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s/v Sand Dollar
Thursday, August 2, 2007 - Bonefishing on Penrhyn
08/02/2007, Penrhyn Atoll, Northern Cook Islands

The wind was calm today making it an ideal time to cast a fly to some bonefish. The only thing missing was the bonefish. One of Mike's guides and I spent most of the day hunting for fish on sand flats at the far end of the atoll. We spotted perhaps a dozen bones but I managed to hook only one which quickly broke the line. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed walking the flats and taking in the incredible scenery. Tomorrow will be a day off from fishing and a resumption of boat projects.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007 - Pearl Farming
08/01/2007, Penrhyn Atoll, Northern Cook Islands

This morning Mike politely asked if I would mind rescheduling today's bonefishing because of his preoccupation with harvesting pearls from some 800 oysters. His guides were also tied up with this activity. Although I was anxious to fish, and not allowed by local law to fish by myself, I acquiesced and decided to learn all I wanted to know about pearl farming. This was not difficult, not because there is not great deal to know in this rather technically complex and high risk type of venture, but because of my lack of interest. In fact I was more interested in knowing how the oyster meat would taste if properly prepared.

All the pearls harvested were of rather low value, as expected, because of conditions present when the oysters were seeded. This was actually part of the process of shutting down the farm. Mike reports having spent millions of dollars over the past 10 years with only marginal success in the business. Farms throughout the Cook Islands are closing. It seems only the Tahitians are sufficiently organized, technically advanced and financed to have a prosperous industry.

Tomorrow I hope to bonefish.

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.

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