|The Cook Islands were special in many ways. Anchoring was a bit of a
challenge since the Harbor of Avarua is wide open to the north and any strong
northerly wind could blow a boat right onto the wharf. When we read and planned
this trip we noted that northerlies are not all that common, so we really
weren't worried!!! We only started to worry when we arrived at Aitutaki Atoll
(about 100nm north of Rarotonga) and found the prevailing north west wind had
created an impossible anchorage on the west side of the atoll. That is to say,
the only anchorage at Aitutaki was hopeless and we had to change our plans and
NOT stop there. We were definitely disappointed, but then started to worry about
the only anchorage in Rarotonga which was north facing.
This is the small boat harbor next to the main north-facing all purpose
green roofed warehouses are landmarks, without which one could NOT
get their boat to the right entry area for Rarotonga. Our usually reliable
charts did NOT give us an accurate entrance to Avaura Harbor.
You can see that The Quest is directly exposed to the open harbor. What you
can't see is that her anchor chain is bolted to a huge cement block on the
bottom of the bay. We were advised to do this by the harbormaster - and so, a
local cruiser offered to do this for us. It meant that we didn't have to worry
about our boat while we toured the island of Rarotonga. However, it also meant
that our friend Jim had a significant diving job the day we planned to leave the
The other thing you see in the photo to the right is that we have four stern
ties to the shore. Three of these are on the starboard side as we have a
prevailing easterly wind that wants to blow us down on the (undoubtedly) only
navy ship of the Cook Islands. You can also wee that we are using our dinghy as
a means to get back and forth to the big boat.
And, speaking of getting back and forth, here's Scott riding the most popular
(and probably most perilous means of traveling around Rarotonga.
You're probably wondering just what there is to do in the Cook Islands. Well,
it's certainly nice just to ride around and see the sights.
There's a road that circumnavigates the island and the sights are those of a
rural island. On the right is a small private beach that we all enjoyed. And,
you can stop and have coffee if you wish. The
most enjoyable thing is to live on "island time."
We did have a favorite restaurant and that was Trader Jack's. The restaurant
balcony overlooks an opening in the reef. This is an area where the local
paddlers and small boat sailors like to launch their craft. It's also an area
that can be mistaken for a larger, deeper boat harbor. In fact, as we were
approaching Rarotonga, because our charts were not as accurate as we hoped we
were confusing this area for the "real" harbor until we scoped out the
green warehouse roofs
that were mentioned in the cruising
These are some of the paddlers in the red canoe. It's remarkable how
very fast they move and the distances they travel. Remember, the canoes were the
of transportation between the islands not that long ago. It's also interesting
to note that the dark object above the canoe's bow is the wreck of a big ship
that undoubtedly had a hard time identifying where they were supposed to come
in. Sometimes it's hard to identify landmarks until you're quite close to shore.
Our time in the harbor of Avarua was pretty interesting also. I'm told that
in "high" season it's wall-to-wall yachts. I'm glad we didn't have that
experience. (Though we plan to return, so we'll have our chance.) What we did
have a chance to watch was the fishermen coming into the harbor and unloading
The fish that are taken off these two fishing boats are quite large. You can
see they need a crane to manage them. We observed that the local restaurants
take their fish right off the boats to their kitchens. The boats then load up on
ice and go out again. "Gypsy Trader" seems to have a permanent list to port, but
that doesn't seem to bother anyone. The heavy load of ice and a subsequent heavy
load of fish certainly exacerbates the situation.
We were actually thinking that a smaller boat (Gypsy Trader right) such as she is would probably
have an easier time getting into some of the small islands that are inaccessible
for sailboats and other boats with a deeper draft. At any rate, the whole
operation was quite fascinating.
Another boat that came into the harbor was equally fascinating and we were
grateful that they came in in daylight (as most boats do). This larger
inter-island supply ship kept our attention because
of its size. You can see that I put the bright bouncy balls on our bow so we
couldn't be missed. This ship came in, tied its bow to the dock and swung its
stern around 180 degrees. So it ended up pointing out and against the harbor
wall on the other side.
With our boat chained to the harbor floor we wouldn't want to try to move it
in any hurry, but we were fairly confident that she wouldn't go anywhere. And so
we were able to
go out and see a show and enjoy some "fru fru" drinks. So, here
Marilyn, Libby, Scott & myself. Tony took
was fun to go out and act like a real tourist. It's pretty neat that our time
here is not limited to a few days. We were lucky to be in the Cooks for two
weeks and plan to return in 2006.
is an important part of the culture of all the Pacific islands. These people are
NOT observers. They are participants. You can see this in the enthusiasm in
We spent a lot of time in the Cook Islands and I suppose it looks like I want
to share every moment here on this page. It probably goes without saying that if
we plan to return we had a great time there. Other art forms besides music and
dancing are important to the Cook Islanders. The visual arts were displayed in
the form of murals, art galleries and displayed in restaurants and churches.
Tapa cloth is a dying skill and we were happy to see these beautiful
depictions in a local restaurant. Additionally, wood carving is a prominent
cultural art form in all the islands. It is often displayed in the Churches.
This carving is seen at St. Joseph's Church.
This lady is demonstrating a common practice - weaving flowers into head
dresses. Wearing flowers in the hair is one of the things that adds to the
beauty of the men and the women.
The black and white designs seen on this building (left) in the harbor are
the kinds of designs that one might see in tattoos, paper and fabric design.
I'm afraid I'm in trouble here with this never-ending page on the Cook
Islands. I should probably close with a mention of the warm and generous
hospitality of a church which invited all visitors to lunch after
And, as a closer - besides removing all the shore lines and diving down to
unshackle our anchor chain from the bottom of the harbor we needed to take
diesel. We ordered it in advance and they came in a big truck to deliver it to
the boat. We brought the boat as close as we dared and loaded up! We then took
off for The Bay of Islands, New Zealand with Jim & Libby (not related) as crew.
Here's an aerial view of Avarua Harbor (right) - Libby's photo. The Quest's
anchor chain is bolted to the bottom of the harbor. So, before we left we had to
send Jim down with his dive tanks to unbolt the chain before we could bring in
our anchor. It's always amazing to me how large a body of water looks from afar.
When we're maneuvering in this small harbor it seems small. And when that big
freighter came in and turned around inside the harbor it seemed quite small. But
from the air it looks like there's plenty of room!