Friday, May 20, 2011

A bit about Suwarrow

Since we have some time on our hands, we'll provide a quick summary of this
place - Suwarrow. This is a small atoll in the Northern Group of the Cook
Islands. There is no way to get here other than private yacht or an
occasional supply ship - I'm guessing two times per year, perhaps.
Since 1900, the Cooks have been a territory of New Zealand, although they
now have their own inter-island government with an elected lower house of
representatives, and an advisory upper house, consisting of the island
chiefs. The economy in the islands is fragile, depending on copra (dried
coconut), pearls and tourism. The shortfall is managed with foreign aid,
mostly from NZ, and considerable amounts of money sent home by family
members working abroad. Foreign policy and defence continue to be handled by

The atoll is made up of a ring of coral, upon which there are several small
islets. The largest, Anchorage Island, is adjacent to the pass, and we have
anchored in the lee of this island. All the islands are very low, and as
with many atolls in the South Pacific, our Lonely Planet guide suggests that
their greatest threat is global warming. And we can see why. Should the sea
level rise even a small amount, these atolls will be completely awash.
Historically, these islands were inhabited by allied (NZ) coast-watchers
during WWII and their concrete building is still here. But it is Tom Neale,
who lived here as a hermit for extended periods during 50s to 70s that have
made this atoll well-known. His book, "An Island to Oneself" is a South Seas

The atoll is now a Nature Reserve and UNESCO site. During the winter months
(not cyclone season), there are caretakers living here, and in recent years,
they have a fabulous reputation among yachties. The caretakers have been
known to befriend cruisers, host potluck dinners on the beach, providing
lagoon 'tours' and fishing excursions! We had hoped that they would be here
when we arrived, but we are a bit too early.

Beside Tom's house, there is now a newer wooden structure in place, that
seems to serve as the caretaker's house and also as a gathering place.
Yachties have christened it with their colors, and we can see the flags of
many of our friends flying from the rafters, including Blue Moon, Totem, IO,
Mojombo and others. We will add our CRYC flag to those that have come before

You can check it out on google earth...our position is:
13° 14.94S
163° 06.52W

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

And then there was one...

Renova, alone in the anchorage

After a fun-filled couple of days, all of our anchorage companions have now left us. Australia 31 and Secret Agent Man left yesterday, and this morning the Domo Zita and the Calypso, the Italian boat, have also left.

We are now the solitary boat here. The winds have filled in, so we imagine that all of them will have a great
sail to Samoa. Good winds also mean that we could have more boats arriving, who have left from French Poly, including perhaps our friends on La Familia.

Given the number of sharks around here, we look forward to swimming and fishing with friends around, so that we don't have to swim alone!

We've got a few little jobs to do while we're here. The GRIB files that we rely on for our wind forecasts are notoriously less accurate as we move West. So I'm now sorting out the weather fax files that we can receive via our HF (high frequency) radio. And since our little nav computer is making more and more odd noises, I'm setting up our big computer to be ready as a full backup nav system. And organizing our paper charts for the months ahead. And...we are keeping lists of things we need from home, since Dom has been considering another visit while we are in Samoa! Of course, all of this activity is kept at bay by a healthy amount of time spent in the water and enjoying all the new books that I have been accumulating. After having a complete lack of quality reading material, I've started to demonstrate hoarding tendancies...whenever an interesting book becomes available, I can't help but grab it up, even though we are bursting at the seams with books!

My favorite place to curl up with a good book

As always, we appreciate your news. We have heard of the Canucks success in the playoffs. We'll have to get our our Canucks flag!!

At dusk

Monday, May 16, 2011

Red-Footed Boobies!

A Red-Footed Boobie
This title is not solely an attempt to increase blog hits, but I suppose it never hurts!!

Bernie and Yvonne are avid and knowledgeable birders, and they had offered to take me out this morning to an island on the far side of the atoll to explore some lively bird areas. What a treat. This worked out well for John and Eric, as they wanted to do some fishing in the same area, and they were much more comfortable with another dinghy in the area, in case of outboard trouble.

(An aside - our outboard has been giving us trouble lately. Again. Strange knocking sounds this time. We expect it is just a matter of time. But...Eric lost his prop here a couple weeks ago, so now we're sharing - his inflatable dinghy with our outboard!! Hurrah!)

We had a fabulous time. We saw lots of Frigatebirds - both Lesser and Greater, Red-footed and Brown Boobies, all of which were nesting in the trees not far from head height! We also had the treat of seeing Red-tailed Tropic Birds nesting on the ground. I'm still working on sorting out the Shearwaters and Storm-petrels, but there certainly were hundreds, if not thousands, flying around us.
Bernie and Yvonne

Eric and John had success fishing, and caught three nice fish, and great stories of a too-eager shark which chomped down on John's fin, in his attempt to claim his rightful portion of the fish. After birding, Bernie, Yvonne and I also explored some of the gorgeous coral, which was the most colourful and healthy since the Tuamotus. We also saw lots of sharks, most were black-tipped reef sharks. Quite harmless. But after Bernie speared a nice fish, we were also investigated by a Lemon Shark. Not the harmless variety. I nearly choked in my snorkel as I beat my fin in its face, and flung myself towards the dinghy. Afterwards, I felt quite selfish (not to mention cowardly) for jumping in so quickly, without regard for Bernie and Yvonne! But as seasoned cruisers, they knew it wasn't friendly, but weren't nearly as paniced as I was!!

Tonight, we're off to the beach for another round of coconut crabs. Dinner will be some concoction of the various fish we caught today - Parrotfish, Jackfish, and Yellowlip Emperor (I think).
A Jack, A Yellow-lip Emperor and a Coral Trout

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Arrival in Suwarrow, Cook Islands

We've arrived in Suwarrow!! Without any wind, we decided to run the motor for 8 hours overnight, putting us just 20 milles from Suwarrow atoll at day break. How wonderful to be so close to land again! At 9 am, the radio sparkled to life, and we heard Bernie's familiar voice asking us how far away we were. At noon, as we approached the pass, we were thrilled when Bernie and Yvonne came out in their dinghy to greet us and guide us in.

Bernie and Yvonne dinghy out to the pass to meet us at Suwarrow
We felt truly welcome, as Eric was running down the beach alongside us snapping pictures of our entrance. Both boats have put off their departures, in order to wait for us to arrive. We were absolutely thrilled to see them!

As soon as we dropped the hook, everyone clammored aboard Renova for welcoming cocktails. What a treat it was to share stories of the past weeks' crazy weather, and hear of the great fishing and birding they've been enjoying. They have already planned a beachside feast of coconut crabs for the evening, followed by fish soup for dinner aboard Australia 31. What a treat after a long passage!!

An afternoon picnic of coconut crab and cocktails

Without much delay, John and Eric were in the water with their spearguns, and I was getting the boat ready to be home again. Moving all our gear from the v-berth up front back to its usual hiding places, and setting up the settees to be couches again, instead of our sea berths. After only a couple hours, we knew we would like it here!

Interestingly, Eric has now been here almost a month, and has seen very few other yachts. 3 other boats in that whole time, besides us and Australia 31.

And...later in the afternoon, two other boats made their way into the pass. So here we are - 5 boats in total. Canada, USA, Australia, Italy and France. Wonderful. The Italians weren't up to a shared dinner last night, but the single-handed french sailor, Gigi, joined us. He didn't speak much english, but his french was good. Eric and I have some french (Eric more than me), but Bernie, Yvonne and John didn't speak french. But, Bernie and Yvonne had some spanish, and Gigi had some portugese, so we were a melting pot of languages throughout the evening, enjoying a wonderful fish stew!

Already, it's been a fabulous landfall. And there are more stories to come! We'll save that for a future post. But for now, know that we've arrived safely!

Our position is:
13° 14.94S
163° 06.52W

For those of you interested, here are a few stats:
Total distance: 580 nm (nautical miles - I know, it's been a while)
Distance actually travelled: 602 nm
Time: 121 hours - just over 5 days
Average Speed: 5 knots
Motored: 13 hours
Boats seen: 0
Fish caught: 0