Author Archives: Paula

Vava’u, Tonga and its Outlying Islands

Whales!!   Fakarava was sharks, Mo’orea was stingrays, and Tonga was whales. We sure did see a lot of whales. Each year, whales come here to mate, give birth, and get their calves ready to travel the oceans. Apparently, the females will lose 75% of their body weight while they are here.   While we were in Tonga, we saw whales breaching on our way to an anchorage called Hunga Haven and on our way back. We had a whale come into our anchorage in Port Maurelle and in Avalau. In Avalau, Ryan and I were on the beach while Dan and Ariana were working on Physics, and I saw a whale immediately behind our boat from the beach.  I screamed to Dan and Ari, but of course, the ONE time I am off the boat, it surfaces right there.  That happened in Niue too.  The dive captain apparently tried calling us to tell us there was a whale playing on our stern, but we had no idea.

Vava’u, Tonga

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Here in Tonga, every time we left the main harbor, it seems, we saw whales. The negative of that is that private vessels are not supposed to come within 300 meters of a whale. If you’re in an anchorage and they come up to your boat, obviously, that is fine, but you are also not supposed to jump in the water with them either, even if you are at anchor and accustomed to swimming off of your boat. However, if you are a tour operator whale watching boat, you can go much closer to the whales and you can toss your tourists into the water to swim with them.

This is a still shot from video I took coming back from Hunga Haven Anchorage.

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I’m fairly certain the expats who live on Tonga (and there are many of them) are the folks who lobbied for these whale “rules.” The tour operators charge $200 U.S. per head to come out on their boats to see and swim with the whales. In essence, they want to force private boat owners to take their tours. In my opinion, it is a racket, given it costs more to see the whales for a few hours than it does to do a two-tank scuba dive (where much more expensive gear is required) and they don’t guarantee you will actually be able to swim with a whale (or see one for that matter).  Such is life!

Tonga Sunset

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In Tonga, many of the restaurants and “resorts” (which are very small) are owned by expats rather than Tonga natives. I am not sure why someone would settle here (maybe there is a lack of taxes?), but I wouldn’t be able to live here long-term! Other than the whales, perhaps some snorkeling and diving, and the handful of decent restaurants, there really isn’t all that much more. Hiking is limited and there aren’t too many sites to see here either.  Also, many areas are quite dirty and there is NO veterinarian on the whole island, and the dogs, especially, are in very sad shape.  That being said, it seems the ex-pats who do live here are active in the community and all seem to know each other quite well. They seem to make the place more livable by having events at some of the restaurants on different nights of the week. For example, there is a Thursday trivia night at Bounty Bar, Monday Pizza Night and Taco Tuesday at The Aquarium restaurant, Sunday movie night at the Dancing Rooster, Friday sailing night and BBQ at Mango Restaurant.

Overall, Vava’u was not the most organized place.  Often, they ran out of fuel, had a shortage of eggs, and the expats often asked those going to American Samoa to get yachties headed for Tonga to bring them things that weren’t available in the Kingdom.

Reef outside of Reef Resort!

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The Reef Resort Dining Room and Verandah

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Below is Blue Lagoon next to Hunga Haven.  It is not “The” Blue Lagoon, but we are going to the actual Blue Lagoon (from the Movie) later on here in Fiji!

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Some of the beaches on the out-islands are pretty, and the diving is pretty good. We did a dive outside the pass at Hunga Haven (one day, Ari and Dan went and another day, Dan and I went). The visibility was pretty good and there were swim-throughs and crevices, which made for varied underwater topography, but the fish were average in abundance and variety. Ariana had a good time on that dive because she enjoyed the tight spaces she had to go through while following her dad. (That IS exciting as a diver!)

Local Island Kids

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In Port Maurelle, Emily and Isabel from Blue Raven came over to see if Ari wanted to kayak into the beach with them. They are close to Ari’s age, and Ari went along and hung out with them for a few hours. She found out that the girls on Blue Raven knew the boys on Widago and K1W1 Beanz, so they already had that in common. The next day, after Ariana and the girls on Blue Raven did school, and then both Ari and Ryan went to their boat to look at the movies they had each made, and to play games. Dan and I kayaked to the beach, walked around for a while, and met up with the parents on Blue Raven (Brian and Nicole). They ended up coming to our boat for happy hour, and then we went over to their boat for dinner that night. We had a really good time. We ended up trading an almost full bottle of Flor de Cana Rum for a handful of fresh mahi mahi when the New Zealand (and Italian and Canadian) whale researchers from Sea Runner came over to Blue Raven. Sea Runner had gotten drone footage of the whale who came into our anchorage that morning, and they were willing to share some of that video—which shows the whale right next to Blue Raven (who was right behind us in the anchorage). The next day, Blue Raven left for Fiji, and we will likely catch up with them again while we are here in Fiji.

Me in a wetsuit in Swallows Cave.  We snorkeled through here and climbed up to explore.

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A Million Fish in Swallows Cave!  It was beautiful in there and the Kids enjoyed Climbing up and Exploring in the Cave as well as the water.

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Below is a short movie of Dan snorkeling through the fish in Swallow’s Cave…

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The Aquarium Restaurant had movie night one night and it turned out that they had someone from National Geographic (Abraham Joffe) there who had just finished filming the Tongan Islands (including Swallows Cave and the whales).  We got to see the not officially complete movie he and his team are creating for National Geographic.  We talked with him afterwards and his job seems like a lot of fun.  I can imagine Ariana doing something like that in the future!

Another night, we went to movie night at the Dancing Rooster (The Mummy was the movie), and had some good food.  We ended up eating there again a few times.

We left the anchorage to go to the moorings off of the Tongan Beach Resort. There, we planned to spend the day at their pool, I was to have a massage, and Dan and I were to celebrate our 19th anniversary over dinner at their restaurant. Well, the pool was no longer in service, it was rainy, and the Internet was slower than you could ever imagine.  Plus, our anniversary dinner was mediocre at best. It turned out not to be the best day, but that massage sure was great…

Pretty Flowers.

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Dan and I decided to celebrate a “do over” (hee, hee, hee) of our anniversary at another small resort called The Reef Resort. Dinner was much better there, and the weather was pretty darn good.  It was a lovely evening.  Each year, the kids make our numbers that represent how long we’ve been married.  The one is compliments of Ryan and the 9 is the Ariana’s artwork.

19 years!

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Another night, Dan and I decided to go out to the Bounty Bar.  We went for the transvestite show that turned out to be quite fun!  The only bad thing was that my favorite camera was stolen–which I am not happy about because it’s not like I can just reorder it on Amazon!  It was my small, waterproof Canon that I took pretty much everywhere I went.  Luckily, I had downloaded my photos a few days before that so I didn’t lose many.  Another $300 down the drain!

Back to the Bounty Bar.  All throughout Polynesia, you can find people who consider themselves a third gender.  Here is a description of third gender as it appears in Samoan culture from Wikipedia:

“Fa’afafine are third-gender people of Samoa, American Samoa and the Samoan diaspora. A recognized gender identity/gender role since at least the early 20th century in Samoan society, and some theorize an integral part of traditional Samoan culture, fa’afafine are male at birth, and explicitly embody both masculine and feminine gender traits, fashioned in a way unique to this part of the world. Their behavior typically ranges from extravagantly feminine to mundanely masculine.[1]Traditionally, if a family had more boys than girls or not enough girls to help with women’s duties about the house, male children would be chosen to be raised as fa’afine. [2]  It has been estimated that 1-5% of Samoans identify as fa’afafine.”

It is interesting and refreshing to me that people here seem to have little to no prejudice against those folks who choose to live their own way.

Okay, I think that about summarizes Tonga well enough.  We then had a three night sail to Fiji, which is where we are now.  I will update more soon!

Isn’t this Piglet adorable?  It matches its mom!

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Ariana on the Boat at Anchor in Front of the Reef Resort

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Our Hike Up to The Observation Area (in the Rain–Again!)

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The View from the Top

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Another View…

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FIJI!

So, we arrived into Fiji a few days ago.  We had a three night passage with rain the first day, and clear, but somewhat rough seas the second day.  I wore a patch and was not seasick.  Ariana and Ryan took Stugeron and they were somewhat tired, but not sick.

Internet is so much better here than Tonga, and we even have Internet on our boat (at least at this marina mooring).  I still need to update Vava’u, Tonga (which I will do this week), but here is the update for right now in Fiji:

(1) Ariana turns 14 tomorrow!  We are surprising her with a day that includes stand-up paddleboarding down a river and horseback riding on the beach.  We have to be up and at the marina at 7 a.m. for pick-up, which pretty much is the earliest we have had to be anywhere for quite some time.  (Yes, I know.  We are spoiled.)

(2) My favorite camera was “stolen” in Tonga.  Dan and I went out one night and I accidentally left my camera in the bathroom.  Five minutes later, I realized it and it was gone.  The owner of the Bounty Bar (Laurence) was very upset and made an announcement to return it, but not surprisingly, no one did.  This was my small, waterproof camera that I used for about 95% of the photos I have taken on this trip.  It is a terrible disappointment because I can’t replace it out here.  I am hoping to get a new one in New Zealand.  In the meantime, I have the GoPro and our Sony DLSR camera, but the latter is bulky and can’t get wet.  There is one good thing though–I had JUST cleared all of the photos (about 700 of them) off of the camera only two days before it was taken.

(3) The weather in Fiji, so far, is SO much better than Tonga.  I am loving that.  It was downright chilly in Tonga and made me not want to get in the water!

(4) We are going to be doing a lot of diving as soon as we leave Savusavu.  The diving in the out-islands here is supposed to be some of the best in the world, and superior to that of the southern Fijian Islands.

(5)  We need to get Kava root.  When we go to the smaller islands, we need to bring it with us as a gift for the village chief so we can be welcomed to their village.

(6)  Right now, we are off to get some good Indian curry!  Yummy.

 

Niuatoputapu, Kingdom of Tonga

For this passage, Ryan, Ariana and I took Stugeron, an oral anti-seasickness medication. I still felt nauseous, had a headache, and had the motivation of a slug, but at least I didn’t physically get sick on this passage. Neither did the kids, so that was great. It didn’t help that we were back upwind which makes for a more bumpy ride. (Most of the time we were 45-60 degrees off the wind.) I was, once again, happy to arrive at our destination. Surprise, surprise.

I am going to shorten this island to “potato” in my description because it is too long to type all the time! Also, many cruisers actually call it “new potato” rather than learn how to say the name (which is pronounced: “New-a-toe-poo-tah–poo). This was another of our destinations I had never heard of. I knew of Tonga, but specific islands on Tonga or even where the heck Tonga was? No way. Potato was due south of American Samoa, about 160 miles.

The View of the Anchorage from Land

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We arrived on a Sunday and stayed onboard to relax and have dinner because we knew we couldn’t check in to the country on a Sunday anyway. The next morning, we hitchhiked into the customs check-in and learned they would come to our boat as a group at 3 p.m. that day. We were, however, allowed to exchange some money while we were in town. The bank was a glorified white painted shed with a card table. It was so funny. We exchanged our money and were brought back to our dinghy by Sia, who worked in the office.

The Niuatoputapu Bank (Yes, seriously)

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At 3 p.m. the customs and health officials met us at the dock and came to our boat via our dinghy. We provided snacks and drinks (as is expected) and our boat was inspected. They looked at our produce but luckily, did not take anything. We were not allowed to bring any food to shore, however. Sia had told Dan ahead of time to hide our alcohol because one of the customs officials liked to find a reason to confiscate alcohol from boaters because, well, he enjoyed drinking it. The kids and I scurried to hide a few bottles of rum (Ariana thought Ryan’s room would be good for that), and a bottle of coconut liquor and vodka (that I mostly have for vodka cream pasta sauce if you can believe that!) was left in our salon in a cabinet. The man was surprised by generally unhappy to see that that was all we had onboard. Apparently, the island is a dry one, so he must really be really motivated to obtain what he could get away with!

The Officials (The One Sitting next to Ari is the Official who Wanted Photos of our Palengi Daughter to Show his Twin Kids)

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Another official wanted photos of each of our kids with him so he could show his children—twins. That was unexpected too. He was very nice though. After check-in, we decided to head to land to go for a walk. We learned from an Australian boat in the anchorage that the King of Tonga would be coming that Wednesday. He only visits the out-islands once a year for a big cultural celebration. How lucky was that?! We decided to stay at least until Wednesday for the event. It is not every day that you get to see a King…

Our few days in Potato were fairly uneventful. There were no restaurants, and although I heard there was a VERY small store, I never saw one anywhere. We interacted with a lot of the kids on the island (and passed out candy to most kids we saw), and did a bit of walking around the island. I most liked that pigs and piglets were allowed to roam free. You would see a whole family of pigs coming out of the woods and heading across the street. The little piglets were so cute!

Pigs Everywhere!  Pig and Piglet

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Pig in the Graveyard

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The Town

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A Typical House (Most seem to be Nearly Identical Shed-sized Houses)

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This Family Decorated Their House to Make it Unique

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This, apparently, is a safe location for a tsunami.  Really?  A bit rickety if you ask me…

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This military ship came prior to the King’s arrival.  It had his SUV and the King and Queen Chairs for the Ceremony.

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Island Kids we Passed Out Candy to–very sweet!

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The common mode of transportation was hitchhiking and most people would pick you up if they had room in their vehicles.

Finally, it was Wednesday, and we ended up catching a ride into town after walking a part of the way with some of the other boaters getting a ride from a local family. We squeezed into the back of a small SUV and pretty much looked like a clown car at that point.

The highlight of our stay here was the King’s visit. Even though it had some very boring moments, we were able to see, up close and personal, the authentic Tongan celebration of their King. The locals call non-Tongan visitors “Palangi” and I don’t believe it is meant to be derogatory; it’s just a way to differentiate us tourists from Tongans. But, us Palangis were able to be as close to the King as the locals. And the coolest part? There were only 12 Palangis on the whole island, including our family of four! Being on a pretty unpopulated island for the King’s celebration was definitely better than experiencing the festival on a large island. (He later visited Vava’u, which is much more populated with more ex-pats and tourists, and you could not get very close to the King and Queen in that environment.)   We were able to participate in the agricultural show, walk around the grounds like everyone else, and there seemed to be no concern at all about outsiders at this event. The King had his military security personnel, and at one point, I thought I saw one of the military men take out a rifle. Talk about disconfirmed assumptions; it was an umbrella! His duty was to keep the King dry while he was walking during the rain showers that day.

The Day of the King’s Visit

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School Kids Waiting to Welcome the King and Queen

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More School Kids

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Kids Getting Ready for their Performance

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Locals Waiting for the Celebration

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Dancing to the Music

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A Little Boy Waiting for the King

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The King and Queen

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The King (Without Any Camera Zoom).  They let us be very close to their King. The King is Wearing the Light Blue Shirt and Traditional Ta’ovala (skirt with burlap-type cloth wrapped around).

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Another One of the King and Queen (in the background)

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There were a lot of speeches, singing, dancing and school children performed for the King and Queen, and at one point, the King and Queen walked around the agricultural grounds to look at all of the food and handicrafts of the locals. There were tons of handmade fans, straw rugs, dead fish of all kinds, lobsters, a small shark, and very sadly, a turtle. Ariana said she saw the turtle move and I dismissed it (probably as a defense mechanism), but when Sue on the Australian boat told us later that the turtle was still alive, I felt terrible. How could anyone keep a turtle out in the blazing sun just to suffer? I can’t imagine killing them to begin with given they’re endangered, but this is a different country with different cultural practices, so I get it. But to make an animal suffer? I see no point in that.

The Handicrafts and Agricultural Goods that are Being Shown to the King

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This Turtle was Alive; It was Very Disturbing to Me.

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The day after the King’s visit, we dinghied over to a small island we heard was good for snorkeling, but we could not see any good reef to snorkel in. We later learned that when you go at low tide, you can walk out to an amazing snorkeling wall. We didn’t go at low tide and that was our problem. So instead, we had wooden stick fights and tried to make a wooden shelter on the beach. Good thing we weren’t on Survivor because we gave that up pretty quickly. We, once again, had dinner on the boat and watched a family movie (we do that a lot).

A View of Our “Day” Island

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Stick Fight!

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Our Lean-To

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The next day, we were off to Vava-u, which, thankfully, was only an overnight passage.

Leaving Tonga

Today, we leave Tonga to head to Savu Savu, Fiji, which will be a three night passage.  I am not looking forward to the sail, but I am looking forward to Fiji.  When we hit Fiji, we will have a handful of overnight passages to the various islands, but this is possibly our second-to-last big passage.  We will be sailing to New Zealand after we cover the Fiji Islands.  Unfortunately, I was unable to update the Tongan Islands because I wasn’t able to upload the photos we took.  Hopefully, Fiji will have stronger Internet.  We shall see!

Talk to you soon!

American Samoa

Well, we had a short passage (two and a half days) to American Samoa and it was absolutely terrible. Ari, Ryan and I were very seasick, especially Ari and me. We tried not using a Scopalamine patch since we are low on them and they cause pretty significant side effects (Ari and I both get chest pressure just left of the center of our chest and some blurred vision) but the trade-off was terrible seasickness. I was miserable and Ari was too.

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Then we finally arrived into American Samoa. Shall I start with the negatives and finish with the positives? I think I will so I can finish on a positive note! Check-in at American Samoa was terribly inefficient and was not made easier despite the fact we are also American. The harbor was remarkably dirty—absolutely disgusting—so we could not make water the whole time we were there. In fact, we had to fill jerry jugs with water from onshore to be able to shower, since we knew our tank water wouldn’t last long enough given cooking, washing dishes, etc. That meant cold showers all week. (Even when we make our own water, we only have hot showers if the starboard engine has been running that day or if we run the generator.) We also changed Lucky’s tank water in the open ocean before we got into the dirty bay. The smell in the bay was often disgusting. They have two fish canneries (one is Starkist) and the smell is nauseating downwind. A few nights I actually was awoken by the terrible smell. I will never forget how horrible that smell was!

That Bright Yellow Building is McDonald’s

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The Main Street

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The Beach in the Downtown Area

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Another negative was the terrible holding in the bay. It was the worst holding we have come across. We held well for a little under a week, but one day after being out all day, we returned to see our boat in a completely different place, side by side with a monohull, attached to the gigantic, rusty ship mooring. That’s always a little disconcerting, to say the least. From what we understand from Paw Paw, a monohull in front of us dragged back and loosened our anchor. (They also were not on their boat.) Then we started dragging back—apparently getting closer to reef. A few guys from other boats came over, hopped onboard and started our engines. They could not pull up our anchor because we keep the compartment with the windlass control locked because we have our Parasailor in there, etc. So, these men had to power forward dragging our anchor. Apparently, our anchor then got wrapped around the monohull’s anchor, so they then dragged both of our boats a bit to get to the ship mooring, where they tied us. We were tied up next to Vasco (a Bulgarian 78 year old who was sailing around the world solo on a boat he and his late brother built). We ended up staying a few more nights on the ship mooring tied to Vasco’s boat, but when the wind got slack, we would hit the big ship mooring. Dan and Vasco were out there trying to keep us off, and we ended up bending (and breaking) our boat hook and causing slight damage to our bow above the waterline. We are going to have to get that repaired in Fiji. Bummer. In hindsight, we should have gotten off that mooring and taken our chances with our anchor again. Vasco was so nice. I made him a breakfast burrito one morning and he made us all rice pudding the next day. Dan also helped him get up his mast for a repair he needed to do and when Elaine and Roy from Paw Paw came over one evening, Vasco joined us as well for a few beers. I can’t imagine sailing alone at that age (or any age for that matter!).

A House in American Samoa

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A View of the Trash:  There was A LOT of Trash

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The Fishing Equipment.  For Some Reason, I Like This Photo

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Now for the positives of American Samoa. The people were, by far, the friendliest and most helpful we have come across in our travels. It wasn’t just because we were American either; Roy and Elaine reported the same thing (and they are from Ireland/South Africa originally). Also, the provisioning was wonderful. Although I found no turkey bacon or soy sausage, we were ecstatic that we could find things that are really only available in the U.S. or that we have not seen in months. We found great canned soups, Cheeze Its, mint Oreos, Bella Vita Breakfast bars, convenience foods such as pre-made Veggie lasagna, black beans (woo hoo—it’s been MONTHS!), refried beans, bagels, fresh ravioli (but then frozen) and Amy’s Organic Frozen Burritos (for the kids). We were like kids in a candy shop.

The buses in American Samoa were fantastic and fun. They were essentially built by hand with wood on a truck frame and each driver would decorate them differently. Most drivers played common American music remade into a reggae style fairly loudly, and one driver had a huge TV where he showed Ultimate Fighting Club matches. (I preferred the music.) These buses would take you nearly anywhere you wanted to go. We took the buses to go shopping (and a cab back for our big provisioning), we took the bus to the movies (to see “The Secret Life of Pets” with the kids), we took the bus to Carl’s Junior/Green Burrito for burritos and Tropical Pizza (which was really Pizza Hut), and another day we went to the Army Reserve Center to shop at the Exchange and for an appointment to get our retiree Military Identification Cards. We were unable to update our IDs before we left because Dan was still essentially active duty (on terminal leave) up until December. So, we were pleasantly surprised when we learned American Samoa had an Army Reserve Center and they could make us our IDs by appointment. If, for some reason, we now want to take a Space A flight from Europe home, we need to have the most updated IDs to do so.

American Samoa with one of the Crazy Buses In the Background

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We Could Get Our New Military IDs!

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American Samoa had a McDonald’s. What’s funny is that we never eat McDonald’s for lunch or dinner at home (the kids have actually never eaten a McDonald’s hamburger), but we sometimes would get McDonald’s breakfast if we were on a road trip, etc. We eat there, on average, about 4 times a year. Well, in American Samoa, I think we ate there for breakfast five times in nine days! Crazy. Oh, and the kids also ordered a large fry to share on another day. I guess you want things more when they are scarce to you. Also, we always have that “convenience” when we are in the U.S., but almost nothing is convenient traveling out here, so I guess we just wanted to take advantage of it while we had it.

Another day, the kids and I went to the small museum they have in Pago Pago. I think it took us 30 minutes to go through the entire museum, but it was quaint and we learned a lot about the herbs they traditionally used to cure ailments (including “supernatural” ailments), we learned about their tradition of tattooing, and we saw the very small moon rocks (in acrylic) that Richard Nixon sent to American Samoa after our (America’s) moon landing. They were very tiny and maybe not so climactic but worthwhile nonetheless!

A Carving Outside the Museum

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Moon Dirt or Rocks

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The island of American Samoa has an amazing colony of large bats that hang in the trees across from the Port. They were very interesting to watch, especially at dusk when they became really active. We learned from a local man out for a walk that the bats settled here in this busy part of Pago Pago because they know that in that location, they are safe. We asked “from what?” and he said that even though it is illegal, the locals will shoot and eat them if they are in the less populated areas. Interesting. Bat stew?

While we were in American Samoa, we also took a bus to a trailhead in the National Park system. The hike turned out to be an interesting day. Apparently, you can either walk 3.2 miles to the summit and then come back the same way or continue the 2 miles up onto the narrow ridgeline and on to a town on the other side of the ridge. We talked to a group of locals who had just completed the hike. They went up to the first point and came back to the start and said it was a nice, tiring hike. We asked them if the bus goes to the town on the other side of the ridge, and she said they only run every two or three hours over there and they may not go that late in the day. We kept that information in our back pocket and started up the trail. About 30 minutes in, it started to pour. It never stopped! It got lighter a few times, but that rain was persistent. When we finally reached the first point, on one side of the bay we had no view at all. On the other side, we could see a portion of the view. This area at the top used to have a tram that I think the military built prior to WWII for some strategic reason. All of that was gone now, but they had a few structures still standing at this ridgeline. We ate the sandwiches we brought standing at a high worktable that had a rusty covering over it while the rain dripped down. After lunch, we asked the kids if they wanted to continue on to the town or turn back. We told them they may not have any buses over there, so we knew we might get “stuck,” but the kids wanted to continue on versus go back the same way we came. I think they were partially motivated by the fact the distance was shorter if we continued on, but that turned out to be misleading. Although it was a shorter distance, when you continue on with the hike, you spend a lot of time using ropes to go down these “ladders” and up others. We went up and down about 20-25 of these in the pouring rain. They had no room for any switchbacks in this area because we were actually traveling on the very top of the ridgeline. At some points, on either side of us, it was sheer cliff, but thankfully, the areas have very thick foliage so you knew that if you fell, you wouldn’t fall far without the dense trees and bushes stopping you. It turned out to be a very interesting hike, and the kids really enjoyed it. I was complaining (at least, on the inside), but they seemed not to care that we were soaking wet, cold, and trudging through muddy lands. I must be getting old. Anyway, we finally emerged out of the forest into a village of houses. The only person we saw was a power worker who was called out to fix something in the village on this rainy day. He looked at us like we came from the moon.   He asked us if we had done the hike and when we said yes, he asked: “All the way from the other side?” We said yes, and he asked: “Wasn’t it really muddy?” We said yes once again, but I think the mud on our legs was the giveaway. When he was over his shock, we asked him if there were going to be any more buses here. It was 4:30 in the afternoon. Nope. No more buses…uh oh. But then this man called over to his friend in a pick-up truck (who literally was the only car on the road), and he asked his friend if he would drive us back to the harbor in the back of his truck and he agreed. Great luck! We jumped in the back of his truck and had the pouring rain pelting us in our faces as we traveled through the mountain roads back to Pago Pago, which was a good, solid 20-minute drive. In hindsight, it was a really good thing we caught a ride because there is no way we could have walked it and there didn’t seem to be much in the way of civilization in the village (no stores, phones, or businesses), so I am not sure we would have found a way to call a taxi to where we were.   Heck, I’m not sure any of us even knew the name of the town! When we finally reached our dinghy, we were so cold and it was still pouring rain. It was so wonderful to finally get back to our boat to clean up and get warm. Overall, it turned out to be an adventurous day. We slept well.

The Very Wet Hike!

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There were so Many of these to Climb (Up and Down) Because we were on a Mountain Ridge.

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Some of These Were High Up and Slippery!

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Finally!  The Village We Were Hiking To.

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Drowned Rats in the Back of a Pick-Up Truck

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One of the main reasons we chose to go to American Samoa was so that we could pick up the kids’ school materials for the 2016-2017 academic year. If we had all of that stuff shipped to anywhere else, it would have cost a ton more in shipping and we would have had to pay hundreds of dollars in duty fees. Thanks to John and Stacey, we received all of our packages through regular, USPS Priority Mail. I couldn’t get a replacement battery for my Mac though. Batteries have to come via cargo ship rather than airplanes. If I knew what I know now, I would have had the company send it via ship to American Samoa back when I was in Niue (which is when I had most of the other packages sent), but I thought my brother would be able to send it more easily. You live and you learn!

We saved a lot of money on the kids’ school supplies this year. I bought several of Ari’s courses and Ryan’s curriculum on Ebay second-hand. For Ryan, we ended up getting Calvert’s 6th grade with Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra for Math. For Ariana, we ended up getting an Oak Meadow Biology Course, an Oak Meadow Language and Composition Course, a “Great Courses” World History set (DVDs with a Californian history/theater teacher who plays the part in his lectures, and a workbook, etc.), another World History DVD collection put out by the BBC, Teaching Textbooks for Algebra 2, and for both of the kids, I purchased Wordly Wise for their grades, and Spanish Workbooks that I will use to supplement my teaching of Spanish.   Ryan finished school this year on time, but Ariana took longer. She has finished most of her work, including Geometry, but she is still finishing up her physics course (with Dan’s assistance).   Two more chapters out of 20 left!

After about 9 days, it was time to leave American Samoa. We had our materials, we had re-provisioned our boat, and it was time to leave that dirty harbor. Our next passage would be a day and a half and we were headed to Niuatoputapu in the Kingdom of Tonga!

Niue for Real

Niue

A photo of Niue Island

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Craig on Watch from Palmerston to Niue

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After a three night sail from Palmerston, we arrived into Niue, an island that is a New Zealand protectorate and uses New Zealand currency (which is a great exchange rate for the US dollar right now!). Niue was such a pleasant surprise. I was expecting little from the island and ended up enjoying it immensely. In a nutshell, we spent time scuba diving, hiking, exploring caves (via land and water), playing mini-golf, and eating Rotis at Gill’s Indian Restaurant. As soon as we were cleared into the country, we headed to the Yacht Club for a cold beer.   Here, we hung out and met a couple from New Zealand who were there on vacation (Ann and Barry from Dunedin), and then continued on for dinner at a Japanese/Pizza restaurant (strange combination served there) with Craig. We had a fun night!

Waiting patiently for dinner–we were hungry!

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One interesting thing about Niue was that you had to use a crane to pull your dinghy out of the water every time you went ashore. Even the dive boats used this system each time they took people out diving. This is how it would work: We would motor over to the pier, Dan would let us all out to go up the ladder, we would grab the crane rope and give it to him so he could pull the hook to just above the dinghy, we would grab the crane control that would lower and raise the crane, Dan would hook up the crane to the dinghy lines, he would then hop out of the dinghy and we would lift it up and he would pull the rope that would pull the dinghy over the land. We would then lower the dinghy onto a handheld trailer and park it in a dinghy parking space. We couldn’t lift Dan IN the dinghy with the crane because the weight of the dinghy was not balanced with the (three) lines that connected to the crane. Over the course of the week we were there, we realized this system was not as irritating as it seemed, because it became a relatively quick process once you got it down. Unless…

–A local who is trying to be helpful yet knows nothing about boating (or physics) decides to keep control of the crane lever when you’re trying to pull up your dinghus. Yup, that can be terrible, as we found out… And of course, it had to happen on a day when Dan had a backpack with Ari’s and Ryan’s computers in it, so it was especially important to be careful. Mr. Local Man, however, did not bother to ask: “Do you want me to lift you in your dinghy?” or even: “Are you ready to be lifted?” Instead, Mr. Local Man just started lifting our dinghy out of the water without Dan expecting it, and as soon as the dinghy rose above the water, the imbalance threw Dan out. Luckily, Dan had the rope that swung the crane, so he was able to keep the backpack (mostly) out of the water and I was able to grab the backpack quickly. The backpack was wet, but miraculously, the computers stayed dry. Patagonia must make their packs water resistant; thank you Patagonia! Ryan had to turn off his touch screen because it was acting up, but otherwise, the computers survived. But, our lunchbox started floating away, Dan’s only pair of sunglasses fell to the bottom of the water, and Dan was now soaking wet.   To make a long story short, Dan went back to Do Over to get a mask and snorkel (and dry clothes) so he could find his sunglasses. After about 40 minutes, he managed to find his sunglasses and a headlamp (that was still working)! It was amazing that he found his sunglasses, quite frankly. It was rough, the tide was going out and he had to anticipate where the current would have taken a lightweight item like a pair of sunglasses. He and Ariana finally arrived at the Yacht Club, fully successful, and all was better…

The crane for lifting dinghies and boats and the dinghy parking spaces

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A Different Crane was Used to Load this Big Boy into the Water as a Transport from the Supply Ship that was Coming

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(As an aside, salt water is a VERY harsh environment for all electronics. We’ve had to bury a tablet, two Kindles, and our IPad has perpetual touch screen issues. And the newest update is that Ryan’s T and Y keys on his computer work only sometimes after their temporary Niue dip.)

A beer at The Mini Golf Restaurant

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The View (of Our Boat) from the Mini-Golf Restaurant

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Niue is very deep right off the shore, so we could dive right underneath our boat. But, Niue had a bunch of really cool dive sites we couldn’t find on our own, so we decided to go with one of the dive shops on a dive called “Dome Cave.” The dive involved swimming down 10 meters (about 30 feet) and then swimming into a cave for about 30 meters (90 feet) and then you surface inside land, in a cave with stalagmites and stalactites. This particular dive guide also lets everyone take off their gear and explore the cave for a while before descending back into the water to continue the dive.  This dive sounded very unique, even for people who have been diving for a long time. We knew Ariana would do great on this dive and we really wanted to be able to do the dive with her. The other dive shop said they could not take her because it was a cave and she was 13, but apparently there is some ambiguity in the Padi rules depending on whether it is a truly dark cave with no visibility of the entrance/exit versus a cave where the entrance/exit remains visible. In this cave, you could always see the entrance/exit in the water (the blue light of the ocean glowed), so it technically was not enclosed “cave diving.” And not to be those old people who say: “back in MY day” but the rules have changed over time for reasons that most likely pertain to money. Dan was certified to dive at 13, just like Ariana. At that time, 13 was the youngest you could be to become a certified diver, but once you were certified, you had no restrictions because of your age. You took the whole course just like an adult, you had to understand the physics of it just like an adult, and you had to demonstrate physically that you could do all that you needed to do to be a competent diver—just like an adult. Ariana had to do this too last year in the BVIs; it was a full course, just like an adult. However, on her certification, she is now considered a “junior” diver until she hits a magical age (I think the magical age is 15 now.)

Also, when I became certified 19 years ago, a recreational certified diver could dive to 100 feet. They have now changed it so that an adult recreational diver is supposedly only allowed to go to 60 feet for the first certification level, but of course, you can sign up for a separate costly course that would permit you to go deeper. Funny how things change.

The Trees on Niue That Look Less Tropical

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Okay, now that I’m off my soapbox, I’ll get back to our dive. As we were riding over to the dive site in the powerboat, we saw a whale spout. When we got to the dive site, as soon as I rolled off the side of the boat into the water, I looked around under the water and saw a whole pod of dolphins swimming away. Sadly, by the time Dan and Ari were in the water, they were gone, so only the New Zealand college student (the only other diver besides our guide) and I saw them. The dive was pretty incredible. It was just as described where you descend and then go forward into the cave for about 90 feet and then you surface inside the land. There is an area where some fresh water hit the salt and the effect was very strange. The water was blurry; the visibility was still good, but it just became blurry and Ari said it made her feel a bit weird. I agreed. We had flashlights when we were inside the cave underwater and there were a ton of squirrelfish hanging out there. When we surfaced inside the island, we all took off our gear and walked around the dark cave.   At one point, we turned off our flashlights and it was pitch black except for the slight glow of beautiful blue ocean water in one corner of the cave. We got to see a coconut crab in there as well, which apparently, is quite characteristic of Niue. Finally, it was time to get back into the water, descend and travel out of the cave, and continue through the natural chasms on the ocean floor. Many times on the dive, we were visited by the most venomous snake in the world—the Niue sea snake. They are quite commonplace in these waters, but luckily they are not aggressive. They are, however, quite curious and they would come close to you in the water—VERY close. At one point, one came out of deeper waters and ended up grazing Ari’s face in his efforts to swim by us. Another followed my fins for a while and finally left. We heard they cannot bite humans because their mouths are not that large and they cannot get them around a human, but I am not too sure I trust that since they apparently eat moray eels. Last time I looked, my arm wasn’t nearly as wide as a moray eel’s. What’s to prevent Mr. Crazy Sea Snake from thinking our arms are slithering morays? And speaking of moray eels, we saw one in between two rocks on our dive. We sat there looking at him for a few minutes and he must not have liked that we were eyeballing him because he all of a sudden just dashed out through the open water to get away from our stares. It’s not often you see morays out in the open so that was a special treat! It sure is crazy how many cool animals there are in the world! Despite wearing wetsuits, Ari and I came up from our dive cold, but it was well worth it. Just as we suspected, Ariana handled the dive like a pro. We were proud parents!

Another day, we decided to dive underneath our boat. The dive guide told us there were some amazing chasms you can swim through and the visibility was purported to be even better than the Dome Cave site. The O-ring on one of our tanks was bad (this happened in Fakarava too with another tank), so we found ourselves with only 1,000 PSI of air in one of our tanks (they were all filled the day before to 3,000 PSI so—big leak)! We had rented a BC, reg and wetsuit from the dive shop so all three of us could dive together (and Ryan just stayed onboard our boat), and here we had a leaking tank. Figures! Dan just decided he would buddy breathe off of our octopi at various points in the dive so we would all have enough air for the dive. That worked out great. He buddy breathed with both of us for a while, and we all ended up coming up with about the same amount of air left in our tanks (about 600). It was a nice dive. The visibility was great and there were a ton of fish. We even saw a turtle.

In Niue, we rented a car for a few days (it was REALLY inexpensive at about $28 a day USD). We toured around the island and did some great, different hikes. One was a hike down to this beautiful arch on the water, another was a hike along the jagged, rough volcanic shore that ended by going down a really high ladder into a lagoon, and another involved exploring caves, which was also fabulous. We played a round of mini-golf at the most scenic putt putt course I’ve ever seen, and it was even cool enough to wear a sweatshirt that day!

Mini-Golf!!

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Putt-putt with a Beautiful View

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Our Hike: The Arch

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The View of the Arch from the Cave

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Hiking on the Volcanic Trail

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One of the Cool Caves on Niue

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Another Volcanic Hike Photo

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Our Flat Tire–At Least Dan Got to Show the Kids how a Tire is Changed!

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Ari Climbing on the Cave Wall

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A Shrimp Underwater in this Lagoon

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The Ladder we Had to Climb Down (and then up!)

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Cool Cave Formations

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Volcanic Hike

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Beautiful Lagoon That Ari and Dan Snorkeled

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My love of Niue suffered some setbacks after about a week when the winds shifted and caused an immense amount of swell in the anchorage. We had a solid mooring ball so we didn’t have to worry about coming loose or someone dragging into us, but it was ROUGH being out there on the boat. Ari and I didn’t feel great out there. I was pretty seasick and I wasn’t even sailing. That seems inherently unfair. I suffer through it when I sail, but in port, I should get a break from it, shouldn’t I? In hindsight, I wish we had just gotten a room in town for the few nights that the anchorage was so rough.

Stopping for a Cocktail

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The Kids Exploring

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Dan and I had intended to go on a date night, but understandably, the kids didn’t want to stay on the boat with it rocking and rolling so much, so we scratched date night and all went in for dinner, despite the roughness of the dinghy ride into shore. That dinner turned out to be excellent, and we dined with Mark and Eileen on Wavelength (from Washington State). The food was fantastic, the company was wonderful, and I didn’t want to leave shore. Finally, we had our weather window to leave Niue, so we checked out of the country and headed on down the road. Next stop: American Samoa.

Palmerston Atoll: Our Most Unique Destination to Date

Since we were not going to be able to go to Maupiti (because of our 90 day issue), we decided to stop at Palmerston Island on our way to Nuie. It was going to be a 4 night sail to Palmerston, and another three-night passage to Nuie. I was very much looking forward to Palmerston, which has an amazingly unique history. It is part of the Cook Islands, and therefore partially supported financially by New Zealand, but the residents are essentially all members of the Marsters family who settled on the island back in the mid 1800s.

Palmerston

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Heading to the Island

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The Island

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This is the description of Palmerston from Wikipedia:

“Overview[edit]

A true atoll, Palmerston Island consists of a number of sandy islets on a continuous ring of coral reef enclosing a lagoon. The largest of the islets include Palmerston, North Island, Lee To Us, Leicester, Primrose, Toms, and Cooks. The total land area of the islets is approximately 1 square mile (2.6 km2). The coral reef covers about 3,600 acres (15 km2). Thelagoon is some 7 miles (11 km) across, covering an area of 56 square kilometres (22 sq mi). There are several small passages through the reef for boats, though there is no safe entry for large ships. At a latitude of 18 degrees south, Palmerston enjoys a tropical climate but is exposed to severe tropical cyclones. A particularly destructive series of storms occurred during the 1920s and 1930s.

All the islets are wooded with coconut palms, pandanus, and native trees. There is some natural ground water on Palmerston but water captured from rainfall is preferred for drinking. Shellfish inhabit the reef, and fish are abundant although there are concerns about overfishing. There are only 62 people living in Palmerston,[3] all but three[3]descended from an Englishman named William Marsters (see History, below).

The economy is based on fishing, tourism, copra, and bird feathers, though Palmerston’s extreme remoteness makes a cash market difficult to maintain; in fact it is more like the subsistence ways of life in the northern atolls. Electricity and other modern utilities are available on the island. A recently built telephone station provides the only permanent link to the outside world. The island has no airport or regular air service, but cargo ships visit a few times a year.[3]

History[edit]

Palmerston was discovered by Captain Cook in 1774, but he did not land on the island until 13 April 1777. He found it uninhabited, though some ancient graves were discovered.[2] Cook named the island after Henry Temple, 2nd Viscount Palmerston, then Lord of the Admiralty.[2] The ancient name of the island was supposedly Avarau, meaning “two hundred harbour entrances”.[2] In 1863 William Marsters, a ship’s carpenter and barrel maker, arrived on Palmerston from Manuae with two Polynesian wives and annexed the island from the British government. He added a third wife and sired a large family of some 23 children, whose descendants now inhabit Palmerston. Thus, Palmerston Island is the only island in the Cook Islands for which English is the native language.

William Masters, originally thought to have come from Leicestershire, England, is now thought to have come from Gloucestershire, which might explain why his descendants now spell the name “Marsters” due to the Gloucestershire accent.[4] By the time his youngest daughter Titana Tangi died in 1973, there were over a thousand of Marsters’ descendants living in Rarotonga and New Zealand.

Though only some 50 family members remain on Palmerston, all of Marsters’ descendants consider the island their ancestral home. In 1954 the family was granted full ownership of the island. Three branches of the family remain on Palmerston, each branch being descended from one of William’s three wives,marriage within a family group being prohibited.[4] All of William’s wives came from Tongareva and there are still many family links and common ancestors between these atolls.”

Here is a bit more about William Marsters:

William Marsters

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
 
For other people with the surname Marsters, see Marsters (surname).
William Marsters
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William Marsters on Palmerston Atoll
Born Richard William Masters
6 November 1831
Walcote, Leicestershire
Died 22 May 1899 (aged 67)
Palmerston Island, Cook Islands
Occupation Sailor, cooper, merchant
Known for English adventurer who settled on Palmerston Island in the Pacific

William Marsters (born Richard Masters) (6 November 1831 – 22 May 1899) was an English adventurer fromWalcote, Leicestershire who settled on Palmerston Island in the Cook Islands on 8 July 1863, with his Polynesian wife and two Polynesian mistresses. A handful of his descendants continue to live on Palmerston Island, while the majority now live in Rarotonga, or elsewhere in the Cook Islands, New Zealand and Australia.

William Marsters was born Richard Masters in 1831. He originated from Leicestershire, England, and arrived in the Pacific around 1856. He first settled in Penrhyn, the most Northern of the Cook Islands. He married the daughter of one of the chiefs on the Island and in 1862 they moved to Manuae and then to Palmerston on 8 July 1863 (or 1861 or 1864 according to different documents[1]). They were accompanied by his wife’s cousin with whom he later had children. His task was to produce copra and collect bêche-de-mer for a Tahitian trader named Brander, but Brander never returned. William Marsters decided to settle his family permanently on the island. He took up a third wife, and the descendants of these three Penrhyn women make up the present inhabitants of Palmerston.[2] Marsters died on 22 May 1899 at the age of 67 (although his headstone records his age as 78). He had 23 children and 134 grandchildren.[3]

Ownership

In 1887, a Scotsman, George Darsie, contested an application by Marsters for a license to lease the island. Palmerston was annexed to the UK on 23 May 1891 and in 1892, the British Government granted William a 21-year lease which was extended until 1954.[4] Full ownership of Palmerston Atoll was granted to the Marsters family in 1954 by an amendment to the Cook Islands Act passed by the New Zealand Government.

Succession

Two years after William Marsters died, disputes arose about the succession of the leader. In 1901, Colonel Walter Edward Gudgeon, the British Resident in Rarotonga, appointed William’s eldest son, Joel, agent to the British Resident and Magistrate for the Island. In 1992 the Palmerston Act was passed, and today Palmerston is governed by this Act, along with the Outer Island Act.

Island Council

Before William Marsters died, he organized the island so that each of the three wives and their descendants had a share of the main island and each of the atolls. This arrangement still stands. Today the Island has its own council, representing the local government, which consists of six members, the Head of each Family – Matavia family, Akakaingaro family and the Te Pou family, and one other member appointed from and by each of the three families. This appointment is carried out every four years, and the Mayor of the Island is appointed from one of the three Heads, in a rotational manner.

On Palmerston, each of the three families has their own version of the history of Palmerston and life of William Marsters. This has been passed down by word of mouth from their great-great grandparents. Although oral tradition may differ from the documented versions, each will stand by their version.

Our Time on Palmerston

Their major export is Parrot Fish, although it doesn’t specifically mention that above.

When you go to Palmerston, one of the three families “hosts” you.  We contacted Bill Marsters ahead of time via email and he told us to contact him via radio when we were close to arriving.  Apparently, there is some competition among the families in hosting the yachties and he wanted to make sure he came to our boat first.  Once we were moored and settled for a few hours, Bill (and Craig from New Zealand who was visiting Bill and his family on Palmerston for a few months), came back out to bring us to the island.  We toured the island for a while, which included a visit to the school.  We had brought some school supplies so we wanted to drop those off.  While we we there, we met the students, the teachers (a married couple from the United States and South Africa who met in Korea), and the principal (who was from New Zealand).  The kids actually do a Christian-based homeschool program and the teachers act as guides and help the kids when they need it.  The kids had a break and Ari and Ryan got to play rugby with them for a little while.  Then we went back to Bill’s place for a HUGE lunch and hung out there until early evening.

 

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The next day, we came back to the island at around 10 in the morning.  After school, Bill and his wife, Metua, were having a birthday party for their daughter, Julianna, who was turning 15.  In the meantime, we went to the other side of the island where Dan, Ariana and Craig snorkeled and Ryan and I beach-combed.  Ari said the water was very cold, but they did manage to see a shark and some pretty fish.

Later in the day, we attended Julianna’s birthday party, which was very fun and unique.  Some of the kids dressed up (similar to Halloween) and we all ate traditional foods as well as some more recognizable to us Americans (e.g., Lasagna).  We met so many of the folks who live on the island, and Bill supplied us with a great deal of food to take with us (e.g., coconuts, parrot fish, mayonnaise, a local chicken cooked traditionally, bread).  They were so nice.  What was fascinating was how much food the people on Palmerston stock in their freezers.  Apparently, there are more freezers than people and they are full to the brim with food.  I guess that is a result of not having any idea when another supply ship is going to come to the island; you end up hoarding food!

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Solar Power on the Island

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Telecommunications

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Fish Head, Fish Head, Roly Poly Fish Head…

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More Photos of the Island, Including the Roaming Pig

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Interestingly, two sons of Tom Neale (who lived on the island of Suwarrow and wrote a book about it), reside in Palmerston.  Arthur Neale asked us if we would be willing to take along Craig as crew since his 90 days were coming to an end in Palmerston and there were no supply ships expected to come to Palmerston anytime soon.  So, we had a passenger/crew for our passage from Palmerston to Niue!  Craig had been to the island several times before and had stayed in touch with Bill for years.  Bill had to fly to NZ for his daughter, who was having unexplained seizures.  Bill contacted Craig and asked if we wanted to come back with them and visit for a while. Craig did, and was on Palmerston for nearly three months.  Those supply ships really ARE unpredictable and infrequent!

Craig was easy to have onboard and helped by cooking curry dinner and taking watches.  He was trying to get home to Napier, New Zealand for his partner’s birthday.  She was quite happy to hear he had gotten a ride and would be able to be home in time.

Our New Zealand Passenger/Crew/New Friend, Craig

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I would write so much more about our time on Palmerston, but I can’t right now if I actually want to get this posted!  It was a VERY worthwhile destination and I am so glad we went.  Dan had thought it might be fairly cult-like on the island, but it was nothing like that at all.  As you can imagine, being around your extended family all the time has its pros and cons, but most of the people were so nice and just living their lives like everyone else.  What perhaps surprised me most was how “regular” the teenagers were.  They had Facebook, dressed up sometimes, and acted just like American teens (for good or bad, ha ha!).  What an experience!

 

 

Where am I? Tonga

We are traveling to so many places, sometimes I have to stop and think:  Where am I?  We are currently on Vava’u, Tonga with (surprise, surprise) SLOW Internet!  We have a few gigs of data on our MiFi, but the major updates with photos will have to be done at a restaurant in town where you pay for Internet by the hour, rather than the amount of data you use.  The connections seem to be faster from what I have seen; one couple was able to Skype their credit card company, so I hold out great hope!

So…I will be updating this blog while we are here with:  Palmerston, Nuie, American Samoa, Nuiatoputapo, and if I am really ambitious, Vava’u, Tonga as well!

We are still planning on traveling through Tonga and Fiji and making our way to New Zealand in late October/early November.  Then we get to be on land for a while to explore both the north and south islands of New Zealand.  I am very much looking forward to that!  Out for now!

Bora Bora, the End of French Polynesia for Us

We spent about a week in Bora Bora, and this was to be our last Society Island. The bay in Bora Bora is beautiful, but the focus on the island is the many (very expensive) resorts that dapple the motus surrounding the main island. The highlight of our time on Bora Bora was the traditional Heiva that happened to be taking place while we were there.   It is mostly a locals’ event (which we enjoy much more than touristy entertainment) where each village puts on a performance with dancing and singing in traditional Polynesian clothing. The night we went, it poured rain a few times, so we only had the opportunity to see just a portion of the entertainment. They also had a tented area with gambling (oh, THAT was an interesting sight!), cotton candy, etc. We met Mark and Eileen on Wavelength while we were there, but because of the weather, we only stayed out for a few hours.

Gambling at the Heiva

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We motored to the far south of Bora Bora on the inside of the motus. On our way, we snorkeled and at the end of the bay we were close to a place called “Motu Fun” which was someone’s house on the waterfront with lots of lounge chairs and shade. The owner had several cats and one large dog and welcomed guests, selling only Hinano Beer and soft drinks.

Motu “Fun”

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Kitty “Kiri Kiri” and Dog “Rambo”

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Inside the Bora Bora Fringing Reef

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Other than a date night dinner at the Mai Kai Restaurant, and a game night with Paw Paw when they finally arrived, our time on Bora Bora was not all that exciting. The snorkeling wasn’t nearly as good as some of the other islands, and there did not seem to be all that much we wanted to do there. Despite the fact there were mountains, hiking was a difficult endeavor, and there just didn’t seem to be many trails available for people like us without a car.

Date Night at Mai Kai

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Game Night with Roy and Elaine on Do Over

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Interestingly, we had to clear out of French Polynesia before we actually left. They really are sticklers about the 90-day maximum. We were ready to leave French Polynesia anyway. It was time.

Natural Beauty:  Rainbow and Gorgeous Sunset

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If I were to put the Society Islands in order of which ones I liked best, it would be: Moorea, Huahine, Tahiti, Tahaa, and Bora Bora. Moorea was wonderful and surpassed the others in my mind by a football field.

 

 

Taha’a, French Polynesia

(Update:  We are currently in American Samoa, having gone to Niue, Palmerston, and Bora Bora after Taha’a.  I will try to post about all three of these other destinations while in American Samoa if I can keep my patience with the VERY slow Internet!)

Taha’a

We ventured off for Taha’a after about a week in Huahine. We knew a weather system was about to hit and decided we needed a change of scenery before it did. Our first few nights we went into Baie de Haamene on the east side of Tahaa. The weather was terrible here and the river runoff turned the water in the bay brown. Dan and Ari dinghied into town once in the rain, but other than that, we hunkered down in our boat and relaxed, watched movies, and Ariana did a lot of school.

We were not enamored with this bay (and we could not make water there) so we opted to cruise around the northern side of Tahaa inside the reef that runs off the coast nearly all the way around the island. We ended up spending a night in Patio on the north side of the island. We had a not-so-great lunch in town and poor Internet at the post office. The next morning, we awoke to howling winds from the NE and growing seas (even inside the protected reef) so we decided to move to the west side of the island before it got ugly. We ended up anchoring in about 75 feet of water in Baie de Tapuamu, which was directly across from the motu with the Coral River snorkeling area.

Mark on Wavelength was in the anchorage and visited our boat (bringing us a baguette!). He told us how to do the Coral River snorkel, and recommended that we hit it that afternoon while we were having a break in the weather since the next few days we were predicted to have rain and high winds again.

We followed his advice and were so glad we did. You beach your dinghy on one side of a motu and then you walk to the other side and drift down the coral river. There are SO many fish. They are used to being fed so we brought toast crackers to feed them. It was truly amazing how many species of fish there were and how unafraid they were of people. They would come right up to you and stay near you. One even nibbled my leg a little bit! (It didn’t hurt.) One of the best parts about this snorkel was that we finally got Ryan to try it. Granted, he was without a snorkel, but he wore goggles and swam through looking at all the fish. We are hoping to go again one more time tomorrow, before we leave for Bora Bora, and I am going to encourage Ryan to try a snorkel and mask this time.

Coral River

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In other news, we had a Teleflex cable break on our throttle so we could not put the boat into gear on the port side from the helm. It made for a comical show when we realized we were beginning to get very close to coral reef on our port side and we knew we had to pick up and re-anchor nearer to the middle of the bay. It takes a long time to pick up 240 feet of anchor! Ari and Ryan were arguing on the bow while I am at the helm trying to control the boat, and Dan was down in the port engine compartment controlling the throttle for that engine. After yelling at Ryan to go back inside, I was able to work with Ariana and Dan to keep the boat over the anchor so Ariana could raise it, and we finally got re-anchored further away from the reef—still in very deep water (73 feet). Fun times.

We needed to get off of the boat, so despite the rain, we dinghied into the very small town. The store had no baguettes left (they go early, apparently) so we walked on. The town had one small restaurant that served pizza four nights a week, and of all things, a fairly new rum distillery! The owner was there and he gave us a tour of the facility (called Pari Pari) and told us how he makes his rum, coconut oil, etc. He was originally from France and moved here with his family to start this business. He was able to produce 5,000 bottles of rum last year and is hoping to grow his business when he finally gets the pot still he ordered over a year ago. We also had a taste of his 40% and 50% alcohol rum. It turned out to be a very educational experience for our kids, albeit not the traditional field trip destination for a school kid. Of course, we ended up purchasing a bottle of his niche rum—we have to support a small business owner, right? 😉

That same day, the French police approached our boat and checked each of our passports. They so kindly reminded us that our 90-day visas for French Polynesia were expiring in less than two weeks. Great… We still wanted to hit Bora Bora and Maupiti with less than two weeks to do it. And to further complicate matters, we still needed to go south to Raiatea to get a new throttle cable. So, on Friday, despite the unrelenting bad weather, we decided to make our way to Raiatea to get a new cable for our throttle. The store that sold them was actually open for 2 hours on Saturday morning (but not open on Sunday), so it was either now or wait until Monday. Dan rigged a way to use the port engine from the helm and we ventured off to Uturoa, Raiatea. This turned out to be the worst “anchorage” ever imaginable given the windy conditions. Although the anchorage was inside the fringing reef and therefore presumably protected, it was still very rough, extremely windy, and we ended up anchored basically in a channel getting waked by all the passing powerboats. Surprise, surprise, the next morning it was pouring rain. Dan and Ari got in the dinghy and headed off to town in the deluge of rain getting seasprayed in the process—and this was no short dinghy ride. They didn’t make it. To add insult to injury, the dinghy motor decided to act up and they had to come back.

Later, Dan decided we just couldn’t spend another two nights in this crappy, stressful anchorage. Desperation led Dan to dinghy in by himself with a persnickety engine, but he was successful! Dan returned to the boat with a new Teleflex throttle cable in exactly the right size, and baguettes and chicken! What more could you ask for? With fire under his derriere, Handy Dan managed to get the new throttle cable installed in less than an hour with barely any help from us. Woo hoo! We got the heck out of dodge and went back to the same protected anchorage we were in previously (Baie de Tapuamu). We made it back in mid-afternoon and it—was—still—raining.   Geesh. We planned to go out for pizza at that one restaurant but the rain was unrelenting and no one really felt like going out. I was just getting ready to make dinner when Dan volunteered to go in to pick it up. Luckily, I could call ahead and order it.

For whatever reason, we were having one of those weeks where nothing is easy. Dan tried to go to the dock that was close to the pizza place but kept hitting rocks no matter which way he tried to approach in the dinghy. He ended up having to go to the main dock and walk quite a ways to get there. Luckily, he had the huge soft-sided cooler my brother, John, and his wife, Stacey had given us. When he finally returned in the dark an hour later, Dan, Dan the pizza deliveryman had still warm pies ready to eat. Yum.