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gonecruising




Zen’s
Den
                                              A cruising family
                                              discovers a
                                              hidden, cat-
                                              friendly gem in
                                              the Southern
                                                                  M                   y wife, Monique,
                                                                  was getting her bearings in the
                                                                  cockpit before the sun went down
                                                                  at the start of her watch. She
                                                                  noticed that I had added more sail
                                                                  while she was sleeping and was

                       By Tom Burgess
                                              Cook Islands        now engrossed in the chart soft-
                                                                  ware at the nav station.

12 Multihulls Quarterly • Volume 2, Issue 2
responded Monique as she trimmed          admission to this tropical paradise
                                        the main and dropped the leeward          can be high. After you make your
                                        dagger board in preparation for           way down the tight and shallow
                                        some close-hauled sailing.                pass, you need to pick your way
                                             This conversation would have         around the coral heads in seven to
                                        been very different on our last cruis-    eight feet of water and anchor with
                                        ing boat, a 53-foot monohull that         two anchors and/or several lines
                                        we cruised for two years between          tied to the trees to keep you from
                                        Newport, Rhode Island and the             donating bottom paint (or worse).
                                        Caribbean. Now, we are cruising              As is the case with many Pacific
                                        the South Pacific on our Chris White      atoll anchorages, the pass into
                                        Atlantic 48 catamaran, and speeds         Aitutaki can only be negotiated in
                                        and anchorages like this are exactly      daylight. We had to make a deci-
                                        why we converted. Don’t get me            sion. Should we kick it up a notch
                                        wrong—we loved all 10,000+ miles          for the next 24 hours and cover the
                                        we cruised on our monohull, but           209 miles before sunset the next
                                        when we decided to cross the              evening, or slow down to 5 knots
                                        South Pacific, with its long-distance     and arrive 12 hours later when the
                                        passages and shallow remote atoll         sun rose the next morning? The wind
                                        anchorages, we knew it was time           was on the nose and predicted to
                                        to try two hulls. And now that our        hold steady at 15 to 20 knots true.
                                        daughter Cameron is 12 and our                Fortunately, contrary to popular
                                        son Cole is 10, we wanted the extra       belief, many modern catamarans
                                        elbow room offered by two hulls to        (including our Atlantic 48) are well
                                        keep the whole family smiling on          designed for upwind work. By drop-
                                        our extended cruise.                      ping our leeward dagger board
                                                                                  and trimming the sails in tight, we
                                                MAKING A RUN FOR IT               could steer about 40 degrees off
                                               On this particular passage,        the true wind and lay the course to
                                        we were headed for Aitutaki, a            the entrance of the lagoon on one
                                        remote atoll on the northern end          long tack. We are big fans of mini-
                                        of the Southern Cook Islands with         mizing exposure to bad weather
                                        a reputation for having one of the        and other unforeseeable problems
                                        most pristine lagoons in the South        associated with boats at sea, so we
                                        Pacific. The actual island is less than   decided to make a run for it.
                                        five miles long, but if you include
                                        the fringing reef and spectacular              TOO BEAUTIFUL TO PASS UP
                                        encircled lagoon, the overall atoll          The wind held through the night.
                                        stretches more than 10 miles. The         We had a fast and relaxing sail,
                                        lagoon is so well protected from          making more than 200 miles in 24
                                        Mother Nature that it served as a         hours. As we approached Aitutaki,
                                        rest stop and refueling station for       the sun was setting, but we could
                                        trans-pacific seaplane flights in the     clearly see the barrier reef that
     “What’s the plan?” she asked       late 1950s. Throughout the island,        encircled the island. We found the
from the cockpit.                       you can find pictures of that era’s       opening to the pass, marked only
   “Well, the pass into the lagoon is   most famous actors and wealthy            by a rusty piece of steel re-bar,
50 feet wide, half a mile long and      businesspeople as they rested on          and could see some other boats
carries a max depth of six feet. It’s   the pristine beaches while their air-     anchored in the harbor, but there
lined with breaking reefs on both       crafts were refueled.                     was something wrong. About half-
sides and there are no channel             Aitutaki is a small, somewhat out      way down the pass, there was a
markers. We’ve got 209 miles to go      of the way island. Unfortunately,         40-foot sailboat hard aground. Had
and 24 hours to make it before the      many cruisers bypass it altogether        we beat the sun just to be thwarted
sun sets,” I replied.                   due to its shallow entrance and           by a blocked pass?
    “Sounds perfect—let’s go for it!”   small anchorages. The price of               A couple days earlier, our good

                                                                                        www.MultihullsQuarterly.com 13
gonecruising




                                              Clockwise from
                                              left: looking up the
                                              channel with Dosia
                                              in the foreground;
                                              the best fire dancer
                                              in Aitutaki; Cole
                                              making his debut as
                                              a Polynesian dancer.
                                              Opposite: Town Quay,
                                              with the main harbor
                                              to the right and Zen’s
                                              Den to the left




14 Multihulls Quarterly • Volume 2, Issue 2
friends Drew and Marge on S/V            control in the narrow passage to       angled our bows back to the center
Dosia had arrived in Aitutaki.           feel confident about slipping past     of the channel. We were in! And we
Through my binoculars, I could see       the marooned boat. We entered          had about 20 minutes of useable
Drew in his dinghy trying to pull the    the pass slowly and eyeballed our      daylight to find a spot to anchor for
sailboat off the bottom. We hailed       approach. The water was gin clear      the night.
Dosia on the VHF to find out what        and we could clearly see where the
was happening. “Drew says we’re          sand bottom met the reef on each                THE FUN NEVER STOPS
stuck hard, but he thinks you should     side of the pass. As we approached        “You’re gonna need two anchors
be able to squeak by,” said Marge.       the grounded boat, Monique and         to hold the bow into the 3 knot cur-
With the setting sun, we didn’t have     the kids held a few fenders over       rent if you anchor near us,” barked
much time to think about it. If we       the side in case we bumped. We         Drew from his dinghy. “Yikes,” I
did not make it inside, we would         passed the boat to port so our star-   thought. “The fun never stops in
have to bypass Aitutaki or heave         board hull was slightly outside the    Aitutaki!”
to until the next morning. Aitutaki is   channel, but still over sand. The             Arriving in a well protected
simply too beautiful to pass up, and     depth meter told me that the star-     anchorage after a multi-day ocean
the thought of heaving to in such        board hull passed through 3.5 feet     passage is always satisfying, and
lumpy seas was unappealing, so           of water, which is exactly what we     the typical Pacific atoll, with its near
we decided to take a shot at the         draw, so I figured the weight of the   360-degree enclosed reef lagoons,
pass.                                    kids, my wife and all the fenders on   offers an especially welcoming
     Fortunately, we were able to        the port side provided just enough     refuge. Once through the break
time our arrival with a slack high       lift to help us clear the shallows.    in the reef, there are usually plen-
tide, a goal for all entrances to the    I guess cats can heel when you         tiful anchorages and deep water
Pacific atolls. The wind was down        need them to!                          channels available for navigation
for the evening, so we had enough              As we squeaked by, I quickly     throughout the lagoon.

                                                                                       www.MultihullsQuarterly.com 15
gonecruising




                                                                                              us angled into the current
                                                                                              and off the bottom. After a
                                                                                              lifetime of sailing and more
                                                                                              than 20,000 miles of cruis-
                                                                                              ing, this ranks as one of the
                                                                                              most interesting and beau-
                                                                                              tiful anchorages we have
                                                                                              ever reached. After Drew
                                                                                              and his dinghy helped
                                                                                              us set the stern anchor,
                                                                                              he and Marge joined us
                                                                                              on board Zen for a well
                                                                                              deserved home cooked
                                                                                              meal on the back deck
                                                                                              while the sun faded over
                                                                                              the horizon.

                                                                                                  THE FIRST BOAT—EVER
                                                                                                    The next morning, we
                                                                                              awoke to the splash and
                                                                                              roll caused by local fishing
                                                                                              boats making their way out
                                                                                              of the channel. This was not
                                                                                              a big deal, but leveraging
                                                                                              the benefits of cruising on
                                                                                              a cat, we decided to take
                                                                                              advantage of our shallow
                                                                                              draft and venture a bit fur-
                                                                                              ther off the beaten track to
                                                                                              a quieter spot. What’s the
                                                                                              first thing you do when you
                                                                                              need to navigate a tight
                                                                                              anchorage fraught with
                                                                                              surface-breaking bombies
     Aitutaki is a bit different. Once        the north of the town quay that is     and strong currents? You send your
you negotiate the somewhat hair-              completely protected from the cur-     kid up the mast, of course!
raising half mile channel, you are            rent and has clearer water, but only      After years of cruising, our kids
confronted with three small anchor-           carries about four feet of depth at    have graduated from helpless
ing options. The first is to anchor in a      low tide.                              passengers to active crew mem-
small offshoot of the main channel,                When we arrived, there were       bers, willing and excited to take
picking a sandy hole for the anchor           three boats in the channel anchor-     on challenging tasks that directly
between numerous bombies (coral               age, one in the main harbor and        impact our cruising lifestyle.
heads), while angling the bows                none in the pond north of the Quay.    Perched on the spreaders with
appropriately into the 2 to 4 knot            The sun was setting, so we decided     their youthful, eagle-like eyesight,
constant outgoing current with a              to pick the closest anchorage with     our kids have proven far more
stern hook. The second option is to           the most local knowledge. Tomor-       valuable than the charts of these
glide into the main harbor, anchor            row we could drop the dink and         Pacific atoll anchorages, most of
the bows in 5 to 7 feet of murky              investigate the other spots for our-   which have not been updated
water and tie a stern line to a tree          selves. We quickly found a sandy       since the seafaring captains of
on shore to stay clear of the com-            slot between the bombies in the        the 1700s first surveyed them.
mercial quay. Finally, there is a little      channel anchorage and dropped              “Hey Dad, there’s a little chan-
pond opposite the main harbor to              a bow and stern anchor to keep         nel that leads into that pond just

16 Multihulls Quarterly • Volume 2, Issue 2
beyond the town quay,” our daugh-
ter Cammi called from the spread-
ers. “All we need to do is turn left
at the bombie off our bow, keep
that big reef on our starboard and
stay to the left side of the entrance
of the pond, and we’ll be able to
anchor among some small coral
heads in nice white sand.” Try to
get that kind of intel from your chart
plotter.
   It turned out to be a pretty easy
entrance, and once inside we
found enough room for at least two
boats to anchor in five to six feet of
sandy bottom. After we anchored
in the pond, we headed ashore
to start exploring. As we stepped
off the dinghy, we were greeted
by the customs folks and told that
we were the first cruising boat to
anchor in this spot.
   “The first boat this year,” I asked?
   “No. The first boat ever”.
      I gave them a bit of a con-
cerned look and they quickly              of the Cook Islanders. We sent word   that affectionately became known
responded:”Don’t worry. It’s a great      back to the cruising fleet headed     as Zen’s Den. If you are headed
anchorage and we don’t know               past the Cooks on their way to        across the Pacific, don’t miss Aitut-
why more people don’t use it!”            Tonga and told them about the         aki. And if you are on a cat, we
   We spent two exceptional weeks         challenging entrance, incredible      hope you find Zen’s Den as wel-
enjoying the incredible hospitality       beauty, and of course, the pond       coming as we did.

                                                                                      www.MultihullsQuarterly.com 17

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Multihulls Quarterly: Zen's Den

  • 1. gonecruising Zen’s Den A cruising family discovers a hidden, cat- friendly gem in the Southern M y wife, Monique, was getting her bearings in the cockpit before the sun went down at the start of her watch. She noticed that I had added more sail while she was sleeping and was By Tom Burgess Cook Islands now engrossed in the chart soft- ware at the nav station. 12 Multihulls Quarterly • Volume 2, Issue 2
  • 2. responded Monique as she trimmed admission to this tropical paradise the main and dropped the leeward can be high. After you make your dagger board in preparation for way down the tight and shallow some close-hauled sailing. pass, you need to pick your way This conversation would have around the coral heads in seven to been very different on our last cruis- eight feet of water and anchor with ing boat, a 53-foot monohull that two anchors and/or several lines we cruised for two years between tied to the trees to keep you from Newport, Rhode Island and the donating bottom paint (or worse). Caribbean. Now, we are cruising As is the case with many Pacific the South Pacific on our Chris White atoll anchorages, the pass into Atlantic 48 catamaran, and speeds Aitutaki can only be negotiated in and anchorages like this are exactly daylight. We had to make a deci- why we converted. Don’t get me sion. Should we kick it up a notch wrong—we loved all 10,000+ miles for the next 24 hours and cover the we cruised on our monohull, but 209 miles before sunset the next when we decided to cross the evening, or slow down to 5 knots South Pacific, with its long-distance and arrive 12 hours later when the passages and shallow remote atoll sun rose the next morning? The wind anchorages, we knew it was time was on the nose and predicted to to try two hulls. And now that our hold steady at 15 to 20 knots true. daughter Cameron is 12 and our Fortunately, contrary to popular son Cole is 10, we wanted the extra belief, many modern catamarans elbow room offered by two hulls to (including our Atlantic 48) are well keep the whole family smiling on designed for upwind work. By drop- our extended cruise. ping our leeward dagger board and trimming the sails in tight, we MAKING A RUN FOR IT could steer about 40 degrees off On this particular passage, the true wind and lay the course to we were headed for Aitutaki, a the entrance of the lagoon on one remote atoll on the northern end long tack. We are big fans of mini- of the Southern Cook Islands with mizing exposure to bad weather a reputation for having one of the and other unforeseeable problems most pristine lagoons in the South associated with boats at sea, so we Pacific. The actual island is less than decided to make a run for it. five miles long, but if you include the fringing reef and spectacular TOO BEAUTIFUL TO PASS UP encircled lagoon, the overall atoll The wind held through the night. stretches more than 10 miles. The We had a fast and relaxing sail, lagoon is so well protected from making more than 200 miles in 24 Mother Nature that it served as a hours. As we approached Aitutaki, rest stop and refueling station for the sun was setting, but we could trans-pacific seaplane flights in the clearly see the barrier reef that “What’s the plan?” she asked late 1950s. Throughout the island, encircled the island. We found the from the cockpit. you can find pictures of that era’s opening to the pass, marked only “Well, the pass into the lagoon is most famous actors and wealthy by a rusty piece of steel re-bar, 50 feet wide, half a mile long and businesspeople as they rested on and could see some other boats carries a max depth of six feet. It’s the pristine beaches while their air- anchored in the harbor, but there lined with breaking reefs on both crafts were refueled. was something wrong. About half- sides and there are no channel Aitutaki is a small, somewhat out way down the pass, there was a markers. We’ve got 209 miles to go of the way island. Unfortunately, 40-foot sailboat hard aground. Had and 24 hours to make it before the many cruisers bypass it altogether we beat the sun just to be thwarted sun sets,” I replied. due to its shallow entrance and by a blocked pass? “Sounds perfect—let’s go for it!” small anchorages. The price of A couple days earlier, our good www.MultihullsQuarterly.com 13
  • 3. gonecruising Clockwise from left: looking up the channel with Dosia in the foreground; the best fire dancer in Aitutaki; Cole making his debut as a Polynesian dancer. Opposite: Town Quay, with the main harbor to the right and Zen’s Den to the left 14 Multihulls Quarterly • Volume 2, Issue 2
  • 4. friends Drew and Marge on S/V control in the narrow passage to angled our bows back to the center Dosia had arrived in Aitutaki. feel confident about slipping past of the channel. We were in! And we Through my binoculars, I could see the marooned boat. We entered had about 20 minutes of useable Drew in his dinghy trying to pull the the pass slowly and eyeballed our daylight to find a spot to anchor for sailboat off the bottom. We hailed approach. The water was gin clear the night. Dosia on the VHF to find out what and we could clearly see where the was happening. “Drew says we’re sand bottom met the reef on each THE FUN NEVER STOPS stuck hard, but he thinks you should side of the pass. As we approached “You’re gonna need two anchors be able to squeak by,” said Marge. the grounded boat, Monique and to hold the bow into the 3 knot cur- With the setting sun, we didn’t have the kids held a few fenders over rent if you anchor near us,” barked much time to think about it. If we the side in case we bumped. We Drew from his dinghy. “Yikes,” I did not make it inside, we would passed the boat to port so our star- thought. “The fun never stops in have to bypass Aitutaki or heave board hull was slightly outside the Aitutaki!” to until the next morning. Aitutaki is channel, but still over sand. The Arriving in a well protected simply too beautiful to pass up, and depth meter told me that the star- anchorage after a multi-day ocean the thought of heaving to in such board hull passed through 3.5 feet passage is always satisfying, and lumpy seas was unappealing, so of water, which is exactly what we the typical Pacific atoll, with its near we decided to take a shot at the draw, so I figured the weight of the 360-degree enclosed reef lagoons, pass. kids, my wife and all the fenders on offers an especially welcoming Fortunately, we were able to the port side provided just enough refuge. Once through the break time our arrival with a slack high lift to help us clear the shallows. in the reef, there are usually plen- tide, a goal for all entrances to the I guess cats can heel when you tiful anchorages and deep water Pacific atolls. The wind was down need them to! channels available for navigation for the evening, so we had enough As we squeaked by, I quickly throughout the lagoon. www.MultihullsQuarterly.com 15
  • 5. gonecruising us angled into the current and off the bottom. After a lifetime of sailing and more than 20,000 miles of cruis- ing, this ranks as one of the most interesting and beau- tiful anchorages we have ever reached. After Drew and his dinghy helped us set the stern anchor, he and Marge joined us on board Zen for a well deserved home cooked meal on the back deck while the sun faded over the horizon. THE FIRST BOAT—EVER The next morning, we awoke to the splash and roll caused by local fishing boats making their way out of the channel. This was not a big deal, but leveraging the benefits of cruising on a cat, we decided to take advantage of our shallow draft and venture a bit fur- ther off the beaten track to a quieter spot. What’s the first thing you do when you need to navigate a tight anchorage fraught with surface-breaking bombies Aitutaki is a bit different. Once the north of the town quay that is and strong currents? You send your you negotiate the somewhat hair- completely protected from the cur- kid up the mast, of course! raising half mile channel, you are rent and has clearer water, but only After years of cruising, our kids confronted with three small anchor- carries about four feet of depth at have graduated from helpless ing options. The first is to anchor in a low tide. passengers to active crew mem- small offshoot of the main channel, When we arrived, there were bers, willing and excited to take picking a sandy hole for the anchor three boats in the channel anchor- on challenging tasks that directly between numerous bombies (coral age, one in the main harbor and impact our cruising lifestyle. heads), while angling the bows none in the pond north of the Quay. Perched on the spreaders with appropriately into the 2 to 4 knot The sun was setting, so we decided their youthful, eagle-like eyesight, constant outgoing current with a to pick the closest anchorage with our kids have proven far more stern hook. The second option is to the most local knowledge. Tomor- valuable than the charts of these glide into the main harbor, anchor row we could drop the dink and Pacific atoll anchorages, most of the bows in 5 to 7 feet of murky investigate the other spots for our- which have not been updated water and tie a stern line to a tree selves. We quickly found a sandy since the seafaring captains of on shore to stay clear of the com- slot between the bombies in the the 1700s first surveyed them. mercial quay. Finally, there is a little channel anchorage and dropped “Hey Dad, there’s a little chan- pond opposite the main harbor to a bow and stern anchor to keep nel that leads into that pond just 16 Multihulls Quarterly • Volume 2, Issue 2
  • 6. beyond the town quay,” our daugh- ter Cammi called from the spread- ers. “All we need to do is turn left at the bombie off our bow, keep that big reef on our starboard and stay to the left side of the entrance of the pond, and we’ll be able to anchor among some small coral heads in nice white sand.” Try to get that kind of intel from your chart plotter. It turned out to be a pretty easy entrance, and once inside we found enough room for at least two boats to anchor in five to six feet of sandy bottom. After we anchored in the pond, we headed ashore to start exploring. As we stepped off the dinghy, we were greeted by the customs folks and told that we were the first cruising boat to anchor in this spot. “The first boat this year,” I asked? “No. The first boat ever”. I gave them a bit of a con- cerned look and they quickly of the Cook Islanders. We sent word that affectionately became known responded:”Don’t worry. It’s a great back to the cruising fleet headed as Zen’s Den. If you are headed anchorage and we don’t know past the Cooks on their way to across the Pacific, don’t miss Aitut- why more people don’t use it!” Tonga and told them about the aki. And if you are on a cat, we We spent two exceptional weeks challenging entrance, incredible hope you find Zen’s Den as wel- enjoying the incredible hospitality beauty, and of course, the pond coming as we did. www.MultihullsQuarterly.com 17