Intro page S. Pacific

Over the years I've always been fascinated by the stories of the South Pacific.  Probably one that influenced me the most was "Mutiny on the Bounty".  A few years ago I made an inaugural sea going trip on my way to Sidney, Australia totaling 9,300 nautical miles.  It was an introduction hitting the main, more populated places.  After that, I wanted to get closer to the real South Seas of story book fame. Ports of
        call It was clear that I needed to find a way to get off the beaten path and to the less popular spots.

Holland America Lines has established a route that hits the main ports as well as the primitive or at least, more isolated landfalls.  A favorable formula for my expectations. The map at left shows the route, leaving San Diego on 22 November 2010 and returning to San Diego thirty days later.  We made 12 stops along the way.  Many were tendered because of shallow lagoons or inadequate docking facilities.  We traveled a total of 9,800 nautical miles with speeds of 17-20 knots but that was slowed at times to meet birthing schedules.  Also, ships are usually more efficient at lower hull speeds.

Sound bytes are available in several places on this page.  Your browser may or may not play them.  They have been tested with the latest Internet Explorer from MS but may not function with others and small cache settings.  Background theme music (MIDI) can be turned 'on' at end of page.

Over 1,000 pictures were taken, contact if you want to get into greater depth and wish further information.  Follows the trip highlights:


MS RotterdamAfter 5 days at sea on the MS Rotterdam IV we reached Hilo, Hawaii.  A stop I've made many times and always enjoyable on the "lush" side of the big island.  Milt and Evie Smith met me near the dock and we spent the day together.  I've known Milt nearly my entire working career and he was instrumental in getting me hired at Tektronix back in 1969.

Hilo Bay Milt
              & Evie Smith, Hilo Liliuokalani Gardens, Hilo
Hilo Bay Milt & Evie Smith, Liliuokalani Gardens, Hilo
Liliuokalani Gardens, Hilo
Beach at
Grounds of
              Kaui Marriot
Eran, WH6W
Kalapaki Beach, Nawiliwili, Kauai
Grounds of Kaui Marrott and Kalapaki Beach
Amateur Radio Operator, Eran, WH6R, Honolulu
              Hanama Bay
Me snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, Oahu
Nawiliwili LIDO deck buffet, Rotterdam IV

Fanning Island (Tabuaeran,Kiribati)

Leaving the Hawaiian Islands we head due South for 1,091 nmiles to Tabuaeran which is 228 miles North of the equator.  You think of it as the South Pacific but you're really still in the North Pacific.  T32 is the amateur radio call sign.  This is clearly the least developed of all the islands we visited.  Thats what makes it so attractive.  About 250 people live here.   They live in structures that usually have a sand floor with two rooms.  Far more children than I would have expected... many adults have moved away to find high paying jobs.

A big deal is when a ship comes in.  The people put on quite a show with entertainment and, of course, trying to sell you souvenirs.  Of all the places, this one seemed to appreciate us the most and they were anxious to communicate.  The adults know all about the rest of the world.

No paved roads, few vehicles, two tractors, a number of motorbikes and many bicycles.  Only a few buildings have electricity, mostly for communications and entertainment.  A couple of solar panels were noted.  Tabuaeran is one of the islands threatened by global warming as the land is only a few feet above the sea level.  Only Holland America now visits this atoll on a scheduled basis and is an important income for the islanders.  Read more:

For those interested in the music from the Pacific Islands you can reach Internet Radio from  Select: "Pacific Islands Radio" from the gold coast of Australia.

              Performers selling
              shells Bill
              & Mary
Young Performers
Selling shells Bill & Mary
Shipboard dinner partners from San Francisco
Girl and
Girl and her baby
Popular lagoon view
Young dancer
Neil beach Space view
Neil in Paradise
Swimming beach and dock
Space view of Tabuaeran
              street old
              building singing
Main road in Paelau
One of many bare buildings Singers at dock


Continuing on the same Southerly course for another 1,529 nmiles we reached Avarua, Rarotonga, Cook Islands.  This was our most southerly destination at 21° South latitude, nearly to the Tropic of Capricorn.  The Cook Islands are some of the most beautiful in the world and very popular with people from the Southern hemisphere, particularly Australia and New Zealand.  I made two contacts here on 2 meters but I wasn't clear about the radio rules so I didn't press it.  The prefix is: ZK1 with an active and progressive radio group including several from the nearby islands.  Many of the motels cater to amateur radio operators and its a popular place for ham vacations.  I loved it here because it has all the beauty but minimal people.  The entire island group only has 14,000 citizens. They use New Zealand currancy for international transactions.

beach park
Ngatangiia Bay near sailing club Driving on the left side of the road

              & guide
Ngatangiia Bay
Aitutaki, the most beautiful atoll in the world
"Survivor" was filmed here
Guide and I
Ngatangiia Bay


Moving on a NE course of 548 nmiles we visit our first port in the Society Islands.  Currancy can now be exchanged that will cover the rest of our trip; French Pacific Francs.  Raiatea is the foundation of the culture of French Polynesia.

Ever since Hawaii, I only had access to the IMARSAT satellite from the ship for internet.  I was ready to locate a place where I could do some serious file transfers.  I was disappointed in Raiatea because the post office only had one terminal available and tourists were standing in line for it.  I was told that Papeete had many available and relatively inexpensive so I just decided to hold off for a few more days.  On board its costly at $0.45/minute even with discount.  Some ships give free access because I'm a repeat customer but not this one.  On the positive side, ship board Wi-Fi allows you to compile messages off-line on your own computer and then connect and disconnect quickly as soon as your IN and OUT directories have been updated.  On many ships Wi-Fi will work from your stateroom.  Another trick is use it when everyone is still in bed --early morning, this gives the best transfer speeds.

              tree in Polynesia
Christmas in Polynesia
Limited Internet access, one terminal
  Motu for a Sunday picnic
Local beer
Beautiful Tahaa Island in background

Bora Bora

A disappointment.  This was my second visit here and found it starting to go downhill.  Many of the resorts are now closed due, in part, to the bad economy.  Club Med which was famous for many years is no more.  Bloody Mary's also famous, was closed for the entire month of December.  Some claim they're being remodeled but for 6 months at a time? Doubtful!  A new attraction along the Eastern side is the island 'dump'.  Was this the best place to put it along the tourist route? Bora bora is starting to take a rundown look in few areas.

You can no longer rent scooters as the tourists had too many accidents.  Renting a car for 4 hours was over $140USD but non air conditioned buses ran about $20USD for an island tour.  Always make arrangements on shore, not on the ship.  Not everyone has electricity on the island.  The "for sale" home below was waterfront, simple but no electric service.

Vaitape harbor
$1.5 million waterfront home for sale, no electricity
Island dump along main road


One of the nicer islands if you want to stay in a popular resort but it also shows signs of an economy less than ideal. Certainly beautiful with lovely bays.  This has become a little bit of a bedroom community to Papeete.  A number of people work in the big city but live on Moorea.

              river reef
Beautiful Cook's Bay
Hillside agriculture
Coral where river enters sea

Papeete Tahiti

The hub of French Polynesia with a population of around 100,000.  Papeete is the largest city with tourism and island(s) administration the main business.  This was my second visit so I knew what to expect.  Island sightseeing was done on the previous trip and won't be repeated here.  This was our only extended stay stop which we had all day through the next morning till 05:00 AM then on to Moorea at the start of the business day.

Tahiti is no longer the idealistic south seas destination that you've read about in school.  It has the same problems that the rest of the world has, its just prettier and greener than most.  The people love song and dance and take every opportunity to show it.  Of course its expensive!

Dockside greeters
Streets of Papeete
Adhoc music group playing to entertain public
Tahitian dancers at free outdoor evening show
Beautiful flowers in the marketplace
Choir singing at evening show


Heading in a NE direction towards the Marquesas, we approach Rangiroa which is deep in the Tuamotus. Rangiroa is one of many atolls that you can run into in this part of the world if you're not an expert navigator.  These are all low lying atolls that are very difficult to see when at sea.

This was another important stop for me as it could be rated as the next most advanced development after Tabuaeran.  The people lived in more modern homes, usually had electrical service and even cable TV in some parts.  Dirt roads were common.  This island is also threatened by global warming.  As you can see, they're trying to develop the tourist industry.

Like many ports, our ship had to "hold position" offshore and use tenders to transport goods and personnel.  Rangiroa was nice because we could enter the lagoon through a narrow passage first.  This allowed it to be protected from the open sea.  "holding position" means that the engines are used along with the GPS to effectively anchor but not drop the hook.  This protects the underwater terrain from damage.

This part of the world is full of sea stories of those who have ventured into these parts with both good and bad experiences.  Amateur radio is often involved which causes me to read them.  Do a search on the internet and you will run across many.

If you want to just get away from it all
Dog's are popular and roam free
New overwater bungalows, inside atoll
boat in
Local B & B
Outside atoll
Inside atoll

Nuku Hiva, Marquesas

The Marquesas islands were the second most important stop for me.  They're very remote with a long history of famine, canalblism and other ills of human populations.  In my reading, they have been a popular stopping off spot for long haul "yachtees".  The group of islands has a total population of 9,000 with Nuku Hiva, about 2,500.  A far cry from the 100,000 once estimated before the europeans arrived.  The base call sign is: FO0.  I heard two stations on VHF but they were speaking Marquesan, I believe?  I didn't disturb them because I wasn't sure of my legal status to operate a radio here?

Because of the remoteness, I always thought of these islands as limited in development but actually they have most of the conveniences of the modern world. For example, internet access is commonplace now.

Taiohae Bay
Jacque--our english speaking guide
One of two beach locations of "Survivor"
Taipivai, Herman Melville lived here when he wrote, "Typee"
Local fresh food.  Chips in center are like tortilla chips made out of fried breadfruit--very nice
Notre-Dame Catholic Church
mini map
People are famous for woodcarving
Local residents
Click on map for enlarged view


I'd planned to find a few geocaches on this trip and place one on Nuku Hiva.  Bloody Mary's was closed on Bora Bora so I wasn't able to get in and the one on Moorea was not compatable with my transportation capability.  I did manage to place a cache on Nuku Hiva but when I got home and registered it; the web site moderator wouldn't allow me to post it because I can't maintain it.  They have a new rule that you must pay a visit every 6 months to be able to keep it.  Its still posted in the archive section and if you have a user ID, you can view it.  Go to:, log in and then select GC2KJJT, "Taiohae Marquesas".

Once we left Nuku Hiva we had a long ocean crossing of 2,800 nmiles to San Diego. Early in the morning on December 17th we crossed the equator and one of the things I've always wanted to do was drop a floating sealed bottle in the sea with a message.  From others that have done this, be prepared for a wait of at least 7-8 years for it to show up on some beach if its ever found at all.  A cash prize is offered for proof of find.  Most likely spot will be along the Pacific Coast of Northern South America.


I started the trip with the intent to operate VHF/UHF along the way.  As I started researching licensing requirements, it became obvious that no one had reliable answers and I would have to contact each countries telecommunications group for accurate information.  At one time I held a French Polynesia callsign but its now expired and I didn't want to go through all that again.  The Cook Islands are under New Zealand rules which are clear and I later learned that I could operate legally there.  In short, I didn't want to waste all my time fooling around with amateur radio so it ended up a low priority.

Now days, tools such as SKYPE work very well and you don't have to worry about third party agreements, etc.  In Papeete, I had a very nice 25 minute voice contact with Marsha using our ACER ONE running SKYPE at a low cost internet cafe.  The owner didn't speak english but we figured it out together and got it working.  Since then, I've determined that the shipboard system does allow ECHOLINK to pass the firewall so voice calls are possible if you try it during slow traffic periods and a private location so staff doesn't catch you.  They will shut you down because they limit any wideband applications such as streaming audio. ECHOLINK does VoIP a little differently and they havn't caught it yet. They block SKYPE already. Probably by the next cruise they'll have found this flaw in the firewall settings?

Control background music

Revised: 05/20/11