Posted by: catamarantwooceans | April 21, 2010

Arrived Aitutaki, Cook Islands

16.4.10  Continued: In the afternoon Pascale came to finish his work. After everything was ready I started the port engine for the final check and… There was no charge! The regulator died prematurelly. Ok, let’s cut the story short. We ended up by returning to the previous arrangement but with a bigger fuse.

At 1500 we went out of the marina and on to the Cook islands. Bye French Polynesia! By the way, we will start refering to Miki Ben Eli as Michael, while I will maintain my “MIKI” status.

17.4.10 – Saturday – The trades came on, SSE up to 16 knots. First 24 hours gave 130 miles.

 18.4.10 – Sunday – Good progress is nice, 160 miles in the last 24 hours, but in our case it might mean getting to Aitutaki at night – not advisable. We’ll see how it goes, we may have to slow down for better timing.

19.4.10 – Monday – In the morning it became evident that whatever we do, even if we motor all day long, we are not going to reach Aitutaki in daylight. So the “Slow-down” began. We sailed with main only, in third reef and still the ETA showed 2300. Then it was down to a handkerchief of the jib for 3 knots speed, which with the state of the sea gave an unpleasant ride.

 20.4.10 – Tuesday – It was an inverted race, trying to slow the boat to meet the north point of Aitutaki just as the sun goes up. During the night I compared the coordinates info between the two sailing guides I have and my C MAP chart and found a discrepancy. C- MAP was wrong for the north point. A bit of stress there as it was dark and, surprise! my radar does not work…With the rising sun we follow the reef encircling the island in search of Arutunga pass, the only one into the lagoon. We knew it was going to be narrow, 60 feet the books say. But seen from close by it seemed much less. The tide was going out, waves in the entrance, and we motored in against a 3.5 knots current.

As we neared the boat basin, I thought that the area to the north was deep enough but the crunch from the keels made me realise my mistake. We were aground. Trying to reverse did not help. I will have to wait for high tide. I launched the dinghy and put an anchor to windward and then went ashore to speak to the Port Captain. “Wait on the boat, I’ll call all the authorities for you. The tide will probably be up at 1400” he said. So back I went and sure enough a smiling gentleman, the representative of the health office arrived. When he was finished, he said we could go ashore and visit customs and immigrations. He also said we were the first boat to arrive this season. Nice!

 I did not want to leave the boat for long, thinking that the water may go up at any moment. I took Michael and the health-man ashore and rushed back. I then did what I should have done in the first place – snorkel and check how the boat sat. Diving, I saw that the keels were mostly afloat! At the very same moment the boat started moving towards the rocks to our right. I jumped aboard, started the engines, put them in slow forward and ran to the front to haul up the anchor. The operation was a success and I anchored securely in the basin, finally using 3 (!) anchores to make sure we did not swing in the limited space.

By the time I was finished, Michael came back from the authorities and together we went exploring the neighborhood. Fist thing to the post-office to by a calling card, there is no cellular system on the island. Called Gili to say “Happy birthday” and advise that we arrived and were fine. Got some good news from home! Maybe more about that later. First impressions of Arutunga: a lot of damage has occured during hurricane Pat about two months ago.

Devastation

Around 100 homes were destroyed! One could see tents pitched here and there for people who lost their abode. I knew that the locals here are very religious; Here is an example: they object to the airline flying on the Sabbath, that is on Sunday, and put up a lot of signs to that effect.

Religion

Another phenomenon is the tidy gardens. They have a custom here of burying  their loved ones in their yard. Here is an example:

Loved ones

We walked for quite a long time to reach the Internet cafe (“It’s just up the road”) and then back to the boat. I was up since 0130 and at 2 pm was ready for bed…

I am not sure if I will post again from here. If not – the next  one will only be from Samoa around May 6th. I am not sure there is Internet connection in our next destination – Palmerston Atoll and certainly not in Suvarov Atoll!

So best wishes to all,

Michael & Miki

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