Passages, Places

Passage to Penryhn, Cook Islands

On Saturday, August 26, Blue Beryl left Bora Bora on a very windy morning, and Aldabra and Szel left about 1:30 p.m. We were headed to Penryhn Island, part of the northern Cook Islands group. Szel is a very fast SunDeer 64 and she left us in the dust immediately. Blue Beryl and Aldabra were pretty even at times, although Blue Beryl headed to the left of the rhumb line and Aldabra attempted a more direct course to the island. We passed them during the first night and then lost AIS signals for both Szel and Blue Beryl by morning. We kept up with the two boats on a What’sApp group chat.

At the beginning of the passage, the seas were lumpy and the winds were in the high teens. In our first 24 hours, we averaged about 5.5 knots.

On Sunday, the winds were down in the low teens and the seas were flattening out a bit. We were having a comfortable sail with speeds around 6 knots and sunny skies. We continued to have no sign of the other boats and we were starting to be pushed to the west.

By Monday, we were in a slow slog with light and shifty winds. We ran the motor several times when the winds got too light. That night, we had some good wind but it was coming from directly behind us, which is not favorable for Aldabra. With swept-back spreaders, we can’t let the main go far enough forward to optimize for downwind sailing. Thus, we carried on by sailing a little bit to the left of our course or a little bit to the right of our course.

On Tuesday, we had wind but still from behind. We decided to try to put up two jibs, one on each side, with the main down. Linda drove while Tom and I spent a couple of hours working on getting the spinnaker pole up and the boom out and each jib in place. Right as we completed the setup, the wind shifted and nearly died and we had to take everything down. We motored for a while with no sails. In the evening, we put the main back up but we were motoring with the sail slapping around.

Yvette sent us a picture as she celebrated her birthday underway

Wednesday was a frustrating day with lots of motoring. Finally on Thursday, August 31, we arrived at Penryhn and went through the pass in the late morning. There was a lot of current but we managed to navigate into the pass and then take the long way around, in the lane for larger boats, to arrive in the anchorage in front of the town. Szel was already there.

Almost immediately, a boat showed up with the local authorities for Customs and Health. After we filled out the paperwork and paid some fees, they left and the Biosecurity guy came onboard. We filled out something for him and paid his fee.

The anchorage was very windy and choppy and we stayed on the boat that night. Blue Beryl showed up later in the afternoon and came for a visit in the evening. The next day, we went ashore to continue the check-in process, but we also ended up checking out as well. Andrew, the Customs officer, checked us out of the Cook Islands, even though we would be staying in Penryhn for a few days and then going to Suwarrow. It simplified everything for us and would make our entrance into Tonga less complicated.

After we checked out, all three boats went over to the village on the far side of the atoll. Anchoring in the late afternoon. Aldabra and Szel stayed on our boats but Blue Beryl went to shore to a warm welcome by the villagers.

Aldabra in Penrhyn

Rainbow in Penrhyn, with Aldabra and Blue Beryl

The next morning, Alex, Yvette and Tom went to shore. Alex and Tom worked on a couple of motorcycles that hadn’t been running for ten years. They got them running. Yvette went with the wife of the pastor to her house so Yvette could do her laundry and have lunch.

Alex and Yvette riding a newly repaired motorcycle

Linda and I went to shore a bit later than the others. We first stopped by Szel and invited Fiona to join us, which she did. We got to shore and started walking around, not really seeing anyone. Fiona and I got separated from Linda and found the guys working on the motorcycles. Meanwhile Linda met a family and went to their house for a visit.

Once we all found each other again, we visited Yvette and the pastor’s wife, giving the pastor’s wife a bag full of gifts, mostly for the children. After returning to Aldabra, we found things on the boat that were needed by the family that Linda had befriended so we went back to shore to give them to them.

Dinner that night was on Szel. Jamie had caught a sailfish and he seared steaks for us. We also had rice, tuna sashimi, tomatoes with feta cheese, and brownies and ice cream for dessert. It was a very fun evening.

Fiona sent us this pictue after Jamie caught the sailfish

Dinner on Szel. Not everyone in the picture

On Sunday, September 3, we all put on whatever we had that was white. (Tom decided that he didn’t have anything suitable, so he opted to stay on the boat.) The rest of us went to shore in our all-white garb, stopping first at a house that had lots of hats. Some of the hats the women were wearing were not white enough, so they loaned them white hats. Then we proceeded to the church.

Tom took this picture of us getting ready to go to church in our whites

We went inside the church, which was very beautiful inside and sat down in the back. The women were practicing their singing from their seats in the pews. After a bit, Alex went outside and figured out that the children, in another building, were practicing their singing, and it was beautiful. So we all went over and listened until right before church was to start. We then went back to the church and sat in for the sermon. The pastor was very welcoming, said that we were now family, and blessed our journey.

Because of the strict rules about behavior on Sundays, we went back to our boats for the rest of the day. Alex and Yvette did go back to shore in the evening, after the restrictions were lifted, and had a very warm goodbye from the islanders. They also returned the visitor’s book that we all wrote in.

Photo we left in the Penrhyn village visitor’s book

On Monday, we didn’t end up going to shore to say goodbye. Instead, we prepared for the passage to Suwarrow. At 10:00 a.m., we started across the lagoon to exit the pass, shortly after Szel and Blue Beryl. We all put up sails and headed to Suwarrow.

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