From Suwarrow, Cook Islands
We're underway tonight after leaving Suwarrow atoll, Cook Islands this morning. For the past 3 days, we've been in a state of "analysis paralysis"- analyzing the weather forecast, hashing it over & over again which only serves to make us more anxious and waste a lot of time. This doesn't happen to us very often though, thank goodness! The issue was that we and Bob & Sue on Mawari had originally wanted to go to Niue (a small island closely tied with New Zealand where whales hang out) but the wind wasn't right to do so and the forecast to go to Western Samoa was better but could be a bit bumpy. Plus, Jon & I weren't positive we were ready to leave yet. This area has been dubbed by some as "the dangerous middle" since there's a convergence zone that floats around in this vicinity & can cause uncomfortable conditions at times depending on what weather systems are in the area. We ended up deciding to stay and Mawari headed out leaving more than a hole in the anchorage where their boat had been. We were uneasy leaving the following day due to large seas but did finally bite the bullet today and turns out it's lovely out here!
We're so glad we stopped in Suwarrow. When we left there were 24 cruising boats in the anchorage, most of whom we know and we met some of them for the first time while we were there. We did some great snorkeling & some pretty good diving with Bob & Sue. We would set out in our dinghies to dive sites specified in the cruising guide and we got good at conserving air so that we could do two shallow dives on one tank. There were wonderful potluck dinners ashore and even a lecture by both of the rangers, Harry & Anthony about New Zealand & Cook Island customs & culture. They warmed our hearts and added a special quality to the place. It is an odd situation. They are both new rangers this season. It's a 6 month commitment to what could be a lonely outpost if not for the sailors coming through and they have the bare basics for supplies. They have a sat phone for emergencies but are otherwise cut off from all communication. They were promised a supply ship shortly after their arrival in June but none has ever come. They live on what supplies they have, fish & coconuts. When they'd take us out to other islands around the atoll, the cruisers supplied the gas since they have none. But they came to our potlucks and we each tried to share something with them that they might need, however they didn't ask for much. Although disheartened by the powers that be that didn't fulfill their promise for supplies, they've decided to be positive & enjoy what this opportunity has to offer which is a good way to look at it. When I asked them if they'd be returning next season, the answer was an understandable "NO!".
There's a manta hangout spot so we all dove with mantas again as well. If you go down to the bottom and hold on to a rock, they'll come your way and glide over you, inches away. One hovered over me and I began to wonder if I was going to need to go up for a breath before he moved on, but it was OK. I'd never seen ones that were totally black but there were two like that. We spent our last two days there going for a walk with a few friends on the barrier reef- saw more nesting birds and tide pool life and did more snorkeling. We made sure the hull was spiffy clean for maximum speed through the water and we carefully examined our rudder. It appears we have some wear from all the miles that have been put on this year which results in a little play- we'll have to attend to this in New Zealand.
It feels good to be at sea again and the full moon is so bright tonight that I keep looking behind in alarm since it feels like someone is shining a spotlight on me. There are 2 boobies circling the boat tonight and I can see them & our sails clear as day. It is quite lovely out here and we're blasting along. So far I haven't seen any of those huge offshore fishing operations like we saw on the way to Suwarrow- the ships are lit up like cities and they have nets with strobes set out, no doubt "hoovering up the bottom" as Sue would say. Bob & Sue are 2 days ahead of us, and we talk on the SSB twice daily to check in as well as swap onboard emails. Sue's birthday is August 31st, the day they'll arrive in Samoa. But the funny thing is, Samoa just changed date lines this year so now when you arrive there, you are on the other side of the date line (skip ahead 1 day plus I think 1 hour) so effectively, there is no August 31st for Sue! We were all pondering this and today she jokingly writes me: "If today is tomorrow and today was also yesterday, are yesterday and tomorrow today?" Well, whatever it is, it doesn't matter because once we arrive in Western Samoa, we're celebrating it! Everyone is looking forward to the "required" stay in a slip in Apia, Samoa at what is reported to be a really nice port- run marina. After so many months anchored out, it sounds so inviting. The HOSE in particular! Not to mention it'll be a new country to explore. We should be there for their annual traditional festival which would be nice to see. We should have internet, so can post some pictures and get caught up on things, like figuring out our tickets for a visit home this year and seeing if we have the money to pay for them!
Happy belated birthday to Jon's dad Roland. We miss you and are looking forward to seeing you in a few months. If we make it to New Zealand in one piece, I was thinking about how odd it is that we were sailing together in Florida last November and then by this November, ol' Evergreen & crew could be in New Zealand, many thousands of miles away (plus a day!).... all covered at 6 knots! Another mind boggling thought!