Month: June 2010

Aitutaki Diving…..

June 30, 2010

Dear F&F,

June 29, 2010

Aitutaki Diving

We had a lovely calm night inside the lagoon. What a pleasure to be still!
There was a bit of rain in the early morning. We got up early to get out our
dive gear & put fenders out so the dive boat can get close for gear transfer
without damage.

The Health Inspector & Agriculture Inspector (2 different guys) showed up
just as the dive boat arrived. It was great because they knew we were
already in wetsuits & needed to be on our way. I managed to hide my
contraband meat/few veggies without discovery. He did paw through my trash,
but did not find anything to protest. A few forms filled out. Fees of $20 NZ
dollars paid to each (about $14 USD). We got to take our Quarantine flag
down & are fully official. We asked where we can dispose of our trash & they
told us, so all is on the up & up now.

Scott took the video as it is the easiest rig to swim with. Sadly the
visibility was not great, partly due to damage/sand covering the coral from
Hurricane Pat in Feb. And plenty of the reef-eating Crown of Thorns
starfish. I gave them the evil eye, but kept my distance. Divemaster Onu
(company name = Bubbles Below) says he kills them by the hundreds, but he
has clearly not got the upper hand. We saw one large Napoleon wrasse & one
Triton Trumpet mollusk, which are two of the main predators that eat the
C.O.T. The reef is not pretty. Very monochrome, rubble looking. What the
C.O.T. does to a reef is the equivalent of strip mining on land. There were
fewer fish than the last 2 islands. I’d always rather be diving than just
about anything else, but the sites we went today were very mediocre. The
coolest thing was the “ghost coral”. It’s brown, touch it and it turns
white in sections, then back to brown.

The water visibility was murky in many places & a FULL 3 DEGREES COLDER! I
may have to switch to my dry suit soon! I know that sounds ridiculous, but
when I am submerged at 80 degrees for 2 hours per day my core temperature
goes down. Fine for a few days, but if we do multiple days of diving in a
row I will have to switch suits. Today I felt cold but not miserably so. A
nice warm pee helps you toast up. This probably sounds absolutely grotesque
to you non-divers, but you that dive have a knowing smile. Besides rinsing
all our gear in fresh water at the end of the day, we use white vinegar &
lavender scented fabric softener to counteract any residual effect.

The 2 other divers were Honeymooners. Nice couple from S.F. that met on
EHarmony 3 years ago. They were dive novices but did fine. The dive master
took her up to the boat ahead of the 3 of us whose air lasted longer. She is
a dietician at a hospital. He works for Intel, so lots of good conversation
all around. They are staying at the fanciest resort here, good for them!

Finger Report: Sloughing skin area enlarging. I taped it loosely for
protection but cut the tip of that finger off on my dive glove. No pain with
diving.

It is time to think about dinner. Eager to hear the report of the day from J
& N + kids. I think their plan was to tour the island via rented bicycles.
Not sure if we will dive or take tomorrow off. Time is very fluid now… No
whales seen or heard. Any day we hope.

Cindy & Scott

Aitutaki – Pass Entry…..

June 29, 2010

Dear F&F,

June 28, 2010

Aitutaki – Pass Entry

Scott & I made another depth test run of the channel via dinghy into the
harbor. We did not intend to make the passage today, just heading to shore
to check in with Customs & Immigration. But we could see it was a rising
tide & using a lead line (a piece of string, marked every foot, with a piece
of lead to make it hang down straight) for confirmation of the dinghy’s
depth sounder, we felt we had an opportunity. The wind speed was 17-20
outside the reef, but once we entered the lagoon the wind decreased to only
11-14 knots. The sun was shining which really helps see bottom contour:
shallow sandy areas & coral heads vs. deeper, safe water. We seized the day,
zooming back to “Beach House”. Scott dropped me to help make her ready to up
anchor, while he went & picked up Dale who has been anchored outside the
reef in his monohull for 5 weeks. Dale volunteered to lead us in with our
dinghy since it has the depth sounder.

Jerome already had his anchor up & was on his way to the pass with his
dinghy trailing. Sadly we did not get our dinghy line cast off quick enough
(or move it to the side out of harm’s way), so the starboard propeller cut
the painter (name of the bow line we use to tie the dinghy to the big boat)..
This meant Scott had to strip & jump in quickly to make sure no piece of the
line was fouling our propeller. We were lucky, it was a clean cut. The
propellers were both clear. Using both engines makes maneuvering much, much
easier.

Jerome took the lead on “Na Maka”, followed by Dale in our dinghy, and Scott
drove “Beach House” perfectly along the half mile or so, tricky course. Once
inside, each catamaran anchored bow and stern because it is a small space &
no room for swinging on one anchor. I could easily swim to shore, although
the water is not pretty or appealing for swimming. But it is a super fast
dinghy ride to the cement wharf with a dry landing. It is SO MUCH CALMER in
here!!! I was “on watch” last night, not only because my sleep rhythm got
disrupted by our 2 day passage, but the strong wind & choppy sea state
outside the reef kept the boat lively & noisy at anchor. I will not have to
use seasick meds while we are in here – hurray!

Once secure, we went to the Customs & Immigration office & learned the fees
to stay here, quite reasonable. We did not connect with the Health Dept yet,
so are still flying our yellow “Q” flag, designating that we have not been
completely cleared. Some countries & islands are extremely officious about
this & for good reason. They do not want foreign vessels to introduce
non-native species. But we were told that here they are quite casual & it
was ok to come to ashore.

We know for certain they will not allow us to keep any fresh fruit or
vegetables. No problem, I don’t have any! I do have onions & garlic, but
have already scoped out that they can be bought here at the little market,
so if Agricultural Control wants to confiscate those, they can. There is
some uncertainty about frozen meat. Consequently I put all meat in the guest
cabin freezer then disguised it with blankets, cushions, camera gear &
shopping bags. They would have to be quite thorough to catch it. Food is
very expensive here, similar or more expensive than Tahiti with a very
limited selection. The next cargo ship is not due for over a week.

The gas station is a short walk from where we tie up the dinghy & the
mini-mart attached has a nice supply of NZ wines. The main market, oddly,
only had Australian wines. The Cooks are administered by NZ, so we can only
imagine that they are sold out at the market of NZ wines. We had a taste
test between the Aussie & NZ sauvignon blancs & it was no contest: NZ tastes
better to us. Scott is returning to buy all the Giesen on the shelf & ask if
more is stocked.

There is a notice posted on a public bulletin board advertising a tour of a
farm with produce for sale. We got a local cell phone card & pre-paid
minutes. Local calls are about $1 USD per minute. We walked looking for a
lunch spot, but nothing is close to the wharf, so we returned & ate aboard.
Hope to scope out the veggie scene.

Generator Report: We spent ALL DAY yesterday running the diagnostic tests &
replacing parts we have. Scott reported the lack of results to the tech in
Florida & he is sending a new Digital Diesel Control to Mike who will ship
it onto Rarotonga for us. It is basically the electronic brain of the
generator.

The helpful gal, Pitonga at Air Rarotonga gave us an address where our parts
can be shipped for “Beach House, Yacht in Transit”. Mike in Redondo Beach
should have the parts tomorrow. He will send them DHL to Rarotonga which we
expect to take 7-10 days. We will decide once the parts get that far, if we
will have them flown on to here, or if we will fly to pick them up
ourselves. We have been considering flying to Rarotonga from here anyway. It
is not a great place to go by boat, but might be an interesting 2-3 day
excursion by island hop plane. The fares are high, about $500 round trip per
person. But we will probably never go there otherwise & it is supposed to be
beautiful.

Competing Dive Operations: Bubbles Below never replied to our email, whereas
Neil Mitchell of Aitutaki Scuba did. But Onu (head of B.B.) answered our
radio call when we first arrived & gave us good info about the entry pass,
when we could not raise Neil. Today when getting the cell phone stuff, we
met Onu & he seemed like a perfectly nice chap & Dale on the monohull gave
him thumbs up (needed help getting his anchor unstuck from a rock). So we
decided we will start diving with Onu tomorrow. We will rip through a 10
tank dive package in about 2 1/2 days (2 tanks each x 2 people). If we don’t
love our experience, we can try Neil next. We were up front with Onu that we
had already been in email contact with Neil. These small island politics are
kinda crazy, but you’ve got to play the game the best you can.

Onu said they saw humpback whales at fairly close range just 2 days ago. It
is the beginning of the calving season, so we hope to have more & more whale
sightings. He was also honest that between the Crown of Thorn starfish &
hurricane Pat, the coral here is sadly quite dead or distressed. Sad. There
are some turtles & eagle rays, so we’ll check it out. Have to bide our time
until we get our generator parts, so we may as well dive!

Finger Report: Great regret that I sanded my callous/scab. Now raw & sore
with white patch re-appearing. Drats! Will have to see how it tolerates the
compression of diving. Plan to cut off the index fingertip on that glove to
reduce the squeeze.

Weather: It is lovely with 10 knots of breeze and 80 degrees.

Cindy & Scott

POSITION REPORT

June 28, 2010

YOTREPS: YES
TIME: 2010/06/28 23:22
LATITUDE: 18-51.89S
LONGITUDE: 159-48.03W
MARINE: NO
WIND_SPEED: 11
WIND_DIR: 075T
CLOUDS: 40%
VISIBILITY: 20
BARO: 1010.2
AIR_TEMP: 31.1C
COMMENT: Beach House – ANCHORED – In the HARBOR, Aitutaki Island, Cook Islands