Suwarrow to Samoa – Day 2 – Roller Coaster Ride!

Day two finds us 230 miles from Samoa – halfway. We are running downwind in stiff trades and breaking seas. We smartly sailed SW out of Suwarrow in anticipation of finding the strong SE trades and therefore being able to run off W-WNW once in their clutches. Good thing because we are now running from 30+ knots gusting higher. The tough Mermaid just dropped the double-reefed mainsail (in the rain no less) as it was overpowering the boat and rounding us up. We are now flying 50% jib and making 7 knots SOG. The roller coaster ride is surprisingly comfortable considering the sea state. This is one situation where having a heavier boat pays dividends. I also think the fixed prop is acting like a bit of a drogue, preventing us from surfing down the wave faces.

We will try and put the awash atoll, Rose Island, 10nm to starboard before falling off 20 degrees and setting a course for the entrance to Pago Pago Harbor in American Samoa. We are hoping to make it in before sunset on Wednesday. We plan to stay about a week. We are having new Lifeline AGM batteries shipped in from the states [A HUGE thanks to Allan, Alyssa’s Father, for helping coordinate that]. Our low-pressure pump on our watermaker died and we are having a new one shipped in [thanks Rich from Cruise RO]. We will also do a big provisioning run – we haven’t seen a grocery store since Hawaii, two month’s ago. Alyssa is very excited for the grocery run and access to modern amenities such as a laundry mat and restaurants. We’ll also hit the hardware store for some new tools; ours have turned into piles of rust. It will be a much needed resupply stop before continuing on to Tonga.

Back to the roller coaster ride for us. It’s sure nice to have consistent wind, even if it’s a bit much. They say that ‘wind is to sailors, what money is to landlubbers.’ Tonight I feel rich.

Cheers,
Lewis

June 30, 2015
10:30Z
14 31 S
166 33 W
246 T
7.0 KTS SOG
28 KTS WIND ESE
12-16 FT SEAS

On Passage to Samoa

We sailed west from Suwarrow yesterday and have covered 150 very rolly miles so far. We are still 300 miles from Samoa, two days if the wind holds. The forecast was calling for a big area of dead air and low pressure to form over Suwarrow this week so we decided to pull anchor and ride the remaining easterlies to Samoa. It was a great experience and I’m glad I was able to dive the pristine reef before it’s gone.

Last night was tough. Inconsistent wind and squally. Had to run the engine for most of it and took the sails up and down about a dozen times in between squalls. Tried my best to keep a good attitude but broke at about 3:00am after the 11th time dropping the sails. We only have 12 hours’ motoring range now. Good thing we found the SE trades this morning. Now we just have to stay on this side of the front all the way to Samoa.

Too rough to write. Will try and send another update tomorrow.

Lewis

6/29/2015
22:19Z
14 08 S
165 20 W
238 T
6.0 KTS SOG

Enjoying the Solitude of Isolated Suwarrow and Diving with Sharks!

Kia Orana from Suwarrow!

The SE wind finally backed off and clocked east, allowing us to ride peacefully to our anchor. We were the only boat here for a couple days, which was quite a treat. A French boat has since arrived, but their English is very limited, so Alyssa is still waiting in quiet anticipation of an English-speaking boat to arrive with new friends.

The only people who live on this island are the caretaker and his wife. They are very friendly and welcoming to this aquatic Eden. The clearance was straightforward and the fee a flat $50 USD. The rules he laid out are quite strict. We are not to visit the other motus or move the boat; we cannot spearfish or fish; we are not to throw anything overboard including food scraps (there are a dozen sharks swimming around the boat at any given time); and you need permission for everything. He also told us there are very aggressive sharks in the lagoon including Tigers, Blue, Mako, Grey, White Tip and Black Tip. I was filling my dive tanks yesterday and I guess the loud noise brought him out in his skiff to investigate. He looked concerned and asked if I was going to be doing some diving. [I had been diving for two days at this point!] I replied that I had planned on it and would like to visit the reef with the manta rays. He replied that not only is the manta ray reef closed [I dove it the past two days] but that I needed a special permit from Rarotonga to do any diving in the preserve! [Goes to show it’s always better to beg forgiveness than ask permission!] I jockeyed with him for a few minutes and he agreed to allow us to dive some of the other reefs near the anchorage but not Manta Reef. He also said he would not be responsible for any accidents. I understand his concern – we are over 400nm from any place with medical or dive-related emergency care and there isn’t an airstrip on the island so if something happened it could very well be fatal.

The over-protective caretaker notwithstanding, the diving has been phenomenal. Yesterday I dove in the morning with the manta rays on, what I later found out to be, a closed reef. I hovered near a healthy coral pinnacle surrounded by teams of brilliantly colored fish while three manta rays glided around me within feet. They are such magnificent and graceful creatures and the experience was amazing. The dive instantly took third place in my ranking of the best dives I have ever done. After lunch and a couple more tank fills I headed out [Lyss is deathly afraid of the sharks and refuses to get in the water] to another reef to the west of the anchorage. I was pleasantly surprised that the coral was even healthier in this spot than Manta Reef. The reef was full of life and color and was everything I was looking for. I followed an octopus around a few bommies while he danced from coral to coral changing colors to blend in. It also tucked its legs in and swam like a squid – I had never seen anything like it and it was amazing to film. During the dive I had a few large grey sharks come close to check me out but I stood my ground and they kept about 10 feet away while eyeing me. I did not feel intimidated by these passes as it felt like they were just curious and by me looking them in the eye and standing my ground it would be understood that I am not prey, but an equal or a predator. – I should explain that grey sharks are the larger (5-6 foot) reef sharks that have been known to take a bite out of spearfishers once in a while. The blacktips are much less aggressive and while there were many down there, I don’t even pay them attention. – So, towards the end of my dive I was only a foot off the sand, holding myself in position with my pole spear dug into the sand and filming beautiful blue fish darting in and out of a branch coral when I saw in my periphery a grey shark snaking through the tight canyon of coral bommies and closing on my position. I wasn’t immediately alarmed so I did not pull my pole spear from the sand; instead I swung the camera around to film him pass by. Well, as he got close, instead of taking a left, and thereby putting me on his starboard side, he turned the corner, saw me, and darted at my mask. It all happened so fast that I could barely register what was happening. My heart raced as he closed within a foot of my mask and then bolted away down the canyon I thought he would head down. It caught me off guard and I found myself pulling the spear tip up and pointing it at him while screaming aggressive obscenities at him through my regulator like I was trying to intimidate an opponent before a bar fight. After much chest pounding and a few deep breaths, I was able to lower my heart rate as he disappeared into the deep. I figured he was asserting his dominance and letting me know I was in his turf. He was also seeing if I would flee, and therefore prove I was prey. I decided that was enough excitement for the day and since I was alone, I slowly made my way back to the surface and the relative safety of the dinghy. I have it on film and will upload from Samoa. What a day.

We are enjoying light winds and a calm anchorage and will stay a week longer. The winds are forecast to fill in from the SE again but not as strong. When the trades turn easterly again we will sail for Samoa, three days and 430nm west.

Until then it’s hammock time, sewing projects, laundry, boat chores and of course more diving adventures with the friendly local grey sharks.

Hope all is well with everyone. Look forward to catching up when we reach civilization again.

Lewis & Alyssa

June 24, 2015

Suwarrow Atoll, Cook Islands

Finally Anchored in Suwarrow After an Insane Storm

Holy sh!t. So much for an easy SPCZ crossing! After I wrote that last blog we caught a 60lb yellow fin tuna, processed it and then after Lyss went to sleep all hell broke loose. The SPCZ was insane with 20ft breaking seas and 40 knots of wind. We got into the ‘lee’ of Suwarrow but it was anything but and we got our ass handed to us hove-to for the night. We were both sick and huddled in the cockpit holding eachother with a look of despair in our eyes as the huge waves crashed over the boat and rushed into the cockpit. In the morning we had to bash 12 miles back to windward against the huge wind and seas and we both got terribly sick, cold, beaten, and poor Ellie is a damn mess with salt water everywhere, new laptop I am typing on is toast and 1/4 of the screen is damaged from salt water. I even managed to take a wave over my head and down my foulies. We are still crusted with salt. We are anchored but it’s exposed here and we have four foot waves bouncing our bow up and down over the wind chop. We have our oversized tandem anchor setup deployed with 200ft of chain in only 15 feet of water so if we move I will be amazed. It’s still howling 28 knots sustained across four miles of lagoon. We are still anxiety-ridden and I’m sure our blood pressure is through the roof. I haven’t slept in two days and my head is pounding. The most important thing is that we got through this together and were an incredible team. I couldn’t have pulled this off without Alyssa and would probably be running from the storm. She was her resolve and she had us push on to reach Suwarrow, a place I have dreamed about for years. This island is only visited by sailors, and hardcore sailor/divers at that. You can’t fly here and the price of admission is being a sailor and getting your ass kicked to get here. The water is gorgeous and this place amazing. It’s a divers paradise with mooring balls scattered about for tying the dinghy to. Can’t wait to explore. But for now: celebration, showers, rest and cleaning. What a F**king ride!

Cheers,
LEwis & The Tough-as-Nails Mermaid

June 20, 2015

Suwarrow Atoll, Cook Islands

13 14.905 S
163 06 467 W

The Pleasant Sail to Suwarrow (Suvarov)

We are three days out of Penrhyn and closing on Suwarrow, 28nm SW of our position. Suwarrow is a small coral atoll with very few motus and only one person in residence. It is the island where Tom Neal lived for 25 years alone; he wrote a book about his stay called ‘An Island to One’s Own.’ I wish I had a copy aboard but they don’t sell it on Kindle so I couldn’t download it in Penrhyn. It is also the favorite port-of-call of the legendary French sailor Bernhard Moitessier.

We are so close but unfortunately will not be able to enter the coral pass today as we would arrive at sunset and thus without adequate light to safely enter the 15ft deep pass. We will be heaving-to tonight in the lee of the island.

The past few days have been really pleasant sailing. We have had to motor-sail for most of it, but the calm conditions have made it really peaceful and restful. Even with me taking over the entire night shift I have been able to get adequate rest in the mornings. We have been filing our days with reading and trying to catch fish that were apparently all taken by the commercial tuna boats or something because we have yet to get a bite.

We stopped in Manihiki and watched a gorgeous sunrise over the atoll while hove-to a mile out but decided it was too rolly with the large swells and decided to sail on. The weather is also very unsettled so staying on a coral shelf is not a very prudent decision. Something was drawing me to the island though and I’m glad I was able to see it, if only from seaward.

I have played the weather forecast perfectly and we are sailing on a light breeze from the NNW. We are closing on the northern branch of the SPCZ (convergence/convection zone). The plan is to sail into the lee of Suwarrow and ride out the squalls tonight while hove-to. The strong SE trades will fill in with vengeance tomorrow morning and the plan is to hide in the lee of the atoll until we have enough light to enter the pass.

I expect the anchorage to be exposed to the three miles of fetch coming across the lagoon, but I read that there is good holding so we’ll double up the anchors again and ride it out. It should subside in a couple days and the longer-term forecast looks very pleasant from the east.

I am so excited about the diving in Suwarrow. I have heard amazing reports of very healthy coral and thousands of colorful fish. Be sure that I’ll be taking some epic GoPro footage to share when we reach Samoa in a couple weeks.

Alyssa is in good spirits and is very excited to be done with atolls after Suwarrow. We have not seen a grocery store in over two months. We are completely out of anything fresh or live. She is dreaming of salads, fresh produce, grocery stores, restaurants, cafes and civilization. Samoa will have all that and more and she can’t wait. In the meantime our current plan is to try and trade with another boat for some eggs or mayonnaise and anything fresh or green. Or bodies are screaming for more nutrients – in hindsight I think we should have bought that overpriced green superfood powder from the health store. Most boats are coming from Bora Bora so they should have some French goodies for us to trade and maybe something green.

I expect a very active squally night tonight while hove-to. Who knows, maybe we’ll get lucky and it will be pleasant….I just knocked on wood.

Cheers from Ellie and her Crew,
L&A

June 18, 2015

South Pacific Ocean

12 55 S
162 45 W
191 T
4.5 KTS

The Difficult Task of Leaving Penrhyn

Lewis and I are on our way to Manihiki, a 200nm sail downwind from Penrhyn.
It was a rough day yesterday while getting ready to leave. First we woke up around sunrise to finish readying the boat and pull up our 3 anchors (yes, we had 3 anchors out! Two on our bow and one on our stern so we wouldn’t swing into shallow water or hit the coral heads on either side of us). Then we had to motor across the atoll which takes a few hours with me on the bow looking out for pinnacle coral heads in the lagoon. Clouds and squalls kept taking away our sunlight, making the water turn black and impossible to read the depth, so we kept stalling until sun came back. When we finally got to the other side, a town called Omoka, which is of course a lee shore (where if your anchor drags, you are pushed onto shore instead of safely out to sea), we couldn’t find this so called “sand patch” to drop our anchor in to get a good hold. Instead, we anchored in 50′ of coral so our anchors and chain drag and scratch, making a terrible, terrible noise until one of the anchor prongs finally catches under a bommy. I stayed on the boat to keep anchor watch while Lewis went to shore in search of diesel and to check us out of Penrhyn. Oh, and I forgot to tell you, our dingy outboard prop broke while we were motoring back and forth to Te Autua village on the windward side of Penrhyn. There is this stupid rubber ring on the inside of the prop that absorbs shock in case you hit something so it won’t ruin the engine or gears (makes sense), but it wears out over time (ours crumbled to little pieces) so the prop would no longer turn. We didn’t know about this lovely feature and didn’t bring a spare. Our friend Bruce on Skabenga told us that we NEED a spare prop but somehow it never made it onto our spares list of stuff to buy. DOH! SOOO long story short, Lewis took my inflatable paddleboard in to the harbor. Did I mention it was blowing 20kts and squalling with huge chop because we’re on a lee shore? Inflatable paddleboards don’t like those conditions because they’re so light with all of that thick windage above the water, the nose gets blown downwind. When Lewis returned a couple hours later with 2 jugs of diesel and a case of beer, he said he, with the case of beer in his waterproof backpack, and the two jugs tied just in front of him on top of the paddleboard, flipped over like 3 times! He was acting as ballast to the inflatable paddleboard! I have a great pic of him almost back to the boat, drenched with a smile on his face for negotiating a proper NZ exchange rate so we could afford a case of beer!
Our transmission on the boat is slipping too and sometimes doesn’t go into forward unless we kind of jam it quick and forcefully. I had to empty our huge lazarette full of dive and kite gear to get to the engine in case we had to manually put it in gear. Thankfully it worked when we went to pull our two anchors up. The second anchor was extremely difficult to bring up because it was caught on coral. Imagine this, Lewis is at the helm, I’m on the bow with the anchor remote, drenched because it just poured. I get the signal to start bringing in the chain so I point in the direction I want him to drive so it takes the stress of the chain as I am bringing up 200′ of chain. A couple times, the chain yanks the boat when the wind catches our bow, forcing our bow one side or another, as the chain drags and catches on some kind of coralhead that is too deep to see. We finally get it with about 85′ to go when, yank!, our bow is pulled hard down as the chain stops coming free. Then the wind catches the bow, throwing us the other way. The chain slacks for a couple seconds and then, yank!, it pulls the bow hard the other way. I let more chain out hoping that the extra slack would let it free from under whatever it is caught on. I directed Lewis to drive the left as I drop a little more, hoping that’s the way it is snagged. YANK! Nope, wrong way. We tried to the right as I let out a little more, yank! grind! grind! pop! Lewis yells not to break the windlass (the heavy duty chain puller-upper lol), adding that he might need to dive on it. I start pulling some up, then yank! grind! grind! grind! I see more slack so I pull a little more up. Pop! grind! grind! grind! Lewis yells, “just let it out! I’ll have to dive on it!” I respond saying “I got it up to 75′, more than we had it before. I think it’s dragging!” A very good sign. I keep bringing up more chain, “50 feet left!…25 feet!.. I see the first anchor!” The second anchor is about 12′ behind that on more chain. After securing our primary anchor, I have to reach over the bow with a boat hook to grab the chain, hand over hand I wrestle the chain up with a 55lb fortress anchor on the end. I have to lift it over the lifelines and on deck so I can undo the shackle and disassemble the anchor for storage. I’m getting pretty strong on this boat;) While Lewis was at customs, I tried lifting out our dive compressor out of the bottom of the lazarette a few times and couldn’t get it for the life of me. I could really use a massage on my lower back. haha Lewis said it was pretty difficult to juggle a case of beer on the back of a couple scooters going to and from the customs office in Omoka. And he thinks that the guy driving smelled like an Irish pub and may have been drunk. I’m hoping that the unpaved roads meant that he was going under 10mph with this guy!
Our friend Levi gave us 3 kites and a couple harnesses when he switched boats. He said he had too much stuff and Lewis was happy to accommodate the gifts. (Many thanks again, Levi!) Levi was a kite boarding instructor in Honolulu so he gave me lessons in Penrhyn. I love it! I already know how to control the kite, so I’m hoping to practice with the board in Suwarrow.
The wind died and I am now motoring towards Manihiki, a closed coral atoll with no entrance to the lagoon. We plan to anchor off in the lee of the island. If it’s too rolly or too dangerous, we’ll figure out a new plan. Lewis started taking over my half of the night shift because he knows how much I hate sailing in the dark. He says he was going to singlehand before we met, so he should be able to do it and sleep in the morning. We’ll be there by tomorrow morning and will stay a couple days. Then 2 nights to Suwarrow, max 2 weeks there, and then 3 or 4 days to Pago Pago in American Samoa.
I’m dreaming of open air markets, grocery stores, fresh laundered clothes, good wine and restaurants. I’m out of eggs, fresh produce (except 2 butternut squash), mayo, and only have 1 small container of powdered milk. The cargo ship came to Penrhyn while we were there, but apparently there was some kind of mix up and the only thing they brought was juice and beer. All of the islanders are pretty upset as they are in need of fresh supplies. A woman’s husband came to our boat as we were pulling anchor just to ask for a tube of toothpaste. They said they have enough rice and grow bananas and have plenty of coconuts and fish, but the rest won’t be there for another month, maybe two. My body is screaming for a green machine juice or a shot of wheatgrass! I still surprise myself every now and then with what I can make out of pretty much nothing on the boat.
As my new friend Ruby says, “Hunger is the best sauce.”

Cheers from the rolly South Pacific,
Alyssa & Lewis

0100z
10 03.60S
159 44.75W
245*t
5.6kt, motoring in 8kt wind

Sailiing West from Penrhyn to Suwarrow

After three great weeks in Penrhyn, we have decided to sail west. We will cross the lagoon in the morning and anchor off Omoka village to clear out and pay up. Then we’ll put to sea and sail for Suwarrow, another atoll 400 miles downwind.

I would like to buy some more diesel as the wind is forecast to lighten halfway to Suwarrow. Hopefully we can score some from the locals tomorrow. We have about 25 gallons in the tank that we bought off a couple other boats; that’s just shy of two days motoring range.

We’ll keep the blog updated as we sail west. Wish us calm seas and moderate but steady trades.

Levi, of SJOSTROM, gifted us three kites and a surfboard. He jumped ship – literally – and is now on DRINA and had to ditch his gear. Lucky us and he was even kind enough to give Alyssa intro lessons. She’s now hooked and we have gear for both of us to ride! We finally got the hissing cat in the water – and she is even smiling!!!

Will write soon.

Cheers,
Lewis

June 14, 2015
Broken Palm Island, Penrhyn, Cook Islands

Pictures from Te Tautua and Broken Palm Island, Penrhyn

Unbelievable! We caught an internet signal a mile away from the village out at our secluded Broken Palm Island! The internet has been down for a week but the supply ship came in yesterday and they fixed the wifi. As a result, here are some pics of the past week:

Anchored off Te Tautua village
Anchored off Te Tautua village
Waterfront in the village
Waterfront in the village
Asian feast with Ruby from DRINA
Asian feast with Ruby from DRINA
Ahhh...that's more like it. I just remembered why we cross oceans ;-)
Ahhh…that’s more like it. I just remembered why we cross oceans ;-)
Mermaid green thumb hard at work
Mermaid green thumb hard at work
The school in Te Tautua. Grades 1-10 in one room....
The school in Te Tautua. Grades 1-10 in one room….
Romanda and Rose Lilly, the Chiefs' daughters. He actually inquired if Alyssa and I were married....he is looking for a husband for Romanda (right).  Alyssa protested again of course
Romanda and Rose Lily, the Chiefs’ daughters. He actually inquired if Alyssa and I were married….he is looking for a husband for Rose Lily (right). Alyssa protested again of course
Baseball with the kids
Baseball with the kids
Lettuce...on an atoll?!
Lettuce…on an atoll?!
Alyssa's garden
Alyssa’s garden
My two loves in one kayak
My two loves in one kayak
Sailing the hobie kayak  and loving life
Sailing the hobie kayak and loving life
Ellie swinging peacefully behind Broken Palm Island
Ellie swinging peacefully behind Broken Palm Island
I'm so spoiled with Alyssa's cooking. Last night we had fried salmon cakes with sprouts and a spicy teriyaki glaze over sweet brown rice
I’m so spoiled with Alyssa’s cooking. Last night we had fried salmon cakes with sprouts and a spicy teriyaki glaze over sweet brown rice
Hooked a shark but he bit me off
Hooked a shark but he bit me off
I cooked an actual meal! The Mermaid was very impressed
I cooked an actual meal! The Mermaid was very impressed
Heading off on an adventure. Broken Palm  Island left background
Heading off on an adventure. Broken Palm Island left background
Exploring the reef
Exploring the reef
Filleting a parrot fish
Filleting a parrot fish
Mermaid hammock time. Be sure that book is estrogen-packed!
Mermaid hammock time. Be sure that book is estrogen-packed!
Kayak exploration in a postcard
Kayak exploration in a postcard

 

Paradise Found at Broken Palm Island, Penrhyn

I couldn’t stop smiling all day yesterday. I had the best day since last season when we were anchored in Toau in the Tuamotus. I’m in my element and am once again living the dream as I imagined it. Life is beautiful today.

We are anchored in the lee of a picturesque, palm-tree covered, uninhabited motu. An expanse of shallow fine white sand stretches for a half mile off the starboard bow and reflects dozens of shades of turquoise and blue and it recedes into the depths of the lagoon. Our anchor is set in only 6 feet of water and is set hard below the sand. Our rudder is floating peacefully 4 feet over a coral head with dozens of brilliantly colored tropical fish in residence. We also have a stern hook out to prevent swinging into the very shallow water forward of our bow anchor. The light turquoise water around Ellie is so beautiful it’s impossible to suppress a smile just looking out the ports.

After enjoying a delicious breakfast that our world-renowned Mermaid Chef prepared, I loaded up the camel back and jumped on the paddleboard in pursuit of exploration. The wind was howling so it was a strenuous workout paddling to windward across the short standing waves guarding the false pass through the break in the motus. I reached the other side wet and exhausted but warmed up for the trek ahead. I tied off the paddleboard to a palm tree and made my way across the shallow reef to the windward side where the waves punish the reefs edge relentlessly. After being accosted by hundreds of sea birds, I made the breakers and started walking south along the shoreline. I explored the shore for hours, collecting sea urchin spines, sorting through the plethora of plastic cast on the reef, taking a dip in a natural bath tub and just soaking in the beauty of the sea. I also found another research raft with a GPS transmitter, just like the one we found in Raroia last year. After being sufficiently baked by the tropical sun and heat I returned to the paddleboard and made my way downwind back to Ellie. I shot some underwater video on the way back that came out amazing – it’s like flying through a tropical reef at high speed.

Alyssa had been babysitting the watermaker, doing laundry and baking bread. She also has quite the little garden going. She is growing basil, cilantro, sage, rosemary, green onions, butter lettuce, mescaline mixed greens and daisies (because they’re pretty of course). They are in little greenhouses on the stern seat and are starting to sprout. She is quite the green thumb. We are both excited to enjoy some fresh greens sometime in the next week or two. She has also been growing sprouts and making yogurt. Do I have the most amazing woman in the world or what?!

After showering and drying in the trades on the bow, I made dinner. Much to Alyssa’s surprise, I am actually capable of making a proper meal…fooled me! Dinner was blackened parrot fish that I caught yesterday, briefly seared in hot olive oil; cream of broccoli soup with artichoke hearts; mixed veggies and beets with goat cheese; and a slice of Alyssa’s amazing fresh sourdough bread. She was all smiles and very impressed. I was just glad it was edible and pleasantly surprised how well it turned out. I told her she’s got competition now.

We ended the evening with a movie in the cockpit under the bright stars. We turned in just as the full moon was rising to windward through the palm trees.

As I said, yesterday ranks up there as one of the best days of my life. We love it here and are not looking for weather to leave anytime soon.

In other news: with the help of Doni and Martin on the 100 foot Schooner, SJOSTROM, after three long hours underwater, we finally got the broken Kiwi propeller off and my spare fixed prop on. We now have a fully functioning vessel, including reverse! Moving the transmission into and out of reverse is now super smooth. Being able to set the anchor hard – when surrounded by shallow coral heads – it’s of utmost importance. We can both sleep much easier now knowing the anchor is dug in hard.

There’s a broken palm tree off the bow so we have decided to name this place, “Broken Palm Island.” We are also kegging an Australian Pale Ale today and have decided to name it the “Broken Palm Pale Ale.”

Cheers from Broken Palm Island,
Lewis & Princess Green Thumb

June 5, 2015
Broken Palm Island, Penrhyn, Cook Islands

Life in Penrhyn Island

Peace and tranquility have been found and island time restored. The anchor is buried a foot deeper in the same spot we dropped it off Te Tautua village. The toys are all out: dive gear, sailing kayak, paddleboard, dinghy. The fort is in full force: shade tents, dive compressor, hammock. Rest has been had. Boat projects are being crossed off the list and Ellie is coming back to life. We are happy here and are really enjoying ourselves.

The villagers have welcomed us into their lives with open arms, hearts and homes. We have enjoyed multiple feasts (kai kai’s), watched the school children put on song and dance, played baseball with the kids, hosted locals on the boat and watched the local women craft intricate hats and fans from palm and pandanus. A walk through the village will be met with smiles and greetings and a few smiling kids chasing pigs through the streets. The pace of life is extremely slow and tranquil here. Not much going on aside from the many church sessions per week. It’s a simple life and a good one.

The villagers have money and do extremely well through the sale of pipi pearls, a gold-colored pearl they harvest off the coral heads in the lagoon. Last week there was a buyer here to purchase pearls. They have nice homes with modern amenities such as washers. Many of the locals have been educated and spent time in new New Zealand and they speak proper Oxford English as well as Maori. They travel to Australia and New Zealand often, despite the fact that a round trip ticket costs over $6,000. They all have aluminum fishing boats and nice motor scooters even though there is only one road and the motu is less than two miles long.

The influx of money has brought greed with it. They have already informed us they are doubling the per day anchoring fees and will retroact the fees for our entire visit. Fees that are already multiples more than any other island nation in the South Pacific. It’s a real shame because many cruising boats already bypass the Cooks as a result of the very high fees.

The island leaders are also very restrictive on the movement of boats in the lagoon. This is the first atoll we have been to that restricts when and where we can anchor. We finally got permission to move a mile away from the village but that required a visit to the Chief with many gifts given, a long discussion about where and when we plan to move, and some of our best ass kissing skills. He finally agreed to let us move but only where he can still see the boat from his home. I believe the restrictions are out of fear that we will go to the other side of the atoll, out of view, and start harvesting their cash crop, the pipi pearls. It’s the only explanation I can come up with. We understand we are their guests so we have been – and will continue to be – very gracious.

Today I am going to attempt to remove the broken feathering Kiwi Prop and replace it with our fixed prop. The reverse function does not work and jams the transmission. We have decided to give up the advantages of the feathering prop, namely 1/2 a knot boat speed under sail, for the safety of having reverse and being able to set the anchor. Friends from the Schooner are bringing over a prop puller. I’m hopeful we can make the switch successfully. Stay tuned.

Then it’s back to sailing the kayak, exploring the motus and swinging in the hammock. I also plan to get out the kiteboard once the trades return.

Life is good in Penrhyn. I think we’ll stay another week or so before heading west. The amazing diving at Suwarrow beckons and after another week we’ll have run up quite the fee schedule.

Kiorana,
Lewis & Alyssa

June 2, 2015

Te Tautua, Penrhyn, Cook Islands