Thursday, August 14, 2008

We landed safely in Atafu, an atoll in the Tokelau Island group; Tokelau is a New Zealand protectorate. The inhabitants of Tokelau are quite traditional; there are 500 souls on the atoll, they are ruled by a group of conservative male elders. They are very religious and on Sunday you are not allowed to do any work except feed the pigs. No one is allowed to walk around the town outside of your own home, except to go to church. After we went ashore to attend church this morning we went to observe the feeding of the pigs.
The pigpen is a marvel!! There is a wall that is 1 meter 20 cm tall and 40 cm wide, the wall is made out of crushed coral and cement. The pigpen enclosure is about 150 square meters, not sure what that would be in acres, do you have an idea Mom??? ANYWAY. Each family has an enclosure within this area that houses their pigs, these areas are fenced with wood and tin roofing. The story of the pig pen was explained to us today. There are the group of older men that rule the village and the younger able bodied men who do the work in the village decided to build the pig pen; to show how strong they were. To demonstrate their prowess they built the most splendid pigpen that you could ever imagine.
To back up a bit, we had a marvelous passage from Pago Pago to here, it took us 3 days and we had wonderful conditions. The first day the winds were light, the seas were small and we flew our cruising spinnaker for most of the day, perfect conditions for our 2 passengers. The next 2 days the winds were a bit more boisterous and we sailed with a triple reefed main and the genoa plus the staysail. Wendy, our wind vane did her stuff when she had a chance but our crew was very keen to steer so we let them go at it. We had to slow down in order to arrive after first light and as it was we ended up heaving to for ½ hour until there was enough light to spot the island. I have been dying to say that we had to “stand off” so now I can truly say that!! Three days was an ideal time to have crew aboard. We got to know each other and here their stories and learn about some of the archeology of the South Pacific Islands, but we didn’t’ have time to learn about their bad habits and get tired of them.
Barry was actually the one who suggested to the organizer of the trip that cruisers may be able to take his group here. I asked him today if he had any doubts about coming and he said that once I had got it into my head that this was a great idea there wasn’t much chance that we weren’t going to go and besides he came up with the idea. I am really glad that the delivery portion of this trip has worked out grandly.
We have met 2 different sets of elders. One invited us to her home. She offered us fresh coconuts milk at first and then a delicious pumpkin bread. We talked about who we were and why we had come and she explained how she made a basket that she had woven. They introduced us to banderous (not sure of the spelling) a fruit that grows in trees that looks like tiny pineapples growing in a huge ball. You chew the fruit and then once you have extracted all the juice you spit out the pulp, very tasty. It was a lovely visit.
The other elder we met is the mother of the family where the 2 fellows we brought to the island are staying. The whole family is very welcoming and we have eaten 2 meals there. The mother makes hats out of fronds from a palm tree. The designs are very intricate and after the weaving is done she attached flowers made from the same material to the hats, all the way around the part where the top of the hat meets the brim. At church one of the elders that rule the island offered us a fan and when we tried to return it after the service he insisted that we keep it. Jennifer you would be very interested in the technique of the weaving for the fan, rather like the basket weaving you were doing in the NWT.
Late this afternoon the second group of archaeologists arrived aboard a catamaran. We were attached to a mooring that has been set for the 90 foot vessel that supplies the island. We had decided that the catamaran would raft up to us, bad mistake. Once we had tied up we realized that their freeboard was much taller than ours and our stanchions were in danger of being damaged. Then the spring line holding our rear to their center bent our cleat. Once that happened we quickly let all the lines go and put our heads together to come up with another plan. Meantime one of the fellows in the village was on the radio trying to communicate with us to tell us that the occupants of the second boat could come ashore but they were not allowed to bring any luggage, because that would be considered work! (very confusing having him blather at us while we tried to get ourselves settled). We decided that it would be best if the cat would tie up to the mooring ball and we would tie up to the stern of the cat. After about an hour of maneuvering; we had to bring in our flopper stopper and get underway, they had to moor and then devise a system to tie us up safely; we are hooked up behind the cat. There is quite a swell and we are rolling a lot more than we were when we were on the mooring ball. This may limit the time we will be able to spend here. We are hoping to be able to participate in the archaeological dig but I guess we will have to see, the lodgings are not very comfortable at the moment.
We looked at the map, we had planned to go to Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa after we left here but if we have to sail too close to the wind to get there we may head to Wallis Island. Wallis Island is a French protectorate and it is between Samoa and Fiji. We need to get to Tonga to make a good heading to New Zealand (I think) so the further west we go the more difficult it will be for us to head to Tonga, so we will see. I guess I had better figure out if a passage from Fiji to Tonga is a possibility at this time of year. Lots of possibilities out there; I was noticing all the elderly ladies sitting in church with their grandchildren today and I was missing all my children and grandchildren very much.
I am having trouble loading pictures, so I will try again later.