Mahina Tiare approached the pass which was about 15 yards across and about 10 yards long. The current coming out of the pass is usually about 6 knots but the highest we saw was only about 3.5 knots. As long as you have a good engine, there is no problem. Just make sure it doesn't stop midway through. The pass has reefs on both sides and these reefs are about one foot deep, with 20 feet in the middle of the pass. Motoring through, we saw the dorsal fins of a few sharks who were on the reefs - very cool to say the least. Once you are in the lagoon, there is still coral navigating to be done with shallow spots about 5 feet deep straight ahead of the pass. We moved to port, then to starboard, back to port and continued on with bow lookouts towards the island about 3 miles away. Once we anchored, Amanda readied herself to jump in and check the lay of the hook and the danger of coral heads once it set when she immediately noticed three black-tip reef sharks in the lagoon. After they were done scoping us out, they went on their way, Amanda jumped in and we all had a nice cool swim and an afternoon nap (we had been on overnight watch from Maupiti and were pretty tired).
The next day we dinghied to shore for a morning walk. We found our way over to the ocean side of the atoll and it was such a difference - very rugged with huge breaking waves and rocky beaches. The lagoon side of the island is flat water with white sandy beaches and beautiful shells.
That afternoon, we each climbed the mast to the second spreaders (about 80 feet high). As fun as it was, it was actually a class. Every sailor has to be comfortable going up the mast in case a halyard breaks, radar beacon needs to be repaired, windex needs to be replaced, steaming light goes out, etc... Baxter had a great time and decided he would take the fast way down and jumped from the spreaders into the water. No mind that we had been feeding the sharks about thirty minutes before hand.
Afterwards, we went back ashore and met Hini. John invited her to dinner aboard MTIII that night. In the meantime, on board the boat, we did more MOB drills with the whole crew dodging pearl farm buoys and airing out the sails. Hini later remarked that as she was getting ready for dinner, she was surprised to see us raising the sails and moving - she thought we were leaving and was slightly confused. Dinner with Hini was entertaining. As a collective, the entire crew used our french translation skills to understand and put the conversation together. Hini had a slight accent and was hard to understand. At one point Baxter looked at me and said "I think she just said Dolly Parton sailed on an expedition".
|Part of the engine. You can also see one of the sharks in the top center.|
|Black tip reef shark|
On Thursday morning, Baxter and Annika were on the helm watching the sunrise and spotted Rarotonga reflecting the sunlight about 8 miles out. We pulled into the harbor and moored stern-to (called Med mooring because of its abundance in the Mediterranean Sea). John then went to the Harbor Master and notified customs & immigration of our arrival. It took a few hours to get cleared and then we all headed ashore to stretch our 4-day-old sea legs. Then it was off to dinner at Trader Jack's to celebrate the expedition. We spent that night on the boat and then everyone went separate ways after breakfast Friday morning. Of course, John and Amanda make their home on the boat and they would be preparing for the next 6-member crew and leg three of their expedition (Rarotonga to Western Samoa). The six of us who had crewed on the boat had become friends and really enjoyed sharing the last three weeks together. Though we all had different accommodations across the 25 mile island, we continued to meet every night for dinner and drinks and share stories and laugh together.
Rarotonga is definitely on our list of places to revisit. We stayed at The Cooks Oasis and the kiwi family who runs it could not have been nicer. The room was comfy and clean, they had snorkels and kayaks at your disposal, they arranged a scooter for our transportation during our stay. It was really easy and enjoyable. Rarotonga is simply beautiful. Life is slow-paced, but there is nothing you need that you can't get there. Baxter and I took advantage of our last day on the island and hiked the Cross Island track which climbs up to a ridge to The Needle, the highest point on the island. Towards the top of the hike, the path is so vertical, you are scrambling up tree roots like steps on a staircase. Very good workout and well worth the vantage point at the top.
That night, we had a direct flight to LAX and it was uneventful (the best way to travel). We picked up Kala on July 4th and she was full of wags and kisses, crying and spinning circles she was so happy. We were just as elated to see her and I think she knew it. Salt Lake City is one of the prettiest places on the planet and the Wasatch Mountains had mere remnants of last winter's snow but were mostly a beautiful bright green. As we drove to the house, there were cyclists and runners everywhere and we were excited to get back to an outdoor fitness routine...after we catch up on some sleep, of course.