Cook Islands


We spent almost 7 weeks in the Society Islands of French Polynesia sailing from Tahiti and Moorea in the Windward Islands to the Leeward Islands of Huahine, Tahaa, Riatea, Bora Bora and Maupiti before setting sail for a 500nm passage to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands in the Southern Hemisphere.     Rarotonga means: 'In the direction of the prevailing wind south'.

Day 1
Aug 21, 2002 - Maupiti Leeward Is. to Rarotonga Cook Islands 500nm

Not many cruisers come here to Maupiti because it can be impossible to get out of the cut if there is a big SW swell. Today the swell is 1 ½ meters from the SW, same as when we came in.

8:00AM Steve motors in for bread from the deposit of bottles. The Tinker dinghy is stowed on deck, all is secured below. 
8:30AM Pale Fire leaves 10 min. ahead of us and trolls for fish through the pass. 
8:45 Boat speed up to 7kts, depth 9.8m. We follow the well marked narrow channel back to the cut. 
8:48 Boat Speed 7.7. 
8:49 Boat Speed 7.9 going into the narrow cut with 2kt current with us. 
8:50 Boat Speed 8.3.  
8:51 Boat Speed 8.7 with a 2 ½ kt current.  
8:52 Boat Speed 8.8. Waves crashing on our port and starboard over the reef
8:53 Boat Speed 8.4 through the pass, RPM’s lowered to 1750,
8:55. Boat Speed down 7.4 motoring 7.6kts.  What a relief!  We made it!

9:06 Heading 212.   Looking back, initially it looks like the waves breaking all across the opening but once through the cut the tall red and white cylinder range markers should line up.   We are out into a huge 2.5 meter swell with no wind. It’s hot. Caught up with Pale Fire and took photo’s of each other. We leave the 37 foot steel hull ketch in our wake.

It’s a straight shot at 223mg heading SW to Rarotonga, deeper into the southern hemisphere. Steve and Martin on s/v Odyssey and others have studied the weather fax for days.  An occulted front is our only problem area but sounds like a nice big High headed towards us afterward.
1:45 motoring 4.6kts, wind up to 8kts N. Jib out, still motoring and sailing 5.7kts.
3:50PM mizzen up as wind up 9-10ktsN.  Engine off, 7-9PM sailing.
9:00PM to 12:00midnight wind is down so motoring. Boat speed 5.7kts. Big swells coming off port from SE and are so huge Ariel goes in-between and back up.  It is not so uncomfortable.
It is our first longer and overnight passage since Geo. & Everett left. It is a wonderful freedom even though we are now on three hour watches. They are set up for 6-9 and 12-3 for Steve, then again from 6-9. Mine are 9-12 and 3-6AM then most of the day I sit topside.   Made a pesto and salad for supper but I don’t eat the first day out.

Day 2
Aug.22, 2002

Saw the moon setting and the sun rising at the same time today.
12:00 midnight Lat.17°15’S Long.153°18’W.
Heading 235
Wind 8kts.N.
Seas long 6-8 feet swells. All sails up, motoring.
3:00AM wind up, engines off, sailing 5kts.

It was a good first day. I sat in the cockpit, Steve below. I get lonely but glad Geo & Ev are not here, chit chatting all the time, planning every minute how to get through the day.   Now I hear only the sounds of the water on the hull, wind in the sails creaking of the boat - being in the moment - what we came out here to find. 

But, by 6AM this world has changed as fast as the weather. By my second watch going off at 6AM I get sick in the sink. I had only tea and a muffin but the rolling of the boat and dull headache in the back of my neck mark my usual first day out. I hit the bunk in the crew cabin and listened to s/v Odyssey 70 miles ahead on a 4030 Net talking of strong winds and his Yankee tore out. We can see a line of puffy clouds on the horizon and probably the occulted front. s/v Pale Fire says they will make mom’s brownie recipe today and s/vAnja K would like some but off in a more northerly route to Niue.
8-12 noon engine on, mizzen down.
1200 noon wind up 17kts NW. Engines off.
12:45PM wind NW at 15-17kts
Boat Speed 7.3kts. main reefed Boat Speed drops to 6.5kts.
1:20PM Wind 17 1/2kts Boat Speed 8kts.  We are really flying with the jib reefed too. Not so comfortable.
5:15PM reached the front - dark grey heavy clouds overhead, jib in all the way, engine on, wind up  to 24kts. Boat Speed 4.3kts.
6:14Pm winds NW to SSE up to 40kts. s/vOdyssey informs us of his 6PM conditions 70 miles ahead. We are getting winds to 30kts. gray sky, stormy confused seas, wind up to 25kts till 8:30PM. Crashing waves over bow. Drawers opening, dishes clanging, winds howling. It’s going to be a long night.
At 8:30PM winds down to 20kts.   We think we are through the front as the air turns cold. Engines off, jib out, main still up and reefed. Winds went from NW to SSE. 9:30 now SSE at 20kts. Sailing.
Going 5.1kts but seas are very lumpy.  Anchors on the bow are retied.

I can not stand to watch Steve go on the deck with no jack lines or safety harnesses. He won’t even get them out and doesn’t even bother wearing the expensive ‘Alert” unit in case he goes overboard. As I go off watch there are less dark clouds overhead but a dark cloud in our hearts between us. 

Day 3
Aug.23, 2002

12:00 midnight Lat 18°31’S Long.155°08’W. 12AM to 4AM sailing, average 5kts. Wind gusting up to 30kts as high as 33kts,  average 20kts.
4AM Wind down to 15kts so motoring forward SSE with engines on. Boat speed 5.8kts.
5.00AM wind up to 25kts. Boat is banging into the waves and healing over.  Engine off.  Sailing 6.8kts.
6:00AM on Net s/v Odyssey says he is still in same conditions, still 70nm ahead of us. Huge seas, wind 25kts. S/v Pale Fire is doing ok as they have their wind vane hooked up now.  Without wind they must hand steer like they had to do the first day.  The front must be larger than shown on the weather fax and the high is nothing like we know in the Caribbean.
6:30PM Jib rolled in as we are going so fast.  Boat Speed 7.5kts. Going too fast this close to the wind makes the boat shutter when we are trying to use the auto pilot to stay in position.  We put the engine back on and power for a more comfortable heading.   Main up only and reefed.
Steve is impossible to talk to.  I can’t ask, 'what’s up?' or use sentences like ‘blast through the front’.  He demands dictionary words and cohesive sentences like ‘moving rapidly through the front’ not my rapid speak I use when I am anxious.   I believe he is tense also but this diverts to anger toward me.   I curl up in fetal position in the crew cabin and do not speak or converse at all.

 STRESS, an issue we must learn to deal with as a team as communication on board is a MUST!

4:00AM Steve is asleep.  Wind still 20-25kts but Ariel is running between waves so it is not too uncomfortable.  The sky looks thick and grey, seas wild and stormy. We are still 29 nm from a waypoint this side of some Cook Islands we must pass by going in between. s/v Odyssey will make this pass at night. s/v Pale Fire is doing ok with SSE wind. s/v Tree of Life left Bora Bora for Rarotonga. Wind SSE 25kts making 3.5kts now.
2:00PM The GPS dies. Steve gets out the spare GPS and solders it up then interfaces it to the computer.   We are back in business. Wind begins to come around more to the SSE at 17kts.   3:14PM wind shifting back around to SSW 17kts making it hard beating into the wind and waves. 6:00PM s/v Odyssey announces one good note... his barometer went up 1° and he is seeing blue sky through dark clouds.

Amazingly our moods change and the dark cloud between Steve and I, is gone.  

 9:00PM Still motoring Wind 22-25kts. Big seas 10-12 feet. What a long slog. So much time yet I am unable to read although Steve does quite a bit of reading.   Trying to eat light soft foods like applesauce, and drink ginger ale and a lighter softer communication commences between us. 

Day 4
Aug 24, 2002

12:00 midnight Lat 19° 20’S Long 156°42’W Heading 216 Wind 20kts (36 degrees) Sky clearing, full moon 10ft. waves. Motoring 3.7kts.
3:00AM Heading 220 SW, wind is S at 18-25kts. Boat speed 5.6kts. Motor sailing. Hoping for SE wind.
4:30AM Gusting up to 27kts. average 22kts. Boat speed 5.5kts to 6.3kts.
5:00AM steady 25 knots, fell of 4°.
10:00AM winds SSE 22kts. There is a leak over the chart table so stuffing towels under headliner. Sea swell is from SW 10-12feet. Sunny now, skies clearing. Feeling more optimistic. 
11:15AM wind around to SSE 20kts sails adjusted, motor off, sailing close reach 7kts.
2:00PM. Bilge in starboard cabin full of water, overflow from waves down chain hole. Steve pumps it out manually and fixes the pump.
3:00PM Heading 218 passing Atiu Cook Is. 20 hours to go to Raro. Wind 17 to 22kts. SSE Seas calmer easier sail.
4:15PM wind up 25kts to 30kts again SSE.
6:00PM Talked to Odyssey and they will be in by 8PM tonight. Big dinner waiting on Scott Free for them. We are so envious.  S/v Pale Fire is getting SSE wind also, now. Seas still rough and now crashing over the dodger and bimini.
9:00PM Heading 224 winds 22kt. Gusting to 30 but 33kts highest so far. Howling winds can be heard off in distance then closer like a train coming. Then s/v Ariel heels over and a few seconds waves crash across the deck and run along the rail. Rail almost into the sea. It is very loud below, all kinds of sounds. Tired of movement but happy to have the end in site. My stomach feels better so eating baked potatoes for dinner. I sleep a lot. Steve reads a lot. We are now on a straight shot to Raro and plan to be there by 10AM tomorrow.
I take my 9-12 watch but very dopy and hard to wake up at midnight. Steve didn’t feel good today after working on the bilge but he feels better after eating. I have had to take several sea sick pills (Dramamine) this trip but sparingly. It’s been a hard run and seems endless, days, hours, minutes drag on forever.

I wonder if this kind of sailing is why sailors sail or is it like when biking…because it feels so good to stop.

Hard to wake up then other times hard to sleep.  Our bodies ache from doing nothing yet we are in constant motion all the time in directions not intended. Neck hurts from strain.  And this was a short trip!

Day 5
Aug. 25, 2002

Today we arrive in Rarotonga 500 nm from Maupiti. 12:00 midnight Lat 20° 40’S Long 158°51’W Heading 224.
Winds 20kts  SE.
Seas 8-10feet.
Boat speed 6.9kts. Clear cool night. Some stars out. 3:00AM wind dies to 14kts. Motor turned on, sails trimmed. Seas much calmer. Very comfortable now, just waiting to go into harbor 6 hours or so away. 
6:30AM Island of Rarotonga in site at day break. It’s cool, grey and choppy but next 4 hours in are the best this trip, smoother. Can’t sleep, excited to be coming in. Gavin and Martin on radio to guide us in and will be waiting.
10:30AM approaching Rarotonga Avarua harbor entrance.  2 dinghy’s, Odyssey and Scott Free come out to greet us and lead us in. Then Raison d’Etre with Kathy and Serge. All 6 plus Adrian on s/v L’eau Life, in his dinghy, guide us into a space stern too against a big Navy ship.  We are  between s/v Pedi le Mar and s/v Abel Tasman a 70foot steel boat with Dutch owners, Gerta and Jack.  We are overwhelmed at our reception.
In an hour Skip of  s/v Vision also with s/v Odyssey and s/v Scott Free and s/v Raison de’Etre all head for the Rarotonga Sailing Club for lunch and take us along where we will stay all day.   Gavin has a rental car and does shifts in ferrying us all to the Club on the other side of island.  Rarotonga feels vaguely familiar to me from visit years ago but now feels so much more civilized. The Club with it’s wonderful menu has a super view across to two motus.  It is on a white sandy beach where motor scooters are pulling surfers along the shore.  The Club has a feel of being very posh in a relaxed sort of way. 
We had an absolute ball talking with Gavin, owner of 4 restaurants in England, and Martin who organized and ran the London transport system. Very interesting. Then we all went to Capt. Cooks bar where the old Avara wharf used to be.  We sat outside on a porch over the water like in New England and had more drinks. Now we see why sailors head for the bars after long days at sea. 

Under the influence, Skip revels in telling us all about the 'sepo' (Australian slang for 'septic tank Yank') from San Francisco that he dated who was a nymphomaniac. Putting two and two together we realize it was the ‘Smiling Mermaid” we met back in Belize last July.  Small world.  From then on we never missed a chance to ask " What ever happened to the Nympho, Sepo, from San Fro"? 

 The weather is so much cooler down here and thus much more comfortable inside Ariel.    Steve turned on the TV and we got a NZ station. Watching the weather we see snow storms in NZ. Now we know we are truly south of the Equator in the southern hemisphere. It’s cold and we will have to think about moving on to Tonga and then NZ before Oct. 1st.

                    Avarua Harbor Cook Islands                                       Boats tied stern to the wall

                                               The maze of lines tying boats stern to the wall


         Cruisers helping Cruisers get aboard                    Diving on anchors for fellow cruisers
       Squeezing into a space            Always a welcome from John and Arianna and a helping hand


Martin of s/v Odyssey, at attention, on moored vessel to help Ariel tie up next to s/v Able Tasman


Gerta and Jack of s/v Able Tasman    Gavin of s/v Scott Free serves drinks even in his sleep!

              Gayla climbing over Te Rua Manga 413m with Martin, Gavin, Steve, Gerta and Jack

Gayla and Steve on the edge of 'The Needle' Te Kou 588meters

        Downtown Avarua                 To the market with Gerta and Jack     Noni Juice health drink

  Fish and Chips at the wharf             Phone call from the tree                   Fish from the sea

                    Bicycling around Rarotonga                              Homebuilt outrigger


Retirement party for Harbormaster with Gavin and Sukie, Christine, Di, Gerta and 30 other cruisers

Karaoke with Matt and Ryan singing '6 Months in a Leaky Boat' - Skip of s/v Vision coming ashore

            By Chance - Onatar - Icicle - Areolus  headed for Edgewater Hotel Island Night

After two weeks in Rarotonga we set sail for Tonga with a planned stop on Beverage Reef.   So much for the best laid plans.  Leaving Rarotonga on Sept. 2nd we were flying high anxious to reach Tonga to meet Steve's dad who would accompany us to NZ.   It was a sunny nice day, wind light out of the east then around to the SE.  We changed our heading and started the engine to ease off while hoisting the pole to set the jib out further.  The engine alarm goes off!  Steve finds the impeller on the salt water pump has deteriorated so immediately replaces it and we continue on.  Two hours later we turn the engine back on and the boat fills with exhaust.  The elbow on the exhaust had melted when the impeller went bad.   We must now turn around and go back to Raro where we hope to order a new elbow.  We are only 37.9nm out but it takes us 18 hours to return with no wind and unable to use the engine.  We are bobbing along moving so slow the autopilot does not even hold and we must hand steer off and on to catch what little wind there is.  Fortunately we were intercepted by fellow SSCA commodores Cliff and Ruth on s/v Icicle who gave us a tow the last 4nm into Rarotonga.  


Icicle to the rescue!  Tows Ariel 4nm back into Raro after impeller on salt water pump burns out.


This time we are met by 5 dinghy's rushing out to help our disabled ship.  It is nice to have friends in foreign ports.  We are towed in and maneuvered around to tie up along the wall against  s/v Lord Jim.  It is nice to have the Lord on our side too! 

It is almost another week before we leave for Tonga with a total of  3 weeks spent on this fun filled island.   We were able to order the exhaust elbow sent in from the USA and were back to having more fun times with an all new group of cruisers.  As some cruisers leave more arrive and it is a never ending party. 


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