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Cook Islands, Aitutaki : Updates from Cruisers

By Val Ellis last modified Sep 30, 2017 10:07 PM

Published: 2017-09-30 23:00:00
Countries: Cook Islands

Aitutaki: The good, the bad and the ugly - posted September 2017

Other cruisers will be pleased to know this before visiting Aitutak.

The Good
Meeting the amazing Nolan family.  Renting their scooters for island tours and hiring their boat Wahoo.  They became friends in a few days rather than just business.
Enjoying the dining and entertainment at the Thursday Island night.

The Bad
Absolute max draft 1.7 at high tide, be prepared to bump.  Charts 1.5 at LW is wishfull thinking.
Place for approx 5 yachts med-mooring style, side onto prevailing wind in harbour.  Can be done, but involves lots of messing about.
Place for max 3 other small boats in channel in front of harbour.
The lagoon suffered a bleaching event early in 2017.  Lagoon corals are mostly dead.

The Ugly
One official is enforcing no access to the lagoon unless with a licensed operator.  This includes no dinghy, SUPs, kitesurfers, divers, fishing basically nothing allowed by yourself.  Water taxi rides to the kite spot are NZ $35 per head / day, no group or multiple rate from the kite operators.  We found this extortion, especially when one is paying 250 for a kitesurf lesson or renting gear already.

We originally chose to pick one Cook island and spend a month there, only to find the restrictive nature of Aitutak and the prohibitive costs for a family wanting to kite, dive and paddle for a month.  Unless you have very deep pockets or are not interested in the lagoon, after you land tour, you will be confined to your boat in a muddy harbour.

This is on top of already expensive official fees that are well documented on Noonsite.  There are no printed rules, no notice boards or web site information to warn upfront, and is just enforced by a chap yelling and intimidating yachties and their families from the wharf - which is a bit late.

We took this unfairness up with the Mayor in person, Tourism office and customers office, and nobody would confirm, deny or provide rules, but rather took the lazy way out of the discussion by saying that it is Local  Council rules from their forefathers.  We waited a few days while the Mayor considered our request for leniency or could provide written rules.  This was however not granted and we were advised "you don't want to break the Law".

It remains a mystery to us and other cruisers how come the mystery rules only started getting enforced mid August 2017, since they were made by council forefathers. Ourselves along with 4 other buddy boats left on the next weather window cutting the time short in Aitutak by 3 weeks and moving onto countries that are interested in Tourism.

Such a disappointing end to something that we thought would be a highlight of the Pacific. Hopefully Aitutak can put their heads together some time soon, but suspect this could take a long time.

Barry Boswell
Yacht Jadean


Useful Directions for the Pass - posted August 2013

Detailed directions for entering the anchorage at Aitutaki in the southern Cook Islands and a warning to not rely on electronic navigation.

If arriving from the south you will need to be slightly north of the pass before you see it clearly as the pass runs in a south westerly direction.  Under no circumstances rely on electronic charts, they are well out as a badly damaged steel boat here can confirm.

The pass is narrow but do-able especially if you have someone on the pulpit with polarized sunglasses.  At the time I arrived the pass had been deepened slightly to help ferry boats from a small cruise liner.  A boat drawing 6 feet failed to get in on the top of High Water Springs and had to be towed off.  A draught of 1.7 metres at high water is the absolute maximum.  Do NOT rely on your electronic charts for the times of high and low water

When you identify the pass you will see a long (not quite straight) line of white stakes.  All the stakes are white.  Leave them all to port EXCEPT the last two which, amazingly you leave to starboard - if you leave them to port you will be well aground.  This brings you to the inner anchorage where you will anchor fore and aft with fenders on each side.  It is like sardines but has good shelter.

If the inner anchorage is full there is another anchorage a couple of hundred yards towards the reef which will hold at least three boats.  Before you reach the starboard hand stakes there is a clear but narrow channel to starboard where you can again anchor fore and aft.  You will need to anchor well as the wind comes from every direction so pick a spot where you will be clear of reefs, sandbanks and bombies.  You will definitely need somebody high in the bow to get in here.

Conventional wisdom says do not attempt to anchor outside the reef - it is a graveyard for anchors

Good luck;  it is a lovely island and worth the trouble.

Anthony Swanston
sv Wild Fox

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