Trip to Rarotonga

On Sunday, before leaving Aitutaki, we went ashore and used our scooters to go to the hotel Tamanu Beach which has WIFI for rent. Made some Skype calls home to our daughters, downloaded weather data, wrote blog posts, etc. Then we returned our scooters to the place we rented them from. After lunch the winds were finally calm enough for us to take the dinghy to the south part of the lagoon. There is an island down there called “Honeymoon Island” which is a small beautiful motu surrounded by pristine white sand beaches.

The ride south was an adventure in dodging coral heads. We even had to back up in some places to go around the shallow areas. You wouldn’t want to do this on a day where you had poor visibility. As we got closer to the motus, we could clearly see over a dozen kite surfers plying the very shallow waters over a sandy bottom near the island. Aitutaki has the best waters we’ve seen to date for kite surfing. Well behind the islands was the reef with 8-10 foot waves crashing on the southern side.

We all enjoyed walking around the island and beach-combing for shells, while watching the kite surfers enjoy their sport. Then we saw a tourist boat take a load of snorkelers out to the lagoon. We followed them and did some snorkeling among the coral heads. There were a mixture of live and dead coral as usual, and a fair number of fish. Mostly the normal coral fish, although I did see a napoleon fish briefly when I first circled around one coral head.

On Monday, a rainy morning, I went ashore to do one more Internet update on weather and to do some online banking tasks. I walked 2 miles to the same hotel, but their Internet wasn’t working. Ugh! They suggested another hotel which we had been told wouldn’t sell to non-guests. So, I tried, and they sold me a card – their model is by the megabyte, which is weird. I got the banking and a couple of Skype calls in, and then walked back to the harbor. I was a bit bummed in a way, because this other hotel was close enough for us to reach their WIFI from the anchorage.

Next I went to customs to clear out. The Cook Islands really love having fees for everything. I had to pay (in NZ$) $50 for customs, $5/night for the anchorage, $20 for agriculture, and $20 for health. And, we still have to pay a $55/person departure tax before we leave the Cooks.

We waited until 1:30 to leave when the tide was higher. There was an approaching squall, but we got out the pass (without incident) before the squall arrived. We soon had our sails raised (with a single reef) and had a pleasant sail down the coast, and missing the squall entirely. But, once we got around the southern tip of the lagoon, we were exposed to the seas. The winds were higher than forecasted, and there were other squalls – which weren’t in the forecast. So, it was a bumpy ride. Bumpy enough that for the first time since he joined us, Jason got seasick. We double-reefed before sunset to ease the ride and for safety.

Fortunatley, during the course of the night, the winds eased and after midnight the skies cleared of clouds. By dawn, we had Rarotonga in sight. We shook out the reefs in the sails and sailed in at about 8 knots. We were keeping an eye out for whales, but didn’t see any. By 11 AM we were ready to enter the harbor at Rarotonga. We hailed some boats we heard on VHF, and heard there would be room for us. By 11:30 we were med-moored to the wharf between two boats we had seen in Bora Bora, thanks to help from their crews. After we got tied up, the other boaters asked us if we saw the whales. There were several nearby apparently. One of the other boats that arrived before us had seen three of them breech on his way in.

Rarotonga is a beautiful island with much more rugged terrain than I expected. The harbor is right near a town with lots of shops and stores. Scooters are cheap here as well. We look forward to a few days exploring this beautiful place. And, we hope to see the whales too!

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