Thursday, September 27, 2007

A day at Christmas

Trinda woke up at her normal 6 AM and made her coffee. She is out of the special stuff from Costco, so it was Milo, instant coffee and Coffee Mate. She played a few hands of Spider solitaire while waiting for me to awake at 7:30. While I was having coffee and watching a cruise ship send shore boats to town, Jeff came over to see if I wanted to go meet the captan of a 82 foot fishing boat arrived here. Just then we heard CHuck invite him to breakfast over the radio.

So we made another cup of coffee and Jeff and I went over to Chuck's and met him there. He is a 26 year old Hawaiian. He brought hs fish hold full of supplies from Hawaii and is looking for 25 crew that want to join the fishing fleet there for a few years. He is staying here a week.

Afterward, we decided to take the local bus for a sight seeing tour. The bus is a small Nissan 9 passenger van. It stops for anyone standing beside the road. It cost $3.50 Australian each for the trip to the end of the road and all the way back to town. At times there were as many as 18 people aboard, plus a few bags of rice and other things people were taking home.

Soon after we boarded, Trinda struck up a conversation with a woman about our age, who had to sit in her lap. She turns out to be the librarian at one of the high schools. There are 3, a catholic, prodastant and a government one. She also likes to weave and invited Trinda to her house some time to weave together. I asked several questions of the young man next to me. We passed several wind mills, but there are no cows here. The mills pump all the drinking water for the island, he says. There are
4 here and 2 around the other side. He pointed out lots of other sites as we toured along. He lives at the end of the bus route so we had a nice visit, except for the very loud rap music the van driver was playing.

It took about 45 minutes to reach the end of the line. The island airport was there and the small village of Banana Beach. We didn't see any real center of town or other tourist attraction, so we just stayed on the bus. Part way back the van stopped at JMB Enterprises, al local importer, store and gas station. We took advantage of the break to buy a cup of ice cream each. We thought we might as well ride back all the way to town and maybe see some of the cruise ship tourists. The island is so bare
and dry and the town so small we couldn't imagine what they would be doing.

By the time we reached town, the last shore boat had left taking all the tourists back and the cruise ship was weighing anchor. Oh well, next time, maybe. We walked around the parts of town we had missed on previous trips. We found a bar and had a beer for lunch. It had a diminutive pool table so Jeff and Scott played a game while Trinda visited with the owners wife and I visited with the owner. He has only been here 3 years, but the bar is doing well and he is happy. I played him a game of 8 ball,
(and barely won) then we were off to the store. Kathy and Jeff got some more groceries. We had shopped the day before so Trinda only for another ice cream cone. Thy have no fresh vegetables until the next cargo plane, which no one seems to know when will arrive, some time in October.

Now it back to the side of the street to await the bus. When it finally comes it is so packed another 10 year old wouldn't fit. We start holding out a thumb to each truck that comes. Soon we are picked up and dropped off at the jetty. It is a large pier that the Japanese built several years ago, but have never used. The Kerebati Port Authority has its office at the head of the pier. We pause at his office to study the large map he has on the wall. Jeff and Scott had not met him, so I introduce us
around. I had ben up to see him a few days ago to see about a problem he is having with his office internet router. He says we can come up and use out laptops on his network any time. It is extremely slow, but we may be able to do that one day soon.

Then we walk on out the get the dinghy. The jetty and dock are 25 feet above the water with old rusty stairs leading down. Because the wind blows almost a constant 20 knots from te east, the trade winds, I have tied the dinghy to the bollard on top of the per with a 50 foot line so it will stay far from the rusty parts of the pier pilings. We pull it up, get in, taking Scott back to his boat with no problems except for getting a little wet. With the wind, even this close to shore, there are 2 to
3 foot wind waves and they splash over the sides of the dinghy all time.

Back aboard the Katie Lee, we are tired and hungry after our 6 hour outing. I fry up a batch of chicken legs and wings as Trinda still can't stand to be near any heat because of her burn. We also warmed some stir-fry noodles with pork we had leftover from a previous trip to town and lunch at a Chinese cafe. Then off to bed.

Every day is not like this, but it was a typical day in the life of cruisers that happens maybe once a week.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Penrhyn - part 2

The 21st birthday party was a major event. Bold Spirit, Jeff and Kathy, Trinda and I were treated as guests of honor. When we arrived at the church Sunday school building they put flower leys around our heads and had us sit with the elders while final preparations were completed on the tables.

There were about 8 trestle tables in a line down the length of the room, with one crosswise at the head with a small table to hold the cake between it and the rest. A koroke style boom box was conspicuous at the head table and a small new video recorder on a tripod set near. The food was all in quart sized plastic containers with some of each food piled around each two plates. Lobsters and coconut crabs were wrapped in saran wrap and scattered along the table too.

They had us all take our seats. We 'English speaking guests' were seated at the beginning of the row of trestle tables, where the largest of the coconut crabs were. The birthday boy James, arrived and was robed and seated in the center of the head table. On either side was the eldest elder in the village and his wife, Saetu and Rariki, and the new minister and his wife. The father, Rio, did not have a chair.

After everyone was seated, the ceremony began. Papa Saetu opened with a prayer or two in the local Polynesian language, then James was presented, then we were introduced in both English and Polynesian. Next came singing. It turns out the singing is memorized passage from the Polynesian translation of the bible, where the men sing one part and the ladies sing the other all in harmony. The only catch was the ladies sing clear but very loud. Trinda was seated next to the most capable of these ladies
and had trouble hearing during the rest of the meal.

More prayers then the father came with the mike. He apparently gave more introduction of James and counted his accomplishments to date and their hopes for his future. The new minister (they are appointed for 4 years at each post in this area) prayed some more. Two symbolic keys were presented to James. Where American parents often give luggage to their children as a graduation gift in hopes the leave home and start a new life on their own, the key is a similar symbol. It is the key to the door so
they may leave, but also the key to open the future. Each key is designed uniquely for each young person with subtleties about their life and plans in the design and ornamentation.

Then James was escorted to the table with the cake. Trinda was acknowledged for supplying the cake again. His uncle Michael and aunt Ngu lit the candles and helped as he blew them out and then made a ceremonious cut in the cake. He returned to head table and sat while more praises were given by his father and some others.

More prayers and singing then we were invited to eat. That was when we noticed the startling omission of any silverware anywhere on the table! None. No knives, serving spoons, not even a plastic fork. We watched and realized that every one was opening the small boxes of food close to them and helping themselves with their fingers. When in Rome… so we too dug in. Bana, who had been running the video camera, gave the needed guidance to get us started. The curried pork and chicken posed the biggest
dilemma, but when poured over the sticky rice it was easier to handle. Also the coconut with tapioca covered in coconut cream was sticky but manageable. We ate the tail of a lobster, but noticed no one else were eating theirs. There were no tools to get to the inner parts. As the meal finished, and more prayers, talks in Polynesian, and in English, thanks to their English speaking friends, the party began to break up. A young girl came around the table with a large dishpan full of soapy water. Trinda
had been busy talking and eating and not paying attention, so when the girl came to her, and got her attention, She looked at the soapy water, picked up her plate and dumped it into the "finger bowl". There was a sudden stillness, then chuckles as the girl pantomimed she should retrieve her plate and only wash her hands… So much for the silverware.

Everyone was collecting the remaining food boxes, lobsters and crabs to take with them. The ladies came over and ensured Trinda had some of everything, including two more lobsters and the largest coconut crab there. Because the shellfish are so difficult to get to the good parts and so messy, they take them and most of the meal home to enjoy in private, where they have more tools and can be as messy as it takes to get the best parts, in their own homes.

Monday, September 24, 2007


We are doing better. We had supper with Bold Spirit tonight. Trinda was able to wear a bra for a couple hours, then I took her home and went back for a hand of cards. Scott from Avventura came so we had four without Trinda. Kathy made curry over rice. It was good. We took some of the cookies we had made to take ashore, since we didn't have the gas to cook brownies.

We have made so many cakes and cookies that we have run out of propane. Supposedly, they have propane here. We'll find out tomorrow. If not, it may mean no coffee and cold dinner for a few weeks.... ugh!

We intend to go to town tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


I apparently forgot to say what happened to my knee. Since I had the knee surgery back in 87, they cut the nerves to the skin over the knee cap. Therefore, when I kneel down, I sometimes don't notice that I kneel on something sharp. I knelt on a piece of dry coral rock on the beach in Penrhyn, loading stuff in the dinghy just before we left. I noticed a "rock" stuck to my knee and brushed it off and thought nothing more of it. 3 days later I have this red streak growing up my thigh, and we are 200
miles from Penrhyn and 450 miles from Christmas. I start getting scared. I call on the radio (we check into a HAM net every night at 0300 Zulu, the Pacific Seafarers Net, and I ask for advice. They are slow, so our friends on Bold Spirit, 40 miles ahead of us, use their sattelite phone and call a friend. He is an emergency room doctor, sand he recommends the correct antibiotics...but we only have 3 days worth of it left.

Maybe that fills in the gaps?

Christmas Island

We are better now. We went to the doctor. He gave us more antibiotics and Trinda some silver sulfadine crean for her burn. It looks ugly, but maybe it is getting better. Lots of blisters still. My leg is much better, but my ankle is still swelling, but if I keep it elevated part of the day it feels OK.

We went to town again today. We went to the bank, paid for our visas, customs and the store. She gave us 90 day visas, so we are set for a while. They have virtually no fresh produce, lettuce, cabbage, potatoes, oranges($2 each) and apples. And everywhere the ever popular New Zealand corned beef in a can and canned mackerel. They get the produce by air cargo plane about every two weeks, but we don't know when th last one was. $75 fit easily in one backpack. Eggs are $.80 each, homemade bread (not
very good) is $2 a loaf.

There is an ex-American surfer bum living here on a sail boat. He immigrated in 1979 and is no longer a US citizen. He has helped us a lot. The other guy, Scott a 22 year old from Calif., made the crossing from Penrhyn with us is also a surfer. They are having a great time talking surfing and Scott gave Chuck 10 surfer movies. The men, Jeff, Scott and I had sunset cocktails at Chucks tonight and watched the sunset. Nice. Trinda was too tired from the trip to town and Kathy had a problem with the
Chinese lunch....

Still no more work on the "Penrhyn story".

Christmas Island

We are better. We went to the doctor on Sunday. He gave us more antibiotics and silver sulfadine cream for Trinda's burns. My leg is much better, but I still need to keep it elevated most of the day. Trinda's burn is looking ugly, but maybe normal. No swimming till the scabs are gone though.

Christmas is a desert dry atoll, not many palms, but a few, not much other vegetation either. It is windy and not much rain, especially in a La Nina year, like this. We have had 15 to 20 knots of wind all time, except tonight. We went to town today again, went to the bank, paid for our visas, customs, and the store. Not much fresh produce here. They get a cargo plane about every two weeks. They may have internet, but they have a "keystroke monitor" program that captures your passwords, so I'm afraid
to try any banking...

There is an e-American surfer bum living here that immigrated to Kerebati in 79, no longer a US citizen. He lives on a sailboat and does charter fishing and surfing. Quite a character. Scott of Avventura, a 22 year old kid we met in the Marquesas, made the passage with us. He is really enjoying having a surfer to visit with. He shared 10 DVDs of surfing movies with Chuck.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Christmas Island at last

The worst week we have ever had. We left with the last of the flu. Trinda had a small scrape start to infect and took antibiotic for 2 days. Then my scrape becomes very infected very fast. Then Trinda gets a bad burn and can't wear any clothes or lay down except for one position and discontinues her antibiotic so I can have it. We get close and have to put big jib down, the sheet gets caught in the prop and I have to dive and cut it loose. Then we finish by motoring 8 miles into a 25 knot wind at
only 4 knots (2 hours).
All in all a bad week, BUT we are here and safely anchored. Plan to find the doctors tomorrow.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Still Going

We are doing OK I guess. My leg seems to be responding to the correct antibiotic. Trinda is in a lot less pain, but has two areas like a .50 cent piece that are bare and two dine blisters and two 4 inch areas that are bright red.

Only 125 more miles. We should cross the equator in another hour or so.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Penrhym to Christmas

we have 230 miles to go. Estimate Friday morning.
My knee has become very infected and 2 false starts on antibiotics, but Bold Spirit called a Dr. on his satellite phone and got me on the correct antibiotic. If it is not better in 24 hours I should do something??? we'll hope.

While trying to make iced tea, Trinda poured a cup of boiling water with tea bags, then the boat hit a wave and splashed it on her. She has lost skin in a breast and belly just below it. we have only one burn medicine, so no choice there. She is taking asprin and tyenol on opposite 2 hours.

This is NOT a good passage!

wind is cooperating, 6.5 knots all night and most of today.
Not fishing. No one wants to deal with it if we caught one!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Penrhyn to Christmas

We left Sunday morning, much to the church's disapproval. Jeff and Trinda both turned up sick Saturday morning so we stayed one more day. Probably didn't make much difference, as most of us had a relapse under way.
Trinda and I have slept almost continuously since we left, Just peeking out every now and then.. She is too hot to sleep below and I am too cold to stay in the cockpit. It is a very un traveled part of the ocean, at least.

Three of us left Penrhyn, Bold Spirit and Aventura, a young single handler. They are both ahead of us by 25 miles today but I changed head sails so we might catch up in a few days.

Back to bed.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

A month in Penrhyn -first part

We were blasting along through French Polynesia, along with most of the other cruisers, having only a 90 day visa to see the 118 islands making up the Marquesas, Tuamotus, Gambiers and Society Islands. Just a day or two at each anchorage and not seeing many of the sights. Feeling that we were going too fast to really get a feel for the places we stayed when we overheard another cruiser say they were planning to winter in Hawaii and do French Polynesia again. We had planned to take 3 to 5 years to
cross the South Pacific and at the rate we were going, we'd be done way too soon. That sounded interesting, so we talked to them som more. It looked like a route from Bora Bora in August to Penrhyn, Christmas, Fanning then reaching Hawaii in November. 4 months in Hawaii, then back to the Tuamotus in April would give us another shot at the atolls we missed.

Shortly after arriving in Penrhyn, the local health inspector, OJ, invited us to cross from the western village of Omoka to Te Tautua on the eastern side with him as a guide through the coral heads. They were widely spaced and brightly colored, Most have white poles with a triangular flag on top making them resemble the greens of a golf course spread across the 8 miles to Te Tautua. So the guidance was not that necessary, however the visit along the way was worth it. He was planning a trip to Rarotonga
and wanted to gather some clams to take to his family there. We got invited to go along on the clamming excursion.

The next morning OJ gathered some nephews in a small aluminum skiff and had us get our snorkeling gear and follow in our dinghy. About 5 miles south in the lagoon, we stopped at a coral head with less than 18 inches of water over the top, but 30 to 40 feet deep around the edges. Large clams with very pronounced scalloped shells and bright colored lips grow imbedded in the tops and sides of the coral heads. You pry them out with a large screw driver. We gathered clams for an hour or two, just piling
them on top of the coral head. When we had plenty, they all swam up on top and sat up on the coral head and started cleaning the clams. Almost all of the clam turns out to be eatable, it is mostly muscle. I noticed OJ taking a bite now and then, so he first offered me a choice morsel. You just reach out beside you and rinse the clam meat in the fresh sea water and pop it in your mouth. It adds a little salt and its better than chicken! Then he offered another piece he says tastes like it has cream
on it. Before we were done, I had sampled the entire clam. Trinda was a little reluctant to sample clams that fresh, "But they're raw!" We gathered more at a place or two on the way back to the anchorage without cleaning them so we accompanied OJ and family to the shore and helped shuck the rest. It was well after lunch, so OJ took off on a scooter and as we finish shucking the clams he returned with lunch. Two cans corned beef, a can of mackerel and a pot of hot rice. We teased about 5 gallons of
fresh clams and all the reef fish we watched while clamming and to eat canned mackerel! Rice is the current standard fare here. The average family buys a 35 kilo bag every 3 months or so.

Trinda has decided that in lew of letters of introduction she should make a batch of fresh chocolate chip cookies and walk through the village to get acquainted. We dinghyed ashore near the middle of the village and stopped each time we saw someone and offered a cookie. Saitu and Rariki, the eldest deacon of the church, insisted we have a cool drink. He opened the fridge on the porch and pulled out several husked, green coconuts, chops off the top and we have ice cold coconut juice. Very refreshing.

We wandered on through the village of 50 people, including children, passing out cookies. We meet Taina and Ben who calls himself Bana after his grand father. They are the keepers of the "Yatchie Guest Book" and insisted we take it back to the boat and write a page. It was started in 1987 with John Niel and Bana's grand father and had entries from several boats we that we had met during our 2 years in Mexico. We were the eighth to sign in 2007, but the harbor master said we were the 35th boat to
check in this year. I guess many of them were on the fast track and didn't make it to the quiet anchorage of Te Tautua.

The next day, since the cookies were such a hit and they all responded with refreshments for us, Trinda made one of her famous chocolate cakes with the thick fudge for icing. It was shared around widely! and more local refreshments returned. Later we were told about a birthday celebration coming up, a 21st birthday. It is a celebration of the young man entering adult hood and given a symbolic "key to leave" his parents control. The catch was that the special birthday cake for the event was to be
shipped up from Rarotonga by plane and it didn't arrive! They asked if Trinda could make another cake for the party and invited us to join in.

The whole village participated in the preparations. There were excursions to collect more clams, fish, coconut crab, crayfish (spiny lobster like in Mexico), chicken and a hunt for a wild pig. Then all the coconut for the various treats made from them.

Penrhyn - last day

We plan to leave in the morning for Christmas. Maybe 6 days passage.
I am still working on the story of Penrhyn. Maybe in a few days...
We had a nice steak dinner at Bold Spirit and Mike of Mike's Pearl farm, tonight and a noiice afternoon with Ale and Christine, the head of the church here in the village of Omoka.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Penrhyn - Omoka

We moved back to Omoka, the village near the pass into the lagoon today. Bold Spirit has the flu too and decided to wait another day or two before coming back here.

It has been a very nice 3 weeks in Te Tautua. We met lots of nice people. I hope to write a story about our stay, but still feel very uncreative. Mostly because I am not over the flu even yet. Trinda is still under the weather too. It has left us with a bad cough.

We plan to get some provisions and maybe head for Christmas Island, Kerebati about Saturday.