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Seven-day voyage ends with tugboat escort

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, July 26, 2008) – The vaka Te Au O Tonga docked in Pago Pago on Wednesday night, seven days after leaving Avatiu harbour in Rarotonga.

As Nick Henry reports, it was a big challenge coming in due to very big seas:

We dropped sails and came in under motor power. To get in we had seven of us steering! It was very tricky. Once we got through the main passage, two very big tug boats came out to meet us and we had one on each side and they completely lit up our vaka with their powerful lights. We continued in with them blasting their fog horns so everybody knew we had arrived. Many local paddlers came out in canoes, some with 16 in each canoe, they were yelling and cheering! With the strong cross wind, we had a bit of difficulty coming in, our first attempt was no good and we had to push off and try again.

The Governor, Togiola Tulafono, and the Takitumu dance team from Rarotonga were there to meet us. It was fantastic to hear the local drum beats and chants. We were moored at 8pm and there were many people there to witness our arrival. We were given cold nu and a meal pack each from KFC which was thoroughly enjoyed. We then gave the Governor a tour of the vaka. Many people stayed until 10:30pm.

A local guy called Sept Stessany, hosted us with many cold beers ... well deserved and very well received!

We woke up to being on the front page of Samoa News with a huge photo spread. We are moored outside the marine and wildlife department and are using their facilities.

We are walking distance from the famous Sadies restaurant. The crew slept on board last night, we had the option of staying at the main camp but it seems no one is ready to sleep away from the boat just yet!

In the next couple of days we will get accreditation. There is a navigation and traditional canoe part of the festival we are obviously very interested in. We also will need to get a few small parts for the vaka and investigate sail options for when we depart Pago Pago. We will also be taking the Governor out for a sail which will be great PR. We are all very happy to be here, the festival is incredible. It has made all the hard work on the way that much better. One thing we won't really need will be the one-and-a-half power naps that we have all mastered!"

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