There are three options after leaving the French
Polynesia for onward passage to Tonga and Fiji, the northern route via Penhryn,
Suvarrow and on to the Samoas, the southern route via Raratonga and Niue
and the central route, sometimes called the dangerous middle. We had chosen to
take this central route as it went to more landfalls and reduced the
passages into one or two night sails. It is called the dangerous middle as there
are some badly charted reefs along the way.
Our route took us first to Mopelia on the far
western edge of French Polynesia where we were able to get into the lagoon and
get some shelter from the swells and then on to Aitutaki, the first of the Cook
Islands that we would visit. The only problem with this strategy is that it
resigned us to anchor outside the reef and we spent some VERY rolly nights with
the anchor set into the coral shelf. (not somthing we like to do).
Aitutaki is a beautiful Atholl with some lush
vegetation and a large shallow lagoon, but recent cyclones have devastated much
of the island and the most recent, in February of this year damaged 1 in 4 homes
and businesses from which the islanders are still trying to recover, many still
living in tents until supplies can be brought in to rebuild their homes.