20 September 2016 (-10 on UTC)
Dear Friends and Family,
We spent three days and nights in Suwarrow and overall it was quite interesting. One of the big attractions for the cruising crowd is to walk in the steps of the late Tom Neale. Neale was a Kiwi ex-pat who had moved to French Polynesia and then Rarotonga, the Capital of the Cook Islands.
The Cooks are a group of 15 islands spread out over an area roughly larger than 1/2 the size of Australia or the USA. Their total population is about 16,000 of which most are on Rarotonga and one or two other islands. Several are either very lightly inhabited (less than a hundred people) or like Suwarrow, uninhabited.
In the 1940\’s a Canadian ex-pat whose last name was Frisbie grew copra on Suwarrow and wrote a book on his adventures there. I must try and find a copy. It was Frisbie who in a chance encounter in Rarotonga met Tom Neale and inspired him to try and make a go of living on Suwarrow. Neale first was able to live in Suwarrow for just under 2 years when he had a most unusual episode where his back went out so badly, he had to leave. He was very fortunate that one of the (then), very rare sailboats ventured by and helped rehabilitate him before he was taken off the island a few months later. It took him six years to return.
The second time he made it 36 months alone but due to his age and health, he felt it was time to go back to Rarotonga despite his mixed feelings on departing. He frankly feared a lonely death at Suwarrow and (not in the book), he did die of stomach cancer about 14 years after he departed.
There is a statue to his memory on the island placed by his estranged family and his main house (really a room) still remains as well as his kitchen located next to the house. There is now a 2 story wood built house, open air on the ground floor, made for the Park Rangers in 2001.
The two Rangers were father and son. Harry and Pi. Harry has been there six years, this was his son\’s first stint on the island. Pi is a strapping young chap who is into guitar and fishing. The two mega yachts that arrived (all with full crew and no guests), also had several musicians and a beach jam session took place at the BBQ. They were actually quite good!
The unfortunate thing for we far flung sailors is that in essence civilization\’s hand has reached out to Suwarrow. Despite the fact that it\’s uninhabited 6 months of the year, during the cruising (non cyclone season) from May to November, no one is allowed on any of the other motus (small islands). The official reason is that they are bird sanctuaries and they don\’t want any invasive species or rats re-introduced which they have eradicated. It means of course, we stay at only the main \”Anchorage Island\” and have limited movement. They also do not allow Scuba diving. You can take your dinghy and anchor anywhere, but not your main vessel. There is a manta ray cleaning station 200 meters out of the anchorage with a buoy to tie your dinghy too which several of the cruisers enjoyed and we missed the one day trip with the Rangers to \”Perfect Reef\”, an area inside the lagoon about 4 miles from Anchorage Island that has some of the best snorkeling inside the reef. The others who did go, said it was worth the ride. Speaking of others, we were the 5 th boat when we arrived, the others all being smaller monohulls. Then an Amel 54 arrived followed by a 100 foot sailboat and then a 143 foot sailboat! These \”mega yachts\” were on delivery, both to eventually arrive in New Zealand. A crew of 6 aboard the 100 footer and 8 aboard the 143 footer. A good time was had by all.
Despite the fact that we have little wind, we\’ve decided to move on to try and enter Rose Atoll. Rose is a part of American Samoa and has only two motu\’s inside the reef and about 1.5 miles at it\’s longest. The motu\’s are quite small. We\’ve heard good reports second hand from people who have visited here and it is more or less right on our way to Pago Pago, American Samoa.
Winds are currently from the NE at 11 knots, directly behind us and as such, we\’re motoring. Predictions are for the wind to swing a bit north and drop to 7 knots by tomorrow, so this maybe a 40 hour motor boat ride? At least when we get to Rose, conditions should be ideal. The inner lagoon is plenty deep and the entry is marked at 31 feet or just less than 10 meters.
That\’s all for now, we will of course post a photo blog on Suwarrow and Rose at our next internet stop.
In the meanwhile look for our Ship\’s Mini Blog\’s and Position Reports.
Scott and Nikki