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Daily diary from the crew of vaka Marumaru Atua

Friday 30 July 2021 | Written by Supplied | Published in Local, National

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Daily diary from the crew of vaka Marumaru Atua

An ongoing recap from the crew of vaka Marumaru Atua, who are currently sailing to the Northern Group of the Pa Enua.

Day 44

Marumaru Atua arrived at Palmerston yesterday. There was no diary from the crew, this was submitted by the team in Rarotonga.

Do you know what kind of vessels are out on the ocean in the world today? They vary greatly from 40ft luxury yachts for billionaires with a staff to manmade to emergency and rescue rafts carrying refugees. Do you know what vessels are out in our ocean right now?

Over the last year alone, we have seen many things taking place globally on the oceans. The container ship Ever Given cost a reported $15m USD for every day it was stuck in the Suez Canal where 12 per cent of global trade normally passed through uninterrupted. All these different types of boats, all built and designed for different purposes, using different materials to do different jobs out on the ocean. 

But there is a single vessel out in our waters at the moment unlike any others. It is the only one of its kind in the Cook Islands and it has no other purpose but to educate Cook Islands people on their voyaging roots - the vaka Marumaru Atua. It is not built to fish in the way that other vessels do. It is not built to cause any pollution or harm to our oceans or its creatures. It is unique. One in a Million. One in possibly, millions of other vessels in our waters right now. What are they doing here? What do they bring?

In contrast to traditional vaka with hulls made of one big tree trunk, our hulls are made of E-Glass and Epoxy Resin. Our Vaka Moana has a set of traditional crab claw booms and a set of offshore rights with reefable Bermuda sails for safety during long voyages.

Have you ever been out on our vaka? Being onboard is a fantastic metaphor for island life, it gives you another perspective of the island you spend most of your time on. Shrouded in clouds, a lush green rising out of the expanse of Pacific blue water reminds me that home is a tiny dot on planet earth. 


Day 43

Been some rough seas since we left Suwarrow. Has ended up making our 2-day sail turn into a 3-day sail to Palmerston, as wind direction was not ideal. We should get into Palmerston tomorrow morning, Friday. A day late will now mean for a busy day tomorrow on Palmerston for Te Ipukarea Society and Korero o te Orau. We look to run our Ocean health awareness programme with Lucky School and the wider Pamati community. TIS will also deliver the completed Palmerston Natural Resource Management Plan, produced under Ridge to Reef funding, back to the community and Island council.

Additional programme run by TIS tomorrow will including wrapping up our Maine Mura – Reusable feminine hygiene programme. So far the programme has been well received by our women in the northern group, particularly because these women sometimes have to rely on using toilet paper or old rags for pads to manage their menstrual cycles. So having received products like reusable pads and/or Moon cups has been a useful product for our women to better manage their periods. The Pukapuka Maine Mura presentation was fun. We had some of the younger males also attend the presentation probably to make up numbers or maybe because it was something to do on the day. It was great to have the guys attend the women’s health presentation because our opposite sex also needs to be made aware of how a healthy woman’s body operates and ways in which these cycles are managed. The boys were really good about the presentation. I believe they learnt a lot.

We were also able to collect some hair samples in Pukapuka to test for mercury which can accumulate in our bodies through the fish we eat such as tuna and billfish like marlin. Women were the preferred participants, as long hair was needed. We were able to collect nine hair samples overall from Pukapuka with one being a male with long enough hair. Samples will be analysed through a lab in the USA which NES (Environment) are working alongside for a mercury related project.

Back to at sea sighting between Suwarrow and Palmerston, I have spotted a petrel of some sort. White under body with grey colouring on top. We have had a fishing line trolling since Suwarrow but no hits yet.


Day 42

Blog from Dr Teina Rongo from Kōrero o te 'Ōrau from Suwarrow. The leg between Pukapuka and Suwarrow took longer than expected. We left Pukapuka on Monday 19th July, and after four days at sea we arrived in Suwarrow on Friday 23rd July. The water was rough the whole voyage, and we had to tack a few times to try and get closer to the direction of Suwarrow. 

Even when we sighted the island, we didn’t quite get a favourable wind, which forced us to tack three more times to get the angle we needed to enter Suwarrow’s large passage. As we approached Anchorage island at about 4pm, I was reminded how enormous and beautiful Suwarrow’s ocean-like lagoon is. 

This is one island that I was excited to see again because it was where my interest in marine science began. Twenty-one years ago, when I was around 15 years old turning 16, my brother Teariki, who was the director of the National Environment Service at the time, took me on an adventure to Suwarrow. Coming from Rarotonga, that trip was my first time visiting another island in the Cook Islands. It was such an eye opener for me that I still have vivid memories of the place, and what an opportunity to see what has changed within this time.

When we got into the lagoon and approached Anchorage island, Captain Peia had already asked me to find a coral head to secure our vaka to. Before I jumped into the water, several reef sharks showed up next to the vaka, and the sight may have discouraged others from joining me in the water. Although I was a bit concerned as well, I have been in situations like this before that it didn’t really bother me much because I knew the sharks would only become a potential danger if I was spear fishing. 

As I did some scanning of the area, I recognised a starfish species called Choriaster granulatus, which is not recorded from any of the reefs we have visited so far, even from the Pa ‘Enua Tonga.  When we finally got the attention of one of the rangers, Katu Teiti, he came out on a six-metre aluminium boat and transported half the team to shore. The other ranger, Papa Harry Papai, had gone fishing on the reef flat, so we didn’t see him until later.

To be continued …


Day 41

Monday, July 19th was our last day on Pukapuka. What a busy day it was!  Early in the morning we had our last breakfast and we quickly got into our schedule for the day, which was to deliver our awareness programme to the junior grades. I spent an hour or so talking to the senior kids about climate change and the importance of our Māori way of life to climate change adaptation. I also talked about the importance of valuing who they are as Pukapukans.

Pukapuka is so far the only island where we saw very little imported goods from Rarotonga on our table of food. Our breakfast and dinner would consist of taro, local chicken, fish, and fresh coconut juice. The fact that Pukapuka gets less shipping and flights is one of the likely factors is probably why they remain the only island in the Cook Islands with a strong connection to their resources, environment, and traditional ways for so long.  They are such a happy communal society with some practices that are frowned upon by those of us from Rarotonga, yet they remain steadfast to those ways. For example, men eating before women and children was something that we noticed. Also, I noticed that the Orometua to an extent have a different level of respect to those you see in Rarotonga and the other Pa Enua. What also surprised me was their traditional management of the unga population. To me, it was so effective that I can’t help but to reassure myself that we have always had the solutions to manage our own resources, yet we have a tendency to rely on foreign ways. We were able to capture these management systems through our interviews with the elders in the community.

On our last day, the Member of Parliament for Pukapuka and his delegates had arrived on a morning flight, and our farewell was combined with his welcome ceremony. After the ceremony, I made a speech on behalf of our team. My message was to praise the people of Pukapuka for being persistent in holding on to their traditional ways, and that they can lead the Cook Islands in valuing who we are as Māori people. Following our kaikai at our accommodation, we were transported to the harbor where the vaka was moored. When we arrived, the people had already gathered to the harbour to see us off, with the majority being the school kids. After all our goodbyes, our team boarded the vaka and we for the first time on Pukapuka performed our Ivitu Amo.

The highlight of our last day for me was what followed our Amo. It was a feeling that I will never forget, but it was also a reminder to me that our aspirations and pathway for Kōrero o te Orau is much needed. In response to our Amo, a young boy that we met at school chanted a powerful prayer of safe journey, which was followed by a Tira by the children that gathered around him. As our vaka drifted away from the shore some 50 metres away, the boy’s young voice was so loud and high pitched, pierced through a thick air of silence, that to me felt as though the whole world paused to listen. Although I had to explain to the team what the call was as the majority of our team did not understand, the team thought it was special.  As my mind searched through my emotions to explain what I witnessed, the interpretation that came to mind, regardless of the meaning of the chant and Tira, was a call for help from our ancestors and the future generations of our nation, through this boy.

A call directed to us, the generation of today, who I believe is heading in a direction that we as the indigenous people of these lands are forgetting who we are and at the same time denying the future generations of knowing. As I lay on my tiny bunker that night with Kelvin lying opposite me, I was reflecting on that moment at the harbour and the many things running in my head, I could not help but cry. As tears streamed down the side of my cheek, I was also conscious that Kelvin was there, as I did not want him to see me in that state. Pukapuka will remain to me as the beacon of light and the epitomy of what we as the Māori people of these lands should aspire to. Atawai Wolo e te Iti Tangata Puapuka no ta kōtou ‘ākonokono’anga ia mātou.

  • Dr Teina Rongo

Day 40

Kia Orana. Suwarrow, what can I say? I fell in love with this island from the first day we arrived. It is truly a paradise in the South Pacific. We are all by ourselves in the big lagoon where usually numerous yachts from all over the world are at anchor. The only visitors we get are blacktip and sometimes grey reef sharks. It is exciting and scary at the same time to jump in to join those fellas for a swim and when Shane and I went in to cool down we had around 15 curious sharks around us. But as soon as you press record on your GoPro they seem to disappear. Camera shy, I guess.

I spent some time on Anchorage yesterday and took a stroll around the north side of the island which was beautiful and every time you looked out to the water you saw some black tips at the surface. There was even a baby shark do do. The base where the two rangers Harry and Katu are living is simple but they have all you need. A garden, an outdoor shower and even a gym.

The absolute highlight was today when Harry took us out to the Manta Rays. They have a cleaning station where they usually hang out. I jumped in and after around two minutes of swimming and looking around, there it was. A majestic big creature approaching me. I was enjoying that moment by myself first before I shout out to the others to come over. We’ve only seen that one single Manta Ray but it was enough to tick off another box on my bucket list. Next and last stop before we are heading back to Raro is Palmerston. I’m excited to find out what that island has in store for us.

That’s it from me for now.

Ka kite

Sandy


Day 39

This diary is from Saturday. Kia Orana. Oliver here writing to you from Suwarrow. It’s a real beautiful day here and good as to be in a sheltered lagoon again. The sail from Pukapuka was a challenging one as we were sailing into the wind most of the time with rough swells. We did a number of tacks just to be able to make it past Suwarrow and through the passage into the lagoon. Was real cool coming through passage seeing eagle rays and reef sharks and the hundreds of sea birds that call this atoll home. Myself, Teina and Pareu jumped in the water and sorted out a mooring around a coral bombie for the vaka. Gave a big chur to the bro Katu Teiti, one of the rangers here looking after the island and raking the beaches. Katu gave us a lift back to the vaka on his boat and picked up the crew wanting to stay on land to take to Anchorage. We did a few fix up jobs on the main sail, had some kai then me and Deon began our 6-10pm night watch.

Me and Deon had the first day watch in Suwarrow, 6am-6pm looking after and keeping watch on the mooring lines. Completed a few more jobs with the crew, quick clean up, oiling the deck and drying out the sails. Made the most of the sunny day by doing my washing, drying out the bed, blanket and pillow after the last couple of wet days sailing. Looking forward to a fresh as dry sleep tonight! Papa Kelvin, Alanna, Pareu and Katu have left for Motu Tou to go set their rat traps and camp out for the night. They are going to be coming back tomorrow (Sunday) and will revisit Motu Tou again on Monday for another sleepover to see their results. Steak and Sandy are on day watch tomorrow so I’ll be able to go ashore for a bit to have a nosey around Anchorage and explore around the reef.

Choice! Meitaki

  • Oliver

Vaka Marumaru Atua has arrived at Suwarrow and will be on the island for the next three days. However due to no Wi-Fi/internet services, there was no diary from the crew yesterday.

Here’s an 8-year-old son’s thoughts – When dad goes away it’s sad because we love him but he has gone sailing again.

He will really miss the love from his family and we miss his love. His growling, not so much. I am proud of him that he sails everywhere and he works really hard on the vaka to make sure it is good to sail around the northern group.

He has worked very hard sorting out his crew and I just think he is glad to be on the voyage because he has worked hard. He gets to see what the Pae Tokerau is like and those other islands and the family there. 

We haven’t seen that in real life. He has seen sharks and turtles.

Dad gets plenty of time to sit and really look at the stars properly where they are and where they are going to be next and when the stars set and rise. At home he does it only a bit.

I want to go with him – I want to see the Pa Enua and what it’s like but then I don’t want to because sometimes I get sick. When I am sick, I just sleep I don’t help.

Maybe he will come back skinny. He did last time.


Day 37

So it is Thursday, and we have been going for three full days now, doing our best to sail to Suwarrow after leaving Pukapuka at 5pm on Monday. Winds have been mainly East-South East, making a direct course impossible. We tacked north east for about the first 24 hrs, so we could eventually steer a more direct course. Since then we have made steady progress to the south. If this keeps up, we hope to make Suwarrow by midday Friday.

I have dubbed this part of the voyage the oe oe, kaikai, mimi, moemoe cruise, because that is what our days and nights consist of. Three hour watches for the oe oe, and if that coincides with the time before meals, it is also the kaikai. Then, if you are sensible, it is mimi time before heading down to the bunk for the moemoe.

Kaikai has been a highlight, with a diverse range of meals being produced, including creamy pasta dishes and curries. Not a lot in the way of greens, and we are patiently waiting for our last bunch of bananas from Pukapuka to ripen. The kuru has been a nice addition to the menu as well. Teina made an interesting cake out of some over-ripe kuru, very sweet despite no added sugar. But the highlight on the menu so far for this sector has been the pumpkin soup. Kura and Shane made a great dish out of the pumpkin from our Te Ipukarea Society keyhole garden. This was picked over a month ago, and has lasted very well till now. A great vegetable to take with you on a long voyage.

We are almost finished the nu (drinking nuts) from Pukapuka as well. It has been a welcome and healthy drink, and the best thing is the empties can be thrown over the side. Not like the coke bottle we saw floating past on the first day out of Pukapuka, covered in barnacles and headed for the Pacific Garbage Patch floating in the ocean.

Thursday has been a blessed day starting with the early morning shift at 3am to 6am, where we had a beautiful almost full moon, good winds and lovely ukelele music from Kura practicing her new song about the moonlight. We also had two rain squalls already, allowing a freshwater shower or rinse off for those of us above deck at the right time, as well as the favourable wind change sending us towards our destination.

Kelvin Passfield

Te Ipukarea Society


Day 36

Two entries from the vaka crew, the first being from crew member Kane Heather, and followed by an anonymous entry as the vaka encounters rough seas.

Our voyage from Pukapuka to Suwarrow just started.

Everyone was excited to leave Pukapuka and continue our journey to challenge the rough seas.

It's our first day back on the water, the wind is good but we are getting a bit of rain squalls.

It will be probably take four to five days to get to Suwarrow depending on the weather.

I am so excited to see what the island of Suwarrow has and looks like.

  • Kane Heather

It's been 3 days since we've left Pukapuka, and I'm still feeling seasick, but I think I'm slowly getting use to feeling seasick.

The crew have been drinking what seems like an unlimited amount of nu gifted by the people of Pukapuka. Thank you!

We sailed up north towards Penrhyn, then we turned back east towards Suwarrow, I think we're still closer to Pukapuka then anywhere else.

The seas have been rough, with lots of rain squalls.

Three more days to get to Suwarrow. I can't wait till we reach land, I can't wait to be home.

  • Crew

Day 35

In this diary entry, crew member Terii Pittman looks back at when the vaka arrived at Pukapuka last week.

As we prepped the lines to be towed into the narrow and choppy Pukapukan passage I couldn’t contain my excitement, fresh water showers yaaaaass. Our bow tow lines were set and an extra bow and stern line prepped in case we needed to chuck the lines over to stop the wind pushing the Vaka to one side of the passage. Four burly barefooted Pukapukans were standing on the reef ready to catch the lines if need be. Luckily, we squeezed ourselves through safe and sound.

We moored up near the barge tying Maru up to the many coconut trees dotting the shore. The lagoon is flat and well sheltered, the Vaka is safe meaning more relaxed land time for the crew. Ping! Wi-Fi reaches the Vaka yaaaaaaas!

With the vaka safe Capt., Olly, Sandy and myself set off exploring. We spend the afternoon exploring the surrounding motus, swimming and drinking fresh nu. Chatting about how we could live here and how we’d spend our time if we did.

Pukapuka is an incredibly beautiful island with a generous and boisterous people.

A huge meitaki ranuinui to Annie and Tere Williams who opened their home to us to use their bathroom and washing facilities.


Day 34

On Saturday the school students had their sessions on the vaka. As usual the kids had a ball with the crew showing them the ropes, the safety equipment, and the vaka. After Teina had finished some interviews in the morning, we got the opportunity to visit the motus. We had heard we might find the Meadow Argus butterfly in the taro patches of Motu Ko, so with our guide and boatman Bartender, and a couple of local kids, we went of trudging through the taro swamps. We saw many interesting things, plants, and some giant historic trees that looked like they may be 100 years old or more. We also saw some butterflies, but not the one that we had been asked to look for by a butterfly scientist in the United States. It is not a rare butterfly, but Pukapuka is apparently the edge of its distribution, and he was coordinating a DNA study of them. So we have left the butterfly net with one of the students at school who seemed keen to help out. Sometime in future, maybe we will get a specimen! Next we went on to Motu Kotawa. It is closed, under ra’ui was, at the moment, but the Mayor gave us permission to have a look at the birds that are there.  Once we got there, Bartender took us on quite the trek across the island to the other side, and then back along the beach to our starting point. We found a few juvenile tavake in their nesting places, which included also inside one of the huts used by the people of the village, who have the rights to this motu. We also found a rakeia, white capped noddy, with its tail feathers stuck together with the sticky seeds of the uapuka tree. Unfortunately, it proved impossible to free it from all the stickiness, so we decided to put it out of its misery quickly, rather than leave it to die slowly from starvation. Other birds we saw included the akiaki (black naped tern), takupu (red footed booby), ngongo, the kotawa, and the rupe. We also heard a number of long tailed cuckoos, but did not see them. The weather was quite squally for the return trip to Wale, and we got quite wet from the salt water spray.  Bartender was an excellent guide, highly recommended.

Next morning, Sunday, we went to church at the CICC service 9.30am.  This is the most number of people I have ever seen at a church service in the Cook Islands. We estimated about 15 people, which did include all the Sunday school as well. The singing was so powerful, and beautifully harmonised. We really enjoyed it. 

Then a lazy day catching up with proposal preparation, emails, and family via the internet, and keeping up with these notes of the voyage so far.  There were some young boys, maybe 8 or 9 years old, looking over my shoulder as I tried to work on the deck of our accommodation. So I showed them the pictures I took of the birds, and one of the trees, and asked them for the names. Amazing they knew them all, which was a big help in writing this up. I wonder how many young children in other places can name the birds and plants around them as well as these natural naturalists? After dinner, Teina and Poko took off to the motu (Ko) for a coconut crab hunt at the airport. The team came back with 17 good size crabs, and good reports on how the community manage harvests, leaving all females and smaller crabs, and only very limited open seasons! We depart today (yesterday) around 3pm, next stop probably Suwarrow in 3 of 4 days!

  • Kelvin Passfield

Day 33

Sailing from Manihiki to Nassau and onwards to Pukapuka was one presented with many challenges, especially with the wind and rough seas. We departed Tauhunu in Manihiki on Tuesday at around 6pm with the prevailing trade wind of around 15 knots behind us.

The team quickly fell into their roles on the Vaka with much confidence as Marumaru Atua sailed into the sunset. Nassau was sighted just after 9am, some 40 hours later from Manihiki. To date, Nassau is the smallest island that we have seen on this voyage. Congratulations to our Captain Peia and his watch captains for a job well done finding the beautiful island of Nassau with much precision!

As we sailed towards Nassau with the persistent trades at 20+ knots, we noticed that the island being small could not provide protection for the Vaka, even on the leeward exposure.

Me personally, I was so excited to step foot on Nassau as this is the only island in the Cook Islands that I have yet to visit. We had no phone signal and no radio response from land, so we had to wait for a while as we patiently watched people on land moving back and forth as they prepared to come out and see us. At this point, Captain Peia and I had pretty much made the decision to continue to Pukapuka for safety reasons.

As the vessel from land approached, I noticed that one of the people on the boat was a former work colleague when I was at the Climate Change Office at the OPM, Lucky Topetai, who had come over from Pukapuka to Nassau right before we arrived. Unfortunately, I had to inform Lucky that we will have to depart Nassau, and I will have to wait again for another trip.

By this time, it seemed as though the wind and waves had picked up as we prepared to continue on to Pukapuka. This leg of the trip, I must say, was the most challenging. The swells were much larger. Huge mountainous swells would approach us from the starboard side where we had to look up to its crest.

Sometimes the waves would splash over the Vaka, which made things extremely interesting. Although the Vaka handled well in rough seas, I could not help but think of the story that the Captain told us while we were preparing to depart Rarotonga of the Vaka that flipped in Hawaii. This is just a humble reminder of the many faces of the Ocean – our kin – can show us. Just like a brother or sister that has many moods.

On average, we were probably sailing at around 9 knots…even though to me, it seemed much faster.

At around 4.30pm (Thursday), we sighted Pukapuka. With the ocean conditions presented to us, we knew that time was not on our side, and we had to be extra careful navigating around its reefs because it is for this reason why Pukapuka is referred to as “Danger Island”.

As we approached the leeward exposure of Pukapuka, we noticed that a barge was waiting for us at the entrance of the main passage. Unfortunately for us, only half of the crew can go on land…the CIVS crew stayed on board to look after the vaka moored on the fore reef.

As we were transported to land, the Mayor of Pukapuka, Lewi Walewaoa, who I knew from previous trips, was very apologetic because our sudden arrival had caught them by surprise and the people were not ready to put up a proper welcoming ceremony. Likewise, I had to apologise to him for changing our arrival date because of safety reasons. As we approached the island, my heart was filled with joy as we could see many people gathering on the coast, a sight not seen on many of our islands today as we as a country suffer the effects of outward migration.

We were welcomed by the local government and especially His Highness the King of Pukapuka, Paki Tonga Ariki. I was very humbled to meet him again. Pukapuka has a special place in my heart because this beautiful place and people, I believe, holds the key for us in the Cook Islands, as we struggle to find who we are again as Māori people.

After our dinner, which was generously prepared by the traditional leaders and the island government, our team met and prepared our presentations for the schools (on Friday). Our island-wide meeting was held on Friday. Looking forward to our programme, and the team is ready to share and learn from the people of Wale.

  • Dr Teina Rongo

Day 31

This blog is from Thursday night. Ke ola tatou ete kakai. Came off a 12-3am shift super pumped and excited to reach Nassau just before lunch (on Thursday). Nassau was probably the island I was most looking forward to visiting because, I had never visited it before and because it’s super hard to get to. I woke up at 8am amped and on a high with some freshly brewed coffee, coasting at around 7 knots thanks to some strong, strong winds. I think it was about 10.30am when we reached Nassau, but wooweee the winds were still up, BIG time and the waves looked pretty angry too. We waited for a boat from land to come out to us to tell us what our best option was. Basically, the barge before us got turned away cause of windy conditions so that was also going to be the same fate for us.

As I waved goodbye to Nassau, it was onwards to Pukapuka we went. I was pretty upset, for having missed out on Nassau, but you know what, the ride to Pukapuka made up for it. It was like an actual theme park extreme sort of pirate ship ride experience lol. The waves were super high, and the vaka was blitzing it through the water. We were surfing waves, we were getting smashed by waves, water was going down the hatches. It was full on haha. Rather entertaining indeed. But of course, Marumaru Atua is such a smooth ride. She really does slice through these waves making for a much smoother ride then other boat I have been on.

We arrived in Pukapuka safe. Made it onto the leeward side, and was able to anchor outside the passage. There’s some talk of trying to bring Mama Ma through the passage apopo (which was done yesterday).

First impressions of Pukapuka, so many people compared to the previous islands we have just visited. People came down to the beach to watch us pull up through the lagoon. Even a drone from land followed the team in. The mayor Levi Walewaoa is super lovely. Levi and the community welcomed us all with ei’s, sweet nu, and now we have just finished our kaikai. Looking forward to a pa'i but first I am learning to speak Pukapuka with the local kids.

Ka kite ite tayao

  • Alanna Smith

Day 30

Marumaru Atua arrived Nassau at 10am yesterday but could not anchor due to the rough seas. Therefore, they continued on to Pukapuka, arriving there at 5.30pm. Marumaru Atua is moored outside Pukapuka passage.

Kelvin Passfield’s blog from Tuesday 13/07/21 when they were departing Manihiki – So today (Tuesday) was a big day for us. It started at 9am with the arrival of all the students from both Tauhunu and Tukao schools arriving at our Ebenezer Hall accommodation. A different approach this time. Dr Teina suggested we divided the students into five groups, and set up five stations for them to rotate through. Two were down at the vaka, where they learned about the knots, the ropes and throwing them, as well as safety and other aspects of the vaka. Unfortunately, the vaka could not take them out sailing as it was too rough, and it was too risky to take the vaka out of the small harbour with all the students on board.

One other station was set up with Kura, Dauson, Kane, Petero and Pareu showing the students a live taramea (Crown of Thorns starfish) that they had collected the day before from Tukao. They learned about the role the taramea has in maintaining coral reef health, and also the damage it can do if there are too many of them.

The other station was Alanna teaching about ocean plastic pollution. This included some short video footage of the plastic trawl we have been towing from the vaka occasionally, as well as photographs of the tiny sea creatures we had caught that the fish could easily mistake plastic for.

The last station was Dr Teina talking about coral reef and atoll formation, as well as a bit of history on the geology of the various islands in the Cooks group.

Following that, Team TIS and Korero headed to Tukao on the boat taking the Tukao students back home. This was a very rough trip in 20 knot winds with all the students from Tukao helping keep us dry. We were meant to do a public consultation in Tukao on ocean health, but unfortunately due to delays in Tauhunu we arrived too late and the presentation was called off.  We did however take some time to visit a few residents in their homes and talk about ocean health and the potential risks of deep sea mining and the need for more time for research and capacity building. They were disappointed that the presentation had not gone ahead, as they found our information informative.  We left a few of our Ocean Health brochures with some residents and the school for distribution.

Then it was back to Tauhunu, with a new boat driver. This was my old friend Busu, who I had first met in 1989 on Suwarrow where he was living with the Tangi Jim family, the caretakers at that time. It was great to see him again after so many years, and he had hardly changed at all.

We then went straight to the farewell function for us at Ebenezer Hall at 4pm, where we presented the rock we had carried from the mountains of Rarotonga to Island Council member John Macleod. We really appreciated the hospitality of the CICC members who accommodated and fed us during our stay at their hall.  It was then back on board the vaka, and we departed at 5.30pm, and headed just south of west, towards Nassau and Pukapuka.

  • Kelvin Passfield

Day 29

Tuesday morning started with our school programmes (in Manihiki), we had a science fair set-up with multiple stations. Cook Islands Voyaging Society had their safety life jackets, ropes and knots, star compass and celestial navigation stations.

TIS (Te Ipukarea Society) focused on ocean pollution and their Maine Mura workshop, and Korero o te Orau on atoll formation, and Taramea biology and its role on coral reefs. I was at the Taramea station with my homie Kura Happ.

We had a live Taramea in a bin that was collected the day before by our ‘scientist’ team led by Petero, so that the kids can see and touch. For most of them it was their first time seeing the Taramea. I was so excited to teach our kids about the Taramea and its purpose on reefs, what their natural predators are, and their impacts in an outbreak situation.

In the corner of my eyes, I noticed Pareu at his Atoll formation station was demonstrating a volcano eruption using a table cloth, and it seemed that the children were laughing at him. Oh man, what a great opportunity it was for not only the kids to learn something but myself and my team too!

After we were done with our school programmes, we headed off by boat to the village Tukao to do some interviews. While we were at Tukao, I went for a walk touring the place on my own and half an hour later while I was walking back I saw Uncle Teina and Aunty Poko doing video interviews with some local people. Once they finished with their interview, we had to rush to get back on the boat to head back to the main village.

When we got back to the hall, everyone had prepared lots of food. After the big kaikai we walked down to the habour and loaded all our stuff onto the vaka, everyone had come down to see us off and I said my goodbyes to friends and families, I was feeling really sad to be leaving them behind. As soon as we departed, it was time to put on my sailing hat and get ready to sail to Nassau.

My crew and I were on watch early hours from 12am-3am (Wednesday), I was so happy with our teamwork and how we were helping each other out to keep us all on track. Once my shift was over, I went down to my bunk and fell asleep and woke up just in time for my next shift starting at 9am.

I came up, rinsed my face and started preparing lunch for the whole crew with the help of homie Kura Happ. I told her what I wanted to cook for lunch and Kura agreed to help me cook a big pot of noodles and corned beef. I also told her what ingredients to use. And after lunch was ready, I prepared the table for everyone and said grace. When I went back for second serve, the pot was empty – I looked around at everyone and I could see that they were all enjoying my secret recipe.

That’s all from me, until next time.

  • Dauson “Bossman”

Day 28

So today was a big day for us. It started at 9am with the arrival of all the students from both Tauhunu and Tukao schools arriving at our Ebenezer Hall accommodation.  Dr Teina suggested we divided the students into 5 groups, and set up 5 stations for them to rotate through.  Two were down at the vaka, where they learned about the knots, the ropes and throwing them, as well as safety and other aspects of the vaka. 

One other station was set up with Kura, Dauson, Kane, Petero and Pareu showing the students a live taramea (Crown of Thorns starfish) that they had collected the day before from Tukao. They learned about the role the taramea has in maintaining coral reef health, and also the damage it can do if there are too many of them. The other station was Alanna teaching about ocean plastic pollution. 

The last station was Dr Teina talking about coral reef and atoll formation, as well as a bit of history on the geology of the various islands in the Cooks group. Following that, Team TIS and Korero headed to Tukao on the boat taking the Tukao students back home.  This was a very rough trip in 20 knot winds with all the students from Tukao helping keep us dry. We took some time to visit a few residents in their homes and talk about ocean health and the potential risks of deep sea mining and the need for more time for research and capacity building. 

Then it was back to Tauhunu, with a new boat driver.  This was my old friend Busu, who I had first met in 1989 on Suwarrow, where he was living with the Tangi Jim family - the caretakers at that time.  It was great to see him again after so many years, and he had hardly changed at all. We then went straight to the farewell function for us at Ebenezer Hall at 4pm, where we presented the rock we had carried from the mountains of Rarotonga to Island Council member John Macleod.  We really appreciated the hospitality of the CICC members who accommodated and fed us during our stay at their hall.  It was then back on board the vaka, and we departed at 5.30pm, now heading just south of west, towards Nassau and Pukapuka.

  • Kelvin Passfield of Te Ipukarea Society

Day 27

Early Saturday morning Teina woke me to say he had negotiated an earlier arrival into Manihiki with the mayor, so we packed up to leave later that day. A farewell kaikai at midday saw us on the boat by 1.30pm and on our way to Manihiki.

We did not quite make it on a straight course, so had to do a double tack to get us neatly into the harbour, just before dark. We had not expected to be able to get into the harbour, but a local assured Cap that it was no problem, so we slid in just on dark.

A rousing welcome by the Manihiki community followed, with a huge kaikai. Then straight to Ebenezer CICC Hall, where our beds were all laid out waiting for us. I slept well that night, with the Marumaru Atua clearly visible only about 50 metres away tied at the jetty. The crew still stayed on board, for safety reasons, as if the wind changed, they may have had to take the vaka out of the harbour.

All of Tauhunu went to Tukao today, Monday, for vaccination. They were all back by mid-afternoon. Tukao was also all jabbed by the end of the day. The Kukupa (police patrol boat) also took a team to Rakahanga so that should all be done by now as well!

We held our ocean health session at 5.30pm at the Ebenezer Hall. A good crowd of over 30 people turned up, considering what a big day they had with the patia! There were some good questions and comments. There was a lot of support for building the capacity of our young ones over the next 10 to 20 years in the science field to allow the Cook Islands to make better informed decisions about issues such as whether we should start deep sea mining in the future.

  • Kelvin Passfield of Te Ipukarea Society

Day 24 & 25

Saturday morning in Rakahanga. We are still moored up outside the reef, so the crew was on sea watch. This means we split the watch in 3 four hour shifts from 6pm to 6am. The morning started quiet and we had time to chill on the deck, go for a swim or line up in front of Shane’s massage table. We found out the night before that we will be leaving Rakahanga today. KoTO and the TIS crew were finishing off their land work and the island held a farewell lunch around midday for us.

We were on a tight schedule to make it to Manihiki before dark so it was basically set sail straight away after everyone was back on the vaka and Teina and Kura retrieved the mooring line accompanied by a big grey shark.  We arrived in Manihiki before sunset after a rocky sail. The swell was quite big so I had to handout some sea legs. The welcome at Tauhunu was as usual warm with a lot of singing, dancing and a big kai. Everyone settled in and went to sleep quite early.

Ka Kite

Sandra Ankli


Day 23

The CIVS crew had quite a relaxing day today (yesterday) moored outside Rakahanga. A bunch of us, me, Daus, Kain, Petero and Terii swam from the vaka through the Rakahanga passage to get into ‘town’. Kain took a bit of a scenic detour with the current and Petero got a bit excited at one point, saw him rolling around on the reef with the waves.

We went to the school and hung out at the school kids. Me, Pareu and Petero played the school kids in a game of handball during their lunch breaks. The Rakahanga kids are awesome, they’re always singing, laughing, playing around and real interested to learn new things. They were pretty flash at handball too, I was never in for very long.

Te Ipukarea Society were doing their presentations to the school on the damaging effects of plastics and benefits of recycling. I came and watched Kelvin Passfield talk about how to create and use an effective composting bin, the kids and principal were interested and I learnt a few things too.

Watched Teina Rongo doing his presentation to the kids on how reefs are formed and the effects climate change have on reefs and atoll islands such as Rakahanga. He did his presentation down on the beach in front of the reef drawing diagrams in the sand and playing hangman when they couldn’t figure out an answer from Teina’s questions.

It’s Kains 17th birthday today also, Happy Birthday my bro. Heard a rumour there was a chocolate cake flown in from Rarotonga to celebrate his birthday?

Chur!

  • Oliver

Day 22

On the way from Tongareva to Rakahanga we spotted four fishing boats, including one large one that may have been a transhipping vessel with another boat close by. Possible illegal transhipping, as we could not see any signal on the AIS vessel monitoring system. We will send the information to MMR just in case.

We arrived at Rakahanga at 11am, after 42 hours sailing. Another great welcome by the community and the school students. Very enthusiastic pe’e, dancing and singing. We responded with our pe’e, which could have benefited from some of that enthusiasm shown by the young ones from Rakahanga! Then down to the community hall for a welcome kaikai and more entertainment, which included an electric band with a keyboard.

Those of us with a programme on Rakahanga then went down to the school where we were accommodated at the principal’s house. The crew went back on board the vaka, which had to anchor out as there is no passage or harbour at Rakahanga that can accommodate the Marumaru Atua. This means the crew has to stay on board to maintain the watch, though they can rotate ashore for a break.

On Thursday, we had a function hosted by the school, with more dancing and singing by the students.  This was followed the planting of a young coconut tree, known as a purapura. This is a tradition that the school has maintained for visitors to the school for a number of years.  Alanna got a chance to visit the purapura she planted when she was last here, about 3 years ago.  This ceremony was followed, of course, by another kaikai that included fresh paw paw, sashimi, uto pancakes and chocolate cake, among many other dishes.

At this stage we heard that our departure for Manihiki had been delayed till next Tuesday, with an expected early morning Wednesday arrival. This was to allow time for the vaccination to be completed for Manihiki and Rarotonga on Monday and Tuesday. Most of the people from Rakahanga are scheduled to depart tomorrow (today) for Manihiki as well, where they will also be vaccinated.

Next on the schedule was the school children being taken for a tour and a sail on the vaka. This is the highlight of the visit for the students, as well as for the crew who love showing the young ones the ropes on the vaka!

  • Te Ipukarea Society

Day 21

While our vaka makes its way around the Northern group in some of the most remote corners of our planet, we’ll be regularly taking the chance (while they’re out of range) to check in with people on land to give our ocean voyage some perspective. These regular features, called ‘View from Land’ will cover logistics, technology, history and even our mental health.

Our view from Rarotonga: Did you know that you - land crew, families and friends - are the most important part of a vaka voyage? How we send-off our voyagers, how we welcome our vaka on each of the islands and how we look out to the horizon for their safe return is all so important and part of the delicate balance that makes vaka voyaging possible.

Turns out it takes a community to make a vaka voyage possible and the Taua e Moana land-based crew consists of volunteers made up of families, friends, and members from each of the three Rarotonga-based organisations – Korero O te Orau, Te Ipukarea Society and the Cook Islands Voyaging Society.

It has been three weeks now since our fathers, sons, sisters, daughters, family and friends began this voyage.

This means home life here is significantly different for the 16 different families of each of the crew back here on Rarotonga.

Prior to the voyage, land-based crews will plan and obtain three meals per day for 16 people that can fit into small spaces and keep unrefrigerated for 51 days. A miraculous feat!


Jackie Rongo from Kōrero o te 'Ōrau and Byron Brown from Cook Islands Voyaging Society doing some essential shopping for the crew, which will be flown to Manihiki by Air Rarotonga. 21070725

Once they’re on the water, land-based crew will track them daily and work to get onto social media and into the paper all of the photos and posts from crew that you read every day.

While our voyagers are away, this means that school drop offs, work shifts and family responsibilities to their loved ones are put on hold temporarily as many families operate minus a key figure in their family unit. But this is a sacrifice that many families and partners of voyagers accept, understand and support.

As Pacific people, vaka voyaging is also in the blood of even those of us on land. The role we all have to play, includes the sacrifice of being apart from our loved ones and praying for their safety so they can share the love of vaka voyaging with our people in the Pa Enua, share educational resources and undertake important research on this historical trip.

Tei Mua Tatou! from the land-based crew of the Taua e Moana Voyage


Day 20

We've been sailing for 24 hours now. The crew is happy to be on the vaka again!

It was quite an eventful day today. Well, as eventful as vaka Life can be out on the ocean, where there’s not much to do but change sails every now and then, rotate chores between teams, sleep, and eat.

We started the day with plastic trawling at 7am, followed by a light breakfast.

The plastic trawl is basically a mesh net that we drag for an hour collecting any tiny pieces of plastic, which are called microplastics.

Nice sailing day. We crossed two longlines and came into contact with four fishing boats that are basically taking our fish.

I pray that my grandkids will still have fish to fish in their own ocean when they grow up.  We also saw a pod of dolphins in the distance.

We enjoyed a delicious lunch; black pearl oyster meat cooked in coconut cream, with a side of rice. YUMMY!

Tomorrow we will be pulling out of the ocean a new island. We're expecting to arrive in Rakahanga at sunrise this (Wednesday) morning.

I'm so excited to explore Rakahanga and continue carrying out the work we're doing!

  • Vaka Marumaru Atua crew

Day 19

This morning Alanna and I went to the Tetautua School and gave a refresher course on the worm farm and compost bin which we had provided to them in 2016.

We showed them how to put the compost bin together, and gave some guidance on how to care for the composter and the worm bin, what can and can’t go inside them.

Alanna took the students on a worm hunt, but unsuccessful. No problem, there will be lots of other critters that can break down the organic waste that goes in, and produce fertilizer.


Tetautua School students on the ‘bus’ on their way to the hydroponics. ALANNA SMITH/21070529

The school will keep the worm bin and the composter at the hydroponics station provided recently under the PEARL project.

That was the last of our scheduled tasks for Tetautua, and before we left, we were treated to an amazing farewell feast by the community, along with beautiful string band entertainment. The people of Tetautua really know how to have a good time!

We were farewelled from Tetautua at 1pm with more singing and we motor sailed our way over to Omoka with a following wind. 

Once in Omoka Dr Teina Rongo had a few housekeeping tasks to do, mainly making sure we did not leave any debts behind! He also did another two interviews with a mama and a papa on traditional knowledge, and their views on fisheries, deep sea mining, and the issue of young people leaving their home island.

We departed Omoka at 5pm, heading out through the passage into the setting sun at the same time that 3 of the local small boats were heading out for their evening fishing trip.

We are now headed towards Rakahanga and Manihiki with an easterly wind behind us pushing us gently along at 5 knots. The crew are looking forward to getting back into the routine of the watch, 3 hours on, 6 hours off, after 8 very productive days in Tongareva!

  • Kelvin Passfield, Te Ipukarea Society

Day 16-17

On Thursday we had a kaikai at the Omoka school, before departing at about 2pm for Tetautua. We were towed over by the barge, as it would have been too difficult and slow to motor against the wind.

We were welcomed with a challenge from the shore, which was responded to by the Mayor Rangi Tava, who was on our vaka. Then there was singing and a string band as we came ashore to be garlanded with beautiful floral eis.

This was followed by a kaikai and more singing at the church hall. Some members of our group reciprocated by singing while the Tetautua community took their turn to eat.

Then it was straight into the consultation on ocean health. After the presentation by Dr Teina and Papa Kelvin, comments from those present indicated strong support for taking between 10 and 20 years before considering to start deep sea mining.

During this period all that attended agreed that we should take this time to build our capacity in the relevant fields so that we can pursue this venture ourselves, if we decide to go ahead.

This was a similar response from the Omoka community. Nobody suggested that we should be moving quickly to get commercial mining underway.  Brochures entitled “ocean health is our ocean wealth” were distributed to the community.

Today (Saturday), I woke up early for my 6am-6pm shift with Terii and Sandy. Some of the crew got up for the 6.30am CICC church service.

Our day shift crew got the vaka set up with the traditional sails to take some of the Tetautua parents and kids out for a sail in the lagoon.

They were all very excited and keen. We gave them a brief to what we were going to be doing and put the lifejackets on the kids. It was beautiful conditions for a sail and everyone really enjoyed it. The crew got some good training in for tacking as well.

Afterwards, we gave the vaka a good clean up and packed the sails away. Had a tasty as beef noodle stir fry for lunch cooked by chef Wong.

Chur!


Day 15

Today we left Omoka and made our way to Te Tautua.

We were warmly greeted with songs, ei’s and awesome kai.

This side of Tongareva, known as the place you can ride sharks is much calmer than Omoka, with beautiful calm crystal clear water. We pulled up to dock and the rest of the crew left for the kai kai.

Olly and I were on watch so we stayed back on the vaka. Olly jumped in the water as I sat on the vaka.

A nurse shark cruised behind him, I let him know so he could have a look, he jumped up and out of the water pretty fast haha sorry Olly didn’t mean to frighten you.

It’s a lazy chill evening with the crew off to find Wi-Fi to connect to family and loved ones. Speaking of I’m going to do the same.

Manuia, Terii


Day 15

The trip from Aitutaki to Penrhyn has been one of much learning for the team regarding navigation using the various elements of nature, biological aspects of our ocean, and the climate.

It also highlighted the disappointing reality of our offshore fisheries, and how to deal with the personality dynamics among individual members of the team.

The latter was an important one considering that this is the first time that our three organisations have come together for a longer period aboard Marumaru Atua.

The first leg to the Pa ‘Enua Tokerau took seven days, and was an eye opener for some and a learning opportunity for others; most of this information will be released at a later date when all the analysis is complete (e.g., plastic trolling).

Because we arrived on a Sunday, as a common practice on Tongareva, we were not permitted to come on land. Fortunately, Marumaru Atua was allowed to anchor and shelter inside the lagoon area outside of Omoka, just before sun down.  The next morning, the team was very humbled by the welcoming ceremony involving the school children and the community of Omoka.

For those returning after so many years paid more attention to the little change they saw on the island, and for the younger crew members, it was a sigh of much relief to be on land!

Yesterday morning (Tuesday), TIS did a presentation with the girls in the school on reusable personal hygiene products, followed by a combined presentations with KO on ocean health; at the vaka, CIVS did their tours and some practical learnings about water safety.

Later in the day, myself and Poko continued our video interviews with the elders in the community to gather information on traditional knowledge, their views on the state of coastal and offshore fisheries, deep sea mining, and the revival of our cultural practices.

Te Atua te aro’a.

Dr Teina Rongo


Day 13

Kia Orana, my name is Petero Rea and I will be sharing details of our arrival on Tongareva and also what we did today with the students at Apii Omoka.

Seven days on the ocean we made it! On our arrival I was so excited to wake up knowing we were about to dock the vaka Marumaru Atua into Omoka harbour, and even more excited to take my first step onto the beautiful Island called Tongareva.

While docking the vaka, there were a lot of people and school kids welcoming us with the sounds of the drums, cheering and laughter. It was so cool man!

After the welcome chant we responded with our chant IVITU, lead by my bro Dauson. We also received beautiful ei’s from the children. Meitaki Poria.

At noon, a Kai Kai was prepared for us with the Tongareva council, just in time cause I was really hungry man. And the Kai was made with Tongareva love. Yum.

I saw familiar faces from Rarotonga, my Aunty and my friends. What a small world!

Tuesday 9am, Popongi Manea. We had our school program with the junior kids, taking them through our vaka gear from lifejackets to tying knots and throwing ropes, and then the star compass, talking about the natural elements we use to sail.

Thank you mum and my family for your support. I’m so glad I took this opportunity. Bless you all.

Love, Petero.


Day 12

Kia orana tatou katoatoa!

Wow where to start! Rarotonga-Aitutaki and now we’re on our way to Tongareva. It’s the seventh day sailing on the ocean Sunday 27, 2021. My shift starts at 6am with beautiful clear skies, nice constant winds and travelling very well, I’m on the Oe keeping our course on Haka which is 11’ east of North. With good news from Cap (Captain) we’ll be arriving today (Monday).  Yay finally fresh water showers for us ladies cause mate we are smelling fresh lol.


Captain Peia Patai presenting the rock Marumaru Atua crew carried from the mountains of Rarotonga to the people of Tongareva, being accepted by the island’s mayor. TIS/21062820

Cap puts out the long line around 6:15am, band we’ve got a hit, I pulled us in a good size fish with Kane to gaff our catch onto the Vaka. “Waaaaahooo yummy fish for days. Meitaki Poria Ocean.

With all this excitement going on we had all forgotten we are on breakfast duties, So continental it is quick easy and simple!

I am so grateful to be a part of this voyage and I’m loving the programmes with the kids, they’re all so wonderful. Highlight for me so far is learning how to use our star compass, Thanks Cap for sharing your knowledge, Also  to our guardian angel of the Cook islands Teina Rongo thank you for your wealth of knowledge you share with everyone. Meitaki maata no te apii mai iaku i toku reo Maori! Kitea kore ia te oonu i toku inangaro i teia angaanga teretere Vaka!

Peace & love. - Kura Happ

Latest update - Arrived into the wharf in Tongareva to a rousing reception from the school and community. We are now being housed at the Catholic Hall.


Day 11

“Hey can you sit downwind of me mate,” says Terii, rather formally.

“Don’t get offended but you have bad B.O.” Later I consult with watchmate Kura Happ. “Did she say that? Wow! I was thinking it, but wasn’t going to say anything. Don’t worry my tane Iakapo is the same, you guys don’t use deodorant and your stink gets ingrained in your clothes.”

At this point I consider that maybe my wife was right. Kura continues “it’s not your dreads, in fact I can’t even smell it now, lift your arms. Oh, there it is.”

The next day I shaved my armpits, it’s a small area we share, not that you’d know it.

The space is filled with laughter encouragement, sharing of knowledge, young enthusiasm, heartfelt music and the greatest meals.

Earlier in the voyage I found myself in the navigator’s seat. The thrill cannot be justified by words.

Four years since starting this journey with Te Toki Voyaging trust and I get to tentatively rest my bum on the podium of traditional voyaging. I watch and feel the wind and swells, keeping check on our course.

I watch the few stars I am familiar with rise and set. These are baby steps, but life is a place of learning and I am a willing student.

I find myself walking the railings of our Vaka peering into the night looking for expected stars.

I greet them with excitement and glee like I would distant relatives - which of course they are for I am the universe and the universe is me. I appreciate the distance we can travel by planets alone.

Five days later, I’m happily chatting away informing Capt. that we are travelling NNE and that the GPS system must be faulty.

Captain lets this go till he’s had enough and shows me that due to lack of wind and speed although I was pointing the vaka NNE we have been drifting NNW for the last 3 hours.

This very chilled out Captain Peia’s words were now reverberating very loudly in my memory.

“You have to watch your wake man. You need to see where you’ve been to know where you’re going”.

Life on the ocean is swell.

  • Shane

Day 10

Weather – Wind 6/7kts, Swells 0.5m, Seas calm, partly cloudy skies

Another slow day sailing in paradise but loving every moment of it. Waiting for the wind god to send us the preferred wind to take us to Penrhyn.

When I was on watch along my crew from 3am to 6am (Friday), I felt really tired.

But when it was my turn to be on the oe, to take control of the vaka I felt awake and alert because I had to keep our vaka on course.

I found it really hard to keep our vaka on course because the swells had picked up and the wind kept changing and hitting into our sails from different directions.

I’ve learnt to navigate at night by using the stars and the moon to keep our vaka sailing in the direction that we want her to go.

When our shift was nearly over, I had to wake up the next crew to get ready for their watch. When our shift had finally finished, I stayed up for a bit and had hot milo before I went to bed.

- Hollywood Star Mr (Genius) Pareu Pera


Day 9

This morning (Thursday) around 6.30am when I was on shift, I looked into our beautiful horizon and saw the sunrise and the moon set.

As my crew and I were on shift controlling the oe, trying to stay on course was quite tricky and a bit hard, because the winds and swells picked up and our vaka started rocking side to side.

When it was about 8am everything had just calmed down a bit and we started preparing breakfast for everyone.

After we finished having breakfast my watch captain called me up and told me that he had a job for me to do, and when he told what to do I was like ‘OH WHAAA’ – I had to clean and scrub our toilet where everyone goes to drop their recipe.

After I was done cleaning the toilet, I hopped onto the oe with papa Kelvin and helped him steer and keep us on track.

Just about our last 30 minutes on shift, our vaka went off course twice doing a 160-degree turn.

Luckily all the crew were up on deck to help us with changing the sails and bringing our vaka back on course.

From your one and only King Davi Dauson Tupou.

Just another day in paradise.


Day 8

We're three days into sailing from Aitutaki to Penryn. We've been motor sailing for the past two days as the winds are not in our favour.

Meitaki maata to Chris Veil and Triad for the bio fuel that's been helping Vaka Marumaruatua move efficiently towards Penrhyn.

I've spent the journey sitting and anticipating for something exciting to happen, hoping to sight a whale or dolphin. It hasn't happened yet but this is all part of being out in nature, to be out in the vast Pacific Ocean is an excitement in itself.

I feel privileged to be able to be on this journey of discovery, venturing into our own backyard and learning more about who we are.

The days are long and the nights longer, the crew passes time playing ukulele, singing and eating (so much eating).


Marumaru Atua crew member Alanna Smith on chef duty. MARUMARU ATUA/21062324

Breakfast this (yesterday) morning was banana pancakes, there was so much pancakes I was certain we would be eating it again for lunch and dinner.

Thankfully the crew ate it all by lunch. Wahoos for dinner! We put a fishing line out and caught a Wahoo fish just in time for dinner! Sashimi and fish curry is on the menu (last night), straight from the ocean to our table, YUM!

Last night Papa Steve’s crew spotted what they thought was a comet/meteorite, awe struck by the event they described it as a huge bright ball of fire sky rocketing low across the Vaka, it had a long trail of smoke behind it, splitting into two as it faded into the night.

We're three days into our sailing, hopefully three more days and we'll reach our destination. I'm so excited to see Penrhyn!


Day 7

Second day out at sea after departing Aitutaki.

Just after Kelvin Passfield logged his blog on Monday, some of us were able to spot a whale about five hours out from Aituaki.

The whale was roughly 400 metres from the boat and was spouting away. My first whale sighting for the year with hopefully more to come on this trip.

Our watch had the graveyard shift last night 3am to 6am.

It really is the death of me those hours! It was also slightly trickier last night as it was cloudy and there were no markers (stars, moon) to guide us.

We had to rely on the compass in the ‘Are’, where the captain sleeps. The boat tracker this morning would have seen some interesting patterns haha.

Rained this morning for breakfast. Most of us made the most of the rain to have showers and wash their clothes. I went back to sleep in the dry cause it looked far too cold for me.

Nevertheless, Terii Pittman and I ended up having a salt water bucket shower at the back of the boat in the afternoon with ‘Pamovil’ soap (best soap to use on the vaka, cause it makes soap suds with the salt water), plastic-free baby wipes to wipe down the salt, and baby powder to complete a ‘fresh and so clean’ vaka shower session.

Second day of deploying the plastic trawl. No plastics collected. A red-tailed and white-tailed tropic bird was also spotted today this far out at sea.

Food is great, company is great. Hi mom and dad.

Ka kite for now.

  • Alanna Smith

Day 6

It’s an early start for the crew today (Monday) as we prepare for our departure to the north. The Aitutaki hospitality always makes our stay here an enjoyable one. We’ve been spoiled by their hospitality especially food here with fresh fish and tupa.

Thank you to Laughton and family for hosting us and stocking our Vaka with fresh fruit. Kuraono and Mike Henry at Tamanu Beach for sending your beautiful salads to the Vaka last night. Annie Fisher for your lollies, they’re certainly going to spike our spirits on those 3am watches. Meitaki atupaka to the people of Aitutaki for sharing your island and generosity with us.

After our departure ceremony, the canoe departed for the island of Penrhyn. Heading 009 degree north (Are Haka) speed 4.5, Swell S/SE 0.5M, Wind SE 6-8KTS clear skies.

The crews are enjoying the fresh fruits that our people from Aitutaki have donated, especially the fresh mangoes that my two brothers Ron and Lawton have purposely saved for us from their own trees.

(Later yesterday 6pm) We are now approximate 15 miles north of Aitutaki, heading on haka, the traditional navigation bearing equivalent to 9 degrees true in modern navigational terms. We are averaging around 4 knots in very light breeze. We have just had a great lunch and Alanna, Terii and Sandy have decided, since it is so calm, they need to bake an upside down pineapple cake!

We deployed the plastic trawl donated by 5 Gyres to the Cook Island Voyaging Society for 30 minutes, but only caught some rice and chives that someone had for lunch! We did think we had some small blue microplastics, but on closer inspection they were tiny blue zooplankton, possibly some kind of jellyfish.

Next time we will deploy the plastic trawl between meals, and not when people are washing their plates! Or using the toilet!

Meitaki Maata. - Captain Peia Patai, crew Terii Pitman and Kelvin Passfield, Te Ipukarea Society.

  • Crew

Day 5

It was a relaxing Saturday with great weather so a good chance to dry clothes and sails. 

On Saturday night the crew attended the family service of Kenith Henry and they hosted a kai kai for the Marumaru Atua. The crew would like to show their appreciation for the hospitality and condolences to the Henry family.

During this time Oli and Shane, Cook Islands Voyaging Society crew members were on the vaka night watch where they spent a chilly calm night up on deck.

Sunday morning, the crew attended Ziona Tapu church and then rested for the remainder of the day.

All through the weekend, the people of Aitutaki have been dropping food off for our voyage and canoe.

We would like to thank the people of Aitutaki for the food they have provided us for our voyage up to Tongareva.

  • Oli Oolders (Crew)

Day 4

We had an 8am start this morning with breakfast (last night’s leftover chicken) and a crew brief. We then started to clean the vaka and prepare for the departure on Monday to Penrhyn. Filling up the food stock and drinking water and give mama a good clean. The crew had some time off in the afternoon to enjoy the sun and the island (Aitutaki). Some went spearfishing others were just chilling on the canoe or went to the beach.

  • Sandy Ankli (crew member)

Day 3

Its day two in Aitutaki (yesterday), after a wet and thunderous night it was nice to be docked safely in Aitutaki harbour.

The schools of Aitutaki were supposed to come to the vaka this (yesterday) morning but because of wet weather we went to them. Our team broke up into three stations each teaching something from the vaka.

The kids of Aitutaki sure are a lot fun, they’re a boisterous and confident bunch. One little guy from the Aitutaki Sailing Club taught me a thing or two about tying knots.

Thank you to the Aitutaki Island Council for hosting the crew for lunch and listening to our Kōrero.

The weather has cleared now it’s time to get into our chores, dry the hulls and air out the sails.

Kia Orana.   

  • Terii Pittman (crew)

Day 2

Popongi tatou katoatoa, apologies for the late updates due to some small technical issues to our UUPlus email, but this have been rectified.

We are now moored at Arutanga wharf waiting for our day (yesterday) programme.

The trip from Rarotonga was a good shake up for the canoe and the crews. Seas were up to 3.5 metres to 4 metres swells with wind steady at 18 knots to 20kts.

The canoe feels at home and she made very good speed. At 2am in the (yesterday) morning, we were about 20 nautical miles from Aitutaki therefore we have drop sails and basically drifted into the island awaiting for daylight to make our way in through the Arutanga passage.

I am really happy how the crews handled the canoe in this condition and hopefully the trip onwards will be more easier.

We will be in Aitutaki until Saturday or Monday – yet to be confirmed.

The master navigators on board are: Peia Patai and Tua Pittman.

Crew - Steve Daniels, Deon Wong, Shane Warren, Terii Pittman, Sandra Ankli, and Oliver Olders; Te Ipukarea Society members Kelvin Passfield and Alanna Smith; Kōrero o te ‘Ōrau’ members Dr Teina Rongo, Kura Happ, Teupoko Ariihee, and the ‘Ātui’anga ki te Tango students Dauson Tupou, Kane Heather, Petero Rea, and Pareu Pera. -

  • Captain

Day 1

Read our account of Marumaru Atua's first day at sea here.