COOK ISLANDS AND NIUE
Cook Islands and
Actually we only
visited one of the Cook Islands, Aitutaki, the northernmost of the
The trip from Tahaa was just less than 500 miles, accomplished in 3 days. The wind initially was from the ESE, allowing us to make good progress, but then backed to easterly so that we had to sail dead downwind, goose-winged – certainly not our fastest point of sailing and with the sails slatting around.
The only entrance through the reef at Aitutaki is very narrow, about 13m wide (and Snow Leopard is nearly 8m wide), and shallow and unmarked! We approached at about 9 a.m., about two hours after high water.
We followed our chart towards the reef edge, but no sign of the passage. Fortunately a yacht anchored in Aitutaki saw us and advised that the entrance through the reef is some 400m north of the charted position. Working along the edge of the reef we saw a small fishing boat come out through the pass and were finally able to identify the entrance. It’s one thing to find the entrance and another to get through it. By now the tide was sluicing out through the extremely narrow entrance and it took full power and a lot of adrenalin to kick Snow Leopard through the torrent and into the long, narrow passage. One through the entrance there were some small sticks marking one side of the shallow channel which at times was down to 1.8m depth, giving us about 50cm under the boat.
We made it and joined the three other yachts in the tiny anchorage where you drop a stern anchor then secure the bow to a couple of palm trees using some long ropes.
The anchorage at Aitutaki
anchored and secure we were able to go ashore to check in with the authorities
and take a look at our new island. It was very different to French Polynesia,
obviously much poorer, with none of the infrastructure installed by the French
in all their islands, but it had a lovely, tranquil, laid-back character, and
the locals spoke English, albeit with a strong
tiny, about 5 miles long, and two wide, surrounded by a very shallow lagoon and
reef. We spent three days there, ambling about, re-stocking supplies at the
‘Marina Superstore’ (a misnomer if ever there was one) and generally catching up
on sleep before the next 500-mile leg. Fortunately the monthly supply ship from
We walked across
the island and sat and watched a local tennis tournament where, instead of
polite applause, every point won or lost was greeted with wails of laughter from
the onlookers. It was certainly not
Aitutaki was hit by a cyclone in February this year and the damage was really extensive. Even now there were many families living in tents alongside the ruins on their property. Aid is still coming in and slowly houses are being rebuilt, but it seems to be a slow, slow process.
We also stopped at a little café and had ‘fush and chaps’ (the Kiwi-talk for fish and chips). Lovely!
Fish and chips!
The weather forecast was not good with a trough developing in our area and a projection of very light winds, so we decided to get on our way again after just 3 days.
Getting out was only marginally easier than getting in. Even though we left at high water we managed to run aground in the narrow reef passage. Fortunately only gently on sand and we were able to back Snow Leopard off before continuing clear of the reef. Phew!
OK, be honest –
did you know there was a country called
The island is
the smallest independent nation in the world – not in terms of area; I believe
We arrived on a
Sunday, and absolutely nothing happens on a Sunday in
Next morning we took the dinghy into the small quay. Here was another new experience. As there is invariably a large swell through the anchorage you cannot leave your dinghy alongside the quay wall and it has to be craned out. You have to rig up a couple of lifting strops and then use the derrick to bring the dinghy up onto the quay. It’s a bit of a hassle but better than having the dinghy bashing away in the wave surge.
Immigration and the Ministry of Agriculture had been satisfied we wandered up to
the Niue Yacht Club (“the biggest little yacht club in the world”) to sort out
mooring fees etc. There, Jim was incredibly helpful with lots of advice about
There ware about 12 yachts moored in the roadstead, of which we knew about half. That evening the yacht Club held a ‘sausage sizzle’ and it was great to relax over a couple of beers and some real English-style sausages and chat to all the other yacht crews.
Next day we were
down to four boats as there was a mass exodus to try to get to
Rock pool and cave,
The Cave Monster – straight out of Harry Potter
Small coconut crab. The big ones can apparently cut through an oil drum with their claws
Spot the flag!
Passing squall with waterspout