From Bora Bora we planned to visit Maupiha'a, Aitutaki, Palmerston, Beveridge Reef, Niue, and Vava'u on the way to Fiji where we will rendezvous with Channing and a new adventurer friend in August. One of the most important rules of cruising is that you must only write your plans in the sand at low tide. Because there are just too many things out of one's control that one's plans depend on. High on the list of such things is the weather. Weather to us means more than whether it will rain on our picnic day. Weather means wind (not too much, not too little, and from the right direction), waves, squalls (small stormlets that mess up one's passaging), as well as big things like fronts, storms, etc. Our plans required the weather to do what it is meant to do, namely be trade winds from the east or a little bit south of east at about 15-20 knots, day after day. Not too much to ask, in my opinion. Instead, there has been a series of weather fronts sitting on Tonga generally messing with the weather for weeks on end. And there's a thing called the South Pacific Convergence Zone, where weather patterns from the north and southwest come together and suck the wind and fun out of it like in the doldrums we encountered at the equator on the way to French Polynesia.
Then there are social political issues and seemingly unorganized officialdom in the Cook Islands. We spent weeks trying to figure out which Cook Islands we could visit both in terms of being allowed and in terms of the channels being passable. The communication coming from the Cook Islands official channels were maddeningly incomplete and inconsistent.
Regardless, we had to leave French Polynesia because our visas were expiring at the end of June. No matter what we were going to Maupiha'a, one of the westernmost atolls in French Polynesia. It had an exciting but not terribly challenging pass and a small semi-permanent settlement of copra farmers. We had a great stay there and it ended up being one of our most favorite atolls with great snorkeling and walks around the motus. But where to next? Palmerston did not resolve to the point where we felt we would be allowed to stay there after we arrived so it got scratched. Which meant we didn't need to go to Aitutake. Suwarrow, a large mostly uninhabited atoll in the northern Cook Islands that is popular with cruisers, became the next destination. We and Atmospheric got ready for a morning departure on the 4-day passage and off we went. Except Atmospheric had a mechanical issue with their sail and they had to turn back. In another bout of flexibility we decided to push on to Suwarrow alone, hoping they would be able to sort things out and come the following day.
The passage to Suwarrow was uneventful, as was the pass into the atoll. Except our watermaker was acting up. Luckily Rainman, the manufacturer, were super helpful and helped us figure out it was just a faulty warning light and our water was good to drink. We had a nice time mostly to ourselves with the 2 park rangers for about a week as we waited for the next weather window. But to where? We really wanted to visit Niue, a beautiful coral island. Unfortunately, Niue was sitting in the midst of our foe, the weather front, and because the anchorage there is open to the west, they make the cruisers leave when the weather comes from the west. So Niue was out. Because the messiness was to the southwest of us, we chose to head to American Samoa, which is north of the weather messes. And here we are. The passage was tough, with crappy wind, no wind, and then too much wind, and 10 foot swells. Let's just say it was a learning-rich environment. We've been in American Samoa for almost 2 weeks now, It is a wonderful place full of wonderful people that we will talk about in a later post.
What's next? Well, not Tonga. We have lots of friends who have been to Tonga in the past few weeks (during all this weather weirdness) and we have heard the same things from them. Really windy. Really rainy. Only got off the boat once or twice while they were there. Can't wait to get to Fiji. Etc. We're resigned to taking a miss on Tonga. Next stop is Samoa, FKA Western Samoa. We'll wait for a weather window, most likely to Fiji, maybe a quick stop in Vava'u in Tonga. We'll see. Because we are flexible. And we are enjoying it.