Our passage from Aitutaki to Palmerston was 200NM and we expected to arrive in 36 hours. The first 12 hours went perfectly according to plan: a gentle breeze just forward of the beam and average speeds of 7 knots. Then the wind dropped completely and, apart from a brief spell during the second day where we had the sails up for an hour or so, we had to motor the rest of the way. One night turned into two and in the end it took us 48 hours before we pulled up on a mooring just outside this beautiful atoll. We enjoyed the passage for what it was though and marvelled at a totally still Pacific, something we hadn’t experienced so far!
We arrived here at 8am this morning and Goodley and Ned where waiting for us in their fishing boat guiding us towards where the mooring buoys were. A bit later Edward called us on the radio and said he will come and pick us up to go ashore. Can’t wait to find out what it will be like. There are two other yachts here (one German and one American) but both are getting ready to leave this morning so we will be all on our own!
When in Rome … The preferred local way of transport is on a scooter: we rent a couple and explore the island. It’s great fun! I’m worried however about driving around without a helmet on and with the kids on the back. It’s what everyone does though and we take it slow. There have been several attempts to introduce a law here to make helmets compulsory but every time the women, who insist they need to be able to wear traditional flower arrangements in their hair, veto it.
The Cooks are celebrating 50 years of independence this year. They are self-governing in free association with New Zealand since 1965. The 15 islands are sprinkled over 2.25 million sq km and make up a land area of just 240 sq km. Aitutaki is in the Southern Cooks and has a lovely relaxed laid back atmosphere. It’s a small island with lots of churches! Religion is a big thing here and on Sunday everything stops and nobody is allowed to work or even go for a swim. It’s quite a nice idea actually and we settle in and relax along.
We meet a fun Australian family with two boys similar ages as ours and the kids have a blast for the next few days. There are lots of activities to be done: snorkeling, swimming, island exploring, beach combing, …
After having checked the weather forecast this morning we are ready to move. There is a good window to sail over to Palmerston island, approx. 200 NM from here. This remote atoll is home to 60 people, all descendants of William Masters. There is no airport, no shops, no hotels or restaurants. The island sees a supply ship only once or twice a year. It was discovered by Captain James Cook in 1774 and named after Lord Palmerston. A century later, in 1863, an English barrel maker and ship’s carpenter named William Masters settled on Palmerston with his three Polynesian wives and started three distinct Marsters (as the name is now spelled) family lines. There is no pass into the atoll but the inhabitants have put a few mooring balls for passing yachts to tie onto. It goes without saying that stopping at Palmerston is very weather dependent. Anyway, we are going to give it a try and if the weather doesn’t allow us to stop we’ll just continue to Niue or Tonga!
The blue lagoon seen from the top of the island
…and fire show
Kids having a splash at the Pacific resort
The best way to get around Aitutaki is on a scooter!
Picking tomatoes at the organic fruit and veg shop!
We’re in Aitutaki… After having spent more than 3 months in French Polynesia we’re back in English speaking territory and it feels strange and somehow less exotic. The Cook Islands are independent but freely associated with New Zealand. The natives speak with a kiwi accent and the NZD is the official currency. These islands are famous for being welcoming and friendly and we certainly notice this when we check in and meet the various officials here in Aitutaki.
Our four-day crossing from Bora Bora was very enjoyable. The first 24 hours were a bit slow and then the wind picked up and we started making some good speeds averaging 8 knots. We even had to slow the boat down and stand off on the last night to avoid arriving before daylight. The pass into Aitutaki is one of the toughest so far: it’s a narrow and shallow (1.4 metres in places) entrance channel with strong currents. The anchorage area itself is tiny: there’s only room for a few boats so we had to tie a stern line to a palm tree and wedge ourselves in between Toucan and a small monohull that were here before us. As soon as we were anchored a local official from Port Health came over and told us to keep the Q-flag up until he had been on-board to inspect our boat and spray it against insects. After that was done we were allowed to hoist the Cook Island flag and go ashore to customs and immigration. Finally, another official from another health department (“Bio Security”) had to come on-board to check all our produce and to confiscate any fresh meat, fruit and vegetables. Everyone was very friendly and efficient and as long as you pay all the fees there don’t seem to be any problems…
red sky in the morning …
navigating through the channel
kids on the lookout going through the channel
view from our cockpit in Aitutaki
the anchorage in Aitutaki
happy to be on land again
Spectacular day out on the Pacific today, all the blues you can eat! This has been the first crossing we feel we are getting a true taste of how the Pacific should be, long may it last.
We are currently 100 nm ENE of Aitutaki and sailing a tight reach at 8 knots towards the north of the island, our only issue is our ETA, which at around 2200 hrs, means we either anchor off, or stand off the pass until daylight, the breeze is forecast to drop out so we will take all the miles we can whilst the sun is up.
Aitutaki has room for only two catamarans and we know for sure there is already one there plus a small mono-hull, it should make for some interesting parking!
So we are looking forward to meeting the new regime, out of France and into New Zealand in 500 miles, lets hope they are as welcoming as the reports we read and that they don’t confiscate all our fresh produce.
We dropped a new lure off the back of the boat yesterday, wire trace, 70kg line fresh off the spool, lots of superb knot tying and it was ripped from the line in 20 minutes, we really must re-evaluate our expectations and start fishing with smaller lures. Rehua out.