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Leg 4, 2002 : Rarotonga, Cooks; Niue; Pago Pago, American Samoa

Leg 4, 2002 Update 1
September 16, 2002 2100
21.25N, 159.47W Log: 61,567 Baro: 1019, Cabin Temp: 75
Still tied to patrol boat in Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Our time off in Raro was a real highlight. We cycled every day, enjoyed a mountain run with the Hash House Harriers gang, survived a 5 km run on Thursday and Amanda completed her half marathon Saturday morning in just two hours. I managed to finish the 10K without stopping and yesterday we ran as far as we could, then hiked high into the mountains, enjoy fabulous views is all direction.

Amanda managed four or five coats of varnish on the handrails and I managed to clean and wax the trunk cabin, and with Sam's help, one side of the hull. We didn't get any strong northerly winds, so our stay in the harbor has been pleasant.

Since we won't be able to have any updates posted until roughly Sept. 30th, I just briefly tell you where we be sailing the next two weeks.

Our plan, weather permitting, is to sail to Palmerston Island, population 40, tomorrow afternoon, arriving off the island Thursday morning.

Beveridge Reef, and mid ocean anchorage that we have never seen will be our next goal, followed by Niue Island and then Samoa.

Here's our Leg 4 crew: Sam Parker, well you read about him on Leg 3, 2002. What a helpful and cheerful guy!

Craig Parker, 45 is a radiologist from Wooster, Ohio who has a Hallberg-Rassy 43 arriving soon. He is hoping to retire in about six years and circumnavigate with his lovely wife Denise who will be joining us on the next leg. They have four boys from 11 to 25 and look forward to having them join them at different times as they explore the world.

Tom Zacher, 42, is a good friend of Craig's and his lovely wife Susan Grimm will be joining us on Leg 5. They enjoyed purchasing and racing their nearly new Benetau 40.7 on Lake Erie.

Steve Rodgers, 46 owns a water ski boat, has done lots of sailing with Wind Works Sailing School in Seattle and dreams of getting a sailboat and "sailing away some day". He owns a company near Seattle that reps medial and bio tech samples

Laura Cagliero, 47, says that she has to run to keep up with all the ideas her husband. Since they will soon be taking delivery of their own HR 46, Laura wants to learn everything possible including heavy weather storm tactics.

Giorgio Cagliero, 49 sold their high-tech computer company Italy and retired to San Diego. When getting their Cessna Citation jet repaired they learned that the owners of the aircraft maintenance company wanted to sell their business and retire. So much for retirement for Giorgio and Laura. They say the company with 50 employees pretty much takes care of itself. He has crossed the Atlantic 12 times, and several of those times was in their Falcon jet with Laura as co-pilot.

There you have it! It looks like we have another fun crew and some neat islands to visit.

Leg 4, 2002, Update 2
September 21, 2002 0640 19.39S, 166.58W, Log 62,062 miles, Baro: 1016, Cabin: 84F
Broad reaching at 7kts in 14 kt ENE winds, just 49 miles to Beveridge Reef

We just switched off the engine after motorsailing for 10 hours, the longest we've had to endure the motor this year. It feels great to be sailing again and spirits are high as we anticipate landfall at Beveridge Reef this afternoon. With modest winds and swells, and hopefully continued good visibility, conditions should be good. It is hard to imagine what it will be like to anchor mid-ocean, inside an encircling 4x6 mile reef. We have a copy of a hand-drawn chart that

Raro Harbour Master - John Fallon
John Fallon the Rarotonga Harbor Master gave us for as far as we know there are no official charts.

Our passage from Raro to Palmerston was a classic broad reach, though on Thursday, Day 4, as we sighted the tiny islets connected by reef that make up Palmerston, the wind slowly shifted to NNW, making the anchorage off the reef entrance a lee shore. Amanda dove in as we came to the spot that two local aluminum skiffs were indicating we should anchor, and directed us to a clear plateau, free of large coral heads or holes that could trap the anchor and prevent us from making a hasty exit if the winds came up. The anchor rested in 34' of water while the stern hung over the sloping reef with breakers a few lengths astern. When Amanda and I snorkeled to check the anchor, we also swam over to the pass entrance and spied the remains in 8' of water of a Korean fishing boat that had drug ashore from the exact spot where we were anchored. On one of my visits here (many years back) this wreck had ended up blocking the lagoon entrance and had to be blasted apart thus making an unmistakable landmark with each half of the ship perched on either side of the entrance.

In Raro on our last Saturday market visit, the gentleman whom we were purchasing bananas from told us he was from Palmerston. He got very excited when we asked if we could take any supplies to the isolated, rarely visited island, 260 miles NW of Raro.

Leg 4 crew, William and Sony Marsters and supplies for Palmerston Island

Tuesday morning, William Marsters and his nephew

Palmerston Island
Sonny appeared with an increasingly large pile of boxes and containers for family members plus cases of books for the school sent by the Rotary Club of Palmerston North, NZ. Amanda's friend Lesley from the Manihiki Black Pearl Shop had given us a huge stalk of bananas and the Marsters gave us a large bag of papayas, so both of our showers were full of boxes and interesting smells by the time we sailed from Raro.

As with our last visit to Palmerston, I elected to stay aboard, standing anchor watch, but when crew were returned to the boat five hours later, they all had smiles and Palmerston Yacht Club t-shirts.

We were picked up from M.T by locals and escorted ashore to the Palmerston Island Yacht Club that was established by Bill Marsters and looks like a dwelling from Robinson Crusoe.

Bill, Meuta and OneGirl
relax at the Palmerston Yacht Club

Bill shucking coconuts for us

Bill, his wife Metua and their daughter Juliana Onegirl were gracious hosts and even provided ice cream and coconuts off

Tom inspecting the children's
teeth at Pamerston School

Tooth brushing time at the school
the nearest tree before we set off on a tour the island with Metua, OneGirl and a wheelbarrow of deliveries.

First stop was the islands only telephone booth of which the island is very proud. Next stop was the school with 16 day students, 9 preschoolers and 5 night students. Kevin, an Englishman and IBM nerd had signed on for a 1-year volunteer teaching posting and had been extremely instrumental in getting the school 5 computers. He turned up his nose at the out of date children's books we delivered stating that what they really needed was internet access, this seemed quite ironic as there probably won't even be a school teacher next year as in the last 20 years there have only been 6 years of teaching.

As the dentist in our crew I provided dental exams. Some children have seen dentists in New Zealand, others never, and while half the children had good oral health the others showed signs of excessive sugar consumption. A daily part of the schools educational routine is tooth brushing with Kevin handing out their brushing and squeezing out toothpaste. To complete our tour we delivered the family care packages from William and strolled the sandy beach before saying our farewells and departing with fresh fish and coconuts. On Palmerston life is simple and the main income for the 60 inhabitants is from parrotfish, which are frozen and shipped to Raro.

Crew, with Metua, strike a pose in their new t-shirts on Palmerston beach

We set sail before sunset, but the wind died to 3-6 knots after a couple hours, so we motorsailed in order to reach Beveridge before dark today. Yesterday afternoon we stopped for Lifesling practice, a swim, and the opportunity for each expedition member to practice untangling a line underwater from around the prop. This is a skill that can come in very handy, no matter where you sail.

September 29, 2002 0400 14.53 S, 170.31 W, Log: 62,510, Baro: 1011 Cabin: 84F
Beam reaching in 30-44kts ESE winds at 8kts with 12'-15' seas. 36 miles to Pago Pago

Aerial view of Beveridge Reef, courtesy of former Raro Harbour Marster Don Silk

Beveridge Reef surpassed all expectations! The sketch of the reef drawn by a cruiser proved precise and the entrance was not too difficult.

Searching for the pass as we approach Beveridge Reef

Low tide at Beveridge Reef.
View looking across the reef from the outside.

We spotted the 120' tall mast of Adjutor, a new 86' Bill Langan-designed cutter on her maiden cruise up from New Zealand before we saw the breakers on the reef. We had timed our arrival for low slack water, using the tides for Niue, 120 miles away, and there was extensive reef visible as we entered the pass, and only a knot of current against us. The anchorage favored in the prevailing easterly winds is just to leeward of the wreck of a 90' fiberglass fishing boat from Seattle.

Mega Yacht Adjutor - Niue Is.

Richard, Carol and Ben - the friendly crew of Adjutor

After anchoring I took over a box of ripe bananas to Adjutor, whose crew Richard, Carol and Ben invited our entire crew over for sunset drinks. We had seen the handsome and powerful yacht anchored off Rarotonga in the rolly roadstead, and they had cruised by, but not stopped at Palmerston, so our curiosity was aroused!

The boat was immaculate, the engine room white and electronics and furnishings impressive, but most interesting were her crew. Richard and Ben were childhood friends who had grown up on the Solent near Southampton, both to become sailmakers and riggers. Ben had just completed the record-breaking run on Maiden II, and had supplied rigging to the original Maiden when Amanda was rigger preparing her for the 1989 Whitbread Around the World Race. Most recently Ben had been chief rigger on the Italian Prada America's Cup team for the past four years.

Richard and Carol have been running larger mega yachts on the East Coast, Med and Caribbean for many years and had signed on as skipper and first mate when they learned Adjutor's owner was interested in high latitude cruising, possibly including Patagonia, Norway, Greenland, etc. As the boat had only been in the water a few months, they were still chasing gremlins and making a change list for the boat yard to take care of once they return to Auckland in November.

Shipwrecked fishing boat on south Beveridge Reef

Steve climbs the wreck

View from the wreck of M.T and Adjutor
at anchor in Beveridge lagoon

Laura and Giorgio tend the dingy
while crew explore the wreck

Tom and Craig, officially known
as the Wooster Boys, synch a yacht braid splice

Giorgio establishes the coveted
"House of Yachting Accessories"

Carol mentioned that the following day was Ben's birthday and invited all eight of us over for dinner! After an exciting day of snorkeling in pristine clear water with 100'+ visibility and exploring the shipwreck (oh, and of course sail repair and splicing class). Amanda made a huge pot of Babootie, an incredible South African curry dish (from Amanda's Essential Galley Companion book) and a birthday cake. For a present, our clever crew (with some coaching from Amanda) sewed up two stuff bags for Ben, made of brightly colored rip-stop nylon. Giorgio got so into machine sewing that Amanda says he should set up his own Italian design fashion house to compete with Prada.

We enjoyed another spectacular sunset and magical evening with our new friends.

Day 7, the following afternoon we set sail for Niue, just 129 miles away. We caught a gorgeous mahi mahi just outside the pass, thanks to Sam putting the lines out early, and had a pleasant sail. In the morning the wind dropped off, so we had the opportunity to fully charge the batteries and nearly top up the water tanks as we motored the last hours to Niue.

Craig feverously practices 3-strand splicing
in oblivion of the spectacular Niue coastline

Niue is affectionately known as "The Rock"
due to the fact that it's a large flat limestone island

We had been overhearing many conversation on the morning Coconut Cruisers Net of boats headed to Niue, and so weren't surprised to count 24 boats, 14 on moorings provided by Niue Yacht Club and 10 anchored in the deep and precarious open roadstead. We carefully looked up and down the anchorage, with Amanda jumping in with mask and fins to try and find a good spot for us. We ended up re-anchoring a few times, always in over 100' of water before we found a sandy spot that wasn't too close to any of the moored boats. The water visibility was as stunning as ever, and we could hear gasoline-powered compressors chugging away recharging scuba tanks on half a dozen boats.

The landing and open anchorage at Alofi, Niue

Out rigger canoes are scattered about at every landing and cliff
waterfront trail throughout Niue and are used frequently for fishing

Clearing customs was a snap, a visit to Customs and Immigration, and then crew were free to explore ashore. And explore they did! They enjoyed a half-day orientation tour with a local guy then went cave exploring, swimming and golfing!

The quilt display at the Annual Alofi North's
Womens Handicraft Show
Yes, golfing! Hard to believe, but on this island nation of only 1100 people, they have a golf and tennis club. Every night crew chose a different restaurant whose staff would come and pick them up and then deliver them back to the wharf after dinner. Amanda and I enjoyed a barbecue sponsored by the Niue Yacht Club that was attended by a record 75 yachties from many different countries. It was a fancy dress "D" party, where everyone dressed as something that begins with the letter D. Amanda went as a Polynesian dancer with her dried flower crown from Raro and I went as a dishwashing deckhand. It was a lot of fun, and the most interesting person we met was the New Zealand High Commissioner, Chris Day. She enjoyed the posting so much that she had recently extended for a fourth year and we invited her and her husband to join us for dinner aboard Mahina Tiare next year.

Niuean girls enjoying the show

Amanda pops up from behind a quilt
that she has been studying

A fellow yachty purchases a woven basket
that Niue is famous for

Barbeque chefs enjoying the fun at the Niue's Yacht Club "D" Party

For us, the three highlights of Niue were being able to rent bicycles, the womens handicraft competition and the incredibly open and friendly attitude of the islands. Every person we met welcomed us to their island, wanted to know if we were enjoying our stay and how long we would be able to visit. Very few tourists arrive by air, and we were repeatedly told how much the island appreciated the visiting yachties.

All too soon our three days came to an end and on Friday, Day 11 we hoisted anchor to set sail for Pago Pago, our final destination on Leg 4. I should say we tried to hoist anchor as for the first time ever on either our HR 42 or the new MT, the up chain button for the power windlass jammed and the chain snubber that Laura was trying to remove ended up wrapping around the gypsy and jamming, tripping the circuit breaker and shearing the spring-loaded arm. After dismantling the windlass and carefully hammering the chain and carabineer free we were able to reassembled the windless, AND bring the anchor up.

We left with a double reef in the main and headsail, and have continued to reduced sail as winds build to 30-45 kts and boat speeds of soar from 7.5 to 9.5 knots. This crew has enjoyed the heavy weather sailing they have been looking for and for us it's the most wind we've seen since the Caribbean. The weather charts and forecasts all call for 20-25kts, but we know from previous experience that reinforced trades of 30-40 kts are not at all uncommon here. Fortunately no one is seasick and everyone one aboard are crack helmspeople, so we're enjoying a fast (although bumpy at times) ride.

October 1, 2002 1900 14.16S, 170.41W Log: 62,552, Baro: 1010, Cabin Temp: 84F
At anchor, Pago Pago Harbor, American Samoa

The winds continued to build during the night of Day 12 and early morning of Day 13 until we had a solid 30-35 with gusts to 45 knots. The seas were substantial, large enough to really soak the helmsperson if they didn't get the stern quarter squared around to the occasional odd breaking sea. We further reefed the headsail and sheeted in to a beam reach to stay upwind of a 13 fathom seamount 30 miles directly south of Pago. I thought several times of trying to get digital images once it got light, but was afraid of soaking Amanda's camera.

Our landfall at Pago Pago worked out perfectly, we skirted the green "1" entrance buoy marking the western end of a long breaking shoal then dodged a couple of departing ships before broad reaching, with the winds still reaching 30 knots, all the way to the customs dock. As it was Sunday morning, I didn't expect that we would be able to clear, and was quite surprised when Port Control hailed on Channel 16, saying we could clear if we wouldn't mind paying overtime fees for customs and immigration. Port Control directed us to tie to the rough concrete customs dock where 30-knot winds would be grinding us against a very rough surface. I thanked them, and instead anchored just off the dock, before calling then to say we were ready for the five sets of officials, purposely neglecting to say that we were anchored, not tied up.

In a few minutes we were hailed from shore as the immigration and port control officers had arrived. Both had come from church (a national past time in Samoa) and had no interest in a wet dinghy ride to the boat, so we completed port and quarantine paperwork in their pick up cabs. Immigration officer hadn't had a chance to go home to collect his paperwork and stamp, so we drove to his home nearby, where he offered me Sunday dinner with his wife and children while together we filled out forms for each crew member. I turned down lunch, wanting to get back to the boat ASAP, but he insisted on giving me a box of chocolates as a welcoming gift, before driving me to Customs saying to call him if we ever needed any help. Never have I been so well treated by immigration official in any country! Customs just took a few minutes, then I hiked back to the boat and a crew that were excited to head ashore to hot showers and a new country to explore.

Our graduation dinner was at the once-a-week cruiser's get together at the island's only Mexican restaurant where we met new arrivals as well as long time liveaboards, several whom have married Samoan women and started families here.

On Monday, Day 14 we covered communications, reviewed the test results, and packed up. It was hard for us to believe how fast two weeks had flown by.

The winds dropped to 15kts today and the sun came out. Come to think of it, we haven't had a true tropical downpour since we arrived here, and that's hard to believe, as we are anchored in the shadow of Rainmaker Mountain. We have only a few chores this week, so we'll use this quiet time to catch up on small writing projects and relax.

A windy landfall at Pago Pago

Tom and Steve display their "Ready to get Wet"
garbage designer wear in preparation for the dinghy ride home
after our graduation dinner ashore

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