Thursday, September 29, 2005

wet laundry

Gray skies and showers have tainted our first few days in Tonga. As always, chores take up a bit of time upon arrival. Check in's must be done with 4 different gov. offices, money needed to be exchanged and laundry and groceries figured out. Laundry seems like is such a simple chore at home. However, out here, it never ceases to be a challenge. We took the two huge bags into the laundry mat this time and paid to have them washed. It's half the price to not dry. Usually drying is no problem. In the heat and the breeze, things dry in a couple of hours on the line. This time, our frugality was a mistake. When we got back to the boat with the wet clothes, a number of interruptions happened, so they didn't get hung out right away. Of course it started to rain just as we got them out. So in they come again. Then out again when the sun reappeared. I think in a 24 hour period we have moved them in and out 5 times. The third time they were all but dry and we left them out while we went exploring in the dinghy. The sun shone for about an hour, and then the black clouds rolled in and before we could even get back to the dinghy, we were soaked. The mile ride home with no rain gear did nothing to improve our impression of Tonga, although we're all a bit cleaner. We had to bail out the dinghy 3 times on the way back. You can imagine how wet our dry clothes had gotten again. So back inside, then back outside as the showers came and went. We finally strung up a huge tarp and hung it underneath. Of course now it's not raining, but the sky is still dark, so hopefully they'll dry no matter the weather. It's still quite warm and the breeze is constant. Never take your modern conveniences for granted!!

Hopefully we'll get our chores caught up, the skies will clear and we will get to enjoy Tonga as much as we expected. Pete has started in on boat projects in anticipation of selling. He's refinishing interior and exterior wood and maybe some painting as well. We're still deciding how much to do.

We are feeling the pressure of time as we run out of weeks before Christmas. It's still too early to head for NZ weather wise, but were getting anxious to find a marina, a broker, flights home and see some sights. There is only so much we can do online and then we need to be there in person to finish up details. We'll begin looking for a weather window in 2-3 weeks, which is still early, but doable.

Not much else to report. We're looking forward to catching up with everyone in person soon. Thanks for reading, Kellie

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


I was thinking about how far we'd come and some of the biggest, best, fastest, etc. bits of the trip. Maybe you'll find it interesting as well:

Maximum miles sailed in 24 hours: 186 (note we haven't recorded our slowest day, but it's around 100 miles) Maximum boat speed recorded: 15.6 knots (surfing down the face of a wave) Maximum boat sustained speed: 10.6 knots (San Francisco Bay and Baja) Maximum wind gust experienced: 46 knots Maximum sustained wind experienced under sail: 35 knots Maximum days at sea without stopping: 14 (Clipperton Atoll to Nuku Hiva, Marquesas)

Total days of trip: 385 Countries visited: 6 (USA, Mexico, French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Nuie, Tonga) Miles traveled: approx 9,000 Days under sail: 123 days x 24 hours, 25% of the time Anchorages visited: 80

Latitude and Longitude lines crossed: farthest east: Zihuatenajo Mexico 101°34W; farthest west: Tonga 174°W; farthest south: Rarotonga 21° S; farthest north: Bellingham, WA USA 48° N. Crossed the Tropic of Cancer on Baja Mexico, crossed Equator at 128°50W, crossed International Dateline near Tonga.

Favorites and Bests for Ellie, Kellie, Pete & Carter Fav. Anchorage: E: Tenacatita, MX; K: Kauehi, Tuamotus; P: Huahine, Fr. Poly.; C: Tenacatita Fav. Country: E: Mexico; K: French Polynesia; P: Cook Islands; C: Cook Islands Most Beautiful Place: E: Nuie; K: Tuamotus; P: Nuie; C: Tonga Most Fun Place: E: Tres Marietas, MX; K: Moorea; P: Tenacatita; C: Bahia Santa Maria, Baja MX Best Snorkeling: E: Moorea; K: Moorea; P: Moorea; C: Moorea Best Food: E: Mexico; K: Palmerston; P: Mexico/Palmerston; C: Bellingham

By the time we get to New Zealand we will have crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, sailed another 1,100 miles, and added one more country and many more anchorages.

The amount of friends we've made, boats we've met, and memories made are innumerable.


Monday, September 26, 2005

Tonga landfall

We've skipped Monday, because Tonga is in tomorrow. They call themselves the land where time begins because are the first country west of the international date line. We got in this morning early and tied up at the government dock to get cleared in. Eight boats have come in this morning, so the officials are hopping. The customs trainee guy was more interested in our DVD collection than anything we might be smuggling into the country. We'll finish up with the gov, check out the small town and figure out which anchorage to head to. I'd like some laundry done and then catch up with Wyndeavor tomorrow. We haven't seen them since Huahine in July. The weather is overcast and so humid, we're fairly uncomfortable. Showers and wind are forecasted for the next 3 days. It'll be a good opportunity to get some projects done like school and new cushion covers for the cockpit. Then we hope to have some nice beach time and snorkeling with friends.


Sunday, September 25, 2005

On our way to Tonga

Pete's Log of Nuie.

Nuie is an awesome place. If you can figure out how to get there, I'd recommend it as a rustic vacation destination. The people were incredibly friendly, smiling, waving, and giving us lifts in their cars. The island is beautiful and there are many, many hikes and caves to explore.

Visiting Nuie by yacht is OK, but there are no protected harbors. The "Nuie Yacht Club" put down 14 moorings for the visiting yachts to use, making it a much easier place to visit (or to leave, as anchors were often swallowed by coral chasms and had to be abandoned before the moorings were installed). There is no beach to land the dinghy. You pull up alongside the 10ft high seawall, get everyone out and up the wall between swells, then hook a lifting bridle on the dinghy to a crane and hoist it up. There's a dolly on top to set it on and wheel it to a "parking space". It's quite an operation when locals are using the crane to launch or retrieve their fishing boats and 5 or so cruisers are trying to come in or leave! Everyone cooperates and helps and we didn't experience any mishaps, but it'd sure be hairy if there was any weather blowing in from the west.

We'd only planned to stop in Nuie for 2-3 days so we wouldn't arrive in Tonga on the weekend (you can't check in on weekends). As with every other place we've been, once we're there we start finding interesting things to do an see, and there's always some event a few days off that sounds worth waiting around for. In this case, there was a market Friday morning, and a town festival on Saturday. The market was a bit disappointing, but I did get some tomatoes and cabbage. The festival was a good time, and I'm glad we stayed for it. Nuie has a population of around 1500 people, and I think everyone on the island was there. Some impressive displays of produce were judged, but I'm not sure of the criteria. On display were sugar cane, taro, onions, coconuts and live coconut crabs. A truckload of crushed ice from the fisheries plant was dumped in the sports field and a 2 hour snowball fight ensued. Food, lots of dancing and a mock drag beauty contest put on by the youth added to the fun.

A weather window opened up yesterday for the trip from Nuie to Tonga so we left the island festivities early, packed up and got going Saturday afternoon. The forecast was for strong winds (20-30kn) from the SE which is a bit much, but we're trying to get there before a weather system hits causing 30-35kn winds from various directions (and probably a bunch of rain too). The boats that are staying behind in Nuie will probably have to wait at least 3-4 more days and risk getting whacked by a westerly - not a good wind direction when you're hanging off the west side of a reef. Not a good wind direction for heading to Tonga either!

As it is, we've got 25-30 kn of wind pretty much right on our stern with 15ft seas, occasionally breaking, but thankfully staying out of the boat. Before we left the anchorage we switched to our smaller (yankee) headsail in anticipation of increasing winds. We sailed last night with the yankee and reefed mainsail. Without the pole our course was about 10 degrees too far south, but I didn't want to mess with the pole at night in big seas. This morning around 7:30, I got the pole set up but had trouble sheeting in the yankee after jybing it, and while it was flogging the locking pin on the mast track worked free dropping the inboard end of the pole onto the deck. Ack! I got it back up, got the sail set and was just finishing up trimming the pole foreguy (cleated at the bow) when a big wave smacked our stern, spun us around and caused the main to jybe. The preventer held the boom to windward and kept it from crashing to the other side of the boat. By the time I got back to the cockpit and disconnected the self steering windvane from the steering wheel we were "in irons", meaning we'd lost enough boat speed that there wasn't enough water flowing past the rudder to turn us back downwind against the backwinded mainsail. I'd just decided to go roundy-round (turn the "long way around" to get going back in the right direction rather than fighting against the backwinded sail) when a bit of jury-rigging broke. I'd used stainless wire to seize a snapshackle to the preventer block after the stainless strap broke a few weeks ago. The seizing broke, letting the boom blow across. Thankfully the mainsheet didn't catch under the solar panel and tear it off. The preventer flew clear over the dodger without catching on anything, ending up wrapped around the mainsheet 5 or 6 times out at the end of the boom. OK, now I'm thinking this isn't a great start to the day. We're now beam to the seas and rolling uncomfortably. The yankee started flogging again as we rounded up in a gust/wave... and the !@#$&% pole car came off again! Good thing there was lots of howling wind and crashing waves so no one heard my choice of vocabulary to describe the moment. OK. Roll up the yankee (again), keep the pole from falling overboard, get it back on the track and LASH IT SECURELY IN PLACE! This is all complicated by the tether on my safety harness that keeps getting caught on everything it can, yanking up tight just before I reach what I need to. What a morning. I hadn't even had my breakfast yet! If anyone out there is thinking of buying a spinnaker pole car... make sure you get one with a locking pin THAT SCREWS IN rather than being spring loaded!

All is well now. We're on course, the swell has clocked around and is now hitting us straight on the stern so we're not rolling from side to side much. Our ETA for Tonga is at daybreak tomorrow (Monday), but we're crossing the international dateline along the way so it'll be Tuesday when we arrive.


Saturday, September 24, 2005

New web page

We've uploaded a new page: ../..//web/Log_2005/cook_islands.htm

Cheers, -Pete

Friday, September 23, 2005


I can't remember the last time we stayed on an island for less than a week. We make plans to just stop somewhere as a reprieve from sailing, and then inevitably the sights suck us in and we stay on and on. Sometimes our delay is due to weather, most of the time it's due to dawdling. I always think that the chances of coming back to some of these places is so slim we need to make the most of it now. I wouldn't say that I regret moving slowly. We seem to have found a rhythm of life that works for us, with not too much sailing and just enough sight seeing. Some of the boats we left Mexico with are two countries ahead of us already, but I'm sure we're having just as much fun.

I imagined Nuie as being flat, brown and fairly barren. The only description we had, made it sound like a huge lump of coral sticking out of the water with a handful of people living on top. What a pleasant surprise to see lush green trees and flowers. Nuie is an independent country with only 1,100 current residents. Most of the 22,000 citizens have moved on to New Zealand or Australia for education and jobs. The result is a slow paced, friendly community where everyone smiles and waves to friends and strangers alike.

Nuie rises about 200 feet above sea level. It's all limestone, composed of fossilized coral which has risen out of the sea by volcanic activity. Caves and chasms dot the shoreline. Very few beaches can be found, and those are very small. No lagoon surrounds the island, so it's much different than the atolls we've visited lately. As Pete said, we rented a 15 passenger van on Thursday and did a day of caving, swimming, picnicking and walking. Swarms of mosquitoes marred the day slightly since none of us brought along repellent, but the photos opportunities never ended. The trails through the protected rain forest are littered with coral chunks and fossils making it slow going. Carter fell twice, giving his legs a good scraping. All the boat kids hike like troopers though. From the littlest, Jack (4) to Sophie (11) the whole group of 8 kids kept pace and even out climbed the adults. Seventy five foot ladders, small cave openings, swimming in chasms, 30 minute jungle walks, nothing daunted them. After lunch we went for a much needed swim in a chasm, 200 feet tall and 75 feet wide. A fresh water stream runs in creating a layer of cool fresh water on top of the warm sea water underneath. What a treat to swim and not get salty. The kids saw stalactites and stalagmites for the first time.

Besides the mosquitoes, the only black marks against Nuie are the giant spiders and sea snakes. Spiders as big as Ellie's hand make webs like fishing nets all along the trails. Sea snakes can be seen swimming in the anchorage. I must admit I'd forgotten about them when we swam in the chasm, but maybe they don't like freshwater as much as I do, because we didn't see any.

Today we'll have a half day of school and an afternoon of grocery shopping and chores. Saturday is "Show Day" where dancing, craft booths and BBQing will entertain us all morning. Then if all is well, we're off to Tonga for our last month of the tropics before New Zealand in November.

Nuie has free wireless internet access, which we can get from the boat. If you care to send a message on the imaginecruising account, we'll to answer you right away.



We arrived in Nuie on Tuesday evening just as the sun went down. We had a nice sail here from Palmerston with the wind direcly behind us and a bit too light much of the time, but we got to try out our new spinnaker and have a reasonably easy passage. In Palmerston we (well, Kellie) decided to not stop at Nuie, but on our way we calculated our travel time to Tonga and realized that due to crossing the international dateline (Tonga is in "tomorrow") and the light wind we wouldn't arrive until sometime Friday night - and you can't check into Tonga on the weekend... and can't get off the boat until you're checked in... so here we are. We'd planned to only stop for 2-3 days so we'd arrive in Tonga on Monday or Tuesday, but now we've heard about a market on Friday, and a festival on Saturday... so who knows when we'll depart.

Today we rented a 15 passenger van and 16 cruisers from 4 boats packed in with picnic lunches, snorkeling gear and cameras and we went off exploring the island, it's beaches and some fantastic caves.

More later.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

slow trip

We're taking the slow trip to Tonga. I guess the law of averages makes it not too surprising that after our last two rollicking passages, we were due for a slow one. Our first 36 hours out of Palmerston were light on wind and heavy on a head current. We motored for a few hours overnight at a walloping speed of 3 knots. I had really hoped to go straight to Tonga and not stop at Nuie. I'm ready to just stay put for a while without a passage looming before me. However, circumstances dictate otherwise. Tonga resides on the other side of the International Dateline, so because of our slow progress, we wouldn't arrive until Friday afternoon. Being the civilized country that it is, customs and immigration close from 4 p.m. Fri, until Monday morning. Visitors are not allowed off their boats until cleared in, so if we arrive too late on Friday, we're stuck on board for 2 more days. We might as well spend 2 days putting a Nuie stamp in our passports and exploring a bit.

The wind has picked up today, albeit straight from behind. Pete is happy to be flying the new spinnaker and even brave enough to leave it up over night. We've doing a respectable 5.5 knots now, so hope to make landfall in the daylight tomorrow. Mooring buoys are available in Nuie so at least a night entry won't be too tough. Two catamarans are slowly pulling ahead of us and can help us in if needed. It's always good to arrive just after a friend who can figure out the lay of the land.

The sea looks like the color of blue laundry soap with white bubbles. The swell has varied between virtually nothing and up to 12 feet. The rolling of the boat drives us crazy when the seas get big, so we're enjoying the calm moments. I find it difficult to sleep when my face keeps getting crammed into the pillow. I wake up with my ears feeling rug burned and have to turn over. I sort of prop myself in with pillows to support my back. It's a bit reminiscent of sleeping during the last trimester of pregnancy, sore back and all.

No squalls on the horizon, so hopefully it'll be a quiet night. Kellie

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Away from Palmerston

The barbeque/dance yesterday got partially rained out. A huge weather system moved overhead in the early afternoon and dumped 4+ inches of rain and caused winds over 30kn... not exactly party weather! Many of the crew of the Picton Castle, who were to provide the dancing entertainment, were recalled back to the ship in case they had to weigh anchor and put to sea. The food was all cooked and set out so we had a feast anyway, and they'll have another today, but we won't be there. The weather improved, we've got nice winds and a forcast that look like we should have continued nice wind all the way to Nuie, so we had to go. We're currently flying the spinnaker and the genoa (an odd combination), making 5-6kn more or less in the right direction. It'll about 4 days to get there at this rate. Plane Sailing is about 4 hours ahead, all the others planned to leave today, but got talked into staying for the party. We sure had a great time on Palmerston. What a unique place!

Cheers, -Pete

Friday, September 16, 2005

tall ship, lightening & whales

I can honestly say that this is the most interesting anchorage we've been to. Our original plan to stay for four days, has now turned into a 2 weeks. The weather gave us our first excuse not to leave, not to mention the involvement with the locals. Then word came that the "Picton Castle" a 180 foot tall ship would arrive on the weekend. Pete wanted a tour, so we waited. Due to weather she was delayed several days, so we hung out, doing projects on shore, eating fish and enjoying the motus. The PC arrived on Tuesday to much fuss from the locals. She is a training ship for people interested in old fashioned ships, an adventure and a reason to take a 13 month sabbatical. Straight out of Pirates of the Carribean, her three masts, rope ladders and canvas sails seem totally unreal next to our modern cruising yachts. Fifty people live aboard. Twelve professional crew run her, train the crew and manage the business. As part of her duties, she carries cargo to remote islands like Palmerston. This time the islanders ordered timber and supplies for new buildings. If you've got $36,000 cash and a yearning to be an old time sailor, check her out.

An important part of Cook Island culture is the music and dancing. Drums beats give the dancers their rhythm and remind of times past. Originally drums also acted as telephones to send messages from village to village. Unlike any modern drum, they are carved from local mahogany logs, hollowed out in the middle with a slit down the side. One of the host families is interested in setting up a craft store. We got his business underway by ordering drums. Each one is personalized for the recipient. Not many souvenirs have appealed to me on this trip, but I think our drum will be a great reminder of our time in the Cooks.

Rain squalls, swirly winds, thunder and lightening have all contributed to the interest here. Never a dull moment on the boats as we swing around in the wind, roll in the swell and watch how close we're coming to the reef. Lightening strikes on boats are a serious concern, since all our electronics would likely get fried. Tuesday night a series of squalls dumped torrential rain and thunder boomed right over our heads. Not much sleep in the anchorage that night.

Southern hemisphere winter is the time of the humpback whale. All through the South Pacific, the huge whales come to bear their young in the warm tropical water. The other day I was reading in the cockpit when a loud whoosh noise sounded behind me. The boat next to us thought their propane tank had exploded. I turned around to see a humpback not more than 50 yards behind us. It surfaced maybe 4 times very close by. Ellie said her favorite thing is seeing their tales. As if it heard her, it rolled it's back across the surface of the water and fanned it's huge tail up towards the sky. We gave it a standing ovation and clapped for more.

Our departure again seems to be postponed again. I have been down and out for the last 3 days with a headache, so have not had the energy to face a 5 day passage. Now that the Picton Castle is here, the islanders are planning feasts, dances and parties. They've invited us all to stay and participate in the fun. It didn't take much to convince us all to stay until Saturday. All the yachts are running out of fresh food, since we didn't plan to stay so long. I'm down to half a dozen eggs, very little milk, 2 oranges and some carrots. Luckily they are keeping us supplied with fresh fish, so dinners are not a problem. Contributing something interesting to the meals is getting tougher. The most common request is for chocolate cake. I'll see what I can do.

I guess it's time to officially say that we have made up our minds about the near future. My "one island at a time" plan seems to be working, but as the cyclone season approaches we need to decide where to take the boat. The winner is New Zealand. For a number of reasons, we've decided to go to New Zealand in early November, sight see for about a month, put our stuff in storage and put the boat up for sale. We plan to fly home in early December for a couple month break. If the boat sells, we'll have our stuff shipped home. If not, we'll go back for it in the spring. A lot of details are still up in the air, but we always said we'd make it to New Zealand, so hopefully it will be worth the hassle.

Thanks for all your support, prayers and thoughts, Kellie

Monday, September 12, 2005

quiet Sunday

The weather is still grey and windy, so swimming is out today. It's hot out of the wind though. Pete and Carter went reef walking this morning and I baked cookies and beans for a potluck. We had a huge lunch with all the cruisers and the 2 host families. Pete is helping to put down some mooring buoys, so they are splicing rope and cutting chain. The kids are running around the island like usual. It's great that they have free reign and nothing to get into trouble with. All in all a typical day, a few chores, a lot of food and a bit of fun.


Saturday, September 10, 2005

weather & plans

The next passage will be at least three days long, so we've been looking for a period of good weather to make the jump. The forecasts never seem to show 3 days out accurately, so we've been holding back. Now it's looking fairly stable for a while, so we can start getting ready. I think we really don't want to go and there are still a few things to experience here, so who knows. Living in limbo gets frustrating, but sometimes the flexibility is good. Time is ticking, as we have to have the boat out of the cyclone belt by mid November.

Pete's time keeps being taken up with projects lately. Our host family had a few things to be done and another boat is asking for help as well. Some people are really not capable of taking care of themselves out here and rely on others to get them out of binds. This particular couple, has no business out in the ocean by themselves. Pete was shocked at the lack of basic knowledge, and the hairy situation they'd just come through, ending in their head sail being under the boat and the anchor dangling by the chain in mid ocean!! Most of Pete's fix it jobs for other cruisers have been out of the goodness of his heart because they are our friends. Usually we get taken to dinner or given a bottle of wine. This time he got a significant amount of money for his time because we'd never met them before and he really didn't have spare time.

The weather has gotten windy and rainy again, so our beach plans are getting squashed. Ellie found a really nice shell the other day, but it got smashed, so we're on a quest to find another one. The tides are really low this week, so we'd also like to do a walk on the top of the reef. School takes up so much of the week, that between that and chores we're not getting near as much sight seeing in. We'll try to make the most out of this weekend.

We've been having fish nearly every meal this week. They caught close to 80 crabs, several wahoos and 2 barracudas in the last 2 days, so we're feasting like islanders. I've never tried barracuda, so it'll be a new thing tonight.

Our hostess, Shirley, wants me to teach her how to make brownies and cookies. It's a real challenge because she doesn't have butter, brown sugar, vanilla or any other flavorings. I've been scouring my recipe CD for basic recipes using white sugar and oil. I've found two, so will try them out and make sure they're edible. I think I'll give her some cinnamon, cream of tartar and vanilla so she can make snickerdoodles. She'll have to order butter from Rarotonga when her supplies come. She does have cocoa powder, so she can try brownies.

Life is never dull, keep in touch, Kellie

Thursday, September 08, 2005

quiet day

Running around like crazy socialites can only go on so long and then the realities of life start looming large. The mountain of dirty dishes this morning demonstrated the amount of time we've been spending off the boat. Instead of participating in the cruiser event of the day or fixing someone else's outboard, we spent the morning cleaning up, doing school, and recharging our energy levels. We've been here a week and it's finally sunny and calm enough for a decent snorkel, so that was our reward for a hardworking morning. Twelve boats lie at anchor here now, and that means 12 groups of people planning parties, day trips, fishing expeditions and play times. We tend to get sucked into the fun, which is great, but now that school has started our vacation has come to a screeching halt.

The atoll here is made up of 7 motus, connected in a circle by reef. Several shallow passes lead inside, only one being deep enough to let a shallow draft cruising catamaran through. Six of the motus are uninhabited, so after our snorkeling got cut short by sharks, we played on a deserted tropical island for a couple of hours. The kids and I collected shells and walked along in a shallow pass looking at the thousands of black sea cucumbers that litter the bottom. Like rotten bananas strewn about, at least 12 in every square yard, walking can be slippery. They make good squirt guns though, which is one of the many interesting things the kids have learned on this trip. Two moray eels darted off in front of us as we walked through ankle deep water. They seemed as surprised to see us as we were to see them. Once they got themselves between some rocks for security, we had a great look at each other. If only I had had the camera. Pete collected coconuts for drinking. He's trying to figure out how to grow them at home. Knowing Pete he'll figure it out.

Last night Pete went lobstering with the local guys, but no luck. Tonight he's taken the kids with our host Edward and Joe from Mahi Mahi to "Bird Island," the furthest motu, to get Tupa crabs. Tupas are nocturnal and live on land, so they're hunting with flashlights and mosquito repellent. Eating so much seafood this last week has spoiled us. We're learning more about catching and collecting tropical species. The key is to take a local along!!

No good weather window has presented itself for us to leave in, so we're just going to have to suffer through another few amazing days at Palmerston, poor us. I still find the difficulties of this life to be extreme, but the fun is so amazing that I keep being convinced to go to one more island. Part of every day I wish I was at home, and yet everyday I think of the memories and the opportunities to come. Everyday things at home like washing machines, dishwashers, cars, stocked grocery stores, hot water and garbage pick up are now luxury items for us. When I've struggled through the rough passages, the chores, the schooling and the bugs, I look out the window at the most beautiful places in the world and wonder if when we're home I'll wish I was still cruising.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Pete took the opportunity yesterday to go fishing with Edward, our host, and his 9 year old son David. Inside the lagoon and in the passes, Parrot fish are the main catch. Outside the reef Mahi Mahi, tuna and other pelagic fish can be caught. The parrot fish are so abundant and easy to catch that they eat them 6 days a week for every meal and rely on them for an income. The fishing is managed so as to maintain the fish population. To catch enough for dinner, they use a King Neptune like spear with 3 barbs on the end. Edward speared 10 fish through the head with near perfect accuracy in about an hour. They throw the spear, chase after it, break the fish's neck while on the spear, take it off, gut it and put it in the boat. At home they fillet it. They eat the heads, clean off the bones and only toss the fins and skin. These parrot fish are about 18 inches long with enough meat for 2-3 family meals. They shared the fillets with us and the 3 other boats they are hosting. I fried it up like she told me, but it wasn't quite as good as hers. We'll have more for lunch today and then after lunch he's going out again to net enough to fill the freezer. He hopes to get 60-70 fish, for his family and to send with us when we go. Parrot fish are one of our favorite sights while snorkeling. Their bright turquoise and pink coloring dazzles and shimmers underwater. They bite off chunks of coral with their beak like mouths. The sound can be heard underwater near the reef. Pete tried to help with one fish and got his finger in it's mouth. The fishermen got a good laugh out of the rookie cruiser getting bit by a coral crunching fish.

Just now, Helen on Dolphins announced over the radio that a pod of whales is surfacing just south of the anchorage. A group of small whales were showing us their tales and flippers just a quarter mile away. We got a good look at the splashing and blowing, and a better look a the tales with the binoculars. Hopefully they will come closer. Yesterday a large sea turtle surfaced right beside the boat. Wildlife continues to be our favorite part of this trip.

Today we're invited to another lunch on the island and a beach bonfire for tonight. One of the other hosts is making drums for his families, so I'm going to see if I can buy one too. We're busy busy busy this week and having a really nice time. The trip to Tonga is looming over me, so that is the only dark spot. The weather is still very windy, but the sun is out, so we're hoping to get in a snorkel soon.

Better get myself organized for going to shore, Kellie

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

school today

We successfully completed the first day of school this morning. I'm trying to be more scheduled as to avoid procrastinating and whining. Carter has started kindergarten and Ellie is a third grader. Math seems to be the favorite with Carter, in his Pre-K work. He wants to press ahead, so that's great.

We're starting to look for a weather window to make the 650 mile trip to Tonga. Nuie is a tiny island nation in between which is safe to stop in during certain weather conditions. They have only 15 mooring bouys, so space can also be an issue. I think we will just sail and see how the weather and timing work out as we pass. Anchoring there can be dangerous since it's very deep and uneven.

Pete is working on fixing an outboard for a local man today. The people here rely on their boats for their livelihood. Yesterday a big event occurred here when a cargo ship came for the first time in many months. Ships don't regularly come here because it's not economical without paying passengers. This time there were passengers going both directions so they came and also loaded on the parrot fish fillets to sell in Rarotonga. They get about $5 per pound for fillets minus transportation costs. Our host shipped 2000 lbs. A total of 5000 lbs went out this trip. The trouble is not so much money here as it is transportation. We're brainstorming with the administrator and other cruisers to get a system for sailors to bring supplies regularly. They get about 60-70 cruising boats per year between May and November, so the potential is there. The other part of the story is that the supply ships are mismanaged. This particular ship ran out of fuel part way here and foundered in large seas and heavy wind for 5 days before help arrived. The owner had refused to refuel at the last island and due to a last minute detour, they didn't have enough to make it here. Fifty passengers were without basic needs including food by the time they arrived. The Palmerston people fished for them, fed them a meal and gave them all a ride to shore for the day. The ship that brought the fuel had to be diverted from it's regular supply run, so the people here are having to wait longer for their food orders to arrive.

The weather this last week has been grey and windy. Yesterday the sun came out for most of the day and the island turned into a tropical paradise once again. The colors of the water here are the most spectacular we've seen yet. We hope to do some fishing this afternoon and a bit of snorkeling. Parrot fish is almost too beautiful to eat, until you taste it and then it's easy, yum. We'd like to stock our freezer before heading out again.


Monday, September 05, 2005

where to start??

I can't decide how to tell you all about Palmerston. We continue to be amazed and taken in by the people here. On Saturday, per a request, we participated in a traditionally cooked meal. Banana and taro leaves were used to wrap fish, chicken and vegetables. A bread/pudding made from coconut also got wrapped in leaf packets. The packets are tied shut with palm leaves and then all is placed in the underground oven. The men started the fire with coconut husks in 55 gallon drums which are sunk in the sand inside a "umu" hut, made of flattened metal drums and a palm thatch roof. The husks burn to coals and rocks are placed on top to hold the heat. The rocks, by the way, came from the ballast of a ship wreck. The top of the oven is covered with layers of insulation and the contents cook for 2 hours. The women prepared buns, donuts and fried fish in the kitchen. More men husked coconuts and filled a wheelbarrow with them for us to drink with the meal. All the cruisers brought side dishes and we loaded a table to near the breaking point. Parrot fish and coconuts sustain the islanders between supply shipments, so they are pleased to share our chicken and pasta from the boats. We in turn are thrilled to eat fish and coconut bread.

On Sunday, our host picked us up and delivered us to the island in time for church. The church holds about 60 people. The cruisers made up more than half of the congregation. We giggled at our inability to figure out that they seat men on one side and women on the other. Quite a few people ducked across the aisle until we got ourselves settled. The people of Palmerston are descended from a British man, so they speak English, but the hymns were sang in Maori, even though most of them don't understand it. After church most of us accepted an invitation to a thank you lunch for bringing supplies from Rarotonga. The women had been up since 3 a.m. cooking chicken, cakes, salads, fish, poisson cru (raw fish in coconut milk), banana sauce, rice, coconut buns, and drinks for 18 cruisers and themselves. We feasted until we stuffed ourselves and then they insisted we take the leftovers home for dinner. The generosity here is unbelievable.

Later in the afternoon we went to the home of the school principal and her husband who is the island administrator. His father grew up here, but he grew up in New Zealand and married a woman there. Since then they have come back to Palmerston for good and feel that God has prepared them to minister here. Not many of the islanders are Christian, but they have accepted an American curriculum called ACE, which is evangelical. The parents are noticing a difference in their children as values such as love, kindness, contentment and forgiveness are instilled. Tere, who is a pastor, chose to be the island administrator rather than clergy here, because he feels he can make more of a difference working to bring transportation, communication and community togetherness to this remote place. His job is immense, but in the last year he has seen God at work and already brought some solutions. We hope to stay linked with the island long term by setting up a "Pray for Palmerston" page on our website. We'll let you know when it is up and running. Rob on Dolphins is also helping to set up a Palmerston informational website with Tere. should be up and running by the end of the week. Please remember the Marsters in your prayers.

Today, we had a boat chore day. Pete cleaned out the fresh water system and I prepared to start school tomorrow. Yikes, please pray for us too. We've been so busy ashore since coming here that boat chores have been ignored. Somehow though, the floor still got dirty. I did trade a chocolate cake for my laundry being done. Our host family always does the laundry for their guests, but she had little trouble making a deal for the cake with me. I was told the next morning that she shared the cake with her family of 6 and her sister in law's family of 9. I think I got the better end of that deal when I got 2 bags of clean folded laundry back. This afternoon we enjoyed a couple of peaceful hours on the island socializing with other cruisers and then back out for dinner before dark.

I do want to share a lot more about the islanders themselves, their way of life and our impressions. I think I'll save it for our Palmerston page, so if you are interested, keep watching.

Happy Labor Day, Kellie

Sunday, September 04, 2005

one year anniversary-Sept 2

Pete and I left Bellingham one year ago today, in much the same weather we're experiencing here. It's grey and blowing like crazy. However, the air temp is in the high 70's unlike Bellingham where I seem to remember it being in the 50's.

The people here on Palmerston have welcomed us heartily. They are happy to have their supplies delivered and interested in talking to some new people. Last year 67 yachts visited here in the cruising season and virtually no one else. Ships do not make a regular stop here, so they only have supplies delivered or picked up every 5 months or longer. The economy here is based mostly on government money. Several islanders are government employees including an island secretary, police officer, 3 teachers. One private company has a business here for telecommunications including phone, radio and internet. There are no stores, restaurants or any other businesses.

A two room school accommodates 25 students ranging in age from 5 to 13. Due to the difficulty of keeping a permanent teacher on the island, a home school program has been implemented. At the moment one certified teacher is employed and 2 local women. If no teacher is available, any parent can fill in and keep the program going. Many islanders don't read and the rest have no more than a junior high education. Over the last 100 years, gaps of up to 8 years have occurred in the education system. The school gets government money to buy limited supplies, but getting them here is almost impossible. They rely on a copy machine to make worksheets and it has been in Rarotonga since March being repaired. We tried to bring it, but the toner still hadn't come, so they will have to wait for another boat. Pete has offered to make as many copies as we can on our printer and is also scanning pages so they can make them on theirs. Cruisers can donate basic supplies, so we've scoured our extras (which are running low) and given a bag of paper, pencils, books and "prizes." The school also takes the responsibility of supplying the students with toothbrushes and paste, since most families don't have them. We were able to give enough supplies for the whole island thanks to a generous donation from our friends the Pattens.

Food runs short in between shipments, so they revert to their traditional foods like fish and coconuts. Virtually nothing grows in the salty sandy soil. Some villagers are making an effort to grow vegetables, but ultimately they would like to set up a hydroponic garden. They need $8,500 US to fund a big enough system to feed the whole island. The men net parrot fish to export, but since the ships don't stop here, they have no way to sell their catch to earn the money. Their government money from last year was used up on another island for cyclone relief.

When a cruiser arrives, a local family "hosts" them. The lagoon is difficult to navigate and the passes treacherous for our small dinghies so they ferry us daily to and from the island. They also organize meals and activities like volleyball. Today we're having an "umu" which is an underground oven cooked feast. We will provide meat, as they have no meat here, and they will bring fish. They have so little, we are trying not to impose on their generous hospitality.

The needs here are so overwhelming and the practicalities so difficult, that we are finding it frustrating to not be able to help more. Pete has been targeted as the fix it man, so he is overwhelmed with requests to fix computers, TV's, outboard engines and generators. I've cleaned out the food lockers so I can give our family anything extra. Yesterday I brought brownies to lunch, and they went crazy. I've made a chocolate cake today to thank her for offering to do our laundry.

There is so much more to think about and tell here, I'll have to write several posts to give the full picture. We're off to shore now, Kellie

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Safely anchored at Palmerston Atoll

We arrived this morning at around 10am after a very fast and dark sail all night, mostly 8-9kn with some surfing speeds in the high 10s and low 11 knots, no moon and the stars were obscured by heavy cloud. Taking down the pole and jybing the genoa at 3am with 25kn of wind went very smoothly, thankfully. 5 boats all arrived before noon, we all met our hosts and checked in with the island official, got a tour of the school and a quick look around the island. We're all looking forward to a good nights sleep as it wasn't a very restfull passage.

You all are lucky to be reading a post this evening, as the computer unfortunately took a direct hit by one of the only waves we got aboard. I immediately dissasembled it and cleaned it all out, which was quite difficult considering the conditions. This morning wouldn't power up. Three more dissasemblies and reassemblies, testing at various stages resulted in diagnosing a shorted switch that senses whether the monitor lid is shut or not... I can live without that. Anyway, we're up and running for the time being, but would sure like to get ahold of another computer. The spare we've got is very old and doens't have USB or network ports and the CD drive won't read CDRWs so just getting data onto it is a challenge...

We'll write a bunch about the unique culture at Palmerston in the next few days... right now we're just looking forward to a (hopefully) good nights sleep.

Got word on the radio this morning that Ocean Breezes was 1 mile from Tonga, Wyndeavor is halfway to Nuie, Aurora B is in Nuie and that getting ashore there is quite an experience (there is no beach or place to land - you haul your dinghy out of the water with a crane in between crashing swells!) Mahi Mahi, Nowa Days and Plane Sailing are all on their way here and should arrive tomorrow.

Cheers, -Pete