July 15-16, 2010
HOW WE DECIDE WHEN TO LEAVE
Thursday, July 15
We must exit this island\’s shallow pass during high tide. The tide gets
later by nearly an hour every day. Wednesday July 14 Scott helped lead in
our Canadian dock mates on sailboat \”Quickstar\” at 11:40 a.m. Thursday\’s
time was 12:30 p.m. Friday will be 1:35 p.m. If we wait any longer, we will
be obliged to do one of two less than desirable actions: spend one night
anchored outside the reef and leave the next morning. OR leave right away on
the late tide & have to spend 2 nights at sea for the 200 mile trip to our
I was tempted to stay another 2 weeks, when the high tide would cycle around
to be in the mornings again. Peter & Diana just arrived & we only had 2
nights to catch up with them. Sailboat \”Visions of Johanna\” are due to
arrive July 17, so we would just miss them! Scott\’s compelling argument that
we leave Friday was the reminder that the large group of \”Puddle Jumpers\”
would likely catch up to us if we lingered here that long. Hmmm… We like a
certain amount of socialization, but that group is big. Often 50 boats
descending on an island altogether. Marcus told us his experience with this
crowd in Moorea which sounded awful. I agreed with Scott, we will depart
Friday & push our speed to spend only 1 night at sea.
Once our decision was made, we began to get into \”go mode\”. Hoarding more
food, stowing loose items in their proper place onboard, saying our
goodbye\’s. We thanked the following Aitutaki residents for their kindness &
assistance: Pitonga from Air Rarotonga, Richard & Onu from Bubbles Below,
Bob at Customs (while Scott completed official check-out paperwork), Bonnie
from the fuel station, Allen from Rino\’s scooter rentals, the free range egg
lady and all the workers in the nearest market who were always friendly &
helpful. They are used to yachties & other tourists coming & going. Our stay
was longer than most. Despite disappointing scuba diving, the lagoon clams
were a happy surprise and it was the calmest anchorage I am likely to see in
2 months. It is unlikely that we will ever return there, and that knowledge
gives me a bit of pang. Just as we settle in & become familiar & comfortable
with a place it seems time to leave. This is the bane of us vagabonds: Do I
Stay or Do I Go? (can you hear the song?
We had lunch at Mac Ned\’s. We had been told by several people they have the
best burgers on the island. Scott preferred his burger at Koru (where I had
the best ever fish & chips), but I was pleased with the Mac Ned burger.
Finding a slice of beet in with the beef patty & cheese was a pleasant
surprise. Never met a vegetable I didn\’t like! We both agreed the fries &
thick shakes were terrific. You have to order a \”thick\” shake to get it
American style. If you just order a milkshake, you\’ll get a very thin one –
more milk than ice cream.
LAST DAY at AITUTAKI – Friday July 16
I wanted to buy more eggs if possible & see what other produce I can score
at the market. Food hoarding mentality is in full gear as we prepare to sail
even further \”off the grid\”. Scott gets more New Zealand dollars from the
ATM because the next island where we might need money (Niue) does not have
an ATM. Apparently you can get a cash advance on your credit card at the
bank, but we have been stockpiling NZ money here since we know we will use
We had heard a couple days ago that a local cargo ship was coming in from
Rarotonga. We thought that was a bit weird since everyone had assured us
they get supplies by ship only once a month, directly from NZ. When we awoke
today & looked out the pass we saw the cruise ship Paul Gauguin! What a
surprise. Too big to come into the pass, they use high speed shuttles to
ferry their passengers ashore. They set up a shade tent, literally rolled
out a red carpet & had local natives hitting drums & one man in a hula skirt
blowing a conch shell in welcome. The first time we saw & heard the show it
was amusing. The 2nd shuttle\’s welcome routine was still interesting. We
were stunned to see a mass of tourists descend on sleepy little Aitutaki. By
the 3rd shuttle, it was annoying & we needed to get on with our business.
Scott took a few minutes of video of the mayhem. Their \”Welcome Tent\” was
set up exactly where we tie our dinghies to come ashore. Big step up onto
the cement wharf, dry landing with old car tires as fenders.
One uniformed cruise crew member gave me a hand with my empty shopping bag,
my full trash bag & assisted me as I stepped up onto the red carpet. A
manager (we guess) came over & told me that I was disturbing his operation.
He asked us to move immediately. Telling us we must go ashore over there, in
the mud (wet landing). I told him, with no hesitation whatsoever: \”We have
been living here a month. It is YOUR Operation that is inconvenient to us.\”
I did not turn around but heard him aghast \”Well, excuse me!\” Indeed! I did
NOT excuse him & was royally pissed that a fancy pants cruise ship can come
in & take over a place like they own it with no regard of sharing the only
public dock. The irritating little man did not dare say a word to 6 foot 4
inch tall Scott as he secured our dinghy in the \”forbidden\” area & followed
behind me. Yes sometimes size matters.
BOOTY DU JOUR: The market that has ALWAYS had plenty of refrigerated eggs
has none today. Oh well. I have 2 dozen in the fridge & 4 dozen free range,
never refrigerated eggs that will keep fine up to a month. I must turn each
egg upside down every day. Somehow this helps preserve them. As we eat up
the cold ones & have more space, I will add one dozen to the fridge at a
I bought more apples, cucumbers & paper towels. A big bag of green tomatoes
& some bell peppers. Only found lettuce once during our entire stay. The
real score was a liter of chocolate ice cream! I have not had ice cream in
our freezer since the bars I bought in the Galapagos. Usually it is just too
far from the market to our freezer to risk it becoming a melty mess.
ADVENTURES IN ANCHORING, again!
The high tide to exit the very shallow pass of Aitutaki was at 1:35 p.m.
Every inch of water under the boat matters. We were anchored in the flat
calm marina with 4 other boats, a bit cozy depending on which way the wind
was blowing. One was a local fishing boat on a mooring very near shore. The
other cruising boats were all anchored bow & stern, including us. Marcus &
Tina crewing on the 56 foot catamaran \”Blue Callaloo\” were very likely over
our bow anchor. Try to follow along as I describe the up-anchoring dance (no
quiz at the end):
Scott is on Beach House controlling our engines to move her forward & back.
Plus operating both electric anchor windlasses with cabled remote controls.
At first I am in our dinghy giving her a push on starboard (R side) because
the wind (thankfully not strong) was pushing us to the right. Friend Peter
of sailboat \”Quickstar\” came out in his dinghy to help & positioned himself
toward the bow to be a bow thruster. With the 2 of us preventing Beach House
from drifting sideways into the fishing boat or Bernard\’s little monohull,
Scott was left to the deed of paying out bow chain, while picking up the
stern. It was all working fine until the last moment when it was apparent
that the stern anchor was stuck in the mud. He kept trying to drive it out
every which way, but no luck. On to Plan B:
I tie up our dinghy amidships & climb on board to help get Scott into scuba
gear. He really wanted a trowel or shovel of some kind to take with him
below to dig the anchor out. Gardening tools we don\’t have! I grab a sturdy
metal file & toss it to him while he gets ready to descend. Later, I
realized the crowbar would probably be the tool of choice. I get on the
stern anchor controls. Peter suggests I keep trying to pull up the anchor.
Scott had already tried every which way without success, but Scott (in the
water with tank, but still on the surface) agrees. So I push the UP button &
Voila – success!
I quickly help wet & salty Scott climb back onboard & get out of his scuba
gear. Sometimes you just have to \”threaten\” an anchor & then they behave. We
then go to our stations for upping the bow anchor. Me at the helm, Scott on
the bow rinsing & \”un-castle-ing\” the chain in the locker. Un-castle-ing
means tossing the stack of chain that piles up, spreading it out more. If we
don\’t do this, the mound of chain will rise right up to the windlass & there
is nowhere for the chain to go, it just gets backed up & the windlass stops
working. This is a BLUE job because it is wet, dirty and his longer arms
work better to reach down into the chain locker for de-castle-ing. And
especially now with my R hand gimpy, I am better able to drive the boat than
handle the chain.
Marcus, Captain of Blue Callaloo is now using his dinghy to push his own
catamaran sideways out of our way, so we can retrieve our bow anchor which
is under their boat. They arrived 2 weeks after us & with the limited space
in the marina, had to anchor over our bow. We expected some maneuvers with
that boat when we departed. Because of the wind angle, he is positioned on
the R side, pushing Blue Callaloo. to the left Peter is playing tugboat to
Beach House as needed. I am at the helm & Scott is on the bow upping that
anchor. We leave both anchors submerged just below the waterline because
their scoops are filled with mud. Driving around a bit with them wet, causes
the mud to wash off.
Once I am free to move, I proceed to maneuver where I know there is a safe
depth & I can turn Beach House nose to the wind. Scott had a different idea
of what I should be doing & got quite beside himself when I did not \”follow
orders\”, but used my own judgment. Let\’s just say it was one of our \”Italian
Moments\”: Some yelling from him. Some cursing from me. But when it was all
said & done we gave high fives & complimented each other on handling a
tricky situation about as well as possible. It was not graceful, but we
didn\’t hit another boat or run aground, so we are happy.
I will make a separate post for the passage because I am getting long
Cindy & Scott