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Cook Islands - Penrhyn Atoll

By s/v Captain’s Mistress — last modified May 26, 2015 10:25 AM
We think it important for the cruisers community to know about our experiences on Penrhyn atoll.

Published: 2015-05-21 23:00:00
Countries: Cook Islands

May 6th- May 14th, 2015

We started our trip on April 3rd from San Francisco, USA, and after 33 days at sea we arrived at this gorgeous tropical atoll.

Early in the morning we called on channel 16 to proceed with check in. We were told to wait on the boat until the health officer was available. At 1pm two officials finally arrived.

The young health officer, Tuku, completed his inspection in a prompt and professional manner. The Customs officer, Ben, on the other hand, took almost three hours asking the same questions over and over: Where have we been for the last 33 days?
What was your last port of call?
And, especially, where did we check out of the U.S. and why we didn’t have a formal clearance document?
I explained that as a U.S. flagged pleasure yacht, we were not required to clear out from the U.S.

He took all of our documents showing the boats' stay in San Francisco before departure and ordered us to stay on board until he had reported to Rarotonga.

The next day at noon he called us to come to his office. After stamping our passports we asked him about fees that are due before departure. He waved his hands and said not to worry about it until we were ready to leave. Being on a limited budget, we asked him again to give us the exact fees before we left his office. He just smiled and said “don’t worry, you don’t need to pay now'" and still wouldn’t give us the figures. We persisted and told him we had a limited amount of cash and would be in a awkward position if we couldn’t pay on departure.

He finally relented and told us that in addition to the NZ$20 Health and Agriculture, we would need NZ $57.20 for Customs and a Penrhyn Atoll Entrance Fee of NZ$ 2.50 PER METER, per day, and upon departure from the Cooks, a Departure Fee of NZ$ 66.30 per passport.

We were surprised! as we knew prior boats were charged NZ$ 2.50 a day only, not per meter. We could not afford to stay longer than one week. But we learned our lesson that some rules in this country can be changed in the middle of the game without notice. We mentioned this to the Island Councilman and he promised to look into the issue.

The up side of all this is that this is a beautiful Atoll and everyone else treated us with dignity and friendship. We were invited to homes and we had a pleasant time being involved with the community. Both villages are exceptionally clean and well kept. We were glad to see that people have all of the conveniences of the modern world such as internet, phones, solar street lights, TV, and refrigeration. The amazing children were happy and playful and skilful and very helpful to adults in everyday chores.

We spent hours snorkelling and the water is clear and wildlife plentiful. We are reluctant to leave but must.

One last world about Ben. On checkout he tried to intimidate us with his co-position as police officer and tried to accuse us of crimes in leaving the U.S. He tried to force us to leave under unfavourable light and tide conditions. On arrival at Suwarrow we found that he had stamped our passports with the wrong month.

Russ & Olga
SV Captain’s Mistress

Editor's Note: The Cook Islands have indeed increased their fee schedule for visiting yachts. See news report below for further details.

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