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Honeymoon Island

Unlikely honeymooners, we four and six kite surfers crammed onto a charter runabout for a daytrip to Honeymoon Island in Aitutaki lagoon. We four took a windsurfer, a wee barbecue and our trusty machete.

The charter skipper managed to run out of fuel but carried out a practised in-flight fuel transfer, no problem. He dodged the bommies by a hair’s breadth and deposited us in ankle deep water on a coral sand beach. Around our ears thousands of handsome red-tailed tropic birds swooped and squawked.

 

 

 

 

 

We settled our camp in the thatched shelter. With great excitement I spied a tropic bird sitting quietly in the undergrowth. Much clicking of cameras. Minutes later I spotted a fat fluffy chick and it slowly dawned on me that the entire island was teeming with tropic birds. They sit very quietly and hope not to be noticed. They breed all year round so the chicks were in all stages of chickness. They make a strange rhythmic buzzing when they see a parent approaching. “Feed me, feed me.” The noise is a bit like that wonderful buzz a kingfisher chick makes, but much magnified.

 

 

 

 

 

Kia Orana by Matu

Steady winds, sunshine and Margarita is off to a sweet start! Rarotonga gets smaller and smaller as we motor-sail out of the harbour. Winds drop and head us through the night so the engines remain on. The morning presents us with clear blue skies and seas alike, land sighted at 10:30am. It proceeds to grow in detail and the different islands of Aitutaki glide towards us.
The turquoise colour of the lagoon, white sand beaches and palm covered islands gave the crew a moral boost! A tricky entry to the harbour through the narrow channel that cuts through the reef and three tries later to find the perfect spot to anchor finds the crew bathing in the warm green water, chilling underneath Margarita to get out of the sun. We shall see what Aitutaki has to hold in the next days.
Dinah, Zoe, Bruce and Matu

Weedeaters not Machetes

Monday was Queens Birthday holiday. Everyone was out in force catching up on gardening. Just like Fiji there are garden fires everywhere. Unlike Fiji, we have seen only one machete in action. The suburbs whir with the noise and dust of petrol weedeaters. And warriors whiz past on motor scooters clutching weedeaters like a spear.
Here we are in Rarotonga once again, tied up stern-to on the wall at Avatiu Harbour. We have an easterly wind joggling us around. Getting ashore is an increasingly severe challenge. Timing is everything.
Muri Lagoon is our only other option. Monday morning we took the hired electric bikes around to check out the drunken advice of a fisherman that we could squeak through the pass and anchor in Muri Lagoon. We looked closely at the pass from the shore. We did not need to snorkel to agree that you would need to have had drunk as much as our fisherman friend to attempt the pass.
So here we are lurching around the boat waving at gorking tourists. It’s pleasant enough ashore and it’s nostalgic to be back here after 40 odd years. Then there was one other cruising boat here to. Last time it was a Spray replica sailed by a crusty old Englishman who used a school atlas for navigation. He hadn’t meant to come to Rarotonga but, somehow, here he was.
This time our neighbour, Wild Berry, is an impressive 74 foot catamaran with three crew. The guests arrived yesterday. We knew that because the underwater blue lights were switched on. And she now flies an American and a Brazilian flag. All very flash.
Ashore Raro is the same but different.
• The Banana Court Bar is very tame. Gone are the days when Charlie sat next to a woman at the bar. Someone warned him she bit people. Seconds later, unprovoked, she took a chunk out of his ear. He returned to the wharf, bloodied and indignant.
• Many people ride motor scooters and many people still die on them. Driving while drunk has twice the NZ penalty but it is well imbedded.
• Many more tourists, mostly from NZ and USA.
• Many more places to eat good food
• Good supermarkets. Mostly goodies from NZ
• The boys still swim off the wharf. Shining, grinning faces. They swim like delighted fish but are too scared to swim under our bridge deck. I told them I was an old lady and I swam under there all the time. But I do understand because I never swam under John Neale’s trimaran, Manuia, because it was too dark and threatening. I have either got braver or sillier.
• Chooks are everywhere. Roaming everywhere. Far more noisy roosters than a NZ neighbourhood would put up with.
• Dogs too. I saw a dog take a two day old chick while the mother flapped and flew at the dog. Now the remaining chick sticks so close to its mother, I’m not sure whether it gets any time to eat.
• Saturday is still the main market day. Mangos are not yet in season and the avocados are just starting. Metre-long snake beans and bok choy are my old favourites.
• Our other new friend, Bill Marsters from Palmerston, brought us a mystery fruit. Dark, smooth, edible skin, yellow meat which is slightly tart. Crunchy like an apple turning soft as it ripens. The tree is huge and prolific. He calls it vaikawakawa. Anyone know an English name?
Our new crew, Zoe, arrived by plane from Blenheim via Auckland at 1.40 Tuesday morning. We will head to Aitutaki in a couple of days.

Bruce’s Chicken Takeaway
From our berth in Avatiu Port we look out on the rear of the Palace Takeaways. A huge pile of egg trays show through the window. Their best seller is chicken burger. The crawl space under the building is home to a flock of wild chooks.
Well before dawn the roosters announce themselves. Later they expend more energy harassing the hens and scattering the chicks. Occasionally they engage in cock fights. They rise up and slash at each other with their talons. At times leaping clear over their rival. They are cocky handsome fellows and constantly strut their stuff. The feathers which lie on their neck like a shawl get lifted up and spread large like a lizard frill. Not that anyone pays much attention.
The hens keep their heads down looking for the droppings of the paying patrons. The strong probability of cannibalism doesn’t seem to bother them. Perhaps it’s part of their Polynesian heritage? They also do their best to mind their chicks but their efforts are more frantic than effective.
The chicks rush about like fluff balls on tooth picks. More often than not they are well behind.
Then there are the dogs. It’s never clear which are feral and which are pets. Few have collars and none are chained but every household seems to have at least one. They come sniffing around the back of the store and occasionally one will slyly snap up a chick while mother hen is distracted. The hens go nuts for a few seconds but soon return to scavenging. The dog gives a wolfy grin, licks its chops, and ambles off.
Of the chicks, there are many more fluff balls than half-growns. However enough must survive into adulthood to sustain the Palace Takeaways ecosystem.

Postscript

Rarotonga’s only harbour, a narrow slot in the fringe reef opening straight into the ocean, is a rock and roll affair especially when the wind is from the north. We spent the first 24 hrs anchored in the middle. Quarantine, Customs and Immigration braved the soggy dinghy ride and pitching deck. The agriculture guy, forewarned by his mates, grabbed a signature on the dock and scootered back to the office the better to enjoy his lunch. Onboard, Dinah was slowly getting her sea legs. On the second day a yacht left for Samoa and we were moved to a stern-to spot on the sea wall. Here the rock and roll was supplemented by the snatch and grab of our mooring lines as we rose and fell more than a met on the surge.

Yesterday was get off the freaking boat day. The intrepid crew cycled around the island while Dinah and I played backup in the rental car. Back at the harbour the more sprightly passengers were being ferried ashore from the Paul Gauguin and boats were shuffled around to make room for the freighter from NZ. This morning with the wind from the south, the surge is less than ½ a metre and we hope for the spot alongside with a hose, even if only for a few hours. Despite the mooring challenges Rarotonga is worth it. It’s a prosperous, unchallenging blend of New Zealand and local culture, friendly people and pretty scenery.

Pete flew home on the 2.30am flight this morning (cheers Pete), Shaaron leaves tomorrow (cheers Shaaron) and Zoe arrives on Tuesday. Dinah, Matu, Zoe and I will sail for Aitutaki before the next northerly for sure. In the meanwhile the bloggers will take a rest but before I forget. The Margarita theory of fishing is “fish where the fish are”. Everything else mostly serves to lubricate the flow of funds from fisherperson to retailer.

R u there yet?

Yes

Nearly There

Tonight finds us just 100 miles SW of Rarotonga and we all agree we can’t arrive soon enough. From the early hours of the morning we have been hard on the wind. 20+ kts, lumpy seas, crashing and bashing our way forward. At the moment we can’t quite lay Rarotonga and unless we get a lift we will have to do a tack or two to reach port. Despite the frustration and discomfort the crew have been magnificent. Matu is in the galley juggling pots and food with one hand while clinging to whatever he can with the other.

It’s been a more challenging passage than expected and hoped for. Changeable conditions. Too much or too little wind more often than not and often rough. Listening to reports from others, this seems to be the way it’s been so far this year.

We take comfort from having (almost) made it without injury or damage. However having recently done an offshore medics course. Having become expert at stapling up and shooting up No9 chickens. I am a little disappointed I haven’t been able to take my new found skills to the next level.

All’s more or less well onboard

Shaaron, Pete, Matu & Bruce

Two More Sleeps

Today the wind retired early and left us motoring sloowly towards Rarotonga. Patience was rewarded about 2.00 pm, not with wind, but with a handsome tuna! Now fully stuffed with fresh tuna steaks and other goodies by Shaaron, the ships company don’t give a stuff about the lack of breeze. We have fuel enough to motor the whole way if necessary even though sailing would be quicker, quieter and arguably greener.

Today will also see us officially in the tropics. We are at 23:38S, 163:31W. Only 255nm from Avatiu Harbour in Rarotonga. Here on the wide Pacific the evening air is tropical and a gentle warm rain is falling. Quite a contrast to the weather we have left behind we understand.

Dinah usually takes charge of the fishing on Margarita. In her absence Shaaron, Matu and Pete have been left to their own devices and have simply trailed whatever was last tied to the lines – a soft bait on one and a $5 plastic kahawai lure on the other. Perhaps surprisingly, the soft bait doesn’t seem to work while the kahawai lure proves the Margarita Theory of Fishing.

To be continued.

The crew

Hi.
We’re sailing nicely under screecher and 1 reef. It has been a mix of beautiful sailing in lovely conditions and yucky fronts that cause a very quiet crew (one a bit sick) and a slightly perturbed looking skipper. We are 3/4 of the way there now. We have all eaten lovely food which makes up for the damp bunks some crew have. The water seems to come in when it’s pounding the boat at 40 knots.
I am on watch and can smell a nice Italian chicken dish. Bruce and Pete’s colds have vanished. Matu has the honour so far for the nicest meal, the Mahi-mahi. Who has the speed record is hotly debated.

Our position is 25:12S, 165:43W

Back to watch.

Bye from Shaaron Bruce, Pete and Matu.

blowin in the wind

Today started well enough as we made our way upwind in a rising easterly. The wind backed, we tacked, the wind continued to rise as the rain arrived. At about 10.00 we broke a reefing line. The skipper sulked for a while as Margarita chugged slowly forward under too little sail. Around noon a new reef line was improvised and progress improved. The wind peaked at 35 kts gusting 40.

It is now around 30 from the NNW and steadily backing and dropping. We are still heavily reefed, holding Margarita to 8 kts for comfort’s sake as we eat a cold dinner. By dawn we expect to be back to lighter airs, sunshine and downwind sailing.

All’s well onboard

The crew

Fush!

The wind conked out about midnight and we have been motoring since. Around 10.00 we stopped for the traditional mid ocean swim. Several honky bombs later the fushing lines were untangled from the rubbers and we motored on. With almost enough breeze to full sails the main was hoisted. Shock horror! A wayward 1/2m squid had leapt into the stack pack some days ago. Cleanup efforts began immediately and almost as immediately we hooked a HUGE Mahi-mahi. Shaaron hauled it in, landed it and nearly managed to hoist it aloft for the photo. As the sun set the littlest of green flashes was seen by some and disputed by others with less faith.

Now, as we slide 28:16S, 170:10W on a very pacific evening, Matu cooks up some mahi for dinner.

Alls well onboard

The crew