08 June 2018 | Avatiu Harbor, Rarotonga, Cook Islands
After some consultation with a very helpful and knowledgable moderator on the Raymarine Forum, we know have a working autopilot. It won't take commands from our chart plotter, but it will accurately steer the boat, and that beats the heck out of hand steering! We're working the bugs from several other Raymarine systems and I think that we'll be in much better shape when we depart. Thanks to moderator Derek!
Today has been spent in working on the electronics, but last night, we were invited to the next-door vessel, S/V La Quinta, owned by two Aussies, Terry and Jan. They're delightful people with similar politics and values. It was very refreshing. Until a rain squall preempted our conversations and we were forced to scurry to the boat to close hatches, we enjoyed a lovely evening. We hope to host them before we both depart, they toward home and us to return to Polynesia.
Rarotonga is a gorgeous island with a delightful mix of Polynesian and New Zealand culture. There seems to be a workable and collegial relationship among the various ethnic groups, not something that is universally common in island cultures. Public signs are often in the Maori/Polynesian language, and everyone greets others with the local, "Kia Orana!", or "hello". The people are very kind to one another in their day-to-day interactions, a noticeable attribute of this combined culture.
The island is volcanic, of course, with the old caldera plainly visible. The steep caldera sides are now covered in heavy and lush vegetation. There are cliffs rising from the caldera sides that are vertical and on which no plants can exist, so it's quite a sight. The fact that the surrounding coral reef is so close to the land indicates that the volcano is relatively recent and has not yet begun to subside and erode, increasing the gap between it and the reef. The Tuamotus, in French Polynesia, are very old and the inner volcano is completely gone, leaving only the surrounding reef: an atoll. The brilliant Charles Darwin first explained the process and his treatise is worth the read. Hey, it's out of copyright!
Being a full three degrees further south than French Polynesia, it's noticeably cooler (by no means is it COOL!), and much less humid. Today has been very hot with no breeze, but usually the breeze puts a lid on the sweltering heat. We do like Raro and its citizens, their friendliness and welcoming nature. Truly, if there were a harbor here, we might leave the boat here, but there just isn't. As I've mentioned, the fact that I can speak my own language is also nice.
There is an interesting governmental situation going on here, about protective tariffs. We learned of it when we dropped by a small grocery to buy some local eggs. None to be had. There was a sign on the cooler, though, that read, "No Local Eggs. Ask Your Government!" The salesperson, when asked, said that local eggs were priced from competition because of imported eggs, and that that kind of problem existed in many areas of the economy. Hmmm...
Later, we went to the larger CITC store (Cook Islands Trading Company), a store that imports heavily from New Zealand (a shelf full of Vegemite, for example) and an indicator of how the local politicians might work. Imposing import tariffs on imported items to protect the local producers would hurt companies like CITC that import so much produce and perishables, and they can afford to support the politicians. It's the same as anywhere, of course: money talks. There seems to be a move afoot to dump these politicians and replace them with the "Cook Island Party" folks, that say that they'll impose tariffs on certain imported foods in order to protect locals. That process is probably not the better one, in my opinion, but they'll do what's expedient. It's interesting to see these issues acted out somewhere else.
A group of harbor workers moved a set of sea steps to the dock. Nice thought and typical of their generous nature. The steps were not designed for the configuration of the sea wall and the treads slope downward at 25° or so. They're difficult to climb, but they sincerely wanted to offer some more resources. Thanks, folks.
Julia, our crew mate for the return to French Polynesia, arrives tomorrow afternoon. Conni and I are excited to see her and she seems excited to join us. She's an experienced sailor and DIYer sailboat worker, but she's never been on a blue water crossing. We expect the crossing to take a week, since it's upwind, but hope for better conditions for her first trip.
It's 2000 and we were out in the cockpit looking at weather information, when a group of 8 local kids, early teens, arrived on their little motor scooters. About 6 were female, 2 male, and they played for an hour or more by jumping off the sea wall, screaming and laughing. That's how they have fun: they play in the water. At some point, they hopped back on the scooters, soaking wet with seawater, and jetted somewhere else. No fear of the ocean at night, no fear of being in deep water, no fear of being wet or "catching cold", just kids being kids. There's a lot to be said for a childhood spent like this.