Sunday, 12 October 2014

Still in Suwarrow


We have a few days in Suwarrow to catch up on ... we have been enjoying (and working throughout) several days at anchor ... let me start with the Lunar Eclipse :)

We were perfectly positioned for the eclipse on 7/8 Oct - anchored alone in a still and peaceful lagoon with no city lights, a vast clear sky, and the water so clear that the bright moon lit up the coral beneath our boat. In this time zone, the eclipse started at 10:17pm. We left Benjamin asleep in the saloon, and the rest of us sat/lay on the foredeck. In various states of sleep and wakefulness, we watched the moon slowly darken and the stars slowly come out. Interestingly, the shadow crept across the moon from lower right to upper left: the opposite direction to the eclipse we saw in Mexico. I really hope that this is the kind of memory that the kids will look back on with fondness; I certainly will remember it as a magical night. (To make the eclipse evening seem even more perfect, we had 100% cloud cover and more rain than we have ever had at once the next night)!

We had a visit from the NZ navy a few days ago. An 80-person ship (the same one as we saw in Penrhyn) gave their personnel a beach day while the four Cook Islands government officials (Fisheries and Police) made a scheduled visit to the Suwarrow ranger. They were also fortunate with their weather, as they chose the beautiful clear eclipse day to visit, and we have had squally days since they left. The ship stayed outside the pass, and they ferried their personnel ashore by RHIB. With a morning shift and an afternoon shift, everyone got a chance to the beach, and no one had enough time to get too sunburned :) It was a nice connection with our past to talk with some currently serving military members. The cook and the medic I spoke with had joined five years ago - as retirees, we must seem really old to them!! On the small world front, one of the Fisheries officers was from Penrhyn; her Auntie and Uncle were Kura and Rio, who were so kind to us while we were there. (To give you a sense of how far away these islands are from each other, she hasn't been home in 11 years - it is just too expensive).

My main project this week has been some small repairs to our staysail, which got caught on a deck cleat during our passage. I had no idea that a few small patches could take me so many days to accomplish! The first patch was on a tear about 2" long, which meant a patch about the size of my hand. It was near the edge of the sail, where there are multiple layers of thick fabric - even with the sailmaker's palm, it was all I could do to force the needle through; I was able to work a bit faster once I started using the awl to make the holes (especially to mark the place where the needle needed to come up from the underside of the sail). I used sticky-backed sail fabric to cover a nick near the edge; if this holds I will leave it, and if not, I will sew it in NZ. Now I am working on an easier patch that is on a larger tear (~3" across), where I only have to sew through one layer of fabric. My latest trick is to put a cutting board underneath my work so I have a firm surface on which to smooth my patch, and a hard surface to push back on the needle. Progress is much faster now. I even had Benjamin in his carrier on my back "helping" last evening when Max and the kids were fishing. He was very excited to lean through the lifelines and point at the sharks swimming below us, but I can't say that he made me more efficient! I got the most done between 10:30 and 11:30 pm once he was in bed! I will hopefully finish tomorrow morning, when he is happiest to play by himself in the saloon while the kids read beside him.

As I mentioned, Max, Victoria, and Johnathan have been fishing a few times. Harry (the ranger) took Max out, so now they know where to go in the dinghy. They returned yesterday with a trevally, a rainbow runner, and a dog-tooth tuna. It was nice to have enough fish to share some. The went out again today, but all the fish they hooked got away (seems that this may have been just as well, as they were apparently too big to land easily in the dinghy). The sharks seem to know when we have fish aboard - they were circling madly when they arrived back at Fluenta yesterday! We think that perhaps they can smell the fish.

Max has had a busy maintenance week. The most ambiguous problem was a slow diesel leak in the vicinity of our injection pump. We even had help from 10 time zones away, when the folks at Stairs Diesel ( were brought into the discussion by my dad. They answered many questions, and their guess as to what might be happening seems to correspond to what we were seeing (an O-ring seems to have degraded between the pump body and pump head). We will have to drop in on them when we go home to Halifax at Christmas time! {I will leave it to Max to add his maintenance 2-cents from here ...}

We have taken advantage of the evenings at anchor to watch a couple of movies together - we are bring our kids back to our childhood with Back to the Future and The Lion King. Fun :)

I had a moment of "I am not sure that these are my children" yesterday ... Victoria and Johnathan spent the morning making a packing list for our trip to Canada, choosing the two zipper bags of Lego that they will bring, photographing and inventorying the particular pieces so they can be sure to bring them home again, and choosing various other items that they will need for the 24-plus hours that we are travelling. "OK, Mom, our carry-on bags are packed!" Anyone who knows us knows that in many ways, these two little acorns have fallen close to the mama-tree, but it is fair to say that this is not one of them!

The first words I heard this morning were, "Mom, do you want me to start the bread?" Yeast will grow in our room-temperature water (30 deg C...) so Victoria can start bread without boiling the kettle... which means she can do it while the rest of us are still sleeping :) Our oven doesn't seem to get very hot, but eventually we had fresh rolls with our lentil soup at lunch, and a couple of loaves as well. Bread-baking is still an all-day thing, but it is getting quicker each time.

It is looking like we may have weather for some light wind sailing as early as Tuesday, so we will finish up our chores as soon as we can, head back to the beach, do some snorkelling, and hopefully put some more fish in our freezer over the next couple of days (oh, yes, and celebrate Johnathan's birthday on Sunday), prep the boat Monday, and then be ready to head out when the wind is good. Fingers crossed for fair winds for the passage!

Love to you all,
At 10/2/2014 5:26 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 13°14.00'S 163°06.00'W
At 10/2/2014 5:26 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 13°14.00'S 163°06.00'W

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