Chapter 21: August 6th— August 31st, 2003: Rarotonga (Cook Islands) and Niue…  
New Zealand Pacific Island Jewels  
Tuesday, August 6th: Finally leaving French Societies after 3 ½ months! 
We did finally, several day late, leave Bora Bora yesterday morning and are now motor sailing towards the Cook Islands.  We kept waiting one day, then the next, then the next, hoping the wind would pick up a bit (not too much but enough to sail), and finally Joe thought the best we were going to get was yesterday, so we left -- but we had (and still have) almost no wind.  We have the sails up to augment the motor. We do not want to push the motor too much though, as we have a leaky salt water pump, so originally the plan was to not use the motor except in an emergency.  Well it's not an emergency, but without the motor, we can only go, with all 4 sails up, about 2 - 2 1/2 knots... so at that rate it would take us 10-12 days to make our 5-day trip!!!  But the good news is the skies are blue and the sun is out, no squalls, and best yet, the seas are flat. AND, so far --so good, on the existing leaky pump, i.e., it continues to drip, but it seems to be holding things together.   
We have never used our cruising spinnaker (for you non-sailors, this is a very light-weight colorful nylon extra-large sail that goes off the very front of the boat that you use in light wind  that is coming usually from the side or behind you).  Anyway, this time, we even got it out of the sail locker, and got out 4-5 "flying a cruising spinnaker" articles I have on file, re-reviewed them... but still haven't put it up.  Yesterday we had winds up to 10 knots and from our port quarter (that’s the left backside of the boat!) so probably could have given it a go, but today the winds are just too light for any of the sails (although we have 4 up, and with the motor are able to at least partially fill them), and the wind is more from the nose, so still not ideal conditions for the spinnaker.  I was looking forward to trying it out.  But it always seems we have too much wind for it (over 17 knots) or from the wrong direction.  Plus it's one more sail change (have to take the staysail down and store it out of the way and then haul the spinnaker up on deck and rig it.)  So besides the conditions almost never being right for it, Joe hasn't wanted more work added to his already-too-many jobs on board... especially one that requires leaving the cockpit.  But this is a fairly long passage -- 5-6 days,-- so there may be a chance to use it yet. 
I’m not really complaining about the lack of wind, as, despite the cost of the fuel and the noise and the diesel smell, (and assuming we have enough fuel), I'd take this any day over the usual high wind passages we've had lately.   
We are starting on our free time to re-read/study more about Rarotonga, our destination in the Cook Islands. It's only one of the Cook Islands, but is the most populated and is supposed to be nice.  It is a New Zealand protectorate, so at least most of the people will speak English, and it is supposed to be a lot more affordable than French Polynesia.  The harbor there (there is only one) is very small though, and has a lot of commercial boats/ships, so there are reports of cruisers having to leave there as there was no room.  A long way to go if there is no place in the inn!  ... But there are not many choices between French Polynesia and Tonga.  Most of the other cruisers we know are going to the Northern Cooks (Rarotonga is in the Southern Cooks) and then on to American Samoa before Tonga, but both of those are out of the way for our destination.  We only know of one other boat (from our Puddle Jump group) going the way we are, but I'm sure we'll meet others that we know along the way... Plus of course new people. 
August 8th: Day 3 of passage to Rarotonga 
Not much to write since my above notes from a few nights ago... except we have NOT arrived yet in the Cook Islands... still have 2 nights more at sea, with our hoped landfall mid-day on Saturday.  I really do not like these long trips, but they are a necessary evil to get to a new "paradise."  This one has not been too bad with the first 2 days sunny and calm seas but no wind so we motored (noisy and smelly), but then yesterday the winds picked up as well as the seas (which were up over 10 ft... so uncomfortable and rolly)... and then today, we still have big seas but at least the wind is from a sailable direction which means we pick up speed, as well as are able to turn off the engine, so it looks like we will be able to make the trip in 5 days instead of 6!   
While on passage, it seems that about all I do is read, sleep (when it's my turn) and stand watch.  In the first 2 days I read 3 books... I think a record for me, so then I selected a bigger novel, so I'm still on it.  I do cook -- as little as possible -- mostly using meals I pre-cooked and froze or simple things like pasta and sauce... as it is difficult to try and hold on when the boat is rolling and tipped and also hold onto pans, take things in and out of the oven, etc.  I did make banana bread this morning as I had about 30 bananas on a stalk that we got while they were green that all came ripe at the same time... so we've been eating 5-6 bananas a day!  I guess we don't have to worry about our potassium level for a while. 
It's amazing though what going a couple of degrees south will do though to the temperature.  It is actually a little cool tonight and we have turned off our fans for the first time in a long time.   
August 9th: Land Ho! 
We arrived without problems in Rarotonga today into a tiny, tiny harbor full of commercial fishing boats and huge container ships and almost no room for anything else... so we felt lucky that we were one of only 2 cruising boats there and were able to find a space to tie up to the pier.  Actually we anchored first and went to check in with the Port Captain and ran into the captain on a sailboat that was just about to leave his space on the dock, so we coordinated and were ready to pull into his spot when he left.  We had heard the harbor was small, and even had seen aerial photos, but still were quite surprised that this, being the largest "port" and largest capitol city of the Cook Islands, was smaller than we imagined. But we are safely tied up stern to the sea wall (with an anchor off the bow in the middle of the harbor).  To get from our boat to the top of the seawall, we have to climb into our dinghy behind our boat and use a rope to ferry ourselves several feet over to the wall, and there is a rickety ladder from there that we can climb up about 8-10 feet (depending on tides) to the street above us.   
Most of the commercial fishing boats are “long liners” and look like George Clooney's boat in The Perfect Storm, only up close they all look a lot rustier than in Hollywood!  We talked to the guys aboard one and he said that the harbor here is filling up more and more each week with new fishing boats as it has been “discovered” in the last 6 months to have loads of fish around here.  He said they fill their entire boat up in record time with tuna and mahi-mahi and others.  They come in, off-load it, fill up with ice, and take off again immediately.  Naturally that made us feel really great as we had out my hand fishing line for a couple of days on our trip here, and never got a nibble!  Oh well!!! Perhaps I can find some (already caught, skinned, cleaned and filleted up) to buy around here!!! 
The island surrounding our home at the harbor, looks a little like a smaller version of Moorea in the Society Islands, lush green, with high volcanic spires with a coral reef surrounding it.  We are looking forward to exploring it and staying here a couple of weeks. 
August 10th: Cook Islands Overview 
As usual I try to include in my journal something about the countries history and general information of the places we visit.  So here’s my synopsis so far on the Cook Islands: 
The Cook Islands, located about half way between French Polynesia and Tonga, consists of 15 islands and atolls.  They are spread over a million square miles of the Pacific but only have a total of about 94 square miles of land… leaving a lot of empty ocean in between.  We only visited one of the islands, the country’s largest, located in the Southern Cooks, called Rarotonga, which also contains it’s capitol.  Rarotonga is the only high volcanic island of the group and is similar to Bora Bora or Moorea in the Society Islands, with it’s fringing reef and protected inner lagoon.  The total population of the country is about 18-19,000, of which over half live on Rarotonga.   
The only “native” mammals are bats and rats.  The mynah bird was introduced to control an insect invading the coconut trees in the early 1900’s and had since taken over the island, aggressively pushing any other birds into the mountains.  And as we have seen on almost all of our other stops, coconut palms and tropical flowers seem to grow wild  everywhere. 
Captain Cook explored much of these islands on both his 1773 as well as 1777 expeditons and in 1835, a cartographer named this island group after James Cook.   In the early 1800’s the London Missionary Society moved in, establishing a religious control, which still has it’s stronghold today.  The missionaries did not completely obliterate island culture, as government was left to the tribal chiefs.  The  missionaries did however bring with them deadly diseases (whooping cough, measles, small pox, etc) leading to a huge population decline, which did not increase again until the 20th century. In 1888 the Cook Islands became a British protectorate in response to fears of French colonialism, but then a couple of years later, the islands were annexed by New Zealand.   In 1965 the Cook Islands became internally self-governing (with a parliament and Prime Minister), but foreign policy and defense were left to NZ.  Because of this, Cook islanders also have NZ citizenship. 
The economy is far from balanced with imports outnumbering exports by 11:1. Due to the island’s economic crisis, the biggest export seems to be their own people, as above, 18-19,000 live in the Cooks, however, around 55,000 Cook Islanders live in New Zealand and another 20,000 in Australia. Tourism helps (--my guide book says that Rarotonga has become New Zealand’s answer to Honolulu with 50,000 visitors to an island of only 10,000 residents--) but without NZ aid, the islands would be bankrupt.   
About 84% of the population is Polynesian/Maoris (related to the Maoris of New Zealand and the Tahitians).  Almost everyone in Rarotonga speaks English, although their mother tongue is a form of Maori.   The people still live traditional Polynesian, very conservative and everything shuts down on Sunday when church and quiet family time is the only activities of the day. 
Tuesday, August 12th: 
So far in our first 4 days, we’ve really been enjoying ourselves here.   
The first thing we appreciated about being here (besides of course, being OFF the ocean and being able to walk on land again,) is that it is wonderful to be in a country where English is the main language.  We managed to get by (by finding a few locals here and there who spoke a few words of English) in French Polynesia, and of course in Mexico, I was getting by a lot better after a few years of speaking Spanglish... but even there, it was always such a huge effort to communicate, and ALWAYS something (and often a lot) was lost in interpretation, or maybe I should say MISinterpretation.  So it's like a sigh of relief to be able to say something here and mostly be understood.  Of course the locals here speak with a funny Kiwi accent and some of the "blue collar" (such as the fisherman) have such a strong accent that it's a little hard to understand them... but it is wonderful, not to have to think "how am I going to say this or ask this question" etc.   
The second thing that rapidly became apparent just within hours of our arrival is how friendly everyone is.  Not to say that they weren't really friendly in French Polynesia.  Actually the local islanders were VERY friendly, but in a ways, a little reserved or perhaps shy.  A couple of examples here:  We didn't get to shore until after noon on Saturday, and like all the other South Pacific Islands, almost EVERYTHING (except of course the hotels,) shut down from noon on Saturday until Monday.  Well we were in search for food and perhaps a drink if we could find one.  We saw a tiny "fish n' chips" place on the harbor a few yards from where our boat was that appeared to be open... and that sounded great to us.  But we had only US Dollars (plus a whole bunch of French Polynesian Franks), and since the bank was now closed, we had no way to convert money until Monday.  Everywhere else we had been (even the tiniest village in French Polynesia as well as Mexico), would always take $$dollars... perhaps not at the greatest of exchange rates, but they would gladly take them.  But this fish n' chips place said they couldn't take it because they didn't know the exchange rate.  But after looking at our disappointment, the fry lady asked if we were on a boat, and how long we were staying, which we replied "yes" and indicated we planned to be here a couple of weeks.  She said "no problem" we could eat and just come back on Monday after we'd gotten New Zealand money and pay her then.  That seems so "foreign" to what we see now in business in the last 30 years or so in California to be so friendly, wanting to please, and trusting.  Anyway we had a huge order of fish and for the first time in either Joe's or my lives, more fries ("chips") than the 2 of us could eat, despite the fact that we hadn't eaten all day!!! It was great and we were stuffed. 
Another example of the friendliness is that people are always walking by the harbor (as above it's so tiny that it doesn't take much to walk by all the boats!!).  Anyway several times, people would just stop in front of our boat and just stare at it.  If we were outside, they'd immediately start up a conversation with us.  One couple worked at a big hotel on the other side of the island, another NZ couple was on vacation here from NZ, another were local islanders (a little more shy and reserved than the New Zealanders,) -- all who just wanted to chat.  We even had one young guy come by and exclaimed, "I'm from San Diego Also!!!"  He had bought himself an "around the world" airline ticket, and ended up here as one of his destinations, but was excited to see a boat from San Diego (as is painted on our hull) and anxious to talk with us.   
Having read about it in our guide book, we were not surprised at the hundreds and hundreds of moped/scooter-like motor bikes around here.  The locals use them, as well as all the tourists.  The island is very tiny so it is easy to circle the entire island in less than an hour, even on one of these put-put motor scooters.  And you can rent one for a week for the same price as renting one for a day in French Polynesia.  So we decided it would be great to have our own at the head of our boat on the seawall so we could sightsee plus go anywhere when we wanted without having to worry about how far of a walk it is.  (Joe with his arthritic knee still cannot walk more than a few blocks without it hurting, so we've been limited on where we can go -- or rather how FAR we can go on foot -- in our travels).  So yesterday (Monday) when the town came alive again (after being closed for the weekend), we walked into town to rent ourselves one.  There are scooter rental places every block!  ANyway, we decided to go for one of the 4-day specials for a start.  In order to drive one, you have to get a license from the police station, but in order to get a license, you have to already have the scooter, as they give you a driver's test.  So that meant Joe and I had to rent the scooter (without a license) and then drive it to the police station to get our licenses. 
After filling out the forms and getting our scooter, I got on the back and Joe slowly takes off from the parking lot of the Hertz rental place, and we proceed to head right for a fence on the other side of the street (right across from the Hertz rental place!!). Well the curb stopped us from crashing into the fence, but proceeded to dump us on the street, me crushed under the bike.  I ended up with a bloody bruised, inner leg with great road-rash abrasion, 10 seconds after getting onto the damn bike!!!  The rental ladies came running out, of course, and were concerned about the scooter, and sure enough we had damaged it... They also were concerned with Joe's scooter driving abilities.  He assured him he could drive it just fine, but blamed my "extra weight" on the back as the problem and the fault as to why he couldn't turn the bike.  So to prove to him he could drive it, (I got off the back) he took the scooter down the small side-street driving it just fine... BUT on the wrong side of the street (besides talking funny down here, they also drive on the opposite sides of the street!), towards an oncoming truck.  Joe realized his problem, and moved over, but not before the rental ladies started chasing Joe down the street, screaming frantically at him to get to the other side of the street.  Anyway, reluctantly, (Joe was adamant that he knew what he was doing and did not want to give up) they decided that they WOULD let us rent the machine, but took the bike to the mechanic while we waited, and estimated the damage we did (a scratch on the fender and a broken plastic light cover) at $100 dollars (and that was before we hardly got it out of their parking lot!!!)  In the mean time being a little shook up from our accident, I decided this gear shifting and foot and hand peddle work looked too hard for me, and that I would NOT get my license, and let Joe be the driver the whole time. [That may have been a mistake!]   
So Joe proceeded to the Police station (only a few blocks away) to get his license ON the scooter.  I was afraid to get on the back with him, so decided to wait in the Hertz office until he returned.  An hour went by and no Joe, so I was beginning to picture him splayed across the highway somewhere, and decided I had best walk down to the Police station.  As I'm walking down the street, there goes Joe on the scooter past me, along with a half dozen others close together and a man on a scooter, with a billowing windbreaker that says "Police" on the back.  I realized, that Joe must be with them taking his "driver's test", which he was.  An hour later, he finally got his license... so by now most of the morning of our rental is shot.  I was still a bit afraid to get on the back with him driving, so I walked and he rode to a small side road so he could "practice" driving with me on the back.  We took it nice and slow and all went well.   
We toodled around town and found a place to eat lunch -- and had the best pizza we've had in a long, long time at an Italian bistro... and then continued to do small errands: finding a bakery to get our sweet rolls for tomorrow's breakfast, Joe getting a much needed haircut, renting a video tape for our nights entertainment, stopped to find out about where we could hook up for internet access, and stopped at a department store to buy a few odds and ends plus a Cook Island flag (courtesy flag) for our boat.  Oh yes our most important stop was getting our repair kit for our salt-water engine pump (that we nursed all the way from Bora Bora, expecting any minute for the leak to burst) which had arrived at the DHL office (…A $34 part that cost several hundred to ship here!!).  Our scooter had a small basket on the front, so we had all our department store purchases, our cinnamon buns, the video tape, and our DHL package crammed precariously into it.  Joe continued to improve on his scooter driving skills with each start, stop and turn as we made our way through all these stops.  On our last stop, it was starting to rain, but I told Joe (who was anxious to get back to the boat and do something with his newly arrive pump parts) that I wanted to make one more stop and would get off the scooter and walk the 2 blocks back to the boat.   
About 10 minutes later (it was now pouring), I arrived back at the boat on foot and a man off of the sailboat “parked” right next to ours jumped off his boat, running over to me, and told me Joe had been in an accident and had been taken to the hospital.  He had witnessed the accident from the cockpit of his boat.  After leaving me, Joe had driven the 2 blocks back to the boat without me, to the seawall road near our boat but instead of stopping, the motor bike, with him on top went off the side of the pier over the water... INTO another huge rusty boat that was tied up alongside (next to our boat).  The front wheel of the scooter was in the space between the seawall and the boat, and the back wheel which had caught on a line tying the boat to the seawall, was still perched precariously to the shore. 2 men on shore ran over to get the motor bike before it fell in the harbor and to help Joe.  Joe had flown off head first into an opening in the side of the big boat doing a summersault flipping over, and ended up actually laying ON the deck of the rust bucket boat.  What happened, still now, he cannot remember (as he was quite dazed right after it happened)... but it appears in the rain, he skidded and the bike seemed to accelerate versus slow down.  Our neighbor, Roman,(aboard the only other sailboat here, Swiss Lady -- from Switzerland) told me Joe had a huge bump on his head and blood so a Navy Commander (Australian) on a military ship at the dock here ran over and put Joe in his truck to take him to the emergency room.  Roman then offered to take me in the pouring rain on HIS rented scooter to find Joe.   
Hesitant as I was to get onto a scooter at this time, I jumped on the back with him and we searched out directions to "the hospital."  We were told by the people we asked, that there were 2 hospitals on the island (both in opposite directions of each other), so we had a 50/50 chance on finding him at the first one we went to.  And we lucked out.  Joe was there on a table being examined by a Doctor with a huge, and I'm not exaggerating, lump on his forehead the size and shape of an extra-large egg.  But otherwise he seemed to be okay.  He had a small gash over the lump that was bleeding, but was superficial enough to not need stitches.  Had we been in the US, I'm sure they would have ordered Xrays of his head, neck, probably CAT Scan, done lab work, etc.-- but this doctor gave us a medication for pain and said apply ice and come back if he got dizzy or nauseas... WHICH actually I thought was the right treatment, rather than the over-cautious treatment they do in the US at times.  Anyway within an hour, Joe was out the door (NOT back on a scooter!!) and the nice Australian Navy Commander, Mal (who ironically enough had gone to elementary school on Coronado Island in San Diego when his dad was assigned to the US Navy base there for some training!!) gave us both a ride back to the boat.  (By the way, our entire emergency bill was about $25 US dollars -- the Commander told us "Wow! they really ripped you off because you're a tourist, as we only pay about 5-10$"... but we were amazed at how cheap it was!) 
When we returned, we examined the scooter for damage to it -- the front fender that we'd previously scratched, now was completely broken off and in pieces.  But our other losses were all of the packages and purchases that we had in the scooter's basket -- with the exception, thank God, of our newly received DHL precious boat pump parts!!  Somehow Joe had managed to grab a hold of that package before it went in the drink, or perhaps it had flown with him into the boat... he doesn't remember, but he ended up with them, which was the only good news about the incident. The rest of the purchases we will have to re-buy at another time. 
Once settled back on our boat I got out an ice pack for him, and he then realized that his wrist and knee also had huge swollen knots on them -- and his ear and shoulder were also hurting.  So I got out ice packs to place all over him!!!  He was beginning to realize that after flying into the air, and doing a crash landing and summersault on his 62 year old body-- that maybe he should give up scooter riding for good!  This morning the swelling has gone down most everyplace except his egg head -- which has decreased by about half but is still ugly!!  And he's a bit stiff and sore, and his ego is still bruised, but we both know he was very lucky not to have broken his neck, literally.  Having decided to forego the remainder of our "4-day" rental agreement, our neighbor on Swiss Lady, drove the motor bike (with Joe on the back) back to the rental place this morning to return it.  We thought we'd be hammered with the entire $300 deductible on the insurance agreement for the bike (plus of course the damage we'd done within the first few minutes of the rental), but maybe after looking at Joe's face this morning, they decided to let us off with just the first $100 estimate that they gave us yesterday (from the first accident)... and also to let us out of our 4 day price.  Our plan is to now rent a CAR -- a much smarter idea!!!!   
We’re waiting though to do our “car” exploring until the weather gets better.  Right now the weather, is really rough in the harbor (we feel like we're "underway" out in the ocean, while anchored and tied up in a "safe" port), and it's been rainy every day, since the first day that we arrived, but it's predicted to be sunny by Thursday (2 days from now), so we'll save our sightseeing for then.  For the rest of the day, I'm just catching up on e-mails, and Joe's working on his engine pump.  We may go to a cinema (not to far away) tonight and watch a real American movie-- in English even!!! We will start the evening out though by buying our Swiss neighbors and perhaps the Navy Commander a "pint" (as they call beer here) at the local fisherman watering hole across the street to pay them back partially for their assistance and kindness. 
So that's the latest adventure from us -- I told Joe the best part about his accident was now I'd have something to write about in my journal! 
Sunday, August 18th: 
Right after I last wrote, we had 2 horrific days of weather, with lots and lots of rain, very high winds (over 40 knots gusting), and what was worse very big swells and breaking waves right in our tiny harbor. The wind shifted around to the North ("normal" direction is supposed to be from the southeast) and we are on the North side of the island, so that means the wind came in through the small breakwater (thru the reef) bringing along with it some big waves and rollers.  All the boats are tied up very close to each other so it was a little scary watching us all rock and roll close to the seawall as well as to each other.   
We didn't and couldn't leave our boat for both days... As described previously, we have ropes/lines tying our stern perpendicular to the concrete pier/dock, and we get from our boat by climbing down a ladder off our stern into our dinghy in the water and then with a series of ropes pull our dinghy over to the concrete wall to a ladder that goes straight up the wall. This is quite an acrobatic feat in GOOD calm weather.  But with the huge waves in the harbor our stern was bouncing up and down as much as 6 feet in the air, and the dinghy was usually down while the stern was up... so at least for me, it was impossible to get down into the dinghy.  Joe did manage it on one of the days as we had to double up our lines for security.  Both nights he slept out in our "living room" so he could get up every 30-60 minutes during the night to make sure we were okay and not moving or coming loose of our lines.  On one night of the storm, a big rusty fishing boat tied up next to us (the same one he crashed into in his motor bike accident), came loose of it's stern line and was swinging around in danger of crashing into us as well as several other boats, so Joe radioed to the Harbor Master (at his home) and he sent people down to help re-secure it... and so we survived another potential disaster.  Naturally this weather, (like all the other bad stuff we seem to run into), was not predicted... but eventually it passed, and magically, the sky cleared to blue, the rain stopped, and the wind shifted back around to the south east (where it is SUPPOSED to come from), and the harbor returned to glass again.   
What's really funny here is we get the "official" Cook Island weather report from the weather station here and for most days, it reports the outlook as "fine"  (not the usual jargon such as, "10% cloud cover, with mostly sunny skies, and temperature at __ degrees, etc,” as most weather reports read... but officially reported and predicted as "fine."  And on the day that we had the worse rain of the above storm, they predicted "tons of rain."    Well they were right there, but we had never seen any official prediction worded quite like that before! 
Joe's bump on his head from the scooter accident is still quite prominent.  Now about ping pong sized versus extra-large-egg size.  About 48 hours after the accident he had the blackest black eye you've ever seen, and every day, after that for about the next 3 days it got even blacker and purpler, circling his eye, and is now down his cheek halfway.  It still looks pretty horrible today 6 days later, but I think a little lighter.  It looks like he was hit on the head in a bar- room brawl where someone hit him first on the noggin with a bottle crashed on the forehead and then socked him in the eye.  Also, the day after the accident, and until about a day ago, one of his hands was so swollen that you couldn't see any bones in the hand and his fingers looked like stubs.  That swelling is almost gone there now.  He also had a bruise that covered the entire calf from his knee to his ankle.  Eventually all the fluid or blood from that injury went down and caused his ankle to be swollen about as much as his hand is.  So although it first appeared all he got was a bump on the head, he really did a number on most of his entire body... head, shoulder, hand, calf, ankle.  We took pictures of his bump on his head and black eye as well as the rust bucket boat he crashed for you to see.  As for my injuries (from our FIRST crash), my road rash is scabbed over, and my calf and knee turned black and blue... but now all I have is a big knot, which I'm sure will eventually go away also. 
On Thursday (after the bad weather was over) we rented a car (deciding that 4 wheels was definitely a safer way for both of us to go.  We've had fun the last few days touring the island (the whole area of the island is only 67 square kilometers... whatever that is in miles??) with our car, and being able to run back and forth to town and have lunch and dinners out without having to walk is quite a luxury for us!  Yesterday we did our food shopping (getting most of what we'll need for the next few weeks until we get to Tonga) also -- so we don't have to haul it all by foot now, which is a great luxury. 
Although tourism is not as big as it could be here, there are a few “resorts” around the island and a lot of bed and breakfast type lodgings.  What you notice most though in driving is lots and lots of churches… It seemed like every quarter mile on the road that circled the island we saw churches of all different types and sizes.   Another interesting observation was all the graves right in the front yards of the private homes.  It seems that tradition is for family members to be buried on the family land in front of their houses, so graves in the garden are common.  We also noted (from the fields and also from seeing televisions in several public places that the main sport here is rugby, with their football, (soccer to us,) as a close second. 
We went out last night to partially celebrate Joe's 63rd birthday with another couple (The boat "The Swiss Lady" next to us, has aboard, Roman, from Switzerland and his girlfriend, Ingrid, from the Dominican Republic) to the largest resort hotel on the island that had a Cook Island dance show and luau type buffet.  They put the food over hot volcanic rocks in the dirt covered with coconut palm fronds and banana leaves similar to Hawaii style.   The food in the Umu oven (what they call the underground oven) was chicken, beef and lamb (New Zealand influence!!), but the big pig was done outside on a rotisserie.  The food was pretty good and the dance show was spectacular.  Supposedly the main  difference between the dancing in the Cook Islands and Tahiti is the girls hips swing from side to side here and in Tahiti, it is a more circular motion.  But they move those hips so fast that I sure couldn't tell the difference and the drum beat that makes you feel like your internal organs are vibrating is about the same.  We finished off the night by going to a bar that is right across the street from the harbor where our boat is "parked" and went in there to listen to the music and have a drink.  It turned out they also were having "island dancing", and their dance troop who although was not in as fancy costumes as the hotel show, was over twice as big with twice as many singers and more drummers.  We didn't see any other "tourists" in the bar -- all island locals... so this second show was not only a bonus, but probably quite authentic as the locals were having a great time watching the "show."  One 400 pound (at least!) 60-70 year old island lady (who had had her share of alcohol, I think) in the audience, kept going out on "stage" to dance with the dance troop.  And man, she could jiggle her rolls of fat! The security guard had to keep "guiding" her off the dance floor.  Anyway, we had quite a night. 
This morning, we had a few more hours left on our rental car (before it was due to be turned in) so we went back to the resort hotel (that we were at last night) for Sunday Brunch.  We sat by the pool (which is next to a white sandy beach) and had a lovely meal.  After we were about to leave, the same dance troop that performed at the hotel last night returned poolside to sing their church chants (although NOTHING like our church songs -- very island like, and all in native language) accompanied by the hula- soft swaying type dancing.    It was really beautiful.  Unfortunately, we could only stay for the first few songs as we had to get the car back at it's due time. 
I don’t think I’ve mentioned directly, but so many of the islanders we’ve met along our adventures are really BIG… And unlike Americans (or perhaps also Europeans), they are proud of their bigness and do not try to hide it.  Many of the women dancers in their grass skirts have quite big bellies, but they shake it, sway it, and in no way seem to be embarrassed by their overflow of girth.  It seems it is only the really young ones that are thin.  This is mostly true of the men also.  But the islanders seem to live long lives, despite their overweightness! 
Wednesday, August 21th: 
Sunday afternoon, a New Zealand couple, Ann and Murray, that we met on the first day we arrived here (they were at the harbor looking at the boats and started up a conversation with us), came by again and asked us if we would like to come over to their house for dinner that night.  We were so surprised that they, who had just barely met us, would be so kind, and we readily accepted, thinking it would be a nice end to Joe’s Birthday weekend.  Plus it would be our first “home cooked” (versus restaurant or “boat cooked”) meal in what seems like forever!   
And what a wonderful evening we had.  Ann and Murray also demonstrated having a wonderful spirit of adventure.  They left their family and home in New Zealand and moved themselves and their home possessions over to this tiny Island last December with both of them having job offers to work at the largest resort hotel here.  (The one we had attended the big traditional island buffet dinner and the show a few nights ago.)  With real china on the table (what a treat!) they served us a wonderful roast chicken, with potatoes, gravy, several other vegetables … almost like a thanksgiving feast — That plus it was so interesting to talk to them and learn about their country (New Zealand), tales of their new life on “Raro” (as the locals call Rarotonga), as well as to share some of our adventures with them.  It was a wonderful evening with new friends that we will not forget. 
Then the next night, Monday, we had the Australian Commander, Mel Parsons, (the one who rescued Joe and took him to the hospital after his accident) over to our boat for hors’ d’ouvres and some wine.  So we then heard more about Australia, as well as his life on the island here.  He is sort of “borrowed” as a consultant to help the Rarotongans on their Naval vessel do island patrols.  Since the islands cover a lot of distance, this one boat has a lot of patrolling to cover their waters.  They are mostly looking for illegal fishermen — ones without permission to fish in the Cook islands.  As I mentioned above, he has also lived in Coronado, California, as a child, going to Coronado elementary school even, as his dad was also on an “exchange” program assigned from the Australian Navy.  He, along with his family, are now on a 3 year tour and has a lovely mountainside home overlooking the ocean as part of the deal here.  Yesterday, he took us on a “bush” tour in his 4 wheel vehicle up several mountain areas as well as to his home to get some photos. 
Tonight, we went to see our first movie since leaving Mexico — we finally saw, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” that we had heard so much about… and enjoyed it in a tiny movie theater not far from the boat.  It was “2 for 1” Tuesday, so Joe and my movie tickets cost us about $1.50!  (Of course, it wasn’t in surround sound, the seats were NOT stadium style, and the movie is already a couple of years old!) 
Tomorrow, Thursday, we plan to leave Rarotonga for the tiny island nation of Niue.  Our friends on Swiss Lady, Ingrid and Roman, and 2 other sail boats anchored here, left for there already today.  Joe wanted to wait here another day, weather-wise, so we will follow a day behind the rest of them.   
Thursday, August 22nd: Day one-- at Sea… again (enroute to Niue) 
We left Rarotonga this morning after 11 mostly wonderful days (despite our one bad harbor storm and Joe’s motorcycle injuries).  We met some really great people there, and will always remember the extreme friendliness and trusting people of Raro. But now we are off again on a 5- 1/2 day (about 600 miles) trip to a tiny island nation called Niue.  It is about 3/4 the way between Rarotonga and the northern Tongan islands (as after we leave there we have another 2+ Day travel to Tonga).  I'm not sure how long we will stay in Niue as there really is NO protected harbor there.  The anchorage is actually IN THE OCEAN on the west side of the island, so in westerly winds the island is a deadly lee shore, and we would have to leave.  So we'll see what happens when we get there.  We hope to be able to stay there for about 5-6 days before moving on. 
Joe came down with a cold last night so was miserable today and said he was too weak to even hoist the sails.  Eventually we were able get up 3 of the 4 sails, but as it turned out, we have very little wind anyway and are mostly motoring so far.   
Monday, August 26th: Day 4 on the high miserable seas 
We have been having a trip from hell AGAIN… 
Since we left Rarotonga, the first 2 days we motored almost the whole time with only a few hours each day of sailing.  Either the winds were too light, or they were coming from right behind us and we don't sail downwind very well, so rather than flog our sails to death, we usually end up motoring when we are going downwind (as long as we have a sufficient fuel supply… and when we left Rarotonga, we were filled up again).  Then 3 nights ago, we got hit hard by a storm that we at first thought was just a squall-- but it wouldn't go away! (Squalls usually have high gusting winds but only last from 5 minutes to 30 minutes). For most of the night we had rain and more rain and consistent winds averaging 25 knots with gusts above 35.  Finally by mid-day the next day, the winds seemed to die but the swells did not, so we continued motoring and getting beat up by the waves.  Thinking the worst of it was over, we finally put up some sails again.  However, we were VERY wrong, as Saturday afternoon about 4:30, we got hit again only this time the winds were steadily over 40 knots with several long gusts up over 60 knots, the highest we've ever experienced sailing!  We had 2 of our 4 sails up and it was a real physical struggle to get them down. (It was essential that we get them down or else we could be knocked over!)  I fought with all my strength to try and hold the boat downwind so Joe could go up on the fore deck to get down the staysail (one of our small forward sails), and then into the wind and swells (now about 18 ft high) to get the mizzen (our small back sail) down.  I had to use the weight of all my body, and even my legs to try and hold the wheel.  Even wearing foul weather gear we were both drenched.  The winds ripped our solar panels off the dodger (which is sort of our wind shield and overhead canvas for sun protection), ripping the dodger cover with them, and another solar panel we had on the side of the boat (This was is bolted on stainless steel poles and had made the entire Pacific Crossing in all kinds of foul weather without any problems.) It had ripped off one of it's 2 poles and was barely attached dangling off the side of the boat.  Joe was able to rescue the 2 solar panels from the top of the dodger and able to re-lash up the one on the side.  Also the dinghy which we had lashed down with many, many lines and loops on center deck was perilously sliding off onto one side of the boat off of it's center mount.  So Joe had to go out on deck with 2 more lines to tie it back up also.  After all of that we were both shaking with cold (perhaps some fear) and our muscles were jelly.  There was no sign that the storm was going to let up.  Joe asked if I had the ditch kit ready to go (that is a bag of supplies that we take with us to the life raft should we ever have to abandon the boat), and I knew we were in trouble.  We were taking on a lot of water and rolling 30-40 degrees each side.  My biggest fear was since we were clipped on with our life vests inside the cockpit, that if the boat did get a knockover, we'd be rolled under it since we were locked to the boat.  We decided to do something we've never done before... to point the boat down wind (with the waves as close to behind us as possible)--not the direction we wanted to go, but a safer direction-- set the autopilot, go down below, close all the hatches, and just wait out the storm down below without looking out at what was happening.  And PRAY... pray that there are no other boats out here that we could hit... pray that the auto pilot keeps working... pray that this storm will go away as quickly as it appeared.   
When we got down below, we also had a surprise.  We knew that some rain had gotten inside as we left the cockpit entry way open so while we were outside, we could check radar and our route on the computer down below, as well as to be able to get in and out if we needed anything, but we were not ready for the amount of rain that had gotten in and the flood that awaited us.  The floors were so soaked and with the boat rolls, the water on the floors sloshed every where.  All the counters were covered in water, the setees (our sofas)--even 15 feet away from the companionway-- were soaked.  But the main bad news was our computer was wet and the screen was black (no longer with our computerized route showing)... so all of our navigation programs, charts, etc. were no longer available to us.  After we stripped naked from our dripping clothing and toweled ourselves and the floors and counters off, Joe got out a hairdryer and tried drying the computer.  Then he even tried "baking" it in my oven (on low heat of course), to no avail.  It seemed the hard-drive was okay but the keyboard would not work (so we couldn't even type in his password to open the computer at all).   
What else could go wrong... Well, it started lightning, and of course a high mast in a lightning storm is ASKING for a hit... and a hit could mean destroying all of our electronics on board.  I quickly grabbed our 2 portable (spare) GPS's and put them in the oven... to hopefully protect them if we got hit.  All of our other instruments we needed. 
We were exhausted, but we both slept in our clothes and life vests and shoes in the wet settees for the rest of the night doing every 30 minute checks... one of us would look at radar, engine temperature and gauges, the GPS chartplotter, and then go back to sleep. We did not open the hatch/companionway to even look outside!  We could hear the wind whistling and the continued downpour of the rain, as well as feel the pounding of the humongous waves (which felt like we were being hit by a Mack truck), and tell by our boat speed that the storm was still going on.  We did NOT want to see it visually.  With the wet floors and the severe rolling of the boat as the waves continued to beat us up, it was dangerous to walk or move about the cabin.  WE had cookies for dinner as it was impossible to even stand in the galley. 
Finally yesterday (Sunday) morning after the sun came up, we peeked out.  The winds had slowed to a steady 25 with gusts still in the 30's, and the waves were still just as big, but it seemed the worse of the storm had passed.  We had started off last night going north (to keep the swells behind us) away from our intended westerly course but as the night progressed, we did, little by little, edge our way back to a more westerly direction.  By morning we had gotten quite a bit north of our rhumb line (our intended course towards Niue).   We finally walked around outside, exploring the aftermath of the storm: a jerry jug on it's side with half the diesel gone, another gasoline jug (that had been tied down) on it's side on the other side of the boat from where it started, one canvas line bag flew away, one batten (a dowel-like rod that is sewn into the sail to stiffen it) broken on the mizzen sail, several almost broken hanks on the staysail, and a small tear in a cover on our large jib (forwared) sail... but in general -- everything “major” was okay, except perhaps our spirits. 
Then all of a sudden by about 11AM, the sun came out and the winds almost died.  The seas eventually decreased somewhat... but again still not enough wind to sail, so from one extreme to the other, we again motored all day.  Joe and I finally got up some energy to tidy the deck up outside and to pick up some of the mess down below. 
Well what else could go wrong?  Last night the winds picked up again, but this time RIGHT on the NOSE, meaning to go west where we were heading meant RIGHT INTO the winds and swells.  The winds were only 15-20 knots and the seas were about 8-10 feet, but even with our sails up and motor we could only make about .6-1 knot forward, and that was with the engine at full power.  So we decided to start tacking.  That is when you go off your course about 50-60 degrees first to one side of the wind and then you "tack" back going the same degrees on the other side of the wind-- i.e. in a zig zag pattern attempting to move forward towards your course, which for us was right into the wind.  But even with the sails up and tacking we had to use the motor and we still were only making about 3 knots... and very little forward progress. (In 14 hours, by morning, we had only progressed toward our intended course about 2 miles!!)  
It is now Monday morning and we've put out more sails since it's daylight and we can see what we're doing... and we have finally been able to turn off the motor, but we are still tacking and even going a little faster.  But for sure our 5 to 5 1/2 day trip is going to be 6 1/2  days and perhaps longer. We are also pretty low on fuel so we have no options now but to sail, even if in the wrong direction.  This is NOT fun.  
Do I sound like I'm whining?  Well I guess I am.  We are both ready to give up and catch a plane home and just sink the boat... although the boat has actually held up well... it's just our spirits that are somewhat broken right now.  And by the way, again, the storm system/front that we went through for those 36 hours... was NOT on any weather report!!! It is very discouraging to think you are doing all the right things safety wise, (we get 5-6 e-mailed weather reports daily, plus listen to the radio for broadcast weather) and still end up fighting for our safety when we are supposed to be in beautiful south pacific "trade winds." 
At least the sun is out now, and the storm clouds seem to be gone.  The weather report though (for whatever good it is) says that these westerly winds (not good for us) should continue though today and tomorrow, but by Wednesday SHOULD go back to their normal south easterly direction, which is what we need.  
For now, we'll just continue to rest our weary bodies, and I'll try today to invent a meal I can make in a moving kitchen besides peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and well continue to just wait and see. 
Tuesday, August 27th:  Day 5 enroute to Niue 
We are having a better day today on the seas.  The waves are more the long rolling type versus the ones that really beat us up -- they are more "car"-sized, versus the "condo"-sized ones we have been getting the last few days.  The winds have finally shifted so we can sail in the direction that we need to go.  Yesterday for a 24 hour period, we broke our slowest record and went a grand total of 39 miles!!  (We should average 120 miles in a day!)  Now the winds have switched back to the "normal" south east trades and, we are going between 5.5 and 6 knots, and life is so much better.  If this keeps up for the next 36 hours we should be able to POSSIBLY make it to our destination, Niue, by tomorrow evening (hopefully before sunset)... still a day and a half LONGER than we originally planned for.  It's been a miserable trip so far up until today.  IT's actually chilly out today unless you sit directly in the sun... that's also a real switch! 
Wednesday, August 28th: Finally Safe arrival in Niue 
Finally, we made it… 6 ½ days, and are relieved to find a space available here on a mooring bouy.  As I mentioned earlier, there is really no harbor here at all, and the water is almost too deep to anchor.  Plus they have beautiful coral on the ocean floor here, so in order to preserve it, (as well as not have your anchor “eaten”)  they have placed heavy concrete blocks in the sand with line tied to it to the surface with a floating ball (called a mooring ball) for visiting cruising boats to attach a line to.  This allows us to “tie up” instead of dropping anchors, which smashes the delicate coral reefs — as well as makes it possible for us to visit their island… as long as the wind remains on the other side of the island, so we are not on a lee shore (being blown down on the island or on the reef).  So we were lucky enough to get the last available mooring ball, as well as have the wind cooperate.   
[Note:The moorings belong to the Niue “Yacht Club.”  Uniquely,  none of the local members of the Niue Yacht club owns a yacht, and there are no boats and  NO club house, but the members all work hard to make Niue a cruiser friendly stop… and they are the ones responsible for the mooring balls they set and their upkeep.  They also have dinners, bbq’s and other events throughout the cruising season, and monitor the VHF radio everyday standing by to answer any questions or assist cruisers in any way that they can. ] 
We arrived to find our other friends on Swiss Lady, as well as the other couple of boats that had left Rarotonga just before us, had made safe passages also.  Although they all had hit at least some of the storm, none of them had had the extreme high winds that we got caught in… but we all had “sea stories” to swap.   
We didn’t spend much time on the boat after our arrival, as Swiss Lady had made reservations for us to join them and the crew from a large sail boat called, Morgana to an island feast on the other side of Niue.  So we just had time to launch our dinghy, and meet them ashore.  The crew from Morgana had rented one of the few available rental vehicles (a van) and drove all of us to the village that was hosting the “event.”  We didn’t know what to expect, but were more than ready to touch land again, plus this means I didn’t have to cook, so we were game for the experience.  We joined a group of tourists (probably about 30-40 of us total) and a local Niuean guide gave us a walking tour of his village, Kapuku, telling us it’s history and their traditions.   
Then we arrived at what appeared to be the village community center, where the women of the village had prepared a huge feast again, as in Rarotonga, cooked mostly in an underground umu volcanic rock and banana leaf lined oven.  By wrapping the food in banana leave pouches, plus most of the dishes containing some sort of coconut milk, the umu oven actually steams versus bakes the food.  The meal was a little more crude than the one we had in the big resort hotel on Rarotonga, but they had probably 30 different dishes… all served in palm woven bowls, lined with leaves.  Each of us, instead of plates, had similar palm woven “plates” that were lined with leaves and no utensils were given for us to eat with… we had only our fingers in which to dive into the food.  Instead of potatoes, they made side dishes with taro root, which they also in another dish, used as sort of a flour, along with bananas and coconut milk, to make their “bread.”  It seems like the main meat staple on the island (and also on many other of the islands we have visited along the way) is canned corned beef.  They had several dishes with corned beef as the main ingredient… even with alternating layers of taro and papaya spread with coconut cream and corned beef stuffed in one of the layers… A little weird but edible.  The main entrees included different kinds of local fish (with names I was not familiar with), chicken, pork… and their delicacy, coconut crabs.  A coconut crab is a land crab that got it’s name, I think because it with it’s powerful claws, can tear through a coconut and then eats the coconut meat as a main staple in it’s diet.  The crabs come in various sizes, but the ones we were served were 1 ½ feet long with claws the size of a baseball!   
After the dinner, the village children showed up in grass skirts, beautiful flower and greenery head pieces and leis, and performed their local dances for us.   Their mothers were the “band” and the singers in the background for the dances.  So the show had ages from 2 ½ years old up to 80 years old.  We enjoyed it immensely.   
Thursday, August 29th: Time for the Niue history and info briefing: 
Niue’s claim to fame is being the smallest nation on earth.  It is also tiny size wise, 100 square miles (40 miles in circumference)… Calling themselves the “Rock of Polynesia,” the island is low-lying (no volcanic mountains) with limestone crevices and caves.  [From a distance as we were approaching the island, it looked like a long cigar.]  The island nation does not fit the image of a classic South Seas paradise — there ARE palm trees, but NO soaring green peaks or shallow blue lagoons, nor white sand beaches.  As mentioned above there is no ports for cruise ships… not to mention, no port for us small sail boats.  The island is an ancient coral atoll that was uplifted some 200 feet by long ago movements of the earth’s crust.  Architecturally, the island is repudedly the largest RAISED (uplifted) coral atoll and is honeycombed with caves . Since there are no mountains, and no streams or rivers, there is no silt run off  which results is some of the clearest water in the world with underwater visibility of more than 120 feet.   
Captain Cook made 3 attempted landings in 1774, but he got a hostile reception from warriors with red-painted teeth, so he named Niue “Savage Island” (a name today’s local very friendly Niueans really hate!).  But history shows that they were not savage-- they were actually quite smart as they were  trying to scare the foreigners away by a very real fear of European diseases… but it worked as it frightened off future visitors for many years.  In the mid 1800’s though, the missionaries (the London Missionary Society again–as with the Cook Islands) established a foothold on the island . In 1900, Niue was taken over by the British as a protectorate, and a year later transferred to NZ (about the same time as the Cook Islands, above).  They gained their independence in 1974 (with voluntary free association with NZ, which means they, as the Cook Islanders, get dual citizenship).  However, today, Niue is totally dependent on aid from NZ, which supplies ¾’s of their local budget.  Here, with even a worse economy than the Cook Islands, imports are 20 times larger than exports.  And because Niue is not on any main air routes, very few tourists visit except on packaged holidays from New Zealand. 
The people (as well as their Niuean language), unlike the Cook Islanders, are related to Tongans and Samoans rather than Maori or Tahitians.  Niue has the lowest population density of any Pacific country, with only 1,200 living on the island, with another 14-15,000 living n New Zealand as employment opportunities are small and because the people have realized there is another world beyond Niue.  The thatched roofs and the island’s traditional style homes have mostly been replaced with “hurricane houses,” introduced by the New Zealand government following cyclones in 1959 and 1960 that left almost no structures standing.  However it seems like from our observations, there were more empty home than filled ones and even many of the villages around the island seem like ghost towns, since so many of the landowners have left to go to New Zealand and Australia.   
As above, with the Cook Islanders, their church and their religion is the center of their lives on Sunday.,  No one is allowed to work, meaning restaurants, bars, stores are all closed (some exceptions at the hotels are allowed for guests).  The local radio shuts down, even.  Swimming , diving , and fishing is also prohibited on Sundays.  And on the other 6 days a week, life is still very slow moving.  One quote I saw which seemed appripo to many of our South Pacific stops is the people spend so much energy being holy on Sundays, that they need the rest of the week to rest. 
So far, the Niueans have been willing to willing to forfeit tourist income to keep their island as they remember it, and they’ve fended off attempts by mega hotel developers.  However, there is one resort hotel, and one other smaller hotel to support the few  tourists they do get (mostly New Zealanders).  There are also a few restaurants on the island, but due to the limited amount of customers, the restaurants have divided up the weekdays among themselves as to what days they are open, so they are not in competition with each other.  The main town of the island (and capitol) is Alofi. 
Now more about our time in Niue… 
We spent most of today trying to replace the voluminous amounts of fuel we burned in our long trip trying to get to Niue.  Since they do not have a fuel dock to tie up to, it was a 4-hour process taking jugs to the gas station in "town," and then getting a truck to get them back to us and then into the dinghy and back to the boat, making several trips to get the 80 gallons we needed.  Then the hard part hauling them up to the boat from the dinghy and pouring them into tiny holes in the deck of the boat to our fuel tanks below on a very rocky boat (as we had some pretty big swells).   
Today we walked around the main town of Alofi which in about a 1 ½ block space, consists of about 5 tiny stores, a bank, a police station, and a post office.  As mentioned above, there IS one resort hotel on the island but it is 5 or so miles away and there is no taxi service on the island.  Our friends on Swiss Lady had eaten there the night before we arrived and told us of the "Traditional" meal they had there, which included fruit bat as one of the entree's -- they said it was served with the head still on with teeth showing and everything.  They also said it smelled like urine and bat shit, and tasted about the same. I think we'll end up having to miss out on trying that one!    
I forgot to mention what a challenge getting ashore is with the dinghy on this island.  This is like no other place in the world!!  Since as mentioned many times above, this is an open roadstead instead of a protected harbor, there is no real dock, nor beach, nor shoreline to pull the dinghy up to or on.  There is a seawall only, and if one were to leave their dinghy in the water tied to this wall, it would be smashed to rubber bands in minutes by the huge crashing waves of the open ocean hitting it.  So what the locals have rigged up is a hand operated crane next to the wharf.  When we pull up to the seawall/wharf, there is a hook from the crane hanging over the wall’s edge above the water.  Ideally you bring up the dinghy under this hook, and then place the hook into a loop of a bridle that has been pre-tied to your dinghy (connecting the front and back of the dinghy.)  Then “ideally” you jump out of the dinghy onto a step or ladder going up to the wharf and hit a hydrolic switch which slowly puts the crane into action lifting your dinghy out of the water.  Then next you need to manually swing the crane pulling the dinghy and hook, pulling it from over the water to over the wharf… then lower the crane dropping (slowly) the dingy onto an awaiting cart.  Then unhook, push the crane over the side again and in position for any other dinghy that needs it.  Then you wheel the cart with your dinghy on it, out of the way, lift your dinghy off the cart, and put the cart back in place so it is available for the next boat.  Now that may sound like it should be an Olympic event… but to make it even more challenging, picture trying to do it in high seas with the dinghy becoming a bucking bronco in the water and trying to nab the hook, and get off the boat.  We did manage to accomplish the “event” and admittedly, after several days, we did get better at it-- but not without getting wet most of the time… and not without some bad words at our more uncoordinated attempts!!  Never a dull moment. 
I was hoping we could arrange to tour several of the caves that this island is so famous for.  Most of the caves are on “private property,” and the locals who own the land have made a business for themselves offering the tourists “tours” of the caves.  Unfortunately, the main cave tour is “closed” for the next few weeks as the caves are being worked on and the other cave tour is only run 2 days a week and there are no more scheduled for the remaining of our scheduled short stay here.  That is a major disappointment, after the long ways we have come to get here. 
The other main activity that we were looking forward to doing here is diving, but Joe still has the remainder of a fairly large bump on his head from his Rarotonga motorcycle accident and his dive mask presses right on that spot.  So it is still too tender for him to wear a mask at this time.  So since the caving is “out” and we can’t dive, and this anchorage is very rolly, not to mention the challenge and difficultness to get out boat ashore and walk around on land, we are thinking we may cut short our planned 5-7 days here and move on shortly to Tonga.   
Saturday, August 31st
We were not planning to leave until tomorrow, but we had a terrible night of sleep last night since the wind and waves have now shifted around to our unprotected side.  We were taking 30 degree rolls, and trying not to roll out of bed last night became an exhausting event.  The weather is supposed to remain like this for another day or two, so we decided if we are going to be miserable, we might as well be miserable at sea and get moving onto our next destination.   
We left this afternoon for a 250 mile (2 ½ day) trip --and so far we are sailing and have pretty good wind… Knock on wood.  We are heading for the Vava’u Group (sort of in the northern Tongan Islands)... We will sail there for about 2 1/2 weeks and then head to the middle group of Tongan Islands called the Hapai Group to complete our month.  We will spend the time day-hopping (no overnight passages) at various anchorages in various islands within those groups -- At least that is the plan for now.  
          So ends another month of our adventures at sea and on land.   
Los Angeles 8551 KM away!...... a long ways from home 
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