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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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