July 21, 2012
Kia Orana Tatou!
After spending a quiet few days in Wanderers Bay taking refuge from the impassable squalls, the weather finally lifted enough on Monday morning for us to make a dash for it towards Rennell Island (about 130 miles away) to meet up with the rest of the fleet who were anchored and taking refuge there. It only took us a little more than a day and a night to get within sight of the island as we had good wind speeds and small seas which allowed us to zoom along quickly…we would have reached there alot faster except that the wind direction was not that great for us and we had to tack a couple of times before sighting her. A mostly uneventful sail except for a small incident on this first night with our mainsail which came apart in a 600mm long gash at the top third seam. We had to lower the sail and sew her up as best we could, then put some tape over the top of the stitching before hoisting her once again…no worries!…just another everyday maintenance job out here on the seas.
This sort of thing is not unusual nor unexpected for us though, as we’ve put these vakas and sails through alot of use since the beginning of this voyage and it is starting to show, with our sails looking and feeling alot thinner these days…we have all noted that we will need to start looking at a fresh set of sails for Marumaru in the near future.
Anyway, as we neared Rennell we were very much looking forward to joining up with the rest of the fleet (Faafaite, Haunui, Hine Moana, Okeanos, Evohe) because we had been receiving emails from them about their short stay so far at the island and it sounded like alot of fun, for several reasons…Firstly it is one of the ‘Polynesian’ islands/cultures within the Solomon Islands group with similar language to Cook Islands Maori so we were interested to explore that connection. Secondly the place where they were anchored was a little more developed than our previous anchorage and they were able to enjoy clean drinking water and other small land luxuries. And finally, Rennell Island contains a World Heritage Site, a huge freshwater lake, which is to our understanding the second largest in the Pacific Region! We were getting excited at the prospect of performing a large assortment of dives, flips and bombs into these fresh waters, especially since the fleet was originally planning to rest there at least another day! ….Alas, this wasn’t to be the case…as we approached the island in the early afternoon, within sight of her no less, we received contact from the fleet that they had stepped up their plans and were going to depart that evening…so to keep from wasting time we just took some last longing looks at the island, let our imaginations do a couple of quick bombs into the lake in our minds, before tacking away from her and heading South once more on a brisk wind. As fate would have it, later that night we received a second email from the fleet saying that they had been held up with unexpected repairs for another day! There were a few fleeting grumbles on Marumaru as this information understandably brought back visions of our needlessly missed opportunity to explore Rennell! Oh well, as the saying goes, no use crying over spilled milk, so we just continued on our way with our mini-fleet of Marumaru Atua, Uto ni Yalo and Te Matau a Maui….hopefully our headstart will pay off later on when we reach our next port of call
The next evening we had a close call with some floating hazards in the water! It was late afternoon and I was on the Oe when I noticed a large hardwood log float by on our port side about 30 metres away. This was of interest and everyone had a look but did not alarm us at the time as we thought it was a lone piece of driftwood which we sometimes see near land. However, a few minutes later after everyone had settled back down, Royle was sitting on the port deckbox chatting when he glanced forward and suddenly jumped up and yelled, ‘There’s a log in front of us!’ before racing forward to better sight it! I looked but couldn’t see it from my stance on the Oe so I just released the steering rope which was holding the Oe to port and waited for instructions on where the hazard was. Soon afterwards, Roy yelled out ‘Hard to port! It’s in front of our starboard hull!’ so I jumped over to starboard with the Oe and dug it in the water! We were doing a good 6 knots so the vaka responded well and we veered sharply to our left side. As we turned and slid by, the log came into my view and eventually passed us with only about 5 metres to spare on our starboard side…it was a similar size to the first one, about 4-5 metres long and about .800mm in diameter! A big log…and a close call! Cap promptly jumped on the radio to warn Uto ni Yalo, who were following about 4 miles behind, of the hazards and to give Uto the position we encountered the logs so they could avoid them. After that second incident, we realised that they weren’t single pieces of driftwood, but more likely to be felled logs that had gone overboard while being transported for processing…and if we’d already seen 2 then there were likely to be more! I immediately sent two of my crew as spotters out to the bow of the vaka while we still had daylight to see, and a few minutes later they spotted another log about 40 metres on our starboard side. There were no others spotted after that but we continued to keep lookout for the next 40 minutes or so until daylight faded into darkness and we could do no more….a few obvious but serious thoughts came out afterwards as we discussed things..i.e. lucky we encountered those logs while it was still daylight, and lucky for Roy’s glance forward and quick reaction! Thank you Lord for continuing to keep us safe on our journey!
On a side note, as we were going through this ‘log slalom’, our fishing lines were still trawling out behind us and we had 2 strikes which we managed to pull in…a 12kg Wahoo and a 15kg Mahimahi! Needless to say we had beautiful fish meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner the next day
We had a couple of different visitors come and spend a bit of time with us over the last couple of days. Firstly a pair of large porpoises turned up and hung around the stern hulls of the vaka for awhile yesterday. As dolphins go, these guys were pretty large and it was an impressive sight when they would breach right beside our port and starboard box-seats….almost within touching distance!! Our girls were delighted with these 2 friendly companions and you could hear their squeals of delight every time the porpoises popped up to the surface for a breath, only to dive again and surf around our stern wake.
Secondly, late yesterday evening we had a large boobie come to take some rest in our port side rear hull. It must’ve been exhausted because it was chasing us for about half an hour, just hovering behind our solar panels and looking for an opening, before it finally succumbed to its efforts and crashed into the safety of the hull. The boobie, who Jah promptly named Barbara Streisand, lay huddled up in front of our blue chilli-bin trying to get dry and regain its strength. As night set in, we had our usual quota of maroro (flying fish) skim blindly onto the vaka and get stuck along the side rails…so when the next day dawned we had a plentiful supply of food for Barbara…and Koro…who is also partial to maroro in the morning. In fact Koro, who is usually up early and scouring the decks for his fishy breakfast, put a few aside for Barbara that morning, and hand fed her one for breakfast which she gobbled down gratefully. Barbara soon got used the close proximity and attention from us humans, and as the day went on she allowed us to move her up beside the deck-house to get out of the wind and splashes, so that she could better get dry and recover…and Koro also gave her another fish for morning tea. The dry feathers and extra protein diet seemed to do the trick and a little while before midday she seemed back to her feisty self as she was trying to peck people as they went by. Not long after she got up, took a couple of unsteady steps, which turned into a couple of hops, then a skip, a flutter, and finally launched itself downwind over the port rail!!!…we held our breath as she spread her wings gloriously and cleared the rail……then promptly dropped out of sight and plopped awkwardly back into the sea. We were dumbfounded for a second, not sure whether to still be happy, or to be sad or alarmed or what?! But as we kept our eyes on her through the waves she righted herself, shook herself off, then kick-flapped her way forward and back into the air!..This time into the wind, which we believe was her downfall the first time when she tried to take off from the vaka with the wind behind her.
Since Barbara’s departure it has once again reverted to the normal bustling crowd of us, our vaka, and the ocean out here…so it has again become a little lonely…or peaceful, depending on how you look at it
The wind is still playing for the other team and is refusing to give us the direction we need to get to Noumea…so we are stuck with South Easterlies which is less than ideal for us! It is Sunday here today and Roy just led our Midday Service which was aptly themed with trusting in the Lord for protection and safety in times of trouble, anxiety and distress. We had a fried rice and sardines lunch after that and now we are continuing merrily on our way with overcast skies, good winds and a slight drizzle to keep us company…which is enabling us to catch some rainwater and refill a couple of water containers. We are on a starboard tack, hugging the wind as much as possible which is allowing us to hold a course of about 100 – 110 degrees, or slightly South of East. At the moment this means we are on a much better course to go back to the island of Espiritu Santos in Vanuatu (which is directly in front of us only about 170 miles away), rather than New Caledonia (which is far So
uth of us)! However we are still hopeful that the wind may change and swing around for us to allow an easier traverse towards our goal in Noumea…and one step closer to the end…one step closer to sailing home! Aere mai e te matangi e! Tauturu mai ia matou! (Come on Wind! Help us out!)
On a final note, we have heard about the sad passing away back home in Rarotonga, of two strong and proud pillars of the Cook Islands. We would like to extend our deepest condolences to the Maoate, Napa and Peyroux families for your sad losses…from our Captain Peia, Navigator Tua (Teaia Mataiapo), and all of us crew members aboard Marumaru Atua. May the Lord bless and comfort you all in this trying time. Kia akameitaki mai te Atua ia kotou katoatoa!
Alexander Teariki Olah & the crew of Vaka Marumaru Atua..
Struggling on the Seas, somewhere between New Caledonia and Espiritu Santos!