fatu hiva

Giddyup! ‘Back to Nature’ adventure revisited…


Long-awaited arrival at the legendary bay of Hanavave.


Lost in the stars, I lay huddled on the port side of the cockpit in my sleeping bag. The eastern horizon hinted the coming twilight, but my gaze was fixed skyward. Swell’s soft rhythmic lurch through the small upwind chop, told me I could relax. I didn’t want to jinx myself, but intuitively I anticipated a successful arrival. On two other occasions, I’d been forced to alter course and sail elsewhere. This time the wind was strong enough to be single-reefed, but Swell wasn’t fighting. The wind would pick up later, I knew, but I was optimistic with 17 miles to go at 4:40am. Intuitive notions aside, experience had trained me that no landfall should be celebrated until the anchor was firmly set!


As dawn haloed the island’s striking silhouette, I couldn’t help but mentally wander through the tales of Thor and Liv Heyerdahl’s romantic ‘back-to-nature’ adventure that took place on this very island in the 1930s…ancient carved petroglyphs, toppling waterfalls, brisk mountaintops, hidden caves, action-packed tidepools, abundant fruits, and resourceful locals swirled through my imagination…


A few hours later, the sails luffed indecisively as we moved into the swirling wind shadow of the island’s 3,500ft peaks. Despite little sleep, I was abuzz with excitement as we furled the sails and started the engine. Gusts swooped in at us from north, then south as we neared…adding to the mystique of the legendary bay where ominous stone cliffs, gravity-defying spires, swaying palms, and turning seabirds awaited!!

Change in altitude thanks to my courageous equine friend.

Mountain picnicking!!


We embarked on jungle forays to experience some of the sites that had impressed Thor and Liv.

A petroglyph carved in stone–one of many in this valley steeped in myth and tabu.

Ol cheveaux watching over the hard stone where rocks were once sharpened into weapons and tools.


Locals heading out with their hounds to hunt wild pigs a few bays to the south.

Proud Marquesan hunter’s home.


Today Marquesan lives meet somewhere between modern convenience and ancient tradition.


Twin Tikis watching over Swell and the wedging lefts.

Post-surf, barefoot architecture project…relaxing on my stone throne…

  Leaving it to the dolphins for a while…view from the beach shack.

Breadfruit lunch…giving new meaning to eating ‘whole foods’! Now it’s off to find Thor and Liv’s cave dwelling…


Healthy bees are the Earth’s (and our) best friends.


Beauty overload, I can’t hold my camera still! Goosebumps as the full moon rises over Omoa valley…Boundless gratitude!!

Food Foraging and Our Forgotten Bioregional Educations: What we don’t even know we don’t know

In the spirit of Thor and Liv Heyerdahl’s ‘Back to Nature’ adventure almost a hundred years earlier, I embraced my time in Marquesas as a chance to live a little closer to the Source. The relatively low populations and highly fertile soil make for lots of nature’s edibles to be foraged with permission from the local people. So Raiarii and I spent much of our time in the hills and valleys and sea gathering food, cooking over a fire, and combing the terrain for nature’s treasures. We learned from Mami Faatiarau and other friends that with some knowledge of the local plants, we could also make bark rope, palm frond baskets, natural remedies, seats, shelter, hats, you name it… We witnessed that those who were motivated and educated in the flora and fauna, could live heartily and almost wholly off Mother Nature’s provisions.

A few things struck me. Regional plant and animal knowledge must have taken generations upon generations of learning to accumulate. Modern ways make it so easy to let go, homogenize, and forget what our ancestors spent lifetimes figuring out! It can go extinct as easily as a species without a habitat, like it has in so many places where native peoples were killed, disrespected, and paved over. Where I grew up, we don’t even know that we almost all of human history would laugh at us for not knowing our plants!? That itself is a measure of our alienation from nature  and our ‘bioregions’…


There were multiple varieties of mangos, loads of starfruit, lichee, papayas, bananas of all sorts, avocados,  local oranges and grapefruit, limes, and breadfruit just to start! Edible roots included taro, tarua, manioc, and sweet potatoes. And even delicious leafy greens that grew in the streams and slowly flowing tributaries!



It never hurts to get a higher perspective on things!


Can anyone identify these delicious leafy greens?


Mami F's lovely palm frond basket.


New foraging techniques were developed...


We learned how to crack bamboo into flat lengths and weave together to make walls or flooring!


Getting to know palm fronds a little better these days.

“We like to think of progress as modern man’s struggle to secure better food for more people, warmer clothing and finer dwellings for the poor, more medicine and hospitals for the sick, increased security against war, less corruption and crime, a happier life for young and old. But, as it has turned out, progress involves much more. It is progress when weapons are improved to kill more people at a longer range. It is progress when a little man becomes a giant because he can push a button and blow up the world. It is progress when the man in the street can stop thinking and creating because all his problems are solved by others who show him what happens if he turns on a switch. It is progress when people become so specialized that they know almost everything about almost nothing. It is also progress when reality gets so damned dull that we all survive by sitting staring at entertainment radiating from a box, or when one pill is invented to cure the harm done by another, or when hospitals grow up like mushrooms because our heads are overworked and our bodies underdeveloped, because our hearts are empty and our intestines filled with anything cleverly advertised. It is progress when a farmer leaves his hoe and a fisherman his net to step onto an assembly line the day the cornfield is leased to industry, which needs the salmon river as its sewer. It is progress when cities grow bigger and fields and forests smaller, until ever more men spend ever more time in subways and bumper-to-bumper car queues, until neon lights are needed in daytime because buildings grope for the sky and dwarf men and women in canyons where they roll along with klaxons screaming and blow exhaust all over their babies. When children get a sidewalk in exchange for a meadow, when the fragrance of flowers and the view of hills and forests are replaced by air conditioning and a view across the street. It is progress when a centuries-old oak is cut down to give space for a road sign.” –Thor Heyerdahl, Fatu Hiva


PS  www.swellvoyage.com will be down for an overhaul next week! …been working on this new site all year and excited for its launch!