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Old 27-10-2015, 10:42   #1
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Penrhyn or Rarotonga?

We have fallen in love with French Polynesia. When our 3 years on the boat runs out in May 2016 we plan to sail to one of the Cook Islands, Penrhyn or Rarotonga, to get our boat papers stamped and then sail back to French Polynesia for another 2-3 years. Does anyone have any recommendations or information to help us make the choice of Penrhyn or Rarotonga? Thanks so much.
Lili and Steve, currently in Florida, USA
s/v Liward, currently in Marina Taina
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Old 27-10-2015, 11:22   #2
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Re: Penrhyn or Rarotonga?

I'm afraid i might not be qualified to offer difinitive advice as i have never been to Penrhyn but i have spent a little time in Raro and would recommend it as somewhere to visit. It's more built up than Penrhyn and has more facilities. There is tourism via aeroplane there and restaurants and stuff, but it's not oppressive. If anyone wants to visit you (or you want to visit somewhere else) there are good air connections, and you can get access to some things in the shops that are generally unavailable on the smaller Pacific Islands. Whichever you choose I hope you enjoy it.

Maybe I'll bump into you next year? I'll be coming through the canal in February or March and spending the next year or two in French Polynesia. Planning on spending the cyclone season (2016-2017) in the Marquesas Islands which i'm really looking forward to. Cheers!
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Old 27-10-2015, 11:34   #3
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Re: Penrhyn or Rarotonga?

If you want shops, restaurants, and tourists, Raratonga.

If you want to learn the Polynesian/Maori way of life, Penrhyn. You probably won't want to go back to French Polynesia from there.
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Old 28-10-2015, 06:29   #4
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Re: Penrhyn or Rarotonga?

There is about nothing on Penrhyn. However, there is telecom and internet. Flights to Raro are irregular.

I don't think you can clear customs in Penrhyn. Since you brought it up, has somebody told you that you can? I can always ask the Cook Islanders if you need me to.

If you need provisions, repair, etc you will have to go to Raro. Don't eat at the chicket hut by the warf! Take a hike up to The Needle in the interior. Raro has the highest per-capita road fatality rate in the world due to no helmets and drink driving. So if you rent a motor scooter, make sure you get helmets!

ETA: you should plan to spend some time in Cooks. The people speak English, are very friendly, prices are low, and the country is beautiful. Telecom & Internet are far more advanced that FP.
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Old 28-10-2015, 16:00   #5
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Re: Penrhyn or Rarotonga?

You should definitely spend more time in the Cook Islands. It is beautiful.

You have to get a cook Islands drivers license to ride or drive. It is easy to get at the police station just have your existing home license with you and $20.

I am not sure I agree that prices are low but don't let that stop you.
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Old 28-10-2015, 16:01   #6
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Re: Penrhyn or Rarotonga?

Oh and the singing in the Cook Islands Church is fantastic. Do not miss it. Even an aetheist like me can appreciate it.
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Old 29-10-2015, 22:29   #7
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Re: Penrhyn or Rarotonga?

Hi Lili and Steve!

You can clear into Penrhyn (we did). From a passage planning perspective, from Raro you have the opportunity depending on your tankage to wait for light winds and do the bulk of the return under power. From Penrhyn, you will be beyond most people's tankage.

We dont carry much fuel (or enough sanity to motor that far) and we chose Penrhyn because although you start with a longer distance you also start with a more favorable sailing angle against the trades. Later in the season Oct/Nov you can sometimes find wind going N of E.

in Penrhyn, as it is an atoll, you can find all direction protection by changing sides. As I understand it, Raro is good in trades but not if the wind flips. Of course, if it flips it is time to head back to FP!

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Old 02-11-2015, 01:47   #8
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Re: Penrhyn or Rarotonga?

Also consider Aitutaki, beautiful island, nice people.
BUT entry to anchorage limited to appr. 1.8m draft
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Old 02-11-2015, 17:29   #9
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Re: Penrhyn or Rarotonga?

Agreed but no entry into the lagoon is my understanding so you are limited to the wharf area.
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Old 02-11-2015, 17:47   #10
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Re: Penrhyn or Rarotonga?

Things may have changed since our time in Raro, but in 1990 the harbour was tiny, crowded and totally exposed to non-trade winds. If a frontal passage came along, or a freighter arrived, one had to leave the harbour. Sometimes that was a bit awkward!

But a lovely island with lovely people. After a longish stay in French speaking islands,, we got a lot of funny looks for saying "Bon Jour" to the locals... but some big smiles following the funny frowns!

Jim and Ann s/v Insatiable II, back in Cygnet where winter is looming and the solar panels are hibernating.
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Old 16-05-2016, 02:42   #11
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Re: Penrhyn or Rarotonga?

Originally Posted by DtM View Post
Agreed but no entry into the lagoon is my understanding so you are limited to the wharf area.
This depends on your draft. There is a lot of coral heads in the lagoon but if you have a retractable keel boat or mini keels on a cat it is quite possible to enter the lagoon.
If you cannot then I recommend to take your Dingy on a few day cruises on the lagoon to visit the lagoon islands which are called Motus.

One Foot Island is a popular stop where the day cruise drop of tourists for the day. There is even a post office there where you can get your passport stamped with a funny looking stamp looking like a foot print.

Another beautiful island is Akaiami. There is the remains of a landing warf for the TEAL planes which landed there on the water and was filled up on fuel (by hand). On the island is a lodge which can be rented by the traditional leader Queen Manarangi Tutai for a quite reasonable cost so that you can stay overnight. You can find out more on Rates - ginas budget aitutaki cook islands south pacific self contained self catering family holidays vacations accommodation

There is a moving sand bar island called “heaven” – there must be heaven in paradise. It lies just west of One foot Island. Sometimes it is connected to One foot Island, sometimes separated. Usually this is a pretty good spot for Bone fishing.

Another nice island to visit is Motu Rakau. One side is beautiful sand beach and the other side is volcanic with black rocks etc.
This island has been the stage of the British and American copies of the Swedish reality serie Robinsson. They were called “Shipwrecked” and “Survivor”.
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