2010-08-August 2010

July 29 – August 1, 2010 - Passage from Bora Bora, FP to Aitutaki, Cook Islands - 485.2nm

We started off with light winds 10-15 knots and were flying our spinnaker when we noticed two rips in it one at the head of the sail and one at the foot, so down it had to come. We were actually surprised that it has lasted this long. It should be an easy sew job though. We landed a large mahi mahi 26 pounds; 48 inches long. This always adds some excitement to the passage and wakes everybody up.

We have been trying to use up all of our vegetables, fruit, eggs and meat as we understand that the authorities will take it away when we arrive. So we have been having big meals everyday even though most of us don't feel like eating.

Just as we were getting close to the island a squall came through, we made a new record, we surfed down a wave at 15 knots. I was inside with the door closed because of the rain and I didn’t feel a thing, I had no idea that we were going that fast. That says something about the PDQ!! We are going to make it through the pass before dark, thank goodness. Our charts are off here and the pass is not where it shows on the chart, we managed to find it finally. This is probably the most stressful pass that we have attempted so far. It is very narrow, very shallow and long. It is suppose to be 6 feet at high tide but we actually touched bottom as the depth sounder showed 2.5 feet!

The anchorage is very small and shallow. There are already 4 boats here. How did these monohulls get in here? Did they come through a different pass that we don’t know about? The boats around us have many anchors out and are tied to a palm tree on shore so we followed suite and took a while to get ourselves organized in the pouring rain. We put out the regular bow anchor; a line tied to a palm tree on shore from the bow; a stern anchor off the starboard hull and another stern anchor off the port hull, whichever way the wind blows, we aren’t going to move. However I hope we don't have to leave in a hurry, as it won't happen!

It is very calm and lovely in the anchorage, we won’t be swimming here though it looks too murky and weedy for my liking. Outside the pass some boats are anchored and it looks very rough and uncomfortable so it was worth making our way in here.

After checking in, I kept waiting for someone to come out to the boat and abscond with what was left of my fresh produce and meat but nobody materialized. They never came and took any meat, fruit, eggs or vegetables so we didn’t have to get rid of it all so quickly and we could have stocked up. However that being said a boat came in a few days after us and tied up to the dock and the officials did confiscate their fresh produce so perhaps it is the luck of the draw. There is not a lot of fresh produce to available to purchase on the island, unfortunately alot of the crops were wiped out by the cyclone earlier in the year.

After being in French Polynesia for over three months, we are experiencing a bit of a culture shock to be somewhere new. Here are a few things I noticed about Atutaki:

We took part in quite a few community events during our visit to Aitutaki:

We arrived during the Constitution Celebration which celebrated the 1965 declaration of independence and is the major festival of the year in the Cook islands. In Aitutaki, there was a small parade.

· There are no baguettes.

· There are no dogs anywhere on the island!!

· Everyone speaks English as a second language!

· It is very tide and clean.

· People bury their dead in their front yard with tombstones, the works – (don’t think people move houses very often).

· Cyclone Pat Feb 10, 2010 decimated houses - you can still see the damage to property all over the island.

· Everyone is very friendly, they look you directly in the eye, say hello and smile.

· They are very religious, come and visit but do not do it on a Sunday especially by Raratonga Air!

· Aitutaki is known for the beauty of the lagoon.

We bought tickets to a string instrument competition. This was thought up by local council members as a way to increase morale in the community after the cyclone. It was well attended. There are lots of very talented musicians in the South Pacific. We all took a guess at which band would win and we were right!

We attended a fundraiser for the local elementary school. We met the principal and had a nice long chat with her. The event was a movie night and they were selling lots of food. The movie they chose for some reason beyond me was “The Karate Kid”, not the new one but the one from 20 years ago with Ralph Macchio!! Our kids had already seen it but they sat and watched it anyways (only complaining a bit) while we ate chicken and taro; beef and broccoli, cotton candy and whatever else the mothers of the school children decided to make for the evening.

Aitutaki was wonderful to bike around, our first day here we got our bikes out and left them locked on shore so we were able to use them everyday. What a treat.

We biked all over the island, we found the golf course, but there was nobody on it and the club house seemed to have suffered some cyclone damage. The other side of the island was absolutely gorgeous with beaches, little huts, a couple of cute restaurants. We noticed that there are quite a few tourists here, I believe they are from New Zealand and Australia but it was nice to see an island that hasn’t been so affected by the economic downturn and is still prospering with some healthy tourism.

We stopped by one of the hotels to watch the fire dancing, it is very similar to the dancing in French Polynesia and alot of fun to watch.

We spent one day touring the lagoon in our dingy. This is probably the most gorgeous lagoon we have visited yet. It is so stunning – the aqua blue water, the foaming breakers around the perimeter reef and the pure blinding white sandy beaches. We couldn’t believe that places like this still exist in this world. We met a local fisherman hunting octopus, we stopped to chat with him and he explained to us how he catches them and how to cook them.

One interesting motu we visited was Akaiami motu. It is where the old Tasman Empire Air Line (TEAL) Solent flying boats landed to refuel on the trans-Pacific Coral Route between Fiji, Samoa and Tahiti. We met the proprietor and his grand kids on the beach and he gave us a tour of his establishment. The remnants of the old jetty can still be seen. Supposedly Cary Grant and John Wayne are two celebrities who spent some time on this motu while their Solent was being refuelled. Imagine stepping off a plane on this paradise? It would be hard to get back on.

We hiked up Manugapu. It is Aitutaki’s highest peak at 124m, not the highest peak we have climbed but hard enough in this heat. The views were spectacular of the lagoon and ocean beyond it. We then biked over to the Maraes. These maraes are notable for their large stones. But bring your mosquito repellent, the annoying bugs were very hungry when we arrived.

Our final day in Aitutaki we went to the CICC church, actually the church is in the process of being renovated so we went next door. The singing was something I have never experienced before. The man behind me I’m sure could have auditioned for the 3 Tenors and been accepted. I’m not sure if it was the acoustics because we were in a small room but it seemed like the parishoners were not singing but yelling at the top of their lungs, I felt like I had to cover my ears but I thought that would be a bit immature. What an experience.

One monohull left yesterday and they got stuck in the channel, they eventually got off and they were on their way. Another monohull has been trying to leave for days but keeps getting stuck and turning around and coming back in to the lagoon. I hope we won’t have any of these issues as our planned departure is for high tide this afternoon before dinnertime.