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.

Lewis & Alyssa

June 2, 2015

Te Tautua, Penrhyn, Cook Islands

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