Friday, May 31, 2013

Stormy Suwarrow

May 31, 2013
Position: 13°14.92'S 163°06.49'W
Suwarrow Atoll, Cooks Islands, South Pacific Ocean

Officially the Suwarrow National Park of the Cook Islands opens on June 1 and Park ranger Harry and assistant Ngatupuna have been busy 'cleaning' the Anchor Island atoll. 'Cleaning' in South Pacific lingo means chopping down everything in sight, raking the debris in to huge piles and burning everything to a crisp. It's seems ironic that the protectors of this natural paradise are tasked with battling nature on a daily basis. As palm fronds and cocouts go up in smoke the underbelly of decades of human habitation are slowly revealed. A mighty stack of long neglected lead acid batteries rest under the eve of the forlorn dilapidated remains of Tom Neal's shack. Tom Neal inhabited Suwarrow for 30 years and authored the intriguing novel 'An Island to Oneself'. Nearby, half a pallet of old rusty paint cans slowly leak, leaching into the thin atoll soil, metal fuel drums rot, useless outboard engine parts are piled high in a corner, scavenged bits of ship wrecks, fishing nets, pearl floats and even a full case of unopened rust encrusted spaghetti-o cans litter the motu. The 'cleaning' has revealed a fragile ecosystem under serious threat from a long legacy of it's very caretakers. With the problems clearly in the open, it's time to clean up the toxic waste and implement a simple waste management plan for the future akin to 'Pack it in Pack it out'.

The Cook Islands minister of environment is rumored to be visiting Suwarrow later this year. Perhaps, the seemingly frivolous visit can be made worthwhile if the ministers expensive charter vessel is tasked to haul the toxic debris back to Rarotonga for safe disposal. It's time to clean up the long tail of ignorance, waste and neglect that threaten a true national treasure of the Cook Islands.

End rant.

In other news, we had a real blow a few nights ago. It was pitch black with only the occasional glimmer of our neighbors mast head light between bolts of lightning and clap of nearby thunder. Wind whistled through the rigging and rain pelleted the decks with a vengeful tropical furry. From 10PM to the wee hours of the night we maintained active anchor watch with engines idling at the ready. Nearby, our friends on s/v Venus clocked a gust of 55 knots and sustained winds in the 40's for several hours. We're thankful that we decided to layover at Suwarrow as this is the very storm would have overtaken at sea as we approached Samoa.

Before the storm we went for a snorkel in the lagoon and enjoyed the company of a large Manta, curiously all black, but for one small patch of white on it's belly. Fortunately, the pack of 20-30 ravenous sharks that encircle out boat didn't follow us to the snorkel site where we only say two sharks.

After the manta swim I ventured out the pass to troll for tuna and in short order landed a nice 10 pound yellow fin. We prepared a nice sushi feed for Gisela and Uwe aboard s/v Venus including rolls, sashimi, lightly seared loins and even a few pieces of fried fish for Ewe whose not a fan of raw.

Today, s/v Tamora arrived and we're planning a kai-kai (Cook Island Maori speak for pot-luck) and fish bbq ashore on Saturday.

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Suwarrow atoll, Cooks Islands

May 27, 2013
Position: 13°14.92'S 163°06.49'W
Suwarrow atoll, Cooks Islands

The swell and wind built from the SE last night, so we decided to go where the wind blows us and stop at Suwarrow atoll. It's just us and one German boat s/v Venus. Officially the park doesn't open until June 1, but the park ranger / customs officer / immigration officer / health officer / agriculture officer, yes this is just one person, was happy to check us in and inspect the boat. It might have been an hour of filling out forms at least 8 or maybe more. The lagoon is beautiful and similar to Maupihaa atoll, but lots more rules here. No beach fires, no spear fishing, no, no, no.

We did a little fishing just before entering the pass and hooked with a wahoo, but lost him. The fridge is getting bare so maybe we'll take the park rangers out for some fishing outside the lagoon where the there are no rules.

Tons of back tip sharks here in the lagoon. It's sound like a fish story, but I counted 29 sharks while standing on the back step of LightSpeed.

That's it for now.

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Occilating course

May 26, 2013
Position: 14°09'S 161°41'W (0130UTC May 27)

Occilating course

This morning I downloaded a weather GRIB file and WW3 wave model to evaluate our routing options. Western Samoa was three days away, but the last day the wind would build to 20+ and it looked like we would get smacked by a strong frontal passage. Suwarrow was less than a day, but then how long would we need to wait for weather from there? We decided to keep moving west toward Samoa and the faster we could sail the less crappy weather we'd need to endure near Samoa. I went to work swapping our small overnight spinnaker for the big daytime spinnaker and aimed for Western Samoa. Later in the day our local wind that was forecast to be 15+ knots dropped to 11 and we slowed from the high 7 to 8 knot range to 5 to 6 knots. With Suwarrow only 114 nautical miles to the NW we decided to head up 30 degrees and improve the apparent wind angle and get the boat moving a little faster and maybe we'd think about stopping at Suwarrow once again.

Last night Kathy made an awesome pepperoni pizza using a dough recipe from our friend Cinda of s/v Songline. We spent a few months in the company of s/v Songline last year in American Samoa and about 33 days ago they set sail for Hawaii. We're follow email updates and it's a voyage that tests even there zen like patience as they slog it out up the rhumb line.

Cinda's s/v Songline pizza dough

Makes 2 medium pizzas with fluffy crust.

3C all purpose flour
1 package yeast (quick rise is preferred)
1/4t salt
2T cooking oil
1C warm water 120-130F

Combine flour, yeast, salt and oil in bowl.
Add warm water and knead for 5 minutes.
Let rise, covered until almost doubled in size.
Roll out into pizza shapes. Note: using a pastry paper under dough makes it more crusty.
Let rise for about 10 more minutes before adding toppings.
Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes.

As you can tell it's been a pretty low key voyage as I'm blogging a recipe. We've avoided any high drama thus far, like fishing with the spinnaker up. Maybe tomorrow we'll indulge in some chaos by trying to hook a big fish. The only thing I've caught so for on this trip is our cat 'Shell' on the roof last night. A big no no to be outside the cockpit, especially underway. I gave her a squirt with spray bottle and she retreated indoors with a protesting meow.

That's it for now.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Suwarrow atoll or Apia, Western Samoa? Equipement issues... very few.

May 25, 2013
Underway position: 15°18'S 158°22'W at 1900UTC
Evaluating weather for the sail to Suwarrow atoll or continuing on to Apia, Western Samoa?

First we were underway for Aitutaki, Cook Islands, then we altered course to Suwarrow atoll to harmonize with the wind and swell. Now we're looking at the possibility of going direct to Apia, Western Samoa about 800nm distant.

Three primary factors weigh in favor of continuing on to Apia.

One, they have a great fruit and veggie market and we're running preciously low of fresh items. I think we have one cucumber, one carrot and a tiny bit of cabbage remaining and so Kathy has ramped up our sprout production to three trays of broccoli sprouts.

Two, the weather forecast looks good to keep moving to west and north. A huge high pressure system is moving in and if we keep a heading toward Apia, Western Samoa we'll skirt the edge of the strong winds with just enough to keep moving fast, but not so much as to become uncomfortable. We're looking ahead five days at this point, so today's plan is subject to change.

Three, we're motivated to keep moving west as we have lots of activities planned for Fiji. Topping the list is hauling the boat for an anti-fouling paint job which requires we find a yard that can haul the boat, source paint, and perform all the work. None of which are small tasks. Obtaining visas and permits from both the Indonesian and Papua New Guinea consulates will no doubt require several visits over many weeks. Fiji will also be our last good place to shop for almost a year while we venture far off the beaten path, so lots of provisioning runs. Throw in two groups of guests visiting while in Fiji and a few months will pass in a flash of activity.

We've had a spinnaker up for the last 24 hours. Super big spinnaker during the day and small squall proof spinnaker at night. Good easy sailing, but for the swell which is out of sync with the wind speed and the fact that it's hot as hell with very little apparent wind to move through the cabin.

Knock on wood we've had almost no issues with equipment on the boat the last several years. Looking back just minor repairs: A union on the 15 year old Furlex furler foil was loose and I tapped in a few new bolts. Dito with the furler drum. The pump head on our Spectra water maker mag-pump wore out, but I already had the $600 spare onboard. A major bearing failed last year on the windlass, but Maxwell was quick to send me a replacement shaft assembly at no cost. Luckily we were near Tahiti to receive the shipment. We had a small leak around a dorade vent that required some epoxy work to the core. The lazy jacks have broken a few times, but this is expected after three years of using too small of line to minimize wind resistance. We have a cracked window from the main sheet block hitting the corner of the glass, but have a spare window onboard. A switch on the propane system wore out, but easy to fix. A hatch hinge broke, but we have every spare possible on board for the hatches. One of my Gori folding propellers is getting some play in the internal bushing that will need evaluation in Fiji where I plan to replace seals in the Yanmar saildrives. Again, knock on wood, but all minor issues considering something like 13,000 nautical miles on the major systems since our last major haulout in 2010. This morning I sent Kathy half way up the mast to retrieve a busted lazy jack.

That's it for now.

Dave & Kathy
s/v LightSpeed

Friday, May 24, 2013

Maupihaa wrap up and sailing DDW toward Suwarrow atoll

May 24, 2013
Underway position: 16°25'S 155°44' W @ 1845UTC
Sailing toward Suwarrow atoll, Cook Islands (460nm remaining)

It's a pretty sweet South Pacific sleigh ride with the wind and swell directly on the stern. We're flying our biggest symmetrical spinnaker dead down wind (DDW). Yes, symmetrical spinnakers are out of fashion these days and all the better as you can pick them up for cheap. We have 3 and just 1 asymmetrical spinnaker. On a beamy catamaran I don't know how you can beat the simplicity and speed of a symmetrical spinnaker DDW. We're making an average of 9.1 knots in 15 knots true wind! The symmetrical spinnaker sailed DDW is incredibly tolerant of wind shifts and self tending. On the occasional huge surf we approach wind speed and almost, but not quite sail into our own sail. Fast and no drama = perfect fast downwind sailing cruiser style. Top speed in the last hour since we raised the spinnaker is 12.6 knots.

Tearing ourselves away from Maupihaa atoll was difficult, but a nice looking weather window to the Cooks enticed out the reef pass at 2:30 pm yesterday. Hanging out at the north shore of Maupihaa was idyllic with many all you can eat lobster feeds with Hio and family. Snorkeling at the reef pass was superb with tons of sharks, huge green wrasse and hundreds of blue and silver green trevali. We also made a few marathon snorkeling expeditions at the south rim of the reef. Full mile long swims through shallow coral gardens studded with gem like giant clams, fish and corals of nearly every color imaginable. We even spotted an old stone tool encrusted with coral a mile from the motu, which perhaps came from an ancient voyaging canoe that crashed on the reef?

Another day we helped chop coconuts at the north shore and on yet another we husked the thick rich coconut meat at Hio's new SE shore outpost. Later in the day Hio guided us to a old ship wreck on the SE shore of Maupihaa where small multi colored blast stones are scattered amongst the coral sands and the rotting steel ribs of the ship slowly rust in the pounding surf. Hio says this is an old Spanish shipwreck and more of the ship is visible off the reef on a calm water day. Hio netted some fish for lunch in less than a minute and we had a great meal cooked on a coconut husk fired barrel stove.

We again tried our hand at Varo lobster fishing and gained some new techniques, but windy wavy weather prohibited the successful extraction of a mantis shrimp from his sandy burrow. More than half the battle is finding the camouflaged burrow and if the water is not mirror smooth it's nearly impossible.

Lobster hunting on the reef at night with expert fisherman Hio was a blast, I was tasked with carrying an old 50L jug that was fashioned into a back pack to carry the lobster. Spotting the lobsters while wading the reef takes a practiced eye and quick reflexes to negotiate the crashing waves and sharp corals. In about 2 hours we captured 13 live lobsters by quickly plunging our bare hands into the water and grasping the unsuspecting lobster before he could skitter away. Afterwards a big lobster feed with a few other cruisers that went until 11:30PM. Fun and Delicious!

When we first arrived at Mauphiaa the island population was a total of 7. North Shore: Hio, Adriana (mom) and Faimano (sister). East side: Kevin and Kevin's father. South shore: Hina (in the house) and Tino at the end of the motu. One Friday evening we stopped by to visit Hina and Tino on the South shore and a bush beer party was well underway. Partially fermented sugar and yeast in a one gallon jug, yuck.

The first 40nm from Maupihaa we were headed on a course of 240T for Aitutaki in the southern Cook islands, but building winds of 20 knots from the SE had us change course to 290T for the DDW sail toward Suwarrow atoll. We're sad to miss visiting our friends Ingrid and Greg at Aitutaki and this change of plans will also preclude our planned visit to Beverage reef and Nuie. At this point even our planned stop at Vava'U, Tonga is on the chopping block as we angle north of west it's maligning the future angle to Vava'U in the process. Maybe a stop at Apia, Western Samoa is in the works on our way to Fiji. Our loose goal is to arrive in Suva, Fiji in early to mid-July. Nephews are planning to visit, so maybe they can start thinking about the second half of July in Fiji? And our friend Alex can think about the possibility of an early July sail from Western Samoa to Fiji?

Going where the wind blows...

That's it for now.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Maupihaa: Lobster, exploring, snorkeling and beach bonfires.

May 15, 2013
Anchorage position: 16°49.756'S 153°55.565'W Maupihaa atoll south east anchorage

As we approached Maupihaa we deployed some new fishing lures and immediately had a double hook up. We ended up loosing both fish and a bunch of line to either really big tuna or big sharks feasting on the tuna we just hooked. Either way we got more lines in the water and soon lost a third lure and even more line even after a protracted battle chasing one of the beasts with the boat for awhile. Some sort of big monsters are lurking around Maupihaa atoll. Finally we hooked a nice yellow fin and wound it in at top speed before it got eaten as well. The final score big fish 3, LightSpeed 1. We were excited to be back at Maupihaa atoll, our favorite stop in all of French Polynesia and happy to have some fresh tuna to share.

Luckily timing allowed an easy transit of the 60' wide reef pass and from there we motored directly for the north anchorage (16°46.73'S 153°57.08' W, 4M sand) to catch up with our favorite south pacific family. A true Polynesian welcome with lots of big hugs and kisses on each cheek after which we were adorned with beautiful shell leis. Some trips you shouldn't repeat as they're never the same, but Maupihaa is one that should never be passed up. We visited well past sunset and made plans for a big lobster dinner the following evening. Hio captured 15 lobsters in just 2 hours of wading on the reef and we enjoyed a real feast. Somehow, five days have already passed at Maupihaa atoll. Snorkeling outside the pass was superb with hundreds of blue-silver trevali, giant green wrasse, the usual complement of parrot fish and tons of sharks. Drifting through the pass you can see a cannon from the wreck of the Sea Adler and outside the reef a good length of ships chain that might serve as a good tie off for a temporary mooring. I took my spear gun hoping for a pelagic target, but after firing the spear at a parrot fish I was overwhelmed by a pack of aggressive sharks and made a hasty exit to the safety of the dinghy. No fish for dinner tonight. Another day we walked nearly the length of the atoll, alternately exploring the central road and making forays out to the ocean to beach comb.

We're also enjoying the company of s/v Miss Goodnight with a dinner aboard their Lagoon 440 and also a beach bonfire. A huge south swell has been battering the atoll the last few days and the reef pass is ebbing at an alarming rate, so we'll stay until the swell moderates and the pass again becomes safe to transit.

That's it for now.

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Near Maupihaa atoll

May 11, 2013 (5am local [UTC-10})
Position: 16°50'S 153°16'W

It's 5am and the sun has yet to brighten a moonless night filled with a grand array of stars. I'm guessing we're now on the edge of a different time zone as there should be at least a little glimmer of a new day on the eastern horizon by 5am. Our passage from Moorea has been a tiny bit bumpy at times with frequent squalls and plenty of rain, but overall pretty easy as sailing. In contrast, friends Cinda and Fred on s/v Songline are doing some bashing as they sail directly into the NE trades on their way from American Samoa toward Hawaii and Alaska. As of day 18 they've covered 900nm with 1360 remaining to Honolulu. These two define patience. Back in January we contemplated the same voyage and decided it would be better to sail twice the distance by sailing back to the Marquesas to set up for a better angle to Hawaii, but after all that effort we bailed on the Hawaii idea and are now circling back. 4000nm under the keel later we are living proof that not having a really firm plan can burn you from time to time.

Getting back to the question of why the suns not up yet. Along the equator the sun rises later at a rate of one minute per 15 nautical miles of easting sailed. (360 degrees/24 hours = 15 degrees longitude * 60 nautical miles per degree = 900 nautical miles / 60 minutes = 15 nautical miles per minute. At a latitude of 17 south it's something like 14.35 nautical miles per minute as it's a smaller circle and 15 degrees of longitude requires only 861 nautical miles of sailing (861/60 = 14.35). So, having sailed 912 nm to the west since Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas the sun is now rising something like (912/14.35)= 63 minutes later each day. Yep, time to change the clocks.

Today we should be dropping anchor at Maupihaa atoll, our all time favorite atoll in the South Pacific. The pass is tricky, but we think the conditions will be settled enough to safely transit the 60 foot wide opening in the reef gaining access to the calm waters inside. Huge seas are on the way so once we get safely inside the pass will close out for a few days as the 5 meter SSW swell roar through.

That's it for now.

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Thursday, May 09, 2013

LightSpeed setting sail for points west.

May 9, 2013
Cooks Bay, Moorea, French Polynesia

Later today we'll be setting sail for points west. Bye bye French Polynesia... we'll miss your cheap crunchy baguettes, but not your overpriced beers and outrageous $400/gal bottom paint.  After nearly 9 of the last 12 months sailing the Marquesas, Tuamotu and Society Islands we're ready for new adventures.  

What's next?  Maybe a stop in the Cooks?  Bevridge reef then Niue?  Or maybe Suwarrow then Vava'U, Tonga?  We'll set a comfortable course and sail where the wind takes us.  One way another we'll be sure to explore off the beaten path locations in Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomons islands this year.  In 2014 we're envisioning Papua and a slow tour of Indonesia.

LightSpeed anchored near the entrance of Cooks bay on the island of Moorea.

Marquesas and Tuamotu wrap up

South Pacific sunset at sea.
Oceanic Skipjack tuna
25 pound Oceanic Skipjack is much tastier than is smaller cousins. Great for fish salad after a quick poaching or fresh for poisson cru marquesas style with coconut cream and lime.
Fighting a Blue Marlin... I'll eventually post a youtube video, but it could be a few months.
Sailing at 10.4 knots toward Tahiti.
Anchorage at Niau atoll
Niau atoll anchorage can be attempted in calm conditions on the North side of the atoll just west of the airstrip near 16°07.5'S  146°22.9' W in about 40' on a rubble bottom with poor holding.  Note that the current sets strongly both east and west depending on the tide.  Landing can be made on the coral/beach near the anchorage in settled calm conditions.  We spent a nice night anchored here waiting for wind to continue to Tahiti.
Niau landing
Wharf at Ile Niau or Niau atoll, Tuamotu.  Since this wharf is on the east side of the atoll it's not very practical to attempt a landing.  Even with super calm settled conditions there was still a bit of surge in the small basin.  The Wharf is near GPS position 16°07.8' S  146°19.8'W

Baie Hanavave or Bay of Virgins, Fatu Hiva, Marquesas, South Pacific.  We didn't land any virgins, but the fishing was a success   Sid from s/v Tonka show off one of the two Yellow fin tuna we caught dinghy fishing with live bait near the bay.  
Can't beat the scenery in Baie Hanavave, Fatu Hiva, Marquesas, South Pacific
Marquesasn dancer / cowboy, but what's up with those speedos?
Baie Hanamoenoa, Tahuata is great for swimming in clear waters and beach bonfires ashore.
Our friends Dave & Booker on s/v Tortuguita sailing out of Hanamoenoa at sunset.  We first met these two in Belize in 2010.
Baie Hanavave, Fatu Hiva, Marquesas, South Pacific
Kathy playing Marquesasan cowboy gets a ride on the beach at Nuku Hiva.
Horses dash down the beach as paddlers man canoes at Taiohae bay, Nuku Hiva Marquesas
Dance performance at Taiohae bay, Nuku Hiva Marquesas

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

How to obtain French Polynesian Yacht Clearance, French Polynesia Yacht clearance May 2013

French Polynesia yacht clearance procedure as of May 2013.  This is for those of you didn't use a yacht agent.

For clearance from French Polynesia you have two options.  Since it's our third time to FP and our visa was almost expired we chose option (2) shown in the 'Clearance' document below as we needed to leave quickly.  IF you have more time on your visa then be sure to complete Steps 1 and 2 while in Papeete then sail up island and complete the final steps with the Gendarmes in Bora Bora and obtain your final clearance there. 

Here's what we did to clear directly from Papeete, Tahiti to a foreign port.

Step 1:  Try to find the Harbor Master office before they close for lunch.
Hint:  Downtown Papeete at the 'Moorea' ferry terminal bottom level on water side of building (see map below). 

Step 2:  Try to get to the Customs (Douane) office when they are actually open... before 11:30AM  
Hint:  It's near the container port across the water from the ferry/harbor masters office on  Motu Uta.  The Customs (Douane)office is about 1500pf taxi ride or if your a crack sleuth only a 25 minute walk from the harbor master.  Go in the main door at Douane and walk down the hall ~1/2 way finding the office on the right.

Note:  We completed steps 1 & 2 the day before our departure and step 3 on the day of departure.  The guidance below says you need 2 days advance notice, but that was not necessary in our case.

Step 3:  Go to Immigration at the airport the day of departure.
Location:  Faaa airport. Find the food court near the middle of the airport, take the stairs on the right side of the food court half way up find a mid-stair on the right.  Throught he door into the roof court yard find the immigration office on the right.

Step 4: Collect you bond at the bank.

Step 5: Be a good visitor and leave French Polynesia in a timely manner.  Be aware that customs patrol boats routinely check papers even in the remotest of anchorages.

Click on this photo for a larger more legible view.

Sorry the map is terrible, but this is what's available at Harbor masters office... if you can find it.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Attention the fleet: Cruising Solomon islands, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

Attention to the fleet:

Is anyone thinking of sailing toward the Solomon Islands or Papua New Guinea around October 2013?

We love to share a few anchorages with some like minded cruisers who are going off the beaten path in the Solomons, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

Dave & Kathy Kane
s/v LightSpeed

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Marina Tahina, Tahiti mooring ball A9

May 2, 2013
Position: 17°34.97'S 149°37.31' W
Marina Tahina mooring ball A9

LightSpeed is back in Tahiti after 5 days and 3 hours of mostly great sail from covering 794nm from Fatu Hiva, Marquesas to Marina Tahina, Tahiti. The last few hours sailing toward Tahiti we were ripping off 9.3 nautical miles per hour which was a great finish to the voyage. A few highlights of the trip were catching a huge blue marlin, stopping for a night at Toau for snorkeling, stopping for a night at Niau atoll for more snorkeling and hitting 18.5 knots of boat speed on huge surf. Most days we flew a spinnaker and most nights just the jib thus the average speed of only 6.5 knots overall.

Today will be a bit more mundane as the laundry is piling up and the cupboards to be filled for the long voyages ahead.

That's it for now.

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Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Inbound Tahiti

May 1, 2013 8:45Am local (GMT-10)
Underway Position: 17°12'S 148°50'W

Inbound Tahiti with 40nm remaining to Point Venus anchorage on the north side of Tahiti. The wind finally filled in after a slow night of motor sailing in calm conditions. Loving it right now with 12 knots out of the SSE and 8.8 knots of boat speed. If the wind continues to cooperate we may sail the additional 13nm to Marina Tahina on the west side of Tahiti today.

Water, fuel, groceries, fishing lures and a haircut for Kathy and we'll start looking for a weather window to the Cooks. At the moment it looks like the last tropical depression/cyclone of the season is tracking from Fiji past the Cooks and then dropping quickly to the southeast. That's good news as for the next 6 months we should have smooth sailing in predictable trade wind conditions.

That's it for now.

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