Tag Archives: Cook Islands

Crossing from French Polynesia to Niue

After leaving the pass at Maupiti, exciting enough as that was, we took off W with the bit between our teeth. With initially one reef in, then quickly two and a scrap of foresail out, we took off fast and then got faster. The seas were pretty sloppy as we went along the S coast of Maupiti, with reflected surf mixing with the SE seas running, making it an unpleasant affair. The ride for the first four days was fast and bouncy, bouncy enough for Lou to continue taking Stugeron, her anti pukes pills, each day. It is the longest she has ever had to take them on a passage.

Once we got clear the seas settled down to a standard SE 3+m flow which lengthened over the first day and stayed with us for the whole trip. Daily reports

9 May 17. Day One. Posn @ 1200hrs – 16 27.086S 152 36.950W Run distance – 110Nm (in 15hrs)

Left via the pass through surf and 5m standing waves. Not nice. Once we got on course, it was fast sailing though. 2 reefs and hanky + clean bottom + new sails + 20+ App wind = 8kts+ boat speed, surfing to 13! Oh yeah. At 1930hrs, we were all amazed to see what I can only describe as a silver rainbow. Can the light of a full moon shining through rain make this?? It lasted about five minutes and looked spectacular.

Be and Be are not far behind us but we can’t speak to them as their VHF radio has a range problem. Spoke briefly to Flying Cloud. Going to be a bouncy night. Curry for dinner. Lovely.

10 May. Day Two. 16 28.124S 155 28.244W. 163Nm

Spent the day taking the genoa in and out as the squalls came through. Fast running averaging 7kts –  over a knot more than I’d expect with the old sails. Lou and the girls not liking the motion but are enjoying the speed. Girls spending most of their time horizontal. The kindles are getting a work out.

Grey overhead and plenty of cloud. Boat getting covered with spray when we get side swiped by the odd wave. Can’t sit outside and stay dry. Chicken, bacon and leek pie for dinner, yum. Last of Lou’s premade meals.

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As always it is difficult to get a photo showing what the is like. Be and Be took this one which is one of the better ones and a fair representation of the big waves bearing down on us throughout this trip. 3+m.

11 May. Day Three. 16 44.326S 158 20.832W. 163Nm Full Moon tonight.

I spent the day smirking. A second best day’s run on the trot. WHY did we wait so long in getting new sails? Would have taken days off the Pacific crossing…… Note to self – make sure you get the new sails early on the next boat. And a copper coat bottom…. and more solar…. and a bigger AC wind genny…..and batteries to take all that power……and a decent heavy weather downwind sail…… and a compressor…….and a wind auto-helm…….. and don’t forget the vital percolator coffee cup! What lessons you learn over time.   We had some big aquatic life below us this evening. Stayed with us for over an hour at depths of between 16 and 45’. No idea what it was but big enough for a continual return which, I have to say, was a bit worrying. Tried to lure it out with the big torch but failed. It eventually, to my great relief, buggered off. Think we are hitting a counter current. Can’t understand the difference in boat speed against SOG.

Clouds breaking now and getting a little sun. About time.

Cauliflower cheese tonight with Hannah finishing off the chicken pie and potatoes. 

12 May. Day Four. 17 28.036S 160 53.802W 147Nm

We overheard Flying Cloud having a chinwag with a Russian container ship just after midnight. We could see neither of them but it was good to hear another voice out there even if the subjects the Russian wanted to talk about were Putin, Trump and our thoughts on Ukraine. I eventually talked to Flying Cloud at 0630hrs and found them to be about 13 miles to our SSW. With our HF set still not working, they were kind enough to pass on the weather report they had. No material changes to what I had. We should have decent easterlies all the way to Niue.

Xing to Niue

The big change today was the wind veered from SE to E forcing us to either run off the rhomb line or drop the main and get hauled along jib only. Way too strong for the Parasail with gusts up to 30kts. On the basis that the ride would be a lot comfier, we went for the latter and are now running at a slightly more sedate 6kts av.  Got pooped by a rogue wave – first time ever – that went over the solar panels. Lou only had enough time for a very loud “Oh my God” before it hit. Thankfully the dinghy stayed on and drained quickly and the door – just for once – was fully closed. It will now stay so for the rest of the trip.

I did have a good giggle during the night. Both girls are sleeping up in the saloon. Eleanor had a pillow falling over her face and was waving an arm back and forward trying to clear it, failing as she just caught the edge of it each time. Unfortunately, every time she raised her arm she was also hitting Hannah. Hannah eventually sat up, eyes glazed and saw what the problem was. She gently lifted the pillow away and then gave Eleanor a full blooded whack with it to the head, lay back down and was instantaneously fast asleep again. Eleanor looked confused for a second and then turned over. I had to go back outside to chuckle at this wonderful display of sisterly love. 

We now have no more working Apple chargers. All five are bust. No more IPod or IPad until we hit some civilisation where we can get replacements.

Today marked the end of the bread which seemed to last remarkably well. Last serving was as eggy bread for us all this morning. No chance of baking more with the bouncing around we are experiencing. I think Lou would lynch me if I even suggested it…….. Tonight’s culinary delight was a simple can of Ravioli!

13 May. Day Five. 17 41.775S 163 11.245W 120Nm

A tedious day. Wind dropping, seas not, wind still directly behind us. Slowing down….. We passed Palmerston today where Flying Cloud intends to spend a couple of days. They will be only the second boat in there this year and the locals are already out catching tuna for an arrival feast. Ah well. Next time around.

Girls joined me for dawn. More importantly to them, for yet another round of “Yes, No” between them, a game trying to identify characters from books or films. Nice getting a cuddle and some company after a few hours by yourself through the night.

Xing to Niue

Wind at last light was a steady 20kts with inconvenient bursts of 25+kts which means still no Parasail. Can’t risk it with only one of us to hand at any one time. Girls getting more time on the helm now the wind is a bit easier. Which means I have time to write this up! We are definitely hitting a current, I think running SW-NE.

Xing to Niue

14 May. Day Six. 18 11.830S 165 00.998W 115Nm

Another tedious day. By midnight the wind was down to single figures – the middle of the low passing beneath us was supposed to be another 100miles S of us but obviously wasn’t –  and we were crawling along at 3-4kts. Although we used the genset for over an hour last night, by 0230, the batteries were down to 12.23. With little sun during the day and no wind, they were not getting the normal “free” charge.  It isn’t even as if the auto-helm had had to work that hard. With the genset back on for another hour, it took ten minutes for the bulk light to go out. Too long.  If the wind continues as light as this, we will need to make sure we run the genset until the batteries are full each time.

The wind continued to fall away until 0700hrs, then increased and went into the E. We managed 5hrs with the Parasail up. A sudden big increase and veer in the wind at 1930hrs had us hauling it down quickly, going back to plain sail.

We maintained our average by nearly catching a fish today, which would have been our first in a long time. We hooked a big Mahi and had to play it for 30mins before it started to tire. We got it 20m from the boat before it got off. Infuriating! We ate our evening meal outside for the first time this trip. (Turned out to be the only time we could – SH)

Xing to Niue

We saw our first life for a few days. A big container ship passed us just before midnight about 5nm N of us heading W. They didn’t answer a hail on Ch16.

15 May. Day Seven. 18 41.030S 167 13.560W 159Nm

Wind out of a clear sky! And even vaguely coming from the right direction! Back to SE and 22-25kts. One reef in the main and a couple of turns on the genoa. It feels after a couple of frustrating days we are going to be there soon. Seas still mixed up with a swell from the SE and another from the S making a mess of things. Still, we are back to a 6+kt av means we have a chance of arriving tomorrow during daylight hours.

Got a visit from six Boobies this morning. They circled us hopefully, a couple trying to land, before heading off.

The wind continued to grow during the day and we needed a second reef in by 1600hrs. By 2200hrs it was 30+kts  and there it stayed. The seas were big, more than 3m and coming from two directions meaning every now and again you would just get side swiped and thrown as much as 40o off course. Not easy sailing and the auto-helm couldn’t cope needing Lou and I to do a lot of hand steering and corrections.

16 May. Day Eight. On Ball @ 19 03.178S 169 55.365W 75Nm

We charged on through the night averaging 8+kts and maxed out at 17.2kts surfing down a wave whilst Lou and Hannah were at the helm. It was noisy and neither Lou or I got much sleep. I would class it as exhilarating sailing; Lou hated it!

We saw Niue at 0640hrs, a long flat pancake lying on the horizon with a uniform height of about 50m the length of the island. After another surfing excursion to 15+kts, we reached the N end of the island and gained the lee. I think we all were pleased to slow down.

Xing to Niue

It took us another three and a half hours to reach the mooring field at Alofi, the main village half way down the W side of the island. We talked to Niue Radio to arrange Immigration and Customs and then Keith, the Commodore of the yacht club and the PO for the OCC. We picked up Buoy No.1, just off the jetty. The Customs and Immigration staff were tied up with an incoming plane in the morning so came to see us later in the afternoon. Whilst waiting for them to arrive, we put Skylark to bed, tidied bedrooms, washed some of the salt off, listed work that needs doing and ate a lot of griddle scones on our lovely, flat, still mooring. To top everything off, Be and Be arrived just two and a half hours after us.  Cheers from the kids!

The Customs and Immigration folk were a delight. Big smiles, very friendly and helpful in filling out the right forms, the task was quickly done. Keith had come down to meet us and gave Peta and myself a tour of the village, pointing out all the sights and getting us a key for the washroom.

After comparing notes on the passage and a sundowner with Peta and Geoff, we headed back to Skylark for an early night. Lots of catching up of sleep needed.

Xing to Niue

Passage Info

Total Distance by log: 1053Nm (great circle distance approx 1030Nm)

Total time: 7 days, 1hr 35mins

Av Speed: 6.2kts

Sea state: 5 (Rough). One day of 4 (Moderate)

Max wind: F7

Av wind: F6

NB. I had assumed that we still had the westbound S Pacific current with us for this trip. Whilst we may have had it for Day One, after that we didn’t. On investigation, once you reach about 16-17S, the current reverses to a W-E direction. For most of the trip we estimate that we ran against a current of between 0.5- 1kt. VPP2 puts it as high as 2.5kts: Cornell’s Ocean’s Atlas suggests lower which was our experience. Puts our 160+Nm days into perspective……… with any current with us, they could have been a lot more.

Xing to Niue

Bora Bora

Hell and damnation! I haven’t had the best of months in regard to losing stuff overboard. First, my much repaired and slightly beat up Royal Highland blue ensign and flagstaff went overboard on our trip down from Rangiroa when the rod holder the staff was in broke off. Tragic!

Then as we turned into the entrance to Bora Bora a gust caught my favourite hat, given to me by Georg of ZigZag in NZ and off it flew. An emergency drop of the main later (good MOB drills practise), a hard turn to a return course and slow search pattern could not find  it.

I am bereft.

And more than a little annoyed.

Ah well. Enough whingeing. But sorry, Georg. Only so much advertising done for you!

As we left Raiatea through Pass Rautoanui, just S of the Carenage, Frans came and saw us off. A skilled surfer, he’d been on the reef and saw us pulling out. We said our goodbyes and looked forward to seeing him and the rest of Sangvind in Tonga.

 Bora Bora

The 25Nm sail to Bora Bora was an easy broad reach and then run as we cleared the wind shadow of Raiatea with no more than 18kts app showing. Boat speed went as high as 9kts but averaged 6.5kts as we spent most of the time goose-winged with full main and genoa to the SW corner of the reef surrounding the island.

Bora Bora

It felt great and as the last time we would use the current sails, a nice way to sign them off. After all the cloudy, wet weather with mucky wind, it looks as if the SE Trades have started to re-establish themselves. Blue skies, winds still a little reinforced, often at 25+kts, but it is starting to look to being the kind of weather we want to see to push W in.

The girls decided that they need to get some photos with Bora Bora in the background and we got some nice ones.

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We were passed by a couple of charter boats who, inexplicably, drove towards the island with reefed main and engines on. Why do you come all the way to French Polynesia to hire a yacht and on a perfect sailing day, motor? Hicks.

Going around Bora Bora inside the reef takes a little care. The route around the N end of the island to the anchorages on the E side is shallow and you need to have draw less than 8’ to be comfortable. There is one cheeky dogleg between a S cardinal and a red but the rest of the trip down to our anchorage behind Be and Be at 16 29.294S 151 42.135W in 9’ of water was easy. We did ignore two reefs shown on the Navionics mapping I had but I think they must have been sand banks at some point that have disappeared. Certainly we had 10’ of water beneath us as we crossed them…..slowly and carefully! Water colour is what I go by when in shallow water here, not mapping data. An important lesson. The bottom shape changes frequently and you must trust your eyes and judgement. Oh and go slow, just in case you do have a brain fart!

We anchored just as Be and Be headed into dinner and to watch a show at the Intercontinental Hotel, just to our S. We decided we would have a quiet night and recover from all the fun we had had with Quatra and Sangvind over the last few days.  We got to watch our first sunset over the island which was a good one from the anchorage off Hotel St Regis.

Bora Bora

It took just one water taxi charging past us at high speed at 5m distance for me to deploy the big torch on strobe which I choose to use to show them we were alive, awake and not going to put up with inconsiderate driving. There are, sadly, lots of hotel taxis taking the herd back and forward to the main island.

Bora Bora

By mutual consent, Be and Be and ourselves moved down to where Plastik Plankton had described as the best anchorage in Bora Bora in a bay at the SW side of Motu Pitiaau. We had a go at getting in to the very shallow water, chickening out as the depth showed 3’. We anchored at 16 32.045S 151 42.257W in 7’ on powder like white sand in the company of a few charter boats and a couple of liveaboards. The place is gorgeous, rimmed by coconut trees, shallow water, quiet but pretty sterile and a spectacular view of the mountain. It reminds me of the Bahamas. Huge areas of white sand and very little living on it. Saying that, there is a lot to be said in parking up with this kind of backdrop!

Bora Bora

 Bora Bora

After the deeper water of Raiatea, everyone was keen to get back in to enjoy the water again. With life at its simplistic best, we did little more than relax, found the local magasin to get bread and just got all laid back. The kids alternated between boats and the adults would “retire” of an evening to the empty one and let them get on with kids stuff whilst we had some quiet time. It was a good arrangement.

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We had talked with Peta and Geoff about Shelby’s ambition to get scuba qualified back in Raiatea and I had offered to take her down to see how she coped. We had a small bombie 20m behind us and we decided that at 3m it was a perfect easy start for her to see if she liked it. After an hour of talking through equipment, hand signals and actions on, we dropped in, watched the fish as she got comfortable and just as we were to ascend, up swam a stingray, coming for a look at us. Shelby came up with a smile. Stand by, Be and Be. I think you have a convert on your hands!

Reputedly one of the best snorkel sites in Bora Bora is a drift E-W at Taurare in the Motu Pitiaau’s SE corner. You tie your dinghy up at the SW end of the beach, walk E along the shore, go out over the old exposed coral bed and then jump in. The initial water depth is cheekily shallow, the current fast and you need to be careful. Lou got a graze as she thumped on to a rock. Once the water speed calmed down it was an ok drift but the coral wasn’t in too great a shape.

The next day we dinghied to another site to the S of a motu, 700m E of Point Matira, the southern most point of Bora Bora. There we found another coral garden which was far nicer.  Known by the dive companies as the Aquarium, with deeper water (3-5m), a lot less current  and bigger bombies, the fish life was excellent. A couple of days later, we went back a second time and Shelby and I dropped in to feed the fishes (who were quite used this) and to explore the garden properly. Two dives in and she has already got a good feel of buoyancy already. Next step  – her Open Water qual. Perhaps Tonga or Fiji, I hear.

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One of the local guides rocked up and topped everything we had seen by feeding a Giant Moray Eel he said was known as Lady Gaga. He tempted her out of her burrow with chunks of fish. When she didn’t come out far enough he dropped the fish and then pulled the eel bodily out! She was over 2m long. You wouldn’t want to put your hands anywhere near her mouth.

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We moved back up to use Hotel St Regis’s facilities but unfortunately we met a sharp little man on the dock who was not keen to let us in. With a new asking price of  $25 a head (and we would need to make a reservation as well – which “couldn’t” be assured) rather than the $25 to tie up the dinghy Be and Be paid a week before, it simply wasn’t value for money. Geoff dinghied around to the Meridian where the welcome was even less pleasant. Having parked up and walked up to reception, he was told in no uncertain terms he wasn’t welcome and had to ask that the security hoods (x2) took their hands off him as he was walked back down to the jetty. I can understand that the hotels wish to maintain their exclusivity but the attitude of the (NB – non Polynesian) staff has been generally rude. It’s as if they don’t like kids………

We moved around to the Intercontinental where we had a far more pleasant encounter.  Although the pool man apologised when he said it was paid guests only for the pool, he did say that the kids could play on all the beach toys including a peddle boat. Geoff complained about the strength of the Mai Tais but only that they were too strong! Nice place, nice people and my thanks to Iris at the Concierge desk for helping me with a return to the agent.  But I’m not sure if I’d pay $11000AUS (or 6k UK pounds) a week per head – room only but with flights from Aus included. Bora BoraBora BoraBora Bora

Geoff, Eleanor and myself went on a dive with Topdive to the dive site Anua, known for its Manta Rays. We saw a turtle and a couple of clown fish and that was it. Both boats followed our movements in the hope of seeing Mantas with us but no luck.

Bora Bora

We swam a long way looking for them in, for here, pretty poor vis (15m). The Topdive crew, Ana and Arthur, were good guys and were honest enough to say that the Bora Bora diving experience is a poor one in comparison to what you would find in the atolls. No big surprise and I concur. The good dives here involve Humpback whales outside the reef who can be found from mid May on. We will hope for better in Nuie and Tonga. The upside was that they was happy to fill my bottles and did so for the princely sum of 1000XFP which is the most reasonable price I have paid anywhere in the Pacific. They were also happy to let the kids run riot and use the dive boat as a jumping platform at the end of the dive.

Bora Bora

We moved back round to the W side of Bora Bora and took a free ball at the Mai Kai Yacht Club and Marina. It really is just a restaurant, bar and dinghy dock which shares an infinity pool with a small pension next door but it is very nicely done, has free internet, strong enough to be picked up at the boat and the staff are great. And it has a happy hour bringing the prices down to a reasonable level for an hour a day. We met up with Phylis, Emma Louise, Reao and Be and Be for a few nights of festivities. Good times!

Bora Bora

Our sails arrived in Tahiti on 27th Apr (years of fun for a little less cost than a week at any hotel here!), sadly too late to get the boat up to us before the May Day holiday. It took until the 4rd May for them to reach us. The genoa was quickly fitted, a good bit bigger than the old and looking very shiny! The main took longer as I had to put in all the batten ends, a slightly nervous affair as it involves 8 screws per fitting and I really didn’t like drilling holes in the new sail. My thanks to Craig, Geoff and Steve for their help. Well done, Lee Sails for nailing it. Both sails just perfect.

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The weather had still not settled into the Trades that we hoped for. However, with time running out on us and with a long way to go in seven weeks to get to Fiji, we needed to get moving. Geoff and I had been having daily Councils of War, looking at, speculating and discussing the weather as far E of us as Fiji and the big winds S of us charging past NZ and its effect on our weather. We decided that a suitable window was forming, which looked as if it would give us a good push across towards the 1000Nm to Niue. We took the sad decision that we would need to bypass the Cook Islands for two reasons. Firstly, the wind were looking to be 20+kts in the Cooks for some time, not time we had to wait. Also the World ARC is scheduled to reach Nuie about the 24th May for a week, taking all the balls and meaning we would have been unable to visit. Nuie or the Cooks? One had to go from the schedule. If we only had more time………….

Booking out was a bit of a palaver. The local Gendarmerie were no problem at all although the girls were very disappointed not to get a stamp in the passport as we are still EU citizens.  I dare say that will all change in a couple of years but then UK visitors will be restricted to 3mth visas to French Polynesia like the rest of the world. Bizarrely, you also require to get final clearance from the Harbour Master’s office in Papeete. Why I don’t know as all you get is a email from them and it isn’t part of the paperwork you are required to give when you reach your next port of call. It arrived 24hrs after we had requested it.

We took on a little fuel at the fuel dock 200m S of the Mai Kai. Be aware that the fuel dock requires a copy of your tax free certificate, boat papers and green entry form. You need to supply the copies as they won’t make them. No docs; no fuel. We paid 80C/l for diesel and $1.60/l for petrol.

After a (extended) happy hour with Emma Louise, Reoa, Phylis,  Be and Be and ourselves, we had a fine last night with Steve and Cheryl back on Skylark, we providing the rice and they the curry they had made earlier. An excellent time was had by all. We said our goodbyes to Craig and Aron and Mick and Kym as I doubt we will see them again on this trip. We wish them all fair winds and safe sailing.

After hitting the Super U for one last round of baguettes, we left Bora Bora just after dawn on 6 May with blue skies and light winds. With some of the best visibility we have had here, we looked back at the spectacular sight of Bora Bora with Raiatea and Tahaa, another 25miles further E, standing clear. A beautiful way to sign off on these islands.

Bora Bora

To shorten the passage W to Nuie and to wait for the weather and wind to arrive, we left Bora Bora and sailed the 30miles to Maupiti, the rarely visited and second to last island in the Societies chain.

Bora Bora