Jul 292008
 

The port on Aitutaki with Mi Quireda and Veleda stern tied:
Aitutaki

Well I didn’t think I was going to get a post up from the Cook Islands, but on a whim I went to the ultra lux posh resort here on Aitutaki and they were kind enough to sell me some wifi time. So I’m sitting in the shade at the bar in front of the only white sand beach I’ve seen since coming to the South Pacific sending off a quick post. Actually I think that they rake all the coral off the beach leaving just the sand behind. Pretty nice!

Willow and I set off from Bora Bora about 12 days ago in what turned out to be the most severe weather I’d since Tate and my rambunctious crossing of the Sea of Cortez a year and a half ago. It blew out of the South 25-35 knots for 3 straight days while we were generally trying to head West Southwest putting the wind in front of the beam and sending lots of 10-15 foot waves crashing over my bow. Bodhran handled it beautifully though my butterfly hatch didn’t do well with taking direct hits from the waves and leaked like a sieve. The last day in, the weather abated nicely and I ended up making the 480 mile passage in just over 4 days.

Rush heading out the narrow, barely marked pass into Aitutaki:
RushPass

Most of the cruising fleet went up to Samoa and were hit by even worse winds, while a few others went to Rarotonga where the port is currently full and is sending boats away. The reason all those other boats skip Aitutaki is the 30 foot wide 6 foot deep pass to get into the atoll. Most of the boats out here are well over 40 feet and draw far too much water to get into Aitutaki, so Rush, Willow, Veleda and I have had the place pretty much to ourselves for the last week. It’s a fantastic island, reminiscent of the Marquesas with the immaculately maintained yards and fields, but with good roads, cheap bike rentals, New Zealand beer and people who speak English. It’s been nice not having a language barrier with the locals, though we’ve had a hard time finding people to play music with.

Awesome burgers and Sashimi at Jks and pretty much back home prices:
Lunch

I’m taking off for 190 mile trip to Palmerston Atoll tomorrow, which will definitely not have internet access. There’s no pass into the atoll, so the anchorage is exposed, but depending on weather, I’ll probably be there a week or so and then it’s off to Nuie. I should be there in a couple of weeks.

 Posted by at 2:23 pm
Jul 142008
 

Sunset over Bora Bora from Tahaa:
BoraSunset

Well I’m back here sitting in front of Bloody Mary’s bar on Bora Bora. This is going to be it for the Society Islands. Next stop, the Cook Islands. I left Utaroa about a week ago and went up to the Coral Gardens on the NW corner of Tahaa. There’s a ridiculously nice hotel out on a motu where rumor has it that the rooms go for $2000 a night and Bill and Melinda Gates stayed there on their honeymoon. Well between that motu and another there’s a stretch of water with a ripping current and some great coral. They only problem is that the pass is really shallow. With a 4 knot current pushing you along, you really have to watch where you’re going and pick you path through the coral. There are some reasonably defined passes through, but you often find yourself off to the side looking at something cool and then you have to swim like hell to get away from some coral head or huge urchins that want to tear you apart. Still it was some of the best snorkeling I’ve done. We snorkeled it 3 times. The last time, Ben off Valeda compared to the Death Star scene in Star Wars. The current was ripping so hard that we just put our arms out in front of us and flew through the canyons of coral occasionally looking back to make sure that there were no Tie Fighters behind us.

Bonnie, Camila, Ben, Paula and Matt at the Coral Gardens with Bora in the backgroun:
GroupCoralGardens

Coral Gardens with Ben in the background skimming over some shallow coral:
CoralGardens

From the Coral Gardens, Willow and I sailed over to Bora Bora and anchored in 90 feet of water off of town along with Fearless, Maya, and Little Wing. Anchoring in that much water sucks! especially for Willow with only 125 feet of chain. But we needed to be next to town to clear out of French Polynesia and get our bonds back. We were welcomed back to Bora Bora with a pizza party on Myah, a 1.8 million dollar Nordhaven 55 powerboat with it’s amazing accommodations. We ate pizza, played some music and then sat down to watch Airplane on the enormous plasma screen that retracts down behind Myah’s dinette seat. It was great sitting in what basically amounts to a really nice living room, watching a movie on a big screen tv. I can’t remember the last time I did that, but the dancing was about to start in Viatape, so we stopped to movie half way and all went into town to check out the festivities.

Willow flying their Etchells 22 spinnaker on the way to Bora:
WillowSpinnaker

Much sunnier day sailing into Bora this time:
Bora

The next morning, Fearless, Little Wing, Willow and I all went in and cleared out of the country and cashed in our bonds that we were required to buy in the Marquesas to make sure that we’d have enough money to buy a plane ticket out if we overstayed our visas. I got back $1460 of the original $1600 bond I had to post, losing $140 to commissions and the difference in the exchange rate. In the end that’s not to bad, and it’s sure nice having that money back in the cruising kitty. So now we’re all hanging out here in Bora waiting for a weather window to open up to make our crossing to the Cooks. I’m saying goodbye to a lot of folks here. The fleet is going to be splitting up with most people heading up to Samoa, some heading to Rarotonga and the smaller shallow draft boats like myself heading to Aitutaki. I think that Aitutaki will have internet access, so I should get a post off when I get there in the next 5-10 days.

 Posted by at 2:34 pm
Jul 072008
 

Bodhran sitting at the town quay in Utaroa:
BodhranUtaroa

I’m sitting here on a dock for the first time in 5 months in the town of Utaroa on Raietea. It’s actually a free dock, though it is exposed to the prevailing winds which keeps the turnover reasonable. A few days before I got here Willow, Little Wing and Fearless got pounded by 25 knot winds and white caps hitting them broadsides along the quay. Fortuanately for me, they’d cleared out and I had the scoop on the one protected spot on the quay opening up a few hours after I got in, so when the 50 foot Tin Soldier cleared out, Willow and I hopped into the prime position and have been here for a week.

Trevor and Alex getting one last Hinano in on Willow before taking off for the PNW:
TrevorGregAlex

I had two reasons to come to Utaroa. First, Alex and Trevor were flying out from Raiatea and even though they had to walk most of the way, the airport is easy to get to from here. Secondly, this is the last place to get parts and work done before New Zealand. So I’ve been in full on project mode for the last week. I’ve finally gotten around to building and arch for my solar panels and to support the aft end of my awning. My Dad had brought down a bunch of fittings to me in Mexico, so it wasn’t that hard to do once I had a local fabricator bend up a couple 20′ pieces of stainless for me. It still needs a bit of bracing, but it should really help get my solar output up. I’ve also been busy making slip covers for my cushions. It’s pretty much impossible to clean my seat covers in the sink and there just aren’t any laundromats along my cruising route. I’ve also got my anchor chain re-marked to 25′ intervals and taken care of some wiring work.

Here’s my new arch:
Arch

And heres the new slip covers on the settee:
SlipCovers

I’m here for a couple more days at most, then it’s off to Bora Bora for a bit before I check out of French Polynesia.

 Posted by at 1:54 pm