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Rarotonga, Avatiu Harbour: Work now complete and visiting yachts welcome

By Norm and Beth Cooper — last modified May 23, 2013 09:42 AM
Avatiu Harbour, closed for the 2011 and 2012 seasons, is now welcoming visiting yachts. Full details passed on by Beth & Norm of SY Sarah Jean II who visited Rarotonga in early May 2013.

Published: 2013-05-22 23:00:00
Countries: Cook Islands

Rarotonga, Avatiu Harbour: Work now complete and visiting yachts welcome

Avatiu Harbour: © Cook Islands Port Authority

AVATIU HARBOUR  -  RAROTONGA, COOK ISLANDS  -  UPDATE MAY 2013

Avatiu Harbour Entrance:   08 57.478 S, 157 55.669 W

Harbour Master Email Contacts:
Harbour Master / Port Captain: Saungaki Rasmussen saungaki@ports.co.ck
Acting Harbour Master (alternate): Andre Tuiravakai andret@ports.co.ck
Contact by email 72, 48 and 24 hours before arrival.

VHF Radio Contact: Monitor 16, Harbour Working Channel is 12

We arrived at Avatiu Harbour in Rarotonga on Sunday, May 6 after a 14 day passage from Opua, NZ.  We had been advised that all harbour construction was complete and Rarotonga was once again welcoming yachts.

The Harbour Master, Saungaki Rasmussen, was on holidays so he advised us to contact Andre Tuiravakai, the Acting Harbour Master. We emailed Andre 72 and 48 and 24 hours before our arrival.  He confirmed that arrival on Saturday or Sunday would be no problem. We followed up by emailing with a specific ETA of 10:00 a.m. on Sunday.  He said he would be there to catch our stern lines as it is a med tie situation.  When outside the harbor entrance we contacted Andre on VHF 16 and then switched  to VHF 12, the local working channel.

THE HARBOUR

Avatiu Harbour is really just a small divot on the coral on the north side of Rarotonga and is the only boat harbour in Rarotonga. It is totally open to wind and swell from the north and we had been advised that should there be a wind switch it would be best to leave immediately.  In our case there was either east or southeast winds all week so this was not an issue.  Our Navionics and Nobeltec electronic charts were very accurate for the entrance and interior wharfs.  There is a bright orange range to help guide you through the entrance although it is wide and very straight forward.

Visiting yachts stern tie to the South Wharf.  This is the one that runs east to west and the one you are aimed directly at when you enter the harbour from the north.  We set our hook in about 20 ft of water well away from the wharf, letting out about 150 ft of chain before we tossed Andre our stern lines.  There was quite a bit of swell moving the boat around so we had to fit chafe protection on all our stern lines, both on the boat and on the wharf.  We noted some boats tie to the huge tires that hang on the wharf.  This provided a good dampening effect and seemed like a good idea.  Andre then brought nicely made aluminum boarding steps and hung them on the wharf for us.  Because of the surge we kept the boat at least 20 feet away from the wharf with good tension on our anchor chain.  We inflated our dinghy and set up a clothesline loop system to ferry ourselves to and from the boat.

HARBOUR CONSTRUCTION

Avatiu Harbour was closed to visiting yachts for the 2011 and 2012 seasons due to construction.  The work included dredging, removal of a dogleg from the main commercial wharf, creation of a larger turn around basin for the freighters and construction of a small boat harbour for the charter boats running tourist activities.  Andre was the project manager and can explain the details to anyone interested. This work is now complete other than a little cleaning up.

CLEARING IN TO RAROTONGA

Checking into the harbour with Andre was simple.  It was Sunday afternoon.  He advised us the customs officials would not come until Monday morning but we were free to go ashore right away.  Official clearing in on Monday morning involved customs, agriculture and health / quarantine.  This was very laid back.  Nobody came onto the boat.  Paperwork was done at a picnic table under a tree by the Takeaway Restaurant.  The only cost was NZ $30 paid to Health / Quarantine.  We did not have to dispose of any food.  They asked about fresh meat but we had none at that point other than salami from NZ which was OK.  We were told to just keep it on the boat. There were no inquiries about alcohol.

SERVICES

Harbour facilities include a very basic washroom and shower.  A key deposit of NZ $30 must be paid.  You get $10 back upon return of the key.  There are garbage and recycling bins near the Harbour Master's office.

There is a gas station with gas and diesel directly across the street.  Diesel can also be ordered by truck but be aware the hoses may not be so clean.  We chose to jerry jug our fuel and pour it through a Baha filter to be on the safe side.

Water spigots are nearby and we filled our tanks by joining two 100 foot garden hoses together, running from the spigot at the Takeaway Restaurant.  Good drinking water that has been electronically filtered is available at the canteen inside the secure container unloading area nearby.  Look for the green hose in the kitchen area.

A large supermarket is a 10 min walk to the west along the main road.  It has a good selection. The best place to purchase fruit and vegetables is at the Punanga Nui Market on Saturday mornings from 6:00 am to noon. The market is located beside the harbour to the east. There are a number of booths with local crafts and baked goods and some local dancing was featured as well.

There was no WiFi internet available in the Aviatiu Harbour. We took our computer into town and paid for WiFi at one of the local internet cafes. It was quite expensive. We also paid $25 for 350 MB of data at Telecom. They had a few WiFi hotspots around town which we used over the course of the week that we stayed in Rarotonga.

All stores and many restaurants are closed on Sundays. Snowbird Laundry has a monopoly on the island. We took our laundry to them in Avarua town. It was not self service. They did it for us for $12 a load, fairly expensive. A note of caution: request that they use soap or take your own for them to use. Our finished laundry did not smell as good as we would have liked. It was as if they did not use soap.

THINGS TO DO

Palace Takeway by Aviatiu Harbour has good fish and chips. Trader Jack's is a nice restaurant on the waterfront in Avarua Town and is within walking distance.

We rented a scooter to tour the island which did not take long as the road around the island is only 32 km long. You need to purchase a $20 Cook Island Driver's License from the Police Department to rent cars or scooters.  Muri Beach on the east side of the island is a nice stop for a swim, snorkel and lunch.

The Cross Island hike is worthwhile. It is a fairly arduous 4 hour hike but offers magnificent views from the top in the region of the Needle. The trail begins near Aviatiu Harbour and ends at Wigmore Falls on the south side of the island. You can flag down a local bus for the return trip back to the boat harbour.

We attended the Cook Christian Church on Sunday and enjoyed seeing the women in their beautiful hats made on Penrhyn Island and hearing the singing. We also attended an "island night" which included a dinner and some local dancing with magnificent costumes.

CLEARING OUT

There is a cost of $2.30/m /day to stay in Aviatiu Harbour. These fees are paid (in cash) at the Harbour Master's Office Mon-Friday. A departure fee of $55 per person on board is also paid to the Harbour Master's Office. These fees must be paid by 2:00 pm on a Friday if you plan to leave on the weekend. Then you must walk into town to the Immigration Office (by the Post Office). Each person on board must fill out their own departure card. These cards, along with a crew list form, are submitted to Immigration and they will then stamp your passports.  Customs is in the same building and is the final stop. A $55 flat fee for officers' time is paid to Customs.

We decided to check out of the Cook Islands as we were not certain if we would be stopping at any of the other Cook Islands on our passage to Hawaii. We checked out on a Friday but did not leave the harbour until Sunday and this was acceptable to Customs and Immigration. Rarotonga proved to be a good stop for us on our passage home to Vancouver from New Zealand.

Submitted by Norm and Beth Cooper
S/V Sarah Jean II (Saga 43)
Home Port: Vancouver, BC

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saungaki
saungaki says:
Aug 11, 2013 07:25 AM

Departure tax is now $65 dollars

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