August 2010 - Page 2

August 8, 2010 - Aitutaki, Cook Islands to Palmerston Island, Cook Islands - 203.2 nm

We made it out of the pass in Aitutaki with no problems – yeah! The passage to Palmerston Island was nice and mellow. We caught a skipjack Tuna 8 lbs; 21 inches – it was dragging in the water behind the boat, we only noticed it when we were bringing the lines in before dark!!

As we were coming into the island, we received a call on the VHF from Edmund, who directed us to a mooring ball. He would be our host for the duration of our stay.

Palmerston is an interesting island (actually it’s not an island but a coral atoll). The lineage of all Palmerston Islanders can be traced to just one man – an Englishman from Gloucester named William Marsters. He was a ship’s carpenter, who arrived from Manuae with two Polynesian wives in 1863. He added a third wife and created his own island dynasty. Today we were told that there are more than 10,000 Marsters scattered throughout The Cooks and all of Australasia (although we read somewhere that the number is much lower than that). The island is divided into three to house the three main families. Their names are Edmund, Bob and Teri.

As soon as we tied to our mooring ball Edmund asked us if we had caught any fish as he would have taken it and filleted for us. The host family is responsible for you during your stay, you don’t use your own dingy but they come and ferry you back and forth which was a good thing because the small boat channel was scary. I was quite happy to not have to navigate it.

The first day we went in for a great lunch of fish, rice, homemade buns, cake, and juice. Edmund then toured us around the island and the kids played on the beach for a while.

After he dropped everyone off on their boat, Edmund came over for a beer and spent quite a while explaining to us the whole Marsters clan history. There are some issues within the family and we heard the whole sordid tale. Very confusing!

The only way they receive supplies is by supply ship which is suppose to come every 3 months however the last supply ship that stopped in Palmerston was in February – 6 months ago!! Yachties help by donating items . We gave Edmund vegetables, fruit, children’s clothes and the most coveted item: gasoline.

The fishing, snorkelling and swimming off the back of the boat was spectacular. There were many parrotfish to spear. It reminded us of Bonaire, the way the water was so clear and clean.

The next day we went back again to Edmunds house for another great meal at lunchtime. This one was cooked in their underground oven-- whole parrot fish with coconut milk, rice, coconut mash and cake. We walked around the island again. They have a very nice school. The principal is originally from New Zealand and married to Teri. The kids met some of the local kids who taught Andrea and Ryan how to play volleyball. They organized a drumming and dance performance for us. Tere and mostly the youth church club, I got the feeling that these kids weren’t too used to dancing like in the other parts of South Pacific that we have visited. Tere is making an effort to keep their culture alive. We went back for a drink at Edmund’s house then he drove everyone back home.

The wind picked up around 2000 it was an awful nightI, didn’t sleep at all. We put our anchor down for extra security as we are close to the reef. We are going to have to leave which is too bad as we would have liked to stay for another day or two expecially because Edmund had a bbq on the beach planned for lunch today.

August 12, 2010 Palmerston, Cook Island to Suwarrow, Cook Islands – 292.2nm

This was one of the worst passages EVER. It was cold, rainy and cloudy. There were big waves hitting us on our beam, 25 knot winds and everybody felt sick. Cupboards were flying open, books were falling onto the floor, this rarely happens!!! The winds increased to 27 knots and we were not even sure we were going to get into the pass. Thank goodness the boat just sails on her own. Thank you! Well we just turned the corner and wow, what a difference now that the waves are now behind us. Everything good now.

The horrible passage was worth it as Suwarrow was a VERY memorable stop. As this is a National Park, there are two rangers who watch over the island and surrounding areas for half the year – James and Apii – they were truly awesome. They were our tour guides. They took us snorkelling, spearfishing; coconut crab hunting. Then they cooked it all up at the end of the day for everybody to enjoy at their place dubbed “The Suwarrow Yacht Club”. The ritual for the potluck once all the food is ready: say prayers; children eat first, women next, then the men get what's left over! The coconut crab hunting was the best. It was so memorable. We took our boats out to the motu, hiked a few miles on the beach, then hiked through the jungle to get to the trees where the crabs live. You need to look in the holes in the tree roots and try to grab one out and stuff it in a bag before it takes your hand off.

One day when a new group of cruisers were out coconut crab hunting with Apii, James was asked to give a demonstration on how to make his delicious “Pod Pancakes”. He turned out to be an amazing teacher as well. Here is how you do it:

Coconut Pod Pancakes

Choose a coconut that has less than 3 prongs.

Take out the prongs and eat the bottom part which is called the salad.

Husk coconut (which is another whole lesson in itself!).

Clean coconut with a machete, take end off by whacking it a few times (watch your fingers).

Take out pod and put it into a bowl.

Grade the pod.

Put well in the middle of the bowl. Pout in 1 cup of flour per pod.

Put another well in the middle. Pout in 1 cup of sugar. Put well in sugar.

Pour in 2 cups of milk, work it all in. Can sit like this for 1 day.

Cook in coconut oil in a frypan semi deep fry.

For a dessert put on icing sugar and fresh cream. Mmmm

We spent our days watching huge colonies of seabirds. On shore there were lots swings and hammocks and the kids loved playing there, especially because there were lots of other kid boats in the anchorage as well. There is a place to feed the sharks where they throw all the fish guts. There was a nice book exchange in Tom Neal’s old cabin , I couldn’t believe that I found a great spelling book for Andrea of all places. Suwarrow is best known as the home of Tom Neale, a kiwi who lived here for there long stints between 1952 and his death in 1977. He wrote a book called “An Island to Oneself” and his house is right beside the rangers cabin.

I think the reason we found Surwarrow so fabulous, besides Apii and James’ hospitality is because one can only reach it by boat, there is no other way and so it is very remote. We have very fond memories of our time there, we would have liked to stay longer but we shoved on at the next weather window to American Samoa.

August 25, 2010 Suwarrow, Cook Islands to Tutuila, American Samoa – 465.96nm

The passage to American Samoa was alright in light winds. It took a few days to get our sea legs back and we had sail issues. Our code zero refused to unfurl so we took it down and tried our old code zero which we have had repaired twice so we watched it with baited breath. It worked really well as wing on wing with our jib, unfortunately it ripped after a few hours. We will never buy a used sail again, especially one that looked that paper thin and old. We did catch two mahi’s. One a 22 pounder, the second was even bigger at 29 pounds mahi mahi and lost our hand reel, it was ripped right off the boat and nobody even noticed. We also saw a whale, it came right up to our starboard side then disappeared.