Suwarrow & Nuie
05 June 2016
We bid Raiatea farewell after provisioning and the World ARC rendezvous and headed northwest for the 500nm sail to Suwarrow on 15 May. The winds started very nicely with 15-20 knots on the stern quarter, but after the first 12 hours they slowed to 5-10 knots and not having a good down-wind sail onboard, we were relegated to motor sailing most of the leg with a single engine (to conserve fuel) and our Code-0 (not our fastest point of sail in very light winds). This has become such a frustration, that Barbara Jean, another boat in the rally heard it and offered us their Parasailor (a cruising spinnaker) to us. They had decided that the sail was too much for their boat and wanted to get rid of it. We jumped on the offer and have used it several times since.
Suwarrow is as remote and deserted an atoll as one can find. Hundreds of miles from the nearest inhabited island, Suwarrow is best known for having a hermit Tom Neale live alone on it for several years in the 1960s. He later wrote a book "An Island to one's own". The atoll has a number of islands dotting its edge, the largest of which is Anchorage Island just inside the passage. Diving there was spectacular with 20 meter visibility, wonderful reefs and lots of sharks (black tip, white tip, grays and just outside the reef, tiger sharks). Hannah enjoyed her time on the SUP with 4 or 5 sharks keeping her company and Kate was a bit spooked by having them follow her and only swam with 21 year old Sam from Wishanger II who would fend them off. Unfortunately lobsters (crayfish) were absent which we blamed on the very warm waters due to El Nino. We spent an afternoon picking up trash (mostly plastic jetsome) from around the island which we took away with us.
After three days there, on May 22, we left Suwarrow for a 300nm sail to Niue, another of the Cook Islands but an independently administered protectorate of New Zealand. This is a very different island known for its caves and caverns that we explored. Because there is no protected harbor there, the Nuie Yacht Club has installed mooring balls in 30-40 meters of water for the visiting cruisers which was very handy as there is little space to anchor in water that is less deep without being too close to the reef. We had a great day bicycling from one cavern to the next along the western coast and then rented a car the following day to see the eastern coast and rest of the island. It was interesting to be out of French Polynesia and into the New Zealand run Cook islands where we could speak the language a bit better and to see the differences in foods in the restaurants and grocery stores.