Saturday, August 2, 2008

Penrhyn to American Samoa

August 1, 2008--We left at noon today leaving Penrhyn Island and headed for American Samoa. The past two days have been full of goodbyes, first to the wonderful Tapu family. We went ashore on Wedesday morning because we had planned to cross back to Omoka Village; however, the weather was not good because of rain and high winds, so we postponed it for a day. When we arrived at the Tapu home, we found that Emily was not feeling well because of her bad tooth so she was resting inside. While inside, we were given two woven shell necklaces made by her mother Repa. We had asked for two necklaces to buy from them, but they would not accept any payment, so we thanked them for the lovely gifts. When we went outside, Leida handed me a large woven shell fan with orange and yellow in it. The ends were frayed to give it a very delicate look. Yesterday when they were fishing, Soloman told Steve that Leida was thrilled with a pair of earrings I had given her, so she made me the fan. Right after that a neighbor named Teina, who is baby Mary's mother, handed me another necklace and 2 black pearls. I was totally surprised. To receive so many beautifully made gifts from these people was so special. We visited for several hours and then headed back to the boat, because we needed to get a few things done before leaving Te Tautua Village.

Steve needed to clean the propeller so he got out his mask and fins and prepared to jump in. I saw two black-tip sharks so I asked, "Are you sure you want to go in right now." Before he could answer me, there were six sharks, two of which were nurse sharks and the rest were black tip. Steve started slapping his fins against the water and all the sharks came up for a look, thinking that they were going to get fed. After a few minutes, however, they lost interest and disappeared. Steve went into the water and watched all around him for a few minutes. There were still a couple of sharks, but they were keeping their distance. He did get the prop cleaned and even took the camera underwater for some pictures and a video, all of which came out very well. That was enough excitement for one day.

On Thursday morning we went back to the Tapu home to truly say goodbye this time. We thanked them for everything they had done for us during our visit and for all the wonderful gifts, which we will always treasure. I walked across the road to find Leida's sister Puna to ask if I could take her picture. She posed with her baby boy, and I got a very nice picture. Then she asked me if I would take one with her husband and daughter, and I said that I would love to. Her daughter was off playing, so I took a picture of her, her husband Mike, and their 10-month-old son. As I was leaving, she stopped me and gave me another lovely hand fan with orange, yellow, and green in it. What more can I say about these gifts? I returned to the Tapu home, and Steve and I said goodbye one last time, and we left and stopped at two other homes to talk with some of the other people in the village. They were cleaning fish right by the water, and four large nurse sharks and four black-tip sharks were all swimming right up to to wall, just waiting for scraps. This is where they learned to expect to be fed.

We returned to our boat and were ready to go in about 30 minutes. The weather was much better for crossing because we had sunny skies and could easily see the coral heads on our return trip. We anchored off the wharf and within 20 minutes a large rain squall came through and whipped up the rain and the seas. We waited to go ashore until it had passed, and then we went in to check out of the Cook Islands. We were a bit nervous about the anchor holding because it was blowing pretty hard and the waves had built up. We found Ru and told him that we needed to check out, but first he lent us his motor scooter to drive to the store. We picked up just a few items for our trip and then returned to his house to fill out the paperwork. We got our exit zarpe and thanked him, and then we walked to Alex's house.

We were happy to see them again, and we sat on their front porch and told them about our visit on the other side. They invited us to dinner since we were leaving the next day so we went back to the boat to shower and make some fruit salad for dinner. We returned at 6:30 and visited while dinner was being cooked. We then all sat at one table outside the kitchen and ate wonderful batter-fried fish, pasta salad, rice, gravy, and a special bread that Christina makes. We let the kids enjoy the fruit salad, and did they ever! There was none left. We then had to say goodbye to this other wonderful family so we told Alex and Christina how much meeting them had meant to us and thanked them one last time. When we got ready to leave, all 11 children, ranging in age from 22 down to 18 months, came out to say good bye and give us each a kiss on the cheek. It was very special. We walked back to the dinghy talking about our experiences here on Penrhyn and how we are so glad that we stopped here. It has been an experience of a lifetime, and one that neither of us will ever forget.

As I said, we got underway around noon. There were some small rips at the pass, but we had no trouble at all. We got the sails up and now have 812 miles to go to get to Samoa. The sea swell is a bit large, so we are rolling back and forth, back and forth. The winds are about 15 knots, but we hope it picks up just a bit to reduce the rolling. Ernst on sv Accord left with us, and we can see his boat to our starboard. We may stop at Manihiki, Cook Islands, if the weather is settled. If not, we will just continue on to Samoa. As much as we hated to leave, it does feel good to be back out here--rolls and all.

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