A Day in the Life of Zen on Suwarrow
16 July 2009 | Suwarrow, Cook Islands
7:30a Tom starts communications on the SSB Radio by checking Zen into the cruisers network to let them know our whereabouts and answer any questions on entering Suwarrow's ocean pass.
7:55a Tom hails our friends on s/v Obsession on the SSB. Obsession is underway from Tuamotus to Hawaii then CA. They communicate w/Zen daily and learn about the hurricane that is possibly on a collision course w/them. Tom gives Les the exact lat/lon of the storm named "Carlos".
8:30a We all eat breakfast. Kids start their math, French and music lessons. Monique gathers extra food provisions to give as gifts to Veronica, the mom living ashore w/her husband and 4 boys.
9:00a Squalls go through the anchorage. Tom and Monique set up the biminis to capture fresh rain water and put it into our water tanks. Tom rinses our Code Zero sail in rain. Monique skins the fish fillets the islanders gave her last night.
12:30p Suwarrow Base (the family ashore) hails Zen on the VHF radio. Cole takes the call. It's Jonathan, the 10 year old calling. He wants to know if we'd like to join them for their daily shark feeding on the other side of the island. We all enthusiastically agree. Everyone grabs a quick snack: piece of toast w/peanut butter and we scramble into the dinghy with the camera and extra provisions.
1:00p John, Veronica, Jerimiah (13), Jonathan (10), Vani and Tino (twins age 8) are waiting for us. They walk us through a path to the other side. Jerimiah has a cooler full of fish heads and guts. He throws them into the water and about 50 black and white tip sharks ranging in size from 1-4 feet in length come to almost the water's edge for lunch. Islanders purposely feed the sharks away from the cruisers' anchorage and warn everyone to not throw any fish guts off their transoms. After taking many pictures, we are given some drinking coconuts and we sit around and chat for a couple of hours w/John and Veronica. Cammi paints a large "no swimming area" sign for islanders. Cole disappears w/the 3 younger boys into the bush.
3:30p Burgess family heads back to their boat. Meets s/v Karma folks on path. More chatting. Cole takes off w/Jerimiah and boys in their dinghy to go swimming. Cammi reads. Monique prepares dinner (fresh fish tacos). Tom does email and weather on the laptop.
4:00p Cole arrives at Zen w/the 4 boys. They do jumps off the boat trying to land on the nearby sharks. Yes, can you believe this one??? Sharks are totally fearful of these land monkeys and quickly swim away. Monique makes popcorn and lemonade for kids.
5:00p Tom has his 2nd scheduled SSB chat with s/v Obsession, giving them the updated position of the hurricane Carlos.
5:30p John and Veronica arrive after a small successful fishing expedition (they catch their dinner daily) and pick up their 4 boys from Zen.
6:00p Battered white fish, tartar sauce, fresh tomato salsa, tortillas and sliced papaya is served for dinner. Conversation is lively.
6:30p Zen kids clean up dinner dishes. Tom tinkers with DC electric cooler that is on the fritz. Monique reads her Steinbeck novel.
7:00p Burgess family plays board game.
9:00p Cammi wins, Tom comes in 2nd. Everyone gets kisses goodnight and we read our books until about 10p when the lights finally go out.
1:30a Winds kick up, Tom gets up and takes down the aft bimini for the rest of the night. Slumber until it all starts again tomorrow.
To give you a full picture of Suwarrow, here's some further details. Suwarrow is a group of about 5 islands, the biggest, Anchorage Island, is where the family lives ashore for 6 months of the year. They have a little settlement, set back about 20 yards from the dock and beach, surrounded by palm, breadfruit and mahogany trees. It consists of a log cabin and storage shed. The cabin has an open-air ground level and stairs that lead up to their 2nd floor sleeping area with a roof. The lower level is decorated with sailing flags from all over the world of all shapes, sizes and colors, each one donated by visiting cruisers. We've decided this is the ideal home for our Rhode Island flag gifted to us by Stu Dunn. Stu, if you want your flag back, you'll have to sail here to get it! Grin! This communal area is about 20'x 30' and houses a little galley and a bench/table for cruisers to sit and chat. Behind the storage shed is a small garden that has beans, papaya, tomatoes, and watermelons. The only thing bearing fruit are the bean plants. That's it. Besides the VHF and SSB radios, there's no tv, cable, internet or other means of communications. They have 2 solar panels mounted on the storage shed to power their radios. They have a small two burner propane stove, but also supplement with making small cooking fires for fish BBQs. Near the beach, the family has started making a small thatched hut. It will be used for relaxing and warm weather sleeping. Anchorage Island is small and can be circumnavigated by foot in a couple of hours. There's no elevation, it's pretty flat and surrounded by reefs. The log cabin they are living in has been standing since the 1960's and has survived without any improvements. Moderate weather prevails here.
The caretakers have been coming here for 5 seasons in a row and are paid as National Park Rangers for the Cook Islands. They gather rainwater in 2 large cisterns that are located behind the storage shed. Drinking coconuts are plentiful and they have loads of them on the island. Coconuts, fish and crabs are a large part of their diet. Each year when they were brought out here via supply ship, they are allotted only one pallet of food stuff. Needless to say, they are running low on many things and rely on cruisers' generosity. That's easy, especially since many of us are sailing onward to the very cheap and well stocked American Samoa from here.
Well, I am off to handwash some laundry and make some eggplant parmigiana and pizza. We have been invited to have a potluck on m/v Karma (a 55' motorboat) along w/the island caretakers, their 4 boys, and 2 other cruising boats. Should be a terrific evening. We've dined on Karma once before in Bora Bora and it was idyllic eating off of porcelain dishes! Such luxuries. The owners, Krista and Richard, are the salt of the earth and we adore them in so many ways. Life couldn't be better.