Tropical Waters

I have had several opportunities to consider our love of tropical waters recently. We were asked by a reader if we were interested in coming back to the PNW and although we love this region, I felt a resounding NO bursting from my throat (or rather, my typing fingers) that surprised me. I was surprised by the strength of my reaction because we loved cruising in this area, and it was so beautiful. I realized the reason for my strong reaction while I was editing some video a few days ago.

We are in love with tropical water -- Carol perhaps even more so than I am.

We have become accustomed to jumping off the boat into warm clear beautiful water, snorkeling, kiteboarding and kayaking in the same, and to enjoying views of the water from every angle: from the boat, from on top of a board, from a hike up to a peak, and even enjoying aerial views of the gorgeous lagoon waters via a GoPro zip tied to our kite.

Watch for the sting rays under the water - you can see several:

Now that we've found these tropical waters, cruising long-term in waters that we can't enjoy is not something we're willing to do. Sometimes the water might be dangerous, or polluted, and we may have short periods where we don't swim, but with the exception of short periods of living in cities, I don't see us staying in areas where we can't enjoy the water for long.

Some people reach the tropics and find themselves longing for high latitude sailing. We know a number of boats that have changed plans upon realizing that the heat isn't for them and that the water isn't that much of a draw.

But for us, it is a dream come true.

Wild West

We're running around taking full advantage of our time in this cold grey place Washington.

We've visited both the Scuttlebutt and Skookum breweries (Carol's hat in the left is from Skookum - replacing his two tattered caps on the boat). The Skookum brewery reminds me a lot of Bristol Brewery in Colorado Springs which was a favorite post-climbing spot of ours.

We also went to the hunting and fishing store, Cabellas, to drool over, and drop money on, fishing gear. Of course, while we were there we had to scope out all of the wildlife milling about. Also, we looked at the stuffed animals ;)

We've been checking off items on our list. We revisited one of our top 5 coffee shops in Seattle, Victrola, ate large burritos at Chipotle, watched some films at mega theaters.

One of the best parts about being here I have to say is taking a break from all of the harder parts of cruising.  This is going to be a good thing for us, energizing us to return. Right now we are not doing dishes by hand in a tiny sink, not carrying our laundry and our groceries on our back, and not sweating all day. I don't have to curl myself up into a strange position to reach whatever I dropped on the floor. Things don't break very often and when they do the solution is easier. I am cooking big messy things that are easier with a lot of counter space, and I play on the internet whenever I want without worrying about money or amps. I can call anyone I want and language isn't making my brain hurt. I can clear out our "to buy" list in a series of clicks.

When we go back we'll be over ready to be back and the colors of the water and sky will be more brilliant for having cleansed our palette with grey.

Gear Review: Rust Free Locks

We use about half dozen padlocks on our boat at various times for various reasons. We have locks for our lazarettes, our outboard motor (either on the dinghy or on the stern pulpit), we lock our kayak/dinghy to the boat with a bike cable and padlock if we leave it in the water at night*, and when bringing the dinghy/kayak to shore near civilization.

Our boat came with a set of locks. I have no idea how old they were but they weren't shiny when we bought the boat and we've put another 6 years of use on them. They work line new and haven't rusted. We only had 3 of these board and so we bought other padlocks as our needs grew.  All of the new padlocks rusted - it did not matter if they were called "marine grade" or "corrosion resistant". Once we had to borrow bolt cutters at the docks at Tofino so we could free our outboard motor from a lock that had rusted shut on the stern pulpit.  Each time we regretted not tracking down the brand the boat came with.

So, I went through the effort of tracking down the ones the boat had come with and just bought a handful to bring back with us. If you want to save yourself the time and money of buying and replacing crappy ones, buy yourself some Abus locks to start out with:

They come in various dimensions and aren't even that expensive as high end marine grade stuff goes (about $8) especially if you consider how many locks we bought and threw away.

*In each new anchorage, we use our judgment about whether we want to bring the dinghy and kayak on deck, lock them to the boat in the water, or just leave them tied up (not locked) in the water.

Cruisers are Unintentional Preppers

One fun thing about being back in N America is having a crash pad with mega-recordable-TV. Kind of fun and kind of scary really. I found myself watching "River Monsters" recently -- proof that I have too much free time.

I had never heard of the prepper phenomenon before this trip although as soon as I started seeing images I realized that I had known quite a few preppers in my life. Washington State and Colorado are good places to find natural born preppers.

I am not particularly prone to worrying about stuff like that and although I have a soft spot for a good zombie flick, that is as far as my zombiephilia (or really, zombiephobia) goes.

Still I was imagining a survey intended to determine whether you were a prepper, much like a symptom survey for depression and I started to realize that, without trying to be, I was already prepped.

Cruisers, how many of the following apply to you? Do you have:
  1. More than a few months worth of dry goods?
  2. A way of sustaining yourself without access to public electricity for at least a few months? 
  3. The ability to isolate yourself from mobs and contamination?
  4. The ability to make your own water?
  5. Knowledge about living off the land and/or sea in your local environment?
  6. Long range communication not based on cellular towers or satellites?
  7. An extensive medical kit?

The only way I think most cruisers aren't unintentionally prepared for disaster is in the arms and ammunition department.

On a not-completely-related note, for a preview of a post-apocalyptic Carol, you might recognize the wild haired man in the top photo of this article about mast climbing.

Shark Book

Carol and I do not have an abundance of reference books aboard SV Estrellita. For whatever reason, neither of us is generally that interested in the names of the cool fish and cool coral we see. We love snorkeling and diving and seeing all of the cool critters but we don't feel compelled to identify the species.

There are two exceptions to that rule. First, we like to know what kind of fish we've caught to eat and whether they are good eating. We started out with Sports Fish of the Pacific which was great for the coast of the Americas but is falling short in the South Pacific. Between this book and an old Grant's Guide to Fishes we are usually able to figure out what is on the hook. If anyone has a better suggestion we would love to hear it.

Second, a little out of fear and a little out of awe, we are motivated to know more about sharks. With the help of a birthday gift certificate from my fantastic friend J, I bought a great pocket sized shark book (Sharks - Collins Gem) with drawings and information for all known species of sharks. Plus, the book starts out with an overview of sharks, anatomical drawings, descriptions of how they swim and a lot of other interesting facts. Christmas came early!

Tragedies in the South Pacific


During the 2012 season we kept hearing about other boats' tragedies - each one a convincing reminder to us to be diligent and focused while cruising.

Below are four reports of vessels who went aground on reefs, reporting everything from only cosmetic damage to dismasting. We heard of at least twice as many groundings but won't mention the boat names of anyone who hasn't posted publicly about the grounding themselves.

For a few other newsworthy events this season, check out the following reports:

We don't want to be armchair sailors and judge anyone without knowing all of the details. We want to thank the people who posted about their groundings because they are important reminders and learning points for the rest of us.

On the subject, I recommend that people read Karen's letter about a vessel abandoned on the high seas (Windigo) as an educational thought exercise on our obligation as sailors if we abandon our ship. Scuttling isn't just a fun pirate word...

Bored? Costs.

Boredom is not a problem that Carol or I struggle with but I thought this was a very interesting reflective article. I'm certain that more people feel this way while cruising than admit it.

Bored Aboard: My Guilty Secret

For those of you who aren't familiar with the site, you should put Women & Cruising on your watch list.

The Cost of Cruising. On an unrelated note, I've been keeping our Cost of Cruising list updated and recently added a few more links. It is a list of cruising budgets published online - not dreams, or plans, but records of what people actually spent while cruising. It's become such a popular list, and ongoing, that I linked to it from the main page of this blog so you can check back to see if there are new additions. If you know of a budget I don't have on the list, please do send me the link.

Back in Western Washington

It has become trite to say, but still true, that it is bizarre to spend a day or two of airplane traveling and reverse the miles that it took us over a year to make in our sailboat. This time we went via Hawaii instead of Mexico but we are back in the Seattle/Vancouver region.

If you want to keep track of our movements more closely while we are here, "like" our facebook page for the boat.

We kept our eyes on the ball this first week and other than enjoying family we spent our time getting our application for a long stay visa in French Polynesia finished and submitted to the French Consulate in Vancouver. Done.

Now, we are turning our eyes to the rest of our to do list which involves making plans to see our friends, researching and buying all of the goodies we want to buy while we have access, and fitting in all of the civilization treats that we have been dreaming of.

Speaking of civilization, so far our return has been a bit anti-climactic in two ways. First, the things that we were dreaming of are without a doubt enjoyable, but a bit less exciting in person. Second, we haven't been away long enough for N America to feel particularly weird to us. We've noticed the physical differences of course, and it does seem like everyone is in an awful hurry, but we haven't been remote long enough for much of a shock on our return.

Stay tuned as I begin to process the video that we've taken over the last year and I finally have fast, free internet to upload it.

Back to make myself yet another latte with our new aerolatte.

Petting Valerie the Nurse Shark

Apataki Carenage (the haul out facility) has a pet shark. It is a 6 or so foot long nurse shark that comes around near sunset hoping that Papi will feed her some scraps. When we petted it, about a week ago, it felt like old cracked leather, except wet.

Right now we have arrived in Western Washington and dropped about 50F. Even though I grew up here, and it isn't very cold in Washington, my body is not happy. Still, I do enjoy using cozy things like "blankets" and "socks" again.

Haul Out in Paradise

After my usual coffee in bed, I peek my head out of our boat, high up on stands, for a view of clear blue water and swaying palm trees. I climb down the ladder for a short walk over coral sand to the bathroom where I say hi to the crabs...the hermit crabs that is. Did you know that hermit crabs are called Bernard l'Hermit in French? I want to know who this famous hermit Bernard is.

We wake up early to work in the cooler temperatures and spend our day working on projects on the shady side of the boat. Every once in a while my mind becomes aware of the sound of the wind rustling in palm trees and I smile to myself thinking how different this haul out is from our last one in Victoria, BC. Every once in a while a bit of rain accompanies a shower passing overhead, a brief break in a day of clear blue skies.

Midday is time for coconut water and we hack open a green coconut with our new machete and guzzle it. Neither of us have figured out how to drink from a coconut without dripping down our chins and so we've simply decided that this is the appropriate way to drink them. We stop in the afternoon and walk straight out of the yard into the lagoon for a swim before starting our final tasks and clean up for the day.

The proprietor stops by to hand us some freshly picked papayas and to start a fire for us to ward off the mosquitoes who are patiently waiting for the heat to die so they can attack us. With the outside tasks complete, we stand by the boat in our swimsuits, and soap up with a big pink scrubbie until the suds reach comical proportions before ladling heaps of clean fresh water over our heads from the waist high blue drum that the yard fills every morning.

We retreat behind our mosquito screens for the evening SSB nets when we can hear them, a quick overview of the day and the next day of work, dinner and a movie before heading to bed early.

As per usual, we had a few surprises in this haul out -- new things to fix. It is so much easier, with this scenery surrounding us, to work long hours on the boat and to keep our cool when we find another problem. In fact, it is fairly difficult to get terribly worked up about anything or at least to stay worked up for very long. The background sounds of waves, surf and palms in the wind work on our minds subtly like a new age soundtrack, with the French cruisers we meet providing the lyrics "Pas de probleme. C'est pas grave. Inquete pas."

Rogue Waves and Determining Longitude at Sea


I’ve been meaning to write about two books that I read on our crossing from Mexico to the Marquesas that I had set aside just for that passage and enjoyed a great deal. Honestly, I thought I already wrote about them but I can’t find the post in my offline writer or on the blog so apparently I didn’t. Is there a cruiser version of senioritis or can I get senioritis before 40?

Both books are non-fiction and both are the type of books that, in my opinion, if you like the idea of the book, you will like the execution. If the idea of the book sounds boring, give it a pass.

The first is a book about rogue waves by Susan Casey called “The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean". Although perhaps a questionable choice of book to read while surrounded by hundreds of miles of ocean with no port in sight, I loved the book. I particularly enjoyed the fact that she skips back and forth between information and viewpoints from wave scientists, big wave surfers, and shipping companies and insurers.

The second book was about the discovery of longitude, or rather, the accurate measurement of longitude on land and later on sea. The book is “Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time” by Sobel. It is a bit nerdy, engaging and concise and I really enjoyed it.

I’ll bet your local library has copies of both or if you are feeling flush pick up a copy for yourself when you are ordering your holiday gifts from Amazon.

French Sailing Phrases

I've been working on my French and I've come across a bunch of French sailing phrases that I love and thought I would share. Native French speakers (come on Letitgo, chime in!), please feel free to correct me.

Les moutons: Literally "the sheep" and it is the phrase used for white caps or "white horses". I love this because of the imagery of fluffy sheep on top of waves.

Les patates: Meaning "the potatoes" this is the phrase for coral heads or "bommies". Also, if you want to joke about a secret signal, such as saying "The eagle has landed" in the US, you can say "Les potates sont cuites" in French (at least in Quebec) which literally means "The potatoes are cooked".

A fleur de l'eau: Reefs that touch the surface usually have a completely flat top that is just underwater, or just touching the water, depending on the tide. The literal translation of the French phrase for these is 'flower of the water' but it means skimming the top of the water.

Petol: No wind (accent aigue on the 'e' so it is pay-tohl). One French dude we met said this had to do with Aeolus, the god of the wind, and the word 'pet' which is fart in French making the phrase "the wind god's fart". His girlfriend said that wasn't where the word came from at all but I pass on the rumor because it is a good one.

For Sale: Kites and Guidebooks

We have crinkly, like new, most excellent condition 2012 kites in 3 sizes that we are selling at great prices. If you want to get into kiting, this would be a great way to get used gear from someone you can trust. Reason: We will be taking advantage of our visit back to N America to buy a new set of 2013 Blade Kites.

((SOLD)) We also will be bringing back our copies of two guidebooks: Charlie's Charts for the West Coast of the US (5 ed.) and our copy of the new, very well done guide for the Sea of Cortez. This is the set we used to move down from BC, through the US to Mexico. If you plan to visit the mainland of Mexico you will also want Shawn & Heather's other book.

For information and prices on either the kites or the guides, email us at

Election Night on the Ocean

People have asked if it was hard to be gone from the US on election year and I have to say that I've really enjoyed being out of the US for this cycle. I don't hear a thing about the election unless I search the information out myself. No TV hyping the mini-drama of the day. No dire warnings of death and destruction of life as we know it if you don't vote for person X. I've been glad to be gone and although it requires some planning (and I almost screwed it up), it was easy to vote absentee.

That is--it was easy to be away until today. We're on passage between Tahiti and the Tuamotus and I was sitting in our sunny cockpit having a sandwich (on baguette of course) with Carol when I realized that TODAY was election day. I'm surrounded by ocean, with a single sideband as my only news source, and suddenly I felt very far from home. I love and I hate the festival of election night. I normally have a plan for where I'm going to watch the news come in, I make popcorn and I stay up until the election is called even if that means the wee hours of the morning. When Obama won in 2008 I was in France in a hotel room without a TV but at least I had internet access and I could refresh 10 different news sites waiting for more information to pop up.

Tonight, in between tack planning, horizon scans, radar scans and charting, I spent my watch flipping through AM radio channels on the SSB trying frantically to find a station that came in clearly that is news. After struggling through the French international news on the SSB and still not being 100% sure what the status of the election was, the American stations started coming in clearly and I heard that CBS had called the election.

And once I had the result, rather than listening to the pundits discuss the results, or people try to guess who the next cycle's candidates will be, I happily had the option to turn off the radio and go back to watching the stars.



Here is what happens when you have some extra photos that you want to post, and to say something about, but not enough to write an entire post about. They collect in your photo organizers in a “resized for posting in blog” folder until you eventually have enough in a category that you can write a post about that category. Except…that I don’t really have enough of any of these to be comprehensive. So, here are some tidbits.

Read the watermarks or hover your cursor over the image for the info.

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Often we see crushed crabs on roads. They like to live in holes by and we think underneath the concrete on the edges.

 Crabs are the road kill victims of the S PacificUsable cloth inside the palm tree Rain catchment systems are built into most buildings on atolls Hurricanes destroy older graves

Logbook: Raiatea


There is something very romantic about pulling up to a dock with hand laid stones in the center of a village. IMG_7006 (1280x853)We had stopped first on the West side of Raiatea to pick up some supplies from the stores by the two haul out facilities and then moved to the East side of Raiatea to the town of Uturoa.

When we arrived in Uturoa we hadn’t tied a dock for 8 months, since La Paz Mexico in February, with the exception of two hour-long tie ups to fill our water tanks. We haven’t even tied up to any fuel docks in the S Pacific. For one reason or another we always end up schlepping our jerry cans to the station.

IMG_7031 (853x1280)If you look at the tree line behind our boat, just to the right of the trees that you see in the photo is a park where people launch their kites. Raiatea had great constant, non-gusty wind when we were there. Unfortunately the launch spot is a bit too sketchy for Livia’s skills (you have to jump off a pile of rocks into the water with your board in your hand) but Carol kited until his abs screamed.

On our first afternoon there we went over the kiting area and asked questions of a local kiter about the entry. As these things seem to happen often, that conversation led to an invitation to a birthday party the next evening and our entree into the kiting gang of Raiatea. A group of really nice people that we’re looking forward to seeing again the next time we pass through. Thanks to everyone.

IMG_7056 (853x1280)Raiatea and Tahaa are two islands with a surrounding reef. The reef has joined so that the two islands are inside the same lagoon. They look somewhat like a peanut. We hiked the short but nice hike to the top of a mountain and took some photos. In this one you can see the right middle side of the peanut.

We didn’t anchor out by the lagoon which looks lovely because we were waylaid by kiting and because we spent a week pinned down by mara’amu winds. Note: mara’amu winds are the name of the strong ESE winds caused by a high pressure system (above 1026) traveling below French Polynesia. When people say a mara’amu is coming they mean that a high pressure system is going to accentuate the normal trade winds. How much they are accentuated is, of course, the important part to keep an eye on.

We were starting to get anxious. It was nearly the end of October and with Nov 1 being the official start of the hurricane season, and with an impending haulout still 300 miles from Raiatea, we were wanting to get further East. It was nice to be forced into a week in Raiatea by the winds because we really enjoyed it and we wouldn’t have stayed that long if we had the weather to move on.

We left under power for the Moorea-Tahiti area in light winds and calm seas. Blechity. Motoring.  We had entered in Passe Rautoanui on the West side which was wide and calm and exited on the East side from Passe Teavapiti which, in the light conditions we left in, was flat.

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Notes about the dock – the far South side, connected to the small boat basin, is the only place you want to be in E or ESE winds of any strength. The rest of the dock, which has better cleats and wood rather than concrete, is great in light winds but gets bad fetch when the wind comes up. We were told that if you come for a day or two, no fees are assessed but if you camp out too long they come by asking. We were there a week with no problem but a French boat that was essentially trying to live there for free was asked to pay. In high season the demand for the dock might be higher and you might try to free up space because many people come in just to buy groceries at the Champion right across the street. Great place to buy heavy things because you can roll your cart right to your boat.

Choosing your boat for a S Pacific cruise


For a direct comparison of possible boats for your S Pacific cruise, here is a 35’ Pretorien on the left and the Westerdam on the right. The Pretorien left Canada about 16 months ago and the Westerdam left about 30 days ago. Facilities aboard are slightly different as well.

Estrellita and Westerdam

You can see we’ve moved into a high rent district here in Uturoa, Raiatea, French Polynesia. Except…we haven’t because the dock is free, at least for us. From the angle of the photo below it looks like their mooring lines are almost the thickness of our furled headsail.

Westerdam and Estrellita

The boat loaded a bunch of people in Vancouver and so we, flying our enormous Canadian flag, had a lot of visitors stop by. This included members of our home yacht club, the CFSA! As proof of the true CFSA’ers that they are, they stopped by with a frosty six pack of tall Hinanos which went down quite smoothly as French Polynesia is currently transitioning into the Southern Hemisphere summer.

And we leave you with Carol kiting over for a photo with Estrellita. Not quite the boat you would take across the ocean, but perhaps the dinghy?

Carol kiting by Estrellita

Logbook: Back in Bora and planning our return to N America


Sunset in Bora BoraWe still love Bora after a second visit. Overwhelmed by tourists? Yes. But it is also incredibly beautiful and we keep meeting such nice and generous people each time we visit. If you stop in Bora, use the Bora Laverie for your wash and take some time to chat with the owner. We didn’t have much time to play while we were here this visit.

Our plan is to apply for a long stay visa for French Polynesia which must be done in our home country. We leave the boat on the hard in French Polynesia and fly back to Seattle in early December where we will apply for the visa in Vancouver. The visa should allow us to stay in French Polynesia as long as we want, which we currently are guessing is about 1.5 years after our return flight in April. More on that application process after it is completed.

We spent over a week in Bora Bora getting our legs back under us after our passage from the Cook Islands back to French Polynesia. We needed to refill the boat with propane, gas, diesel, water, and fresh food. We also scurried around making reservations, booking tickets and arranging all of the things we needed arranged to leave our boat on the hard and fly out. We had avoided making any of those plans because, as mentioned previously, we weren’t 100% sure we would make it back.

We’re also looking forward to seeing our families and friends and all of the things we’ve missed about N American cities like sitting at coffee shops and going to the movies. Lastly, we’ll buy all of the crap we think we need for the boat and haul it back in our luggage.

I still can’t believe we’ll be visiting in winter.

If you know of any fun events or opportunities, suitable for two cruisers who just bought plane tickets from French Polynesia to SeaTac (that means poor), send us an email ( We’ll be in and out of the Seattle-Vancouver area with possible side trips to Quebec and, if we can find miles tickets or similar, Colorado.

Logbook: Penrhyn


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If you want to feel like a celebrity, go to Penrhyn.

I wanted to start with my overall impression because I find that if I list pros and cons in a blog post, later when I talk to people about the post they only remember the cons. And the full picture is that by the time we left, Penrhyn had a special place in our hearts and was very difficult to leave.

Pros: It is a beautiful atoll. Very few boats visit (we were the 8th that year and it was nearly the end of the non-hurricane season) and so the people are excited to see each yacht arrive. PenrhynYachts are an important part of their trading and supply line and your extras on board are a boon to the community. The singing in church is intense. You will be a guest of honor at every event that happens and you can count on at least a few feasts in a several week stay. The culture is very different than French Polynesia. Their religiosity is much more apparent and it is impolite to do anything but go to church and eat on Sunday (including moving your boat or kayaking). I had to wear a lot more clothing here than French Polynesia and I want to say that I blame the Christian missionaries for the fact that I had to wear sleeves in the tropics.

English speakers can chat freely with the locals who learn both Cook Islander Maori and English in school. You will be greeted on shore with an offer of coffee (don’t plan on hurrying anywhere) and likely leave with an invitation for another even or a gift of shell necklaces, a pumpkin or a watermelon. Children swam to our boat, and after seeing the sharks, got a ride back in our double kayak courtesy of Carol. The speeches directed at us at the last feast, for two other peoples’ birthdays, the day before we left had us both teary eyed.

Saitu with Elvis glassesThe cons have to do only with the check in and check out procedure, more specifically the anchorage for doing so. The anchorage on the East side of Penrhyn, by the village of Te Tautua is fantastic. White sand, very few scattered coral heads, and under 20 feet. No fetch in the prevailing winds and the atoll breaks the wind. It is a much better anchorage than Suwarrow.

In contrast, the anchorage on the West side, by the village of Omaka is foul with coral (even in the spot marked as sand in the Compendium), and the water by Omaka is too cloudy to see what you are dropping in. We had our anchor caught when we tried to leave and had a bit of panic until we drove around and freed it. PLUS, you have more than 8 miles of fetch building and you are close by a lee shore. This is where you have to check in.

Partial solution: After checking in, it is possible to then check out by asking someone in Te Tautua (on the East side) to take you across to town in their aluminum skiff. We gave them a full tank of gas and went with them when they were already running an errand – win for everyone.

GOPR2441 (1280x960)People complain about the fees for the Cook Islands which are high although nowadays the regular fees are well known so they shouldn’t catch anyone by surprise…but sometimes other fees are tacked on or at least proposed. We paid $50USD at Suwarrow for clearance into the Cook Islands (including health certificates) and for a 2 week stay. We paid nothing additional upon entering Penrhyn. On clearing out of Penrhyn we paid around $130 ($55 per person exit fee and $2.50 per day for a port fee based on size of vessel). However, the immigration/customs officer was out of town and the town secretary said there was an additional $50 fee for the officer’s time. Because this additional fee was not on the list of fees from Rarotonga (the capital), we politely declined to pay and with only minimal back and forth that fee was dropped .

Penrhyn is off the beaten path of cruisers. Most boats go the Southern route (Rarotonga and Aitutaki) or stop only at Suwarrow. Penrhyn is thus farther North than most people travel. We went there and left against the wind, but cruisers coming from Bora Bora should have a downwind sled ride and a similarly nice sail from there to Suwarrow or beyond as long as no convergence zones appear (a problem in the entire region).

Water catchment in Penrhyn

Leaving Our Mark


Penrhyn (Te Tautua) LogbookThere were three places in the Cook Islands where we left a trail: Suwarrow at the ranger station and in Penrhyn in the cruiser logbooks that are now at both villages (Omoka and Te Tautua). We were the very first entry into the Te Tautua logbook and we were quite honored.

I love the idea of these cruiser traditions. You might remember the map we left on Wallace Island, BC or our plank at Hot Springs Cove, BC. If you visit these places in the future and see our mark, please take a picture and send it to us.

At Suwarrow I made a palm frond wreath, the type that can be made for a headdress or a necklace and put our card in the center.

Estrellita wreath at Suwarrow

Here is our entry in the Omoka logbook next to a card from SV Freya. When we went to return the book a card dropped out and it was friends of ours in Victoria BC. We re-took our picture of our log entry with their card.

Penrhyn (Omoka) Logbook

And our entry on the first page of the brand new Te Tautua logbook in which I misspelled Penrhyn *sigh* twice:

Penrhyn (Te Tautua) Logbook

Where next? Who knows.

Grocery shopping in Penrhyn


Imagine your run to the grocery store. Now imagine that you haven’t seen a grocery store in more than a month and have been living off whatever was in your fridge and cupboards.

This is our most recent run to a grocery store in Penrhyn. First we hitched a ride in an aluminum runabout to the other side of the atoll to the main village (30 minutes). Then, after some chatting at the main village, we hopped on some plastic chairs on the back of a small flatbed truck and rode the 2 or so miles to the store. Here is the store and our ride, notice the sweet plastic chairs.

Penrhyn store

Here is a close up of the main part of the store (beer stacked on right – Victoria Bitter if you are curious tastes about as watery as Hinano):

Penrhyn store

Close up of our ride and the nice guy driving us. Oh, and the hoses on the back of the truck that we were sitting by…I don’t want to know what they are normally used for.

 IMG_6945 (1280x853)

And unloading our supplies back into the runabout for the return trip into the wind (1 salty hour):

IMG_6949 (1280x853)

Afterwards, we unloaded the boxes from the runabout onto our deck before the runabout could knock a chip out of our fiberglass. There are never enough fenders for a metal boat to come alongside. Then, while unpacking, we lost our shit when we discovered a stowaway – our first cockroach aboard! We crushed it, tossed it overboard and watched a fish eat it (fast fish!), disinfected the place where we crushed it in case we squeezed out eggs or something, and then shivered with the extreme heebie jeebies convincing ourselves that it did, indeed, just come from the box and there weren’t any more aboard.

Total time for grocery trip: 7 hours.

I have come full circle past frustration into enjoyment of these type of errands. Part of that is a change in location; it is more fun to deal with logistics here than it was in California and the scenery doesn’t hurt. Part of that is a change in perspective. We no longer say “we are going to get propane”. We say “we are going on a propane expedition”. This implies that the terminus is uncertain and the timing as well. The expedition may or may not be finished today. We are simply starting the process today.

I also have come to love how our errands end up bringing us into other people’s lives and them into ours. To see us struggle breaks barriers and evokes offers of help. The helpful responses from people makes me feel good about humanity.

2012 Pacific Puddle Jump Recap: Lat 38 Magazine


For those who haven’t already read the Pacific Puddle Jump recap article in the September 2012 issue of Latitude 38, you can download the entire thing as a .pdf here or just the second half with that article here.

We loved reading previous years’ recap articles as we were preparing—particularly the tables at the end which include lists of breakage for the passage for the boats who responded. You can find those on the PPJ site (see “recaps”).

We participated in the 2012 survey (out of 200 registrants about 25 did) so you’ll find our responses throughout. However, although we are correctly listed as Estrellita in the final table, we are listed at Estrella in the text and the photo of me (Livia) at the start of the article is labeled as a picture of “Carol from Estrella”. The latter is my fault for not labeling the photos considering our names confuse everyone who hasn’t met us.

Logbook: Suwarrow


 Suwarrow Ranger StationSuwarrow is summer camp for cruisers. It is a place where many people experience their “first times” with many living off the land activities such as coconut crab hunting, coconut husking and grating, green coconut opening, etc. Having experienced those activities in French Polynesia, we were looking forward to the other reasons to visit Suwarrow – beautiful snorkeling and fun parties. We were not disappointed.

We expected Suwarrow to look just like a remote atoll in the Tuamotus and it did. It is, after all, another atoll in much the same reason.

The snorkeling was really excellent. We went on two of the expeditions, run by the park rangers and conducted with their aluminum runabout. On one we visited a bird nesting colony (loud, moderately interesting) and then snorkeled in the pillars near Seven Islands. This area has multiple reefs that you can swim between with many pass throughs and pass overs. Nice healthy coral on the leeward side and even on the windward side despite the fact that the Cooks get pounded by hurricanes. Many, many fish.

Snorkeling SuwarrowOn the second we snorkeled at Perfect Reef which is a large reef that you can snorkel on top with depths in the 15 or so foot range, snorkel the edge where the reef comes up to the 10 or so foot range, or snorkel on the edge of the reef where the coral is vibrant and drops off into the deep blue watery depths. We did all of the above. Next we went to Lewin Reef which had a very nice edge/drop off. Both were worthwhile but I preferred Perfect Reef to Lewin.

IMG_6869 (853x1280) We met a lot of great people at Suwarrow. At one point there were at least 4 Victoria BC boats in the anchorage (Estrellita, Ladybug, Picara and Sea Turtle) and at one point there were 32 boats in the anchorage which the rangers said was a season high and probably an all time high.

The problem with Suwarrow is finding a good place to anchor. There is a lot of sand but a lot of tall coral heads to get caught on. The wind is a little switchy and the motu only offers protection to a small number of boats and no protection if the wind veers to far to the South.

IMG_6873 (853x1280)Still, we think that the best time to be in Suwarrow would either be 20 years ago when you could be the only boat, OR now with 30 other boats. Once you no longer have the island to yourself, you might as well make it more the merrier and enjoy the rich socializing and mix of different nationalities. Of course, we lucked out and snuck into the front row good part of the anchorage snagging the spot of a recently departed vessel.

A note: everything on Suwarrow is organized by the cruisers. If you want an expedition, get 10 people and talk to the ranger. If you want a potluck ashore, hail the anchorage. If you want the rangers to talk about Cook Islander culture, ask them. Also, don’t forget to invite the rangers to eat with you at the potluck.

If you haven’t read “An Island to Oneself” by Tom Neale, it is quite a good read. I read it on passage to Suwarrow and it was nice to arrive with it fresh in mind. The book is about Tom Neale’s stay, by himself, on Anchorage Island in what was then called Suvarov. Factoid: Suvarov was the name of the ship of the whitey who stumbled upon the place first. The Cook Islander native language did not have a v-sound and so Suvarov was pronounced Suwarrow by the locals. When the Cook Islands became a nation they officially changed the spelling. Now Cook Islanders speak English as well as Cook Islander Maori and can pronounce the v-sound, but despite much confusion amongst us cruisers, the current name of the island is Suwarrow.

More pictures of Anchorage Island:

The fleetBook Exchange Book ExchangeAnchorage Island  IMG_6875 (1280x853)  The Suwarrow Dock


Click on the dollar and buy Livia and Carol a cold frosty one:


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