades in the 25 kt range.
Well, the wind went from nothing in the Galapagos to 25kts on the nose the second day out. So we were close hauled right at the start. My back was hurting from too many forced tourist walks in the Galapagos and cleaning the boat bottom. It was one of those ‘it hurts just to step’ and I was loading up on green Ibuprofen gel caps. We were both up early in the morning after 2 days of bashing into it and decided to discuss our options. We could continue on for another 12 or 14 days to Easter, arrive and possibly not have a decent anchorage, plus then have to do the haul up from Gambier later to get to the Marquesas. That meant continuing on my green gel cap routine OR  hang a right, head downwind, sail fast and smooth. Well you know which one won out.
Unfortunately, this change of plans put us into the Marquesas just before the end of cyclone season. The Marquesas rarely get any tropical storms, but they do come through the Tuamotos on bad years. Our plan was to head north toward the equator (anywhere above 5*S) on the first sign of a storm. That would get us out of known cyclone areas and was reachable by sail or motoring within two days. But we passed the end of the main cyclone season without incident and are now safely enjoying the Marquesas.
All and all it was a pretty easy passage – perhaps a little boring at times, but not as much work as you’d expect for an ocean as large as the South Pacific.