Cook Islands to New Zealand

July 14, 2007 - November 11, 2007

 

 

Log Entry #41 - Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Cook Islands (Rarotonga 7/14-7/24).


We have truly enjoyed every island we have visited in the South Pacific, and there have been none that we have been happy to leave. But most of the time we have been ready to say farewell, not due to anything negative, just that we were anxious to check out the next new island and the adventures it would provide. This time should have been no different. We had happily completed most of our island "to do" list, and Niue, our next destination, was reported to also be wonderful, but there was still a little tinge of the "Do we really have to go now?" feeling inside me. Maybe it was because on the Cook Islands English, rather than French, is the second language, and it was so much easier to communicate with the locals. Or possibly it was the day of scooter riding around the island that even though we were rained on several times during our ride was still so awesome because we were able to see the beautiful neighborhoods outside the main town, eat fantastic cheeseburgers and fries at a little cafi operated by the most friendly and fun women we've met so far, shop at all of the tiny stores we couldn't get to by walking, and simply soak up the lush, green beauty of another palm tree covered Polynesian island. Or maybe it was leaving the most colorful and entertaining Saturday market we've experienced, or all of the tasty and inexpensive restaurants. It could also have been the fact that our dollar went further with the New Zealand exchange rate, but definitely was not the fact that groceries were much more expensive than in French Polynesia (e.g. a regular size jar of Best Foods mayonnaise was $15 in one store). Then there was the four and a half hour hike with the crew members from CanKata, Selena, and Adio across the island via the "needle," a huge rock sticking straight up from the top of a mountain, that although was a challenging hike, provided the most fabulous views and a huge feeling of accomplishment. Or was it seeing the native Cook Islanders rehearse their dance routines for their festival next month, or listening to the majestic, several part harmonizing during the singing at the Maori masses? Or could it be I just wanted to stay a little longer to rest up after doing so much? Whatever the reason, I did shed a little tear or two as we, and our good buddies on CanKata, pulled away from the quay (that was exactly the same as it had been 36 years ago when David was here the first time) and the new and interesting cruisers we had met and will surely see again. Or maybe, just maybe, those tears were really because once again we left with no spray or fake butter of any kind and no chocolate chips either!!!!!

Log Entry #42 - Thursday, August 2, 2007
Niue (7/28-8/02).
Our visit to Niue (new-ay) lasted just five nights and four full days, but the little time we were there was filled with exquisite sights. Niue is just slightly larger than Rarotonga, has only 1,400 people compared to Rarotonga's 14,000, but is an independent nation, in fact the smallest island nation in the world. However, Niueans do have New Zealand citizenship, and it seems the island is pretty dependent on New Zealand for assistance. Niue was hit hard in 2004 by Cyclone Heta and soon after was helped by many countries, including French Polynesia, Canada, and the United States. Thanks to the U.S. Navy and the construction of many walkways, we were able to more easily see some of the fabulous sights on Niue. The island is made up of two coral limestone shelves, one on top of the other, like a tiered cake. Thus there are no beaches, just high coral cliffs which provide the most awesome, alien-like landscapes, caves, and chasms. The water is crystal clear and warm, which attracts humpback whales from cold, southern waters for their breeding and birthing season. There were several in our anchorage each day, and one morning, one of them took a particular liking to Talerra. She or he was larger than Talerra and spent quite a bit of time cuddling up and providing us a more marvelous view of a humpback whale than we could ever imagine. The people on Niue, as with all the islands we've visited, were fantastic. We arrived Saturday night after the most rough passage of our travels so far, and really wanted to go to shore to visit the Washaway Cafi, only open on Sundays. After making radio contact, the customs officer left his home to come check us and CanKata in, and then drove us to the cafi! After a great lunch and entertaining visit with other cruisers and locals, Willie, the owner of the restaurant, drove us back to our boats! He even stopped so we could buy ice cream cones at another little local establishment. The next day, Keith, the commodore of the Niue Yacht Club (Yes, we are now members!), spent his morning driving us around the island. That trip included a tour of the island's prison. They currently have one prisoner! The warden was all smiles and even dug up some cassava roots for us to take. These are similar to potatoes and we made oven fries with them. Yum! The following day we rented small motorcycles, saw the entire island, discovered a great milkshake establishment, and met more wonderful people. We even found a store selling bags of chocolate pieces for cooking, the closest thing to chocolate chips so far! Of course we bought them! So why did we leave so soon? There are no protected bays on Niue and the mooring area (It's very deep so boats usually tie to a mooring in front of the main town) was pretty rocky rolly. Plus, the more protected anchorages and white, sandy beaches on over 100 islands in Tonga were calling our name.


Log Entry #43 - Sunday, August 26, 2007
Kingdom of Tonga, (8/5-8/26).


Three weeks ago we arrived in Tonga and today we set sail for Fiji. We had a wonderful time in Tonga and are leaving with many wonderful memories, just as we did in the other South Pacific islands we have had the good fortune to visit. But Tonga is quite different in several ways. The people are extremely sweet and helpful, but are much more reserved than other Polynesians. It was a bit more challenging to joke with them but became easier if we were around them a few times. Smiling and exchanging pleasantries in places of business was not common, and we didn't feel that it was because we were foreigners. We really believe it is just not part of their culture. That's not to say no one ever joked or laughed, it just wasn't as common as in the other Polynesian countries. Tonga does also hold fast to conservative beliefs and practices. It is written into their constitution that swimming and working are prohibited on Sunday. Most men wear shirts swimming and women wear shirts and shorts or pants over swimsuits. In fact, it is illegal for men to go shirtless in public. It is considered distasteful for women to show their shoulders and skirts and/or shorts should be at least to the knees. Of course tourists don't follow these practices strictly, but most try to! Tonga is an absolute kingdom and has never been under any foreign rule. Foreigners can't own land, but can lease it for 50 years. This is probably why there are very few resorts or large stores. This also means there are fewer tourists, which is nice in a lot of ways, but also why there is a very limited selection of products to buy and why so often food items are past their selling dates. Chocolate ice cream was in very short supply and mostly they just had vanilla and hokey pokey (a butter and nut type flavor). This is extremely tough on visiting cruisers, especially if they have names like David, Darrel, and Loretta. Fortunately for the locals, the public markets carry many traditional Tongan foods, mostly root vegetables, and pigs freely roam the neighborhoods. We wondered if they were marked in any way or if people simply grab the closest one when they are hungry for roast pork! Family is of utmost importance to Tongans, and they are generous people. Most of the time when you purchase something from an individual or at a public market, they also give you something and are very sweet in the process. Then there are Tonga's many pristine islands. We were in the Vava'u group, which reminded us of the San Juan Islands in our very own Washington State. These just had palms, in addition to the many other varieties of trees. The water was crystal clear and provided lots of fabulous snorkeling experiences, including in a cave! We did have to wear wetsuits though because the water temperature had dropped from the mid-eighties to the mid-seventies, but that was not a problem at all! We made more new cruising friends and ran into old cruising friends and with several of them attended a fund-raising dinner and dance performance to earn money for the local library and scholarships for students to pay for high school (it isn't free like it is in many countries). We hiked up a mountain to see the tomb of a Tongan princess and had the most picturesque view of the islands. However, our most memorable experience will undoubtedly be the night and following morning we were awakened by the melodic singing of humpback whales echoing through Talerra's hull. Then later when we stepped out into the cockpit to warm, glorious sunshine and saw those same humpbacks splashing and slapping their fins all around us and our buddy-boat CanKata, well we just knew that these were the sights and sounds of Tonga that will forever be with us.

Log Entry #44 – Saturday, September 8, 2007
Savusavu on Vanua Levu (Large North Island), Fiji. (8/29-9/8).


Fiji is part of Melanesia, so we are officially out of Polynesia until we arrive in New Zealand. However, there has always been interaction with the Fijians and Polynesians, so there are many similarities among the people. Two of the most obvious are their friendliness and their love of their families. If only all of the world could be this way! In fact, I would have to say that Fijians are right at the top of the list of friendly, happy people. Almost everyone greets everyone with a huge, genuine smile, a handshake, and a jovial bula bula! Bula means hello and welcome and we certainly feel welcome. You would never know there is currently a military coup in progress if it wasn’t in the newspaper. I’m sure there is concern on the part of many of the people, but it is hidden from public view. There are also racial tensions between the ethnic Fijians and East Indian Fijians, but again it is not evident among the native people, only among some of the ex-pats from other countries. So far our interactions with everyone here has been nothing less than stellar. As is the case among most of the people in the South Pacific, most Fijians do not have a lot of possessions, and it once again affirms my belief that money and material goods do not buy happiness. Our only complaint so far is the weather! It has been cloudy, windy, and rainy almost every day. No wonder it is so green and beautiful! Reminds us of another place near and dear to our hearts! But we are told Savusavu is on the rainy side of the island and that we will find a much warmer, dryer Fiji when we head south. We can’t wait to see!

Log Entry #45 – Monday, September 3, 2007
Labasa Trip Across Vanua Levu (Large North Island), Fiji. (9/3).


We were not going to be taking Talerra to the other side of Vanua Levu but still wanted to see the “dry” side of the island, so our buddies Darrel and Loretta from “CanKata” and David and I took the local bus to check out the “big city” of Labasa on the north side of the island. We actually were in Labasa for just a couple of hours, enough time to eat a tasty lunch of curry and chow mein. There wasn’t much to see there, but the trip with the locals was a wonderful experience. Once again we were able to see Fijians at their friendliest. And it wasn’t only the folks on the bus; everyone we passed waved and smiled. It was another great exploration day in the beautiful South Pacific!

Log Entry #46 – Sunday, September 16, 2007
Southern Islands of Fiji. (9/8-9/16).


Although we are currently at Musket Cove on a small island west of the southern large island of Fiji, this log entry is really about our bittersweet trip here with our buddies Darrel and Loretta on CanKata. We first met them on our ham radio while both boats were making the Pacific Ocean passage to the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia (Talerra from Mexico, CanKata from Panama). We were each checking in with the Pacific Seafarers’ Net every evening, and remarked about the loud, clear signal coming from CanKata. Later we talked again on the VHF radio in the Marquesas and finally met in person at the Tuamotu atoll of Rangiroa. At that time we were also traveling with Nicholas and Lynn on “Trius,” who had met Darrel and Loretta previously. From that point on, we were buddy boats and what a time we have had! We did have to say farewell to Trius at Huahine, but we continued cruising with CanKata until now. In just a few days they will be continuing on to Australia while we spend more time in Fiji before we also move on to New Zealand. We have spent over four months cruising together and have seen each other or talked every day. We have explored islands, rode scooters, walked beaches, searched for the most unusual shells, snorkeled, ventured among the locals in their villages and cities, played many, many card and dice games, talked about our friends and families back in North America (they also have one married son and two grandchildren), exchanged photos (many of the pictures included with this entry were taken by Darrel or Loretta), shared dinners and far too many nibblies (I have the extra poundage to prove that one!), and just generally have had a fabulous time cruising across the South Pacific together. We look forward to seeing them and the Trius crew in Australia and wish them many more wonderful adventures!

Log Entry #47 – Friday, September 21, 2007
24th. Fiji Regatta Week, Musket Cove, Fiji. (9/14-9/20).


We had not heard of this event, designed just for cruisers, until we arrived in Tonga. There we spoke with a few New Zealanders who had previously attended, and they were adamant about not missing it. We weren’t exactly sure what the week would include, but we knew we would be in the area at the right time and decided to join in the festivities. That proved to be an excellent decision because a terrific time was had by all! Almost 100 cruising boats were either anchored, on moorings, or at the marina. Opening ceremonies included entertainment by local Fijians, cruisers from each of the countries represented singing their national anthems, a buffet bar-be-cue provided by the Musket Cove Resort, and lots of socializing. Events during the week ranged from an around the island boat race, to Hobie Cat and kayak racing, from catered lunches at two nearby islands to bring your own meat bar-be-cues at the palapa-style island bar, from a wet-waiter, Fiji Water bottle carrying, race to a coconut log toss, from tug of war to a golf tournament. When not involved in any of these events, cruisers could be found walking snowy white beaches, hanging around the pool, or playing dominoes. There was story telling and dressing in costumes, but best of all was meeting even more interesting people! The most remarkable people interacting occurred when we were invited to go to one of the island events on “Tamasha,” a 58’ ketch from Santa Barbara. Several other cruisers were also invited aboard, and during the day David felt as if he had met one of the fellows before. It turned out that he had met the fellow’s identical twin brother 32 years before in Malta while he was still cruising with his parents. Another guest had also grown up in Santa Barbara at the same time David and his family were living there, and his brother was a friend of David’s brother Steve. In fact, the two guys had built a little catamaran together in David’s parents’ garage. Finally, another man on the boat and David had a mutual friend whom David had met in New Zealand. This kind of thing seems to happen so often with cruising and just keeps proving it really is a small world!

Log Entry #48 – Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Southern Islands of Fiji. (9/21-10/23).


We were told the southern islands of Fiji were “cruisered out” and would not be that welcoming. Thankfully those were just vicious rumors, and we were greeted here with the same welcoming attitudes we met in the northern islands. Besides our fabulous week and a half at Musket Cove, probably the most memorable time was at anchor at Navadra Island. There we had our first experience with being anchored all by ourselves in a most beautiful location. It happened to also be the location where the Survivor in Fiji series was filmed, and we could certainly understand why it was chosen. Besides the fact the island has no inhabitants, it also has lovely white, sandy beaches and crystal clear, incredibly blue water. After three days alone (nothing can last forever), several boats came in to anchor, and we also experienced our first beach bonfire and cookout. If these facts are surprising to you, understand they are also surprising to me, especially the being anchored alone part. I had envisioned this happening lots, but with improved technology and more people our age setting sail (and most cruisers are near our age), we have just not found good, empty anchorages. Hence we have done lots, lots, lots more socializing than we expected, and have thus met lots more wonderful people! But now, as we prepare to make our passage south to New Zealand, we have also enjoyed being on vacation of sorts by being anchored right next to a busy tourist spot, where most other cruisers are not wanting to be. This has given us much more time alone to get boat projects done. It has also been a fun break to be in Fiji but not be in “Fiji.” Our taxi driver pointed that out to us one day after going to Nadi (location of Fiji’s largest airport) for provisions. He said Denarau is not Fiji, and in a way he is right. Denarau consists of many big-name resorts, a top-notch, palm-tree festooned golf course, a modern racquet club, a latte shop with free wifi and luscious blended mochas, up-to-date boutiques, and a grocery market with high-end products you might find in Seattle. Sadly though, no spray butter was to be found! So here we have been, cleaning and oiling, fueling and stowing, and watching, watching, watching weather reports. We have seen cruiser friends come and go, some to other anchorages to wait for weather, some to take off anyway, no matter what the weather has shown. David has spent hours studying and discussing expected sea conditions, and now we are about to take off. We arrived at our first South Pacific island on April 18th. After six glorious months, we now will head to the southern point of the Polynesian triangle, New Zealand. Are we glad we did it? Most definitely! Have we missed all of our family and friends back home? Most definitely yes on that too! Could we have done it without the unending support from our closest family members and friends? Maybe, but I don’t really know that for sure, and I’m extremely happy to not have to know. To be able to fulfill a 30 year-long dream is something many people do not have the opportunity to experience. We know we are so, so lucky, and we plan to never forget it!

Log Entry #49 – Tuesday, November 11, 2007
Fiji to New Zealand (10/24-11/11).


I believe I will always think of this passage as the one that just wouldn’t happen. We had had a wonderful time in Fiji, but we had it in our minds that we would be ready at the beginning of October to set sail to New Zealand during the first favorable weather window. It soon became evident to me this passage was unlike our other South Pacific crossings. Then we were traveling with the trade winds, and although we still checked out the weather situation each time, we never had to wait more than a couple of days. This time things were different. We were heading due south. Bye-bye trades, hello highs and lows emerging from the Tasman Sea or northern Australia, sometimes carrying gale force winds and treacherous seas. Needless to say weather watching became our fixation. We spent hours using the internet, checking out every weather service we knew of, and we were not alone. Most of the cruising boats remaining in Fiji were also going to New Zealand, and most were as interested in a favorable passage as we were. Some did have schedules, or crew coming to help them who had schedules, so they just picked a day and took off. Some got tired of the endless watching and just took off. Some tried to leave because the forecasts looked ok, but then a few days out discovered the forecasts were wrong, were in very bad conditions (getting your butt kicked at sea is not a cruiser’s idea of entertainment), and returned to wait again. By this time most boats had thought an opportunity to leave was within a day or two and checked out of the country, only to have to turn around and check back in. We were one of those. It was almost getting comical with the customs officials and even though you were suppose to leave as soon as you checked out, it was becoming understood that the officials really did not want to see us again after checking out more than twice. Could be paperwork was a factor! Now don’t get me wrong, we weren’t miserable while we were waiting. We were in Fiji after all. Denarau was a lovely place to wait, and lots of cruisers came here to also wait or provision, so it was enjoyable spending time with them. A couple of boats with children stayed awhile, and the kits were able to receive dance lessons from the locals and even join in on performances at Denarau’s little mall, not quite a village setting but still awesome to watch. Then finally it looked as if we really would be able to leave. Several of the cruisers, us included, had subscribed to passage planning services and were given the go-ahead. We sent out emails saying this would be it, even though by now I had done this so many times I’m sure no one was believing me (it was actually getting embarrassing), and on November 1st. set sail. We had been warned the first few days may not be great, and unfortunately they were correct. We had stronger winds than are comfortable, large seas coming from angles that were often putting Talerra’s bow under, and waves over her entire length. This all created a motion that caused even Talerra’s crew, you know the ones who never get seasick, to at least lose their appetites for three or four days. Now this makes me think of David’s mother’s warning that there will be more good days than bad days while cruising. Of course this is very true, why else would you do it, but I’ve decided it’s also a bit like giving birth, you forget the pain, sort of. The remainder of the passage went well, and although we had to do some motoring, we also had several days of awesome sailing. We did have one major disappointment though. Our SSB/Ham radio quit tuning before we left. David tried everything to determine the problem, but nothing worked. He even talked to the ICOM manufacturer in New Zealand. We could have had a new tuner shipped to us, but we kept thinking we would be leaving any day. It was weird leaving without it working (we could listen just not transmit) because it meant no emails and no talking to our ham friends at home or to other boats, but it allowed us to once again see how wonderful and helpful most people can be. Several boats came to our aid by keeping contact with us on our VHF radio when we were close enough, giving us new weather information as it became available, and passing messages to other boats with their SSB radios. So many boats were trying to check us in with Russel Radio (a New Zealand SSB net that keeps track of cruising boats making passages) that it was down right comical. Remember Alan, the identical twin brother of David’s buddy he met cruising 33 or so years ago? Well he and his wife Diane on “Moonfleet” left the same day as we did and kept in contact with Greg via email our entire trip! We did finally get the radio to tune on one frequency, and we were able to call in our own position report to Russel Radio. We could also talk to a few boats near us, but we were afraid to try any other frequencies for fear we would lose the one we had! No surprise to hear a spare radio is now on our Christmas list to each other! One last interesting fact about this passage is that it took place at exactly the some time as our passage from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas one year ago! We can hardly believe it, but then we remember how quickly time passes when you are having so much fun!

Log Entry #50 – November 11 – 19, 2007
New Zealand.
We arrived at Opua on November 11 and had just a week before our flight from Auckland to Seattle. In that time we secured a safe place for Talerra, a pile mooring at the Opua Marina, saw family and a few of David’s old friends, and did a bit of sightseeing. Washington is very green, and Seattle is even known as the Emerald City, but New Zealand has them beat in the green department. It is a challenge to come up with enough adjectives to describe the numerous shades of green you see when driving down a New Zealand road. From the perfectly manicured lime colored pastures, doted with hundreds of lambs and sheep or cattle, to the majestic forest green Norfolk Island Pines, and the magical hunter hued Punga Fern Trees, all interspersed with patches of magnificent wild flowers of every variety and color in a rainbow, well you get the picture. It is just downright beautiful here. Maybe it is the crystal clear, clean air that seems far more transparent than any air we have ever seen or not seen, as in this case, before. It seems to give a brilliant sparkle and shine to everything. And back to the green thing, it is not just in the landscape! The most popular gem here is jade, or as it has been traditionally called, greenstone, and is usually carved in many symbolic and pretty Maori designs. The other amazing thing about that first, short week was that we were able to see as many New Zealand friends and family as we did. David was able to even surprise one old surfing chum who still lives in the little town of Russel, just a ten minute ferry ride from Opua! Of course we spent time with Henk, David’s best high school buddy, his wife Robyn, and their incredibly friendly family in Waipu. We also had lunch with our sister-in-law Mia, her parents, our two fun-loving nephews Dave and Mike, Dave’s wife Jenn, and their cutie-pie daughter Juliette. Yes, there are two David Boots in the world! It was an incredible whirlwind week and a fabulous introduction to an awesome country! The only thing that made it easy to leave after such a short time was the thought of seeing our beloved family and friends back in Washington and once again sharing the holidays with them! And somehow we knew, New Zealand would still be here when we returned!