Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Sickness in Samoa

As you can tell from the title, this blog entry doesn't go well. Pretty soon after leaving Suwarrow I came down with a tummy bug.  The details I won't go into, all I can say is that when we got to Samoa a few days later, it was still lurking about. When we reached Apia, on Upola island,  we were able to clear customs alongside a wharf . The first thing that hit  me about samoa is that its hot, humid and alot bigger than the cook islands capital island, Rarotonga. Has my first impressions on Samoa began, we also said goodbye to the journey's voyage crew. With such a great bunch of people, it was sad to see them go. I hope they enjoyed the adventure as much as we did.

Living alongside, watching the neighbours move in.
After a couple of days working, getting the ship ready for our voyage down to Tonga, We were able to leave the ship and see what Apia had in store. Well, not alot on a week day night to be honest. However, we did find a cocktail bar that sold cheap pina coladas and a tasty local beer. In the morning, it turned out Zim was suffering from full blown heat stroke working through the blazing samoan sun in the rigging.  And therefore, the idea of doing any sightseeing on upola island went out the window. So while other crew visited the sliding rocks and peted turtles, I bundled a rather ill man into a taxi and went to a hotel room.  It was nothing fancy, just a family run B&B, but it had a/c, ensuite, a comfy bed and samoan TV.  We tried to sleep off our aches and pains, getting supplies for the shop next door and watching random films. Its was only in the evening we felt up to a walk around, in which there are five things that I've learnt about Samoa.

1. They love their churches. There are tonnes of them and more are being build even bigger.

2. The buses are awesome, like disco trucks crammed with people.

3. For a small town, Apia has a lot of battered women centres.

4. One the whole, the people are very smiley.

5. I saw the cutest stray puppy, can I keep it?

Apia's Clock tower - the only sightseeing we got.
Maybe there have been more exciting times, but our day in a Samoan guest house gave us time to recharge, feel cold (god bless a/c) and feel vaguely human again.

Working two more days on the ship,we even began to sleep out on deck to beat the heat.  Feeling well rested, in good health and excited about the next voyage, we welcomed aboard the new vc and sailed out of the capital.....

Thursday, 21 June 2012

I'll bury my treasure in Suwarrow

Our voyage to Samoa, had an unfortunate start. Due to weather and wind conditions, we wouldn't be making it back to Aitutaki.  Instead, we headed to one of the most isolated land spots on the planet. Nestled in the pacific ocean is a group of tiny islands protected by reef. Suwarrow has a population of two caretakers for six months. For the rest of the time, its zero.  Its also rumoured that pirates buried their treasure on one of the islands...There are no crowds, no airport, no charter boats, nothing to disturb the natural life here.  Our ship was only able to manoeuvre through the reef at a certain tide but it was definitely worth it. We anchored off the appropriately named 'anchor island' and spent our nights sitting together drinking under the moonlight.  In fact one night we even saw a full moon bow.

Between the cooking, I got ashore and was shocked at how many hermit crabs were about. The abundance of life in the water was also amazing; with coral, shoals of fish, most of the cast of finding Nemo, massive shoals of parrot fish and sharks - lots of sharks. If Aititaki was snorkel heaven, this was the v.i.p room. During one snorkel, we reach 'the shelf' (a huge drop from shallows to deeper water) and had an amazing sight of hundreds to fish, big and small, moving around clusters of coral. When a group of reef sharks came along my heart began to fasten.

"it’s ok" I told myself "there just little guys who can't do any damage." And then my snorkel buddy told me we had to move out of the water. Another shark had also turned up, but this  guy was brown, as long as a man and we did not want to be around with him!  we crawled through the shallows as fast as we could, the longest crawl of my life.
For the rest of the time we manoeuvred through the coral beach (ouch!), found a shady spot to laze in and snooped around the caretakers accommodation. Here we found a whale bone, flags from visiting vessels and a book exchange (in which I swapped middle march for the hobbit)

On the day we were meant to leave, it seems The Soren wasn't  ready to go. As we tried to raise the anchor, the windlass decided to play up, and then once the problem was fixed, we'd lost our window to get out of the lagoon.  So another night in Suwarrow it was. And on the spare of the moment, we had a BBQ on the beach. With a fire and sausages in our belly, we went on the hunt for coconut crabs (which are huge and sometimes blue). And then we entertained ourselves putting crabs on Jim's face.
The Next day it was time to leave paradise, off to find Samoa.

Monday, 18 June 2012

A Storm took me from Raro

After our trip to Aititaki, we returned to Rarotonga to complete the end of our voyage.  As we waited to get back on the wharf, we saw the wakas (which were making their way to Samoa) leave the island. I was amazed at how small these vessels were and that they had taken their crew so far.

Once back alongside, it was only a day or two before two member of voyage crew left, which after a month together was a strange affair.
The next day I had half a day away from the ship. Having a couple of drinks at Trader Jacks, a bar looking out to sea, we found a picture of interest. Among the other sailing mementos and photos of visiting ships, was a beautiful illustration of the Soren Larsen.

Between getting the ship ready for its next voyage, we rested up, becoming familiar with some of the ships board games, notably cranium and articulate. it was going so well, in the time we had we could work at a good pace. But then the weather reports came in. A storm was coming. A big one. and with it gales would come from the sea. If the Soren Larsen stayed where she was, the timber ship would be smashed to pieces on the concrete wharf.  The call was made to take her out to sea. With half the crew on leave and no way of contacting them, we wondered if they would turn up before we had to get out. By chance, all but two didn't make it back.

For four days we held up in the ocean putting up with some crazy waves. It wasn't fun, knowing you were so close to land and yet it was out of reach. When the storm passed and we were  allowed back into the harbour, I think everyone muttered 'finally!'

That night our new voyage crew came on board and were all given an introduction to the ship.  However, me and all others who's leave had been cancelled, were allowed to leave the ship that night.  We ended up at the ' whatever bar' where the live music was dominated by a double eucallay.  fora couple of hours we danced and drank rum, enjoying the friendly atmosphere.  And then, the next day, the voyage to Samoa began. fruit and veg brought on, the fuel tanks filled up and the anchor hauled up.

Sunday, 17 June 2012


Due  to a group of wakas (traditional polynesian canoes that had been adapted to travel the world) coming back into Rarotonga, we had to scarper from our wharf for a while.  On board the Soren Larsen, we headed to the Atitaki atoll, only and day and a half sail away.  When we dropped anchor off the coast, outside the island's surrounding lagoon, it was quite a sight to see the waves crash on to the reef.

Aitutaki was everything you would expect from a pacific island.  relatively flat, coconut trees, easygoing and drop dead gorgeous.  But the thing that really made the experience here was the snorkeling.  I wish I had an underwater camera to capture it. After walking to the Pacific Resort, a very fancy hotel that I hope I have the  money to stay in one day, we were told anywhere past was good for snorkeling.  The coral, the techni-colour fish and the sheer abundance of life was just amazing.  This place was snorkel heaven.

On our walk back to our pick up point, we enjoyed the change of scene, only stopping to get some ice cream and the stare at goats (something about simple things for simple minds comes to my head).
Back at the ship, when the swirl of the sea wasn't took bad we could have a quick dip in the ocean to cool off. As the sunset, we watched turtles bob up and down in the water.

After a day and a half it was time to leave Aititaki in order to miss some bad weather coming our way, back to Rarotonga....

Saturday, 16 June 2012

The Rainbow Trail

I feel like a five year old, talking about rainbows. Next I'll be telling you about the picture i drew using crayons and  what my imaginary friend Mr jigga jagga has been up to.  But i can't help it,  every time I see a rainbow out I squeal like a little girl.  

At times it seems the path to Rarotonga is paved with rainbows. For the first time in my life, I saw a full one, stretching across the horizon. Naturally, their presence indicates the on/off rainfall that blows across the ship's path.  A rainbow even greeted us as we got to Rarotonga and then again when we first reached aititaki

In a vast ocean, Rainbows reminds me that nature can bring some extra colour, just when you need it.

Friday, 15 June 2012

We land in Rarotonga

To clear through Cook Island customs, we had to stop at the main Island, Rarotonga, before embarking anywhere else in the region.   After 18 days at sea, I don't think its too bold too say that the lush green mountains of Raro were a welcomed sight to everyone of us.
After getting the ship into harbour safely and getting the all clear from customs, it was decided that the Soren Larsen would stay two days alongside a wharf in Avarua harbour.  Perhaps not the prettiest area of the island, with its cranes and workmen throughout the day and the endless stream of scooters and cars on main road (which circles the island). However, within a one minute walk from the wharf, the island was beautiful. 

Over the next few days watches were replaced with anchor watches and inquisitive locals came by to see the ship, which is registered in the cook islands. A lot of people remembered it from previous years and the local newspaper even came and took a picture of the crew.
Soon after we came alongside the first batch of crew, including myself, were given 22 hours off duty. Starting a t 4pm, our time went as followed;
  • Found Internet cafe 'telecom' and quickly booked a hotel room for the night.  Also found out that Internet is pretty expensive in these parts.
  • Go to recommended Indian restaurant. As a bring your one booze restaurant, with meals for $10 that tasted amazing, what's not to like?
  • Jump into taxi to accommodation. find reception locked up. use a room to call a telephone on the front door.  Get shown to a large apartment suite. upgraded to executive level, which just means extra beds, but we did have a higher balcony....
  • Walk aimlessly in the dark to a bar, in fear of scooters in the night. Found a beach side bar closing up and scored a free beer from the bar lady (again thank you), which we drank on the beach.

The next day, we got on a bus to muri beach  (there are two bus routes on raro, one going clockwise, the other anti). And there we spent the rest of our time, having breakfast, watching dogs fish, lazing, swimming and a little bit of snorkeling.  After watching the world go by and finishing up with a mojito at the 'set sails' bar, it was time to catch the bus back to the harbour.  Less than 24 hours, spent well.

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