Tag Archives: engine problems

Hiva Oa Tour

Today we hired a local named Pifa to give us an all-day tour of Hiva Oa. Pifa looks Marquesan, except that he has no tattoos. In fact his last name is O’Conner and his great-grandfather created a homestead here. Now he says he is related to about half the island’s population of 2500. Pifa studied in Hawaii for two years, so he speaks very good English, which of course helps with the tour. He also speaks Russian, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish and perhaps a couple other languages, in addition to the mandatory French and Marquesan (plus the various dialects of French Polynesia — Tahitian and somewhat different from Marquesan).

We drove over the island to the north side. This entailed going up over the steep hills, down into a central valley, up over even steeper hills, and down to the ocean. Many of the roads barely deserve the name — 4 wheel drive is definitely a requirement, even when the weather is dry. Along the way we sampled various fruits direct from the trees (his own, or belonging to someone in his extended family). The views were spectacular. But also the homes that we visited of some of his relatives. The houses were simple, but the gardens were beautiful/bountiful. We stopped at one place that was growing vanilla as a cash crop; I’d never seen it growing before, nor did I even have a sense of what the plant was like. Quite beautiful.

We stopped for a special lunch of wild boar (the hunting of which is a major past time and topic of discussion here), goat in coconut sauce, fish ceviche, breadfruit, plantain, bananas, rice and starfruit juice. Wow. Despite Pifa’s help (and he’s a big guy, like most Marquesans) we could not finish it all.

Then back in the 4-wheel drive to go to a sacred ritual area of the Marquesans. Along the way we passed a large flat stone at the top of a high cliff over the water. This was where a beautiful young girl would be sacrificed to the gods every new moon! We learned that there used to be a community of 18,000 Marquesans in this area, in addition to another rival community on the other side of the island. We saw where the temple was located, where only the priest and the tribal leader were allowed inside. There were large stone tikis depicting the leader, a warrior in front of him, his younger brother behind him, and nearby the one who did sacrifices. Here men were sometimes sacrificed, supposedly voluntarily, so they could join the gods as servants. There was also a large stone tiki of a woman giving birth. There was a tattoo hut, where the first-born male of a family would be tattooed from head to toe over a period of 3 months, once he reached puberty. The tattoos on the chest depict his family history. Others told stories of strength and courage, etc. These tattoos were the only “written language” of the Marquesans, other than some petroglyphs. Being tattooed by primitive methods was a major trial; not all survived the ordeal.

Pifa told us more than I could retain about the old culture and of the history. The name ‘Marquesas’ comes from a Spanish explorer in the 1500’s. The pre-European name for the islands I did not retain, but it means “Land of MEN,” and in this case the “men” does not seem to refer to “our tribe” versus outsides, but instead to fierce male warriors. Cannibalism was practiced — eating slain enemies and also their own newborns if born with deformities/handicaps. In the mid-1800’s missionaries came and told the people they had to stop eating other people. Given the power of the European gods (that gave a soldier the power to kill a man as if by magic without even touching him) this had some sway. Plus with the natives dying off in vast numbers from the European diseases, Christianity took hold. This is Easter weekend, and many people are dressed up and in church, and most businesses are closed until Tuesday. But it is apparent that many Marquesans are very proud of their heritage. French is a second language to them, and they prefer speaking their own language. The tradition of tattoos remains even if most of the symbols have lost their meanings. And they love their homeland. The island is spectacularly beautiful, food and water are abundant, and the weather is always good!

Halfway Day

Today, Day 10, around dinner time, we crossed the half way point. To celebrate, we made a coconut carrot cake (with no recipe — why don’t we have a cookbook on board…?), which was delicious.

It’s been a beautiful day, the breeze a little cool, the blues of the ocean and sky seeming to have extra richness. The wind has been light. These light winds can be frustrating, but today I didn’t much care, as it was a joy just to be gliding smoothly along at a tranquil six knots.

Tim took the relative calm as an opportunity to work on our port engine, which acted up the day we left the Galapagos. (We had a two minute conversation about turning back, but we figured we didn’t really need the engine for the ensuing three weeks, and repairs in French Polynesia seem equally plausible as repairs in the Galapagos.) We have diesel getting into the engine oil. Our hypothesis is that the fuel lift pump diaphram has failed (a common problem, according to our Calder reference book). We have a spare, and switching to the spare was Tim’s project today. He seems to have been successful, but it will be another day for the gasket goo to harden before we can try it. He couldn’t detect any problem with the old pump that he removed though, so we may need another hypothesis…

Bill took the relative calm as an opportunity to put an adhesive patch on our torn screecher. We’ve been using the big sail in stronger winds than it was designed for, and we got a two foot long tear in it. Now it is patched, but we’re not sure how strong the patch adhesive will be, so we will only be using the sail in very light winds. (Our winds are mostly light, but they come and go. When they come, they tend to be too much for the screecher.)

I baked bread and the Halfway Cake.

Being half way it was Bill’s opportunity to say if he wanted to switch night watches with me, so he could do the early watch, and I take on the middle of the night watch. But he says he is happy with the present schedule, which suits me just fine.

So I’m on my night watch (now 7:30 – 11:30 by our local “boat time”). And it’s a beautiful night. Just enough chill in the wind for a fleece over the T-shirt/shorts. Intense stars. No moon. Venus low in the western sky casting a reflected glow on the ocean. The bowl of the big dipper pointing toward the North Star, now well below our horizon. Opposite it the Southern Cross pointing at the empty space where the “South Star” would be if there was one. The Milky Way rather dim in the north, and growing brighter in the south, and brightest just before the Southern Cross, then petering out at our southern horizon. And what’s that faint glow about 20 degrees west of the Milky Way, and maybe 20 degrees away from the south celestial pole — no individual stars there but a definite patch of lightness? It must be a cluster of an unimaginable number of stars, and unimaginable distance away…?

An occasional shooting star. Not many, though. And THERE, a star is moving! A satellite heading south right past Orion’s belt. Funny how it is hard to spot satellites, but then suddenly one jumps out at you. At least, that’s my experience. This one passes behind the jib. I don’t want to move from my reclined position on the cockpit seat, so I wait what I estimate is the right interval and then try to find it again on the other side of the jib. But even when I know it must be there, I can’t spot it.

While thinking of things celestial, it is equinox time, which drives home the point that we will increasingly be looking to the north at the sun. Disorienting for a Northerner like me!

Arrived in Galapagos

We made it — just before dark. Anchored in Baquerizo Moreno and made a grand dinner. We deal with the customs/immigrations authorities in the morning.

Five and a half days is excellent time; we were lucky with the wind — we motored just one night, and we had no squalls. Relative to other boats we made better time than the boats that left Panama before us. But two boats that left the same day we did arrived about six hours before us. We think they motored a lot, but we don’t really know… I like that they, more than we, are looked at as the fast boats, setting an expectation that they will arrive first on future legs.

We had our first Galapagos wildlife(?) experience already, as we were relaxing in the cockpit waiting for dinner to cook. Tim heard a sound behind him, and turned around to find himself face to face with a sea lion! Apparently the sea lion had climbed up our transom steps and boarded without asking permission.

It’s hard to believe we are in the Galapagos. The actual experience so far does not match the romantic notions. We’re in a relatively busy harbor with too many lights and too much noisy nighttime activity. But to think we are in the Pacific Ocean, that we have crossed the equator, and we are now in the fabled islands of incredible animals and Darwin’s inspiration — wow!