THE COOK ISLANDS - SUVAROV (SUWARROW)  

July 28  to August 7/04

Cooks.jpg (16312 bytes)Trade Wind Sailing

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 showers.



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We kept in constant communication with Emerald, Endless and Equanimity, all remaining in relatively close proximity to each other, despite the differences in boat sizes and designs. 









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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 specimen. 

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.

Suvarov 001_edited-1.jpg (13042 bytes) SUVAROV  (SUWARROW)

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 evening.

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 sign.

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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  granSuvarov 049.jpg (14579 bytes)dson, 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.


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 friends too.

After supper Papa John played his guitar to entertain us all.

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Fish & Seafood smorg
with all the trimmings

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Check out the size of these crab

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A magnificent feast with lots of variety

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Papa John cracks crab

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The shells are really hard

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Marv, Gord, Roger, Rick

Suvarov 010.jpg (20119 bytes)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)

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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

Suvarov 002.jpg (18343 bytes)Late 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 his hand.

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!

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Roger, Marv, Corby, Donna, Nancy

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Papa John & Baker entertain us

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Bird Island

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)

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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.


PHOTOS OF THE COOK ISLANDS                                                     NEXT>>>>WESTERN SAMOA