|Avatiu Harbor, Rarotonga|
We have been anchored in Avatiu Harbor, Rarotonga in the Southern Cook Islands since just before noon on Wednesday, August 7. Internet access has been a bit sketchy though,* and although I logged on once, I didn’t make it as far as putting a safe arrival note on the blog. Patrick did post a position report, so at least the fact that we finally made it was noted somewhere.
*What? Sketchy? On a South Pacific island?! It’s amazing that there’s any internet access at all! :)
We were happy to arrive. It was a long passage, made longer by the two detours we took in order to avoid encountering strong headwinds in fronts surrounding lows. On a Great Circle route of 1,610 nm, we traveled 2,046 nm in 19.5 days.
After the last month in New Zealand midwinter, it is actually nice to be back in the tropics again. The climate in the Southern Cooks appears to be somewhat tempered by its proximity to the temperate zones (or perhaps it’s just an off year weather-wise), and it has been pleasantly warm without being uncomfortably hot.
Rarotonga reminds me of the Society Islands: It is a high volcanic island with a fringing reef. After months in New Zealand, it is fun to re-discover sights that were complete novelties when we arrived in French Polynesia fourteen months ago, but are now indelibly associated with our memories of South Pacific Islands: jungle fowl, taro fields, banana and breadfruit trees, drinking coconuts, cisterns, a passel of kids swimming off the dock, and immaculately kept gardens in brilliant greens, yellows, and magentas.
|Tropical vegetation against a Rarotongan peak|
But Rarotonga has a hustle and bustle all its own. It is a thriving tourist destination for fly-in tourists from Sydney and Auckland, as well as other parts of the world, and several ear-splitting flights make their entrance and exit over the harbor daily. This is where the people from “down under” take their vacations, and the Cook Islanders are experts at milking every last dollar out of tourists before they leave. As the MC at a cultural dance performance at the Saturday market said, “If you fall in the water with all those coins in your pocket, you will sink, so it’s better if you leave them here with us.” There is traffic here---lots of it---on the belt road going around the island, while the residential streets are quiet and peaceful. One unique thing about the Cook Islands is the prevalence of motor bikes in the traffic stream. People zip around on motor bikes carrying everything from boxes and bags of groceries to five-gallon water jugs.
The harbor is also an ever-changing hub of activity, where container ships, commercial fishing boats, sail training ships, and pleasure craft---both historic and new---vie for spots along the crowded seawall. The harbor is a story unto itself though, so I will end this post here and leave you with some passage photos.
New Zealand to Rarotonga Passage Photos
The following series of photos illustrates why sailing
yachts keep a watch. Patrick first contacted this container vessel, the Olga Maersk, by radio when it was still
12 nm away from us. He asked them if they saw us on their radar (no) and
alerted them to our presence. The captain of the ship said he would give us
“plenty of room.” Unfortunately, a mammoth container vessel is comfortable with
less room than a tiny yacht, and the Olga
Maersk never altered its course. In the end, Patrick altered our course to
put more distance between us and the big ship, and we were still a little close
|"We're finally leaving New Zealand, skipper!"|
|Dramatic scenery as we depart Marsden Cove in Whangarei for the last time|
|Monterey cypress being loaded for export at Marsden Point|
|Just after crossing the International Dateline and re-entering the Western hemisphere|
|The Olga Maersk begins to cross our bow|
|Patrick putting some distance between us and the big container ship|
|Now you see her...|
|....Now you don't: The effect of big swells at sea|
|Closest point of approach: 1.01 nautical miles|