Day 285, Year 1: Guest Log by Linda

Day 285, Year 1: Guest Log by Linda
Date: Saturday, July 29, 2006
Weather: Overcast and Rainy
Location: Avatiu Harbor, Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Judy is taking the day off. Well, actually, her mouth is still working. Judy’s ankle is still very swollen and we have ordered her to lay with her ankle up on pillows. It is not easy for her to just relax, but the 24 oz Big Kahuna beers seem to make it easier. I’ve told her she can order me around, but she is not to get up until the swelling goes down. Judy is allowing me to be a “guest” writer of today’s log.

We woke up to the sound of pouring rain. We all decided to roll over rather than face another day of rain. Finally, Mark got up to get our laundry off to the laundry mat. On the way home he stopped at the market and picked up five Belgian waffles. When he returned to the boat Judy got out the maple syrup she brought from home and we ate breakfast in the cockpit looking out at the pouring rain. The dark clouds and pouring rain are definitely not the picture of the south pacific we all dream of.

Determined not to let the rain get us down, Mark, Mike, Garrett and I went off to the market and shopping in town. We bought lettuce, tomatoes and peppers for dinner and stopped off at the waffle place for another waffle, this time with ice cream, bananas, chocolate sauce and raspberry sauce.

Once we got back to the boat, we decided to watch the rest of South Pacific so Judy could keep her foot up. Mark replaced a valve on the watermaker since he has already seen the rest of the movie. After the movie we watched slideshows of all the pictures we have taken so far. We laughed over many of the pictures remembering the last few days. Mark and Judy have been fantastic hosts and we are having a terrific time despite the black wall of clouds and the rain. We have had many fantastic meals, the best being the five star double decker tacos that Mark made tonight for dinner. Judy always makes sure Mike has a beer in his hand and they both make sure Garrett has a smile on his face.

Tonight we are going to stay in and play some card games and try to edit and organize more pictures. We hope that when we wake up tomorrow we will see the sun again, but if not I am sure we will still be having a good time here at the Handley Windbird Resort.

Day 284, Year 1: Back in Rarotonga

Day 284, Year 1: Back in Rarotonga
Date: Friday, July 28, 2006
Weather: Overcast and Rainy
Location: Avatiu Harbor, Rarotonga, Cook Islands

We made it back to Rarotonga, but the weather here is still rainy and totally overcast. And the harbor is full of boats. Four big catamarans came in here since we left–Endangered Species, Wind Pony, Honikai, and Surabi. Linda from Finland, Rontu from the USA, and Ka Pai from Australia are still here. In addition, a big square rigger, the Soren Larsen from New Zealand, is also here, so the tiny harbor is full. It took a bit for us to get anchored, but we did it in time for Linda to go rent a car and get me to the hospital in time for my appointment to remove the cast. Mark, Michael, and Garrett stayed on the boat to make sure we were securely anchored. The cast removal went smoothly, but all I was told to do was to use common sense in terms of rehabilitation. I wanted to say that if I had common sense I wouldn’t be sailing around the world and I certainly wouldn’t have walked off a dock and broken my leg, but I kept quiet and will try to figure out a rehab program on my own. When we get to American Samoa , I will go to the hospital there and hope for some advice from a physical therapist. I am not to put weight on the leg for two weeks, so that will be about the time we arrive in American Samoa.

It rained all afternoon, so we decided to stay onboard and watch a video. We watched most of South Pacific before heading into town for dinner at Trader Jack’s. Rick, Robin, and John from Endangered Species and Lynn and Dick from Wind Pony were also there. We had a great dinner, a good live band, and good company.

We are hoping for better weather tomorrow, but the reports are not encouraging. I’m just hoping the reports are wrong.

Day 283, Year 1: A Wild Ride from Aitutaki to Rarotonga

Day 283, Year 1: A Wild Ride from Aitutaki to Rarotonga
Date: Thursday, July 27, 2006
Weather: Totally Overcast with Squalls; Winds Switching to the South
Location: Overnight Transit from Aitutaki to Rarotonga

We left Aitutaki just before sunrise this morning hoping to get back to Rarotonga before the stationary front/trough/low (the weather forecasters are referring to it as all three) could be pushed east by a strong high to the south of us. That black wall that we went through on our way to Aitutaki was the front and it has just been sitting here, but about an hour ago, I think we broke through the wall and have come out on the other side. Garrett and I had been below sleeping. When I got up, I decided to check to see if we had any weather information coming in as e-mails before going up into the cockpit. I was sitting at the navigation table when all of a sudden, one of our folding cushions from the cockpit came flying down, and I, along with the computer, went flying across the cabin. Garrett’s eyes were as big as saucers as the boat kept heeling further to starboard. That’s because he was watching Mark up in the cockpit being thrown across from port to starboard and onto the cockpit floor. I didn’t see that because I was looking out the starboard ports and seeing nothing but rushing water. Whew! I knew we had been hit by a very strong gust, but we’ve never had such a hard hit before. Michael, Linda, and Mark saw a black cloud coming our way and before they could shorten sail, the gust of wind really knocked us for a loop. I am so thankful that no one was hurt. Somehow, I was actually able to hold onto the computer and not hurt my already broken leg. I landed on my good foot with the computer going into the kitchen sink. One food cabinet at floor level flew open and cans of food flew everywhere, but everything else looks fine.

We were able to roll in the staysail and the headstay and are now motoring under a double-reefed main. It was double-reefed all the time, as was the headstay, but that was just too much sail for these changing conditions. We are motoring because the wind is now on our nose. At this time it is only 10-12 knots, but it is supposed to build if indeed that front is moving on, so we will just make sure we are well prepared for a stormy night. It will be slow going if the winds build to 20 knots, but we will just have to deal with what is thrown our way. If all goes well, we will be back in Rarotonga sometime tomorrow morning. I think we will all be glad to get back “home” and walk on land for a while.

060727 Day 283 Cook Islands, Rarotonga–Back to Rarotonga

Day 282, Year 1: A Day on the Lagoon, Aitutaki

Day 282, Year 1: A Day on the Lagoon, Aitutaki
Date: Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Weather: Mostly Overcast, Some Sun, Some Rain; Northeast Winds 10-12 Knots
Location: Aitutaki, Cook Islands

Ugly weather . . . beautiful day. The weather trough that has been sitting on top of this area for the past few days is still here. The sky is full of heavy clouds and today it drizzled and finally poured rain. We thought the pouring rain might bring nicer weather, but the clouds are still here. The nice thing about being in an absolutely gorgeous place, however, is that no matter how bad the weather, it is still beautiful. The motus around Aitutaki are picture postcard perfect and we got to visit two of them on our lagoon trip today.

By 1000, we were at the dock in town and ready to leave on a glass-bottomed boat lagoon tour. Our tour guide was Lawton Story. He was born on Rarotonga but his mother is from here. He spent almost 30 years in New Zealand and is now back on what he calls his mother’s island. In addition to the Handleys and the Stuarts, there was a honeymoon couple on the tour. A young woman, Helen, from England, and a young man, Kevin, from Germany. They currently live in India working for UNESCO (Helen) and an oil firm (Kevin). No sooner than we left the dock, we saw a sailboat entering the channel. It looked like they were going to make it in, but then we saw them at a standstill. They were grounded. Since we were going to go out right passed them on our way to the ocean to observe the reef and look for turtles, Lawton asked us if it was okay if we took the time to pull this boat in. It was fine with all of us and it really only took a few minutes. We towed them into the anchorage and then it was out of the pass. There were huge coral heads, but we didn’t get to see any turtles. Still it was beautiful.

After returning to the lagoon from the ocean, Lawton headed south in the lagoon. He pointed out the temporary “city” that is currently Survivor Marine Base. It is truly unbelievable how much they had to have shipped here in order to do this series. They have 18 boats, including the two Bombards that rescued us yesterday, and 400 people living in the housing they built of materials shipped in. In two weeks time, they will be gone and all of the infrastructure will be taken down and shipped to the next location. Lawton then took us further south in the lagoon until we reached the marine reserve. This is an area where giant clams are farmed. The native clams are not as large as the ones that are being farmed, but they are much more colorful. The farmed clams are brown, not bright blue, turquoise, and purple like the natives, but they were certainly interesting to observe through the glass-bottomed boat. We also got to see how pearls are farmed. We then moved on to an area where everyone (except me) went snorkeling and then it was on to a beautiful motu where we went ashore to explore. I found a nice spot to sit while the others walked around the island. My view was of white sand bars, sparkling turquoise waters, lots of Pandanus trees with seed pods that look like pineapples, and red-tailed tropic birds flying overhead. Wow. The view was spectacular.

When we got back on the boat, Lawton had lunch prepared for us and was truly a feast. We had fresh fish that he grilled on the boat-wahoo, mahi mahi, and tuna-fresh lettuce salad, cabbage salad, grilled eggplant, local fruit-orange wedges, papaya (called pawpaw here), mango wedges, star fruit-arrowroot and coconut bread, and on and on and on. It really was a feast. We ate as Lawton moved us to another motu. We went ashore here and got to see baby red-tailed tropic birds, as well as the adults. Lawton explained that the Polynesians who settled these islands would follow white-tailed tropic birds, but never the red-tailed as they fly home every night and always to a low island or motu with no water or food. The white-tailed tropic birds always fly to islands with high cliffs which means there would be a better chance of finding food and water.

We left the small picture-perfect motu and headed to a snorkeling area. On the way, the rain started and it did pour. But snorkeling is still great in the rain, so everyone had a great snorkel and I was able to see many of the fish through the glass-bottomed boat. The fish here are numerous and varied, and the the coral is more alive than any place we have been on this voyage, so snorkeling today was great.

It was finally time to return home, still in the rain, but just as we got to the dock, the rain stopped. Lucky for us, we thought, as we would be able to get back to Windbird without being drenched. Well, that idea lasted only as long as it took us to get to the entrance to the channel. As we entered the ocean, there were huge swells in the pass and we got soaked. But that was okay. It was a great day.

Very early tomorrow morning we will be heading back to Rarotonga. It is almost impossible to predict what kind of weather we will have. That black wall of clouds we sailed into on the way here has stayed here with us and we’re just not sure what it will be like as we exit on the way back. We’ll let you know that tomorrow night.

060725 Day 282 Cook Islands, Aitutaki–Lagoon Tour

Day 281, Year 1: Windbird Rescued by Survivor—No Joke

Day 281, Year 1: Windbird Rescued by Survivor—No Joke
Date: Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Weather: Mostly Overcast and Drizzily, South Winds 10-15 Knots
Location: Aitutaki, Cook Islands

You don’t even want to believe this story, but it is true, and we are fine. We arrived near the pass going into Aitutaki around 1030 this morning. This pass is only 40 feet wide and 6 feet deep, but we thought we might be able to get into the lagoon. This is a low island surrounded by a rock-strewn reef dotted with motus enclosing a shallow turquoise lagoon. When we decided to sail here, we thought we would just anchor out or hove to outside the reef, but we talked to someone on a boat inside the lagoon on the morning net, and he was sure we would be able to get in. He said that if necessary some local boats could help pull us in. So we decided to try it, knowing it was a little risky. Our first problem was finding the pass. Search as we might, we could not see any markers. We headed in closer and saw a few sticks that looked like they might mark the pathway in but decided to turn around and hail a fishing boat to check our perception. Indeed, the sticks we had seen were marking the port side of the pass, so in we went.

About halfway in we started bumping on the sandy bottom. Although it was high tide, it was barely six feet and it only got shallower the further in we drove ourselves. We finally came to a standstill. Windbird’s motor could no longer propel us forward. We were grounded. It was bad enough to be grounded in a narrow pass with coral heads all around, but add to this that a rain storm hit about the time we got stuck. What to do? We got on the radio and talked to the only sailboat in the anchorage. The captain had gone to shore in the dinghy but there was a crew member onboard. This person said they would check for someone to help pull us off as soon as the captain returned. In the meantime, we launched our dinghy. But before we got the motor on, a voice came on the radio calling for the vessel in need of assistance. That would be us. The caller was from Survivor Marine Base. I have mentioned that the Survivor TV series is currently video taping “Survivor Cook Islands” here and evidently they monitor the marine radio. The person calling asked if we were in a precarious situation and I said that indeed we were. He said he would send help and that he did. The Survivor Base is on the opposite side of the island, but it only took about seven minutes for the help to arrive. Two huge RIB’s (rigid inflatable dinghies), each with a 200 HP outboard motor arrived. Each boat had a captain and crew, depth gauges, towing ropes, and any other equipment we might need. They checked the depth going on into the harbor and the depth going back out and decided that we needed to go out. The dinghies were named Alpha and Bravo, and I think it was Bravo that literally pushed our bow right around and then started pushing us out of the channel with Alpha pulling. It was quite amazing and we were very grateful. We now can add being rescued by Survivor to our list of interesting things that have happened to us on this voyage.

We anchored outside the reef in about 60 feet of water. I stayed on watch on Windbird while Mark, Michael, Linda, and Garrett went in through the pass in our dinghy to explore. They stopped by Lord Fred, the boat from Australia that had talked with us on the net this morning. They are not as deep as Windbird, so they were able to enter the harbor with a little assistance and anchor. Lord Fred is planning to stay here for a month. Fred, the captain, really wants us to try to get in again during high tide in the morning, but we have decided to stay outside. It is just too risky to try that again. Survivor might not come to our rescue twice!

The results of the afternoon exploration were interesting. Half of this island is off limits to visitors right now because of the Survivor taping. This means you can’t take your own dinghy around the south end of the island without a guide. The exploration “gang” tried to walk north to find a place to snorkel, but that didn’t work either. So they made arrangements for all of us to go out in a glass-bottomed boat tomorrow to see the fantastic underwater world here. Evidently they will allow snorkeling during parts of the trip, so the day should be fantastic.

I had planned to stay onboard the entire time that we are here and stand watch, but I am slowly warming up to the idea of going out on the glass-bottomed boat tomorrow. The sailing cargo ship, Kwai, that we got to know in the Rarotonga harbor, came in late this evening and anchored next to us. The captain rowed over this evening to say hello and to tell us to let them know when we are going to shore so they can watch the boat for us. They have someone on watch all the time and offered to watch us as well, so that should make tomorrow a little more relaxing for us.

Life is good and we are having a great time. The black wall that we sailed into last night is still with us. The trough that should have headed east is lingering, so we will just have to see what tomorrow’s weather brings. (Note to Michael’s Uncle Red: Southern South Pacific weather is just a little dicey. Let’s hope the black wall moves on by tomorrow and brings winds from the East.)

060725 Day 281 Cook Islands, Aitutaki–Rescued by Survivor

Day 280, Year 1: Headed to Aitutaki Through a Wall of Black Clouds

Day 280, Year 1: Headed to Aitutaki Through a Wall of Black Clouds
Date: Monday, July 24, 2006
Weather: Sunny, North Winds 2-6 Knots
Location: Overnight Transit from Rarotonga to Aitutaki

If you have read the title of this log, you know that we did make the decision to go to Aitutaki today. Everything indicated that the trough should pass and switch the winds from north to east. Well, I think the trough has passed, but basically we have no wind. And the wind we do have is still right on the nose from the north, so we are motoring along to Aitutaki. Probably about the time we head back to Rarotonga the winds will switch and come from the south. We sure hope not as we do want the Stuarts to have some sailing experience. Since the wind that we do have is coming right at us, it is slowing us down a bit. Right now it looks like we will arrive at the pass heading into Aitutaki about 1 or 2 in the afternoon. Hopefully, we will get there in time for Mark, Linda, and Garrett to take the dinghy in through the pass and do some afternoon snorkeling. I will stay on the boat on watch since we will be anchored in the ocean next to the reef. If the winds do switch to the east, that should be fine. Or if they stay the way they are now, which is almost no wind, we should be fine no matter what direction the winds are coming from. But still, someone will need to be on the boat all the time. I think I have mentioned that we cannot go into the lagoon as we are just a few inches too deep, so anchoring outside will just have to do.

Just now we watched the sun go down in the west and we are headed toward a black wall of low clouds. This looks like a front, but since there is almost no wind, we should be fine. (Note to Uncle Red-No worries. This terrible wall of black clouds that we are about to enter should be no problem.)

We are getting ready to have dinner in the cockpit. At 1900, Mark, Garrett, and Michael go on watch and Linda and I sleep. We come on at 2200 and then switch off every three hours. We decided to do boy-girl watches tonight. We’ll hope for a quiet night and an early arrival in Aitutaki.

060724 Day 280 Cook Islands, Rarotonga–Headed to Aitutaki