We lost our entire communications system on the boat – no e-mail, phone or weather. It’s been mighty lonely out here, with no news from home. I believe we are just about up and running again – thankfully! Thanks to all of you who expressed concern over our silence.
After our friend Tom’s fatal diving accident, Bora Bora wasn’t much fun anymore. We didn’t really feel like snorkeling or getting in the water at all. We helped get Tom’s boat ready for a delivery crew to take it to New Zealand, and then we left as soon as we could. We sailed to the very last island in the French Polynesia chain, a little place called Maupiti. We saw the final award-giving of the Heiva Festival, with some good singing and dancing. There was a Hobie Cat regatta going on while we were there – it was great to see all those colorful sails moving around the bay. We were anxious to get to the Cook Islands, so we only stayed there for a couple of days.
Our 4-day sail to Suwarrow in the Northern Cooks was a very arduous trip. The first night was everything I hate about night watches. The seas were HUGE and unorganized, the wind was blowing 25-30 knots, there was no moon, and we were going dead down wind. As Jim said, it was blacker than the inside of a cow. Our wind speed/wind point had failed, so it was hard to keep the boat on a good course. And, of course, I was seasick. The next days were better, although the boat was lurching and rocking in the weird waves. One day, we all had to write a haiku, and the next day we each had to present an invention, with a drawing and explanation of how it would work. That helped the time pass quickly.
I was so glad to get to Suwarrow, which is a small, uninhabited atoll. It is a nature reserve, and a caretaker lives on the island from April to October. The caretakers, John and Veronica, have 4 boys under the age of 11. They are a great family, and Molly and Jessie had fun romping among the coconut palms with other kids. With the other cruisers who were anchored in the bay, there were 10 kids that had the run of the island. They built a two-story palm hut, caught coconut crabs, and ate coconut pancakes. Several nights, the 7 boats that were there got together for potlucks and music. It was nice to get to know the caretaker and the other cruising families. We had some nice hikes and found a couple of amazing snorkeling spots. Jim speared a couple of small groupers, which were delicious. There are a lot of black-tipped sharks in the atoll, and they seem to know the sound of a spear gun going off. The minute Jim shot the gun, about 6 sharks came darting out of nowhere and started circling around him. We cleaned the fish off the back of our boat, and there were sharks swimming frantically, eating the carcasses.
The crossing from Suwarrow to American Samoa was much nicer. The wind continued to blow – up to 35 knots at times – but the seas were flat. With a double-reefed main and our storm jib, we were still doing 10 knots. It is an eerie feeling to be careening through the blackness going that fast. You can’t see a thing, so you just hope and pray that there are no sleeping whales or derelict cargo containers floating in the water. So far, so good!
Jim and I were in American Samoa twenty years ago, and it hasn’t changed a lot since then. There is a lot of trash on land, and the water is very polluted. There are two big tuna-packing plants here, and when the wind switches around, it is hard to breathe. The smell is staggering. The people, however, are friendly, helpful and speak English. It is nice to be dealing in American currency again. There is a huge Costco-like store here, where we will be able to re-provision. There are some things we need to fix on the boat, and this is a good place to do it.
The buses here are entertaining. They are funky, crickety things, but they are all painted with colorful logos and sayings, and inside they are decked out in leopard-skin fake fur, feather boas, and ceramic dogs with nodding heads. Each bus has a very loud speaker system, and you are at the mercy of each driver who displays his taste in music at full blast, with the bass turned up all the way. Most people here, men and women, wear skirts, so no one has pockets. Since they always carry change for the bus ride, they store their quarters in their ears! We thought they were just plugging their ears to drown out the music!
We got mail while we were here in Samoa. It is so much fun to receive books and letters from friends. We also got next year’s school curriculum – much to Molly and Jessie’s chagrin. There are lots of new historical fiction books to read now, and some of the great literary classics. What better way to while away a crossing than to read “Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”, or “Great Expectations”?
In a few days, we will leave for Western Samoa, then Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand. The time seems to be flying by, and I worry that we won’t get to see all the sights before hurricane season arrives in early November. We’ll keep you posted! ~ Jeanna