Monday, February 22, 2016

Cool Clear Water

All day I face the barren waste without the taste of water, cool clear water --  Marty Robbins

In hindsight, from a convenience standpoint we probably should have put in a water maker from Day One.  Interestingly enough, throughout the past 3 1/2 years of cruising the Eastern Seaboard, Bahama’s, Caribbean, Columbia to Panama we have managed relatively well in gathering our water from various sources in anchorages, marina’s, and with water catchment. It's interesting to note that in most ports they actually charge for water, anywhere from $.50/gal. to .80 /gal. In the Caribbean rum was cheaper in some places!

Somehow getting a water maker just remained a lower priority each year as we decided where our boat improvement money would go. We also figured it would take away a lot of our limited storage space on board, which we didn’t want to give up, plus water makers are very expensive and can be very problematic.

Instead we designed and created all kinds of apparatus to help keep our tanks full, including  large water catchment system for the bow, a smaller one for the aft area over our hatch, and a way to catch water in our main sail stack pack while underway.  These systems were available but we didn’t always get them “up and ready on time” for downpours and once we did it never rained again…you get the picture.
Water is collected in the tarp and then goes through a water filter and straight into our tanks.
Our original system consisted of two 5 gal. blue plastic jerry cans that we would lug onto shore to the water supply. The problem was they were difficult to store, so we transitioned to six flexible 5-gal. cubes. Again the problem was hauling them from the water source to the dingy, then up onto the deck level. At around 30 pounds apiece that got old really quick.  And then individually pouring them into the tanks which was often time consuming.

We finally settled on a system with a flexible 30-gallon water bladder in the bottom of the dingy. We'd tie up to a dock and run our hose to a potable water faucet. Once back at the boat we had a powerful 12V water pump to pump the water up to the deck level and into the fill tube. This system worked incredibly well over the years and streamlined our water loading process considerably.
Walter smiling because he doesn't have to lift all the Jerry cans onto the boat
Getting water always involved a considerable amount of time and effort and in our planning it did limit how long we could stay out off the grid in remote areas. Most of the boats we sailed with had water makers and occasionally would give advice on which brand to buy and how much water it made per hour.  We also were tempted by the lure of longer showers, cleaning off the decks with fresh water after passages, and other non-conservation uses. But we weren’t totally convinced we had to have one yet!
Just off of La Ensenada Village after topping off our water tanks.
What finally was the deciding moment was after we transited the Panama Canal and were in the Pacific cruising the Las Perles Islands.  Before heading down to the Galapagos we needed to get more water and the only place with water mentioned in the guide books was a small fishing village, La Ensenada on Isle de Rey.  We took a special trip and anchored just off the beach at the village.  Mind you this was a very remote and isolated area that very seldom saw cruisers but fortunately a villager saw us and understood our quest for water.  We landed the dingy through the surf and followed him with our empty containers quite a ways along the beach and up into his village.  He eventually led us up a small hill to his home and brought out a large 5 gallon drum (like Home Depot buckets) and proceeded to ladle the water one dip at a time into our cubes. That was a tedious process as we sat and watched with the women and children nearby. When that supply was gone he lead us down to the village water spigot where we waited for our turn to finish filling our cubes. A few women were doing some laundry on the side and others filling up 5-gallon buckets and carrying them off on their heads (African style) to their homes. This was the primary water source for the whole village and we felt humbled and grateful that they were sharing their limited water resources with us.  So here we were westerners who have access to technology to do just about anything including making their own water and we are relying on a Third World fishing village for our water life source and not being self sufficient. 

We again found ourselves in a difficult situation when we took on a third person for our long crossing to French Polynesia from the Galapagos Islands.  We carry 140 gallons in our tanks and loaded up with 60 extra gallons of water not knowing how long the crossing might take and how much more water we might need with a third person. On the first day out our extra 30 gal. water bladder we had sort of tied to the fore-deck came loose and threatened to go overboard. Walter and Tryg spent about 30 minutes trying to corral this amorphous jellylike bladder back into place to transfer the water into our old cubes that were not being used at the time. Very lucky we didn't lose the 30 gallons overboard.  We were extremely conservative with dish-washing and bathing every other day.  Fortunately we had a quick 18-day passage and arrived with ample water but were concerned most of the passage that we might run out of water.

Following these two epiphanies we realized it was time to join the ranks and finally get a water maker.  Walter did some more research and determined that simple is better and went with a Spectra Ventura 200T that we could operate on 24 volts with our solar panels.  We purchased it through Marine Warehouse and they shipped it to Seattle (free shipping) for us to bring back to the boat after our next summer visit.  Bringing it back to Tahiti was a funny story in itself as we decided to pack it in a large roll-aboard as checked luggage.  Problem was it looked just like a bomb! Walter was sure it would be refused by the TSA and we would be stuck at the last minute trying to figure out how to get it to Tahiti.  As it turned out it wasn’t a problem, we packed it with the instruction manual fully visible “Water Maker” and it arrived safe and sound with us back at the boat in Tahiti. Apparently the US $5,600 water maker would have cost over $10,000 if we bought it in Tahiti.
The pump and chlorine filter for the water maker.
Luckily the Spectra 200T fit perfectly into the space where the previous owner had installed a water maker. Even the bolt holes lined up.
We soon found out that the Spectra water maker we ordered was the exact same model that the boat had originally, therefore installation was easier for Walter.  All the screw holes were precisely where they were needed, the tubing was still intact and all the electrical basically ready to go.  What a gift and it didn’t take up as much storage space as we thought it would.

A friend had mentioned how it would change our lives just as our putting in more solar power did. We marveled at how efficient and relatively easy it was to operate.  As water maker virgins we soon discovered the routine of frequently making water every 5-7 days with a flip of a switch.  So far it has been a honeymoon with our Spectra and we are ever so thankful to finally have one.  It draws only 5 amps (on a 24v system) an hour which is well within the output of our solar panels, so free water from free solar! We take a little longer shower now and then and don’t feel guilty.  We also have a little more freed up time to spend on other boat projects and maybe get in a little more reading.  Life is good!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Hiking Back Into Time

One of the classical places in the Marquesas is Hakatea Bay (known to cruisers as Daniel's Bay for the kindly Marquesan who used to live there). Daniel’s Bay was the scene for the Survivor: Marquesas TV series. The Maraamu tribe lived there in all of their chaotic and argumentative existence.  Tucked back behind towering mountain cliffs, Daniel’s Bay is a bit of tranquility in paradise. It’s located about six miles east of the popular Taiohae Bay and an easy downwind sail.

This beautiful beach was home to the Maraamu Tribe during the filming of Survivor:  Marquesas.
A couple of days ago we decided to hike up Hakaui Valley to Vaipo Waterfall, the tallest waterfall (at 1148 ft) in all of French Polynesia. The 6-mile round trip hike looked easy on paper, but not so in reality.

First you need to either walk from Daniel’s Bay, involving an extra distance and climbing a ridge, or if you are really adventurous you can dingy around the point to Hakaui Bay. We opted the “by sea” route and became alarmed as our 2 hp Yamaha outboard came loose on the transom. Normally it would be easy to tighten the mounting screws but we’d just attached a security bar and didn’t have the key with us. I kept one hand on the loose engine all the way in to bay. Once around the corner of the bay we had to navigate the surf break to find the hidden entrance of a small river. By getting fixated on the location of the river we neglected the rising surf and immediately got sideways on a small wave, enough to put the fear of God in us. It was low tide (the wrong time to be doing this) so we had to get out of the dingy and pull it over a sandbar to access the deeper part of the river on the other side.

Once we were done with that drama, we tied up to a leaning palm tree and walked through an open grassy area where several huts were visible. Traditionally the Marquesans preferred to live up in the valleys where it was easier to protect themselves from raiding tribes. Only the occasional fisherman lived in what we would consider prime waterfront property these days.

One of the few times the kitten was walking on his side of the path instead of between our feet.
The first of three stream crossings. The cool water was refreshing and cleaned all the volcanic sand off your feet.
The road through the village was easy to find and soon we were joined on the hike by a pregnant dog and a small white kitten. The kitten had the most unnerving habit of lagging behind then running at full speed to catch up, coming directly between our legs and causing us to do a Highland jig to avoid squishing it. The kitten made it about a mile and the dog about 2 1/2 miles. The hike follows an ancient royal road paved with volcanic rock that soon peters out to a trail on the same type of rock.  The irony of the hike is there is only one location where you can see the top 6th of the waterfall, while at the base you only see the last 40 ft. of the falls as they are hidden in a cleft in the towering mountain cliffs.
This is only spot on the trail where you can actually see the top of the spectacular 1,148 ft. Viapo Falls.
The trail continues up through a jungle-like terrain in a desolate valley that was once populated by over 8,000 Marquesans. Everywhere you look there are rock ruins of pae pae (stone house platforms) and other Marquesan dwellings. It's an archeologist's dream as nothing has been excavated or restored. One area we walked through looked like a large festival/dance ground similar to what we’d seen in Hiva Oa. It was easy to image all the tribes gathered watching dancing and feasting on roast pig. Many times these areas were lined with the skulls of conquered tribes. A nice touch by the priests to keep everyone in line.

Just after these ruins you cross the third steam (this is where the dog decided that discretion is the better part of valor and turned back) and walk through a narrow canyon (with warning signs of falling rock) and then open into a beautiful “Lord of the Ring” type grass covered meadow. You could tell that heavy rains had put this whole area underwater recently; you don’t want to be on this trail if it starts raining. The other concern was large areas that looked like they had been cleared to bare earth by some sort of device, but we quickly figured out it was where the wild boars were routing for food. According to the locals you definitely don’t want to run into these guys with their large curved tusks (used in the necklaces of the warriors). When they attack they slash their heads back and forth using the razor sharp tusks like swords. And they are usually not in a good mood if you interrupt their feeding time.
This beautiful meadow at the foot of the falls was like a scene from Lord of the Rings.
After hours of hiking you are rewarded by seeing the last 40 ft. of the almost 1,200 ft. Viapo Falls.
Your are seeing only the first third of the river eel, and they are amazingly fast when going after food!
As you break out of the jungle and approach the base of the falls you enter an expanse of grassy fields at the base of the vertical cliffs, a scene that looks out of Lord of the Rings. We had hoped to go swimming but as we approached the water we went eye to eye with a five-foot-long eel who looked very hungry. So much for swimming. We had some lunch and marveled at how fast the eel was when we threw food scraps into the water.

On the way back down much of the hiking was on softball-sized black volcanic rocks and the black sand gets in your Tevas working back and forth like sandpaper on your delicate skin. The way down was somewhat painful for both us in our Teva-type sandals as we hobbled along as best as we could. 

As we approached the second stream crossing we heard a meowing and saw the kitten curled up on a bed of grass, waiting for us I guess. Meryl picked her up and carried her across the stream and plopped her down on the ground where she continued to drive us nuts by weaving in and out of our legs when we were at full stride heading back.  

As we approached the village we were relieved to see our dingy still tied to a palm tree in the river that empties out to the sea. We certainly felt our age on this hike. Luckily it was now high tide and getting back was much less traumatic.  Truly a beautiful hike overall and highly recommended to cruisers in the area. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Nuku Hiva Island Tour

The Marquesas archipelago is an enormous archaeological site with ruins everywhere, mostly dated from 1600-1700 AD.  Nuku Hiva has numerous areas of interest and we decided to set up a private tour with Richard who speaks good English and has archaeological and historical knowledge of the island.  It would cost a little more for the private tour but decided it would be nice to have the individual attention and ask any questions we might have along the way.

Unfortunately, Friday morning we learned a French couple would also be joining us which would mean two languages back and forth. Since we set it up through someone else, who said they would let us know if anyone else was joining us, but they didn’t. Awkward for us so we opted to go along and hope for the best.

View of Taiohae Bay from the mountain top lookout
We started zig-zagging up the airport road above town and eventually stopped at an amazing lookout point overlooking Taiohae Bay.  During the crowded cyclone season  there will be 60 to 70 boats at anchor in this beautiful well-protected harbor.  We continued up to the pass of Te Mouake with cooler temperatures and with large Pine and Acacia trees everywhere.  It did feel nice to be cool for a change.
Taipi Vai Valley, location of Herman Melville's book Typee.
Beautiful plumeria flowers on a tree alongside the river. The Marquesan women wear these in their hair.
We then headed along the edge of Hapaa Valley and eventually descended to Taipi Vai Valley nestled below.  Taipi Vai is a peaceful little town with a school, church, and a couple stores (magasins) with a mountain fed stream passing along the town. We stopped at a well known local artisan's home to look at some of his carvings and collections of memorabilia before heading back up the valley.

Taipi Vai is best known for Herman Melville’s adventurous tale, Typee, where he and another seaman jumped ship in Taiohae Bay. They hiked overland and scrambled down the steep cliffs to Taipi Vai valley, home of a furious tribe of cannibals. Surprisingly, the Taipi elevated Melville to the status of welcomed guest and took generous care of him when he injured his leg. Melville and his companion, forever fearful that they would be invited to dinner (and be the main course) that they both managed to escape separately to make it back home to Boston where Melville eventually wrote and published Typee.  He later wrote Omoo, about his time in Tahiti’s jail and of course his greatest success, Moby Dick in 1851. His name is on the list of most distinguished visitors commemorating his short time on Nuku Hiva.
 Teua Ku’e’e nui waterfalls.
Walter and Meryl in Hatiheu Bay.
Beach at Hatiheu Bay.
Further up the road and across the valley the twin waterfalls, Teua Ku’e’e nui, so called because of the two fresh-water eels that live in the pool at the base of the waterfalls. We stopped along a viewpoint to get a photo from a distance.  From here we drove into the lovely village of Hatiheu with its spiral cliffs overlooking the bay. We stopped for lunch at a lovely restaurant and toured a local museum with artifacts from archaeological sites nearby. At the restaurant there was a group from UNESCO touring Marquesan ancient sites to determine World Heritage Site status.  They enjoyed a traditional umu (buried cooking pit) meal with a puaka (young piglet) on the menu along with breadfruit, poi, and other traditional delicacies. Following lunch, our guide Richard took our table scraps to the stream nearby and fed the eels.  They were up to 3 feet long and needless to say very creepy!
Removing banana leaves from the emu (oven pit).
Puaka (piglet) and baked breadfruit ready for the table.
Next we visited the restored tohua (festival place) at Hikokua which was the ceremonial center of the Ati Papua tribe.  These large rectangular ceremonial plazas were constructed for public ceremonies.  It has three original tikis, including one representing the infamous local goddess, Tevanau’au’a.  As you look across the tohua off into the distance you can see the beautiful spiral mountains in the backdrop. What an amazing setting for worship and traditional dancing. 

Hikokau festival grounds.
The Kamuihei site nearby is very large and was renovated in 1999 for the International Art Festival, similar to the festival we attended in Hiva Oa this December. At one time Kamuihei was inhabited by thousands of Marquesans before European’s arrived bringing disease and fighting for territory causing depopulation of the islands. 
Sacred Banyan Tree.
Sacred burial site for remains of those sacrificed during ceremonial rites..
This rock was covered with hieroglyphics depicting ancient times.
Ink well used for tatooing in ancient times.
Also, me’ae (temples) which are often undistinguished from (paepae) stone house platforms can be found on the site.  There are numerous petroglyphs and large banyan trees used as burial places for the the remains of those sacrificed by the priests.

We wandered up the slopes and back into the forest and found stone paepae's built everywhere.  Also near open tohua areas we found small circular holes in large stones used for ceremonial tattoo’s that were an important part of the Marquesan culture. The  lifestyle today is different from the past but many cultural activities are still practiced today keeping their heritage alive. For example, artisan carvings, tapa cloth designs, tattooing, ancient dances, cooking techniques, fishing and paddling the outrigger-canoes all are practiced today.

Taipi Vai or Controllers Bay, a favorite anchorage among visiting cruisers.
Adjacent tribes were constantly at war with each other. As an early warning system against intruders, the tribes cleared the ridge lines off all vegetation and had posted lookouts 24 x 7.
As we were driving back towards Taiohae Bay, Richard pointed out an interesting view of how the ridges along the hillside were cleared of any vegetation.  This was done as a security measure by the Marquesan villages providing more visibility for potential enemy raids or invasions. 

As it turned out the tour was both interesting and enjoyable with a slight lean toward the French but we still enjoyed the tour and gained a better understanding of the islands history.