North Cooks, Penryhn
29 October 2013
Only 550nm or 5 days of sailing. It sure feels good to be out in the ocean again with only fish to keep me company. Too bad I can't catch any. Me and Phil are now talking on the SSB radio in the morning and evening, he's too far ahead for VHF radio. Cleaning his bottom in BB must have helped. He's not catching anything either. Then at the half way point to Penrhyn the weather changes for the worst, winds over 20kts, then the rain squalls, then no wind, then wind. Glad that only lasted a day.
Phil wins this race he's makes it to the anchorage inside the reef around noon. I make it to the entrance of the atoll after dark. 5 days at sea and I'm a little tired, just for a second I thought about going through the opening in the reef and then follow the channel that snakes it's way through the coral heads. Channel is marked on the chart plotter, then I remembered running into the reef in Roatan by looking at the chart plotter. Decided to anchor on the outside of the reef instead. Also set the alarm clock to go off every hour. Don't want to drift out to sea or worst yet have the wind switch directions and blow me onto the reef.
Sunshine and I'm still here. Picked the anchor up and motored thru the cut in the reef, current coming out at about 2-3 knots. Once inside instead of following the channel on the chart plotter I follow the sticks marking the coral heads. Lots of them. I'm sure glad I didn't try to do this at night. Found a nice little spot to drop the anchor a little in front of Phil, just where the book said. Since Phil was finishing up his paper work with Customs and Immigration he brought the bunch over to me, otherwise I would have to launch old Leaky and go get them. Now that the check-in is complete we have to pay for everything, in New Zealand dollars. There's a guy down the road a bit that have a store that might be able to change US dollars for NZ dollars. After the Customs official gave us directions he gave us the keys to his motorbike. No breaks but no traffic either.
Everything is shut down for the Parade and celebration (like there was anything to open). Best I could make out was the young guys had been out camping on one of the Motu's for several days. Kinda like a right to passage thing. We followed the parade to the big building by the church. After a few speeches and awards, lunch. Don't know if they knew we were hungry or maybe they were just being polite but we got invited to sit at the main table with all the guys that were away for awhile. Buffet style, all this food on the table, just pick what you want, but no utensils. Oh well when in Rome . . . Not the first time I have eaten with my hands but no napkins either. So is it good table manners to lick your fingers and then get another piece of chicken with your hands from the main pot? Oh well all the locals were doing it. After lunch more dancing and showing. Just wish I knew why all the guys were dressed up like girls. It had to be a comedy, everyone was laughing, even us boaters.
On the ride to the store we meet the local school principle. He invited us to his house for dinner and drinks. Now we don't have to wait for school to open next week to give out the school supplies we brought with us from French Polynesia. Tyrone is an educator from Malaysia under a contract with New Zealand to help these islands education program. He's been here for a couple years and almost can't wait for his last year to be over with. Says he's getting homesick.
While in the Customs agent house/office he mentioned that his printer didn't work. The next day we stop by to see if we can get it to work. No luck, but his inverter and his drill motor didn't work either. Phil took the switch out of one drill that was dead and placed it in the good drill. Almost working, need brushes, they found some in a box and sanded them down to fit the drill. Found a blown fuse in the inverter, between the two of us I'm sure we have the right size on the boats. Well it was close, but it worked. To solve the printer problem - I have an old printer/scanner/copier that I was planning on replacing soon. So I donate my old one to him if it'll work with his system, it did and now if I need something printed I'll just have to borrow Phil's.
The winds are beginning to pick up which makes this anchorage pretty ruff and rolly. The other yachts that came over from the protected side of the lagoon for the shows have picked up anchor and are going back to the smooth side. We follow except my boat doesn't want to go. Fricking anchor is stuck on something. I'm debating on snorkeling on scuba diving when the Customs agent Rowe swims out and take a look at the anchor rode. He says I'm caught on a coral head pretty good; do I have any Scuba gear handy? I rig up my stuff and handed it to him. He goes free my anchor, now I can leave as soon as I get my dive gear. Phil to the rescue, his dinghy is in the water and Rowe just throws the stuff in it. Off we go dodging coral heads for the next 6 miles to the other village Tautua on the east side.
Sunday, done nothing all day and I mean nothing. They take the Sabbath here seriously. It's against the law to do anything except go to church. They don't even cook on Sunday, they cook everything the night before. Well this is a perfect time to do a few inside projects or clean up. With so many things to do I might as well take a long nap.
Come morning it's time to work on something. On the top of Phil's list is to make some repairs to his reefing point on his mainsail that broke on the trip over here. Jury rig something up, test will come to see if it works on the way to Hawaii. Enough work for one day, let's go visit. We do the Robo Route of the place. Graveyards have all just been manicured or are in the process. Well at least the pigs are in a pin. Or else they might become someone's dinner. Along the way we meet and said hi to a few villagers but the fun didn't start until we made it back to the dinghy. We were tied up behind Papa Suito's house. One of the elders and the preacher's father. He had a little problem with his scooter - won't start. We take a look at it but Patrick from another boat name Silhouette from Seattle was already working on it so we help and watch him finish the job. The preacher's wife's water pump wasn't working. Phil took a look at that, switch broken, he got one on the boat, same size and everything since they use 12 volt pumps to pump water from the cistern to the house.
If you have taken a look at a map and seen where Penrhyn is located you might agree that if this is not the end of the world you can surely see it from here. They hardly ever get visitors and when they do they usually come by yacht. Right now there are 6 sailboats at anchor here. Irie II, Silhouette from San Antonio, Silhouette from Seattle, Just Drifting from Mo., Saliander from NZ, Cariba from Seattle. Heck before this group arrived they had only been 6 boats all year. Cariba use to be on the same dock I was on back in Kemah Tx, but different owners now. All boats headed for Hawaii this year.
With so many do-it-yourselfers (sailors) in one place everyone gets involve with helping the locals repair things like sewing machines, motor scooters, water pumps, outboard engines, leaking pipes, windows, doors, generators, saws, drills, inverters, solar panels, walls, and ceilings, and help eat some fresh fish, etc. Look like the only thing that didn't need our help were the automobiles. There wasn't any on this side of the lagoon, only a tractor with a slow leak on the left front tire and an old truck. They said it worked last month when they needed it. They actually have internet service way out here so getting repair manuals was easy, just took all day. I didn't say it was fast.
The Black Pearls were just about all wiped out from a disease a few years ago. But as luck would have it, they are blessed with an oyster that produces a natural pearl only found in Penrhyn's lagoon. This is the smallest oyster in the world that produces pearls and only one of a few that does so naturally. Every evening, except Sunday, several boats head out to the shallow reefs to collect Pipi's. They come back with several bags full and spend the time watching the sunset and shucking oysters. They are not big enough for a meal, but they make a tasty snack. Papa gives us a few pearls for souvenirs, the ones that are stuck to the shell. They are generally white, cream, and gold. A buyer comes in a few times a year, purchase what they collected and then they use that money to buy cell phones and motor scooters and solar panels and batteries and food stuff. Yes in the middle of nowhere or the furthest place from anywhere there are cell phone zombies.
Papa asked if we could help him with some window frames he was working on. Next morning we show up with a drill and rivet gun to try to fix his frames, but he change his mind. He really could use some help in removing and replacing the ceiling in a couple rooms. Roof had a leak and ruin the sheetrock looking stuff. Now that he have the roof fix - time to work on the rest of the old house. Well the best job on the island for two 6'3" sons of a carpenter is to replace a ceiling. We won't need a latter maybe a stool for this job. Easy job that took all day to do one room. But we got paid with a nice fish dinner.
I need to work on my own boat. Autopilot ram is on top of the list. Will need it for that long trip to Hawaii. After that and a few other little projects we then head to shore for more carpenter work. But Papa has gone to the otherside. So off for another walk about. Came upon a few guys just finishing an outboard motor project and now trying to get a generator to work. No luck but we did manage to get another inverter going again.
That night we, all of us boaters, were invited to go lobster hunting. Only thing needed was a bright light and reef walking shoes and a bag to put them in. I brought along my bag and a spear, mainly for a walking stick. Lobster hunting never sounded so easy. Just walk out on the reef at low tide and pick them up. Mr. Small picked up 6 of them and used my spear to get a couple of parrot fish. It takes great skill to just pick up a lobster. First you have to see them little eyes shining in the dark, and then you hold that bright light in their eyes to blind them, and then pick them up. This technique reminded me of frog hunting back in the day in Raywood. Only problem All of us sailors, except one, never seen one lobster until after it was caught. Small did point out a parrot fish for me to spear but it got away. Walking on the reef in my scuba booties wasn't such a good idea but it was better then what Phil had on. Not getting knock down by one of those crashing waves took all of my attention, the heck with a lobster. Phil stayed closer to land or on land, something about his batteries in his flashlight died. He caught just as many as everybody else. Now how did these local guys manage to walk so easily on the reef? Combat booths. Going to have to get me a pair.
Yesterday while replacing the Autopilot Ram I notice the steering cables had a little rust on them. What the F_____? Seems like my Cape Horn windvane steering system have a leak, dripping that salt water all over my steering system. I'm gonna need a new part/seal to stop that but in the meantime I need to stop the rust. Got a bottle of Ospho to get rid of the rust and a tube of grease to coat the cables with and hope to prevent rust from coming back. Then back to Papa's house to finish working on the ceiling. Nice job considering using boat tools. Or was that tools from the boat, like hammer, portable battery operated saws, drill, nail puller, screw driver, etc.
Now on to the next house project or houses projects. Why all of a sudden everyone repairing houses? They have almost 100 family members who have moved to New Zealand or Australia that are coming back home for Christmas. What the??? There are only about 50 people living here now. Going to be one heck of a family reunion. Now how will all these people get here? There is an airport or a runway that the charter planes uses. So if you have a bunch of $ you can lease a plane to fly here like the Pipi buyers. But the cheapest way is to charter a cargo ship. Well almost a ship, the s/v Kwai is an 80' sailing cargo ship that deliver supplies from Hawaii to the Cook Is. The group will fly to Rarotonga in the Southern Cook Islands then board the Kwai for a 700nm sail to Penrhyn and then back after the holidays. And since there are a lot of vacant rooms and vacant houses it won't be a problem with a place for them to stay. In its prime Tautua had a population of 250 people. Almost as much as Raywood.
All the fun, all the work all the cruisers had helping all the people of Tautua was met in return with a Friday night fish fry Penrhyn style. For a show of their appreciation for all of us, all of them put on an incredible - can't remember the word in their language, but it was one heck of a feast to say the least. All types of food, even all the cruisers bought something. The only thing missing was fresh wild pig they were going to go shoot with the bullets I gave them that I got from someone else. A good time was had by ALL.
Since mostly everything is repaired onshore it's time to get on with boat projects. Hauled Phil up his mast to fix something. Done a little on Irie II then help Cariba with repairs to his main sail. His leech line is broken, it might not be what the sail makers use, but I have some string that will work in its place and he has a sewing machine.
Another Sunday, this time we make it to church. Since the preacher is in Australia arranging for the Christmas celebrations Papa does the preaching and everyone else done the singing all in their native tongue. The only thing else we are allowed to do on Sunday is eat and we got invited to eat at Papa's house again. Then back to the boats and back to sleep or I might even to a little work on the blog if the internet is working on Sunday.
About every evening someone is shucking oysters and some cruiser is helping with the hopes of finding a golden pearl. But today we get invited to go Pipi hunting with Papa. The trip started out finding out that although we got the engine running it's stuck in gear. We motor out to the northern end of the lagoon to a patch of reef about 15 meters wide and 1 meter deep, throw out the anchor, jump in with fins and snorkel and a bag and just grab a handful of Pipis and put them in the bag. Sounds easy but Phil's snorkel broke so he only got half a sack in the same amount of time Papa got a full sack, mind was almost full. Back to the house to shuck all them things and see what we found. Me and Papa each had 5 in our sack and Phil had 3. We tried to give them to Papa and his family but he wouldn't take them because he had given them to us first. So now I have some real pearls that I found in the middle of nowhere. Now what can I do with them little golden things?
Only one job left to complete and that is to get Papa's outboard to shift correctly. We must have taken it apart a half dozen times. Before we got it to work. First problem was the plastic thing that attached to the metal thing that made it go in or out of gear was broken. And the other 25hp engine he had had the same problem, broken plastic. To the rescue comes Patrick from the other Silhouette. He had an idea and the tools to make it work. Plastic glue and then some wire to hold it in place was a better fix then my hose clamp. Shifted in and out of gear just like new, but now the gasket between the head and the lower unit is spraying water everywhere. No matter which type of gasket in a tube we use it would leak. We finally convince the owner of that other 25hp to let us use the gasket out of it, leak stop.
Now with nothing else to fix on this side everyone is heading for the otherside, Omoka. Besides that's where the Custom Office is located and everyone is needing to check out of the Cook Islands and sail over to the Kiribati Islands soon. Just Drifting is on the way to Hawaii and Cariba took advantage of a rare westerly wind last week and took off for Tahiti. Of course before we can check-out we find a few more things to work on. Phil is in the house working on some electronic gadget and I'm in the shop looking at Rowe's outboard. He has a part on order so we decided to just wait for the part instead of using a hose clamp and some wire.
All good things comes to an end sooner or later and the weather is looking good next week to sail north. Done all the paper work for checkout on Friday. The printer that I left him came in handy. I could make copies on shore instead of on Phil's boat. Something wrong with his print cartilage, out of ink maybe. Stored everything on Saturday and went to church on Sunday. Went to the Catholic services this time with the crew from Saliander. And everything was in English this time, except the singing, well a couple of songs were in English I think. Afterwards we were invited to lunch at the deacon's house. His table sits 14, that's how many in his family, but at the time several of the kids were in New Zealand/Australia. Again it was a feast. I ate enough to last the whole day since it was against the law to do anything else like cook.
Next morning I stowed the dinghy on the foredeck and began to lift anchor to catch up with Phil. Damnit. It's stuck again. No one on shore to come to my rescue this time. Jumped in with scuba gear to go see what's down, anchor chair underneath a coral head and wrap around another and another. Shit I think I put out too much rode. After getting it untangle I have to hurry and get back in the boat and pull it in before the boat swings again and wrap it again. Must have been quite a sight looking at someone in scuba gear on deck pulling up an anchor but I wanted to be ready to jump in if needed. Well what else could go wrong? Instead of leaving at noon it's early evening and that big black rain cloud is close. We made it through the reef about 30 minutes before the rain and wind started. Needless to say I motored until it stops, it sure would have been a sight trying to sail in scuba gear. Just before nightfall everything calms down enough for me to stow everything and go sailing.