Wednesday, August 31, 2005

On our way to Palmerston

The last couple days in Rarotonga were like being anchored in a washing machine on "agitate" cycle. Swell enters the harbor and bounces around off the sea walls making lumpy and confused seas around and under where we're moored.

Getting away from Rarotonga was a lot more work that we were expecting. All the boat moored stern-to the seawall had multiple anchors off their bows, most of which crossed their neighbors and even their neighbors neighbors. If all the boats had left in the reverse order that they arrived it probably would have been fine, but some later arrivals wanted to stay and, some (like us) had put out additional anchors as the forecast deteriorated. Needless to say it was a mess! the lines were all covered in slimy green algae so I set to work scrubbing them from the dinghy. I tried hauling up our "second" anchor (35lb Danforth with 10 meters 3/8" chain and 3/4" rope rode), set 60 meters straight in front of us, but couldn't get it free. Fine, I thought, I'd use the windlass and haul it up on our way out. I free dove along our main anchor chain, set about 60 meters out to starboard at a 45 degree angle from our bow. The chain had settled in the muck and the water was just murky enough that I couldn't see the chain from the surface, so had to dive down, find it, follow it along hand-over-hand until I ran out of breath, then tie a small line to it so I could find it again, come up, breathe, then follow the small line back down, untie it, continue along the chain, etc. etc. I only went "backwards" along the chain once (doh!). Our chain crossed under two others along the way. When I got to the anchor I tied off a line to it, planted my flippered feet on the ground and heaved it out (a properly set anchor is pretty much completely buried in the bottom, and takes quite a bit of force to free it). Back in the dinghy I hauled the anchor and chain to the surface (~25ft deep). Our anchor weighs 66lbs, plus 25ft of chain and shackles weights again as much... not an easy task to get it to the surface and into a dinghy! I unshackled the chain and let it drop back in, then went back to the boat and hauled it in using the electric windlass, scrubbing the algae and muck off it as it came up, shackled the anchor back on and got it stowed on the bow. Then back in the water to unshackle our port side rode from a large concrete block about 30 meters out. While down there I undid Dolphins and Omazy's lines from the same block. By now I was getting tired! We cast off our stern lines and motored straight ahead, out from the boats on either side of us, and hung on our "second" anchor while we retrieved and stowed all the lines, fenders, children, dinghiy, etc. OK, piece of cake so far - only need to haul up our secondary anchor and away we go. Of course it fouled, too! Dolphins saw us looking like we were free and cast off their stern lines to take our place, but we were still stuck there... an a third boat decided it'd be a good time to jump into the fray as well... plus a fourth boat that was moving in to take our place against the seawall! So there we are, four boats all competing for more or less the same space... argh! Oh yeah, and a large freighter that was preparing to depart, but fortunately he was still loading cargo while all this was going on. We motored off to one side and dropped our primary anchor so we'd stay put and could slack the rode on the fouled one. Dolphins backed away and got a stern line back to the row of boats along the seawall. Mask and fins back on, I tucked my tiny "emergency" scuba tank and regulator under my arm and down I went, again. Somehow our chain had become actually knotted around another. I'm pretty sure it happened when another boat had fouled, pulled it all to the surface, untangled their anchor and dropped everything else back in. Anyway, it was a mess. So, here I am dragging my little scuba bottle around by the regulator in my mouth ( I didn't want to take the time to mount the tank on the backback), trying not to stir up the muck too much so I could see what I was doing. I found our anchor - within 3 meters of 4 other anchors! I unshackled the rope rode from the chain, then drug the chain back to where it was tangled and proceeded to stir up such a cloud of silt so that I couldn't see anything. Ever tried untangling chains? Not fun, especially underwater in bad visibility, with three other chains around that you don't want to accidentally get more tangled in! Finally got it free, tied a line to the anchor and went back up to haul it in. Whew! So now we're hanging on our primary, and it should at least be laying on top of anything else... Dolphins came back out and found their anchor (one of the other 4 in the same spot our was) also fouled. Rob had just had surgery on his foot to remove an infected splinter and couldn't get it wet, so back in the water I go, free diving this time. Theirs was fairly easy to untangle, thankfully. Needless to say, we started this passage with me rather exhausted... The forecast was for 12-15kn wind from behind. Dolphins even hoisted their spinnaker just outside the harbor... then we got away from the lee of the island and got the full 25kn of wind on the beam and big seas. Dolphins got their spinnaker down again, but ended up a few miles downwind. We finally got everything stowed away (mountains of lines, chain and anchors!), sails up, motor off and course figured out. 'twas about then I realized that we should have the spinnaker pole out on the genoa to get the right angle, but I just didn't have the energy to jybe the main and wrestle the 20ft pole into position on a pitching, rolling, spray blown foredeck, so we sailed 20-30 degrees too far south all night. This morning I got the pole out, the main jybed and we're running at 6-7kn approximately parallel to the rhumbline but about 30-40 miles south of it. We'll have to jybe the genoa tomorrow morning and beam reach northward to get to the island. Unfortunately it'll take an extra 4-6 hours, but we should make it there just after noon. We're REALLY looking forward to a protected anchorage again, but won't get one until we get to Tonga. Palmerston and Nuie are both open roadstead anchorages, basically hanging off the "deep" side of the reef, relying on the wind to hold you away from it. If the anchor lets go, the boat drifts out to sea. If the wind switches direction, but boat blows onto the reef... Hence the looking forward to a nice protected anchorage! Ah well, we got spoiled in the Tuamotus and Societies!


Monday, August 29, 2005

weather patterns

The wind had done it's 360 now and is coming from the west. Tuesday we're expecting it to go back to the standard SE trade winds, which is what we've been anxiously awaiting since Saturday when we wanted to leave. I think there are 5 boats departing tomorrow for Palmerston. We're all loaded up like a supply ship, ready to meet this remote group of islanders. Last night it poured rain, as expected after a cold front passes. The next one is not due for over a week, so we have time to sail and enjoy Palmerston before it's time to head out.

Lots of boat chores are getting done this week. I think we've been slacking for a while and getting a bit behind. Access to hardware stores generally sparks a spree of repairs and maintenance. They do say that cruising is just doing boat repairs in exotic places. Pete is resealing some windows and the kids are making story books.

Our adventure for the day was a trip to the whale research station nearby. They have irregular hours, so we have been trying to see it all week. The kids enjoyed the library of reference picture books. The founder, Nan Hauser, is an American lady who lives here full time. Check out her info at If any of you have spare $$, and looking for somewhere to donate it, this would definitly be a worth cause.

The bugs seem to be under control now and everyone has clean sheets, so I can relax a bit. A local lady offered to take me to the grocery store tomorrow to finish my shopping and the shopping for the Palmerston family. Riding in a car instead of carrying 40 lbs of sugar and 20 lbs of fruit, is a terrific offer. Her sister in law lives on Palmerston, so she loaded up Dolphins with supplies for that family.

Just another day goes by in the South Pacific,

cheers kellie

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Cook Islands 101

Lush green hills, shallow blue lagoons, white beaches and humpback whales give Rarotonga a magical tropical feel. The combination of old world traditions and modern conveniences make visitors feel comfortable and enchanted. Friendly smiles light up local faces as we're greeted in New Zealand accented English, interspersed with Maori phrases. Flowers, dancing, singing and food make up the traditional components to the culture. Women wear flower wreaths on their heads for all occasions or none at all. Grocery store clerks, waitresses, and church goers all adorn themselves with frangipani, bouganvilia, and leaves as naturally as we wear jewelry. Wreathes are on sale for $8 at the Saturday market to wear to church the next day. Tourists wear them, but they just don't pull it off as well as the beautiful Maori women with the waist long black hair. Local men use leaf wreaths in the dancing, but not as a daily accessory. They wear shorts and brightly colored tropical print shirts. The women wear western style shirts and wrap around floral print skirts. Church is a colorful place, with all the patterned fabric and woven hats made of dried palm leaves.

Fifteen islands make up the Cooks, which are spread out over 1000 miles north to south. Several islands are uninhabited, several have small populations and Atutaki and Rarotonga are more developed and touristy. The Maori of New Zealand come from the Cook islanders, who come from northern populations such as Samoans and Polynesians, who claim to come from the northern Hawaiian people. The Hawaiians claim to come from the South. No one really knows how the first Polynesians and Maoris came to the islands, even science does not agree if they are from Asia or the Americas.

Dancing still makes up an important part of the lives of young and old. Tuesday night rehearsal is full of little girls learning the routines, and young adults practicing for the daily hotel shows. Drums made of hollowed out logs are the main instrument in the music with guitars filling in some of the slower melodies. Visitors to the Cooks are invited to join in with the beginners at the weekly rehearsal. A big group of us cruisers joined in last week, much to the delight of Ellie and the other little girls. They've been wiggling all over the boats ever since. Standing in the back row during rehearsal doesn't always save embarrassment because a good amount of the dances are done facing away from the audience. Those in the back are all of a sudden in the front. The women do the traditional hip shaking and graceful arm movements. The men do an Elvis like knee knocking and lots of stomping to show their vigor and strength. It was fun to see the performers in full costume on Saturday night at a hotel show, and recognize them from the rehearsal.

Food here on Rarotonga comes mostly from New Zealand. The two main grocery stores stock a small selection of most things. The outer islands rely on supply ships and planes to deliver their orders. Some do not have stores, the families just order what they need. When the supplies run low, they revert to the old ways of eating. Fishing, coconuts, papayas and some root vegetables make up the basics of local food. Depending on the soil citrus, mangoes, bananas and some vegies can be grown. The young people are coming to rely more and more on prepared food and disposable diapers.

The economy, although not as rich as French polynesia, is supplemented by family members who work in New Zealand. The populations on the outer islands are dwindling as young adults leave for career opportunities. The cars on the island are smaller and older than the standard 4x4 in the Societies. Most people get around on scooters, which are practical in the warm climate and inexpensive to fuel up. Tourism is thier major money maker. New Zealanders and Australians come here for honeymoons and winter get aways. Coconut, black pearls and clothing are exported in small amounts as well.

Hope you enjoy a geography lesson from time to time. We're trying hard to learn as we go and appreciate the cultures for what they are. You can learn through us and hopefully come away with an appreciation for diversity and how easy life is in the US.

fun and frustrations

We've been trying to do a bit of touristy stuff while we're here, and not just beach lounging. Actually I haven't been to the beach at all, but generally every afternoon some group of adults heads off with all the kids by bus to have a swim. Being with two other families has the advantage of keeping the kids busy while we all take turns getting chores done. Thursday, we mostly did chores, as it is so time consuming to even do the simplest things on a boat, it can take all day to keep up on the basics. I always feel like it's a waste of time to do laundry when I'm paying to be in an exotic foreign country, but everyone insists on sleeping on sheets and wearing clothes. We've done quite a lot of internet, which should have taken minutes, but the connection is so slow, it's actually taking hours. Pete has been to every hardware type store on the island looking for a sewing machine belt and a laundry spinner, but you have to order that sort of thing from New Zealand.

Friday, we finished laundry, did more internet, had tea on Dolphins, sent the kids to the beach with Helen and had a local man out to the boat after dinner. We plan to go to Palmerston Atoll next, which is a small island 270 miles northwest of here. Five families live there who are descended from William Marsters and his three wives who settled there in the 1860's. No ships stop there and the island has no regular means of getting supplies. This time of year a number of cruising boats come to Rarotonga and families here collect things to send to Palmerston. We have met Arthur Neal, who is a first cousin to Bill Marsters (on Palmerston) and son of Tom Neale, who is famous with cruisers for being a hermit on Suvarov Island. I'm beginning to think everyone in the Cooks is related to everyone else. Arthur came by yesterday with boxes of apples, eggs, refrigerant, and misc other supplies for his cousin's family. He had with him his grand nieces, who came on the boat and played while we chatted. Arthur lives on Manihiki, which is a Northern Cook, inhabited by 350 people, most of whom are pearl farmers. He teaches dinghy sailing to the local kids and they have won nationals the last 3 years.

My biggest frustration this week is bugs. We seem to be infested with bugs everywhere I look. Each time I cook, the black flies swarm the kitchen. We're finding maggots in the garbage and on dirty dishes. They seem to appear in less than a day, so our normal wash up once a day isn't going to be enough. Also, ever since Mexico, there have been black weevils in some of the food. Luckily the Tupperware keeps them from spreading, but I am still finding a few. Now we've found some small brown beetles in with the sewing supplies. Who knows where those came from or what they want. And then to top it all off, we've discovered that all the cruising kids have thread worms. I have been assured by an American doctor that they are common enough even at home, but I'm pretty unhappy. Everyone has been dosed with medicine and I'm cleaning with bleach like a crazy lady, just to make myself feel better. I'd give anything for a washing machine and hot water to sanitize everything in the kids' bedrooms.

Saturday is market day, so we spent a few hours exploring and shopping this morning. Cabbages, tomatoes, eggplants and taro roots seemed to be the most common produce. No one was selling local fruit, which was disappointing. Five cyclones hit Rarotonga this last season and all the papaya trees were wiped out. The bananas are recovering, but slowly. I did pick up some vegies for me and another family on Palmerston and I'll get New Zealand fruit at the grocery store. Pete ended up modifying the sewing machine fit a belt that we had since he was unable to find a belt to fit the machine... necessity breeds creativity.

We hope to leave for Palmerston with the next weather system on Tuesday. Every few days the wind does a 360 degree circle as low pressure systems pass by south of us. We need to sail with good wind and also be in Palmerston when it's from the east as the anchorage is not safe in a west wind. Now that we're all loaded up with supplies we're committed to stop, if even for a short time.

It's time to entertain the kids, all for now, Kellie

Saturday, August 27, 2005

new web page

There's a new "Log of Imagine" page with pictures posted. Go to: ../..//web/log_of_imagine.htm and click on "Huahine to Bora Bora"

Cheers, -Pete

Thursday, August 25, 2005

quick update

We're having a lot of trouble getting a radio signal here, so I'll keep this short and fill in the details later. We've had a nice combination of being tourists and living our normal life. Laundry seems to be a big issue lately. No matter how much time we spend sloshing around in buckets, more and more things need to be done. The cushion covers were pretty grimy so that really added to the bulk this week. We have looked and looked for a portable machine, but can't find one. Dolphins has an electric spinner, which is a wonderful device. The hard part of laundry is the wringing out over and over again until the water comes clean. Spinning gets all the water out the first time and makes drying time fast too. Pete was designing one in his head this morning as he twisted towels around the life lines.

We did a really expensive, but impressive tourist activity yesterday. The "Cultural Village" is a series of huts on several acres that you tour with guides. Each hut has a presenter and a theme such as fishing, history, food, medicine, coconuts and weaving. The people now are not so far removed from their ancestors and still use a lot of the traditional techniques. The kids enjoyed the dancing, drumming and weaving best as they were able to participate. Lunch came served on palm tree leaf woven plates with no silverware, just like the traditional way.

All for now, except to say the weather is again it's beautiful tropical self and we're very much enjoying Rarotonga.


Monday, August 22, 2005

Stormy weather in Rarotonga

Kellie's comments

Sunday evening - A propane tanker hovered outside the harbor waiting for the waves to calm enough to attempt entry. Cresting waves hit the breakwater, refracted inside and bounced off the seawall behind the boats. The masts waved back and forth like saplings in a gale. Two cruising boats pulled anchor to move out of the freighters way at 6 pm. The whole island had run out of propane, which is their sole way of cooking. Before dark, the Bele rested safely at the wharf and the cruisers came back in. This kind of thing makes for great local entertainment. Cruisers videotaped the action and locals lined the quay. Twenty five to 30 knot gusts continued all night and blew in the clouds. Pete and I haven't slept well since we left Bora Bora, as the waves rock the boat back and forth, up and down and side to side. Pete added a third anchor off the bow "just in case".

Monday morning - The wind still gusted outside, as the rain clouds backed up against the mountains. We're eager to see as much as possible in a short time here and be on our way. No more dilly dallying until we get to Tonga. We explored town this morning, looking in shops for souvenirs and gifts. The kids asked for everything, so shopping got called off. I'll go again alone. We ate hamburgers at a small "take away" restaurant and headed to the library/museum. What an amazing thing it is to be back in an English speaking country. The Cook islands are associated with New Zealand, so if you can understand the Kiwi accent, it's easy to communicate. The kids could have stayed in the library reading books all day. They haven't seen new books in a year. The tiny museum's collection included a whale blubber boiling pot (supposedly people were cooked in earthen ovens, not big iron pots), shell jewelry, carvings and an immense shell display. Shell collecting has been a favorite activity on the trip, so seeing such a great collection inspired us.

Art galleries line the streets showing local arts and crafts. Paintings, carvings, shell jewelry, and weavings make up the majority of art here. Tangaroa, the local god of fertility and the sea, dominates the subject matter of carvings and keychains. His anatomically correct likeness leaves nothing to the imagination when it comes to his ability to carry off the fertility part of his job. We haven't decided yet who is going to get one for Christmas.

After emerging from the library to the warm sun we stopped by a playground on the way back. The kids haven't seen a playground since CA. What a treat. Everyone got thirsty, so we came back to the boat. Inspired by the sunny skies, I opened all the hatches and the dodger window. Ten minutes later, Omazey and Dolphins invited us to "get a wiggle on" and catch a bus to the botanical garden. We had less than five minutes to fill the water bottle, grab shoes and the backpack (still packed from the morning), dinghy ashore and get to the bus. The garden, a five year old project by a local woman, had a cafe and seven acres of plants. I must say, the design and tidiness didn't impress us, but being outside looking at flowers and interesting plants was fun. A lot of the plants are considered house plants at home. The ice cream afterwards made a hit with the kids. Just as we were enjoying a quick rest in the cafe, a bus went by back towards town. It got us thinking about when the next bus would come. The lady inside said they came by every 30 minutes. Just about that moment the sky opened up in one of the torrential downpours we've come to admire here in the tropics. Pete said, "Are any hatches open on the boat?" "Oh yes," I answer, "all of them." The cafe waitress let us stay a few minutes after closing, but we ended up standing in the pouring rain in our shorts and tank tops for a good twenty minutes. The bus driver, a very grouchy man, refused to drive us the main route through town past the boats. He was going the back road. Rob pleaded and used the 8 kids as an excuse, but he said we needed the exercise. Astrid threatened to cry. In the end, the 14 of us were the only ones left on the bus by the time we got back to town, so he relented and took us to the wharf. Luckily our computer had been tucked away and was not sitting in it's usual place under the open overhead hatch. The cushion covers were soaked along with our wall map, but paper and fabric dry. We're just hoping this weather blows over soon, and we can enjoy more of this fabulous island tomorrow.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


We made it into port around 4 pm Saturday afternoon. The wind stayed at a boisterous 25+ knots all day, so we were much relieved to pull into protected waters. We made amazing time, averaging 7 knots over the whole passage, which is our all time fastest. The discomfort of going fast makes it a toss up as to the best kind of passage to have. Pete prefers slow and comfy.

The cold front is still expected to hit on Sunday, but the harbor master is not concerned about safety, so hopefully we'll have a nice day, if a bumpy one. We are tied up to a wharf in the main town alongside Dolphins, Omazey, Calliope and another boat that we haven't met. We met Calliope in La Paz at Christmas and again in the Marquesas. The tying up procedure challenges a skipper's boat handling ability. We came in, dropped the anchor in the middle of the very small harbor, turned around stern to the wharf, handed our stern line to Rob in his dinghy, backed up to the sea wall where Jonathan took the line and tied it to a very large bollard. Then we pulled ourselves in and ran a second stern line. Then Pete dove down in the middle of the harbor to tie another bow line to an underwater concrete block. We're 20 feet off the wall, so we'll use the dinghy to get over to a ladder on the wall. It's not as easy as being right at a dock, but it keeps unwanted visitors off and we won't bang our stern into the wall if the wind comes from the north tomorrow.

I've got a chicken in the pressure cooker and I'm off to the shower for the first time in 4 days. Amazingly the boat stayed pretty cleaned up on the trip, I think because it was too uncomfortable to get anything out. I'm looking forward to a quiet nights sleep and some exploring tomorrow.

Thanks for your prayers, as always, He has kept us safe.



I woke up Wednesday morning not feeling well, which isn't a good way to start a 4 day passage. Apparently Mother Nature didn't feel well either, because the predicted 12 knots of wind turned out to be closer to 20. We had geared ourselves up for a smooth passage in light air, so I didn't prepare as well ahead of time as I normally do for rough weather. I figured I could cook underway and manage just fine. But so far this whole passage, we've been bouncing around in large waves, trimming sails constantly in the gusty winds, caring for seasick children, trying to get some rest and watching the weather like hawks as a cold front moves up from the south right in our direction. Crew moral hit a low Thurs night. I still haven't gotten over my sore back and headache from Wednesday, the kids were still sick and we had to make the decision to keep sailing as fast as possible to make land on Saturday day, or slow down to be more comfortable and spend an extra night sailing. I usually choose fast, but neither option sounded too good. I went on watch around 7 and everyone else went to bed. THe kids are sleeping in the salon on one side and Pete or I trading places on the other since the cabins are less comfortable in big seas. For several hours, gusts and showers kept hitting the boat as squalls went over. The windvane does a terrific job of steering and usually rights the boat quickly after a gust. However, as the gusts built to a solid 30 knots, the waves began to seem scarier and scarier every time we heeled over. Pete finally got up to try to adjust things to find not only an over powered boat, but an overwhelmed wife. After a few tears and some fearful whimpering, I figured my pain had gotten the best of me and I headed to bed. Pete reefed down to the main and staysail and calmed things down a bit for the night, even though we lost a bit of speed. We needed to average 6.5 to make Rarotonga in light, and we were just hovering at a dusk arrival by morning. The wind has stayed steady in the 20's all day today and we're going full tilt all day. Both kids continue to be seasick off and on, alternating with fighting with each other and asking for food. Cooking is a real chore in this weather, as standing up without hanging on is virtually impossible. I plant my feet apart, lean against the counter and try to rustle up something bland and appetizing for queasy tummies.

Tonight, Friday, I got some scrambled eggs made up, got the kids to brush their teeth and put everyone to bed by 7. I take first watch and was just admiring the most beautiful moonrise I've ever seen when equipment failure number three on this leg happened. We've had two block/shackle systems break, which Pete has now jerry rigged, one on the staysail sheet and one on the preventer. The moon is full tonight and it rose like the sun, bright yellow and lighting up the sky like the dawn. I sat down to watch it and began composing this e-mail in my head, in which I planned to praise the windvane, when "snap" one of the steeering lines on the windvane came loose. I'm sure Pete really enjoys hearing me yell for him in a panicky tone of voice while the boat careens all over. I did grab the wheel, but the compass light wasn't on so all I had to go by for a bearing was the big yellow moon behind me. I tried for several minutes to steer while Pete worked on the lines, but having never steered downwind in the dark in this much wind and seas, my first attempt lacked finesse. I suggested heaving to, so Pete could work on the stern in a bit more stable conditions. We took in the headsail, turned into the wind, sheeted in the main and effectively stopped ourselves. The main kept us pointed into the wind, so the repair went well and fast. A line had chafed through and needed to be reattached at the vane itself which involved Pete hanging completely off the back of the boat to reach. We got back on course and just began to heave a sigh of relief when Dolphins and Omazey came on the radio, talking about the cold front. We're just beginning to lag behind them and the reception on VHF was getting poor, so I heard a lot of Rob saying "cold front," and Jonathan saying "damn it." We switched to single side band and got in the conversation about the weather situation being changed from 10 knots out of the north to a possible gale.

Saturday morning--We made 7-8 knots all night and had relatively benign sees, so everyone got a bit of rest. Our ETA is late afternoon, which will hopefully give us time to get ourselves sorted out before any weather hits. The clouds have really socked in overnight with bits of rain. We've come far enough south now that the water has cooled off 5 degrees and the weather systems will be more affected by the lower latitudes. The other two boats are just ahead and will get in a few hours before us. They have both had their troubles on this trip too. Both have had leaks resulting in soggy beds and Jonathan hooked his pinky with a barbed fish hook. He had to dig it out with a scalpel.

Well, that is basically the long and short of our 3 1/2 day passage to Rarotonga. We're anticipating a lot of fun to make up for the discomfort and glad to have another 500 miles under our belt.


PS: we hit over 15kn surfing and the GPS shows 9-10kn quite a lot of the time. Average speed over the last 500 miles is 7.0kn. Go Imagine Go! Too bad we've not had a chance to try out the spinnaker, but I think it would not be the wisest move considering the wind, seas band forcast (and our lack of experience flying one). I'm wishing we'd changed from the big genoa to the yankee, but can't seem to get in the mood for a foredeck sail change.

Friday, August 19, 2005


OK, we're not aborting this departure, but we did leave Bora Bora a week ago, then turned around due to not enough wind. I'm guessing from some comments we've rec'd from folks that the posting below never made it... so here it is. Please insert it mentally between "Case of the Missing Dinghies" and "Leaving Bora Bora (again)" * * ******** The situation lay in front of us as follows. Although we all feel perfectly content to stay in one place, it is time to move on to the Cooks. We were waiting, with our friends, for good enough wind to make the 500 mile trip. The forecast called for steady trade winds starting Saturday and lasting several days. So, we went go into preparation mode. Fresh produce needed to be bought, water tanks filled, laundry done and the boat cleaned up for sea. Pete planned his mountain climb on Friday, while I prepped the boat. Then on Saturday morning we'd get groceries, water and go. However, the real story ended up a bit different....

In preparation for our proposed departure from Bora Bora, we moved the boat back near the pass on Thursday afternoon. The trip back through the slalom course didn't seem so difficult the second time around. On Friday morning, Pete met up with a group of 5 other cruisers and a schnauzer dog named Tommy, to climb the 660 meter peak. The wind piped up, building all afternoon until a steady 20 knots blasted through the lagoon. The wind had arrived a day early. I chose to stay on the boat all day getting ready for a Saturday departure. I like to have some bread and cookies baked and dinner prepped before we set off. I also cleaned the bathrooms, and stowed all the things that might fly around at sea. Pete had a nice time and they arrived back just in time for dinner. The wind continued to howl all night and into Saturday. Unbeknownst to me, Pete had been promising all kinds of assistance to other boats with broken bits, so we didn't make it to the grocery store until after noon. Because of the wind and waves, we sailed Imagine to the town instead of driving the dinghy and it took three tries to set the anchor in 75 feet. It takes a long time to put out and retrieve 250 feet of chain three times. Then we went to get water, and the day was over. We did redeem the day by going out to dinner though. Another family even kept the kids so we could enjoy our last night in Bora Bora, even if it was a day later than we had planned. Then Sunday morning, Omaze's computer packed it in so Pete helped work on that. Then we went to Dolphins because Rob had blown out his spinnaker and Pete can't pass up something in need of repair. We have been avidly looking for a spinnaker for 6 months to no avail. If he fixes it and it works on Imagine, it's ours for a good price. Pete is making a name for himself as Mr. Fixit, which is no surprise. He is very generous with his time and talents, which is great, unless we are trying to leave, when I get a bit impatient. Oh yeah, and an other hour to deflate and stow the dinghy and one more to put away all the loose bits around the deck... We finally left the pass around 2.

Since getting ready for a passage is a lot of work for me and I dread sailing overnight, I tend to psyche myself up and when it's time to go, I'm chomping at the bit to just get on with it. So it was a minor miracle that when an hour out of the pass, I did not blow a gasket when we decided to abort the trip. The wind that so steadily blew for the last 2 days, had dropped to 12 knots and came from dead astern. We can only do about 3 knots and we roll like crazy in that condition, so again Pete was wishing for a functional spinnaker. Mopelier Atoll is the last Polynesian island on the way to the Cooks and we thought we'd catch the last 24 hours of this weather system and get there by Monday afternoon. Since the wind died down before the forecast predicted, we wouldn't have made it in daylight and there is nothing else for another 300 miles. No wind is predicted for Monday afternoon through Wednesday, so we'd be stuck out at sea in light air. Motoring 500 miles when diesel is $3/gallon is not in the cards (Imagine gets around 6 miles/gallon). Both of us thought about turning around, but Pete didn't want to suggest it, knowing how I might possibly react. I asked if he wanted to turn around and after radioing several boats ahead of us to verify wind speed and direction, we took down the pole, sheeted in the sails and headed back, dead upwind, of course. The kids cheered, since they never want to sail and their friends are still here.

On the bright side, I got some great pics coming out the pass and we were escorted by a lively pod of dolphins. Pete fished with a new set up and is still hoping to catch a nice mahi mahi. I didn't feel that I'd really had much of a Bora Bora experience, so tomorrow we will snorkel and try to just have some fun. We went for drinks and snacks on Dolphins with 2 other families and watched a video of Hurricane Ivan in Grenada 2004. Dolphins and Ocean Breezes both tied up their boats in the mangroves and rode it out. Their boats had no damage but the pictures of the wreckage of hundreds of boats and nearly all the houses amazed us. Just as the movie ended, fire works lit up the sky across the lagoon. Tomorrow is a holiday, so we got to appreciate the show for ourselves.

Nothing is predictable in mother nature, so we live in island time at the mercy of the wind, getting joy where we can. -cheers from Bora Bora again Kellie

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


OK, this time we left Bora Bora and are not turning back! Weather forcasts look reasonably good for the foreseeable future, and we've got our "new" (very used, ripped up, but after 9 hours of sewing all back together) spinnaker in working order, so can still manage if the winds get light and behind us.

I've had high hopes for catching a fish on this passage - I made new 30ft monofilament lines to put between the parachute cord and the stainless steel leaders, thinking that the fish were getting "distracted" by the white 1/8" cord 3ft in front of the pink squid. We had two lines out going thru the pass, and shortly thereafter one of the kids said "we caught something... I think it's a bird" Ack! We'd had birds circle numerous times checking out our lures, but never caught one. This poor brown footed boobie was fortunate (?) and was hooked thru the webbing between his toes. I carefully hauled him in and Kellie held him while I removed the hook and tried to avoid getting pecked. He flew away, but crashed right into our second line... definitly having a bad day. Fortunately he untangled and didn't get snagged on the hook. Poor thing.

We've had 15-18kn of wind on the beam and we've been doing over 7kn all afternoon. About an hour before sunset I heard a strange sounding slap and looked back to see one of our lines trailing off to the side, then a Mahi Mahi jumped out of the water at the end of it. Yay! We'd not caught a fish since the big yellowfin tuna 1000 miles out of Mexico. Dispatching it was horrendously gory, as it started bleeding flopped around a whole lot, completely covering the stern of Imagine, the windvane, lifelines, and my legs with bloody gore. I whacked away at it's head (which is really tough since they have a big hump over it) until it finally stopped flopping. Filleting a fish and cleaning up a boat is not easy when heeled and doing 7-8kn. Ah well, we've got enough for 4 meals in the freezer and another 1-2 in the fridge. No more fishing until we've eaten up some of the other stuff in the freezer to make room.

It's something like 540 miles to Rarotonga, which is our current destination. Omazy and Dolphins are headed there as well, so it should be fun as long as there's room for us all in the tiny harbor. We should arrive there around Saturday, as I'm anticipating the winds cranking around and coming from the east which will slow us down a bit. Wyndeavor is in Aitutaki, about 130 miles north of Rarotonga. We'd like to get back together with them, but the entrance to the lagoon there is <6ft so we'd likely have to anchor outside the pass. The "Omazy's" lived in Rarotonga for 6 months some time ago, so will be able to point us to the fun things. I can't imagine we'll stay to long since it's not an ideal harbor and it'll cost us $20/night to be there. From there we'll probably hop up to Palmerston, then Nuie, then off to northern Tonga. From there, who knows?


Saturday, August 13, 2005


Last week while we were tied up at the quay, a group of our friends and a number of other boats were anchored around the corner. A river empties into the bay there and it makes a nice place to explore by dinghy. They all had a nice expedition before the rain started. However, that night Chris on Ocean Breezes went into the cockpit around 10 or 11 and found a local man on board his boat. The man dove overboard before he could steal anything. Chris called the other boats to alert them and when everyone checked their boats, La Novia discovered their dinghy missing. The dinghy, a 12 foot rigid bottom inflatable with a steering pedestal and 25 horse Yamaha, was definitely the most valuable dinghy in the anchorage. The other boats were missing misc items and all of them lost their dinghy fuel hoses. Luckily Chris interrupted the guy before his dinghy was disabled, so Mike and Chris gave chase. Twenty minutes later, they found Mike's dinghy up the river. The thieves threw coconuts at them, but the dinghy was recovered as well as the motor. We think that they swam the dinghy up river and tried to disable the other boats to give them a chance to get away. We have not heard of much theft on our trip, but here in the Societies reports have come in from several boats. It's very disappointing and now we're being much more careful about locking up everything and putting things out of view.

Two days ago, Dolphins looked out just before bed and realized that their dinghy was gone. They roused the rest of the guys and went on a recovery mission. Pete looked on radar and several groups tried to find it with spotlights. No luck, so Dolphins had a fairly stressful night. The next morning at daylight all the guys went out again and came across a local boat full of teenagers towing the dinghy back towards the anchorage. The boys saw Mike from La Novia wearing a baseball cap and blue jacket and assumed the police were after them. They dropped the tow rope and sped off, leaving the dinghy floating with one of their friends in it. It turned out that they had found it washed up on a beach 3 miles downwind and were trying to return it but didn't want to be accused of stealing it.

Then yesterday, Thula Mama put out a call that they were at the beach and someone towed their kayak away. After alerting the fleet to keep an eye out for the boat, they figured out that it was a local hotel cleaning up the beach. The workers thought that the kayak was left their by a guest, so they put it away. After explaining the situation, the kayak was returned no problem.

And now today, Rob on Dolphins was returning to his boat after dropping off his wife in town and got flipped by a big wake. He's currently trying to get the engine dried out and working again. Luckily there is a Yamaha dealer nearby so they have the engine. Pete is on a hike with half the other cruisers. I'm sure he will be distressed to hear that Rob had to pay someone to fix the motor.

Happy driving, Kellie

Friday, August 12, 2005


We had a nice couple days anchored in 7.5ft of water with a sandy bottom completely free of coral (which is a real treat since the anchor chain doesn't grind away all night). But, since we planned to move back around to the west side of Bora Bora to get some fresh provisions and be ready to head west as soon as the weather looked good, we at least had to get back out to deeper water by 2pm on Wednesday or we'd have to wait until Monday when the tides were high enough again to get back across a shallow stretch between us and the deeper water. I'd spent all morning fixing electrical problems on two other boats and by the time we got moving the tide was already falling.

The bottom of Imagine's keel is 6ft under the surface, plus a little (?) more, depending how heavily we're loaded. We read 6.4ft minimum on the depth sounder on the way in, which isn't leaving much wiggle room but we didn't touch bottom. When I'd calibrated the depth sounder last year I didn't figure I'd be relying on it to measure inches, so the actual depth could have been plus or minus 3-4 inches. Since it's a nice flat sandy bottom the absolute worst we'd do is get stuck and have to wait, well, until Tuesday. The tides here are only about 6 inches, so even at low tide we'd still stand upright sitting on the keel. If we did find ourselves aground there are several ways to get oneself unstuck - run the anchor out ahead in the dinghy then use the 2000lb pull anchor windlass to winch us along, or hoist the dinghy full of water off one side of the boat to cause it to lean over, or as a last resort, dump some fresh water (we currently have 3000 pounds of water onboard but it's hard to replace!).

We backtracked along the GPS track that we'd made on our way in, but it seemed the sounder was reading a bit shallower than it had been on the way in, and sure enough with only about 30ft remaining to reach the deep water the depth sounder read 6.4, 6.2, 6.0, finally 5.9 as we bumped and started slowing down. I opened the throttle from idle to full boogie and we just plowed our way through... now I won't have to scrape barnacles off the bottom of the keel for awhile!

Our plans have changed (again), as cruising plans do, and now we've got a hike planned for Friday to the top of the mountain in the center of Bora Bora, so I guess we'll leave Saturday... maybe. -Pete

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Bora Bora is a fairly round island with a lagoon all the way around. The enclosing reef cirlces around with only one opening to the ocean. It makes for good anchoring because of the abundance of calm shallow water inside the protected lagoon. Coral grows freely though, encroaching on anchorages and making navigable channels narrow. We came in the pass and turned right, to anchor off a motu where the snorkeling was recommended. The next morning a cruise ship encroached on our territory and Pete decided to move out and try again on another day. The lagoon has navigable waters most of the way around, except one section on the south which is too shallow for all but dinghies. In order to get to a good beach, we went all the way around the long way, and ended up just miles from where we started. The buoy system here is European and differs slightly from the North American system. For one thing, in North America, red markers are on the right when entering a smaller body of water, green on the left. Here it is the reverse. Also, they have a system of yellow markers called cardinals that have triangles on the top indicating which direction there is an obstruction. We had to verify with some European friends how to read the triangles. Two pointing up means the rock/reef is to the north, pointing down, to the south, pointing towards each other west, and pointing away from each other, east. With that sorted out, we prepared to navigate a short channel that resembled a slalom course. Just as we approached the narrow pass, it started to rain. Visibility went to almost nothing as the sun disappeared and the water surface got sprinkled with drops. Also, I didn't know about the tricky pass ahead of time and was in the middle of baking cookies. So we waited out the rain and then had a short tense few minutes of right turn, hard left, around the green, not too close to the yellow, hang on the cookies are ready, Kell come back, a little to the right, not too far, how deep is it, 9.5, OK now which side of the yellow do we go, right, and just around the green and we're out! The area where we wanted to be is sandy and shallow, which is perfect for anchoring, except there are coral heads dotted all over, just to make it a challenge. Pete stands on the bow, looking for a clear patch big enough to swing around in and I drive. I hate this part, as communication is difficult when the motor is on and we can't hear each other. We did find a clear area, but were about a half mile from the beach. All the mono hulls anchor that far away, but the catamarans, which draw so much less, anchored half way closer. Walt, on Now a Days, indicated that a 6.5 foot channel existed, leading right up to the shallow anchorage and emptied into a basin about 8 feet deep. We draw 6 feet, so with hopes of 6 inches to spare, Pete decided to go for it. We don't always see eye to eye on these kind of decisions, but I figure that if we get stuck, it's his responsibility to get us off. He sounded it out in the dinghy and got a GPS track in and we gave it a shot. Sure enough, no problem. With just inches under the keel, we glided all the way into the deep water of 8 feet and are now anchored near all the other kid boat catamarans much closer to the beach. Hopefully we can get back out following the same track.

This afternoon there is yet another birthday party to attend. We've all been hanging together these last two weeks and have had 4 birthdays. NOw that the parties are over, we're thinking seriously about the next destination. Tomorrow we plan to have one last trip to the store for fresh produce and then when some good weather presents itself, we head west. There are several possible stops on the way to Tonga, so we'll see how the weather goes and stop when we can.

We're off to try snorkeling with turtles and manta rays this morning, after everyone gets a haircut. Hopefully they will be where we think they are.


Saturday, August 06, 2005


The sun began heating up the cabin this morning before we even got out of bed. The kids asked for breakfast as another incentive to get moving. We've been dallying around Tahaa and Raiatea for longer than we had planned, so everything pointed towards a trip to Bora Bora today.

After surviving the rain on the quay for several days, we started to come out of hiding and think about moving back to the motu. We did a few chores in the morning and one last shopping trip before moving. By the time we finished, six more boats were lined up to take our place on the waterfront. We weren't the only ones to come out of hiding after the rain. Since several of the boats had kids aboard, our kids begged to stay, so we rafted up all the boats two and three deep all along the quay and had one last dock party. Wednesday morning dawned sunny, so the birthday party for Dolphins' Helen and Sophie went ahead as planned. Like a parade, we all moved off the dock and anchored at the beach. The rain held off long enough to have a wonderful party with tug of war for the kids and great food for the grown ups. Ellie gave out first around 9:00 and the rain hit us full force as we dinghied back to the boat. We held off leaving for Bora BOra on Thurs because of the rain, and then Friday gave us another set of circumstances to delay our travel plans. I woke up with a headache and Pete found an open jar of jam spilling in the fridge. Pete can't tolerate sticky, so a half day project of rearranging the fridge and making more dividers ensued. We redeemed the day by zooming over to a sandy motu. Although no one was there, it was obvious that someone lived there. We had a brief session of imagining what it would be like to own a small idyllic tropical island.

No wind, great wind, wind on the nose, we had it all in the 20 mile trip to Bora Bora. No swell and moderate breezes made for a fast smooth middle part of the trip. Pete again expressed his longing for all sailing to be so perfect. We're currently anchored off a motu on the Bora Bora reef waiting for daylight to seek out some supposedly excellent snorkeling.

Again, we're discussing our plans both long term and short. So many choices make it difficult, but we seem to be getting the hang of things at the moment. Hopefully it will continue where ever our next passage takes us.


Monday, August 01, 2005


We changed our plans over the weekend and decided to all come into town to get groceries, fuel, and water. The mom and oldest daughter on "Dolphins" are celebrating birthdays on Wednesday, so it seemed better to get our errands done and then all go in search of the perfect beach early in the week. We did come into the main town here on the island and tie up at a free wharf. The grocery store is just across the street and a variety of shops kept us busy all day Saturday, buying things we didn't know we needed. On Saturday eve, the weather changed a bit and now it has been raining solid for 2 days. When I say rain, I mean it is so wet, we've filled up the water tanks. The air is so damp, that nothing dries and the linens are all feeling clammy. The air temperature never drops much below the sea temp of 80, but it's still no fun to be "camping" in the rain. Two of the boats went out to an anchorage just before the storm presented itself, but we stayed on the dock with "Dolphins." They have 4 kids and a large catamaran. We played games and watched movies all afternoon and had a lovely time. One day of rain is a bit of an adventure and it's fun to stay inside and do different things for a change. The second day of rain is a bit disappointing, I'm not sure what we'll do if we have a third. The birthday party might be in jeopardy, as it's planned to be a beach BBQ potluck.

The kids are loving being at a dock. They are riding scooters up and down, just plain running up and down and bouncing from boat to boat, depending on what toys they want to play with. It's a nice break for me, especially since I can get groceries by myself and do my shopping without help. I'm working on getting the boat well stocked up since we're thinking of heading for remote islands in the next month. The trip to Tonga is about 1300 miles and we hope to stop 3 times to break it up. Unless we go to Rarotonga, I don't anticipate seeing a grocery store for that whole trip.

Wyndeavor should be in Rarotonga today and I look forward to hearing all the details, so we can plan better. Mike's dad is flying in for a 2 week holiday later in the week, and I know they are really excited.

If you've written to our imaginecruising e-mail and we haven't replied, please be patient. We haven't been able to get internet since Moorea, so hope to check in Bora Bora next week.

Happy August, Kellie