Aitutaki Cook Islands
Greetings from the Cook Islands. We had a great passage from Bora Bora. It took us less than four days to cover the 480 miles between Bora Bora and the Island of Aitutaki. This island was discovered in 1789 by Captain Bligh and the Bounty just 17 days before the infamous mutiny occurred.
The Cook Islands is the first time we've been in an English speaking country since we left the United States over nine months ago. We've been here a week and both agree that this is one of the best stops yet. We arrived last Saturday (the 23rd). The island is surrounded by a coral reef and has one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world. The clouds above are often a bright blue from the reflection of the blue lagoon below. The entrance into the lagoon was the hardest one we've done. It is only 30 feet wide for its entirety and less than six feet deep in places. The current is constantly flowing out (the ocean swells crash over the barrier reef in places and the water entering exits the lagoon at the pass). Needless to say, we were a bit nervous coming in.
Because of the shallow entrance very few boats can make it into the lagoon. We've had a mini Zihuatanejo reunion here. Of the five boats currently here, four were part of the group that left from Zihuatanejo, Mexico (Tin Can, Seayanika, Grasal & Moana). The town has a small wharf that we are all tied up to. It is really great to be able to hop from shore to boat so easily. We've enjoyed the close company of good friends. A few days ago we had all the boats over for games, dinner and a movie. It's hard to believe that little Moana had the biggest sitting area & table of all the boats (especially because Seayanika & Tin Can are 49 and 46 feet respectively). It was a festive day.
Just outside the boat and across a rugby field is the first church built in the Cook Islands. It was built of coral and stone in 1839 by the London Missionary Society. It's hard to believe that the church was built only 50 years after Bligh discovered the island. All of the cruisers went last Sunday. It was quite a unique and moving experience. The building was beautiful and ornate. The Polynesian people sang in their native language. They have very beautiful voices and sing many harmonies and in round. The message was in English.
After the service all were invited to the side building for refreshments. We walked into a big hall with four long tables full of food. It was a regular feast. After a short prayer we were invited to "dig in". Sally and I were in the middle of the line and noticed that there were no locals in line. We found out later that the locals let the guests eat first and eat only after the guests have eaten all they can. We were overwhelmed by their generosity, as there was a lot of food so openly and kindly given by those with not many resources to give. While we were eating the locals sang. The smiles on the faces and the passion put into the music was moving. The closest I can compare it to is gospel music. The literal translation for their type of music is "thunder hymns". It was very alive and heart felt, like nothing we've ever seen or heard before. All of the cruisers agreed that it was a rich and unique experience that they'd like to see again.
Yesterday (Friday) is rugby match day. They had a couple of rugby games on the field right outside our boat. Much of the town (population 2,000) was out to see the game. Thankfully we had a British boat (Tin Can) to fill us in on the rules for rugby. It seems they play the sport a bit rougher here. It was entertaining.
During the match we had a large group of young kids outside our boat. Grasal is side tied to us and has a schnauzer dog, Keltie. Since there are no dogs on the island, many of the kids had never seen a dog. Keltie isn't allowed on the island (she hasn't been allowed ashore since Mexico), so we invited the kids on board to pet the dog. At one time we had ten kids aboard Moana. They were cautious and shy around the dog. Once they pet her their fears we removed and smiled ear to ear. Keltie enjoyed all the attention.
There is a low-pressure system moving through the area bringing wind and rain with it. Our bodies aren't used to the cold temperatures. We got out our jackets and have had to wear socks to keep our feet from freezing. Sally is over with the girls putting together a big pot of chili to help combat the cold winter weather.
We'll write soon!
Sam & Sally
Update #21 - Part 1
Hello! Last time we wrote we were in Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. We ended up staying there for a total of two weeks and really enjoyed our time there. We went on a lagoon trip along with some friends and had the opportunity to snorkel with 4-5 foot clams. We also saw the atoll where the next episode of Shipwreck (British version of American reality TV show Survivor) is being filmed. It just so happened that the father of the family who took us on the lagoon trip owns part of that atoll. For lunch we enjoyed local cuisine on One-foot Island, a small atoll where we were able to get another stamp in our passports! After lunch we decided to stay aboard and visit with the husband, wife and daughter team while the other 15 people went snorkeling. This was one of the highlights to our day as they were very open with us and shared a lot of interesting information about their culture and traditions. The Cook people are so lovely.
Almost daily I went for bicycle rides with my friend from Seayanika. She has two foldable cruising bikes which bring many smiles and chuckles from the local children as they watch us ride by on these odd looking bikes. We met a group of three girls who described them as “cool” stating, “They’re too cool to make fun of!” When we offered for them to take a ride on them they declined however. These same girls led us to the best shelling on the island and then spent a bit of time hunting for shells with us and then giving us their finds. Before they left they asked Katriana who was riding which bike. When we returned to our bikes, soaked because of an unexpected extended squall, there were shells waiting for us on our bike seats. What sweethearts!
As you can imagine it was a bit difficult leaving this little haven. After doing some very minor provisioning (I say “minor” because the supply ship had been due in for weeks now and they were very low on supplies) we headed out on a Saturday morning. We followed an hour behind the three other Zihuatanejo boats. As we went through the shallow and narrow pass we bumped bottom one time. Thankfully the bottom is all sand. The bump wasn't enough to stop us or do any damage, just enough to give the keel a nice massage! Later that evening on the Net we heard that Seayanika had four bumps and Tin Can, a steel boat, only had one bump but it lasted for about 50 meters!!! They just kept going forward as they plowed through the sand. It's amazing how our attitude has changed the more we cruise and the more hair raising situations we go through. That’s not to say that we've become careless but we no longer sweat the small stuff.
Here’s a case in point of not sweating what we (and possibly you) wouldn't necessarily refer to as “small stuff.” While in Aitutaki our first propane tank ran out and we replaced it with the tank we had filled for an arm and a leg in Papeete, Tahiti. We quickly discovered that the tank had in fact NOT been filled and all of the sudden we had no ability to cook or bake. Mind you with the supply ship out and about there was none to be had in Aitutaki! We had neighbors boil water for us that we put into a thermos to use for coffee and washing dishes. We also did some cooking at other boats. One of our friends had a one burner gimbaled stove which uses a small propane can commonly used for barbeques. They let us borrow this from them and thankfully we had four cans of propane since our BBQ is out of commission. I have one pot and one frying pan. The pot holds up to two cups of water and the frying pan is smaller than my hand (and I have small hands!). Needless to say it's been quite a challenge cooking and we're on number three of four tanks. We're hoping to get our propane tanks filled in Niue but if not there it will be American Samoa before I can use our stove and oven again. This could either drive me crazy or challenge my creative side (the little bit that I have). It's actually been quite interesting and fun to try to improvise and figure out what in the heck I'm going to make for us to eat. The exception being tonight when I've ran out of options using pasta or rice.