Dick and Gail Barnes
This edition of the voyage log for Ice Dancer II chronicles our departure from the Port of Nelson, New Zealand for Hawaii. Enroute, we share our experiences exploring parts of New Zealand, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga and finish with our return visits to American Samoa, Palmyra Atoll and Ko Olina Marina, Oahu, Hawaii. This leg of our journey completes a 17,282 nautical mile loop from Honolulu, through the South Pacific islands, around the southern-most capes of Australia and New Zealand and return. On Ice Dancer II we have logged from our GPS, 44,989 nautical miles. On Ice Dancer, our previously owned Nordhavn 50, we logged 23,545 nm, giving us a total of 68,534 Nordhavn sea miles. That is, so far. We haven’t swallowed the anchor, yet.
In early May, we returned from our trip to the states to find our Nordhavn securely docked in the Nelson Marina. For a week, we toured the upper part of New Zealand’s South Island by car, including Collingsworth, Christchurch and the mountain areas around Arthur’s Pass. The landscape was quite attractive and appeared fully utilized for livestock, vineyards and tree farming.
Nelson proved a useful port for our boat issues. We had a crevice leak repaired in a stainless steel manifold that distributes salt water for cooling the air conditioning condensers. A hydraulics shop was able to supply us with 5 gallons of hydraulic oil and 35 gallons of Delo 400, for engine oil changes. A lumberyard cut full 2x8-inch lumber for making fender boards. Propane, dinghy gas and general supplies were brought on board. 3,000 liters of diesel fuel from a tank truck completed our provisioning.
The top end of the South Island has attractive inlets and coves, known as the Marlborough and Queen Charlotte Sounds. Our first stop was among the fish farms anchored in Whatkitenga Bay (41-03S 173-44E) at the end of Croisilles Harbor. The next day, we negotiated the treacherous strait of French Pass (40-55S 173-50E) at slack water, with only a few whirlpools visible. We cruised through the sounds and anchored in Hitaua Bay (41-16S 174-09E).
The next morning, we cruised down the Tory Channel, sharing its narrow corridor with ferries and cargo ships. The Channel empties into Cook Strait, another of New Zealand’s waterways with a temper. The Strait separates the North and South Islands and it is highly influenced by tides, winds and currents. Our crossing to Wellington was in rough, but manageable seas.
Wellington, at the southeast corner of the North Island, has a personality similar to Victoria, British Columbia. It is a classy city. It has New Zealand’s Parliament and government offices. It has one of the world’s largest national museums, a symphony, ballet and opera. We berthed at Chaffers Marina, right in the heart of the city (41-17S 174-47E).
From Wellington, we made a three-day run up the East Coast of the North Island, passing Hawke Bay, the East Cape and Bay of Plenty. The passage was in rough, beam seas. These shores have a few marginal harbors, so our objective was to reach the Hauraki Gulf, where the shoreline provides choices of protected coves. We anchored at noon in Kiwiriki Bay (36-12S 175-21E), on the inside of the Great Barrier Island. One other boat was in the bay, anchored near the shore. A New Zealand Customs launch arrived late in the stormy afternoon. The wind shifted and began blowing into the cove, but holding was good and the fetch for waves only about a mile. We were satisfied with the conditions. Nonetheless, the Customs launch decided to find another anchorage. Gail and I watched the boat run at high speed between potential anchorages, as daylight disappeared. Gail asked why they were running so fast, in the dark. I remarked, because they didn’t own the craft. A half hour later, a large, inflatable boat with a handful of Customs officials showed up at our anchored Nordhavn, and asked if we could come and attempt to pull them off the rocks. The tide was falling and it was in no danger of sinking or injuring anything but pride. We declined.
Four days later there was a break in the weather and we crossed the Hauraki Gulf and up a river to the town of Whangarei. We stayed at Riverside Marina (35-44S 174-20E) while a local firm re-galvanized our anchor and chain, which was beginning to rust. They did a great job. Scott Flanders, on Egret, gave us the tip about this service, which they used last year. Whangarei is another town with good boatyards and supplies. When our anchor tackle was returned, we took on 3,000 liters of diesel from a tank truck and left the marina. The Gulf was stormy, again, so we anchored near the river mouth in Urquharts Bay (35-51S 174-32E).
The next day calmed some, so we continued up the coast to anchor at Waipiro Bay (35-15S 174-14E). This is in the Bay of Islands, where many of the South Pacific cruisers, primarily sailboats, spend the summer. A large majority ventures no further south along the stormy shores of New Zealand. It is very protected, has numerous anchorages and a large, well-protected marina at Opua (35-16S 174-07E). The Bay is far enough south to avoid tropical cyclones. We anchored in Matauwhi Bay (35-16S 174-07E) and visited the resort town of Russell. We took our dinghy to a small yacht club to see the Waitangi Treaty House (35-16S 174-05E) where a treaty was signed by Great Britain and 50 Maori Chiefs in 1840. We visited several other anchorages in the Bay of Islands, including Orokawa Bay (35-15S 174-11E) where a shore party from a French ship was slaughtered by Maori and Urupukapuka Bay (35-13S 174-14E) where designated sites are laid out for summer tent campers.
A family health issue caused us to make another short trip back to the states. The Opua Marina provided a safe berth for Ice Dancer II, and that allowed us to make the trip. We brought back spare parts, including a replacement lift pump for the 21.5 kw generator. This is a low-pressure pump that brings diesel fuel to the high-pressure, injector pump. We brought a spare for the 17 kw generator, in case it fails at some point. We topped off with fuel at Opua and checked out of the country.
Three issues are important for cruisers to consider, if visiting New Zealand. The first is shore power. Yachts are required to show a certificate of compliance with New Zealand electrical standards before connecting to a marina or shipyard power supply. Power available is 220 volts with 50-cycle frequency. We used the source to supply power to a permanently installed Charles 100 amp charger that runs on either 50 or 60 cycles. When connected to marina shore power, this charger supplies current to our eight, 8-D, AGM Lifeline house-bank batteries, which can carry our 12volt and 120 volt needs through two Trace inverters. The second is that Quarantine officers are very strict about food allowed into New Zealand, so you should plan to be finished with all fresh and frozen meats, dairy, produce and the other specific foods of concern. The third is the need for fender boards for berthing at fixed piers and pilings. You can see ours in use in one of the accompanied photos.
Opua to Noumea, New Caledonia was a four and a half day trip in modest, starboard-side beam seas. We arrived on the last day of July. Entry through the reef was timed for daylight arrival, to avoid the fate of other boats that have come to grief, here. Charts and navigation aides at this portal can be confusing.
Noumea is a delightful, cosmopolitan city. The economy of this French Overseas Territory is nicely supported by an extensive nickel-mining industry. The professional and business population is affluent and enjoys an attractive lifestyle. The marina maintains a high-quality visitors dock for transient boats and provisions are readily available. Our Pactor modem, used for e-mail and fax service via ham radio, failed on our passage from New Zealand. We had a replacement sent here by DHL, from Auckland.
New Zealand and Australia represent the majority of visitors. As a result, many locals are conversant in English. Local yacht owners were extremely gracious and generous with their time and attention. We met Joel Marc on the docks, who plans to sail to Alaska, next year. Jean-Ives Bouvier, owner of the trawler Taka, thought he saw in a magazine a picture of Ice Dancer II. He returned with a French magazine that had a full-page spread about our boat and travels, and featured a photo of Ice Dancer II in the Beagle Channel, near Ushuaia, Argentina. Jean-Ives gave us a tour of Noumea and hosted us for lunch and a dinner party on his trawler.
The public square in Noumea, near the marina, prominently displays a memorial and tribute by the people of New Caledonia for the unselfish World War II actions of the United States, during the South Pacific Campaign. With the amount of cynicism about U.S. motivations around the world, it was refreshing to see true appreciation of our country.
After six days in Noumea, we cruised south, inside the New Caledonia barrier reef, and anchored in calm and sunny conditions at Isle Kouare (22-42S 166-48E). We took our smaller Aquapro dinghy to this idyllic beach, but unfortunately found many sea snakes that were mating in the sand. Gail was not amused. We moved the next day to Ilot Uatio (22-42S 166-48E) and then on the next to Ile des Pins at Kuto Bay (22-40 167-26E). The beach at Kuto Bay is spectacular and the same goes for the trees and coves in the area. This place rates a ‘don’t-miss’ consideration, for cruisers. We worked our way back to Noumea, stopping at Anse Majic in the Baie de Prony (22-23S 166-55E).
On August 15, we took on 3,000 liters of diesel fuel and checked out of New Caledonia. As allowed, or at least tolerated, we stopped at anchorages on our route to Vanuatu, including Baie Ire (22-24S 166-48E), Baie de Yate (22-09S 166-56E) and Atoll D’Ouvea (20-42S 166-27E). From the D’Ouvea, we made an 18-hour, overnight run to Port Vila, Vanuatu (17-44S 168-18E). The rest stops early in the route made the trip seem short and we arrived in daylight, as we prefer.
The overall impression of New Caledonia was very good for the people, its primary city, safe anchorages and the countryside attractions. The marina maintains excellent visitor berths on its floating docks. Provisions from the supermarket were of high quality and prices not much different from other countries in the area. Government fees were reasonable and the process easy, with the exception of the distant location of offices of the harbormaster, customs and immigration. Left for next time were the villages and anchorages inside the encircling reef, north of Noumea.
A year had passed since we first anchored at Port Vila, Vanuatu (17-44S 168-17E), when we were on our way to Australia, the previous August. It is a charming town, most likely due to the years that the French were involved in the administration of New Hebrides, along with the English. Port Vila is the seat of government for Vanuatu, now an independent country. Its government role and distribution function give it the best local economy in the country. Government fees for cruisers are relatively high, but the clearance process is about typical of the area. Provisioning is fair to good and many services are available.
Our primary interest in returning to Vanuatu was to see the less developed areas of the islands. On our first visit to Port Vila, we wanted to load fuel and get on to Cairns, so that we could repair broken motor mounts. Although we were fascinated with the Vanuatu Melanesians we met in Port Vila, we couldn’t take the time to explore the remote islands and villages. On this visit, we had the time and no mechanical issues to hold us back. Our friends, Greg and Jennifer, on Co-Co Kai spent several months in Vanuatu, this season, and they graciously gave us tips about the places they most enjoyed. This was an additional advantage for our explorations.
The first stops after leaving Port Vila were in Havannah Harbor, on the north side of Efate Island. Our best anchorage in Havannah was at Esoma Bay (17-33S 168-17E). We stayed in Esoma and two other unnamed anchorages. These stops were attractive and convenient to break up the trip to Ile Epi, the first major island north of Efate. The villages certainly were rural in nature, but because they were connected to the road system of Efate Island and Port Vila, the locals enjoyed modern conveniences of outboard motors, trucked supplies and a cash market for their farmed goods, unlike what we found further into the archipelago.
Epi Island is about 70 nm north of Efate. It is 25 miles long, 10 miles wide, mountainous and wooded. We anchored at Baie Revolieu (16-43S 168-09E). This was a very attractive anchorage with an extensive valley running into the mountains. We enjoyed listening to villagers singing. This village had a curious difference from most others we viewed, in Vanuatu. Each home had a cement block or barbed wire fence delineating property boundaries. Other villages seemed to have a more open and communal concept for property. Further up Epi Island is Lamen Bay (16-36S 168-10E). The bay has ample anchorage space and good holding. It was a designated stop for members of an international cruising rally. Participants were arriving and leaving on a general route that started and ended in New Zealand and made stops in Tonga and Fiji, along the way. We were invited to join the festivities at a sundowner on a large catamaran and at a dinner on shore, the next evening. Most of the locals at Lamen Bay used dugout canoes with an outrigger. It was here that we first saw use of disposable downwind sails. They made their simple spinnakers from an array of palm fronds to sail to the village on Lamen Island, a couple of miles offshore.
At the end of August, we left Ile Epi in what seemed like a trip back in time. Our destination was scouted by our friends on Co-Co Kai, off Awei Island (16-32S 167-46E). Awei is part of a group of islands south of Malakula Island, known as the Maskelyne Group. There are no international rallies stopping here. This is a very remote part of the South Pacific. In the days we spent here, we saw no one using an outboard motor and no electric lights. Villagers paddled their dugout canoes to their plantations or farms, worked all day, and brought back harvested food. All this was by the power of muscle. We traded and bought produce and crab. We watched them netting small reef fish for protein in their diet. It was an extraordinary experience of observing a true subsistence lifestyle.
The central part of Malakula Island is reputed to have many cases of malaria. Even though we were taking a regimen of anti-malarial prophylaxis, we did not want to risk exposure where warnings had been made. So, our next destination was back across the channel to Ambrym Island. We anchored at Craig Cove (16-15S 167-55E) on a narrow shelf of fair holding rock and gravel. We enjoyed some good snorkeling, but left the next day because of a persistent plume of volcanic gases and ash and a large number of mosquitoes in the anchorage. Our next stop was Banavni Bay on Pentacost Island (15-40S 168-07E). We found this a good anchorage. We had tried Waterfall Bay, further south, but found it to have poor conditions the day we tried to anchor. Similaarly, we found Loltong Bay, north of Banavni Bay, to be inadequate for our 57 Nordhavn.
Across the Lolvavana Passage from Pentacost Island is Maewo Island and on its southern tip, the village of Asanvari. This is another ‘must-see’ destination in Vanuatu. The village is located just inside a rock cape that protects its anchorage (15-23S 168-08E). Again, recommended by our pals on Co-Co Kai, Asanvari is an idyllic setting. The protected cove contains three permanent moorings that are available to visiting cruisers. Typically located in the best anchoring area, if the moorings are occupied, the next best is to anchor north of them, at about 40 feet depth. Physical attractions here include wonderful snorkeling off the southern reef, a reef-free approach to a white sand beach, a beautiful waterfall, trails overlooking the cove and attractive buildings, all made from woven, local fibers.
Asanvari’s Chief Nelson and his son Nixon excel in welcoming visiting cruisers. Locals trade and sell fruits and vegetables and maintain a small, cooperative store to sell woven baskets. We heard that the village had exhausted its dye supply, so we bought a dozen vials before leaving Port Vila. Chief Nelson organizes sundowners overlooking the anchorage from the village. We had the honor of hiking to another village and on a trail high above the anchorage. The chief’s grandchildren escorted us. Afterward, we took them out to Ice Dancer II, for treats.
September 8, we anchored in Lolwai Bay, on Aoba Island (15-17S 167-59E). We anchored outside of the harbor, which has a reef that must be crossed at high tide. We took our double Hobie kayak in to explore and our Aquapro dinghy the next day. Like many of the villages, Lolwai acts as a hub for supply boats for the other nearby settlements. It was here that we recognized the reach of Western Union, throughout the towns and villages of the South Pacific. The former purveyor of telegrams now acts as a financial clearinghouse for transferring money around the world. Many of these villages survive on funds sent home by family members working in other towns or countries. The company takes cash on one end of the transaction, translates it into the recipient’s local currency and takes a little on the way by. We found it to be the best place to exchange money, as we traveled from country to country.
Our next stop was in Palikula Bay, on Espirito Santo Island (15-29S 167-15E) where we found a very large and very protected anchorage. Cruisers spend extended time in this general area, including trips to the Blue Hole, a freshwater spring and cavern. We next moved to a mooring ball off Aore Island Resort (15-32S 167-11E). The resort has water taxi service across the bay to Luganville, where we bought some provisions and checked out of the country.
After checking out of Luganville on September 13, a Monday morning, we decided to start immediately for Fiji. If we waited until Tuesday to leave, we wouldn’t have time to clear into Fiji and would waste the weekend waiting for government offices to reopen on the following Monday. It is our policy to cross reef entrances in daylight, and we hoped to get through the Navula Passage before dark. We missed that by about an hour, but in this case we had been through the passage before, it was a straight shot, it had a navigation light in place, we had two electronic charting systems running, with different software and different charting to guide our approach and we have Furuno scanning sonar that shows the edge of reefs. We made a successful passage and moved to the adjacent Momi Bay (17-56S 177-15E) to anchor Thursday night.
At first light on Friday morning we moved to Port Lautoka to begin our check-in and cruising-permit process. We have been through this process many times in many countries, but Fiji gets the honors of the most bureaucratic system ever encountered. Nonetheless, it is their country and their system, so you have no choice but to cheerfully take the required steps. In a few hours, we completed the customs, immigration, agriculture, and health hurdles. Still to come was the cruising permit that would allow us to visit the Kadavu Islands, south of the main island of Viti Levu. To visit these or other outer islands, the Office of Fijian Affairs, in Suva, must issue a permit. The adjunct Lautoka office is located a few miles from the wharf. After completing the forms, we were told to come back in two weeks, and the permits might be available. In fact, we came back in five days, and cheerfully made it clear that we would sit and wait for them to produce a permit, which they were able to accomplish in a few hours.
This was our second time in Lautoka. On the western legs of our trip, last year, we checked into the country at Savusavu, arriving from Tonga. We followed an arc from this northeastern port of entry that included the Yasawa Group and ended up in Lautoka, where we checked out. For yachts, the most onerous feature of this port is its sugar mill, where processed cane stalks are burned as boiler fuel. If the wind is blowing your way, your yacht will be covered with sticky, black soot. On Friday night, Ice Dancer II got a mild dose, and we quickly departed the next morning for Saweni Bay (19-08S 177-58E) a clean and popular cove, about four miles southwest, with road access to Lautoka. Many sailboats were using Saweni to hang out, rather than for a quick stop. It has a good beach with easy access for dinghies.
The majority of Fiji’s resorts are in the Mamanuka Group of islands, about 20 miles east of Lautoka. These resorts owe their existence to the tourists that arrive at Fiji’s only international airport, nearby at Nadi. For yachts, the most well known destination in the Mamanukas is at Musket Cove (17-46S 177-11E), on Malolo Lailai Island. A yacht club provides many moorings and a few marina slips. The attractive, nearby resort includes a well-stocked market with quality supplies.
We spent Sunday and Monday at Musket Cove, and on Tuesday returned to the main island of Viti Levu and the marina at Port Denarau (17-46S 177-23E). This is a quality marina that includes a fueling facility operated by BP, with diesel fuel brought from Singapore. We took on 4,000 liters of fuel, that day. On Wednesday, we hired a taxi to take us back to Lautoka and remain with us during the day. By perseverance, we convinced the local Fijian Affairs office to expedite our cruising permit, by facsimile from Suva. With the cruising permit in hand, we were able to return to the Lautoka Port offices and obtain our customs permit that allowed us to travel between the Lautoka and Suva districts.
On Thursday, with permits in hand, we moved to Momi Cove, rested until shortly before sunset, then departed through the barrier reef at Navula Passage, for the Kadavu Islands. At 9 a.m., Friday, we arrived at Kavala Bay (18-59S 178-26E), a very protected bay with good holding. If we had waited until daybreak for the crossing, we would have arrived after dark. Waiting for us here were our friends Annika and Bjorn, on s/v Lindisfarne, from Goteborg, Sweden. We spent pleasurable time with them in Tasmania, Australia, then Bluff, Stewart Island and Whangarei, New Zealand. We delivered a package with electronics that we brought to them from Opua, New Zealand.
We weighed anchor on Sunday and threaded our way through reefs and coral heads to Vatulutu Bay (19-00S 178-29E) on the south side of the island group. We found a secure and protected anchorage and spent the next two days snorkeling and visiting with our friends. On Monday, September 27, we visited the nearby village and participated in a sevusevu ceremony, where the chief and his lieutenants chanted traditional blessings for our travels, our boats and us. In return, we offered kava, for use later in their ceremonies. Kava is the root of a pepper plant that is ground and leached in water. The brew produces a mild intoxication when consumed, we are told. It is their drug of choice, it seems, and is expected as an offering of goodwill when visiting these islands.
We made our way back through the reefs to Kavala Bay, so that we could make an easy and early departure on Wednesday for Suva (18-07S 178-25E). We anchored in just outside the Royal Suva Yacht Club, where we could safely leave our dinghy while getting supplies and dealing with procedures for departing the country. Suva is a city of substantial size and serves as the center of commerce and government for the country. The clearance procedure continued the numbing volume of forms and approvals, seemingly with little benefit to the cruiser or the government and little utilization of computers. The customs office contained large stacks of folders, literally reaching the ceiling. It is an example of bureaucracy turned loose and in need of a good overhaul of its systems.
Other than the difficult procedures, Fiji presents wonderful opportunities for cruisers. On our two trips through the country, we saw some of the area between Savusavu and the Yasawa Group of islands and this trip, the Mamanuca Group, Kadavu Group, Lautoka and Suva. The land area of Fiji is larger than all of the other Polynesian islands, combined. There is much more that we would like to see in this country.
On October 2, we departed Suva for a two-day trip to the Ha’apai Group of islands, in Tonga. We caught and released a large, blue marlin enroute. Native villagers in Tonga were aghast that we let the fish go. But, we had no way to preserve its massive volume of meat.
Like Fiji, we visited only certain parts of the country when we passed through last year. We spent time at Niuatoputapu, in the far north, which soon after had villages leveled by a tsunami, and the central and most popular cruising area of Vava’u. Unlike these mountainous areas, the Ha’apai Group is comprised primarily of sunken volcanoes with only reefs and low-relief islands remaining. The landscape contains attractive beaches and wonderful snorkeling areas, with few cruisers or tourists. Pangai (19-48S 174-21W), on Lifuka Island, is a Port of Entry for the Kingdom of Tonga, and where we checked into the country. It is a modest, rural town, with little going on beyond carving out a simple life. The traditional values of church and education play an important role in the villages. We took our folding mountain bikes ashore and toured the island and its villages.
After we arrived in the Ha’apai Group, the South Pacific Convergence Zone settled over the islands with a stationary trough that fueled very heavy rains and thunderstorms. On October 9, we moved to Ofolanga Atoll (29-36S 174-28W). It is a beautiful little island with an extensive reef system that provides substantial protection for anchoring. We were visited by four humpback whales; one of them a small calf. We had an electric light show that night, with lightning strikes on an average of one every seven seconds. We enjoyed beach walks and snorkeling around this island.
Our next stop was Nukupele Island (19-47S 174-33W) where we cleaned the boat hull, in addition to beach walks and snorkeling. Because of the stalled, wet weather system, on October 14, we moved back to Pangai, checked out of the country and left for American Samoa, the next morning. Here, we changed dates because of the International Date Line convention. Leaving Tonga, we caught, vacuum packed and froze another large mahimahi.
We arrived two days later in American Samoa on Saturday, October 16. Returning to Pago Pago was like a homecoming, for us. It is an American Territory, has U.S. Postal Service and familiar brands in the supermarkets. To a larger extent, it was familiar due to the five weeks that we were stranded here, on the first part of our South Pacific journey, needlessly waiting for parts for our main-engine hydraulic pump drive.
The big change was the residual damage caused by the tsunami that flowed into Pago Pago Harbor, not long after we left. It was the same shock wave that wrecked the southern coast of Samoa and the villages at Niuatoputapu, Tonga. It had been a year, but rebuilding had been slow. The lumberyard and hardware store where we shopped disappeared. All that was left was the foundation. The car dealership was still being rebuilt. Surprisingly, the reconstruction at the end of the bay, where the wave’s damage was worst, was at the same elevation as the original buildings. No accommodation was made for the next tsunami or tidal surge from a tropical cyclone. Perhaps, the engineering design is a function of flood insurance, where the risk is with the insurer and not the building owner. It made no sense.
To get around American Samoa, we once again used the ubiquitous private buses that are local conversions from various truck chassis. Seats are made from welded one-inch square tube, with plywood seats and backs. The tariff is 50 cents for kids, one dollar for a short ride and $1.50 for long. All of the buses have heavy sound systems, including sub-woofers, and all were turned up much too loud.
One of the two tuna canneries had closed down since our last visit. The water quality was still not good, but it was substantially better than before. Two large freezer ships were in the harbor, taking catches from the tuna boats, in addition to the one still-operating cannery.
When we cleared into American Samoa, we requested and received permission to once again visit Ofu Island, which is about 60 nm east of Pago Pago. On October 23, we arrived near sundown to find that the island’s supply ship, the M/V Sili, was still in the little harbor. There is only room for one boat and we had timed our arrival to miss the conflict. We found a marginal anchorage, with some protection from the swells and anchored in 90 feet with a rocky bottom. The next morning, the supply ship left and we entered the harbor, which has a tricky entrance, immediately spun the boat around using the bow and stern thrusters, dropped anchor and backed toward the small, concrete dock. By then we had attracted a crowd of stern-faced men, who placed our lines over two bollards, then we tensioned the anchor chain, completing what is known as a med-moor docking.
One of the gentlemen on the dock recognized our boat, and remembered that we had visited with permission, the previous July. At that time, we were the first private boat they had seen in a year and a half, and none since, so, we were only yacht to visit, in two and one-half years. Then came other men we had met on last year’s visit. Mo, who is responsible for the port and airstrip, Missy, a public works foreman, and the island policeman, who initially gave us a bad time, last year. Then they brought a dozen papayas, 20 mangoes, bananas, and coconuts. We gave them frozen mahimahi, tuna and toys for the village’s children.
We rode our mountain bikes to the Amerika Samoa (as they spell it) Park, which was created to protect the reefs on the southern side of Ofu Island. This was our second visit to the park, for snorkeling. The clear water and abundant fish are a treasure worth protecting.
The M/V Sili was scheduled to return to Ofu harbor on October 28. The day before, we left for Pago Pago to fuel the boat for the trip to Honolulu, buy provisions and check out of the harbor and Territory. We took on 1,345 gallons of diesel, at the best price seen in the Pacific, $2.72 per gallon.
On October 31 we left Pago Pago for Palmyra Atoll. We received permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife office in Honolulu to make a stop on the way to Hawaii. Opposing currents, winds and seas slowed the 1,459 nm ocean crossing to Palmyra. Nonetheless, we completed the trip in seven days, which is about what you would expect for the 57 Nordhavn.
Palmyra is operated as a wildlife refuge and is owned jointly by the agency and The Nature Conservancy. This was our third stop at Palmyra, the first on the return leg on a trip in our Nordhavn 50 that included the Marquesa Islands, the Tuomoto Atolls and the Society Islands of French Polynesia. The second stop was on the first leg of this trip, a year ago, last May.
The Nature Conservancy manager, Ned Brown, who remembered us from our southbound trip last year, warmly greeted us. We spent six days enjoying the tranquil beauty of the refuge and the viewing the huge numbers of nesting sea birds. The Nature Conservancy operates the research station at Palmyra, but control of the refuge is now under US Fish and Wildlife, with a young, serious lady exercising her authority.
The palm trees on the islets are being poisoned, because the sea birds prefer to nest in an indigenous scrub bush/tree, which is crowded out by the palms. Many of the palms were planted for copra production, many years ago. It may not look as nice with the palms gone, but the focus of the refuge is habitat for the birds. No fishing is allowed within 12 nm, so that the birds will have lots of feed from tuna and marlin driving small fish to the surface. They plan to eradicate the rats in the refuge in a big, government-funded poisoning operation, using helicopters. While we were at Palmyra Lagoon, one of the staff tried to get a grey reef shark out of a net they set to capture a napoleon wrasse, for research. When released, the shark attacked him. The shark had the whole top of his head in its mouth. His hood and mask reduced the damage. They bandaged and stapled him, on the island.
Passage from Palmyra to Ko Olina, Oahu, Hawaii was 965 nautical miles, a five-day trip at a leisurely pace, in mostly favorable seas, arriving November 18. Our passage from Pago Pago to Ko Olina was 2,424 nautical miles in 12 days, without refueling at our Palmyra stop. When we entered the marina, we were surprised to find the Black Pearl, the infamous vessel from the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, tied alongside. It was great to renew friendship with fellow boat owners and the marina staff.
We ended this voyage with mixed emotions. It was good to be back in the USA and we looked forward to spending more time with family and friends. And yet, there is an attraction to continuing on to the next adventure. Many cruisers go on for years. Instead, we try to balance the joys of experiencing new places with keeping close to our family, our home and community, in Anchorage, Alaska.