Date: Friday 28th May
Time: 1330 hours Tahiti Time (GMT 10 hours)
Position: 21*10.5 South/159*34.3 West
Bula Viti kei Rotuma
As I finished off in my report yesterday, it was a spectacular evening of sailing under a full moon and clear skies. However by early morning, it was starting to cloud again with the wind dropping to under 15 knots.
Last night Johnathan, Ratu Manoa and I got together to discuss our schedule for the rest of the voyage and the planning for our arrival back in Fiji. It looks like we will arrive back in Suva on the last weekend in June.
This morning at 7.15am we gybed across onto the starboard tack and within half an hour were closing in on Te Matau a Maui who were on a port tack running very square downwind towards Rarotonga.
I thought this would be a good opportunity to see if these canoes go faster downwind by tacking downwind or running square. The gybing angles are around 60 to 70 degrees, which is quite good for a multi hull this big.
As we approached Te Matau, I could see they had no intention of altering course although we had the right of way so we headed right for their beam and then altered course when we were only a few metres away. I then rushed to raise our leeward centerboard as I could see fishing lines and a hydrophone trailing behind their canoe.
There was lots of yelling and laughing from both canoes and it was great watching the look on their faces as we flew past their stern.
At 8.06am Johnathan sighted a whale to our Starboard side approximately 2 nautical miles on our beam. We sighted the spout of a whale a few more times but it was not close enough to identify.
By 8.20am, we had gybed back onto the Port Tack and were averaging 9knots towards Avarua Harbour.
We finally landed a small Mahimahi around mid morning and tried Charley Maitere's home-made Sashimi sauce. It was hard getting close to the bowl of Sashimi but I managed to sample a little before it was all gone. Charley's sauce was very different to what we are used to and everyone loved it.
As I said in yesterdays report, the Welcoming Ceremony is now scheduled for Saturday at 3.00pm (Sunday 1.00pm Fiji Time) so we will anchor the night off Avarua Harbour and then clear Customs at 9.00am tomorrow.
Once we have cleared customs, we will head to the Eastern side of the island to Avana and enter Ngatangiia Harbour one canoe at a time.
We sighted Rarotonga at 9.15am this morning from a distance of 44 nautical miles. All we could see is a series of bumps sticking out of the ocean.
From the chart the highest peak seems to be Te Manga at 653 metres followed by Te Atukura at 638 metres.
The deck is a hive of activity under the hot sun. Johnathan and Tukana are carving wood. Steven, Vilisoni and Rupeni are lining up for Kai'afa to cut their hair.
Johnathan, Oscar and Kai'afa are the on board hairdressers.
At the mid-day VHF position check, the other skippers asked how we were going to stop our crew members swimming ashore as it is Friday night here. I replied that we would be drinking kava tonight so that no one would be capable of swimming ashore.
Soon after, the four other skippers were requesting permission to tie up along side the Uto ni Yalo. So it looks like another big night tonight and probably the last time the five canoes will be together before we go our separate ways.
After the Cook Islands, Faafaite will return to Tahiti while Marumaru Atua will remain in Rarotonga. Te Matau a Maui, Hine Moana and Uto ni Yalo will continue on to Samoa later next week.
We are now 10 nautical miles off the North East coast and have dropped all our sails while we wait for the other four canoes to catch up so we can sail down the coast to Avarua Harbour together. It will make a pretty sight from shore on a Friday afternoon after work.
Foftein will be dropping by some marlin caught by Faafaite yesterday, for dinner tonight so we look forward to a pleasant fish dinner.
Colin/Uto ni Yalo
Report by Satellite Phone courtesy of DIGICEL
By Carson Young
Departing Raivavae, the ancient mecca of Polynesian pilgrimage marks the turning point for the Uto Ni Yalo and their crew. As much as we would have liked to journey further East towards the mythical Islands of Tuamotus, Marquesas and south to Rapanui, the demand of our long journey forces us to stick to our itinerary. I will not complain because I have witnessed enough of French Polynesia for now.
Robust is their culture. We are all humbled by the elaborate welcoming Vaka rituals, great food, the ever so fixating spectacle of the Tamure, tandamed to the pulsating beat of a Tahitian multi drum assemblage. We were all welcomed and accorded no less than royalty treatment, even in the posh city of Papeete. Our host society (Faafaite) served with their hearts to make the visiting four Vakas and the three support boats and crew feel at home.
The real story of French Polynesian hospitality however, all started on the sublime island of Raivavae. Cocooned in the distant archipelago of the Austral isles, the inhabitants hosted us with hospitality that must have been prescribed in heaven. With hearts as big as the giant volcanic boulders that sprinkle the island, they fed, entertained and smiled with us. One can tell when the heart speakth; and they spoke in volumes. Feeling guilty about possibly over-extending our welcome, we've decided to move to an uninhabited island to rest and wait for favourable winds, yet this did not stop brave young men who paddled furiously miles over miles of ocean to spend more time with us.
Now, on the high seas again and closing in on the Cooks, we see the omen of dolphins swim by at night and a whale or two splashing nearby and we are reminded that we have left behind a special place. We are reminded of this very special time and space where, we rested, feasted and bide a tearful farewell. We are reminded that it is these lands in East Polynesia where for the first time, the crew from the five canoes and support vessels got to really embrace and accept one another as brother and sister. We are reminded of life-long friendships forged before bonfire and song. We are reminded of memorable laughter around the kava bowl; the wonderful spirit of the people with their simple striped green and white flag. Like a rare Tahitian pearl we cherish this chapter of our journey through French Polynesia.