Friday, October 3, 2014


Beautiful sailing conditions prevail with about 6-foot seas pushing us from behind. The wind is about 12 to 15 knots and we are going straight downwind with the Genoa and Jib wing on wing! Looks like we should make our destination tomorrow morning!!

The children are having a great time once again hanging onto the different sheet lines and riding them up down as the sails fill and empty! Best swings ever!

Nobody is even seasick. This is the type of sailing that we all love.


Thursday, October 2, 2014


They have great ice cream out here.  It is from New Zealand and they truly appear to love different flavors. Needless to say we have been enjoying ice cream on a twice-daily basis!!!

The cops finally caught me with all the kids on the motorcycle. Apparently it is illegal to ride with more than 2 on a motorcycle! Who knew? The police officer was even going to help me transport the children in the cop car, until he learned that I only had to go another kilometer.  At that point he let me continue on with the children, and an "enjoy your stay in the Cook Islands".  Just such friendly people. Fortunately the children threw him off enough, so he did not ask anything about the smuggled motorcycle!!

Looks like we are going to be heading over to Palmerston Island. Fascinating history, the original settler brought with him four wives, and the four different wives families still live on the island. It is going to be interesting!

We will keep you updated!!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Motorbiking in Aitutaki - Sept. 30, 2014

We had the motorcycle onshore, so Cassidy and Courage went out this morning on a tour of the island while I took the kids in the dinghy to "Honeymoon Island” and "Maina" two of the atolls out on the reef.  First of all, we had a nice time.  I looked at tour guides and it's $100-$125 per person for a boat tour is the lagoon and picnic on an atoll and snorkeling.  Well, we just had an $875 day and it was great!!  Maybe we take for granted some of our spoils.  We have the boat, the hotel, the snorkeling gear, etc.  We get these days all the time and some people would be paying $900 just for the tour, then hotel, airfare, meals, etc.  We are quite fortunate!!

In order to drive here in Aitutaki, you need a local driver's license.  You go to the police station and pay $2.50, take a quick driving test, be at least 16 and there you go.  Cassidy is now a licensed driver.  Cassidy and Courage had a great time and wanted to take more people!!  Motorcycles are cheap to rent around here, so they decided to rent another one so more people could go!

OK, to rent a motorcycle, apparently there's no credit card deposit (only $20 in case you don't refuel it), no walking over the vehicle for prior damage, no insurance fees, and very little formality to the process (to protect the company).  Courage asked if it was OK to park it down by the dock at night, they said "OK" but "take the keys of out if."  Typically everyone here on the island drives scooters, not a lot of need for more, and they all leave their keys in it when they go into a store, or for the night or whatever.  So, maybe the dock is "sketchy" here at night, having to take your keys with you and everything!!  It's nice to have a place with little to no crime!  I've asked and one lady thought the population here was about 1600; another said 1300 and declining.  I think some hurricanes, etc. have taken their tolls on the place.

All of the land is family owned.  You have to marry a local to get in on the land here.  Each family makes a decision for their land.  One lady explaining it to us was an outsider, but married in.  The family then gave them their portion of the land and it went through the court process to be official, so that their house or whatever they do to the property is handed down to their kids rather than reverting back to "the family" as a collective.  An outsider can probably lease some land from a local for maybe a 60 year maximum.  She wasn't totally sure.

It's interesting and nice to learn how things work here.  English makes it easier to ask more in depth questions and even easier to understand the answers.  It must be nice that there are no mortgages or rent to worry about (as far as I can tell).  They all collect rainwater, not sure if there's also a public water system.  Remote houses have solar; town has a central power supply.  I doubt there are many people here with car payments or much of a cost for fuel since you could circle the island many times on a scooter on a single tank of gas.  So food costs a lot, but many people have gardens and I imagine that's a large portion of their budgets.  Also a washing machine costs almost $2,000.  A simple lawn mower is $1200.  Anything big and imported looks very expensive.  Not sure if these are standard items in many households or not?

Enjoying touring, seeing the island, meeting the locals, refilling on fresh foods, exploring beaches, seeing whales and generally having a great time!


Landfall in Aitutaki - Sept. 28, 2014

We are officially checked into New Zealand in the Cook Island chains.  This pass is 40 feet wide in spots and only 6 feet deep.  We didn't dare go in, so we are anchored outside.  Two of the mono-hulls that went in (there are only 3 in there right now) touched ground (sand fortunately) on their way in.  Not to mention that we are 30 or slightly more feet wide.  Doesn't allow for much pull of the current, etc.  We are happy out here.  First morning we were at the table in the cockpit eating breakfast when a whale blew right behind us!!  Front row view!

So, we are OUT of fresh fruits and veggies.  I went to a couple of stores here and there just isn't too much!  Surprising since it's a NZ Island and all the carrots, potatoes, most apples, etc. were getting to the Society Islands from New Zealand.  We are now closer to NZ and in their territory, so it doesn't make perfect sense that there's not a lot to choose from and what there is, is very expensive.  5# bag of sugar $9.90, 12 ounce can of tomato sauce $3, box of cereal $7.90, about 2/3 gallon Ziploc full of powdered milk $23, Potatoes $2.90/kg.  Carrots $5.90/kg.  Apples $2 each.  EACH!!  Now these are NZ dollars and we haven't yet figured out the conversion rate, but it's not looking good on the budget!!  We bought a bundle of bananas for $4.50 (normal bundle, but green) and a papaya for $2.50 for a medium to smallish one.  The man in that store advised us that you could pick fruit on the side of the road and it's socially OK here.  Really?  Sooo, we launched the motorcycle and went shopping!!

How fun!  First, we went remote, so we weren't in anyone's front yard or something awkward.  We found many abandoned houses and remote dirt roads with papayas growing that had vines overgrowing them (yet still producing fruit!).  So, we stocked up on papayas.  We found a mango tree (OK we found lots, but they appeared to be picked clean!)  Finally we found one with some fruit on it.  Plan A, I climb on Courage's shoulders.  Plan B, we put the motorcycle under the tree, I stand on it, he stabilize it.  Well, during plan B, Courage backed up to take a picture.  Unfortunately in doing so, the bike suddenly leaped to the ground with me landing on it.  Courage was just about to get a video, but we missed it . . .  Alas, plan C.  He reached up and pulled the branch down and we knocked them off.  We found a couple more trees and left with a nice bag of mangos (that need to ripen also).  

Ultimately I asked to see the local hospital, and while we toured up the hill to see the one story that looked like a little more than a large house, I found some bananas on the side of the road, no houses, and overgrowing with vines.  That screamed abandoned to me, so we went and cut a couple of bundles off.  Yeah!!  Provisioning in Aitutaki, which appeared to be quite expensive, has now come down dramatically in price!!  We of course bought potatoes and have eyes on carrots and eggs before we go.  We're also dumping money into the local economy buying a bin of ice cream every evening!!!  Unlike that in French Polynesia, this ice cream appears to have been frozen throughout transport - not melted and refrozen.  It's great and creamy and refreshing!!!

So, we've had a fun and always interesting time here in Aitutaki with a new culture and new setting to adjust to.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Aitutaki -

They drive on the wrong side of the road here; fortunately my motorcycle has the option that allows the bike to drive on either side of the road. The driver’s license here costs $2.50 so both Cassidy and I got one.  You only have to be 16 to drive here, so she and Wolfie went off for a 1.5-hour tour of the island. They even got lost on this tiny speck of land!  Crazy, I know!  Oh, and you only have to wear a helmet if you go over 40 KPH.

So when we arrived here a boat that we knew from Bora Bora called us on the radio to see what we knew about Aitutaki.  His auto-helm was out, and he was a solo sailor!  The pass here is super narrow, long, and shallow.  Since it was low tide and the sun was nearly down we recommended he just tie off to our stern for the night.  (We had taken the only mooring.)  What could go wrong!!  Today after checking in, and waiting for the tide to come in, we guided him in through the channel using the dingy and a boat hook to check depth.

Unfortunately even in the deep part of the channel he ran aground.  After much powering around to get the boat off I had Cassidy hop in the dingy to help me. But as soon as she hopped in the boat got "un-stuck", and there were some inappropriate comments about her being so heavy that when she hopped off the boat floated high enough to go over the sand bar.  Red-faced but laughing she climbed back on the boat only for it to run aground right away again. This time she would not hop off, but the damage was done, and the jokes will continue for a LONG time!!!!  More stories to embarrass an unnamed female 16 year old coming soon!!! :)


Sunday, September 28, 2014

And We Are Off -

So, to start with Shannon, Cassidy, Wolfie, and I headed out to get some fish for the goodbye party!  We had both the spear gun and the Hawaiian-sling. Typically I do not hunt for fish outside the lagoon due to size and number of sharks. But it was a beautiful day, the water was clear, and the sharks filled the pass, so we drifted out to the outer reef! I finally managed to catch a good-sized parrotfish, and was quite pleased that I managed to get it in the dingy before a feeding frenzy started. I then gave Cassidy the spear gun, and told her we could use one more small fish.  Shortly thereafter we spotted a school of Jack Cavallas. They were beautiful iridescent blue and silver and about 3 feet long.  Cassidy and I split up with Cassidy going on one side of the school me on the other side and the reef to the fishes back. They had to swim past us to get out. We were able to swim very close and Cassidy shot and hit a BIG one! And the fight was on. I popped my head out of the water and hollered for Shannon to bring the dingy over, then dove down to see if I could get my spear into the beast!  He pulled Cassidy and went into the rocks. Next thing I knew he was off the spear and the spear was bent at a crazy angle. I called Shannon and let her know the fish got away. Then I straightened the spear against my knee to an angle that I could force back into the gun. By the time I had the gun loaded again Cassidy had found the fish, and a shark was trying to catch it. The Jack was moving a lot slower this time and I was able to hit him with a kill shot to the head. Another holler went up for Shannon to bring the dingy, and the wait started!  Me with the fish and Cassidy fending off any would-be sharks with the Hawaiian-sling.  Not my favorite time in the water!!!  Fortunately all went well and the whole fish made it into the dingy, with all of us shortly after. Talk about an adventure!!

The local guy and another boat went out to try their luck after, but had shark problems!  A shark bit the first big fish they caught.  Unfortunately though for the shark he bit the spear also and got stuck. All his shark buddies then came along and ate both the shark and the fish. The guy who speared the fish just let go of everything and swam away to watch the proceedings from a distance.

We have been sailing for the last couple of days and it has been sloppy!  Most everyone threw up once or twice a day.  I even broke down and asked Shannon where the anti-seasickness pills were.  (And I have never before done that).  Her directions were minimal, but I found a bottle about where she described.  It did not help at all, and next time I am going to actually read the label to confirm what I am taking before I take anything.  Needless to say it wasn't anti-seasickness pills!!!!

Things have stabilized now, and we are sailing nicely with a double-reefed main and the Genoa.  Hoping to make landfall tomorrow!!!