Tuesday, August 16, 2011


After a really nice four day sail from Bora Bora, we arrived in Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. We managed to navigate the extremely shallow and narrow man made pass no problem thanks to our shallow draft and narrow beam. The entrance was the most challenging part since the outgoing current was running at about 4-5 knots and the swell was opposing it. That combined with the fact that the entrance itself is only about 15 meters wide made surfing the standing waves a little scary since we tend to get our stern pushed around and the boat turned sideways. Jared was able to keep us from getting completely sideways but he had to push the old perkins pretty hard to get us through the outflow. The anchorage itself is also pretty tight and there was already a small flotilla of about 10 boats there. Luckily our friends on Libis, who we met only briefly in Hiva Oa, invited us to anchor next to them. It was great to finally catch up with Fleur and Jelle and meet their new crew member Holger. Fleur and Jelle are from Holland and Holger is from Germany.

Our first few days in Aitutaki were a bit stressful due to a nasty front that passed through followed by some major boat shuffling. As the wind shifted around with the front it also picked up quite a bit and our boat became the windward boat of the flotilla. Our stern anchor picked up some weeds and started dragging so we had to fend off of Libis while we re-anchored and added more anchors and lines to shore. Jared was really wishing we had another anchor and some extra chain. After the storm most of the boats we ready to leave and most of the boats had deeper drafts that required a high tide to leave. Even still, many of them got stuck or hit bottom (sandy thankfully) so Jared was out there with a few others in dingies helping people get un-stuck. After we were done moving our boat around and finally had a nice secure spot tied to two sturdy palm trees we had a much better time.

The people on Aitutaki are super friendly and, best of all, they speak English! We drank lots of Steinlager and ate lots of fish and chips at the local bars and food stands. We had the good fortune to get to see the awesome Aitutaki choir, drumming, and dance troupes perform upon their return from the inter-island competitions at Rarotonga for a mere $2 per person. The singing was so amazing that it made us feel like going to church and the drumming and dancing was outstanding! The best we've seen so far. We rented scooters with Shalimar and rode around the whole island. We dove outside the pass with Krispin, Vincent, and Ryan and Krispin found us a new storm anchor. A 45lb Bruce was on the bottom with about 50 ft of chain and a bucket to use as a lift. Score! We snorkeled with giant clams and saw some of the healthiest looking reefs we've seen since the Tuamotus. We picnicked on a beautiful deserted motu surrounded by shallow white sand and clear turquoise water. Life is pretty darn good out here to say the least.

Our friends Stoph and Sara on Takalani showed up a few days later and we had a good time catching up with them a some new friends on Catacoas and Karinya. We made friends with a nice old Scottish Kiwi named Richard and he invited us to his place to do laundry and hang out. He had some crazy stories and knew a ton about the history of the Cook Islands and elsewhere. He worked for most of his life as an agricultural engineer of sorts and has lived in all sorts of crazy places. He married a Cook islander which is why he gets to live in Aitutaki now. In the Cook Islands all property is passed down from generation to generation and outsiders cannot become citizens or buy land unless they marry a native islander. I believe it is the same kind of system in some of the other islands as well. He also showed us a cool documentary about Suwarrow Island in the northern Cook group. A lot of people we know went there from Bora Bora instead of to Aitutaki or Rarotonga. It sounds like an amazing place but we chose to do the southern route through the Cooks this time. Maybe next time! Suwarrow is a protected atoll inhabited only by the two park rangers who look after things. People passing through on their boats are really the only visitors. The rangers take people fishing and cook them traditional meals and show them how to live on an isolated atoll. Sounds kind of like Toau in the Tuamotus. LIke many of the atolls in the south pacific, it is also a very important nesting ground for ocean-going birds. As a matter of fact, the motu we had our picnic lunch on in Aitutaki was a nesting ground for the Red-tailed Tropic Birds.

After ten days it was time to move on. Once we were done dealing with storing our new anchor with all its chain we were ready to rumble. Headed for Beveridge Reef if the weather cooperates and then Nuie, the smallest self-governed nation in the world!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Leaving Bora Bora

We're going to leave Bora Bora today. We've had some fun here but I don't think it'll go down as our favorite island. It's beautiful but it's a bit overrun with tourists (you know, people like us). To be fair, we haven't fully explored the island. We've been too busy working on stuff to get ready for the slightly longer passages ahead of us. We added some running back stays to stabilize the main mast (probably not necessary but gives us peace of mind), changed the oil and filters, made some improvements to our wind vane set up, and those sorts of things.

Our plan from here to Tonga is as follows: we'll go from Bora Bora to Aitutaki in the Cook Islands, then to Beveridge Reef, then to Nuie, and from Nuie we'll head on to Vava'u in Tonga. Then we'll stay in the various island groups of Tonga until sometime around early November. We were planning to have Rarotonga be our first stop after Bora Bora but it looks like there may be a mild front coming through about the time we plan to get there. The front will bring winds out of the north and from what we've heard, the harbor at Rarotonga (marginal in good conditions) is unsafe with winds from the north. That's why we've changed our plan to Aitutaki. At any rate, the plans are all shown on the map tab. Speaking of maps, I've added a small map on the right side of this page. In theory, that map will display our position reports to the Pacific Seafarer's Net. On multi day passages (like the ones coming up), we'll report our position via ham radio and the operators of the net will update the data set that feeds that little map. It only shows position reports from the last 30 days, so it's not showing anything as of the writing of this post but, if all goes according to plan, it should start to show our position sometime tomorrow.

I'm not sure when we'll have internet access again so we may not be able to update the blog again until Tonga. We may have access sooner but there's no need to worry if you don't see any updates 'til then. We've got to run now. We still need to top off our water tanks, roll up our dinghy, and pay our bill at the Bora Bora yacht club before we can get underway.