Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Araura Oe Vaka & Bailey's Birthday

And now Bailey is 8! We had a nice family dinner, opened up some pressies (thank you very much), and enjoyed a slice of R2D2 cake before taking it to school the next day. I like May.

I have jumped in and created a blog for the Araura Oe Vaka Association (Araura is the traditional name for Aitutaki) which represents the three Aitutaki Oe Vaka Clubs. Check it out - Oe Vaka Aitutaki. It is just a small starter to help develop a web presence for the upcoming Queens Birthday Regatta, and for later in the year for a regatta to follow Vaka Eiva in Rarotonga in November.

For the record, in the weekend regatta just been, the Lipstick Brigade (my ladies V6 crew - pink pareau and big earings are compulsory) wiped the floor, defeating allcomers in both the 250m and 500m races. Then I filled a space with the Ranganui Retreat team and won two races there, paddling at number 5 (near the back).

Michael won in the Masters Men division and came second in the Open Men, as well as filling in with a few other crews. He paddles at number 1 (above). The kids paddled too but got blown around a bit - we had a king tide being pushed by a strong wind, so all the tamariki played at being swept away by the current. In the pictures below, Jamie, Michael and Bailey are paddling 1, 2 and 4, while Sienna and Quentin practice on the beach.

It was another good day on the water. I like May.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

School Books for Aitutaki

We are delighted to report that the books and computer that were so generously donated by many old friends, family and new friends for the Teka'aroa SDA School in Aitutaki have been received by the school with many, many thanks.

The shipment, which had been put together by the Manns and Shakmanns in Warkworth, then delivered to East Tamaki, was finally landed on the last day of Term 1. As soon as school resumed, we delivered 12 boxes of library books and an Apple computer (from Milford Baptist Kindergarten) to the school in their temporary home, "The Shed".

The children were delighted to help open the boxes and look through the books, as 90 percent of their books were lost when the library and other buildings were flattened during Cyclone Pat in February. They are already checking books out of their library for home reading, which is delightful to see - their own toys and books having been largely destroyed.

We made a presentation to the school board, who were touched and greatful for everyones generosity. They are very thankful and quite delighted. The books are an incredible resource for our students, and the computer was in use the day after it was received!

We are particularly proud of the role that the children played in raising awareness and funds for Aitutaki. The SDA teachers are currently discussing the best use for the $530 that was raised by Sherwood Primary School after Chloe Mann (our neice) put a proposal to her principal for a mufti day and coin trail. Felix Tucker (Sienna's God-Cousin) at Red Beach Primary School also made an amazing contribution with books that he collected. It was delightful to see our old school Warkworth Primary being so generous with the books they had taken out of circulation from their library.

Thanks to the following for donations of books and assistance:
• The Shah Family
• The Tucker Family
• The Mann Family (Snr)
• The Mann Family (Jnr)
• The Shackleton-Mann Family
• Pacific Resort Aitutaki
• Warkworth Primary School
• Sherwood Primary School
• Milford Baptist Kindergarten
There were many others who donated books as well.

Meitaki Atupaki - Thank you very much
Kia Manuia - Good luck & live well

Fishing for Mothers Day

What a lovely adventurous weekend! While NZ mum’s snuggled in front of the fire, I went to sea in a tiny boat, soaked by rain squalls, rocked by 5m swells and harassed by sharks. Ah, such a flair for the dramatic, but not a word of exaggeration!

The first fishing competition of the Aitutaki Game Fishing Club since February’s hurricane was held on Saturday, delayed by a week due to the island running out of fuel again… The weather has been typical for April & May with 4 out of 7 days of heavy rain. Enough rain that the children and I have started building dams on the driveway to divert water runoff from the road and hillside from our front yard. However we paddled with our vaka crews on the lagoon in a beautiful sunset on Friday evening and the stars were bright that night – all good signs for a fine Saturday.

I had made arrangements with Willie Bond (brother-in-law of our head housekeeper) to join his crew Tautu wharf at 6am. The stars were still bright when I left home but there were silent lightening flashes far to the north. I met Joe and Etu with the boat (a solid aluminum open boat, 2m wide and 7m long) at the jetty and we took off with the first hint of daylight across the lagoon around the coral heads to the very small passage at Papau motu. As the tide receded there was quite a current at the passage, which incidentally is small enough not to feature as a passage on any maps I have seen. Having convinced myself that these guys had used the passage many times before, I held on tight and we gunned it though. Well, so far, so exciting! We had a good head-start on the fishing grounds of the Eastern side.

We had lines in straight away and trolled to the FAD (fish aggregation device) that Etu explained would usually have flags to mark it, but that pesky lack of petrol had prevented boats from going out. Nothing was biting at the FAD but the flying fish were incredible to watch as the skated then flew across the glassy surface of the swells. The water surface was turned pink by the sun rising in a small patch of clear sky, surrounded by dark bands of cloud (absent the previous lightening flashes, I was relieved to see). We trolled south along the reef without a strike for half and hour before the rain started to fall. The surf was huge against the reef and it was quite beautiful to watch the smooth backs of the swells as they rose steeply revealing turquoise at the crest before collapsing into boiling mess of white. At this point we heard a single loud clap of thunder over the island, which we later found out, struck the sea directly off the resort where some of the other fishing boats were. We motored 10km down to the South-Eastern corner of the reef, off Motukitiu, also known as Shark Alley.

At last we had a triple strike, and in the now pouring rain, and rolling around in steep 4-5 meter swells from 3 directions, the guys hauled in while I kept the boat straight. It was too rough for me to hold my footing with a rod in hand so I was happy for the guys to go at it. From that strike we landed one 6kg yellow fin tuna and lost two more to the sharks, evidenced by a clean cut in the line and all sign of fish and trace gone. We patrolled the southern corner and again had a triple strike. By this time the rain was torrential and as we turned to the rods the reef and the motu (island) slipped from view. The squall got heavier and as my line was immediately severed by a shark I was able to wind it in while Willie peered through the gloom for the surf and Joe & Etu hauled in only to loose their fish too. There followed an anxious 5-10 minutes in the driving wind and rain motoring slowly along what we thought was the position of the reef, rolling over the heaving swells. Eight eyes strained to see either reef or land and eight ears were open for the sound of surf crashing. Because of the mixed up seas it was very disorienting (for me anyway), but low and behold eventually the motu appeared like a shadow safely off the port bow and we could set the rods again.

The rain let up a little for the next hour to a heavy drizzle. We got a single strike that Etu started to bring in. It was soon apparent that we would be there for a while as the line had gone straight to the bottom – at least 800m away. After 5 minutes on the rod, Joe took over and a harness came out. After 5 minutes of that Etu put on some gloves and started pulling the line in hand over hand while Joe reeled in. As I stood in the bow out of the way Willie jockeyed the boat forward and backward and even in a circle around the line. He looked to me. “Either a big tuna or a big shark” he commented. “Better to be a big tuna” he followed up with his ever present grin. After nearly 30 minutes of tossing and toil, there was a flash of big white belly. “Big shark” said Willie in disappointment.

It came to the surface thrashing about and revealed itself to be nearly 2.5m long. Etu took the long spike and delivered a stab between the eyes and the shark bashed the side of the boat with its tail. After several more blows they were able to put a rope around its tail, haul it a little over the side of the boat, and they proceeded to cut the tail off. Still hooked up, the shark bled out in the water and I waited for the rest of his friends to arrive in numbers. They didn’t, and it looked like it was a good way to make sure the shark was dead enough to bring on board. I have to say that I was in two minds at this point as to whether that was a good idea or not. My ego was pretty keen on rolling up to the weigh-in with such a prize winning beast in the truck (around 100kg), but the mechanics of getting the shark to the wharf were a bit more problematic. Even if we were strong enough to get the thing into the boat, in these seas it would be a dangerous proposition. That is assuming that it was dead enough not to want to take bite out of a leg while sharing our small amount of deck space.

So after retrieving the lure, the shark was set adrift, hopefully to feed his friends so they wouldn’t be so hungry for our fish.

The rain had become a relentless nuisance, and it was getting cold, so the skipper decided to start for home. On the troll back we landed a 7kg barracuda. We gunned it back through the passage and to the wharf. Sopping wet, we drove to town and weighed our two fish in. Most boats were still out and the day was finally clearing. Willie decided to go back out but I declined his invitation to join them in favour of a hot shower, lunch and a nap!

When we met that night for prize-giving, I was amazed to hear that they had gone out 7km from the island in the afternoon and caught another 55kg of fish, including the biggest tuna at 15kg. In the end we lost out by half a kilo on the aggregate catch weight, but everyone was impressed by the shark photos that I had printed out and taken with me. We should have bought the shark tail in – it might have been the extra 500gm we needed!

Mothers Day was lovely, with breakfast in bed and dinner and a movie with the family. Nice.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Oe Vaka Mania

It’s all about Oe Vaka Right About Now. The ’Funk Soul Brother’ is paddling up a storm in the V6 Masters Mens team and the team has been accepted into the Vaka Eiva Festival in Rarotonga in November.

The V6 six-man masters crews are lining up for the sprints over a 250m course, with races of 250m, 500m, 750m and 1km. Yes, that does involve doing turns at each end of the course, an impressive team skill indeed. Last year there were 800 paddlers from all over the pacific – it is an awesome and prestigious regatta.

As a warm-up event, the Aitutaki clubs organized an open day on the sandspit at Aketua. It was open to team entries in 5 divisions and anyone who wanted to have a go. Pacific Resort had three mens teams, a womens team and a tamariki-rikiriki team (small children). And we paddled all day! Michael and the Nga’s Snr and Jnr took the three kids out for a practice, and then Bailey & Jamie (much to Sienna’s disgust) teamed up with two other staff kids to win the Jnr-Jnr race. They were stoked!!

Carly and I were the only ‘staff’ women, so we recruited Poppy and Teara and a Pacific Resort guest Jill and we paddled all day – Open, Masters an Mixed races, heats and finals. It was awesome fun and quite exhausting. After we won our first race, we were all quite excited, and celebrated by collapsing on the beach mat for a wee snooze. From there forward, the paddling got a bit more ragged and a bit louder and funnier. After the 7th race I was spent – my legs could hardly hold me up. It got a bit giggly then.

The men were more serious (go figure). The club masters race was the first one up and looked very impressive, with the crews developing so much momentum they were surging up the course. After that the business and family teams come out, and Michael and I paddled in the mixed races together. As a number 1, Michael set the pace of the paddling, and I can vouch for him being a hard task master. I think he forgot the amateurs in the boat sometimes! Paddling at number 1 is a hard job – I did it for one race and that was enough. Number 2 is good – no turbulence, and number 3 is also good, but you have to call the stroke change. That is, on the 9th stoke you call ‘hup’ and then after the 10th stroke you switch sides. It takes a bit of practice to remember the count, and extra puff to talk…..

Thank God that Sunday is a Day of Rest. So I did – flat on my back nursing a wheat-bag, which in 30 degree heat is like sitting in a sweat box. On the upside I could walk by the end of the day! Moan moan moan, but it was really awesome fun. There is another two open days scheduled for this month, so bring it on! Michael is training three times a week, and I am off for my first training tonight.

This last weekend we went out on the lagoon for the day. Shamefully, it was Michael’s first trip out (in a boat with a motor) since November. Shame! It was lovely, especially after several days of heavy rain. Blue, blue and more blue.