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Don & Deb's Big Adventure on Buena Vista
On our way to the South Pacific and beyond...
Sevin Islands In A Tinny
08/16/2012, Suwarrow Atoll, Northern Cook Islands

Ants (the park ranger) drove the tinny (a metal boat like a panga in Mexico) and nine of us climbed aboard for the ride to Sevin Islands. It's a lovely motu area on the far east side of the Suwarrow lagoon. We found incredible snorkeling, not a huge number of fish but great coral and the cleanest clearest water you can imagine. Back onshore the hunt for coconut crabs kept the men's attention. The crabs are a beautiful blue and they are very tough creatures, tough as in keep your fingers away from their pinchers or you'll lose one. Craig on 'Gato Go' had to wrestle with one that he was holding. It kept attaching itself with various claws to Craig's t-shirt. I have it on video and it's quite funny. After capturing and subdueing 6-8 crabs we took off in the tinny and on the way back we stopped at another atoll known for it's nesting birds. Frigates and baby frigates, terns and lots of others. We stopped near the South Reef by the pass for a final snorkel and then returned to Anchorage Island. That night we had a potluck on the beach and ate as much coconut crab as we wanted...so yummy.

Aren't They Cute!
08/11/2012, Suwarrow Atoll, Northern Cook Islands

I haven't seen a really really big shark close up yet so I still think most of them are cute. I'll let you know when that changes.

Don & Deb Having A Nice Day
08/10/2012, Suwarrow Atoll, Northern Cook Islands

After a nice walk on the reef we're feeling good.

The Shark Whisperer
08/10/2012, Suwarrow Atoll, Northern Cook Islands

Harry is the Park Ranger and Ants (short for Anthony in kiwi-speak?) is his assistant. We say hello to both of them as we're poking around the place. A few other cruisers are there filling out the forms necessary for checking out. Ants grabs a bucket that appears to be full of fish parts and other food scraps. He gestures for all of us to follow him and we do. He leads us along a different path away from the ranger's building through the bush to the other side of the island. It is a very small island and in no time we are standing at water's edge looking out at the pass that we all entered to get to the inside of the atoll. There is a sign that says, "No Swimming - Sharks". It is a beautiful and wild place, water rushing and breaking waves off in distance. The water in front of us is pretty shallow and Ants steps out into it and up onto a rock. He makes sure we all have cameras ready and he's then he yells out HEY! And in come maybe a dozen sharks, rushing in fast, conditioned to come at the sound of his voice. Ants chucks in the food from the bucket and a short but furious feeding frenzy takes place. There's mostly black tip and white tip reef sharks but also a few larger ones lurking around in the back. It's a pretty impressive sight and we all stand there staring well after the event is over. We've only just scratched the service of the place and all we can say is...WOW...We love it here. What's Next?

Discovering A Gem
08/10/2012, Suwarrow Atoll, Northern Cook Islands

Don's had a sore throat and cough for several days now. And with the weather being a bit blustery and rainy, we've been sticking close to the boat. Sitting on Buena Vista and looking at our new surroundings, it's a bit boring at a glance. From a distance, Anchorage Island is full of coconut palms, pandamus trees and other tropical growth. To the east of Anchorage Island you can see the fringing reef, especially at low tide and the breaking waves hitting the outside of the reef. Off in the distance you can see several other motus with the same typical growth. Look down, there's the occasional black tip reef shark cruising by, those cute little ones. But mostly it's just water, vast areas of the bluest water ever. In the afternoon the clouds moved away and the sun came out. We decided to take the dinghy in and have a look around. We pulled up next to the old ruined pier. It's super shallow there so when you approach you jump in the water and walk the dinghy in so your prop doesn't get chewed up. As you walk up the pier you can see the sign welcoming you to Suwarrow National Park. Immediately you get the feeling that this is a very pleasant place. Relaxed. Mellow. There's one of those pointer signs that shows you how far to London, Sydney, Auckland, etc. There's a wooden swing hanging from a tree. There's several hammocks hung here and there. Don comments that one has his name on it. We follow a very cool path into the bush, a tunnel sort of path that leads you towards the center of this small island. Once inside, the area opens up and reveals the old building where Tom Neale lived (the kiwi who lived here alone on and off for seventeen years) and also the much newer 'Suwarrow Yacht Club' building (Park Ranger's quarters and workplace). It's two stories high, open air on the bottom floor, with a big table in the middle and flags and burgees from previous boats who have visited here in the past. Immediately I spot Mytic's burgee, and there's Rutea's and our good friend's 'Blue Moon' have left a piece of themselves here too. There's a large Aussie flag signed by Ib and Yadranka on Aeolus. All friends from last year that I try to keep in contact with via email. I feel so happy to see their offerings but also a twinge of sadness hits me too. We were supposed to be here last year with them...of course that's an old story now. And we're here with a whole new group of friends and soon to be friends.

Getting Comfortable
08/09/2012, Suwarrow Atoll, Northern Cook Islands

Yesterday we anchored a bit too close to the reef behind us and too far away from the protection of Anchorage Island. When the prevailing SE winds blow, it gets really bumpy out there. You have to try to get in behind the island even though we've heard it's full of coral bommies. 'Chapter Two' was over there and was getting ready to leave so we thought we'd snag their spot. We also had been listened to the morning net and heard our new friends on 'Morning Cloud' had lost their engine and were sailing into Suwarrow for a few days to fix a leak. Don told Selwyn that he'd be available to help them anchor if he needed it. So we watched 'Chapter Two' leave and waited for 'Morning Cloud' to sail in. Within an hour there they were in the distance sailing in through the pass. To our great surprise, without the help of a motor, they sailed between the boats around us and the reef in front of us. They turned into the wind directly in front of Buena Vista, and all at once dropped their sail and dropped their anchor. As the anchor set, the boat slid backwards toward us and there it stopped - maybe 100 feet in front of Buena Vista and right on top of our anchor. I guess we're not moving to ''Chapter Two's spot today! Just to be clear though, Selwyn and JoAnn on 'Morning Cloud' have been cruising for six years and once they get to New Zealand they will have completed their circumnavigation. In other words, they are incredible sailors. We went to their boat and said Hi, had some coffee and welcomed them to Suwarrow. They apologized for getting so close and prepared to put a second anchor out. Once the second anchor was in place they winched themselves forward so that we could get out from under them. With a bit of teamwork and with Selwyn in the water with snorkel and mask, Selwyn yelled out directions to unwind our chain from the bommies below as Don guided me forward. Closer and closer we came, Buena Vista's bow approaching Morning Cloud's stern rail, with JoAnn sitting there watching and smiling with encouragement. In a few minutes and within a few feet, we were able to retrieve our anchor and back away. We motored over to the shallower water near the island and redropped our hook (again with Selwyn in the water spotting the bommies for us - lucky us!) The new spot is a huge improvement. Mostly, it's well protected from the east and southeast. It's also got a lovely view of the island, the outer reef, and looking the other way, a view of the other nine boats in the anchorage.

Made It To Suwarrow!
08/09/2012, Passage from Bora Bora to Suwarrow

Day 6 - Anchored safely in Suwarrow Atoll at noon. Last night around 11pm we got to within 15 miles of the atoll and decided to heave-to. I figured that if we drifted during the night we'd be nice and close by morning. Well, we drifted about 15 miles but instead of drifting towards the atoll we drifted north. So this morning we set the sails and still had about 20 miles to go. No worries. We had another fantastic sailing day, great winds and nice warm sunny weather with some clouds drifting in. We're one of nine boats here right now. The park ranger guys Harold and Ants came by to check us in. Another boat was organizing a potluck on the beach but we're tired and decided to stay in tonight. This place looks awesome. There's reefs for snorkeling everywhere. As a matter of fact, one is directly behind us! Hopefully our anchor will hold nice and tight tonight. There's lots of friendly little black tip reef sharks as well. I've just made some bread and popped it in the over. I defrosted a couple of steaks for dinner. I think we'll be sleeping well tonight.

08/10/2012 | Magnus & Isabelle
Good on you guys!! We are in Ecuador since a couple of weeks w. good internet so we just read through your account from the passage to Marquesas. Seems like e might be in good stead for the doldrums and squalls after a few months in central America with all the thunder storms. The lightning was cray.

We will cross in early Febr. next year 'insAllah'

Cheers, M & I svnanna.wordpress.com
08/11/2012 | Carla and Doug
Happy to hear that you made it safely. Suwarrow sounds wonderful!
08/12/2012 | Mark
Good job, you guys! Enjoy the atoll.
The Actual Middle of Nowhere
08/07/2012, Passage from Bora Bora to Suwarrow

Day 5 - 111 nautical miles. About 70 to go to Suwarrow. The last five days we've been sailing with as much speed as we can while still being as comfortable as possible. But now it's time to slow down. Suwarrow is an atoll much like in the Tuamotus. There isn't a huge tidal flow to worry about but the pass and the anchorage is full of coral reefs and bommies so it is prudent to come in during daylight hours. The catamaran 'Pougeon' is ahead of us by about 30 miles. They will try to get there by 4pm today and enter before dark. We, on the other hand, at this pace will get there about 10pm. So - we've dropped the mainsail and are now traveling with just a little bit of headsail and jibing down the rhumb-line. Later, before dark, we'll decide what to do. Maybe we'll continue sailing ever so slowly back and forth until morning or maybe we'll heave-to a safe distance out and resume our path when the sun comes up. In any case, it's been a terrific trip. But after being underway for 5 days and 5 nights I'm ready to take a nice long walk on a white sand beach with my snorkel gear in one hand and my husband in the other.

08/08/2012 | Carla and Dougc
Almost there - Yahoo!
08/08/2012 | vicki
Sounds wonderful, Deb/Don.

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