We’ve been in Aitutaki for a week and most of the time the weather was grey, cold, stormy and rainy. We’re rolling in the rough weather, don’t get much sleep and are all a bit cranky.

Today we’ve had the first day with blue skies, so we played tourists, rented bycicles and explored the other side of the island, Aitutaki’s quite pretty and relaxed, but the description in the ‘lonely planet’ as ‘one of the most beautiful lagoons in the South Pacific’ seems a bit over the top. Maybe the writers haven’t seen too many other lagoons ;-) It’s very shallow and the water’s rather murky, which means it gleams in mint, but there’s not much live coral in so much sediment.

Generally Aitutaki is a much more touristy place than expected. They have about 30 flights a week (some planes from Rarotonga), the shores are dotted with resorts and bungalows and you see more tourists on the roads than locals.


Cold wind

On the passage down from Tongareva we expected cold weather with every degree we sailed south, but it stayed surprisingly warm. Now with the strong SE wind seriously cold air is coming up and we’re sneezing, drinking tea, wearing socks and hoodies. In the meantime the tourist boats drop snorkelers and divers outside the reef and we pity those poor guys in the water ;-)

We have humpback whales around the boat every day, today a group of three came close to Pitufa, but somehow we can’t bring ourselves to jump in and swim with them. The water’s not even extremely cold, but just thinking of coming out again into that howling cold wind sends me into a sneezing attack…



Yesterday we spent all day anchored off Manuae. We got the dinghy ready (not easy in rough conditions), but the passage through the reef looked way too dangerous in the swell that was getting bigger every hour. In the end we gave up and instead of spending a rolly night at anchor, we left and spent a rolly night at sea (with lots of squalls).

At first light we arrived in Aitutaki (Southern Cook Islands). Aitutaki is a hilly main island with a shallow lagoon around and some motus on the barrier reef. Unfortunately the narrow pass is too shallow for Pitufa, so we’re anchored on the outer reef next to pass. We’re getting better at this outer-reef thing: we use our CQR-anchor with 10 m chain and rope (we don’t want to risk our good Bügelanker) and the anchorage is calm and nice despite the fact that it’s blowing hard from the SE.



The wind is playing games with us, so we have decided to make a stop-over off an uninhabited island while we wait for wind to sail to Aitutaki. We managed to anchor on the outer reef despite rainy and grey weather. Now we’re rolling in the swell that comes around the island from both sides, hoping for a sunny spell. The island’s a national park, but we see neither birds in the sky nor turtles in the water :-(

Right when we arrived 3 humpback whales came by (2 adults and a baby) and they’ve been hanging out around the boat and singing so loudly that we can clearly hear them through the metal hull :-)


Calm seas

The weather forecast threatened with a calm period, but fortunately it only lasted 4 hours and we could start sailing again at midnight. This morning dawned almost kitschy beautiful: sunny, flat seas and Pitufa gliding along with 3 knots in a gentle breeze. 88 nm to go!



After a perfect sailing day yesterday we had a squally night and didn’t get much sleep. 197 nm to go!



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Last night we sailed into a dark bank of clouds that brought quite some rain, but fortunately also wind from the right direction. This morning we sailed out on the other side into blue skies, but the wind kept blowing and we’re making good progress!


Cooling off in the Pacific

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This passage is starting slowly, but pleasantly. There’s just a light breeze, but the sea’s so calm that Pitufa is still moving along with an average of 4 knots. We have all hatches open (incredibe on an ocean voyage) and this afternoon we even had a bath–hanging on to the swimming ladder even 3 knots feel incredibly fast ;-)

The forecast is constantly changing, this morning’s grib didn’t look great, but we’re hoping for the best and trying not to get impatient in the light winds with the miles slowly ticking down.



After exactly one month we’re leaving Tongareva this afternoon. During all that time we were the only sailboat here. We’ve had a great time here, but we’d like to explore more of the Cook Islands. On arrival we got 31 days in the Cooks, apparently our application for another 31 days got approved (we’ll see when we arrive in the capital), the weather forecast looks good and we’re ready to go. 610 nm to Aitutaki!


Autopilot repaired!

When we’re sailing on passages we always use our hydrovane to steer the boat. ‘Wayne Vaney’ is a simple mechanical device that steers the boat with a little auxiliary rudder just by keeping the wind angle on its vane in the angle we set.

We also have an electric autopilot, which we only use when we’re motoring, so only sometimes in lagoons and when we’re becalmed for a longer time on passages. This autopilot quit on the way up to Tongareva. Christian found out that the steering mechanism was fine, only the control unit had a loose contact, but as the whole box is moulded he couldn’t just repair the button that was suddenly randomly switching between modes. Searching the internet we found that the control unit is no longer produced…

Christian found a solution for our dilemma. We don’t use any of the fancy functions the control unit offers (sailing according to wind angle, etc.), we just want the autopilot to hold a given compass bearing. He therefore replaced the unit with an on/off button and we can still correct the course with the remote control (also self-built) in the cockpit. Today we tried it out while crossing the lagoon and voila–we have a working autopilot again :-)



Last week a strong Southeasterly wind (maramu) was blowing all over French Polynesia and the Cook Islands, so we decided to sit it out in the Eastern corner of the atoll. The anchorage was nicely protected and we could still take some walks ashore, but mainly we stayed home and spent the time on the computer. We finished a few articles, prepared a photo gallery, etc. and now that we’re back in Tetautua village we can use the internet to send everything off.
Christian did a 2-day internet marathon trying to get everything done with the slow connection, but now it seems that all our articles and pics have made it out. The maramu did us a favour by keeping us away from the village where a flu epidemic is going round–thanks to the people who arrived from Rarotonga and brought the virus with them.

We are getting restless and have been looking at weatherforecasts for windows to sail south. First the strong southeasterly made a departure impossible, yesterday’s grib files showed yet another maramu for next week, today’s forecast threatens with clocking winds next week. Both options would ruin our plans to stay on the outer reefs of Aitutaki and/or Atiu… We’ll get Pitufa into passage mode anyway and hope to be off soon!


New photo gallery: Tongareva (Penrhyn)

Tongareva (Penrhyn), Cook Islands

In August 2018 we spent 4 weeks in the northernmost atoll of the Cook Islands and were surprised to find a nature paradise despite two villages.

(48 photos)



The supply situation on remote islands is tricky. In the days before supply ships the Polynesians managed to live off the land, but nowadays everybody depends on imported goods. The supply ship from Rarotonga comes by every 2 or 3 months, another ships brings ordered things from Hawaii about twice a year.

You’d think that people would try to be as self-sufficient as possible under such conditions, but apart from a few scrawny banana, papaya and breadfruit trees we haven’t seen many examples for gardening. Chickens roam the island, but instead of building chicken houses and collecting eggs, the locals wait for imported eggs from Rarotonga or take eggs from the seabird colonies.

We are used to depending on our own supplies in remote areas, so we’re still eating as well as usual. The fresh produce we bought 5 weeks ago in Raiatea is coming to an end (just a few carrots and christophines are left), but before leaving Raiatea we extended our herb garden (basil, mint, coriander, parsley, chives, etc.) with a few pots of bok choy (chinese cabbage) and arrugula plants. Both are doing fabulously and we can daily harvest fresh greens.

Beverage-wise we’re also doing fine, with a watermaker that keeps the tanks filled and the second batch of homebrew-beer (from ready-made kits) bubbling along happily ;-)



The main village Omoka lies on the western side of the atoll, so the anchorage is exposed to the prevailing easterly winds. When we visited Omoka last week Pitufa was pitching horribly in steep high waves and we hardly got any sleep. We therefore fled the next morning to a more protected place. Now we’re anchored on a beautiful, light-turquoise sandy shelf in just 3 m depth right next to the Northern motu. It’s not far to the NW-pass, so we snorkeled there yesterday. We didn’t find much coral in that pass, but again huge swarms of fish and 10 curious black-tip reef sharks circled us all the time–apparently they are used to spearfishing divers and were waiting for scraps. Of course they were disappointed that we only shoot fish with our underwater camera…
The motu itself is also quite special with a fringe of palm trees on the lagoon side, but shrubs and trees with nesting seabirds right behind it and a stunningly red salt lake in the middle.


Polynesian Hospitality

On the 4th of August the Cook Islands celebrate their Consitution day followed by a week of cultural festivals. Every 2 to 3 years the government provides free transport by ship to all people from outer islands to Rarotonga (the capital) to participate in the celebrations.

Today 130 people from Tongareva returned after more than a month down in Rarotonga. After some fabulous day in the southern corner of the atoll with crystal clear water, nice snorkeling and more birdwatching we sailed across the lagoon this morning (dodging bommies all the way…) to the main village Omoka just in time to see the barges with the people come in–there were tearful reuinions, lots of flower bouquets and of course lots of goods from Rarotonga the villagers brought with them. While watching the hubbub on the dock we were invited to join the reception later, so we walked to the meeting where choirs and a huge buffet with traditional food (most interesting, some unfortunately protected) welcomed the homecomers.

We started talking to the former mayor who proved to be an interesting source of information and promptly invited us to his home in the evening. Searching for his house we walked through a few backyards asking for directions and were invited each time to stay and sit down for a chat. We have become used to Polynesian hospitality in remote places, but Tongareva surpasses all previous experiences. Of course the fact that English is an official language here (next to Cook Islands Maori) makes things much easier for us…

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