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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