Suwarrow-the passage there, the stay, and the decision to leave to American Samoa

Suwarrow atoll is in the Cook Islands and is known for being the home of author Tom Neale, who wrote the book/autobiography “An Island to Oneself” back in 1977, who lived on this atoll for over 20 years.

Tom Neale’s memorial. He is buried there but we don;t know where. I visited his “home” which was a 2 room structure. I visited it at night so no photos but cool to see where he lived. I have yet to read the book but it is on the list.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Neale

Our passage to Suwarrow was about 575 miles….a 5 day passage, the longest passage since our crossing of the Pacific ocean to French Polynesia.  It was hard to get use to the long night watches and the chores of living while moving on the open sea.  We left Mopelia with SV Terrapin and SV Me Too and were able to get a few photos of them sailing out of the pass.

SV Terrapin (Captain Phil, Amiee, daughters Jessica and Emma) flying jib and jigger. They are sailing a Dufour 45 ketch rig which we were pleased to have a fellow rig (we have been sailing with sloop rigs) like ours to measure our speed and overall sailing styles.
SV Me Too (Captain Clay, Jill and daughter Briley) with full sails up on their Catalina 42, sloop rig. They always sail faster than us….we take our name seriously…SLOW Flight!

Mostly we had calm seas, which for sailing sucks!!!!!  We actually motored over 50 hours to arrive and enter the pass before the 25 knots forecasted to come and to arrive during daylight hours and slack tide. BUT….we caught our first dorado, aka Mahi Mahi (yummm)!

The open Pacific ocean…looks like glass….We have seen this only 1 other time on our way to Mexico from California. It’s hard to believe a vast ocean can look like this!
FINALLY!!!!! We caught our first Dorado (aka Mahi Mahi) maybe 20 pounds…it is the best eating fish ever…..The color of the fish changes from a bright blue and green to this yellow when the fish is dying. This was a female as it’s head lacks the blunt and flat forehead males have. We have a rule…if we catch a fish, we pull the pole until we eat what we catch.

As all boats sail at different speeds and have different fuel capacities….our friends on SV Me Too arrived at the pass in Suwarrow at 11pm!  Trevor and I took our laptop and GPS puck to help them through the pass since you could not see the reef at that hour.  We took our dinghy and tied to their boat and boarded them with our GPS and got them safely anchored in a very small anchorage surrounded by reefs.  30 minutes later the winds picked up to 20 knots and we all were thankful to get them safely anchored!

SV Terrapin arrived the next morning…unfortunately the 25 knots of wind was well upon the area and it brought squalls.  We tried to give them waypoints but I gave it to them in a different format for their navigation unit.  We met them in the dinghy to help them into the anchorage since the squalls hindered good light to see the reefs.  Everyone safe..we all took naps!!!!

We checked in with the rangers (Katu and Harry).  They boarded us, filled out some paperwork, shared some sodas and sprayed our boat.  We paid them $50 usd as a fee to visit the national park.  Suwarrow is not technically a port of entry for the Cook Islands but they allow boats to stop.  You can see Suwarrow is between Northern and Southern Cook Islands and Suwarrow was in line with American Samoa, our next stop.  So it made sense to stop here.

 

The weather got crazy as predicted…. (snubbers snapping, re-anchoring, free diving to release anchor chain that had wrapped around coral heads that made bows of the boats get submerged)

SV Sweet Pea leaving the anchorage after 25 knots of wind hit all of us. You can see their bow submerged in the fetch. We were exposed to SE winds and the fetch in the anchorage, despite the coral; reefs were like 5-6 feet. 2 boats couldn’t even get their outboard motors on their dinghy because it was too rough. It was CRAZY!!!!
Trevor and I slept in the cockpit, rain and all, just to make sure if our anchor dragged we could be ready to move so we wouldn’t hit anyone or a reef.

We did manage to get onto land for 2 potlucks with 6 other boats and the rangers.  Let’s just saw everyone showed up soaked from the dinghy ride but our spirits were high to be on land that was not pitching and rolling all the time.

Jessica’s 14th birthday!!! We had cake and candles : )
These guys were everywhere..their tracks everywhere…I really wanted to take one home…but instead we just had hermit crab races!
View from the beach…I believe SV Sky Blue Eyes (Karl and Julie) in the background
The hammock
I loved this clock…anyone care to join me?
This signage gives us a bit of perspective….
Katu (the ranger) cooking up the 30 pound Mahi Mahi Phil (Sv Terrapin) caught on the way to Suwarrow!
The gang: SV Me Too, SV Terrapin, SV Sweet Pea, SV Sky Blue Eyes, SV Sandy Cheeks (AUS), SV Stella Polaris (Norway), and SV Slow Flight

Checking out-not much time spent here missed out on swimming with mantas and sharks, but weather requires us to keep moving before another system hits.  We decided to travel into the 20-25 knot winds with 2-3 meter seas in hopes to arrive in Pago Pago before the next, and worse, system is upon us.  Pago Pago is a natural harbor where at Suwarrow, we are exposed to seas and winds and surrounded by coral.  We were not comfortable with putting that much chaffe/wear and tear on our gear…might as well be sailing in it!

Next- Pago Pago, American Samoa – a slice of America in the middle of the pacific Ocean.

2 comments

  1. Very well written. It gives a good description of the conditions. I loved in particular the camaraderie among the sailors. So nice that you all watch over the safety of the whole group.

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