Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Church Service at Te Tautua Village

July 29, 2008--Sunday turned out to be a very special day for us. Since we missed the church service at Omoka Village, we wanted to be sure to attend the Sunday service here at 10 o'clock. We went in around 9:30 so that we could take a chocolate cake to Soloman's house. I wore a long skirt with a white T-shirt (must have sleeves), and I brought my hat (required). Steve wore his dockers, which he had not worn since Mexico, and his Polynesian shirt. Flip flops or sandals were fine to wear. Ernst arrived a few minutes after us. The whole Tapu family was ready to go, so we put the cake in the house and then walked to church.

The church was built in 1904, and it is a Christian church. It is rectangular in shape with the walls made of stucco and painted white. The trim on the windows and doors is painted blue. The window panes are bordered by small pieces of stained glass. We went inside and sat at the back with Soloman. Inside the church was lovely. The ceiling was wood with carvings of hearts and other geometric shapes. The floor was also wood. The interior walls were painted white and then there was a 3-foot wooden wainscot against the walls. A balcony ran the length of the church on both sides, and they were, of course, made of wood. The railing for the balconies and the wainscot both had vertical spindles set about every foot. We don't know what kind of wood was used, but it looked like teak or perhaps mahogany. The pews were made of wood planks painted brown, and they were mitered together so that no hardware was needed. The alter was wood and had lovely tatted lace covering it. The wooden pulpit behind the alter was raised to almost the height of the balconies, and it, too, was adorned with tatted lace. The contrast of the lace against the wood was beautiful. Finally, four antique-looking, electric chandeliers hung from the ceiling. The minister gave most of the sermon in the native language; however, at one point he spoke in English to welcome us to the church. He also said a prayer asking for God to bless us while we were at Penrhyn and also wherever our journey took us. We had heard about the beautiful singing in Polynesia, and we were not disappointed. It is hard to describe the sound. Everyone sings in his or her range, but the result is different. I just can not come up with the right words to describe the sound--you just have to hear it.

After church we returned to the Tapu house. We all sat in the main room while Banapa Tapu, the father, said a prayer, which was followed by the family reciting the Lord's Prayer in their native language. Emily then took the three of us to eat lunch in the kitchen, which is where the table is. We were served haraoa uto (coconut bread), kuru taroro (breadfruit with coconut juice), wahoo fish, and uto (heart of palm). All these dishes were baked in an "umu" or oven in the earth. We also had ika mata, which is marinated milkfish. We had fresh coconut juice to drink. Since it was the 18th birthday of Soloman's son, we sang "Happy Birthday" to him, and then we all enjoyed some chocolate cake.

I had taken some earrings to give to Emily, Leida, and girls in the family, so they enjoyed choosing the ones they liked. We sat in the kitchen and visited while the guys sat outside. We decided that we needed to take some pictures of all of us in our fine clothes, so we took a bunch of pictures of the family with us and some of individuals or couples. I told Emily that I wanted to take a picture of one of their hats, so she gave me one, and Steve and I took a picture of the hat while I was holding it. Then Emily and Leida put on their hats, and I put on the one Emily had handed to me, so that Steve could take a picture of the three of us. When we were done, I handed the hat back to Emily, but she told me that they had made the hat for me as a gift. I couldn't believe it!

A little after one o'clock we decided to leave so that the family could rest before returning to church at three o'clock. We put my hat in a plastic bag to protect it, said thank you to everyone, and walked back to the dinghy. It had been a very full and interesting morning, and we were again shown the wonderful generosity of this family. We took it easy for the rest of the day since it was Sunday, and we weren't supposed to do any work. We really enjoy that rule.

Yesterday we went in for our daily visit. I took a Pineapple Upside Down cake with me because today was Emily's birthday, and we just had to have cake. A few days earlier I had given Emily some red nail polish and some perfume for her birthday. I decided to pick out an earring and necklace set for both Emily and Leida as a gift for their work on my hat, so I took those in as well. We went into the kitchen to sit down, and Emily fixed us some coffee, and we then cut up the cake and made sure that everyone got a piece. It wasn't long before it was all gone, which was good because we didn't want to take any back to the boat. We sat and visited for awhile as usual. I had Emily help me with all the people's names as well as the names of all the food that we had eaten. Emily told us that she had a tooth that was bothering her so we told her that we would bring her some topical ointment to help numb the tooth, which we did a little later in the afternoon. In the evening we cooked up some grouper for dinner, which was excellent as always. It is one of our favorite fish to eat.

This morning Soloman came at 6 a.m. to take Steve fishing. It had rained off and on all night and was still a bit wet when they left. They were gone about 2 hours, and when they came back, Steve said that had not caught one fish. Steve had one on the line, but a shark got it before he could get it into the boat. He was so disappointed, so Soloman said that they would go again in the afternoon. We got ready and went ashore. Emily's tooth was feeling better, which we were happy to hear. Ernst was using their washing machine to do some laundry, and Soloman was grinding some oyster shells to polish them. Emily's son C.J. brought baby Mary over, so I was able to enjoy her for awhile. I happened to notice that her fingernails and toenails were painted red. When she started to fuss because she was hungry, I walked over to take her back to her mother. The three ladies were dyeing palm fronds to be used in hats--there were yellow, green, and orange fronds that were ready to go. We sat and talked for while, which I really enjoy doing, and I noticed that all three of them also had red polish on their fingers and toes. The red polish seems to be a real hit with the women here. It is interesting to talk to them about their lives here, and they ask me questions about our boat.

Soloman returned at 4 o'clock to pick up Steve for fishing. Right after they left, it began to rain very hard, and I was afraid that it might spoil the fishing. When they returned at 6:30, they had 3 large and 2 smaller Blue Travelly and 1 Pacific Lookdown, and Steve had caught all but one of them. Soloman had us take one of the large Trevelly and 2 smaller ones. Steve thanked Soloman and then began to clean the fish. For dinner tonight we had fresh raw Travelly with Wasabi sauce, Travelly cooked in butter and garlic, rice, and green beans. The fish was delicious, and now we have 3 fish dinners in the freezer. Steve had a great time today.

We plan to go back to Omoka Village tomorrow to check out and say goodbye to Alex and Christina. High tide is around noon on Thursday, and so, weather permitting, we will leave then. We have had a wonderful time here at Te Tautua village, and we will always remember the Tapu family.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Te Tautua Village

July 26, 2008--On Wednesday, we left Omoka Village around noon and made our way over to Te Tautua Village on the east side of Penrhyn. The coral heads were easy to see, and we made it in about an hour and a half. This side is different in that there is a sandy bottom in which you can anchor in about 13 feet of water. We couldn't see the bottom at all on the other side, and there were coral heads to snag the anchor. The other difference is that there are a lot more sharks on this side. They are mainly black-tip and nurse sharks, which are harmless, but they swim around the boat all the time. The locals believe that the sharks are the spirits of their ancestors, and one local told Steve that if you haven't done anything wrong, then you don't have anything to fear.

We anchored the boat, and Larry from sv Katie Lee stopped by to give us some information about the village. They had come over the Saturday before. We got the boat put away and then headed in to shore. As soon as we tied up our dinghy, two children around 8 years old came over to say that we should come see their mom. Her name was Samwa and a man sitting with her was named Toma. We sat down and visited while Samwa stripped palm fronds to make a hat. After awhile we moved on down the road where we met Rio and his wife Koora. We stayed to visit with them for about 30 minutes, and Koora wove a hat while we were talking.

The next house was Banapa and Repa's home. We had met them at Alex's house our first day at Omoka. Their son Soloman and his wife Lata were there. Their daughter Emily, and another younger woman were there as well. We were offered some lime juice--made from fresh limes--and chairs to sit on. We all got to know one another better while the three women worked on their weaving. The women send their hats to Raratonga to be sold for around $150 each. It sounds like a lot, but when you see how much time and work goes into one hat, it is pretty reasonable. Larry and Tindra were baking peach cobbler, so we enjoyed dessert in the afternoon. There were several small children playing in the area, and it was just a relaxing and interesting afternoon. We stayed until about 5:30, and then we headed back to the boat to take showers and cook dinner. It was a good day.

On Thursday morning I was doing laundry when we had a visit from a woman named Aroha. Back in 1978 a book of cruisers was set up, and her father had kept it until he passed away. Cruisers who came here recorded information about themselves and their boats, and many included pictures or drawings, so she left the book for us. It was very interesting to read all the entries, and when we were done, we added our own, which included some pictures.

Ernst arrived around 1:30 from Omaka, and then we went in to town around 2 o'clock in the afternoon. We made our usual stops at the houses to say hello and chat for a few minutes. After Emily's house, we walked toward the end of the island and then over to the ocean side to look for shells--as usual. The beaches on that side have basically eroded away, but we still enjoyed walking along the shore and wading in the tidal pool.

We returned to Emily's house where Steve visited with Soloman, who is a fisherman, and I visited with the ladies. One young woman had a three-month-old baby whose name is Mary. She is so adorable and such a good baby that she let me hold her for about an hour. It was a very hot day, especially after our walk, so we went back to the boat to swim and cool off. As we left, Soloman gave us a large piece of delicious Wahoo for dinner.

Swimming is not exactly the word I would use to describe what I was doing. I was barely in the water and holding onto the ladder the whole time. Steve kept telling me, "If you haven't done anything wrong, you don't have anything to fear." That didn't make it any easier being in the water with sharks close by. He dove in and swam around, but I noticed that he did not stay in too long himself.

Friday we stayed on the boat all day long. Steve was trying to finish a book on Magellan because he had promised it to Aroha's son-in-law, and we were leaving in just a few days. I did another load of laundry. I wanted to be sure to have it all done by the time we leave. Anyway, it was an enjoyable low-key day.

Today we went to town about 10 o'clock to take Aroha a towel that she had asked for. We found her house, and she introduced us to her husband. They were very kind to us and gave us two shell necklaces. They also gave us something to keep the flies away. They look like a broom made out of palm fronds except they are shorter and smaller; however, they work very well. When we were done, we returned to Emily's house. The women were working on hats as usual. Emily told me that next year the Pacific Games were going to be held in Raratonga, and there would be many tourists. That meant that they should be able to sell their hats for more than usual, so I think they are all working hard to build up an inventory to send there when the time comes. We had a heavy rain shower come through while we were there, which was good because the boat would finally get a good washing. Several people gave us cucumbers and tomatoes. Soloman took Steve to get some coconuts, and he cut one open for Steve to drink. Finally, we were invited to have lunch with the family after church tomorrow. As we left, Soloman gave us some cooked Wahoo for lunch. It was another enjoyable day on Penrhyn.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Penrhyn Birthday

July 23, 2008--On Saturday Steve went in to help Alex work on his antenna while I stayed on the boat cleaning and doing laundry. Steve returned in the early afternoon, and we just took it easy the rest of the day. Around 6 o'clock Alex suddenly showed up with his two older boys and his daughter Annie to go spear fishing again and asked Steve to join them. He was thrilled to go. They returned about an hour later with about 20 fish, none of which were Steve's. His one good shot bounced off the fish and left it only bruised and battered.

Sundays in Penrhyn are strictly "no work" days. We had planned to attend church; however, the waves were pretty high, and we were going to get very wet. We had a few other things to consider, so we just stayed on board working on things that had been delayed because of our busy social calendar. We were waiting for a cruiser named Ernst on sv Accord to arrive. We met him in Cabo San Lucas in March when we stopped for fuel, and he was also making the crossing, only he was not with the Puddle Jump group. He headed south to the Gambiers and to the eastern Tuamotus. Steve and Ernst have kept up a radio schedule since then, and now we were going to be in the same place once again. He did arrive right at 11 o'clock and dropped his anchor where Katie Lee had been.

On Monday morning we decided to go for a walk on the beach and do some shelling. We went in and stopped by Alex's, but no one was home so we continued on to the beach. This beach has a large breaking surf that is just spectacular to watch. We did find a few shells, but nothing very exciting. We decided to return to the village and walk down to the northern end. We were making the circle back around to Alex and Christina's when a couple called out to us to join them. William and Jamima are an older couple who have lived on Penrhyn all their lives. We sat and talked for awhile, and they were kind enough to give us some bananas and a squash before we left. Alex and Christina drove by on their way home, so we left for their house. Steve and Alex sat outside working on fishing gear while I joined Christina in the back house. The smaller children were there so I blew up balloons for them to play with, and soon the older kids were all coming home. We asked Alex and Christina if they would join us for birthday cake the next day, and we agreed to come over around 6 p.m.

Tuesday morning, Steve was busy making my German Chocolate cake, complete with home-made coconut pecan frosting. I got to do another load of laundry since it did not look like rain. Around 3 o'clock Ernst invited us over for a visit to have a glass of wine for my birthday so we joined him aboard Accord and had a very nice visit. Around 5 o'clock we took the cake in to Alex and Christina's so that we could visit for awhile, and Ernst joined us about 30 minutes later. They sent me to the front house because it was my birthday, and I was not allowed to do any work, so I sat and visited with William, Alextine, and Sylvia, who are 5, 3, and 11 respectively. I felt quite honored because Alextine actually took my hand, which is very unusual because she is so shy.

We had just wanted to have the family share some cake with us, but as usual we were invited for dinner. Before dinner, Christina made me close my eyes, and when I opened them, she handed me a home-made shell necklace. But best of all, she had made me palm frond fan. The center is a beautifully polished oyster shell and then the intricately woven fan is woven to the shell. It is so beautiful, and when when she gave it to me, I almost started to cry. I never expected such a lovely and memorable gift. Next, everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to me, and I blew out my candles.

We all sat down at the table for dinner, and Alex said a prayer for me for my birthday and followed it with a prayer to bless the food. My next very special treat was "Varo" or Squilla mantis. This is a shellfish that has a head that resembles a praying mantis and a body that looks like a lobster. We had read about them in the Tuamotus but had never had a chance to try one. These were cooked in butter and garlic, and they were absolutely delicious! They have the taste of lobster, but they are not quite as rich. We also had breadfruit salad (just like potato salad), rice, pasta salad, and parrot fish. We also had rolls that were made with flour, water, and baking powder, and then fried in oil. It was very similar to Indian fry bread.

After the meal we all sat around talking, and then it began to rain. And it really rained and the wind blew. All the kids ran to take showers while there was so much water coming down. It has been pretty dry here for the past few months, so the rain was very welcome. Houses here collect rain water by using gutters on the roof to divert the water into large (500 gallon) black plastic holding tanks that stand above ground. We waited for awhile for things to settle down before we left for the boat, which it did around 8 o'clock. Alex gave me his raincoat, and we headed back to the dinghy. Ernst took off in his kayak, and we followed him to make sure that he got back to this boat without a problem, which he did. We returned to our boat and got the engine off and the dinghy hoisted. I was grateful for the raincoat. The good thing was that the rain had done a wonderful job of cleaning off all the salt that had accumulated on the deck.

It was hard not being with family and friends for my birthday this year; however, I must say that I had a wonderful birthday that was quite unique because of where we were and because of the people who were with us to celebrate it. I will certainly always remember this one.

Well, at noon today we moved across the atoll to Te Tautua Village on the eastern side. It is a much smaller village, but the people are just as friendly. Katie Lee moved here last Saturday, so right after we anchored, Larry dropped by to tell us to come to shore. We took the dinghy in, and as soon as we had landed, a couple was calling us over to visit. After them, we met another couple before making it to the home where Larry and Trinda were visiting. We spent the afternoon with them enjoying peach cobbler and visiting with everyone. Soloman is a fisherman, and so Steve has someone else to go fishing with, which made him very happy. We plan to spend several days here before returning to Omoka.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Festivities at Penrhy

July 21, 2008--On Friday, a large squall came over the island, and we had a very nice rain shower that helped to clean off some of the salt that was still attached to the boat. Around 2 o'clock we went in to shore to drop off a pasta dish for Alex's birthday party that evening. Steve helped Alex with his single-sideband antenna while I visited with Christina while she made grass skirts for the school's performance at 6 o'clock. She and her daughter were making the skirts as well as flower leis. As always, it was fascinating to watch them work. I talked with Christina and asked her all about her 11 (yes, that is 11) children, two of whom are twin boys. She told me all of their names and ages. I am still trying to remember them all. In addition to her own children, she and Alex are raising one grandchild and an adopted daughter. To say that they have a "full house" is an understatement.

After awhile Steve and I left to find the manager of Telecom on the island because he sold postage stamps. We try to buy a stamp at each new country that we visit. We thought that we could just walk up to his house and buy the stamp--wrong. First he asked us to sit down and started asking us questions about where we had come from etc. Then his wife came out with cake, doughnuts, and juice. She joined us for a visit. After about 30 minutes we hopped into his truck, and he drove us to the Telecom office on the one dirt road on this side of the island. There he pulled out a folder with about 20 different Penrhyn stamps inside. They were all so beautiful that we ended up buying 8 stamps, 4 for each of us. When we finished, we had to wait for a few minutes while he took care of some business--we walked to the beach to enjoy the beautiful view--and then he drove us back to the wharf where our dinghy was. We climbed out of the truck bed and thanked him for all his hospitality. He asked us if we had some blank CDs that we could spare, and we said that we would bring some to the performance that evening.

As usual, our dinghy was covered with children who were playing in the water. They love to climb up on the dinghy and then jump into the water. Most of the kids were boys, but one or two girls are usually present as well. We climbed into the dinghy and then started the difficult process of getting them to let loose of the dinghy and move away from the engine propeller. They always ask to go out to the boat with us, but we usually talk around that idea.

We went back to the boat to get ready for the evening in town. We returned around 5:15 and went to find the Community Center where the performance was to be held. We missed it but found the Protestant church, which we hope to attend, as well as the remains of a World War II Liberator bomber named, "Go-Gettin-Girl." The U.S. built the airfield here during the war, and a few buildings remain, although the foundations are about all that remain for most of them.

We decided to walk to Alex's house to go with them. When we got there, we were given beautiful flower head leis to wear. Larry and Tendra from sv Katie Lee were also there. We all walked to the Community Center together and found our chairs. Flora, the principal, made sure that we were sitting on the front row so we had a good idea of what was to come. The presentation started a bit late, but when it did, it was wonderful. The small children were the first to perform, and the groups progressed upward in age. A special treat was a beauty contest where the contestants were the senior boys dressed up at women. They had on dresses, heels, hats, and jewelry, and the people loved it. There were cat calls and whistles, and a vote was taken for the prettiest one. The boys really got into the spirit of it and put on quite a show. The older kids then came out to perform. One dance was done by just the older girls. Their head pieces and hip belts were not made out of flowers but were made of plant materials, and they were gorgeous. We found out that in French Polynesia the hips are moved in circles; however, in the Cooks the hips move up and down.

Next, the kids all came out to the audience and picked a dancing partner. One young lady was headed for Steve, but someone else beat her to it, so she grabbed me. She was very friendly and told me to simply follow her dance when it was our turn. Two pairs at a time went out to the center of the floor with the kids leading the dancing and the adults following. Steve and I did our best, but I don't think that we would win any awards. At the end of the presentation the adults began making speeches, which were in their native language, and donating money to the school. We were happy to make our contribution to raise funds for sports equipment for the school.

We all went back to Alex and Christina's for a late dinner. The children put out rice, hot dogs, meat patties, and the traditional tuna in coconut milk along with a huge cray fish (more like a Maine lobster). I brought some pasta salad and Trenda made some spaghetti. Their daughter Annie had baked a chocolate cake for Alex's 50th birthday so we all worked to light the 50 candles on the cake, and then Alex worked to blow them all out. The family sang "Happy Birthday" to him with those lovely harmonized voices. We ate a wonderful meal and enjoyed a delicious piece of cake. It was after midnight when we returned to the boat, tired but delighted to have been part of such a lovely evening.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fun Times in Omaka

July 17, 2008--On Wednesday morning Andrew from the Ministry of Agriculture arrived at the boat to check us in. He was extremely polite and efficient. Steve filled out some forms and answered some questions, and we were done in about 30 minutes. Andrew had to hurry off because he was taking the island doctor across to the east side of the island to visit a patient so this helped to shorten the check-in.

Around 12:30 we took the dinghy into the village to look around. We had agreed to meet Larry and Tendra from sv Katie Lee in the afternoon to help get a single-sideband radio working for Alex and Christina, who live on the island. We first walked to Ru's house to take him a pair of flip flops and to get a scanned copy of our clearance papers from Papeete for our records. We talked with him for awhile and met his lovely family. I asked if I could take some pictures, so the whole family came out to pose for me. Ru asked if we could print out the pictures for him, and I answered that we could but only on regular paper, which he said would be just fine.

As we left his house and were walking towards Alex's house, a lady who was passing us on the road stopped to introduce herself. Her name is Flora Woonton, and she is the principal and a teacher at the school. Right after her came Cheryl who teaches the preschool. We had a lovely conversation with them, and they asked us what we had done in the States. They also told us that the children at the school were giving a presentation on Friday if we would like to attend, and, of course, we said we would love to. We continued on our way, but not 2 minutes later here came Flora on her motorcycle. She stopped and asked us if we would like to come by her house, so we followed her a short distance to a large two-story house. She lives there with her partner Tangaroa Ariki Tai. They both are originally from Penrhyn. Flora left and spent most of her time in New Zealand as a teacher. At one point, she was in South Carolina teaching for a short time as part of some international program. Tangaroa left and spent about 18 years in Australia working as a truck driver and forklift driver. He returned in 2006, and Flora returned just this past January. We enjoyed some ice-cold water and sat and talked while Tangaroa was cleaning a large catch of Grouper from a day out fishing. We loved visiting with these two people.

We were saying that we needed some New Zealand dollars in order to pay our fees before we leave Penrhyn. We had planned to get our bond in Bora-Bora back in New Zealand dollars; however, the teller told Steve they had none, so he took U.S. dollars. Anyway, Flora volunteered to take some of our U.S. in exchange for NZ money. She would be going to Raratonga the next week and could change it back. They were so helpful and so interesting to talk to.

We left around 3:30 since we had promised to stop at Alex and Christina's. We found their house and were introduced to everyone by Larry and Tendra. The guys went to a building in the back to work on the radio, and I stayed at the main house with Christina and Tendra. Christina was weaving a hat for Tendra's birthday on July 26. It was fascinating to watch her work--and it was a lot of work. Later Tendra took me to the back to meet some of the children. Annie, one of the older girls, now does the baking for the whole community. They have an oven in the ground made out of concrete. They put the loaves of bread into the oven, cover it with sheet metal, coconut husks, and finally a layer of cloth--anything they have available. Christina asked if I would like a loaf of bread, and I, of course, jumped at the offer. The cost was $4.50 so I gladly paid Annie when she brought me a loaf. It was a very large loaf, and it was still warm. It was going to be hard to wait until we got back to the boat to eat it. I learned from Annie that she was now out of flour until the supply ship comes back. Hopefully, that will be soon. We said our good byes and headed back to the boat. Before we left Alex brought us a zip lock full of fillet of grouper--wow!!!

When we arrived at the dinghy, there were about 8 young boys and girls swimming around the dinghy. When they saw us coming, they all decided to help us get our dinghy loose. A couple of boys got our dinghy anchor loose, and the rest held the dinghy while we got in. When we shoved off, they all hung onto the sides of the dinghy asking if they could go with us. They were all absolutely adorable.

When we got back to the boat, we got everything situated, and then we proceeded to eat about a third of the loaf of bread. It was absolutely delicious! We were quite tired after a long day so we enjoyed a delicious dinner of grouper in butter and garlic, rice, garlic toast, and a salad. We relaxed for awhile and then called it an evening.

Today we went into town around 9:30 to take in some cable for Alex's radio. We visited for a short time, and then left to stop by Tangaroa's house to drop off a picture. While we were there, he asked Steve to go spear fishing with him. Steve was so excited so we hurried back to the boat to get his gear ready. He took off with Tangaroa and two young men around 11 o'clock. They returned around 12:30 with just 2 fish, which Steve got to keep. The fishing might not have been good, but Steve had a great time. He said that the fish were all around the reef and so were the sharks. It was quite an experience, and I could tell that he loved every minute of it.

We ate a quick lunch and returned to spend the afternoon with Christina and Alex. Christina was still working on weaving Tendra's hat. Larry and Alex were able to get the radio working. Alex then asked Steve and Larry if they wanted to go spear fishing later in the afternoon, and, of course, they said yes. We returned to the boat, got Steve's gear together, and had a quick snack. Alex, along with three of his children, came to get them around 6 p.m. When they returned around 7 p.m., I was happy to see that they had caught about 25 fish. Steve got close but wasn't able to spear one; however, he had an incredible time. Once again he told me about all the fish and the sharks that he saw. This trip they had gone outside the reef to the ocean side, and Steve said that it was one of the best things he had ever done--he has never been in the water with so many sharks before. Luckily, they are all black tip sharks that pose no threat to the swimmers.

It has been a very busy two days here, and we have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. A cruising friend of ours will arrive Saturday morning so we will probably stay on this side of the atoll until then. At some point, we want to move over to the other side and visit the village there.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Arrival at Penrhyn

We made it here to Penrhyn Atoll, also known as Tongareva in the native Maori language. Tongareva means, "Sailing to the South." Penhryn is the name that was given to the atoll in 1788 by the British Ship Lady Penhryn. Apparently it has stuck. It was an unusual passage in that we sailed a straight 575-mile long rhumb line from Bora-Bora here, but along that straight line we jibed twice, tacked 3 times, sailed a close reach, a beam reach, a broad reach, and yesterday we closed the book sailing wing-on-wind dead down wind. In other words, to sail our straight 575-mile line we had winds from every point on the compass - and even a few hours no wind at all! That said we had a good passage and considering that the forecasts were for little to no wind, we made the passage in just under 5 days. We motored through Pass Taruia just north of the Village of Omoka, the administrative center of the Northern Cook Islands. There was a outgoing tide of 3 knots but the 300-foot-wide-pass was easily navigated by our vessel, which has such a powerful diesel engine!

Once inside the atoll there were numerous coral heads, obvious from the turquoise color of the water in an otherwise dark blue. It was easy to navigate among the coral heads to a location in about 40 feet of water where we dropped the anchor. Soon we were boarded by an official of the Cook Islands named Ru Taime. He was dressed in cargy-style shorts from Paris and a tropical print shirt. He did have a black leather brief case. It was quite windy and the waves made his aluminum boat a bit destructive to our pretty paint job, so we put out fenders, and he cooperatively climbed on board across our rubber dinghy which we were also using as a fender. Ru was invited below where he sat and looked at us so we offered him juice and cookies which he graciously accepted. After finishing his snack, he identified the paperwork he needed. We completed three different forms including a crew list, an import declaration, and another form, which we are not sure about. All documents including our passports were stamped with Ru noting that his Cook Island stamp was the best looking. We found out that we need to pay a $30 NZ/person departure tax plus a $2.50 NZ daily anchoring fee. That was all fine with us except that we have no New Zealand dollars as the bank in Bora-Bora had no New Zealand dollars when we checked out. There are only 200 people on this atoll, and there is certainly no post office, bank, or any other place that, as a business, might change American currency; but we will figure out something--maybe another cruiser will have some extra to exchange, or we heard that maybe one of the two small stores might be able to help. Of course, there is always the possibility that we will never be able to leave!

When Ru was finished with officialdom, he continued to sit and look around including inside cabinets, in the forward berth, and the head. It wasn't an official inspection, just his curiosity. In fact, Ru was on the boat for at least an hour after completing the clearance formalities, and it was wonderful having him here. We were informed that church is on Sunday at 0600 and 0930, but it is imperative that we are inside the church when the clergy arrives because the doors are then shut and no one gets in or out! We are not to work on the boat on Sunday and this includes no swimming. We had already been warned about proper dress, especially for the women. To our delight we learned that we are only the 5th boat to arrive here this year, and normally they have 30 cruisers a year. The cargo ship comes only 2 to 3 times a year and only when full, but the population have no real way to make money so buying things to be sent on the cargo ship is difficult. No shipments of fruits, vegetables, or meat ever occur so almost all their food is harvested from the atoll. They have small gardens, but clearly they eat fish and other seafood, breadfruit, a few bananas, and watermelon! Speaking of fish, Steve told Ru of his poor luck recently, so Ru suggested a look at his fishing tackle. He advised a few changes, snickered a bit at some of the hooks Steve was using for large ocean fish, and pointed out those items that were good and for what types of fish. He also asked if he could have two hooks, which, of course, we were willing to part with. He asked if we had any more of the 300-pound white fishing line, and we gave him the old line we had recently replaced. In return for the gifts he opened his brief case and pulled out jewelry that he makes from sea shells and oyster shells. He let us pick a necklace for each of us. He then asked if we had any small drill bits that he uses for the jewelry, and we did have extras of what he needed. Ru asked about sandpaper and sandals noting our similar foot sizes. We promised to look and drop off any items that we have which are extra and which he might use.

Ru's requests were simply a way to acquire needed goods. He and all the people here and on many other remote islands in the Pacific have needs, and there are few sources to fulfill those needs. When a cruising boat comes in, it is a source that may satisfy a need. There will be gifts given in return, gifts such as fresh fish, a trip fishing, a meal after church, or what ever they can do. We find that all to be wonderful. We do not know how long we will stay here, but it will be for a while; and of course, if we can't find any New Zealand dollars we may never be able to leave!

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Headed for Penrhyn Island

July 11, 2008--On Tuesday afternoon we moved over to the motu and worked on a few projects. In the evening, we invited Diane and Jim from sv Prairie Oyster over for appetizers and cocktails and had a very nice evening visiting with them. They will leave a few days after us to head for Raratonga and Tonga.

We decided to stay one more day so Wednesday morning we pulled the anchor and motored to the main island and picked up a mooring ball at Bloody Mary's. This is a famous restaurant here so everyone says it is a "must do" while you are in Bora-Bora. The two other boats from the La Paz group that are here, Prairie Oyster and Wind Dancer, all went in to have lunch as a reunion. Steve and I enjoyed a Jimmy Buffet "Cheeseburger in Paradise" and Steve enjoyed a Bloody Mary, which is their specialty. There were quite a few cruisers there so we were all discussing our French Polynesia exit plans. Jim and Diane tied their dinghy to our boat and joined us while we motored back to the motu to drop our anchor again. This spot has been one of our favorites here. It is beautiful and quiet with lovely water to swim and snorkel in.

Thursday morning we left the anchorage around 9 o'clock and followed the channel to the main entrance. We hoisted our main sail and pulled out our jib and headed out the pass. The breakers on the right side of the pass were quite impressive so I took some video and a few pictures. We enjoyed 17 knots of wind on the beam, which made it a wonderful sail for us. The outlook for the next few days was not so nice--very light winds.

Around 5 o'clock in the afternoon, Bora-Bora faded away from view, and so we said goodbye to French Polynesia. We thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful Marquesas, Tuamotus, and Society Islands. The people on the Tuamotus were the friendliest, but we enjoyed meeting people at all these places. It has been very interesting learning about their cultures and histories. It has been an amazing experience for us and also a real challenge, and it will give us something to talk about in the years ahead.

We enjoyed the good conditions for about 12 hours, but the winds died down in the evening so it was slow going with sails slapping for some time. Around 1:30 in the morning I woke Steve up because I saw a large thunderstorm headed toward us. We decided to gibe the sails and head back to the southwest. We were off our track so we would have had to make this move at some time so we decided now was as good a time as ever. This tack took us away from the thunderstorm and back to our original course. Around 5 o'clock this morning we were down to a half knot of boat speed so we finally gave up and started the motor. Since the batteries needed charging we ran the engine for 2 hours, and then the wind finally came up a bit at that point so we hoisted the sails again. I was in the cockpit this morning when a whale surfaced about 50 feet from the boa. It did not stay on the surface for long, and I was not able to spot it again.

The weather information we received said indicated that we would have light winds but the angle of the wind looked good for us to head up to Penrhyn. As always with weather, and with sailing, you don't always get what you expect. The angle of the wind has made it broad reach, which means the winds are almost dead behind us. That is not our best point of sail, especially with light winds. We are, however, plugging along. The skies are sunny and blue with very few clouds, and the temperature is quite nice. Originally the seas were a bit large and confused, but they have settled down nicely now. We decided that we would just relax and get there when we get there. We assume that it will take us another 4 to 5 days to reach the island. Hopefully, the winds will come back up soon.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008


July 8, 2008—On Saturday we moved up and around the north side of the island to anchor on the northeast motu. You can get out to the motus by making an
S-turn through the coral within the channel. Our boat draws 6 feet and the depth in this turn got down to 7.8 feet—plenty of room. Using the chart and our electronic chart plotter, we made our way to the Motu Tofari and looked for a good spot. We went into one anchorage but bumped the bottom so we moved on. We found an anchorage with beautiful water just past two of these resorts, but after being anchored for a short time, we realized that the path for the shuttle boats for the resort went right between the resort and us. They buzzed by us all afternoon and through most of the night.

This was not what we were looking for so we decided to move. Moving farther south meant pretty shallow water, so we moved back to the northern end at Motu Ome. We again found a nice spot and dropped anchor. We didn’t have the shuttle boats; however, we did have jet skis—seven of them came flying by us, and using our boat for a turning mark, circled us several times creating a major cross chop for us.

This side of the island is just spectacular with Mount Mataihua visible from the whole area, but, unfortunately, the motu from the north to the northeast has been built up with bungalow resorts and is much more developed than we had expected. Sadly, it has lost its charm.

On Monday morning we moved back to the Bora-Bora Yacht Club in order to take care of some business on the Internet. We also found out that a doctor, who lives next to the yacht club, actually owns the club, and the two young couples that we met are managing it for him with hopes of buying it at some point. In the afternoon we dingied into town and took care of our grocery shopping.

Today we will get some fuel and check out with the Gendarme and then moved down to the anchorage at the south end behind another motu. We plan to leave tomorrow or Thursday, depending on the weather, and head northwest to Penrhyn Island in the Northern Cooks. The passage will take us approximately 5 or 6 days depending on the winds.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Tahaa to Bora-Bora

July 4, 2008—We spent two additional nights at Marina Iti so that we could enjoy a traditional Polynesian dinner and dancers on Tuesday night, July 1. It was a different dance show than the one we attended on Moorea as this one had fire dancers. These male dancers twirl sticks with fire burning on each end while they dance. It was great fun, and three other couples from sv Island Time, sv Scarlett O’Hara, and sv Blue Plains Drifter joined us. During the day on Tuesday, we shared a rented car with Island Time and drove around the island. We needed to get some fuel and stop at the bank. These two errands ended up taking us just about all day. We saw the island not once, but twice in order to find what we needed. Oh well, it was a fun day, and we enjoyed a good lunch in the town of Patio.

On Wednesday John and Renee on Scarlett O’Hara joined us on a circumnavigation of the channel around Tahaa. There was no wind so we motored to the southeast corner of the island to Passe Toahotu to do some snorkeling. Unfortunately, the current in the pass was pushing us across the pass instead of through it, so we moved on to the north end of the island. We anchored just off the shore at Patio and then took the dinghy ashore to enjoy another excellent lunch at the same restaurant.

We then continued around the island to the west side and went into Baie Hurepiti to anchor for the evening. This bay goes back quite a distance and is also very deep. That evening I made sauerbraten with spatzel, and John and Renee joined us for dinner.

We pulled the anchor around 8:30 in the morning and headed for Bora-Bora. The pass out was not difficult at all. It was a clear day so we had a beautiful view of Mount Otemanu on Bora-Bora all day. The reef on the southern end of Bora-Bora had breakers hitting it, which made for a beautiful show. It was a bit intimidating coming in through Passe Teavanui (the only pass through the reef) since the breakers were hitting the pass on either side, but we made it just fine and shot some pretty good videos. We picked up a mooring ball at the Bora-Bora Yacht Club last night, but we left the mooring this morning and just dropped our anchor a few hundred feet away.

Last night the new owners of the Yacht Club held a dinner for the cruisers to celebrate the Fourth of July. The food was wonderful—steak, chicken, pork, potato salad, coleslaw, and a wonderful dessert. There were about 60 cruisers who attended, and we all had a great time. The owners, one of whom is an American, even raised the American flag for us.

We will move around to the east side of the island today and stay there for 2 or 3 days. We hope to find some good snorkeling there and, hopefully, fewer boats.