Thursday, July 31, 2008

Our Sojourn In Suwarrow National Park, Cook Islands

We had a wonderful time in Suwarrow. It was the idyllic South Pacific Island. It is a Cook Island National park with only the caretaker and his family that are permanent residents. They live there from May to Oct. and then they return to their home in Roratonga. The main island which we anchored behind has their home on it and all the cruisers were welcome to come ashore and visit anytime they wanted. We had 2 gatherings while we were there, one to celebrate our safe arrival after that wicked storm and the other to celebrate Virginia's (the female park warden)birthday. Virginia and John have 4 boys, twins who were 7 years old, a nine year old and a 13 year old. The wardens and their family are dropped off with supplies in May and are not resupplied again. The cruisers are all encouraged to give them any extra food staples that we have on hand.
For the birthday celebration, John and family had caught a large tuna. One of the cruisers cleaned it and kept it in their fridge as there is no refrigeration on the island. The cruisers had kept the remains of the fish after they had cleaned and filleted it and before dinner we all trooped off to side of the island that is open to the ocean and we threw the scraps in the ocean. First the black tip sharks showed up to scavenge what they could, the smell of blood an immediate attraction. Then the white tipped variety made an appearance. The white tip proceeded to chase off most of the black tips and hog the remainder of the meal we had provided. It was a real treat to watch this take place. The sharks were not large only about 3 feet long and the water was extremely shallow. They would swarm along the edge of the reef and scarf down whatever they could find.

The next day the warden's family led an expedition to Gull Island; named by the kids, not a gull insight. There were all sorts of nesting frigate birds, as well as red tailed tropic birds, blue beaked boobies (I think they are red footed boobies) and very large masked boobies. I really wanted to see the masked boobies because I had never seen one and was quite surprised at their size, they are huge, close to a meter tall when they stand up. There was a biologist that was staying in Suwarrow, from New Zealand that was conducting a bird count on all the motus in the atoll, he was very interesting to talk to. Baby Frigate Birds

That evening Eric from Ariel and I went out tuna fishing, Barry claimed he really didn't want to go and I figure his hip must have been bothering him from hiking around Gull Island. The technique when you are tuna fishing is to troll along in your dinghy about 5nm per hour, in other words pretty fast for a dinghy. We each had a line out to the back with a hoochie on it. I had a hit but he got off and then Eric caught something. We had been told to bring our lines in really fast or the sharks would take some of your catch. He hauled the fish in and just as he was to bring it on board it shook the hook free. So off we went zooming around the pass again. The upshot of it all was Eric caught a 12 pound tuna and lost one lure, I lost 2 lures and did not catch a thing. The first lure I lost was when I had the first hit, the fish just bent back the hooky thing that hold your hook on, after that we just tied another leader and hook on , no little metal hooky thing. The next fish just bit off my nylon leader. By the time we had put my last hoochie on with a metal leader it was getting dark and they were no longer biting. (I was just as glad not to have caught anything because Barry was threatening to make me clean it, I must confess in all my fishing endeavors I have always managed to avoid it.) We all had a nice snack of sushi when we got back to the boat, and we ate some on our passage and still have another piece in the freezer. There was lots to go around and Eric was very generous in sharing.

We got a chance to have a look at the boat whose mast was twisted when they rolled on the passage from Bora Bora to Suwarrow. It was amazing that they didn't sustain further damage. All the cruisers where lending a hand doing what they could for them. They were busy cutting up donated spinnaker and whisker poles to reinforce their mast for the trip to American Samoa when we stopped by. They have since safely made it here as well. They had their genoa poled out in 35 plus knots of wind, need I say more!! Apparently when they rolled the captain was completed covered in water and it came up to the first mate's waist, the boat rolled about 100 degrees and then righted itself. Thankfully the boat was a good sturdy design and was able to recover from the experience and the crew came out shaken but with no major injuries.

We had a wonderful passage from Suwarrow to American Samoa. The winds were 10 to 20 knots for 3 days and on the third day we had to slow down because we were going to arrive before daylight. The wind had picked up to 25 knots and we put up our storm staysail, the first time it has been out of the bag and put to use. We put it up one other time just to see how small it really was. It was great, but there was so much wind we were still going 4.5 to 5 knots. In the middle of the night although we were sailing downwind we sheeted it up tight to slow the boat even further and we just sat back and watched the windvane do her thing. We got in at 0700 local time put the boat in order and went into town to catch the last days of the Pacific Arts Festival.
BASTILLE DAY CELEBRATIONS IN BORA BORA We are safely in American Samoa at the moment. We had a nice passage from Suwarrow. I wanted to share these pictures from Bora Bora. First their was the big outrigger canoe races, then the parade and then the piece de resistance the races.

What would a parade in French Polynesia be without an entry of French pastries. One of the local hotels entered this float!!

This giant fish is a Mahi Mahi, very good eating. The fellow is there just to keep the flies off the fish.

The mermaid and King Neptune were the end of the parade. If you look closely you can see Neptune's sceptre and his gray hair. I couldn't get a good shot of him.

The start of the race. The things on the ground are tree trunks and there are palm branches and then at least four hands of bananas tied to the log, rather like a banana barbell. These guys ran in their bare feet for approx. a kilometer carrying these things on their shoulders, quite the feat of strength and endurance.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Heard from Captian Greybeard lastnight and all is well. The weather conition have been much tamer with wnds of 10 to 20 knots and they expect to arrive in America Samoa some time on Tuesday.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Ann and Barry are off again on the 450 nm crossing to American Samoa. The weather as they departed was beautiful with some light winds and good weather fore casted for the next few days. The sailors are hoping to catch the tail end of a large culture festival held in the American Samoa's. The cultural festival is only held every 4 years and over 70 pacific countries are represented. Sound amazing.
There is a small write up from a few boats that were caught in the nasty weather that Ann and Barry experienced on there last crossing from Bora Bora, here is a link if you would like to check it out.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

We left Bora Bora on July 16, 2 days after Bastille Day. We had to motor for the first 3 miles and then we put up the sails and had light winds for most of the day and into the night. We had the spinnaker up and were ghosting along in the general direction that we wanted to go. There was a lovely full moon and clear skies in the early evening; it was so bright almost like the first light of dawn. About midnight things began to change, the wind and the waves picked up. We put in one reef and then a few hours later we put in the third reef on the main, we still had the Genoa out. We do not have to leave the cockpit to do any of this. When the wind had started rising, I had gone forward to hank on the staysail in case we needed it, 3 hours later we did, up it went. We ran most of the day with the triple reef and staysail, the winds continuing to build and the seas were starting to look really nasty. The roaring of the wind and the head long rush of the boat down the 2 meter waves convinced us that we had to reduce sail once again. We did not think we could put the boat into the wind to take down the main. We would have had to go to the mast to take the sail down and keeping your footing while trying to wrestle the sail down as the boat would have bucked and heaved like a horse trying to throw you off it would have been a daunting task. We decided to take down the staysail instead. This would involve going way forward and hauling it down to the deck. I put in my contacts, put on some shoes that would stay on my feet, buckled on my life jacket and hooked the harness into the lifelines and edged my way forward. The boat's motion as it surfed down the waves was not unmanageable, the waves were far enough apart and with Barry's steady hand on the wheel all was good. The task could be accomplished as long as the boat didn't round up and take it into her head to bash to windward or a rogue wave did not smash sideways into the boat and give it a good whack as well as washing the decks with gallons of water. I hung on to the mast for dear life as I undid the halyard and the crawled forward with the line in my hands to pull the sail to the deck. Barry let go off the sheet and from my seat on the deck I grasped the sail with my hands and dragged it down. At this point the sail began to flog, dangerously flailing itself back and forth, yikes, I tried to pull it down faster, I did not want to get hit by the 1 inch thick lines that were thrashing about. I managed to get it on deck and tie it down without any damage to life or limbs, whew!!For the next two days the seas did not abate. The waves had grown to 10 feet, the wind was howling at 30 knots and we were getting tired, unable to sleep very well with the motion of the boat and howl of the wind in the rigging, the whooshing of the waves and the creaking and groaning of a 25 year old boat. Every once in awhile, a rogue wave would thump the centre of the boat and water would carom into the cockpit, soaking us from head to toe and leaving a deluge of salt water to run off the boat. Then the squalls began, the clouds would move in and it would spit with rain, then the downpour would begin and the wind would increase 5 to 10 knots for 15 to 20 minutes. Now we were not only tired but drenched and in the dark. With the low cloud cover we had lost our beautiful moonlight. We had maintained our watch schedule of 2 hours during the day, 3 hours at dawn and dusk and 4 hours each in the dark, last night we were so cold and wet that we decided to only do 3 hours at night; it cut into our sleep but made the watch more manageable. Once the watch was over we would go down below and strip all our soggy clothes off, hang them in the head to hopefully dry a little and fall into bed. I have to keep at Barry to eat as he forgets, I am not drinking enough so maybe I will stop and go and coif something cold. Yes cold, it has finally cleared up, the sun is out and the seas have abated. I took the staysail down and we unrolled the Genoa and we are making headway to Swarrow, an atoll which is one of the northern Cook Islands. It is a national park, and it is supposed to be a beautiful spot. We hope to be there sometime tomorrow during the day. We have heard from other boats that the entrance is not a problem and there is plenty of room to anchor inside the reef. We are now safely in Swarrow and it is a lovely spot. We are drying out and catching up on our sleep. The only residents of this atoll are the park warden, his wife and his four boys. Tonight all the cruisers, there are over a dozen boats in the anchorage, are going to shore to have a pot luck for Virginia, the park warden's wife, it is her birthday. It is great to be in the Cook Islands because they speak English. Their first language is Cook Island Maori and their second is English, they are taught in school in both languages so we are able to converse with the boys as well. I am not sure how long we will be here but a few more days before we attempt the 450 NM trip to American Samoa.

Monday, July 21, 2008

*Click on image to enlarge*

Well the sailors called when they had land in sight. The position that is posted is approx. 4 miles off the atoll and they were actually under motor because the winds had died right off. Ann said that they had a marathon day of sail changing, up, down, on, off, and do it all over again due to the changing wind conditions...I believe that there were a few choice words muttered by Captain Greybeard. Even though the Cat's Paw was tossed around a bit by the wind and high seas and the sailors were having to put up with some discomfort there were some fellow sailors that did not fair as well. I guess there was a group of boats that left a day or two before the Cat's Paw and they were unlucky enough to get much rougher conditions. One boat actually rolled and broke its mast and another broke some crucial part while taking to long to jibe. Mom says there is a party being held by the sailors to celebrate surviving the crossing in mostly one piece, the Cat's Paw IV crew plans to be in attendance. Enjoy!!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The sailors have been dealing with winds of 25 to 30 knots and 8 to 10 foot seas, the boat is handling just fine but Ann and Barry have had some trouble sleeping in the rough seas and are eating foods that require minimum prep so they don't have to stand in the galley getting bumped around. They have an average speed of about 7 knots with a triple reef in the main and the stay sail up, when they took the stay sail down for a while the boat was still doing about 6.5 knots. At times they are surfing down some of the waves and have hit speeds as high as 10.2 knots, impressive. In a 24 hour period they made 162 NM is that a record? Must be close. So besides being a bit tired the sailors are doing well and hope to make landfall sometime on July 21st.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hello All,
Trish here again. The sailors departed Bora Bora yesterday and are on there way to Suvarov which is part of the Cook Island chain. They left around 10:30 on July 16th and in a 24 hour period have traveled 113 NM. At the time of the call they were making 7 knots with a triple reef in the main so there is plenty of wind and the boat is handling well. Had a look at a few pics of where they are headed and it looks like another beautiful spot in paradise.
Remember to get a larger view of the map just click on it.
Will update again in a couple of days.

Monday, July 14, 2008

We have been taking in the festivities this past week in Bora Bora. I went to another night of singing and dancing and then Barry and I plus Tarun and Toketie went to the singles dancing and an evening of drumming. Each village had an entry into the singles competition, there was a male and a female dancer, after they had finished the drummers would set up and wail away. One of the dance moves for the males involves having your feet shoulder width apart and making your knees go back and forth, sounds easy right, well these guys would do a full squat, backs upright and continue to waggle their knees, my quads cried out in sympathy and I could just marvel at their athleticism. The drumming was very intricate and was a treat to listen to and watch some of the very large men put their whole bodies into their craft. It must have been exhausting.
We had bought tickets the first night but this time we chose to watch from the sidelines so we didn’t get such a good view of what was happening. The upside to this is that you are crowded around the edges with all the locals. The dancing area is cordoned off and then the locals put down mats around the edges where they can sit on the ground to watch from the sides, this is done during the day. Behind the mats everyone else crowds in, and I do mean crowds to watch. I had someone standing so close that I could feel her breath on my shoulder, her big curly hair was touching the back of my neck and her boobs were pushing on my arms, when she bounced her legs to the drum beats my body would vibrate. As someone who enjoys her personal space this was uncomfortable so I put my basketball training to use and flexed my elbows. That gave me some room for a little while. It was interesting to not only watch the show but observe the interactions between the Polynesian family members.
The other day Brian from Tarun and I got in our dive in French Polynesia. We had one dive inside the reef and one outside of the reef. We saw an eagle ray and an octopus inside the reef and outside we had some fairly close encounters with some sharks. There lemon sharks as well as black tip reef sharks. One of the lemon sharks was pregnant and she was huge, at least 10 feet long but very wide as well. They left us alone but it was a bit unnerving to be the last diver and turn around and look to see them cruising by behind you. The dive master explained that quite a bit of the coral was dead because something called the crown of thorns had migrated to the edge of the reef and was killing off the healthy coral. It was sad to see the grey dead carcasses of the coral on the ocean floor.
Today is Bastille Day and we are headed into town to watch the parade and then there are going to be some foot races where they carry loads of fruit on their backs. That should be fun to watch.
We have moved around to the Bora Bora Yacht Club anchorage, this is a famous South Pacific stop. Every night all the cruisers anchored here get together to share a drink and lots of “sailor” talk. There are boats from all over, Sweden, Holland, Switzerland, England, Australia, United States, New Zealand and Canada, people share weather information, favourite anchorages, equipment tips and tall tales.
The rest of the pictures would not upload, will try again tomorrow

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

We have been having a lot of fun since the last time I wrote. We had a wonderful Canada Day party onboard with a couple of heartfelt renditions of Barrett’s Privateers to let everyone in the anchorage know we were celebrating far from home. There were 3 Canadian couples and a transplanted British couple (one was Aussie and one was French who had lived in Britain for 20 years) involved and we had a super time. We played Canadian folk music all night and ate Pacific smoked salmon, wonderful.
The next day we headed up to Tahaa again and went snorkeling in a “coral garden”. The garden was located between 2 islands or motus as they are referred to here which were just inside the reef. A pretty strong current was flowing down this narrow pathway and the coral was just spectacular. We walked down a path at the edge of the motu until we almost reached the reef and then we entered the water and floated through the coral garden back to where we started,. In some spots there was barely enough water to float, but there was a pathway in the middle which was about 5 feet deep. The bottom of the pathway was the white sand you get when the coral disintegrates and it was a stark contrast to the more colourful coral. We stopped and swam back against the stream when we saw some interesting fish or held on to the coral to get a better look at things. We could swim across the current and find other pockets of deep water with more fascinating coral structures. It was by far the best snorkeling we have experienced.
The Canadian navy consisting of Cat’s-Paw IV, Tarun and Toketie headed across to Bora Bora the next day. We managed to sail most of the 20 miles, but the winds were pretty light. As soon as we dropped anchor we all headed off to the bank to insure that they would save us some New Zealand dollars, for when we get our bond (that we had to post in the Marquesas) back. You can’t get your bond back until you leave the country and you don’t want to get Pacific Franks back because you have to leave and would have no where to spend them, SO you go to the bank and request that they please save enough New Zealand currency for you so you won’t have to exchange all your money once you arrive somewhere else, quite bizarre actually if you think about it.
On the way back from the bank we watched a traditional Polynesian sport. A bunch of men dressed in cloth which was wrapped around their loins and dropped to their knees where throwing spears. At first I thought they were doing their version of throwing a javelin, but I noticed that they were tossing them underhand and they were going quite high in the air. All the spears landed almost in the same spot so I thought instead of going for distance they were trying to hit a target on the ground. I just couldn’t figure it out, so I asked. I was told they were trying to hit a coconut so I was staring around on the ground trying to see it and the fellow I asked said, “en haut” so I looked up and there it was about 25 feet in the air at the top of a long pole. All the contestants (over 20) would throw about 6 or 7 spears and then if any stuck into the coconut they would lower the pole and pull out the spears and figure out which team it belonged too. One team had red cloths on and the other team had light blue with a white flower on it, I was routing for the team in the red!! This contest went on for quite awhile. That was a real thrill for me to see this performed.
That night we went to a night of singing and dancing. It is part of the celebration of Bastille Day and the fete will continue on for another 2 weeks or so. There were 2 acts the night we went to watch, one was mostly choral signing and the other was mainly dancing. The singing was a treat, wonderful harmonies with changes from major to minor keys all perfectly in pitch, at least to my ear, a lot unaccompanied, and then they added ukuleles and drums. The second act was mostly dancing. They told the story that the dancers were portraying in three languages, Tahitian, French and English. The dancing took place on a big rectangular area that was covered in white sand. The dancers would glide across the sand in their bare feet weaving in and out and around each other. The stunning red and white costumes stood out against the sand and the whole effect was mesmerizing, a wonderful evening.
The next day we moved away from the town and anchored the west side of the island in front of a sandy beach with a fancy over the water bungalow hotel just next to us. They don’t generally encourage cruisers to partake in the exclusive resort scene so we discreetly kept our distance. We saw a bunch of tour boats congregating out on the reef, we had heard that they fed the rays and sharks so we all hopped in our dinghies and motored on over to see what was going on. When we arrived there were a bunch of sting rays swimming about. We stayed off to the side and let the tour guide do his thing and just watched. The rays came over to see what we were up to and were swimming around us, we had our snorkels on so could get a good look at them. A few black tipped reef sharks about 4 ½ feet long came swimming by to join in the fun. Once the tour was almost finished a guide came over and offered Brian a fish and he fed one of the rays. After that they started coming closer and all of us had them brush up against us, it was rather like gentle touch of a feather brushing against your skin, quite the experience.
Today we are anchored just off the famous Bloody Mary’s restaurant. It was made famous in the musical South Pacific which I had a chance to perform in 4 years ago in Yellowknife. It was quite the thrill to actually see the spot and have our picture taken on the grounds. We hope to get in to see more of the islanders celebrations in the next couple of days, I am looking forward to it.