Once again Kwai is running across the wind under full sail bound for another speck in the ocean. This one is Nassau, 50 miles SE of Pukapuka and the fourth island in our tour of the Northern Cooks. We have been riding a steady, friendly North wind since departing Penrhyn. NNE to NNW 10-20 knot, Kwai can use it all. Usually this is a downwind leg and we much prefer the beam reach this has afforded us as we work WSW through the Cooks. The west sides of the islands, sheltered from the usual trades, have been a bit of a challenge, but the sea has never picked up enough to disrupt cargo ops. Tetaake our most experience winchman has not really been challenged this trip. In Penrhyn we are alongside a wharf within the lagoon, butt at Rakahanga and the 2 villages of Manihiki there is no such luxury. Often in these conditions we will discharge while steaming in circles, coming in to meet the boats. This trip we have managed to anchor to discharge. At Rakahanga the North wind blows right down the west side. For the first time we set the hook in 30m of water just a couple of boat lengths off the reef and lay parallel to the reef for the day with 8-10m of water under the keel. The usual banter and laughter carried on through the day of discharging orders, then Kwai Store, carrying the goodies to the village center, where Supercargoes Chrissy and Teraititi collect money and distribute the cargoes. Tohoa , opened the local branch of Bank of Cook Islands to allow customers to make withdrawals and to make sure Kwai did not depart with the islands cash supply. Many of the Rakahangans have traveled on Kwai to Rarotonga and back and Banuera and Kwai crew have learned their songs and taught several Kiribati songs. These got song to clapping and dance, which continued to the island barge brought back the last crew with a crowd of kids and friend to sing and cheer Kwai on her way.
Thursday night we ran the 20 miles over to Manihiki and drifted through the night. The North wind and north bound current balanced each other and Kwai stayed within half a mile of the reef, only once in the night needing to motor out a bit. Drifting we always keep a watch up monitoring the position and making sure we stay off the reef. At the NW end of Manihiki is a coral bank that comes out about 1/8 mile in depths of 10m. We anchored here for 3 days of calm weather on Voyage 3, our first Cook Islands trip. The weather was calm and we were guests at the Pura Pura Games, interisland sports and dance competition. Since then it has never been calm enough to use this spot which exposed the trade wind and sea. But tis voyage we had a fine day there in 10 knots of N wind, only swinging in toward the reef at the end of the day when the breeze veered to NNW. OK, only 6m of water under the ship, and the reef a ship length astern, calm enough but still able to destroy the ship if we got ashore. Time to go to the other end of Manihiki, where another bank comes out over 1/4 of a mile and affords safe anchorage with plenty of swinging room in any wind. Good fishing spot, too, and the crew were soon pulling up bottom fish. After dark a local boat delivered a bucket of flying fish as well. They fish these with a bright light, scooping the catch out of air as they jump in fright.
Saturday morning, back at it. Another deep anchorage with our dear Kwai swinging her butt in toward the reef. This time it was a north bound current catching her stern so her pretty butt teases the hungry reef. As often Captain Brad or First Mate Megan had the con, staying on the bridge all day, ready to start the engine. The islanders came out in their big able boat. A NW swell from some winter North Pacific storm had come up in the night, and they ran the pass with skill to get the goodies ashore. Orders were distributed and Kwai Store sales rung up and by the time we came back to the wharf the swell was occasionally closing out the pass. OK, Time to go again. Forget the proposed crew day off on Sunday, time to leave. After a last flurry of paint sales on the ship, we weighed anchor and said aloha to our friends on Manihiki. Two hours out the cry of “fish on” brought the crew out and a 20 minute battle brought a big marlin to the surface. Nothing gets the Kiribati excited like a big fish and a well placed gaff and 4 sets of hands from deck and bridge, plus some hauling on the bill brought the tired monster aboard. They hung the 6′, 100 lb er up like good sports fisherman and we all got our pictures taken. A few hours later and a fat wahoo, over 30 pounds, slipped over the stern without even slowing down. Freezers and bellies are full.
Aloha, Captain Brad