Sunday, August 31, 2008

Trinda's Birthday Speech

The camera doesn't do all that well at night, but you get the idea. It was an emotional evening.

Sorry I had to edit it down so it would be small enough to upload. Its still 24 Meg, down from 68 Meg, in case you don't want to wait.

Photos from Manihiki

Cathy is John-Mary's wife.

On the way to the kowa where John Williams lives. He is John-Mary's father. A kowa is a coral head in the lagoon that has trees and is large enough to build a house. It is also a pearl farm.

The fish trap. Just carefully placed rows of rocks. The fish enter during the tide change and can't find their way out.

Me, Arthur Niel and John-Mary Williams. It was sure hard to say good bye.

A few photos

The John and Veronica's son caught a coconut crab so that Ian and Lynn of Cloud Nine could see what they were. We did not get to eat this one, as they are protected here on Suwarrow.

Ian did get to hold it. We all escaped injury as we played with it. It is about the same size as the ones we had on Manihiki with John-Mary and Cathy.
It still amazes me that this guy can shuck and eat a coconut. Those are some powerful pincers!

Back on Penrhyn, Alex's son is displaying the varo (mantis shrimp) we caught, Actually, they caught, I did not succeed in catching one. Those claws stuck in the flip-flop are very sharp! Sauted in the shell in butter, these were fantastic. This are the ones Trinda had for her birthday dinner.

These are from the dinner. The matching shirts Christine made for us and the hat for Trinda. Alex, me , Trinda and Christine.

These are a few of their kids. Some of the older girsl and the older boys are hiding somewhere else.

Trinda blew out all the candles.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Samoa - internet access

We are here and fine. The email would not work so I couldn't send any updates.

I signed up for internet access (wifi) in the bay just now so maybe I can send some updates.

Pago Pago Arrival

We made it in and anchored by 6:30PM on 8/24

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Suwarrow to Samoa

Still making good time. Tonight there are rain storms all around us. We took down the jib and are still making over 6 knots with just the reefed main. The sea is still rolly.

Still no fishing. We had canned ham and instant hash browns yesterday and spaghetti tonight.

Our daughter sent a copy of her blog. Had a good read. Izzy seems to be growing like a weed.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Suwarrow to Samoa

I had forgotten how it is to sail down wind. We have 15 to 20 knows of wind, but it only feels like a light breeze at our backs. The swell is a little off to one side so the boat has a nice gentle motion for a few minutes then a rough roll to the side. things flew around for a while til we got it all wedged in.

other than that it has been a pleasant ride so far. Nice weather, no rain or gusts yet. Should be only 60 more hours at this speed. We are making over 6 knots most of the time.

No highs or lows and were not fishing yet.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Leaving Suwarro

We plan to leave today and head for Samoa. We just heard that Trinda's brother-in-law passed away last week and she wants to get to where we have better communication with the family.

It should be about a 5 day passage.

Suwarrow is a very nice place and the the caretakers are very friendly. There is a $50 US park fee for two week stay, but I guess we'll leave early anyway.
PS. We left at 1:00PM

Thursday, August 21, 2008


W have had a nice reunion with Cloud Nine, Ian and Lyn. They are off tomorrow for Tonga and New Zealand. Maybe we'll see them again in a few years, who knows.

We haven't done much here yet. We did take the dinghies up to the Gull Islands (motu) to see the birds. It is a nesting area for Frigit birds, Masked Boobies (illegal to eat here!) and a small turn. There were thousands of them nesting on the small patch of dirt above the high tide line. The motu they are on is only 100 by 300 yards with one palm tree and a few scrub bushes. The bird nests are just on the ground. There used to be more palm trees, but the last few hurricanes have mostly wiped out
the trees and bushes.

We planned to snorkel on the way back but there was nothing to see. The birds clean out all the small fish close to the motu, so there aren't any bigger fish that would normally eat the small ones.

John and Veronica and their 4 boys suggested we have a pot luck at their place yesterday, so Cloud Nine and us did. There are two other boats here but they were too busy scuba diving the pass with the sharks to come. We had a nice afternoon with them.

There are sharks here. Lots of them! John's oldest son went fishing just before the pot luck so they could provide the fish. He said "I caught one and a half fish." Turns out the sharks got the back half of his second fish. A regular occurrence here. I have not been swimming yet. Not really because of the sharks, but when I slammed my finger in the hatch, it split open. It is healing fast, but I still don't want to get it infected by spending too much time in the salt water.

Three more boats came in today. After so long mostly by ourselves, 7 seems a lot. They have had nearly 100 boats so far this season. At least one boat all time since the park opened April 1st. They are only open April to November, due to hurricane season. John and Veronica have been the care takers for 4 seasons now. They go back to Rarotonga for the off season.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Another Heartbreaking Goodbye

Was it really only 11 days? How could we become such good friends in such a short time? When we left Penrhyn, both Alex and his cousins Emere and Soloman had insisted we find John Williams, their uncle on Manihiki. His son John-Mary Williams was the health inspector that checked us in. We hit it off right away and had a wonderful time getting acquainted with his family.

The worst thing about cruising this way is the number of times you have to leave friends and nice people behind, likely to not see them again for a long time. Eline Quin, a cruiser and song writer even wrote a song about the heartbreaks of leaving each anchorage. I didn't realize when I heard her how true it would be.

The weather report was good, I thought, 15 to 20 on the beam and only a little rain. The swell was to be a little more than I wanted, 8 feet first day and 10 the second. It should take 48 hours at our usual 4 to 5 knots. But no. The 15 turned to over 20! We made a steady 6.5 knots the whole first 24 hours for almost a record time of 149 miles. out of 206, that was making us too early. ETA was 8PM, just after dark, so we would not be able to enter the pass. We couldn't go any faster. So we tried to
slow down. first I changed from the big jib to the staysail. We speeded up, but the boat stayed flatter. still too fast. I tied in the second reef in the main, the mizzen still had the cover in it. Finally we slowed down to 4 knots. Then the predicted and the 20 turned to 30 and more during the rain squalls. Back to 6 knots.

At 10:30 PM only 36 hours instead of the 48 I planned, we were just 10 miles off the reef. Nothing showed on the radar. The entrance pass here at Suwarrow is on the east or up wind side. I had planned to arrive up wind so it would be easier to finish the last few miles straight down wind. But with that much wind I decided to heave to there, 10 miles out to make sure we didn't drift into the reef while we slept. We set the radar alarm and an alarm clock. We must have had a current. We were still making
1.3 knots by the GPS but the water wasn't moving by the boat.

The motion was really uncomfortable, over 10 foot swells on the side rolling the boat back and forth. We tried to sleep on the setees. Neither of us rolled into the floor, but we were still tired each time we woke up. We had both a touch of the 'mal de mir' this trip, and didn't eat much, just crackers, cheese, salami and some jelly.

At 4:30 the atoll was on radar though only the motus, none of the reef. I couldn't decide how far the reef came out. I thought we were too close so started the motor and motored back 3 miles more from shore. At 7:00 the sun started up. We were back to about 4 miles off, but still couldn't see any island. At 3 miles it showed up! I'm sure glad we are traveling by GPS. This would be a tricky business by sextant and eye alone!

The pass was uneventful. As we rounded Anchorage Island we saw 3 boats. One looked familar, but I didn't really expect to see anyone I knew here. We anchored in 35 feet of water between small coral heads. Probably have trouble with the anchor again.

Tired from the rocking and rolling and lack of food, we tried to get the boat ready for the anchorage. Wash a few clothes, hang up all the wet stuff from the waves splashing around. Put up the tarps over the hatches and open them up to dry out. Woops!!! All kinds of bad language! I dropped the forward hatch closed on my finger. The crack is only about a 1/4 and guess what? It made the red stuff leak out, a lot! ouch, I hit it on the keyboard again! I don't think it broke the hatch, or the finger,
but I have a nice long fish hook shaped cut inside my ring finger from the pad past the first knuckle. "That's gona take a long time to heal", is all I could think. Don't work around complicated machinery when you're tired!

All day I kept looking at the fartherest boat. It looked sorta like Cloud Nine, but it couldn't be. I haven't heard from them since they were in Central America several months ago. They should have already passed by. But mid afternoon, as the pain killers were wearing off (Bayer aspirin, pain killer, Ha!) They came over in their dinghy. I didn't feel up to putting ours together yet. And sure enough it IS Lynn and Ian. They were working on their boat in San Carlos the whole time we were there in 2006.
We saw them again in Zuatenajo briefly too. It will be nice catching up with them again.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Suwarro Arrival

We made another passage ok.
Old friends here, Lynn and Ian on Cloud Nine from San Carlos.
More Later.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Coconut Crab - Manihiki

Today, after attending the Catholic service with Cathy and kids, we were to go on a picnic with John-Mary, Cathy and kids. But John scraped his leg and shouldn't get it wet. So we had lunch first. And a very fine lunch it was, black pudding, pork, raw fish, bar-b-que fish, cabbage and cucumber salad and two cakes Trinda made, chocolate and a vanilla wacky cake. It was all delicious. Trinda even liked the raw fish and the black pudding. The raw fish was the boneless fillets we cut up yesterday with
onions, bell peppers, lime juice and coconut milk. The black pudding was various pork organs, heart liver kidneys and some secret ingredients for Trinda's sake. It may be an English dish, but over rice it was really tasty.

Then John decided his leg was OK, so we went on to the motu after lunch. He just tried not to get it wet. We went hunting for coconut crab. Trinda finally decided to go along and for the first time got to crash around through the jungle of an uninhabited motu. The coconut trees, ferns, pandanees trees and other scrub brush make it much like a jungle. Spiders and their webs every where and you have to watch carefully to not step on a sand crab, the little ones we thought were coconut crabs back on

John showed us how to spot their activity and track them to their hole. Once you find the fresh hole, you poke a stick in and see if he grabs it, indicating he's home. They are nocturnal, so they stay in holes during the day. We found 3 large ones. Once you find one, you corner hin in the hole then grab his legs above the pincers so he can't grab you. Ha! I'm a real chicken when it comes to pain. And sticking you arm down a black hole with a pissed off crab in it just sounds like pain! John would
stick the stick in and let the crab pinch the stick. He'd then look at the stick and check the angle of the mark the crabs pincer made. He could determine the position of the crab and figure the safe angle to put in his hand to catch him. I just couldn't do it. The jungle is full of sticks. Just wack off a palm frond, clean a few leaves off and you have a nice fresh stick. When you have a live crab and need to carry it back, there are the palm fronds again. Make a little cut in the top edge toward
the end, then peal it back to the base. You have a nice string up to 8 feet long. Tie it around all the crabs legs so he can't wiggle and leave one long enough to carry it like a basket. If you get thirsty, just wack the end off a green coconut and have a drink. Oh, a bush knife or machete is required!

Then Trinda and I went for a swim with the kids and we came back. I had a bottle of wine and some of the 3 year-old Gouda cheese cause I thought it might be good if we steamed the crab there like a cookout. It was good back at the table too. Here we are on a little island in the middle of the pacific. We had a nice wine, aged cheese, fresh coconut crab and rice by candle light. "Even had kittens for waitresses", says John. (He has a fe pet cats.) It was a perfect day.

Also had a shower when we got back to their house. REAL ACTUAL HOT water shower! Felt great. Haven't had hot water in the shower for months!

They want us to come give a talk to the school kids tomorrow, so we'll likely leave for Suwarrow Tuesday morning.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Slippery Dinghy

Well Trinda did it again... We came back from the Gospel Day celebration in the dark and walked down to the wharf where the dingy was tied. I pulled it up close and she stepped off the wharf onto the tube of the dinghy. Guess which way she fell? Butt first between the wharf and the dinghy. Good thing it was only about 3 feet deep, she just got a little wet, up to the waist. She didn't have on the new dress, just her shorts and the shirt Christine made her. Oh well.

We had a really nice day. We went to the special Gospel Day service at 10:00. Then we changed and went to "John-Mary and Cathy"s for a quick lunch the out to the island where his father lives and has a pearl farm. I took a few pictures and he showed us around. His father has a nice portable garden, mostly all in buckets. He gave us a couple large cucumbers and a had full of bell peppers. He had egg plant ripe too.

Then we went to check John-Mary's fish traps. They are just specially placed piles of rock on the reef. A large V open at the point into more of the same except smaller each time. They also have sort of steps in the V so that fish don't notice the way back. There were several good fish. We netted them from the smallest pen and tossed them into the boat. Back to the house, he filleted them. SOme to the freezer, some straight on the coal from the bar-b-que chicken and some raw. Since there were 2 special
ones plus the dinner already cooked, we had to try it all. John has been reading this blog, so he says "You're eating your way around, so eat!" I almost ate too much. The bar-b-que fish with butter smeared on just off the fire was exceptional.

Before it all settled, it was 4:00 and time to go back to the singing and dance part of the celebration. Guess what they do after singing? Eat some more. I was not hungry yet, but I had to eat some. They always insist that we go first, so I couldn't not eat some anyway.

The government in Rarotonga chartered a ship from Tahiti to transport free all the folks from the northern islands who wanted to go, down to Rarotonga for the Constitution Day. About 40 went from both Penrhyn and here. Therefore there were not the usual number available for the dancing and singing competition, so this time it was the Mamas vs. the Papas. It was cute. The guys did a traditional dance, with some impersonating the girls part and same with the ladies. The ladies were much better at it
though. Or is that just a guys opinion? They also sang a traditional gospel song, just the way they do in church. The ladies sing one part and the guys sing other parts in harmony. So in the competition, the guys impersonated the girls again. It was funny even though we couldn't understand the words. The guys had real trouble reaching the high sustained notes the ladies are know for.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Manihiki - Northern Cooks still

The Constitution Day celebration lasted a little longer than expected, with the older crowd singing the older songs (the traditional songs but mostly from the 50s) and playing instruments. Hand made drums, ukuleles and a guitar. They said they were mostly love songs and stories like our music was about the same time. We didn't get to go to the pearl farm. Maybe another time.

Yesterday I did get to meet Johns father, Banapa's brother. He lives on a kowkow, an overgrown coral head with trees on it, out in the middle of the lagoon. Several folks live on them here. I went in to see them and see if I could access the internet at the hospital. I couldn't get the WiFi to connect, so the Dr. let me use his hardwired connection just for a little while. Just long enough to check the bank account, update the anti-virus stuff and repair the problem I was having with the radio e-mail.

Then John and I went to his house. Trinda didn't feel well so she had stayed on the boat. They were all worried about her, a lady on a boat all by her self. I assured them she was OK. We had lunch then worked on their coconut shredder. I showed John how to dissemble an electric motor and check the bearings.

Today a larger swell came up from the SW. We are anchored on the west side of the atol. There is no pass to enter the lagoon here, so it is an anchorage in the roadstead, or behind us is the open sea. The landing area or dock is a small cement wharf sticking out maybe 15 feet into a notch blasted in the coral reef. Most of the time it is OK. The prevailing trade winds from the east have kept the dinghy away from the rocks and sharp reef, until today. The swell is causing breakers to roll right up
the little cut and break on top of the wharf. We had to stay on the boat all day. We could have landed the dinghy OK but would not have been able to get it over the last of the reef and up the beach out of harms way. So we took a break.

They assure me that by next cruising season they will have 4 mooring buoys for boats and iI suggested maybe a safer place to land rubber boats.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Still Eating My Way Around The World

We are getting acquainted with Alex's cousin, John-Lee Williams and his wife Cathy. They had us out for lunch yesterday. A simple bar-b-que fish, rice, coconut cream sauce, etc. Cathy has a little Chinese background (from the Tuamotu's of French Polynesia ???) so cooked a small bowl of fish jerky with ginger and oil in the top of the rice. It was really nice. Trinda took the remains of the banana bread she made for our trip here from Penrhyn.

They invited us back for Sunday lunch/dinner today after church. They are catholic like Alex and his family. But only go once, from 10-10:45 where Alex goes twice on Sunday for an hour each time. Turns out the fish we had is Alex's favorite and one which doesn't exist at Penrhyn. John teased him un mercilessly about it. Alex called his cousin John last night to see if we made it OK and wondered if we had found him yet. I don't know what he told them about us, but they are sure nice to us. John also
invited us to tour his fathers pearl farm Monday afternoon after the Cook Islands Constitution Day celebration in the morning.

Any way, back to lunch. You will never guess what the main attraction was. Trinda made a pasta salad and a Wacky Cake, but left out the chocolate and added extra vanilla. It was not quite a white cake, but purdy good! They cook Sunday dinner in an 'in the ground' oven filled with coral rocks. They fill it with coconut husks, burn it down and then when all the rocks are really hot, put in all the food and cover it over till Sunday morning. They make a bread-ish sort of thing they call flour, that
is wheat flour mixed with coconut cream and maybe some spices, then bake it in a deep pot. Also a chunk of tuna fish was baked in a pan, another separate just above the coals. Also in a pan, bar-b-que chicken, the local free range kind. Baked long enough they are really tasty and tender. The 'boiled then fried whole' ones we were served on Fanning and Christmas were not cooked long enough and thus were quite tough, although still tasty. John's grown son got up early this morning and collected a few
coconut crabs, the biggest ones we have seen so far. The claws must have been 6 inches long each. They were boiled this morning along with the rice and such. Oysters cooked 3 ways, bar-b-que, curried and raw with lime juice.

They also have little use for silverware. Trinda says "Larry, if only your kids could see you now, eating with your fingers, slurping the rice soaked in coconut cream out of your hand and sucking the water from a fresh green coconut! And all the time you yelled at them for not using their forks correctly in the restaurants!"

There are usually serving spoons and lots of folks can come up with forks and spoons for us, but raw fish with the bones still in them MUST be eaten carefully, with the fingers. It often gets a little sticky, and I am a little embarrassed to grab the serving spoon with my sticky hand to get more, but that's the way they do. They do have a knack for only getting one hand really sticky, reserving the left for drinking, holding the dry part of the fried fish or the bread or breadfruit or whatever. But
to eat rice on a plate with half a cup of coconut cream sauce (with lime and onions added) poured over it, enough to dip a morsel just removed from a whole fried fish, you just get a little sticky. When in Rome, do as the Romans! They do always have a finger bowl ready when you finish, and I have learned to ask to wash my hands before we sit down to eat.

Give up yet? Would you believe 'Blue Footed Booby' on the menu! Yes that's right, the crazy little birds that attacked our fishing lures all through Mexico. A delicacy only occasionally enjoyed. They skin them so they won't be too greasy then put them in to bake with the rest. It is a little gamey and tough. Really reminds me of quail or dove we use to eat on the ranch. They sent the leftover one home with us since I seemed to enjoy it. They were sure surprised that I tasted everything and liked
most of it. I think they are a little surprised also that I dig right in and eat the way they do.

It was a quite tasty meal. After we ate all that, we had a cup of coffee with Trinda's cake and sat around the table grazing most of the afternoon.

Like I said, still eating my way along ...
from Manihiki, Northern Cooks - 10 25S x 161 02W

Friday, August 1, 2008


We made it to Manihiki at 2:00 AM, so we heave to till 7 them motored on up to anchor. It was a long rolly passage for only 35 hours. Trinda had a little 'mal de mer' and we didn't sleep much but every thing is fine.

We went in for a walk around after a rest. We met the local doctor and told him all about PHACEs and had a nice visit. He knows Alex from Penrhyn too. We took a family photo of Alex's family and showwed it around then gave it to Alex's cousin. He had come out to check our paper work, so he was easy to find.
We are going in for lunch with them tomorrow.