08/23/2007, En Route from Suwarrow Atoll to Pago Pago, American Samoa
Sand Dollar weighed anchor and departed Suwarrow at 11:30 AM along with the German boat "Ludus Amoris". She is bound for Apia, Western Samoa, Sand Dollar for Pago Pago, American Samoa. The passage is 450 miles and will take four days more or less. So far the wind is fair and the sailing very pleasant. The swell is only about four feet.
Suwarrow Atoll has been a favorite island among cruisers for many years and it is definitely one of my favorites. There are very few like it, possibly some similar atolls in the Indian Ocean. The place is wild, pristine, beautiful and full of sea life. The caretaker and his family are very friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. Some day I would like to return.
Two interesting things happened this afternoon while sailing. First, I popped my head out of the companionway after having lunch and saw a huge marlin leaping behind the boat. I could not understand how that could be. My handline was not even taught. Well, to my surprise, the line was broken and we're talking 300 lb. test monofilament! More tackle never to be seen again.
The second thing that surprised me was a whooosh sound. I turned to starboard and there was a thirty foot whale surfacing only 35 ft from my boat. He floated on the surface for awhile looking at me and then swam under the boat and repeated this two more times on the port side and then disappeared. I guess he was curious and wanted a close look.
All else is well onboard. The sky is mostly clear and the moon is waxing.
08/22/2007, Suwarrow Atoll, Northern Cook Islands
There was no wind today. The lagoon was like a mill pond. Nevertheless, three boats left this afternoon and I am sure they are running their engines still. As they were leaving the atoll I could see them in the ocean, rolling from side to side in the swell with no sails to dampen the movement. I decided to wait here another day and put my faith in the forecast which calls for 10 - 12 knots of wind tomorrow. We will see. If there is no wind tomorrow I may leave under power. There is enough fuel to take me at least half way to Samoa.
All else is well onboard. I have been cooking some meals to save for the coming passage.
08/21/2007, Suwarrow Atoll, Northern Cook Islands
Tomorrow Sand Dollar will weigh anchor and depart Suwarrow for Pago Pago, American Samoa along with three of the four other remaining boats. I could easily stay here another week as this is the closest thing to a remote island paradise. The place is completely wild and pristine. However, there is still Samoa, Tonga and Fiji on the itinerary and time is running short.
The kayak trip I had planned for today did not happen because of threatening weather. Instead, I took the inflatable to a closer island and did some exploring and fly fishing. The inflatable has a slow leak in one of the tubes which I have tried to repair twice without success. It appears the glue has lost its strength. The first thing I do in the morning while waiting for coffee to brew is pump up the leaking tube. When I get to Pago Pago I will either buy or borrow some fresh glue and do a proper repair job.
All else is well onboard.
08/20/2007, Suwarrow Atoll, Northern Cook Islands
The swell outside of the atoll has subsided significantly and the underwater visibility has increased to about 70 feet. This afternoon I went snorkeling in a small bay on the ocean side near the entrance pass and came across a very inquisitive sea turtle of about three feet in diameter. I was almost able to grab onto him and go for a ride but, perhaps sensing this, he soon dove to deeper water and out of sight. There were a few reef sharks in the neighborhood but none approached me. It is actually quite interesting to watch them at a safe distance.
One boat left today and none arrived so we are down to a total of five. Tomorrow the warden will take me and my inflatable kayak to an outlying island and drop me off so that I can fly fish and then paddle back to the anchorage downwind. I am thinking of leaving on Wednesday for Pago Pago but it is hard to leave this place.
All else is well onboard. I baked a loaf of bread in the pressure cooker for the first time today and it turned out remarkably well, as long as I scrape off the burnt part. I am looking forward to French toast in the morning.
08/19/2007, Suwarrow Atoll, Northern Cook Islands
Today the park warden took nine of us cruisers across the lagoon to Gull Island so that we could observe and photograph the thousands of seabirds nesting there. They were mostly sooty terns, white tropic birds and some frigate birds. There were many young chicks and hundreds of eggs placed haphazardly on the coral rocks, sometimes supported by a small branch to keep them from rolling into the water. The frigate birds are especially interesting as they cannot walk on the ground nor land on water and they make their living usually by robbing other birds of their prey.
Back at Anchorage Island in the evening we had a barbecue/birthday party for one of the sailors, an Australian fellow. The warden had caught a nice dogtooth tuna in the lagoon so we ate like kings. Four boats left today for Samoa and two more new boats arrived, both with Swedish flags.
The weather has become much more settled and the forecast calls for light winds for the next couple of days. This will give us an opportunity to explore some of the outlying motus (small perimeter islands) of the atoll.
08/18/2007, Suwarrow Atoll, Northern Cook Islands
The wind today dropped to about 15 knots which is typical for this time of year here. The swell is still quite large but should drop as well in a day or two as it always lags behind the wind. There is now very little rain, just an occasional shower of very short duration.
Today I went fishing with my fly rod. I saw no bonefish but then I did not expect to. The warden says there are none on this atoll. I did hook several blue-fin trevally and landed them before the sharks could get them. The black-tip reef sharks on Suwarrow are especially aggressive and I always keep an eye out for them while wading. In fact, I carry a couple of rocks to throw in case any large ones get too close. Most of them are only two or three feet long but every now and then I see a four footer, big enough to take a chunk out of my calf. On other islands the black-tips are timid and never approach closely. For some reason they act differently here.
All else is well onboard. There is a barbecue on the beach tonight.