THE COOK ISLANDS - SUVAROV (SUWARROW) |
July 28 to August 7/04
We had the most amazing passage to the
Suvarov, the island in the Northern Cooks we chose to visit. The seas
were relatively flat with a long low swell. The winds were light to
moderate making it ideal to run under spinnaker for 4 days straight.
It was the kind of sailing that we had been
dreaming of since we left on this voyage almost a year ago. We felt so
lucky to finally experience perfect sailing, although we paid our dues.
We were able to sleep and cook without too much difficulty at all. The
days were hot and sunny and the night sky was bursting with meteor
Sunny Skies and Sunsets
We kept in constant communication with Emerald,
and Equanimity, all remaining in relatively close
proximity to each other, despite the differences in boat sizes and
We had a friendly contest amongst us that the one who caught the
smallest fish had to supply the beer. We were sure we had it in the
bag when we landed this magnificent Mahi Mahi (Dorado), measuring 51
inches long! We
worked very hard getting him on board as he put us a real fight on
the hand line.
It is quite spectacular to watch the kaleidoscope of colours that
are exhibited as the Mahi gets exited and dies, ranging from the
display of cobalt spots on an indigo back that becomes an iridescent
emerald, then their sides turn golden with fluorescent blue spots
and their fins turn azure. Their final flash through their wardrobe
of colours pales to a spotted milky white.
Our gloating was short lived, however. Emerald not
only caught a respectable Wahoo (45"), but reeled in a Mahi Mahi,
breaking the record with his 51 1/2 inch catch! Later,
Equanimity caught a Marlin, luckily a baby 35 pound
Before it was all said and done, we also caught a Bonito that we
released, another Bonito that we kept, and another Mahi Mahi,
smaller but just as tasty.
Suwarrow is a fairly large atoll, about 11 miles across. A few small
islands are scattered around the northern part of the reef, the
largest being Anchorage Island, where we saw 8 other boats gathered
in the cozy anchorage. The remoteness and serenity of the area had
an amazing impact as we realized that we were 500 miles away from
anything. We were just dropping the hook when a dinghy pulled up to
our stern to let us know that there was a BBQ planned for that
Suwarrow Yacht Club
August 12, 2004
After settling in, we dinghied ashore for the potluck supper which
was to take place at the Suwarrow Yacht Club, a facility built by
cruisers years ago. There was a rough concrete wharf giving us shore
access to a tiny island with a lovely sandy beach and big welcoming
Suwarrow is a Nature Reserve and has a unique figure in its past, for it
was here that Tom Neal, author of An Island to Oneself,
lived as a hermit for periods totaling 16 years from 1952 until his
death in 1978. Pictured is a monument in his honour
We were delighted to meet the infamous caretaker,
Papa John, who lived with
his 15 year old
grandson, Peter, and
Peter's uncle, Baker. Total population: 3. We discovered that they
remained on the island for 8 months of the year living off the land.
There were no supply boats and no facilities. So it absolutely
amazed us that he could put on a feast for 20 people with the
rewards of a day's hunting excursion.
COCONUT CRAB FEAST
We all enjoyed a terrific feast of local food including fresh tuna,
clams, coconut pancakes, Poisson cru, and the hugest coconut crab I
have ever seen gathered and prepared by Papa John, all accompanied
with potluck dishes compliments of the cruisers. Papa John said
grace and we all dug in, using a hammer to crack the tough crab
shells. Cruisers attended from Sweden, France, Spain, United States
and Canada so it was fun meeting new people and visiting with old
After supper Papa John played his guitar to entertain us all.
Fish & Seafood smorg
with all the trimmings
Check out the size of these crab
A magnificent feast with lots of variety
Papa John cracks crab
The shells are really hard
Marv, Gord, Roger, Rick
Next morning we decided to explore the island.
We found Baker's house (pictured left). His beach hut seemed very basic
but provided all his needs for making brooms (between naps).
We had brought Papa John some coffee and fish hooks and he showed us how
to easily get into those tough coconuts, an art that we haven't
been able to master. (pictured right)
One evening, we got together on Sorona
for a great BBQ of pork and fish. It was fun to meet Peter and Tanya
and their 2 sons. We visited, along with Endless til
the wee hours of the morning.
The following day, Rick (Emerald) treated Gord to a
dive around the reef in the pass. Since Gord hadn't dove in 15
years, he was a little apprehensive. But he returned to the boat all
smiles, very excited about the adventure, having had a great time. I
know it will now become impossible to keep him out of the water
whenever he gets the chance to dive again. It's too bad we don't
have any dive equipment on board.
I had been resisting the idea of snorkeling because of the abundance
of aggressive sharks in the area. Not only the black tip, white tip
and greys, but even lemon sharks were seen swimming around the
boats. Even as you walked along the shore, there was always the
presence of small sharks just feet away in the shallow waters. I
guess because of the warm water temps (84 degrees F) the sharks are
far more active than usual. It was fun though to watch them hunt
down the colorful parrot fish that were in abundance everywhere.
August 15, 2004
Night Lobster Hunt
After as lazy day on the boat, we decided to try our hand at lobster
(aka crayfish) hunting. We were told by Peter that to do this we had to
venture out to the reef after dark with flashlights.
Since it was a new moon, it seemed like an opportune time to undertake
our hunting and gathering skills. A number of us took their dinghies as
close to the reef as we could get, which entailed wading through a shelf
of 8 inch water with dinghies in tow. The dinghies anchored, we were
able to walk the length of the reef where the Pacific Ocean raged into
the atoll. Apparently the lobsters come up from the depths beyond the
reef at night in search of food.
Donna spotted a lobster first and Gord rushed over, reminisce of King
Neptune with his spear, made from a BBQ fork duct-taped to the boat
hook. He eventually stepped on the creature, then scooped him up with
Despite our searching, we failed in our attempts to locate any more
lobster, although Donna scored another one, given to her by Baker. With
the threat of rain around midnight, we decided to head back to the
boats. Picking our way through the darkness with a bright spotlight, we
must have surprised a pair of barracudas. One jumped high in the air at
our bow but the other one flew up and landed right in the dinghy, inches
from me, and then bounced off the tube back into the water. These things
were about 4 1/2 feet long and about 35 pounds so I let out a scream.
August 16, 2004
Papa John put on another great coconut crab feast, complete with Dog
Tooth Tuna and clams. A few more boats had arrived and there
was now 11 cruising boats in the anchorage, many of which we were
meeting for the first time. Rick brought some instruments
(harmonica, drum) and he and Becky accompanied Papa John on guitar
and Baker on pail!
Roger, Marv, Corby, Donna, Nancy
Papa John & Baker entertain us
We took a journey to the neighbouring motu called Bird Island, which
is a breeding ground for frigate, terns, tropic birds and boobies,
much reminisce of Isla Isabella in Mexico. It is here that Papa John
sometimes takes cruisers for a feast of eggs and baby frigates (glad
we missed out on that!).
We explored the island and the surrounding reef which connected to
Bush Islands and Turtle Island, where Papa John catches
the coconut crabs. The tidal pools proves interesting, containing
sea life, shells and eels. One pool supported a nursery of sea
cucumbers (pictured below).
When we returned to our dingy, we realized our miscalculation of the
tide direction...we were high and dry. The dinghy, with motor is
really heavy when you have to carry it over sharp coral to find
water deep enough to get it floating again! (picture below)
August 20, 2004
We enjoyed the last sunset while having Happy
Hour on Apsara with Nancy & Scott. It was hard to
leave such a remote, idyllic paradise where you could easily loose track
of time altogether. It will always be fondly remembered as one of the
highlights of the South Pacific!
So Ascension weighed anchor, along with Endless
and set our course for a 4 day passage to
Apia, Western Samoa.