Friday, September 9, 2011

Saying Farewell to Suwarrow

We left Suwarrow finally yesterday morning, after nearly 3 weeks of hanging out.

After the stormy weather, we were blessed with 10 days of beautiful stable sunny conditions.

We had a great time there hanging out with James and John, the Rangers. We snorkeled with Manta Rays, we took a reef walk out to a motu with nesting birds, we learned how to open coconuts the Cook Islands way. We watched the shark feeding several times. We explored some dive spots, and made one very very nice dive.

Suwarrow is a special place. It is so remote that only sailors can visit it--made famous by Tom Neale who came there to live, to experience fending for himself alone on an island. He wrote a book about his experiences called 'An Island to Oneself'. The Rangers are deposited on the island in April with a 6 month supply of basic provisions. They augment their provisions by fishing, by collecting coconuts, growing their own vegetables, and by socializing with the cruisers.

Just sitting in the anchorage on a sunny day is a fantastic experience--the vivid green of the coconuts on the island, the beautiful beach, the turquoise water, the frothy white surf on the reef, the curious black-tip sharks that hang about the boat. It is hard for a picture to convey how nice it was, but Dave got a couple of really good pics, which we will share when we have time and internet.

In Suwarrow we had 'anchorage sharks' the way there are 'anchorage barracudas' in Florida and the Bahamas. It was a little startling to go up on deck and see 2-3 sharks hanging about. It is really intimidating to newcomers to the anchorage, but I snorkeled all over the anchorage area with no problems. These little (3-4') guys are just looking for handouts--which the Rangers have forbidden. They request that all garbage come ashore and go onto the compost pile, and any fish cleaning be done at their station. They then take the fish carcasses and throw them to the sharks on the reef on the other side of the island. Though Charlie's Charts talks about 'aggressive sharks in the anchorage', we have found them to be curious, not aggressive, and have heard of no incident between sharks and cruisers.

With Graham and Avril on Dream Away, we took the dinghies one day up to the Seven Islands area for a snorkel. We found two great snorkel spots (following John on Sete Mares' guidance). It was a bit of a bash in the dinghies, even in moderate winds. Would have been nicer to take a big boat up there, towing the dinghies, the way we did in Mopelia. But the Rangers forbid anchoring anywhere but behind 'Anchorage Island'.

We spent a couple of days there where there were only 2 boats in the anchorage... this was after the 'population' peaked in early August at 28 boats. But a few days later, after the next weather window opened up in Bora Bora, about 8 boats dribbled in over 2-3 days. A whole new group of friends!!

In the lull between groups, we had a chance to sit and talk with James quite a bit. He's a unique individual. In spite of his pot-belly, topknot, tattoes, and toothless smile, he is a very intelligent guy, and very committed to environmental protection of Suwarrow and the Cook Islands. Dave spent quite some time trying to help him with the antenna to his donated VHF--so he could hear incoming boats more than a mile out (without success, unfortunately).

We had one last Sundowners on the Beach to welcome the new boats, and then on the final night, a very nice potluck.

We are now 24 hours into our trip west toward American Samoa and having another beautiful downwind sail.
Sherry & Dave
On our way from French Polynesia toward Tonga

At 9/8/2011 6:21 PM (utc) our position was 13°38.17'S 165°08.55'W

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