ende

Oct
15

Kissy-kissy country

We have just anchored in the little harbour of Rurutu, which is a big raised atoll with lush vegetation and steep cliffs. We’ll check in later at the gendarmerie to re-enter French Polynesia officially. We’re back in the land of speaking French and giving kisses ;-)

Oct
14

Close-hauled

We are rushing along nicely, going close-hauled under blue skies. 110 nm to Rurutu

Oct
13

Heading further East

Yesterday we managed to visit the northern motu, this time in even rougher conditions but with sun and blue skies. The small, shallow lagoon was gleaming light mint, the motus were gleaming in white and fresh green–Maria is stunningly beautiful… A group of young brown boobies circled us while we were taking the dinghy across the lagoon, sometimes almost touching us with their wings – they are incredibly curious and playful.

Today there’s a shift in the wind to the NE predicted, so we have to leave. On the one hand we’d love to visit the motus a few more times, on the other hand the rough conditions in the anchorage have been grinding us down (it seems we haven’t had a good night’s sleep since we left Penrhyn…). Our next stop will be Rurutu 200 nm further east, or if we run out of wind we’ll try to sit out the calm weather in Rimatara (120 nm).

Oct
12

Finally ashore

Ever since we arrived on the Western side of Maria the swell has been high and the breakers looked too scary for us to try taking the dinghy over the barrier reef. We’ve been fairly comfy despite the rough conditions as we let Pitufa ride on a bridle (one anchor line from the bow and another line to the anchor line from the beam of the boat) with the beam to the wind and the bow in the waves. This system works well as long as the wind is steady, but last night the wind finally died down, Pitufa turned around with the lines wrapped up and we woke to find that mess when the anchor alarm went off. We managed to unknot the second line, but it wasn’t easy in a pitch-black night and the breakers as the only point of orientation.

Today we put on shorties and rainjackets to brave the grey and cold weather and had a try to go ashore. We found a channel that was deep enough to leave the outboard in the water and so we were able to race in between waves.

The motus are gorgeous: a mixed forest of pandanus, velvetleaf soldierbushes (Heliotropium foertherianum) and grand devil’s claws (Pisonia grandis), some other endemic shrubs and a few palm trees. Tropic-birds are everywhere, the beautiful white parents circle over the trees and argue with shrill quacking sounds while the chessboard-coloured chicks sit quietly under shrubs. Red-footed boobies nest in the higher trees (preferably Pisonia), while noddies and white terns prefer Pandanus trees. We’ve had young brown boobies hanging out on Pitufa and now that we visited their home they were constantly flapping around us, curiously watching our walk around the motu sometimes hovering only half a metre over our heads… Their parents have started a new nesting season and we saw a few nests with newly-hatched chicks.
There is a small colony of masked boobies and their chicks are almost as big as the parents already, changing from fluffy down into intermediate black-and white feathers, before they change to their bright-white adult costume.

Now it’s evening and we’re having a ginger-lemon tea with rum instead of a cold beer. We’ve just rigged a bridle again (this time on the other side) and hope for a quiet night and some undisturbed sleep.

Oct
09

Maria

We arrived at Maria yesterday afternoon and managed to anchor in 24 m on the eastern side. We’re still in passage-mode though as the night was very rolly… Today we’ll have to search for an anchorage on the western side, because the wind will shift to SE.

Oct
08

Racing the sun

Yesterday evening we had a tough decision to make: if we raced like crazy and the wind held out we’d just be able to make it to Maria in daylight today. We were contemplating slowing down and planning for an early arrival on Tuesday, but in the end we couldn’t resist–we let all sails out, let Pitufa run as fast as she can and were making around 7 knots all night long.

Today we’re racing the sun to make it to Maria before dusk. 43 nm and 9 hours of daylight left… We’ll arrive with westerly winds, that should then shift during the night to SW and later S. We’ll therefore have to search for an anchorage on the eastern side of the barrier reef when we arrive and change anchorge tomorrow morning to the western side of the barrier reef. We hope everything will work out and that we’ll be able to stay on Maria for a few days.

Oct
07

Beautiful sailing

The seas are calm, the wind’s blowing steady, it’s sunny and warm–sailing can actually be nice sometimes :-)
200 nm to go to Maria!

Oct
06

Leaving the Cook Islands

In the end we managed to get everything done and the weather window has arrived just in time: As we’ll be headed East (or rather Southeast) from now on we have to wait for passing troughs and depressions that interrupt the prevailing easterly trade winds and make the wind clock around.
We’ll set out this morning towards the Austral Islands, the southernmost archipelago of French Polynesia.

Oct
04

Provisioning

We’ve spent a week now in Rarotonga. The main island of the Cooks is a beautiful mountainous island with a fringing reef that is too shallow and narrow for navigation (apart from a tiny lagoon on the eastern shore). The main town Avarua is a bustling place with plenty of souvenir shops, clothes shops and little cafes. The Cook Islands are theoretically independent, but have very strong bonds to New Zealand, so the numerous tourists are mainly from New Zealand and the local Polynesians sound also very ‘Kiwi’.

We explored the island hitchhiking and found that the coastal stretch is full of hotels and ressorts, but the mountainous interior remains lush and untouched. There are many hikes up the summits (most of them around 500 m) and we did two of them walking up steep ridges under high trees and many varieties of ferns.

Unfortunately we don’t have much time to play tourists (as much as we enjoy it), because we are busy with errants. The friendly island mentality stops where bureaucracy starts and we still haven’t managed to fuel up Pitufa with duty-free diesel and to organise duty-free fuel (booze) for the crew, despite several days of efforts.

So far we’ve been lucky with the weather, the harbour’s rather calm in the mainly southeasterly winds, but it’s chilly during the nights (18 degrees, BRRRRRRR) and cool during the days. It’s cumbersome to take the dinghy underneath stern lines to the rickety ladder on the dock and lowering provisions down is precarious. With each trip the dinghy gets more dirty and now a construction crew has started a building site on the dock. Two guys are tearing down a concrete wall with jackhammers just upwind of Pitufa–not just the cockpit, even the kitchen sink just below the companion way gets filled up with grit in the 20 knots gusts…

Sep
27

Arrived in Rarotonga

The passage from Aitutaki was warm and sunny, but when we reached Rarotonga yesterday afternoon we already saw clouds hanging over the island. We tied up in the harbour med-mooring style and had a quiet night. Unfortunately the weather’s grey and rainy today…

Sep
26

Weather forecast

The weather forecast is as usually messing with us. Instead of steady northeasterlies we had fickle E to SE yesterday, played with the gennaker, but ended up motorsailing (which we hate). During the night the engine was also running partly and now that the wind is officially dying down (according to the forecast) it’s blowing merry 15 knots… We haven’t caught a fish since we left Tongareva–a boat reported on our SSB net that they saw a big Taiwanese fishing vessel. Such a ship can empty a whole stretch of ocean…

Sep
25

Leaving Aitutaki

It looks like we finally have a weather window to sail down to Rarotonga. We leave tomorrow morning–140 nm to go!

Sep
22

Tourists

We’ve been in Aitutaki for a week and most of the time the weather was grey, cold, stormy and rainy. We’re rolling in the rough weather, don’t get much sleep and are all a bit cranky.

Today we’ve had the first day with blue skies, so we played tourists, rented bycicles and explored the other side of the island, Aitutaki’s quite pretty and relaxed, but the description in the ‘lonely planet’ as ‘one of the most beautiful lagoons in the South Pacific’ seems a bit over the top. Maybe the writers haven’t seen too many other lagoons ;-) It’s very shallow and the water’s rather murky, which means it gleams in mint, but there’s not much live coral in so much sediment.

Generally Aitutaki is a much more touristy place than expected. They have about 30 flights a week (some planes from Rarotonga), the shores are dotted with resorts and bungalows and you see more tourists on the roads than locals.

Sep
18

Cold wind

On the passage down from Tongareva we expected cold weather with every degree we sailed south, but it stayed surprisingly warm. Now with the strong SE wind seriously cold air is coming up and we’re sneezing, drinking tea, wearing socks and hoodies. In the meantime the tourist boats drop snorkelers and divers outside the reef and we pity those poor guys in the water ;-)

We have humpback whales around the boat every day, today a group of three came close to Pitufa, but somehow we can’t bring ourselves to jump in and swim with them. The water’s not even extremely cold, but just thinking of coming out again into that howling cold wind sends me into a sneezing attack…

Sep
14

Aitutaki

Yesterday we spent all day anchored off Manuae. We got the dinghy ready (not easy in rough conditions), but the passage through the reef looked way too dangerous in the swell that was getting bigger every hour. In the end we gave up and instead of spending a rolly night at anchor, we left and spent a rolly night at sea (with lots of squalls).

At first light we arrived in Aitutaki (Southern Cook Islands). Aitutaki is a hilly main island with a shallow lagoon around and some motus on the barrier reef. Unfortunately the narrow pass is too shallow for Pitufa, so we’re anchored on the outer reef next to pass. We’re getting better at this outer-reef thing: we use our CQR-anchor with 10 m chain and rope (we don’t want to risk our good Bügelanker) and the anchorage is calm and nice despite the fact that it’s blowing hard from the SE.

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