A dog's life
13 September 2022
The seas calmed and we were able to haul out yesterday afternoon without too much drama. The boatyard is right on the water and as I sit writing this I am looking out over the bay at the surrounding mountains, listening to birds singing and waves lapping at the rocks. It feels more like being in a resort than a boatyard and we have to keep reminding ourselves that we still have work to do before flying out tomorrow.Â
Over the weekend we rode our bikes into town to do dome vegetable shopping. The market has large eaves with a row of benches out front and when we arrived there were a couple of guys with a guitar and ukelele singing traditional Marquesan songs out front. When we came out of the market they had been joined by 2 more ukeleles and had attracted a small audience including one intricately tatood young woman leaning against the bed of her pickup truck.Â
But thatâs not what I wanted to talk about. While the scene I just described was uniquely Marquesan, even more typically Polynesian was the dog sitting in the back of the pickup truck. I have been to over 50 countries and seen dogs in every one of them and can vouch for the fact that the ugliest dogs in the world are concentrated right here in French Polynesia, the dog in question being a prime example. Picture a pit bull bred with a baboon then dipped in acid and dragged behind a truck on a gravel road and you have a pretty accurate image of what the typical Ploynesian dog looks like. A few scars and a case fo mange complete the effect. They have had hundreds of years to perfect the breed and the result is truly disturbing and one of the more powerfull images that we will be returning home with.
We will be back in internet territory soon and will post pictures of our trip on the blog and in the gallery.
11 September 2022
Alas, all good things must come to an end, but not without itâs final bits of drama. So we really canât write a final episode until we know how it truly ends.Â We are now back in Hiva Oa because we had a haul out date scheduled for Friday, September 9 and a flight scheduled on Wednesday, September 14. Yesterdays attempt to haul Rum Doxy had to be aborted due to too much swell so we try again on Monday.Â Except for the tight time schedule now itâs just as well weâre still in the water as we donât have mosquitos and we have refrigeration and cold beer.
To recap a bit, It was a great sailing season aboard RumDoxy this year. We sailed from the snow capped mountains of southern Chile to the white sandy beaches and dramatic, verdant pinnacles of the Marquesas.Â We sailed over of 6,000nm in 4 and half months, including the crossing from Valdivia to the Gambiers, Gambiers to the Marquesas, and 500nm roaming around the Marquesas.
As happens every season, things break, systems stop working and shit happens, but overall on Rum Doxy it was relatively painless and very pleasant. Since this blog is also our record of events Iâll list the primary things that broke and the lessons learned. Or in other words, what we would do different next time knowing what we know now.Â
Things that broke or gave us trouble were the watermaker boost pump, the house batteries that we had replaced in Mexico,Â outboard motor,Â Sailtrack worn out and slides poppin out, rudder cracked and repaired, now good as new.Â
There were many lessons learned. Some things we had to relearn because of the long lapse in sailing time due to Covid, others were new situations and circumstances unique to the area. We rediscovered that the best sail combination for going straight down wind on Rum Doxy is wing on wing with a reefed main and the jib. After a few episodes of dragging anchor we learned when to and when not to use chain floats and a trip line, and make sure there are plenty of days between haulouts and flights to compensate for weather. But the most important thing we learned was how to brew and bottle a great tasting beer in half the time, consuming far less resources and preventing any shortage.Â
As of now itâs looking good for a successful haul out Monday, the swell is way down and the winds are forcast for a light breeze. Fingers crossed.Â
01 September 2022
Being here is like living on the movie set of Bali Hai. White sand beaches lined with coconut palms lie at the base of shark fin fidges which break up the verdent walls of 3500 foot mountains shrouded in cloudy mists. A handful of lazy looking sailboats swinging at anchor are awaked occationally by the splashing of a school of 6 to 8 foot manta rays grazing on the currents of plankton. And the sun highlights each sceen individually as it filters through the steady flow of puffy clouds passing by.
This is the view that surrounds me as I sit on the aft deck and begin to read Herman Melvilleâs book Typee, in which he describes the experience of being captive by the natives on the island of Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas the year 1842. His discriptions of the Polynesean people, their culture and taboos, their lifestyle, their values, the flora and fauna are fascinating to read about and compare with what we are seeing and experiencing here today.Â
After jumping ship from the whaler he was on, Melville made his way inland to avoid capture only to stumble into the valley of Typee, feared for itâs reputation for cannibalism. Rather than making a meal of him, the inhabitants embraced him as an honored quest, free to roam the valley as long has he did not try to escape. He eventually spent 4 months in what he called the Happy Valley before managing to slip away.Â
As we have now spent weeks ourselves in his exact location itâs easy to imagine what it was like for him, even though very little still exists as he discribes. Melville describes life on the islands as being very simple, slow and easy, with no real stress except for the pesky neighboring tribes who occationally cross into the valley and provoke little skirmishes. He attributes the village Shangri La to the consistant perfect weather, an abundance of uncultivated food that literally grew on trees, and the absence of money or accumulated wealth. According to Melville no one really worked.Â Breadfruit was the main staple along with coconuts and bananas which were plentifull and available for the picking in the valley. When they hunted boar or fished it was a special event, done as a special feast for ceremonies and festivals. All their material possessions were made from the natural resources around them, Tapa cloth out of bark, calabas gourds as cups and bowls, pigments from
for tattoo dyes, jewelery out of bones and shells, soaps and fragent oils from the nectar of flowers. Their activities being more like hobbies and recreation, done at their leisure for pleasure and according to their needs. Because there were more men than women they were polygamous, where women would have more than one husband, but Melville notes that, in general, relationships were very causal and open.Â Men were still the head of tribe, as chiefs, religious shamen and as warriors.Â The high chief determined what was taboo and off limits to women, but the restrictions were few, being primarily to the holy sites (the menâs club) and religious ceremonies, which if it was me I would totally be ok with not participating in anyway. According to Melville, everyone had equal opportunity to all the resources, so there was no real need for laws or law inforcement, open relationships relieved most of the jealousy and angry competition and there was no caste or class system. Melvi
the last days of that civilization because it was at that very time the French were colonizing the island tribe by tribe throwing everything off balance with the intrusion of guns, alcohol, disease and religion.The population on Nuku Hiva went from around 18,000 in 1842 to 2,096 in 1926 and still remains pretty sparsly populated today.Â
From our observation and generally speaking it appears that the simple, easy going lifestyle is inherent to the Marquesan people. There seems to be a sense of contentment with less. Material wealth doesnât appear to be a driving force and the only fashion trend of any kindÂ we noticed was the bleached tuffs of hair all the teenage boys were sporting. Other than that it is t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops for all, year round. Outrigger canoes are the popular activity for the boys and men and polynesian dancing for the girls and women. We hear the drumbeats and dodge the canoes everytime we enter a harbor or walk through a villageÂ What is most remarkable to us is the sense of community and family in each village. As the sun wanes in the late afternoon everyone, young and old, gather together outside to visit, play bocci ball, volleyball or just hang out. Also noticable is the cleanliness of the towns, roadsides, beaches and trails.Â
There still is an abundance of fruit available for the picking on the islands, mostly uncultivated but on private property now so as a guest you donât just pick it off the trees, but no noticeable commercial agriculture of any kind. As mentioned before every island in the Marquesas has an over abundance of feral goats, pigs and chickens which are available for the taking which also provide the activity of the day. Weâve seen a handful of fishermen per village but not what youâd expect being on the coast. Each village has 1-3 tiny little stores with the bare essentials at exhorbitant prices, a post office and government building, a clinic, a catholic and a protestant church, a school and a community gathering spot. Which raises the question, what generates income in the Marquesas, how do people make money? Tourism is very minor and low key, there is no manufacturing of goods, no commercial agriculture, except for copra, not a big money maker. Everything is imported twice
to Tahiti and then via local cargo ship to the outer islands. A can of beer is 4 dollars and bag of Cheetos to go with it is 18 dollars.Â
The Marquesas are composed of 10 islands over an area of 1,418 square miles and is off the beaten path from anywhere. Visiting the Marquesas is seeing a lifestyle and culture untouched by commerialism, consumerism, big business or industry. The outside world does not seem to have much influence on the daily lives of the Marquesan people, and from what we can tell they are ok with that. From an outsiders point of view it does appear like the islands of Smiles and Happy Valleyâs, very little to get upset or stressed about.
18 August 2022
Last week we left Tahuata, headed for Ua Huka, 55 miles away. We stopped at Hanamenu Bay on the north side of Hiva Oa to shorten the trip a bit. While the water was a bit muddy, the surrounding hills made us feel like we were back in Baja. Dry, volcanic rock with a few scattered dry bushes. The next morning we left for Ua Huka with a forecast of 20 knots just behind the beam. After a couple of morning squalls where we saw 35 knots the winds settled into a steady 25 to 30 knots. We fell off a bit for comfort and headed for Nuku Hiva instead. After a sporty sail averaging 8 knots and dipping into double digits we arrived at Controller Bay on the southeast side of the island in time for happy hour.Â
In the morning we took the dinghy up the river a bit and walked to the village of Taipivai, the Typee that Herman Melville wrote about. There we asked around until we found the trail to Tiki Paeke, a holy site in the mountains where thousands would gather for rituals. It is all but forgotten now, mostly reclaimed by the forest, giving it an Indiana Jones vibe. We did find a couple of Maraes, the ceremonial platforms, with several tikis in attendance and a stone in the middle that looked to our eyes just like a chopping block. We stopped at a small market on the way back to pick up some eggs and they loaded us down with avocados on our way out.Â
We then moved to Taiohae bay where the main town is. Along with stocking up on provisions as best we could we stopped in at the Notre Dame catholic church on Sunday to hear the singing. It was standing room only so we spent the service outside on a stone bench with some locals but there was no rear wall so we were able to see and hear the service that was in Marquesan with lots of hymn singing. It was a beautiful morning and the singing was a treat and I was not struck by lightning, which is always a particular concern of mine whenever I am near a place of worship, so a win win all around.Â
Our next stop was Anse Hakatea on the southwest end of the island where 1600 foot mountains created the backdrop on the west side of the anchorage. We beached the dinghy and, after feeding the no see-ums for what seemed a reasonable amount of time and watching blacktip sharks cruising the surfline, we hiked a couple of miles up the valley to an overlook where we could see Vaipo waterfall, at 1150 feet high the tallest in Polynesia. It was pretty dry and the falls were more of a trickle, but the mountains were stunning with ridges, fins and spires covered in green velvet rising straight up from the valley floor with tropic birds circling in the canyon. The entire trail followed the ancient Marquesan roadway that is still mostly intact. Built of stone, 8 feet wide and raised above the ground it went straight up the valley, at times carved out of the hillside. On both sides were lots of pae pae or stone foundations where huts used to stand giving us some idea of the thousands of
who lived here before European contact. We even passed a marae with a tiki, bult around a banyan tree, which were considered sacred. We had paid a small entrance fee to one of the few residents remaining and he told us to stop by on our way back. We did so and, as we are now becoming accustomed to, loaded us up with more pamplemousse, star fruit and a huge stalk of bananas.Â
After a rough trip against the wind back to Taiohae we have been restocking at the vegetable market, getting some fuel, fixing broken stuff and so on. We also found time to bottle our latest batch of beer that we have dubbed Typee A. We stopped by the tourist office and met Collette, a local Marquesan from Taipivai. We had her out to the boat for lunch and had a nice visit, learning about the island and such. It was particularly nice as she had lived in Hawaii for 11 years and speaks fluent English. As we speak no Marquesan and only enough French to buy eggs it was the first time we had any real interaction with a local.
You've got mail
13 August 2022
11 and a half weeks with out internet, thatâs how long itâs been since we last were online. On August 3rd we connected for the first time since leaving Valdivia on May 12th. The lack of internet has actually been a reprieve from the daily bombardment of ads, facebook requests and bad news. Except for the fact that weâve not been able to post pictures on the blog or google information we have questions about, itâs not been something terribly missed.
So when we finally did connect for 1 hour there were 500 emails waiting in each of our inboxes, mostly junk but also lots of news to catch up on, and a few hidden surprises but nothing serious. The highlight for us was going to our blog and reading all the thoughtful comments you all have been posting. Thank you so much for taking the time and participating with us by adding your thoughts. I do apologise for the gobbledy gook that shows up in the text of our posts. We knew that quotation marks, parentheses, and exclamation marks turned up wierd but I wasnât aware that apostrophies show up like a greek letter also.
Internet in the outer islands is virtually nonexisitant, even for the residents. Youâd have to get up at 2am, the stars have to be in alignment, and maybe then you could send off a picture or receive a large file but thatâs if you got lucky. Even now that we are on the main island of Nuka Hiva internet is limited to wifi in a resturant. Even our satellite connection is difficult and struggles because the anchorages are tucked deep inside canyons surrounded by steep 1,500- 3,500ft rock spires and mountain ranges. So it may be a while longer before we can post photos to accompany our posts.Â
Swimming with mantas
10 August 2022
Last night, after taking care of business in the big city of Atuona on Hiva Oa, we made the quick trip back to Hanamoenoe Bay on Tahuata Island, just south of Hiva Oa. We had been here before and were comfortable coming in at night and we anchored just outside of the other boats in a little bit deeper water to stay out of trouble. We were rewarded in the morning when a group of midsize manta rays, about 6 to 7 feet across, showed up and began feeding just behind our boat. We grabbed our masks and fins, one of us pausing long enough to put on a wetsuit against the bone chilling water, and jumped in. There must have been a lot of plankton in the water because we were immediately surrounded by anchovies whose jaws were working at top speed, gobbling up the invisible critters. Then the mantas appeared out of the blue, one, then two, then five, slowly flapping their wings with their head flaps funneling plankton into huge mouths. We were carefull not to approach them at first,
wanting to scare them off, but it became apparant that they couldnât care less and we became concerned about getting run over as they came close enough to touch. Looking down their gullets you realize that these things are mostly hollow, just a big tube with wings and when they were coming towards us you could look straight through from lips to sphincter. It may have been my imagination, but I thought I saw a tiny wink of light at the end of one.
Eventually they moved off but returned off and on during they day, then in the evening a couple treated us to an aerial display. Nobody knows why they jump. Some say itâs a mating thing or to dislodge parasites, but I suspect that sometimes it just feels good to be a fish and thatâs their way of letting the world to know it.
Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.