Log 8
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Log 8 - Crossing to Marquesas
(June 7, 2004 - August 8, 2004)



June 7, 2004 - July 6, 2004 (Dana)

At 5pm on June 7, we motored out of the anchorage at Isla Isabela, blowing our horn back at the other sailboats as they honked goodbye.  As the Galápagos islands disappeared behind us, we anticipated finally hitting consistent trade winds for our approximately 3000-mile trek to the South Pacific, a trek which has been dubbed "the Pacific sleigh ride" and "the coconut milk run" due to strong currents that push you forward along with consistent trade winds that make for some perfect sailing.   Nonetheless, we estimated the passage would take us about 4 weeks. 

By the next day, and for the remainder of about a week, we did indeed discover 5-15 knots of wind and a strong current pushing us along from behind.  But despite making some of our speediest times ever (averaging around 122 nautical miles per day), we quickly discovered that it was not quite the "perfect sailing" we'd expected.  That's because the currents pushing us from behind also brought with them good-sized swells that kept us rolling from side to side, since on a downwind tack the wind is not keeping you pushed over to one side.  Rolling actually is putting it nicely, as it was more like getting thrown from side to side, making it quite uncomfortable to do anything other than sit in the cockpit.  Moving around without falling or hitting your head on something was an exhausting balancing act, and cooking was an exercise in frustration as it was near impossible to cook a meal without something getting spilled all over the galley.  In addition, the winds were not so constant and unchanging that we didn't have to make at least a few sail changes (dropping, raising, attaching to the whisker pool, detaching, reefing, etc.) per day, which is a bit more work for those of us without roller furling.  Moreover, our point of sail made it harder for Björk (our self-steering wind vane) to get a good set, and sometimes he'd require substantial baby sitting or we'd have to take over the steering ourselves. 

In addition, during the first week we were still getting used to being at sea again and having a reduced sleep schedule, and the chop made Chris' initial sea-sickness take a little longer to get over and our reduced sleep even harder to get.  To boot, on day 4, I got some sort of bug or food poisoning and was vomiting for about 12 hours straight, unable to eat or drink anything.  But by day 5 I was healthy again, and we were still pleased with the speeds we were making.  That day in particular was our best distance at 137 nautical miles.  At the rate we were going, our trip to the Marquesas would take 24 days.

By day 8 of our passage, the winds had gradually picked up and increased the swells to a lofty 12 feet.  This made Ker-Mor toss back and forth while waves splashed over her usually dry deck.  Still, you can't help but be in awe of her seaworthiness.  We'd see these huge waves approaching from behind and looming above us (at which point I'd think, wow, if this thing breaks we're going to be in trouble), but each time we'd rise up onto the wave and surge forward with it until it safely passed under us and we eased back down its backside.  Though it might involve a small saltwater bath and some rolling around, never did we feel like these were conditions that Ker-Mor couldn't handle well.

After day 8, the sailing conditions became even less perfect, as the winds became more variable.  There were days when we had 0-5 knots and couldn't keep any sail up at all because the sails would just flop back and forth with our rolling through the swells without enough wind to keep them full.  Since it would be damaging to the sails to allow them to do that, we lowered them and let ourselves drift on at least two separate occasions.  One day, after the winds clocked around to come from the northwest instead of the southeast, they eventually died and left us with a highly unusual countercurrent, which actually pushed us backward while we drifted.  The grib file (a chart showing wind speeds and directions for the next three days graphically with wind feathers ) we'd downloaded a day earlier file had warned of calms in the area with a 0-knot feather, but we could not sail far enough out of the area before the calm hit.  Luckily, a squall came along in the morning that pushed us forward enough that we did not have a negative distance day.  But still, it was a low of 18 nautical miles in one day.  During these weeks, the days of "perfect conditions" were few and far between, and most days we'd mock the passage saying "ooooh, the pacific sleigh ride!"  "ooooh, the coconut milk run!" - yeah right!  On the bright side though, at least almost every day was a day where we could make significant forward progress without motoring. 

Not long into our passage we confirmed another definite downside to downwind sailing -- accidental jibes.  This is where the direction of the boat to the wind changes just enough that the wind hits the opposite side of the sail which then slams the boom over to the other side.  When sailing downwind, the sail is set out almost perpendicular to the boat to catch the wind.  But as a result, when it jibes it has a chance to pick up momentum on its way to slamming all the way to the other side.  This is dangerous because it puts a lot of stress on the boat and cause important parts to break.  Moreover, jibes can be harder to avoid when using an auto pilot (which we don't use) or self-steering wind vane (like Björk) because those can allow for more variation in the course as it adjusts or the wind can die momentarily causing the wind vane to stop steering momentarily.  And especially in rolly seas, one swell can be enough to toss the boat such that the opposite side of the sail is exposed to the wind.  We always use a line called a preventer to keep the boom from being able to swing to the other side in a jibe, but still, when there is a jibe a lot of pressure is put on whatever the preventer is attached to, in our case the genoa track.  On day 8, while we had our strongest wind and wave conditions, one such jibe while Björk was steering caused the preventer to pull up the starboard genoa track and take a long strip of the railing with it.  In a passage log kept by Chris, he described this as "perhaps the worst day of our trip thus far".  We worked all that day to reattach the railing and the track, and by the next day we'd almost finished, and amazingly all our hard revarnishing work while in the Galápagos came through relatively unscathed.  On day 11, the same thing happened again on the port side, except this time only the track came up (it didn't take the railing with it).  We repaired that one as well, and resolved to be more picky about when we'd let Björk steer (although tired humans allow accidental jibes as well) and to reef the main more often so there would be less force in a jibe.  We heard about other boats that broke more serious things like goosenecks and booms in jibes, so though frustrating, our damage was not too bad, and with our repairs and reinforcements the railings are probably stronger than before.  It can be difficult, however, to keep that perspective when you are exhausted and uncomfortable and dealing with the challenge of merely making meals and trying to get some sleep, when suddenly there's some major boat work to do in rolly wet seas. 

Of course, the tracks coming up weren't the only things to go wrong along the way, but everything else was relatively minor and easily fixed.  For example, on day 3 the portion of Björk that sticks into the water (its oar) fell off (the oar is held on by one small set screw, which worked itself loose over time), and if we'd lost it Björk would have been rendered unusable.  Luckily, Björk's manual had acknowledged this risk so I had attached safety lines to the oar back when I first installed it, and it remained connected to the boat, trailing behind.  We pulled it in, reattached it and retightened all Björk's screws and bolts. 

Aside from fixing problems, keeping the boat moving in the right direction and trying to cook meals, to maintain some order and cleanliness and to catch sleep whenever possible, we did find some time for other things.  These other things were not usually leisurely pursuits such as reading and playing musical instruments, over which sleep would take priority.  But we did have several "spa days" where we would soak our hands and feet in soapy saltwater, give ourselves a manicure and pedicure, and sometimes even take a freshwater shower with our sun shower.  We also spent a lot of time studying French to prepare for the switch in language when we arrived in French Polynesia.  We used a text book, flash cards that Chris made, and French labels that we attached to various objects around the boat.  We knew it would take some practice to get the Spanish out of our heads, so we wanted to get a head start.

We also fished some days, and pretty much whenever we felt like having fresh fish, we could throw our line in the water and end up with a nice mahi-mahi (dorado) on the end of it.  Mahi-mahi was the only type of fish we caught the whole time, except for one day when we left a short drop line I made out of extra line trailing in the water at night, and then heard it making a little noise like something was moving on it.  Chris shone a flashlight on it as I pulled it in, and the creepiest fish I've ever seen was dangling from it.  It was very long and thin with a long beak full of big sharp teeth, and all of its guts were hanging outside of its body.  We figured it had gone unnoticed by us after we caught it, but that it caught the attention of a shark which took a bite out of it, catching our attention.  I checked our fish book to see if I could figure out what it was, and my best guess based on the book we have (which only really covers fish found on the Pacific coast) was that it was a barracuda.  However, after reading the book Kon Tiki I now wonder if it could have been one of the "snake fish" they talk about.  I guess we'll never know for sure.  In the following days, we continued to use the previously experimental drop line along with our fishing pole, until one day we caught two mahi-mahi at once.  Since we don't use refrigeration, one fish is all we could eat within a day or two, so we tried to free the second mahi-mahi.  (Now we know that we can make tasty fish jerky out of extra fish meat, but we hadn't thought of it at the time.)  It took a while to get the hook out of its mouth, and by the time we got him loose he flopped around and swam crooked as if there was some brain damage or something.  Needless to say, we retired the second line after that. 

In addition to catching fish on hooks, most mornings we found several dried up flying fish and squid on deck.  This was especially true during the first two weeks of the passage, and each morning I would do a fish count and mark the more notable ones in our course log -- e.g., "8 squid and 6 flying fish on deck".  I supposed we could have eaten them, but they don't look to appetizing after several hours of drying on deck.  For a while I tried using them as lures on our fishing line, but I guess they didn't look too appetizing to other fish either, as the live-looking fake fish made much better lures than the dead-looking real fish.   We saw lots of live flying fish too, soaring above the water away from predators or Ker-Mor, often in schools of hundreds.  Once in a while they'd land on the boat during the day (and we'd throw them back), but usually they'd land on the boat at night when they don't notice it there.  As for squid, other then the small dead ones we'd find on deck in the mornings we only saw two live ones.  Chris saw one of them, when it came flying across our cockpit and slamming into Chris' shoulder one night.  The other was an enormous one I saw swimming at the surface of the water one day.  Its upper body alone was at least the size of our dining table. 

The only other life we saw was the brilliantly glowing plankton that would appear in our wake most nights, and some birds.  One night, a small bird landed in our cockpit and stayed there.  I examined it with a flashlight, worried that it was injured.  It didn't seem to be, but it was clearly exhausted and though it flapped its wings around, it didn't seem to have the energy to raise itself to flight.  So I gently placed it in our cockpit well where it would be more protected, and we placed some water soaked bread beside it in case it wanted to eat or drink.  Throughout the night, it would flap around for short spurts, then resume its resting.  Our course log for the following morning reads "4 fish, 8 squid and 1 bird (alive)".  Shortly after sunrise, the bird started flapping a bit more vigorously like it really meant it.  It wasn't making it out of the well, so I placed it up on top of our "iceberg" (the insulated box we made to house our cooler).  After a minute or so it began a rocky takeoff then soared through the air, disappearing within seconds.   

Even without eating the dried squid and flying fish off our deck, we managed to maintain a fairly complete diet throughout our passage.  Back in Costa Rica (when we did our major provisioning), we had prepared a weekly meal plan as a guideline, and we now followed it loosely.  The meal plan suggested a breakfast, snack, lunch, dinner & late snack for each day of the week.  We ended up giving each day a title descriptive of its meals, which meals were determined before the thought of any theme or title, and hence some of the titles are a little far fetched.  The week consists of "Americana Monday" (cereal; nuts; mac & cheese; fish, corn & garlic mashed potatoes; cookies), "International Tuesday" (eggs, beans & leftover potatoes; dried fruit; PB&J; spaghetti; cheese & crackers), "Wholesome Wednesday" (cereal; nuts; leftover spaghetti; fish & rice; cookies); "Appetizer Thursday" (oatmeal; chips & salsa; mac & cheese; soup, cheese & crackers; canned fruit), "Pizza Friday" (cereal; dried fruit; PB&J; fresh pizza; granola bars), "Beany Saturday" (eggs with mushrooms & salsa; nuts; leftover pizza; fresh bean soup and rice; cookies) and "Leftover Sunday" (tortillas, beans & salsa; dried fruit; leftover beans & rice; fish & veggies; desert).  Our favorite was Apps Thursday, but Pizza Friday was a close second despite the difficulty preparing it in rough conditions.  Of course, these meals were subject to modifications depending on what fresh foods were remaining, whether we caught fish, what we were in the mood for, what the weather conditions were, etc.  For example, our banana stalk kept us chock full of fresh bananas for the first two weeks, and we had patacones (fried green banana slices) with almost every meal while they were still green.  During the second week the bananas started ripening in a hurry, and Chris ate about 8 bananas per day so they wouldn't go to waste!  (They were on the small side.)  I ate maybe 2-4 per day, usually with peanut butter.  Likewise, we had lots of foods that weren't worked into the menu, so we could substitute those in whenever we felt like getting creative.  Once in a while if we felt that we hadn't consumed enough vitamins, we would take a supplement.

All in all, despite constant exhaustion, my one vomiting bout, and lots of bruises and cuts from getting banged around, we stayed pretty healthy.  Well, there was one other thing.  Thanks to lots of sitting in slightly damp clothes and on slightly damp cushions (things take ages to dry in humid tropical weather when they're wet with saltwater), by day 18 we both developed itchy bottoms which we attributed to diaper rash.  Accordingly, to quote from Chris' passage notes, "this resulted in covering our shifts bottomless" -- not much of a problem since the weather warmed up nicely in the latter half of the passage. 

By day 20, most of our problems -- the rolling, the exhaustion, the itchy bottoms, etc -- seemed to be easing up a bit.  I awoke in the morning to take over the helm and Chris was beaming, having had a relaxing evening which he spent thinking about what our voyage has taught him about "seeking balance" - in terms of sailing and in terms of life.  This set him in a much cheerier mood than the one normally resulting from food falling on the floor and tracks pulling up. And the next day, we actually had some of that "perfect sailing" we'd heard so much about, though it was followed by squalls and shifty winds after dusk.  But thanks to the rain soaked skies, we were treated to an amazing rainbow that was clear and bright from one end to the other, arching clearly over the exact direction we were heading.  It was a beautiful beacon towards the end of our road (though a bit like sailing through a care bear cartoon).  The day after that, the wind developed some consistency again and Björk was steering so well that we decided to cover our night shifts from inside the cabin, with the person on shift laying down and catching some quick naps but still wearing their life vest and getting up every 30 minutes to look around outside and do a radar check.  This might not sound so great, but it really improves the quality of life to get the extra rest.   We did the same thing the following night.

On day 27, we were hit by some big squalls again, including one that was 12 miles long (you can see them on the radar screen).  However, winds had been light, so we took full advantage of the squall winds to make up for lost time, hand-steering because of the shifty conditions.  The next day we hooked something huge on our fishing line that we knew was not a mahi-mahi, because it did not jump out of the water initially as mahi-mahi tend to do, and instead immediately dove very deep.  It was a strong fighter and after Chris worked the line up the reel about 3/4 of the way the aggressive fish had broken through the metal leader and gotten away.  (I couldn't help but feel like he'd earned that one.)  Later that day was when we caught the two mahi-mahi at once, so we still got our fresh fish that evening.  The following day at around 3:30pm, Chris shouted "land ho!", scaring the crap out of me.  There was a faint silhouette of a tall mountain rising out of the sea - Fatu Hiva!  But we couldn't make it to the island before dark, so we decided to heave to for the night.  That way, we could get some rest and enjoy a leisurely scenic sail around the island in the morning.  The weather had strengthened at this time, and there were blustery winds and large waves, one of which slapped against both our backs (very unusual on our boat) as we were setting the main to heave to.  Even hove to we weren't all that comfortable, but at least we would both get to sleep all night.  Before hitting the pillow, I grabbed the video camera and tried to capture some of the scene on film despite the darkness.  It was an eerie last night at sea. The next morning at 5am, 8 miles from Fatu Hiva, we reset the sails and headed for land.


The morning of July 6, after about 3000 nautical miles, 4 times zones and almost 29 days at sea, we arrived at the southernmost Marquesas island, Fatu Hiva.  We sailed slowly around her south end taking in her rugged beauty, snapping some photos and capturing some video.  Around noon, we began sailing into Hanavave Bay (also known as Baie de Vierges - Virgin's Bay), when the last of the wind petered out and we decided to motor.  We already had the engine on and in neutral to charge our batteries, so I put it into gear.  When I did, there was no response.  I shifted back to neutral then back in gear again, and still nothing.  This was disconcertingly reminiscent of our transmission problems back in Costa Rica (that we'd fixed by removing the transmission and replacing a bearing). While I acted quickly to throw the main back up and turn to sail away from land, Chris acted quickly and checked our transmission oil pressure gauge down below and eureka, it was low.  He immediately added more oil, the needle popped back up to where we wanted it, and the boat moved forward as once again I shifted into gear - transmission problem solved (except that it seemed to prove that we were losing some oil when the prop would free spin through the water).  We turned back towards land and motored into the bay, finding it entirely to ourselves.  We'd heard that this island (and this bay in particular) is among the most beautiful places in the world, and it did not disappoint.  The small bay is surrounded by towering cliffs lush with palm trees and other greenery, and huge spires rise up imposingly into the sky.  We could hear some childlike noises in the distance, then noticed that there were scattered white sheep dotting the green hillside.  A couple hours after arriving, after drinking our first round of rum and cokes in about a month (but unfortunately after some clouds rolled over dimming the lighting), we set up the tripod and took some photos of ourselves in this magical new setting. 

Fatu Hiva is one of 12 islands making up the Marquesas (Iles Marquises), which is the most northerly island group of French Polynesia, an overseas territory of France.  French Polynesia's more southerly island groups are the Tuamotu Archipelago, the Society Islands (Tahiti and more), the Gambier Islands and the Austral Islands.  The Marquesas islands are tall, ranging in height between 1,300 and 4,000 feet, with dramatic mountains, deep valleys and a thick layer of very fertile soil.  And unlike the other French Polynesia groups, its islands are not protected by coral barrier reefs.  In the eighteenth century the islands were estimated to have a population of around 60,000, but now its inhabitants number just over 7,000, located on the six principal islands of the Marquesas:  Nuku Hiva, Ua Huka, Ua Pou, Hiva Oa, Tahuata and Fatu Hiva.  Perhaps the best known of the islands is Hiva Oa, which was the last stronghold of cannibalism in French Polynesia and the last home and burial site of both Paul Gauguin and Belgian singer/poet Jacques Brel .  Nuku Hiva, the largest of the islands, may also be known to some as the location where Survivor: Marquesas was filmed.  As for Fatu Hiva, some know it from the book Fatu Hiva, the Return to Nature written by Thor Heyerdahl, who lived on Fatu Hiva for a year and a half and captained the raft Kon Tiki across the Pacific in 1947.  It is also the most remote of the Marquesan Islands, and the wettest, lushest, most traditional and perhaps the most beautiful.  Moreover, it is the place where the traditional "tapa cloth" (thin sheets of bark bearing tattoo-style designs) sold throughout the islands is made, along with other traditional artisan crafts. 

Lucky for us, we were arriving in the Marquesas at the best time of year, July.  Throughout French Polynesia, the month of July is spent celebrating "14 Juillet" (Bastille Day, though they don't call it that) with many festivities and traditional song and dance rehearsals and competitions, pirogue races and the like.  Between the scenery, the new culture, the July festivities and the fact that we could now sleep through the night, we were guarantied to have an enjoyable experience at our first landfall in the South Pacific.   

July 7, 2004 - July 31, 2004 (Chris)

July was a busy month for Dana and I that included discovery of Fatu Hiva, getting married - Marquesan-style, and one last goodbye to a loved one.

DISCOVERING FATU HIVA . . .  The day after our arrival on Fatu Hiva I looked up the French words for "canned food" and we headed ashore.  Needless to say after almost one month at sea our provisions were a little paltry and getting a taste of South Pacific culture had to take a back seat to well...getting a taste of some food!  So we hopped into little Ker-Les, headed around the small breakwater and tied up at the beautifully constructed concrete quay in Hanavave Bay.  Once on shore we met some of the locals and I promptly engaged in a language that at least I thought to be French.  With a little effort and some gesturing, one of the young men, whose name I can't remember, led us up the road to the only store in town - a small one-room shack.  For us though, it was like walking into a mega supermarket.  They had canned meats, cheese, onions and even chocolate.  We loaded up.  Then our guide took us up near the cemetery where he helped us pick breadfruit.  We walked by his house and he introduced us to his young daughter.  We asked what he did and he said he grew Nunus - a kiwi-sized green fruit that is used for medicinal purposes.  It was also supposed to be good for soothing mosquito bites when rubbed on the area bitten but we found it to be of little comfort.  On our return to the quay he stopped by a tree and pulled some pamplemousse (a sweet grapefruit) for us.  The next day he would bring us even more fruit for which we exchanged a bottle of rum.  As we were leaving with our arms brimming with fruit and canned goods, he invited us to return the afternoon for some volleyball. 

Upon our return to the boat we stopped by to visit Trusquin, a boat we had met back in the Galápagos, which had just arrived late the night before.  Two other boats we had also met in the Galápagos, Sea Host and Millennial Destiny pulled in this same day.  After comparing notes on the passage we found that all experienced similar uncomfortable sailing conditions like we had.  The only major difference is that none of these boats were becalmed as we were.

After returning to Ker-Mor, Dana and I jumped in the water and checked her bottom (Ker-Mor's, that is).  We had read that you can pick up a lot of aquatic passengers on the ride across the Pacific.  Upon inspection, we were pleasantly surprised to find the hull relatively clean.  The only major growth was near the waterline and on the transom where moss and gooseneck barnacles had taken up residence.  Young goosenecks sort of look like snot with eyes while their adult counterparts actually have developed shells hanging from their gooey ends.  We did our best to clean them off and then went ashore for some volleyball.

In the small community in Hanavave there are probably around 100 homes.  There's also a church, a community center, a soccer field and a phone booth.  You get the strong sense that living standards have improved dramatically over the last 20 years or so.  The houses, paved streets, electric lines and quay all look relatively new.  The houses are simple but decent and many have satellite dishes mounted.  One presumes all this is heavily subsidized by the French government as it is hard to imagine this kind of infrastructure being paid for through copra and nunu production.

Once ashore again, we discovered that the volleyball game wasn't happening.  However, our new friend was beckoning us over to the soccer field where Fatu Hiva's youth was gearing up for a scrimmage.  Dana stopped short of the field to play with kids and look at rocks.  Once again I pretended to speak French and the Fatu Hivans looked politely bewildered.  They asked me if I play soccer and I said no.  They asked me if I wanted to play and I said no.  But soon I found myself, barefoot (all I brought were flip-flops), on the rocky, muddy soccer field ready to kick around with the locals.  For me it was an effort just to stand up.  During the warm-up I heard over my shoulder "Hey man, how's it goin'?" in a pretty good American accent.  His name was Felix, a Fatu Hivan who had spent a few years surfing the California coast - he even had a girlfriend in California.  With several distinctive tattoos and long wavy black hair, he was unmistakably Polynesian but you could imagine him fitting in quite well among the California surf sub-culture.  After chatting a bit I asked him which team I was playing for.  He said "Doesn't matter man.  Just  kick the ball when it comes to you and the locals with do the rest."  Bad advise.  I kicked the ball toward the wrong goal for a half an hour while a number of my teammates got increasingly upset.  After figuring it out I about-faced and started maneuvering in the right direction.  But by this time, no one really wanted to kick the ball to me anymore.  That was O.K. by me as my stellar barefoot performance did not come without consequence.  My tender feet were now entirely chewed up from the rocks and stinging as I stood in the muddy water.  I eventually removed myself from the game having completely ruined my chance of being asked to play league ball with the team.

Dana and I spent another few days in Fatu Hiva and truly enjoyed the relative stillness of being at anchor and waking up to a big chunk of land in front of us.  We went ashore a couple of more times.  Once to walk up towards the waterfall and once to watch the dance practice performed during the festival of Tiurai that coincides with Bastille Day on July 14.  We didn't quite make it to the waterfall as it was late in the afternoon but it was a beautiful walk nonetheless.  Fatu Hiva is almost surreal in form (as are the other Marquesan islands).  There is nothing gradual about it.  Huge conical spires, lush with vegetation, thrust almost vertically to the sky and envelop narrow river-lined valleys.  Purely spectacular.  The sensation of height is reinforced by the towering coconut palms that line the valleys and shores of the island.  One day while sitting on deck I began to read the book Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl.   The book recounts his amazing voyage across the Pacific on a balsa raft in 1947.  He made the voyage to prove that it was possible for the peoples of the South Pacific to have migrated from South America (conventional wisdom then and now is that they came from Asia).  Within reading the first five pages, I learned that Heyerdahl's theory originated when living and studying botany on the windward side of Fatu Hiva.   One evening, one of the last tribesmen living on the windward side of the island pointed east and said that was where his ancestors came from.  Reading this at that moment gave me an eerie sense of presence.  And while we did not cross the Pacific on a balsa raft I couldn't help but feel a little bit of pride for having sailed 3,000 miles across the Pacific in the historical wake of Kon-Tiki.

After returning from the waterfall we were invited to enjoy doughnuts and a movie aboard Millennial Destiny that evening. Ian and Tasha are originally from Poland but are American citizens and have lived in Southern California for many years and raised their children there.  Their youngest, Ted who is 17, has been traveling with them for the last four years.  Like us, they knew little about sailing before they started but rose to the challenge and are now accomplished sailors, electricians, fishermen, doctors, etc.  They epitomize the spirit of cruising and we've enjoyed their company.

The evening before we left Fatu Hiva, we went ashore to watch the dance practice.  Within the small community center, ten or so men were clustered in a corner slapping on drums and strumming ukuleles.  Women lined the far wall and 20 or more children were center stage moving to the music under the direction of their teacher.  Unfortunately, there was a distinct lack of synchronicity despite the fact that their official performance was only days away.  Nonetheless, we enjoyed watching and particularly liked the vaka dance - vaka meaning canoe.  During this dance the boys would motion as if rowing a canoe and chanting as if they were going off to battle.  The girls, who were flanked on each side by the rowing boys would sing in a sweeter pitch while moving hips and swaying arms in Polynesian form.

Prior to leaving Fatu Hiva we discovered that a leaky transmission wasn't the only problem we had to contend with (however we had surmised by this time that the leakage only occurred while the propeller was free-spinning. In other words, the seal held while under motor or at anchor - this was good news.).  While assessing our transmission problems we discovered that the accelerator cable linkage at the engine had worked itself loose.  This was a relatively minor problem however in my attempts to reattach it I mistakenly offset the governor which controls the speed of the engine.  Now when we started the engine, it roared and tapped out the RPM gauge.  The problem here is that there is no clear indication of where the governor should be positioned as it is factory set.  The only thing we could do was guess how many times I had turned it to get the cable attached and reverse it an equal amount.  After numerous attempts we finally got it close to its range.  It was still high but the needle on the tachometer was no longer tapping out.  With some patience we finally got it set and it sounded better than ever.  We left Fatu Hiva on the morning of the 13th destined for Nuku Hiva, Marquesas' northernmost island.  By leaving on the eve of Bastille Day we knew we would be missing out on some of the festivities but we felt we needed to officially check in and were anxious to explore another island.  Nuku Hiva serves as the administrative capital for the Marquesas and is also known for its beauty.


The trip to Nuku Hiva took 32 hours and was a fairly harsh one with squalls and heavy gusts of wind interspersed with confused seas.  We sailed under a jib and reefed main most the evening and were happy to pull into Taiohae Bay.  When we arrived there were 30 or more boats anchored there, a number of whom we recognized from the Galápagos.  One boat anchored was Waterdragon with our good friends Graham and Taryn aboard whom we had first met back in Costa Rica.  After stopping by their boat to say hello, Dana and I headed to shore to check out the town and dine out for the first time in a long time.  This is when we really got the French Polynesia sticker shock.  We basically ate at a food stand with picnic tables and forked over 24 US dollars for the pleasure.  Needless to say we would have almost all the rest of our meals on board.  Taiohae, either from the vantage point of the island or the large bay, was quite beautiful and picturesque. The town of Taiohae was small but bustling and boasted three mini-supermarkets, a hardware store, three or four hotels and various other small businesses.  One such establishment is the Keikahanui museum and gift boutique run by Rose Corser.  Rose, an American who came to the Marquesas in the 1970's to study local art and culture, is well known among the cruising community for her hospitality, and she happily welcomes the use of her address for shipment of boat parts, mail and the like.  She is also the original owner and now part manager of the Keikahanui Inn.  After her husband died six years ago Rose took on Pearl Lodge Resorts as a majority partner.  Soon after our arrival we paid Rose a visit to find out how to receive mail and to ask her about getting married in the Marquesas.  Dana and I had been engaged since Costa Rica and were determined that we would have a Polynesian wedding somewhere in the Marquesas.  When we inquired about a traditional Marquesan wedding Rose responded "Oh, years ago I did one at the hotel based on old Marquesan traditions no longer used today."  The ceremony she described sounded exactly like the kind of wedding we were looking for.  However, given the short time we would be in Nuku Hiva and the fact that she no longer had managing control at the hotel, she wasn't sure she would be able to help us.  Yet, within a few days the ball was rolling and Dana and I were preparing to get hitched within a week.

THE WEDDING . . .  On the morning of July 25th, Dana and I awoke in a beautiful bungalow situated on a hillside overlooking Taiohae Bay - this was our wedding day.  We had checked in the day before to the Keikahanui Inn so we could properly rid ourselves of engine grease, salt and dirt before our nuptials.  All the bungalows are detached structures stilted on the eastern bluff of Taiohae Bay.  Each bungalow has unique sculpted posts and interior decorations done by one of twenty local artists.  The bungalows and walkways are surrounded by flowering trees and bushes filling the air with the aroma of plumerias and other blossoms.  The rain from the evening before had cleared and it looked as if it would be a beautiful day.

Keep in mind that at this point, we had no idea how this whole thing was going to turn out or even what we were supposed to do at the ceremony.  There was no rehearsal and Rose kept telling us, "Don't worry, they'll tell you what to do once the ceremony begins."  Surprisingly, we weren't worried.  We were just happy the day had arrived.  Throughout the week we had coordinated with Rose who secured dancers, musicians, a high priest and took care of other details in record speed.  She was really quite amazing.  Meanwhile, Dana and I made up invitations and personally handed them out boat by boat to any and all cruisers anchored in the bay.  This was a great way to meet folks and we became fast friends with many.  There was also the issue of our wedding attire.  Although we did manage to bring wedding rings with us from the States, we did not pack a wedding dress and tuxedo for the trip (nor would they have been very appropriate for this type of ceremony), and clothes shopping on the island was pretty much limited to a couple small shops and the mini-supermarkets.  We made out fine though with a little improvisation.  Rose had given Dana some beautiful white fabric to wear as a pareo, and she cut a piece of it off to make a matching top.  She also had some pretty shell sandals my mother had bought her in Costa Rica.  I had a pair of khaki slacks on the boat that I used to wear when I was employed and a nice dark blue shirt Dana had bought me at a second-hand store in L.A. when we were last in California.  For footwear I spared no expense - I broke out a brand spanking-new pair of flip-flops.  That was it.  We were ready to go come what may.

Given it was Sunday, Dana and I decided to attend mass in the morning.  We don't profess to be religious (in the formal sense anyway), nor were we feeling particularly blasphemous being married by a ancestral worshipping high-priest later that day.  We just heard that there was beautiful singing at mass on Sundays, in an impressive stone church.  The church ironically sits across from a small park dedicated to Tiki sculptures and other stone stelae.  In fact the Bishop has one on the lawn in front of his house.  The Catholic church and its grounds in Taiohae is quite beautiful.  A cobble-stone walk path leads you through a stone archway draped in bougainvillea.  The cathedral is also made of stone but its detached roof and rod-iron gates that serve as doors give it an open-airy feeling.  Inside, the stations of the cross line the walls and are all hand carved as is the pulpit.  We sat near the back and took it all in.  Many parishioners were dressed in floral shirts and pareos and had a flower tucked behind their ear - both women and men.  The singing was truly angelic and everyone  was singing.  Someone had once told us that one of two things is true about French Polynesians...either everyone has a magnificent voice or they don't let the bad ones sing.  It was as if the entire congregation was a trained choir.  Both the mass and hymns were partially in French and partially in Marquesan.  A good chunk of the mass though was devoted to the hymns while the sermon, kneeling and standing was kept to a minimum.  It was not the Catholic mass I was used to back in the states.  In fact I do believe that if these folks ever move to the U.S., the Pope would likely lose them to the Southern Baptists.

After mass we took an early lunch and went back up to our room for our thirteenth shower and then headed back to Ker-Mor.  Dana and I invited many of the cruisers to a little pre-wedding party on our boat.  Amazingly, some 30 people showed up and even more amazingly we didn't sink.  People were in a festive mood, many donning the same kind of floral shirts and dresses we saw earlier that day at mass.  We had pulled some beer and wine out of our stock in the bilge and several guests came with drinks in hand.  People were everywhere - in the cockpit, along the decks, on the cabin top and even out on the bowsprit.  About an hour into the pre-wedding festivities our carriage arrived.  We had arranged for a pirogue (an outrigger canoe) to come and pick us up to row us to the beach below the hotel.  There were two drivers - Vincent in the rear and another Marquesan up front.  The driver in front was all about business but Vincent was ready to party.  Someone threw him a beer and he jumped right in as if he were a member of the wedding party.  Now its rainy season in the Marquesas and downpours can approach at record speed.  Sure enough, one hit right after the pirogue arrived and gave us an extra cleaning before our big night.  We were hoping to wait it out a bit but the clock was ticking.  When it lightened a bit, I jumped in the middle slot of the pirogue and Dana on my lap and we departed for shore.  John and Karen (Captain and First Mate from the 76-foot sloop Lady A) agreed to be our official videographer and photographer.  From their large dinghy, which had a steering-wheel mounted console, they recorded the entire pre-wedding event.  We called them our paparazzi and they blazed around the pirogue filming and snapping photos.  As they whizzed by we would cover our faces and yell "Please go away!  This is a private affair and we just want to be left in peace!"  When we arrived near shore, we jumped into the surf and walked the few yards onto the beach where a Marquesan woman was waiting for us singing a welcome song.  Rose was also waiting for us with her car.  She drove us the 1/4 mile up to the hotel and Dana and I proceeded to our room.

We had roughly one hour to get ready.  My outfit was pretty straight forward however Dana's was a little more complicated.  Dana's "dress" had to be made pretty much every time she put it on.  It was a large piece of gauzy material Dana referred to as the tissue dress as it had to be wrapped in a certain way to look attractive while not being too revealing - it was a wedding after all.  And its all about the wrapping.  Let me tell you there's a real art to it.  Dana cut an 8" wide length of it to serve as a top while the rest would be worn as a pareo.  We were at a loss on how to do it so the day before, Rose had Manu come up to our room to assist.  Manu works at the hotel and is apparently a pro at wrapping pareos.  We were delighted to have the help but were somewhat surprised when Manu showed up at the door.   Expecting a petite Polynesian waitress or older matron, we discovered Manu was a very large man...dressed as a woman.  We weren't completely thrown off guard as it is not unusual to find those like Manu throughout the islands.  We were told that it is common practice to dress and treat the youngest male child as a girl in households that already have a number of older male children.  As they grow into adulthood they continue to cross-dress and take on distinct feminine qualities.  This is quite common and well accepted in French Polynesia.  So there we were with Manu, the 300-pound she-male wrapping and unwrapping Dana like a big wedding gift.  Manu also brought along a female assistant and together they pushed, pulled and contorted the tissue dress in all different directions until we found an arrangement that we liked.  Manu was really quite good and a real gentleman (or lady?)...I'm not quite sure.  Anyway, that evening Dana did her best to replicate Manu's wrap securing everything with safety pins so nothing would fly out at an inopportune moment. 

So there we were, Dana with her Manu-inspired tissue dress and I with my blue shirt and flip-flops.  We were all about style that evening.  I called down to the restaurant area to see how things were going.  We were afraid that  the place might be a little empty given that the rain continued to come down and the downpour was getting stronger.  For cruisers, attendance would imply a little more than going to your garage, getting in your car and driving to the event.  They would have to jump in their wet dinghy already flooded with rain water, navigate the surf and haul their dinghy up on the sandy beach .  Then they would have to make the 1/4 mile trek up to the dirt road to the hotel by foot.  And all this would have to be done at dusk in the middle of a downpour.  So we were surprised and pleased when Rose told us that the place was packed.  They couldn't even seat everyone.  We later figured that somewhere around 100 people were there.  Some were hotel guests and Roses' friends but the bulk of them were cruisers we had invited. 

Soon Rose came up to escort us down to the area where the ceremony would take place.  There wasn't a lot of backroom area in the restaurant so Dana was whisked away to an outdoor waiting area while I was directed to the bar/reception area.  The ceremonial dancers were just arriving.  They had just finished their last performance of the competitions which are held in July.  As I had mentioned, the last time they had performed a wedding ceremony like this was six years ago and most of the dancers were too young to have participated in that one. So this was pretty much the first go for most of us.  Moreover, it looked as though the bulk of the planning and choreography was going on right there and then, minutes before the ceremony was to begin.   Dancers were given their cues while our high priest, who went by the ancient and sacred name of Benjamin, donned his robe and feathered crown.  Meanwhile, I waited in the bar, and Dana outside, to finally be married.  Suddenly everyone rushed into position and the ceremony began.  The drums began to beat and the singing started.  I was escorted by two female dancers to the middle of the room with the rest in trail.  They all wore short pareos, bikini tops and flowered crowns.  At the opposite end of the room Dana was being carried by muscular, bare-chested male warrior dancers towards the middle.  Benjamin the high-priest was waiting at the center.  I wish I could interpret the ceremony here for you but to be quite honest we had not idea what was being sung or said as it was in Marquesan.   Benjamin did some pretty good high-priest chanting while the dancers put on a great performance.  The only ceremonial aspect we did understand was the wrapping of the Tapa cloth.  Tapa is an elaborately printed bark cloth that used to be worn as clothing.  A tapa was made especially for our marriage.  While it was made of tailored cloth instead of bark it was painted with the same designs and glyphs as traditional tapa cloths.  As Dana and I stood facing each other, two of the female dancers wrapped us in the cloth symbolizing the intertwinement of our lives and the union we were forming.  Completely wrapped together, we were then crowned with large flower coronas and huge floral leis were draped around our necks.  I felt like a bush.  When they unwrapped us, we were considered married.  Everything from the dancing to the tapa cloth design to the hand-made floral leis and crowns were exceptional.   Soon afterwards we were given Marquesan names which were inscribed on a plaque.  My name is Teiki Haavii  which means voyager from the highlands and Dana was given the name Tahia Overo.  We never found out exactly what Tahia Overo means, but I believe it translates to "the one that lives to serve and please the voyager" or something like that.  (Dana says it was something or other from the lowlands.)  A song had been written incorporating our names which was sung by the band of musicians made up of a ukulele player, a drummer and a woman playing a wash-tub base. 

Festivities continued throughout the evening as our new friends came up one by one to congratulate us.  Although we told people not to bring gifts (especially since they'd be paying for their own food and drinks), many ended up doing so.  Karen from Lady A weaved us braided wedding rings in case we didn't have our own to wear.  Alexis, Lady A's chef and an artist by trade, made us a watercolor painting.  Huub, who was crewing on the boat Speranza, gave us a black pearl from the Tuamotus, and we later received another black pearl from Bruno on Freelance who didn't even meet us until a couple weeks after the wedding.  Tom and his wife Nela (who was about to give birth) of the boat Silver Blue gave us a decorative tapa cloth, and Corrine and Michel from Lody C made us a bracelet that also transforms into various decorative shapes like a transforming sculpture (they're jewelry artisans).  Even their three year old son Max gave us a crayon drawing and on prompt from his parents shouted "Vive la Marie!", one of the only things we've ever heard him say.  Bill and Laura and their charming sons Matthew and Paul from the sailing yacht Emma gave us two cold Dr. Peppers from the States and a wacky cake recipe, and Laura lent Dana her sapphire ring for Dana's "something blue".  In addition, we received several thoughtfully written cards, many glasses of wine at the reception, and lots of photos after the event.  Most importantly, every guest gave us the gift of their presence, good cheer and sincere wishes.  It all made for a great evening and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.  Some of the guests even got naked although  I will not mention any names so that John and Heather on Dancyn and Mark on Vagabond Blues won't feel embarrassed.  As the evening drew on, the three unnamed guests thought a little skinny dipping at the hotel pool was in order.  Management just nonchalantly turned out the pool lights as if it were standard operating procedure.  After the reception, John and Karen (our paparazzi) joined us back in our Bungalow for a night cap and to review the day's events.  After they left, we performed our own private exchange of rings ceremony and officially began our honeymoon.  All in all it was a great day that we'll forever remember and cherish.

ONE LAST GOOD-BYE . . .  After enjoying another evening of bathing and lounging at the hotel and a few more days of resting and recuperating onboard, we were ready to head out again.  This time however it would not be far.  Just a few short miles to the west of Taiohae Bay lies the Bay of Hakatea (Tai Oa).  Amongst cruisers it is better known as Daniel's Bay, so named for the patriarch of the family that lives there.  Even though the passage lasted just a few short hours it was a rough one.  I even got sea sick during the little voyage.  As we bumped our way over the waves and through the narrow pass, we entered another world.  Hakatea was calm and tranquil compared to the frothing brew just outside.  The bay itself is divided into an east and west lobe.  Each lobe has crescent shaped beaches lined with coconut palms.  These sandy banks quickly disappear into small verdant valleys where Daniel and his extended family lives and beyond the valleys are the narrow crevices that separate the towering rock spires like avenues along a street of skyscrapers.  We anchored in the middle of the east lobe and were soon hailed on the radio by Henry and Glenys on their 46-foot ketch Dream Catcher.  Both Henry and Glen attended our wedding and had been in Hakatea for a few days.  They were preparing to depart for the Tuamotus the next day but had us over for champagne and Bananas Flambé - a specialty of Henry's - to celebrate our marriage.

In the morning we put on our hiking shoes, packed a lunch and prepared for a two and a half hour hike to the waterfall that lies north of the western lobe.  It is claimed to be the third highest waterfall in the world at a height of 350 meters.  We jumped into Ker-Les and headed to shore but failed our first landing.  The western lobe is exposed to swell and the reefs along shore make for some nasty breaks.  A large wave broke over us and nearly sank the dinghy.  Our motor was flooded and it was quite the ordeal getting the dinghy back to the boat.  Once we dried out a bit and got the outboard working again, we headed to shore for our second attempt.  This time we had removed the outboard and rowed not wanting to risk another engine flood.  Dana actually swam part of the way as we guided Ker-Les along under a rocky bluff that formed the right side of the embankment.  The waters were more protected there and instead of breaking, waves just gradually flooded into a river that met at the shoreline.  We rowed Ker-Les straight up the river a ways and tied up along the bank.  We laced up our boots and headed north.  We made our way through the small community inhabited by Daniel and his descendents.  The homes were poor but orderly and usually adorned with fruit trees and flowering bushes.  Midway through the settlement, there is a sheltered altar with a large cross sitting in a meadow.  Half an hour up the trail, we had left the valley behind and were walking along the narrow gap that channels the river fed by the waterfall.  At the same time, the existing settlement ended and we now found ourselves walking amongst the dead.  No more than 20 yards off the path all along the trail were evidence of past settlements partially obscured by overgrown trees and bushes.  These were large stone platforms that were the foundations of homes centuries ago.  Some had steps leading up to the entryway and many were partitioned off into two or three rooms.  As Dana had mentioned, the Marquesas was once home to a population of more than 60,000 people that has now dwindled down to one tenth that size.  As western civilization encroached, it brought with it disease and pestilence leaving these petrified ghost towns.  As we ascended to the trail's midpoint, we reached a clearing from which the top of the waterfall could be seen.  Nestled in the foliage was the gigantic chute of water making its fall towards the canyon floor.  Half the way down however, the cascade is eclipsed by the tall granite arms that encircle it like a rock curtain.  We continued our ascent climbing along narrow trails marked by rock piles and knee deep through streams until we arrived at the base of the fall.  From this vantage point only the bottom portion of the fall could be seen as the rock curtain continued to conceal from view the fall in its entirety.  The only way to view it completely we surmised, would be to stand directly below it and look straight up.  As we didn't feel like being pelted by thousands of gallons of cold water making a 350-meter freefall, we decided to just eat our lunch and then make our way back down the trail.   

When we returned to the boat dusk was fast approaching.  As we often do, Dana and I sat out on deck to enjoy the sunset and appreciate our surroundings.  At that moment I decided the time had come to finally say good-bye.  My older brother had died a year ago last April.  For the last twelve months we have been traveling around with a box of ashes that I had fully intended to commit to sea soon after his funeral.  My brother and I  were never really close until a few years ago, when he was down on his luck, I invited him to come to San Diego for a week.  I taught him to sail and we spent hours upon hours talking and getting to know each other.  Mike fell in love with sailing and we mended a bond that had been broken in childhood.  About a year and a half later at his funeral I asked his daughter if I could take some of his ashes to spread at sea in honor of our time on Ker-Mor together.  She handed over the box and said "He loved the time he spent with you  - take it all."  I've grieved not just for losing a brother but for losing a brother I just found.  I guess that's why I've held on to the ashes for so long.  I don't know what it was about Hakatea - the serenity, the paradisiacal surroundings, or the protection from the winds that continued to howl outside. Perhaps it was all of that along with the need to finally let go.  I knew that I held nothing more than carbon ashes but I am as human as the next person and it is the symbolism of these gestures that we oddly find to be placebos for our pain.  At sunset, I walked out onto the bowsprit, whispered to my brother and released the ashes into the bay. Although they only knew each other for a short time, Dana and Mike became close friends and they shared a special relationship that she has also missed.  As the ashes passed the port side of Ker-Mor, Dana was there crouched on deck tearing flowers from our wedding lei and throwing them in the water.   We continue to think of him often and he will continue to be a part of this boat and this voyage.

July 31, 2004 - August 8, 2004 (Dana)

The morning of July 31, we left Daniel's Bay and headed around the east end of Nuku Hiva on our way to Anaho Bay.  The 25-mile passage started off a bit slowly as we were going directly against the current, but once we turned the corner to head north we picked up some speed, and were joined by a pod of dolphins, some of which seemed exceptionally large and we later found out they were actually a small breed of whale called melonhead whales.  The dolphins and whales swam with us and around us for a few miles until we turned a corner again to head west along the north shore of the island.  Soon we were pulling into Anaho Bay, which cuts deep into the island.  It looked like we had the place to ourselves, but once we got all the way inside and began to tuck behind a jutting piece of land we saw a huge mast that we were happy to recognize as that of Lady A, with our friends Karen, John and Alexis (our wedding paparazzi) on board.  Two smaller boats were anchored there as well.    As usual as of late, our new surroundings were perfectly beautiful.  We were encircled by towering green cliffs and anchored off a white sand beach lined with palm trees.  The water was clear aqua blue and we could clearly see the coral reef that extended from the beach almost to where we were anchored.  After settling in and going for a snorkel, the sun began to set and we dinghied over to Lady A for an evening of cold drinks with ice, watching the full moon pass over, laughing at stories from Karen and John's schooner days, and the like.   When we no longer had enough energy to sit erect, we headed back to Ker-Mor

The next few days we spent exploring different snorkeling spots by day and visiting with Karen, John and Alexis by night.  At least two of the nights were movie nights where we'd watch DVDs and gorge on different flavors of popcorn until we all passed out and Chris and I stumbled back to Ker-Mor.   Lady A's last night in Anaho before returning to Taiohae was to be the last we'd spend with Alexis, as she was leaving her job as chef aboard Lady A to return to the States.  That night we played Trivial Pursuit aboard Ker-Mor for several hours until we couldn't take it any longer, and had to change the rules to make it quicker for someone to win.  The next morning, I was rinsing off in the ocean after a soapy shower on deck, when Chris excitedly proclaimed that he saw something large pass behind me in the water.  I climbed back up on deck and we watched to identify the creature.  When it swam by again, we saw it clearly -- a giant manta ray!  It gracefully soared away within seconds, but returned several times over the next hour.  So we decided to get in the water to try to catch a closer look, and maybe even a quick ride.  However, once we were in the water, it kept its distance.  We swam around the reef and dinghied around the bay trying to find it again, but all we'd ever see were the tips of its "wings" poking above the surface of the water as it gracefully swam away.  We couldn't catch one glimpse of it underwater.  Nonetheless, we enjoyed our little excursion, and saw plenty of colorful fish and coral formations in our quest to find the ray. 

On August 4, we departed Anaho Bay to return to Taiohae, where we could do some more provisioning before leaving the Marquesas.  Well, honestly we didn't really need much more except that we were out of baguettes, and there was no place to buy any in Anaho.  We also wanted to say goodbye to Rose and sign her famous logbook (formerly maintained by Maurice McKittrick).  During our leisurely trip back to Taiohae, we again ran across the large pod of dolphins and melonhead whales along the east coast of Nuku Hiva.  This time, they stayed with us for so long that we eventually pulled out the video camera and started filming them, in addition to taking dozens of still shots (as "still" as you can get on a moving boat, anyway).  They were all around the boat about a half mile in every direction, blowing out of their blow holes, leaping, playing and swimming at our bow, and some of them stayed with us even after we rounded the corner to travel west along the southern coast of the island.  Soon after, we were back in Taiohae buying freshly baked baguettes.  We stayed two nights, visiting with John and Karen both nights.  The night before we left the Marquesas for good, John and Karen joined us aboard Ker-Mor for a particularly entertaining evening of rum-drinking and sea chantey singing.  (They knew the chanteys from working on schooners and we chimed in once we caught on to the main choruses.)  The next morning, we waved goodbye to Nuku Hiva, a place that will always hold a special place in our hearts as the island where we married, found the right spot to put Mike to rest, formed many new friendships, and incorporated fresh baguettes into our daily diets.  Next stop:  the Tuamotu Archipelago, second of the three French Polynesian island groups we'd be visiting and perhaps the most unique.   


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