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s/v Sand Dollar
Tuesday, July 1, 2007 - Entering the Lagoon
07/31/2007, Penrhyn Atoll, Northern Cook Islands

This morning on the tidal flood I weighed anchor and was escorted through the pass and into the lagoon where Sand Dollar was tied to a mooring buoy near Mike's pearl farm/fishing lodge. We then went into the village for a short tour and to the airport to meet the incoming flight which had two passengers arriving and four leaving. The entire village was there as is the custom. It is the social event of the week complete with prayer service and some short speeches by local dignitaries. The flights come only once every week or two. This is quite a sight but similar to what I have seen in other remote islands in the Bahamas and at Christmas Island in the Pacific.

The afternoon was spent fly fishing for bonefish with a local guide hired through Mike. We each hooked several impressive fish on some of the most beautiful bonefish flats I had ever seen. The fish are not abundant nor are they easy to fool but they are of very good average size and strong fighters. Tomorrow Mike and I will fish some different water.

There are no guests at the fishing lodge at present. It is actually Mike's pearl farm which is being closed down because of poor business conditions in the industry. Over a bottle of wine and a home-cooked dinner I learned a fair bit about the trials and tribulations of the black pearl business in the Pacific.

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Monday, July 30, 2007 - Day 5 of Passage: Landfall
07/30/2007, Penrhyn Atoll, Northern Cook Islands

Sand Dollar dropped the hook just outside the entrance to the lagoon of Penrhyn Atoll at 11 AM this morning after completing the 598 mile passage in five days. The wind perked up this morning to 22 knots accompanied by rough seas. This, along with a strong out flowing current because of heavy surf pumping water over the perimeter reef, prevented me from attempting to transit the pass into the lagoon. On arrival I was met by pearl farmer and fly fishing lodge operator Mike Grubnau in a small boat and he suggested I anchor and wait for better conditions. I asked him if this weather was normal and he said "it has been terrible the past two weeks." Mike, his wife Lillian and I have been communicating by email for the past several weeks. They know I am keen to do some bonefishing.

I am happy to sit here and wait. I could use the rest and relaxation, but not for too long.

Sunday, July 29, 2007 - Day 4 of Passage: Smooth Sailing
07/29/2007, en route from Bora Bora to Penrhyn Island

The foul weather of the last couple of days is now just a memory. Today, Sand Dollar is enjoying typical trade wind cruising. Life is good after all! The waves are still high and the boat rolls with the swell but the motion is more predictable now and steady progress is being made toward Penrhyn Island. On top of that, there is nothing quite like sailing under the light of a full moon. Anything that is white including sails, deck, cresting waves, birds and clouds seem to glow. There is no need for a flashlight on deck or in the cockpit. It is a pity we don' have more full moons.

Today's noon-to-noon distance was 114 miles for an average speed of 4.8 knots. I am right on schedule to make landfall sometime Monday afternoon with only 80 miles to go. The full moon means there will be a greater than normal tide change and perhaps a strong current flowing out of the atoll entrance. I will try to negotiate the pass at high slack water to minimize this effect. Fortunately, this occurs at mid- morning.

All else is well onboard. Frequent rain squalls keep the deck clean and free of salt buildup. Also, the captain gets to bathe! Who knows who he will run into on Penrhyn.

Saturday, July 28, 2007 - Day 3 of Passage: Weather Improves
07/28/2007, en route from Bora Bora to Penrhyn Island

Sometime early this morning, after a particularly long and torrential rain squall, the wind decreased from 28 to 20 knots. That may not sound like much of a change but it is huge. Furthermore, it has persisted for the entire day. There is no longer sea water surging into the cockpit making a temporary bathtub and I am able to wash off the salt and dry my foul weather gear. The cabin below is no longer like a washing machine on "heavy duty" but now is on "gentle cycle". I have even been able to catch a few winks.

The noon-to-noon distance was 120 miles for an average speed of 5.0 kts. With 200 miles to go, at this speed I will make landfall at 6 AM Monday morning which is too early for good light to spot coral at the entrance to the lagoon. I will need to kill about four hours somehow.

All else is well onboard. I enjoyed a hot meal for a change this afternoon.

Friday, July 27, 2007 - Rock'n and Roll'n
07/27/2007, en route from Bora Bora to Penrhyn Island

The wind piped up quite a bit last evening registering 25-30 knots on the wind speed indicator. This is quite more than is necessary, thank you very much. In fact, I'm flying only a handkerchief of a jib and still making 6 kts. The noon-to-noon distance was 130 miles for an average speed of 5.4 kts.

The sea is becoming fairly lumpy and Sand Dollar is getting bounced around. To get an idea, imagine flying in an airplane through bad turbulence with pitching, rolling and sudden changes in altitude. This is sort of what it is like onboard but there is no seat belt light. One must cook, eat, sleep, take care of business and run the boat while rock'n and roll'n 24/7. The only break is the brief calm after a sudden rain squall which I seem to be experiencing about once per hour today. At times like this I'm happy I have such a seaworthy boat as the Pacific Seacrafts are.

All else is well onboard. Tomorrow's weather will be better. There will be no gourmet meal tonight unless it comes in a can.

Thursday, July 26, 2007 - Day 1: Plenty of Wind
07/26/2007, en route from Bora Bora to Penrhyn Island

The noon-to-noon distance for this, the first day of the passage, was 132 miles for an average speed of 5.5 knots. I am sailing with reduced canvas to slow the boat so that the trip takes five days. If I had known there would be this much wind I would have shot for a four-day passage and have left a day earlier or later so as not to arrive on Sunday. As it is, I will have to further slow the boat or "heave to" in order avoid arriving in the middle of the night.

Normally the southeast trade winds blow at 10 - 15 knots at this time of year and at this location but I am seeing 20 - 24 knots and the forecast is for this to continue for the next two or three days before tapering off to 15 knots. These conditions make for fast passages but rough seas. Fortunately, I found my sea legs after the first day of this passage so I am moving about the boat anticipating the roll which is fairly constant in its timing but not entirely predictable in its degree. The old saying "one hand for you and the other for the ship" certainly holds true.

All else is well onboard.

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Sand Dollar
Who: Don Pratten
Port: Beaux Arts, WA
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