CAPTAIN’S LOG The Marquesas
May 11 to June 3, 2014
The Islands and Their History
The Marquesas Archipelago consists of twelve islands lying in the middle of the Pacific Ocean 3,500 miles west of Peru and 3,500 miles southeast of Hawaii. The Marquesas are volcanic islands formed approximately three million years ago of basalt and tuff rather than black lava. Each island is different in appearance, yet they are all strikingly beautiful with very tall peaks that rise almost four thousand feet into the clouds. On the south side the passing clouds are caught by the mountain peaks where they discourage their rain and provide moisture to lush, green, tropical jungles accented with brilliantly colored flowers. On the north side, the islands are generally arid during the dry season.
For millions of years the islands were uninhabited. Human beings arrived sometime between 500 and 300 BC. These adventurous people were probably from Taiwan or The Philippines and were making use of the outrigger canoe that was invented in that time and made open ocean sailing possible. The islands offered little to support human habitation other than sea birds, fish, rats, breadfruit and coconuts. There were no large mammals or raptors. Researchers have found the remains of dogs, chickens and pigs of Asian origin, so at some point the aboriginal discoverers must have brought these animals with them to the Marquesas. (I have often wondered how ancient people found islands out in the middle of the ocean. It is like finding a needle in a haystack. One of our guides told us: pigs carried onboard ships will smell its scent and become very agitated (and we know many ships did) when they smell land (as will dogs). If the pig is released into the ocean it will swim toward land. On the other hand, if a dog is thrown into the water it will return to the ship. It is theorized that the original discoverers brought these animals with them on their boats or rafts. Marquesians venerate the pig because of its roll in discovering the islands (but this doesn’t keep them from having them for dinner on special occasions). In language and customs the Marquesian people were closely related to Hawaiians.
The original Marquesians lived in hunter-gathering societies. Families owned the rights to land, but if you were not part of a landed family you were disenfranchised and subject to harsh living conditions. Each island had at least one tribe, and often more. Like other hunter-gatherer societies around the world, each tribe claimed a territory and young men proved their manhood by making war on their neighbors. Losing a battle could very well result in an invitation to dinner: cannibalism was practiced here well into the twentieth century. Infanticide was also practiced as a means to control the population. We were told by our guide that incest and rape are the most common serious criminal offenses; during our visit three men were in the tiny jail in Taiohae for these crimes. About a third of the men are thought to be homosexual and/or effeminate but are not discriminated against. These men in the ancient days did the cooking and household chores when the women were in the “red zone” and thought to be unclean. Today these islands have many transvestites, which is readily apparent to the casual observer. They love to party and the term “gay” is said to have originated here by GI’s during the WWII.
There are many archeological sites in evidence on all the islands: paepaes (pie-pies), i.e., raised stone platforms on which a grass and wood hut was built are still easily seen everywhere. Most have a pit in place to ferment pu-poi (breadfruit). In some places they are grouped into villages with a ceremonial stage, marriage rock, and other platforms built around a central plaza about the size of a football field. The marriage rock was a large, flat stone about the size of a king size bed on which the nuptial ceremony was performed and the marriage consummated for all to witness. Apparently this sparked a rather erotic celebration that went on for days, and was one of the first aspects of their culture that the missionaries sought to eliminate. On Nuku Hiva the ancient village we visited had a large, deep pit used for keeping prisoners. Prisoners usually found their way to the BBQ!
Likewise the funeral ritual had a special twist to it; ancients believed that the brain was home to the soul and that the spirit of an ancestor would continue to assist the family when consulted during times of crisis. Archeologists have found the heads from many generations of ancestors buried in paepaes. When a person died the head was severed, the eyes and brains eaten, and the skull placed under a rock in the family’s paepae. The body was eaten, the skin used for drum heads and other purposes, the bones carved into ornaments and fish hooks. Grandma apparently helped with fishing too!
The islands were discovered by the Spanish in 1595. Like other aboriginal societies around the world, the Marquesasian population was devastated by European diseases. When Commodore Perry arrived in 1813 he estimated the population at 80,000 people, but by 1920 the population had fallen to about 2,300. At that time the government offered land to any male willing to marry a Marquesian woman and start a family and farm. Today, there are no native pure Marquesians left, but the evidence of the racial mixture from the sailors of whaling ships taking up the offer of land and a family is evident everywhere. There are now about 8,000 people living in the Marquesas.
The islands are named for the parts of a house, metaphorically, all islanders living under one roof; Hiva means roof, nuku as in Nuku Hiva means roof beam, Poa as in Ua Poa means standing pole, Oa as in Hiva Oa means lateral timber, etc.
The Islands Today
The weather here is lovely: there is a constant trade wind breeze between 15 and 20 knots, freshening the 85 degree air. Most days are sunny, with an occasional rainy day. Tsunamis are a concern, as Chilean earthquakes give rise to tidal waves that can sweep through the small coastal villages destroying houses and buildings. The islands are full of wild chickens and roosters, goats, and horses. The roosters crow all the time. They have very beautiful and varied colored plumage. It is a lot of fun to watch them strut about crowing and demonstrating their prowess. Dogs occasionally make a game of chasing the chicks about (perhaps for a snack if they can catch them), which sends the mother hen into a frenzy. People here are heavy set; they like fruit and sugary foods that make them fat. Diabetes is surely the number one public health concern. They speak French, drive crew cab pick-up trucks, mostly Toyotas, but some Fords, they are by-and-large Roman Catholic and are family and community oriented. If they don’t work for the government, most islanders make a living selling carvings of wood or stone to the tourist stores in Tahiti, or by selling agricultural products like copra (coconut prepared for oil extraction) and other fruit. Unlike Jamaicans, Marquesasians bring their children to the beach for a swim frequently. Children are schooled in the village until eighth grade, then they are sent to Tahiti (600 miles south) for the later grades. Many never return and this is one reason why the Marquesas have such a low population. Men race outrigger canoes in the harbor every afternoon. The out-riggers have a very thin beam, are about twenty feet long and are made of fiberglass. There is a tiny compartment in the middle of the craft for the paddler to sit, much like a kayak. The outrigger pontoon is rather small at about four feet long, one foot wide and deployed about four feet off to one side of the canoe on two curved rails. Some boats are designed for as many as six crew. They are the fastest human propelled boats I have ever seen, in addition to being graceful and stable.
We visited five of the six inhabited islands: Nuku Hiva, Ua Poa, Tahuata, Hiva Oa, and Fatu Hiva.
At Nuku Hiva we anchored in the bay near the village of Taiohae. This is the largest town in the Marquesas with a population of 2,300. The bay is formed by the crater of an ancient volcano with the sides of the volcano rising above the sea and enclosing the bay. It is spectacular. The walls of the volcano are covered in lush jungle, and the sun’s light changes the color and texture of the mountain every hour. The bay is a turquoise blue, clean and deep. When we arrived there were about twenty sailboats in the harbor. The bay is open to the ocean, so the ocean’s swell rolled in and necessitated a stern anchor to hold Argo’s bow into the swell. After seventeen days at sea and a very rough few hours getting into the harbor, we were anxious to go ashore. After lowering the tender and securing Argo we went ashore. There we found a dingy dock of sorts. It was a stainless steel ladder attached to a quae wall about which ten or fifteen tenders were clustered. The lower part of the ladder’s rails were unprotected, puncturing several rubber dinghies that got trapped under it during low tides during the week we were in Taiohae. It was challenging to get ashore. On shore we found our agent, an American named Kevin, who set us up and got us oriented.
We spent a week here. Argo needed a fair amount of cleaning and maintenance after our long passage. We needed several days to walk around and stretch our legs. Taiohae had several little restaurants, one of which was pretty good. It offered several dishes including pizza that wasn’t too bad. They also offered Peach Melba with homemade ice cream that I particularly liked. We also shopped for food and souvenirs. The most memorable thing we did on Nuku Hiva was to take a day long tour around the beautiful island. Our tour guide was Phillip, a crusty English curmudgeon who arrived here sixteen years ago and never left. Not many things were agreeable to Phillip, but he conducted an interesting tour and was very well informed about local customs and history. The pictures that we will post on www.tischtravels.com when we get enough bandwidth will tell the story best, but in lieu of pictures I can say that Nuku Hiva was one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The island has two volcanoes, one forming the bay and a larger one forming the high mountains and central plane about 1,000 feet above sea level. It also has a number of interesting villages including Taipivai, the largest archeological site in the Marquesas’ that that had a hundred or so paepaes and ceremonial plazas, pu-poi pits and pits to store human prisoners. We found it exceedingly interesting. It was partially over grown with huge banyan trees and had been restored a few years ago. Herman Melville lived in Tohua Teiviohou and wrote a novel here in 1843. Nuku Hiva has several beautiful bays, lovely beaches, lush tropical jungles, and soring peaks that have been eroded by wind and rain into fascinating sculptures. We shared the tour with Tom and Karen Lowe of Scottsdale, Arizona. They are sailing these waters in a steel hulled sailing vessel. We enjoyed their company very much.
After six days in Nuku Hiva we bade her farewell and hoisted our anchor for Ua Poa. It was a bumpy 28 mile passage against both wind and wave. After about an hour at sea we could see the island at a distance; it was breathtaking. It is an emerald green mountain island with twelve huge spires of basalt rising thousands of feet into the clouds. Ua Poa dominates the sea and one’s imagination. It looks like a Jurassic period gothic cathedral with spires all about, but of such an immense scale that it boggles and fascinates the mind. We put in at Hakahau, a little bay and village of the same name on the northwest coast. The bay was at the foot of the spires and made a fabulous view for the week we spent here.
The harbor is tiny and had about 15 boats at anchor when we visited. We didn’t think there was any place for us. It has a seawall, but it’s short and doesn’t stop the swell from circling its way in. We looked about for a place to anchor but had to settle for a spot between two sailboats that were about 50 yards apart. We spilt the distance and anchored both fore and aft. We were very close to these other boats, but that is the way it is done here as the harbors are often very small. Lucky for everyone, our stern anchored worked like a charm. For the next two days the wind blew and it was cloudy with rain, but we met several other sailors who were interesting, adventurous people that shared their stories and experiences.
The second evening in port we dined at the Pension Puke’e’ high on a hill above the little village. Owners Jerome and Elisa cooked up a delicious meal of sea bass (200+ lb. fish caught in 1,500 feet), yellow fin tuna prepared as ceviche in coconut milk, curried goat, scalloped breadfruit, rice, and topped off with French wine. For desert; a lovely cake of mango and two other fruits. Jerome and Elisa met in France where she was doing the hair of celebrities and going to the Cordon Blue School. Jerome was a commando in the French armed forces. Elisa is Marquesian and they married and returned to buy her mother’s pension and build the business. The pension is an open building exposed to the wonderful breeze. It is built in the Polynesian style and quite lovely. After dinner we arranged with Jerome for a tour of the island.
Hakahau is a nice, clean little village that is home to about fifteen hundred people. The streets are paved, the homes are bungalows, nicely kept, open to the breeze and surrounded by lush, flowering gardens. The town has several little restaurants (that open when the cruise ship Ananui 3 comes in each month), four little grocery stores like we used to have in America on the corners of many streets before supermarkets became popular. These stores have staples and processed food, some frozen meat, beer, wine and some fresh pastries. They do not offer much in the way of fruits and vegetables because people grow them at home. In the center of the town was an historic paepae that was formerly the home of the chief that founded Hakahau many hundreds of years ago. The paepae is now used as the stage for outdoor dances and other entertainment. The little cruise ship came into the harbor when we were there so we got to see the Polynesian Dance show that they put on for the tourists onboard. All the craftsmen come to town on this day and offer local goods to the few tourist who are there. In the evening the town put on a BBQ and staged a band on the dock. It was fun but they do not offer any beverages, only BBQ meats and rice.
The island’s beauty is almost beyond description. Most of the island is privately owned and there are very few roads. In the morning we drove east to a little village and viewed an overlook of splendid beauty, and to a beach that required walking through a path sheltered by an arch of rosewood trees. We have pictures of all this on www.tischtravels.com. In the afternoon we doubled back on the road and went southwest past the little airstrip to the town of Hakahetau and had “dejune’ “at a little two table restaurant run by a retired French Navy Quartermaster named Perrot. Perrot was a very jolly man and a wonderful chef. Our menu was: a lovely French sauterne, smoked yellow fin tuna on brioche with crème fresh, barracuda in a Chinese wrap (like a spring roll), wahoo sautéed in lemon butter, rice over sautéed peppers. Dessert was chocolate mousse. It was delightful. After lunch we visited the Tetahuna Archeological site and the bay at which you could see at least eight of the twelve peaks in a setting that was unbelievable. The road back to Hakahau provided wonderful ocean vistas as well as an overview of the little town and bay.
The next morning we hoisted out anchor for the island of Tahauta, near Hiva Oa. It had rained heavily overnight and it was a little windy in the bay, but we set out anyway. After about two hours we had had enough; huge seas on the nose. We decided that discretion was the better part of valor and headed back to Hakahau. The government dock was empty so we ted up there. As soon as we were secure, every person in town came down to the dock to look us over. One gentleman in particular was very helpful and brought us fruit to add to our stores. Jerome dropped down and gave us a car to use and invited us to dinner, which was very nice. The car gave us a chance to see a little more of the island to buy some heavier items at the grocery.
The following day an American doctor and his companion (Brian and Kim) came to the dock and said that someone had told him that I knew a lot about diesel engines and he wanted my advice. He had run his engine out of fuel and had forgotten to change to a tank that had fuel in it. He had been working on it for two days but couldn’t get the engine started and his sailboat was anchored in a terrible place that was exposed to the large sea swell. We wondered how anyone managed to live on it considering how it was tossing about. Trying to work in the boat’s tiny engine room must have been horrible. Anyway, we volunteered to use our tender to haul his boat Albatross out of the swell and to a quieter place. He went back to his boat and rigged a yoke that could be attached to our tender. Once we were in place he then raised his anchor and I started to pull. The sea swell was so large that it overwhelmed our tender’s ability to pull his much larger boat. The wind pushed his boat around and my tender just sort of dug in at first, and then turned sideways to Albatross. I thought we would have to abandon the project, but gradually Albatross began to move and we pulled it clear of the swell. The next problem was to stop it before it ran into Argo. The old saw, “No good deed goes unpunished” ran through my mind. Brian dropped the anchor and we tugged on Albatross to stop, and it did. The next day he got a mechanic onboard and by the afternoon he and Kim we on their way.
The next evening we were evicted from the government dock when the Navy Customs boat came into the harbor. We had to get underway and decided to make a night passage to Tahuata. The passage was 65 miles and at five knots we would be there at sunrise, so we set off hoping that the seas had calmed down. Although the seas were better, it turned out to be a rough passage anyway with head seas and winds.
At sunrise we made Tahuata and beautiful Virgin Bay. Tahauta is the baby sister of Hiva Oa. Its main claim to fame is a trio of beautiful anchorages with beaches on the southwest coast. We anchored there overnight to enjoy the scenery. It was really like a page out of Robinson Crusoe; a long beautiful white sand beach lined with coconut palms and crystal clear turquoise water. Rebecca and Tyler couldn’t resist a swim and snorkeling with the tropical fish.
Next stop, Hiva Oa, seven and a half miles away. This is the second largest island in the archipelago and one of two ports of entry. Paul Gaugin is buried here as is singer Jacques Brel. The harbor is the worst we have yet encountered. It is very small. The little village of Atuona is a one and one-half mile walk uphill. There is a taxi sometimes, but it was atrociously expensive. The harbor has no facilities other than a fuel dock. The dinghy dock consists of steps carved in rocks or cement steps with exposed rebar (to puncture the tender) and no place to tie. It was dangerous and damaging to our tender. The harbor is so crowded that boats must often anchor outside the ineffectual sea wall. The outer bay is very turbulent and the swell rolls right into the harbor. Argo rolled around more at anchor than she does at sea! When this harbor is full, you must anchor in the outer bay if conditions permit. To compound matters, some of the sailors seem very inexperienced, adding to the hazards involved. One wonders at how a port that is so necessary to sailors crossing the Pacific could have such poor services. One can only conclude that the local people have no interest in serving the basic needs of the sailors who call here. Today there are about thirty boats in the harbor. About half of the boats are from European countries, the rest from the U.S. or Canada. There are no boats from South America, India, China or most of the rest of the world.
The little town of Atuona is much like the other villages we visited: it has a population of about 1,200. It has a couple of stores, a bank, post office, gendarmerie, two restaurants, a school, and a Catholic Church. Tomorrow (Thursday) everything is closed because it is a religious feast day and the Friday a marathon is being conducted, so almost everything is closed. This leaves Saturday (some businesses are open half a day) and Sunday (everything is closed). The harbor is situated in the sunken cone of an ancient volcano. From here you can see four other volcanoes. It is very beautiful. On the lush hillsides are perched lovely homes looking out on the bay and the ocean. Our friends Gus and Lyle joined us here. They brought 50 lbs. of parts and supplies for Argo with them. Included were stabilizer parts needed for the repair of the port stabilizer. Within an hour of their arrival, Gus was in shorts and working at full speed along with Tyler and me. We were on the phone with the manufacturer’s technicians for about an hour ($2.50/minute), but finally we got things working.
The next day we visited Atuona and its grocery store and watched the marathon being conducted that morning. We visited the grave of Paul Gauguin and French singer Jacques Brel high on the hill overlooking the bay and Atuona. Gauguin’s grave was macabre artistic and interesting. During the day a small 36 ft. sailboat came into the harbor with three bedraggled young sailors aboard. They had just made landfall after 36 days at sea! After a day or two of rest and a couple of nice dinners at the Pearl Hotel, we took off for Fatu Hiva 45 miles away.
Our cruise to Fata Hiva was tough; we were headed directly into the teeth of the dog, so to speak. Although it was only 45 miles, it was a slog with waves in the ten foot range and winds up to 35 MPH. Gus and Lyle were turning green, Rebecca, Tyler and I were in less than peak condition, but Argo pushed along, plowing through the waves at around 7 knots. This was the first test of our recently repaired stabilizers, which thankfully were now working fine. Once we got behind the lee of the island, things calmed own and within an hour we found the little bay of Hanavave and its fantastic cliffs and sculptured mountains. The harbor was very deep and we laid out 450 feet of chain on a sand ridge 110 feet below. We also deployed our flopper stoppers to dampen the roll. The main concern for us in this harbor was the very high winds that blew down from the mountains; 45 knots were not uncommon, and the wind blew constantly. I worried that the wind could cause us to drag our anchor and pull us off the sand shelf. If that happened we would be in much deeper water, but our anchor held well and we didn’t move an inch over our three day visit.
The bay was bordered on three sides by huge cliffs that were covered in coconut palms on one side, a narrow rocky beach opening to a valley in the middle, and massive, high, wrinkled cliff on the third side. Behind the sea cliffs were even higher ridges of the inside side cliffs of an extinct volcano. The mountainsides were perhaps 3,000 feet straight up! Above the little village were four or five tremendous rock formations; one looked like a carrot with its leaves pulled off but the stem intact, the second was a dead ringer for the largest penis I have ever seen, and one had a top that from a distance looked like a bust of George Washington. The scene was unbelievable.
We dropped out the tender and went exploring in the little village. It was lovely and very isolated. There were about 300 people living here in a sort of paradise. The only way in or out of Fatu Hiva is by boat. The village lies within a valley formed by very steep and beautiful mountains cliffs. It was Sunday and things were pretty quiet, although Gus approached one women sitting on the stoop of her bungalow and inquired as to where there might be a restaurant. Luckily she spoke a little English. There aren’t any restaurants here in the sense they exist in a city, but people do cook for others in their homes. The lady called her friend on her the cell phone who was known to make pizzas. The pizza maker asked if we had French Polynesian Francs, what kind of pizza we wanted, how many of us were there, etc. and then said she would make a pizza for us. We were directed down the road, past the chief’s home, around and across the bridge over the stream, and then back to that house painted blue with a corrugated steel roof… over there. It was a very lush, green, verdant area. When we arrived, there was a little sign out front advertising “Pizza to go” in French. We sat in her utility room while she made our pizza in the kitchen. Pigs were oinking in the back yard, roosters cock-a-doodled, dogs barked, and all was right with the world on Fatu Hiva. She put a tropical fish colored oil cloth on the table and her husband brought out four plastic porch chairs. We had wonderful, fresh, homemade lemonade to drink. It was served in a previously used large Coke bottle. We all enjoyed it.
That afternoon a couple we had met in Panama came cruising into the harbor on their lovely yawl named Amelit III. Kaj and his friend Eva are from Sweden. We entertained them on Argo in Panama, and now they returned the favor with an invitation for drinks. It was a welcomed change from our normal routine. Kaj showed us a video he had taken of his experience of being arrested in Venezuela. He was cruising up a river and hit a power line. An entire village lost its power. He was arrested in short order and briefly put in jail. The story was very interesting and too long for this journal, but the result was that the authorities spoke only Spanish and demanded $800,000 in damages. He wound up settling for $5,000! Pretty darn good negotiating I’d say.
We returned to Argo and grilled a beautiful Yellow Fin Tuna that we bought from a fisherman that morning for 10 CPF. It was delicious. The next morning we pulled the anchor for the Fakarava Atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago 540 miles to the south.
Boating in the Marquesas
Fueling: There are only two ports at which to take on fuel, Hiva Oa and Nuku Hiva. It is necessary to make a reservation for the time and the amount of fuel needed. In Nuku Hiva they were very low on fuel when we arrived and would only permit 200 liters of fuel per yacht until the supply tanker arrive a week later. I would recommend using a fuel agent. When checking into the country a tax free fueling certificate can be obtained for cruising yachts. We had enough fuel to put off fueling for a couple of weeks, so we elected to take on fuel via a tanker truck in Hiva Oa. This required a stern tie, which meant backing Argo to the dock after deploying the bow anchor, holding her into the swell until stern lines could secure her from moving side-to-side, and then tightening the whole thing up. In our case there were two other yachts tied to the pier, so sidewise motion was a danger. Rebecca went ashore first, Tyler manned the stern and threw lines to Rebecca, and I maneuvered Argo. A fuel truck showed up in short order and we passed the hose via our tender to our stern and began filling our tanks. In took about an hour to load 2,000 gallons and then we were full of fuel again. The price was about $1/gal higher than in the U.S.
Food and Other Supplies: Each island has several small grocery stores that carry the basics. There is a limited selection of frozen veggies, only baguettes in the morning, small amounts of fruits and onions, carrots, and potatoes. People here grow their own fruit and cultivate their own vegetables, so these items are not sold in stores. In Nuku Hiva there was a fresh vegetable market that had tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers as well as breadfruit and almost everything else we wanted. Nuku Hiva is unusual in this regard because it is a large island that has a large fertile plain in the center where the volcanic crater once existed, and it is at a high enough altitude and gets enough rain and has moderate temperatures to make cultivation of vegetables possible. Beer is about $3 a bottle. Things are expensive.
Boat Supplies: There are no boat supplies in the Marquesas. There are hardware sections in some stores, but if a boater doesn’t have it aboard, he is unlikely to find it here.
Communication: The internet is very slow, limited, and costs about $7 an hour. Local phone service is available as is AT&T roaming. Via AT&T you can text, snap-chat, and pick up data at a high price. Tyler uses iMessage via the internet that keeps the cost down.
Stern Anchors: There are no marinas and all the anchorages that we saw or knew of are exposed at least partially to the ocean swell, which means the boat is in constant motion and tends to roll from side to side unless it can be held into the waves. This is something that we had never read about and has proven to be quite annoying and energy depleting. The harbors are very small and at this time of the year are crowded with sailboats making the passage across the Pacific. About 300 boats a year make this passage. We are the only motor yacht we have seen so far and the largest yacht that we have seen in any harbor, save for a one hundred and twenty foot magnificent ocean racing sloop. In order to anchor in one of these tiny harbors you must be able to control the boat’s swing. We use a 65 lb. Fortress anchor, which seems perfect for Argo. We deploy the forward anchor first, lay out enough scope to set it properly, then lay out an extra 100 to 200 feet and back to the desired place at which time we deploy the stern anchor. Then we lay out enough line to hopefully get it set, and then move forward by reeling in the bow anchor until the stern is set. Then we move farther forward to tighten the stern line. Sounds simple doesn’t it? It has taken us a considerable amount of time to learn to do this without scratching everything up and wearing ourselves out.
Most boaters deploy their stern anchor with their tender, we do too on occasion. First you load the anchor in the tender, haul it out to the desired location with enough line, and then throw it over board. Hopefully no one has line wrapped around a leg or foot and the tender isn’t damaged by the anchor flukes. If the anchor sets, you won’t have to pull it up and do it all over again. In my experience, stern anchors only work well in shallow water. In Nuku Hiva, we tried several times to set the stern anchor in 45 feet of water, we may not have had enough scope out or the bottom was too hard, in any case the anchor came loose over time and wrapped around our main anchor chain. To untangle things we had to haul up the main anchor and spend the better part of an hour unwrapping heavy lines and chain.
An aluminum Fortress anchor seems like a good choice for the stern anchor application. It is relatively light, can be disassembled for easy stowage, and can be rigged with a trip line so that you can pull it up from the crown rather than the stem. It took us quite a while to figure this out and get this system to work well.
Water-maker: We have also experienced a learning curve with this all important machine. The water here has a lot of algae and marine life in it and in the harbors there is a lot of sand that gets churned up. Our 5 micron filter gets clogged very quickly. The main thing I have learned is to have patience, make water in calm seas (because of cavitation issues in rough seas that creates problems on our boat) and have a lot of filters on board.
Formalities of Checking In: We joined Pacific Puddle Jumpers which made things very easy, as they set us up with an agent and had the bond waived. The government extends a 90 day visa with a simple application; 90 days was enough time for us. We found complying with all the formalities quite easy. Boaters normally have to post a $1,500 per person bond with a bank or show a ticket for a return flight home, but this too can be easily dealt with without posting the bond. Customs is concerned with how much booze is aboard and they count the bottles (and cigars), but there is no duty imposed on ship’s stores. All-in-all it was a simple, pleasant experience.