Monday, 10 November 2014

Cook Islands, Rarotonga - 3/11/14

We've been here for five days and for the first four the only exploring we did was in the hardware store straight in front of the harbour. It wasn't intentional and nothing serious had broken, but the guy tied up next to us had stopped for emergency repairs. Jerry had acquired a hole in his hull from a broken rudder, and he was desperately trying to fix it ASAP. He also turned out to be a really awesome guy, so we spent the last few days helping each other out with repairs. He actually knows what he's doing, which is helpful. We've pretty much been on our own since we left NZ with the exception of visiting friends. We've had just two socialable neighbours so far, who were really nice but rare. Most people we meet are on fancy boats with nothing broken. Whereas we're holding ourselves together with spit, polish, filler and epoxy. It was really exciting to meet somebody else in a similar situation, who just fixes stuff when it breaks and doesn't fork over a small fortune whenever something needs to be done. Plus he was really great company, which was greatly appreciated after a two week passage mostly spent worrying about my arm getting infected.

So we helped him when we could and he offered us a lot of really helpful advice along with an extra set of hands. We really got stuck into our list of repairs that have to be done. I'm not sure what it is, but there was just something so motivational about having somebody else nearby fixing things too. Instead of lying around relaxing we actually got off our asses and started doing things.

Washing off the dirt

Half of our problems stem from water coming down the mast, which is partly due to our dodgy skirt. It's supposed to sit around the bottom of the mast and block out water. Ours got ripped ages ago and after Garth's dad said we had to replace it, we stuck a patch over the rip. Which isn't quite the same. Jerry convinced us to fix it properly, then dragged us over to the hardware store to buy all the bits for it. There was something about him that was just great for us - normally we would decide to do it and then put it at the top of our repair list. With a star next to it. And then we'd put it off for as long as possible. An hour after Jerry decided it needed to be done we had the old skirt ripped off, only to discover that underneath it there was no buffer between the mast and its socket in the deck. The mast moves around a lot and was slowly being worn away where it was rubbing against the deck. If we'd left it, the mast would have eventually worn through enough to snap off. Which is horrifying. So we were relieved to have found and started fixing a serious problem, but worried at the same time about what else could be broken without us knowing.

The boys knocked out some wedges to keep the mast from rubbing and then we redid the skirt around the base. Jerry said we should have two skirts on there, which we didn't know. So now hopefully no more water down the mast!

He left yesterday, which was actually really sad because we were immediately all alone. It was fun having such a nice neighbour so close by! It only took two strokes on the kayak to move between our boats. Now he's gone we're really excited about doing things. Garth usually manages to fix one thing every few days before giving up and refusing to do any more. I definitely can't get him to keep going all day. Which means that our list of stuff that needs fixing grows faster than we can fix them. I took our list of high priority jobs and added about ten things I really wanted done, and we've been chewing through them now that we're all motivated.

Pulling up the anchor

The other great thing about running into Jerry was that he'd obviously been sailing for a while and was in the right mindset to do it. His boat didn't have much junk on it that he didn't need. He swapped books with us, which we find really hard to do. I hate letting go of books. But after you've read them, they're essentially just unnecessary weight. Then we got into the right frame of mind to get rid of things, though admittedly we were just offloading them onto him. We swapped charts and got rid of our spare sleeping bags along with a spare mainsail. Which has given us enough room to hopefully get rid of everything that's been floating around the boat without a home since NZ. Our blankets fit where the mainsail was. Winter clothes and my big travel bag fit where the sleeping bags used to live. The couch is now free from junk.

I love seeing other people's boats. It's always useful to see how everyone else does things. Jerry has a fishing rod holder along one wall, which we can't do because we don't have flat walls. But I did find a space in the aft berth where I can mount both fishing rods - one always falls down from its shelf and one is always flying around the bathroom. So the boat is slowly getting more organised... I think soon it will even be a functioning, livable space instead of piles of stuff we have to climb over. I'm very excited about this. We moved our snorkeling gear in to the bathroom a while ago, because we use it a lot and it's always wet. It's just been sitting on the bench and ends up spread out on the floor when we sail. We put up a net today to make sure it stays in place. I can't even explain how happy that tiny bit of organisation makes me. That net is the prettiest thing I've ever seen.

The only other foreign yacht in Raro, a huge ketch on our other side 

The anchorage here was difficult, but good practice for Europe were we'll have to tie up like this a lot more often. It's a stern tie up to a wall, with a bow anchor out. It's like a cross between anchoring and docking - the stern tie is just to keep us in place and out of the way of the big boats that come into this tiny harbour. So we had to drop the anchor, then I rushed to shore with a rope on the kayak to tie up before we could swing towards the other two boats. Luckily there was someone on shore to help me tie up, especially considering I only have one good arm.

The reason we're using the kayak is the main problem with the boat at the moment. Our dinghy pretty much fell apart on the passage. So when Garth went to pump it up as we were getting close to the harbour he was met with a nasty surprise. The glue holding the inflatable part to the solid bit at the back looks like it's just disintegrated and we don't know how to fix it. After a bit of research we've figured out that it's probably PVC, which is impossible to glue. So we're just using the kayak for now until we find a permanent solution. Unfortunately it looks like a toy, and the local kids all keep playing on it.

Our fold up bikes are finally coming in handy. This island is tiny. It's 30km all the way around and the road is really flat. So everybody here is zipping around on scooters, push bikes or motorbikes - there aren't that many cars. So we can just zip down to the shops in 5 minutes instead of walking for 20 minutes each way. They're really useful and I'm seriously glad we've dragged them so far across the Pacific.

We went for a bike ride after Jerry left, without any planning or purpose. Everything is closed here on Sunday, like all the other religious islands. So without any markets to explore or shops to wander past we spent our first day off the boat just riding our bikes. We stopped at a beach along the road and walked along to Black Rock, which was the only landmark to be found. 

We climbed up it, obviously. And Garth went up the vertical wall instead of up the gentle slope on the other side. Obviously. The view was beautiful. We hung around for a while but I only had my phone, so no fancy photos. We rode for about 7km before turning back and today my gluteus maximus is unhappy with me for not adding any padding to my bike seat. Hopefully I'll be less sore next time! Although these bikes weren't made for long distances. We're hoping to work our way up to going all the way round the island, though that probably won't happen.

Xxx Monique


  1. Hi, I've tried to post a comment but it doesn't quite take it. Good to see you underway to panama.

  2. It worked finally...that mainsail you gave me was very handy. I ripped my genoa to shreds by a silly mistake (tie things down right away!!) and I managed to rig the mainsail as a jib. It got me from Tonga to Fiji and from Fiji to Luganville where i am now. As things like this do go around, the mainsail that i had given to another boat before i met you was used by them all the way across the Pacific. Its nice how things work out. Hope your mast wedgies held up but hope you look for rubbery ones if you can find them. I'll keep checking back to see how your doing. Looks like a lot of fun.

    1. Hi Jerry, it's so great to hear from you! We're so glad you've had so much use out of our mainsail, we're always hesitant to get rid of things and it makes us feel so much better about it when they're actually used by somebody! Our mast is still standing, thanks again for all your help! We're in Panama now, so we'll have a look around for some rubber bits for it now we're back in civilization. The passage here took 55 days from the Gambiers in French Pol, and the weather was horrible. But we're here! Glad you've still been moving despite so many setbacks. Is the concrete still filling up your hole or did you find a more permanent solution? Where are you heading next?
      Take care! Xxx Monique and Garth