First Days in Aitutaki

View of Aitutaki's small harbor from our anchorage

Sorry about the delay in blog posts, Internet is hard to find in Aitutaki. We arrived in Aitutaki on Tuesday at about 10 AM. We had reports from our friends on s/v “Songline” that they left Aitutaki at high tide around 9 AM on Monday. So, we motor sailed the last few miles to insure we were there close to 10 (when high tide that day would occur). On the way in, we saw a boat leaving Aitutaki called “Cool Change”. I hailed them on the VHF and they verified it was close to high tide. They also gave us some tips on the approach to the pass.

Aitutaki is geographically an island which is nearly an atoll (see map). It already has a surrounding reef and lagoon. However, the lagoon is still very shallow, and there are no deep water anchorages. The main island has hills and small peaks up to 125m. The locals have dug a trench to their main harbor which is the only pass into the island waters. Unfortunately, at this time, the pass needs some dredging. In places the pass is barely 1.7 meters deep at high tide in places, and only 20-25 meters wide. Tahinia has two keels that go as low as 1.5 meters below water level.

It was a beautiful morning, and the sun was high enough for us to see the water clearly. We found the pass, and we first lined Tahina up with the entrance. I found that my Navionics charts were way off (not aligned) with the pass. I had to adjust over 300 meters in one direction to get the chart lined up with reality. Interestingly, Google Earth was lined up perfectly.

Lara got up on the top of the main boom for better visibility. Jason and Karen were up on each bow. We had a 2 or 3 knot outflowing current to slow us down. We motored carefully up the pass and all three spotters directed me to go left or right as they saw shallow spots ahead of us. We made it all the way through to the anchorage outside the harbor without touching bottom!

The anchorage we selected is a narrow (25m wide) channel between some reefs and a sandy bank. We put out a stern anchor behind, and our regular anchor ahead. Soon we were sitting pretty between bright turquoise waters, reef, and next to the beautiful green island of Aitutaki.

I went ashore after we had lunch, and visited the customs office. There I filled out paperwork and showed them our passports. We discovered they have increased the fees from NZ$25 to $50 for the entry fee, and from $25 to $55 per person for the departure tax for the Cook Islands. Also, there is a $5 per night fee for our anchorage. But, the good news is that english is spoken here! After six months in first Panama, then the Galapagos, and then French Polynesia, it’s a real pleasure to have Engligh be the default language.

We all went ashore later and walked around to familiarize ourselves with the island. There is a visitor center near the harbor and we got some literature. We also found we can rent scooters for NZ$20 per day (about US$16). So, the next day, we rented scooters. Jason and Lara left earlier than Karen and I, but we both ended up doing complete island circumnavigations and learned the lay of the land. The middle part of the island has some small peaks and hills, but there are some roads that cut across the island. The main road stays near the coast except on the southern coast (although there is a dirt road down there).

We discovered there are no dogs on Aitutaki. Apparently there are multiple stories for why they don’t allow dogs. After spending several nights in Bora Bora, where the baying of dogs was constant all night, we are actually kind of happy not to hear any.

We also discovered the Internet is even more expensive, and just as slow, as French Polynesia. The least expensive place we found so far for WIFI is NZ$10 per hour, and it’s 2 miles from our boat. So, we won’t be on the Internet as often while we’re here.

More Aitutaki stories and pictures to come!

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