Cruising In The Olden Days – A Marquesan Tale

Tahuata Party 1977100

We’ve been talking for years about going through our boxes of photos and slides and scanning them before they disintegrate. Well, the process has started and we are having so much fun remembering that we thought we might share a few stories with SetSailors, starting with this crowded cockpit on our 50 foot yawl, Intermezzo, in early 1977.

It is Sunday, and the Marquesan village on Tahuata is being ferried by a group of yachts to a nearby beach. Linda is being shown the correct method of wrapping a pareau. Our two guitars, tambourine, and various percussion devices soon augment the local orchestra.

The rowing dink will take these villagers ashore, through the surf, with a bare three inches/75mm of freeboard. Once ensconced on the beach the Tahuatans busy themselves weaving mats, catching fish and octopus, harvesting coconuts for drinking and of course a variety of local fruit. Throughout there is music, singing, and dancing.

Fatu Hiva Intro Fish100

A week later now at Hanavave Baie on Fatu Hiva. Linda, Elyse, and Sarah are taking ashore a small wahoo that has miraculously appeared on our meat line. The concept is to clean the fish where it won’t make a mess on Intermezzo. To the locals, this pelagic delicacy is nectar from the gods. They offer to help our struggling crew with the process, after which we donate the majority of the proceeds to the village.

This small gesture makes us friends with the entire village. We cannot go ashore without being invited into their homes, offered fruit, and generally made a part of the village scene. When we depart for the Tuamotus a week later, our 12 foot rowing dinghy is literally filled with oranges, pomplamoose, bananas, and papaya. These will be passed on to the Tuamotans who, living on low lying atolls, can only dream of such culinary treasure.

Events like these taking place early in our cruising lives leave indelible impressions on us all.

Looking back, it is amazing how unprepared we were for life at eight degrees South in March, during the southern hemisphere summer. No fans, a dark colored hull to absorb the sun’s radiation, poor ventilation, sub-optimal awnings and inefficient refrigeration (to put it mildly). No water maker so we bathed with salt water and rinsed with a touch of precious fresh. But then everyone else was in the same boat, so to speak. We did not feel deprived by lack of washer/dryer or instant communications. We got by without chart plotters or GPS.

We loved the cruising life, even with its “hardships”, eventually becoming better adapted, as did our cruising friends. Is it better today with modern systems and comforts? We are not so sure.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (February 26, 2014)

One Response to “Cruising In The Olden Days – A Marquesan Tale”

  1. Pete Rossin Says:

    Hi Steve

    Great pictures and brings back (recent) memories of our time in the Marquesas. Life has not changed there all that much. A few more roads, a few more cars, fewer people as they move to the “big” city, but life goes on much the same. In Daniel’s Bay , folks practically dragged us in to their houses – not in the expectation that we would give them anything – just to share the moment. Every small gift was returned many fold. Memories we all cherish – including those of Monster Bay on Tahuata with its monsters of the deep.

    Iron Lady