Category: Pacific Puddle Jump 2018

Suwarrow! The Jewel Of The Cooks!

Jilly2Our passage from Bora Bora to Suwarrow was relatively uneventful. We had several days of great sailing but during the final two the winds died and we had to fire up the iron genny. We arrived at the pass around 0800 and our entrance went perfectly. That’s always a blessing. Ever since Fakarava I still hold my breath as we get ready to go through a pass but Dan has proven over and over that he has a handle on the timing these days.IMG_1689

We’re pretty certain if you look up “majestic” in the dictionary it says… “See Suwarrow!” This ranks right up there with Maupiti as one of our favorite destinations so far. The rangers, Harry & John, were an absolute delight to get to know. The Cook Islanders should consider themselves blessed to have such amazing ambassadors. They represent their country well.

One thing to know about Suwarrow is that it is only inhabited from April through the end of October. That’s when the Rangers are there. They get dropped off with six months of supplies and hope to be picked up by the start of cyclone season in November. We say hope because in 2017 they were essentially forgotten. This could have ended in disaster as cyclones can completely wash over the atoll. Fortunately for Harry & John they were able to hitch a ride with one of the last cruiser boats leaving the atoll.

You can only get to Suwarrow via private yacht or charter so getting the chance to visit this amazing place was just awesome! When we arrived there were just a dozen other sailboats in the anchorage. This made for wonderful and peaceful stay in paradise.

One day we went snorkeling near the edge of the atoll. The water was so clear you could easily see 150-200 feet away. Dan caught a glimpse a five foot grey shark. I missed it but the other fish were beautiful and the coral itself is in amazing shape. Unfortunately we’ve seen a lot of dead coral in our travels in the Tuamotus and further west. You can tell they take great care to protect this perfect gem.

Another day we went on an exploratory adventure in the dink. We traveled all around the reef on the northwest side of the atoll. The water was flat & calm and the sun was shining bright so we had unbelievable visibility in the water. We made our way down to a motu and decided to pull the dink ashore. We had to get out and pull it through some very shallow water…6” or so. As we started walking we noticed several baby black tip sharks swimming around. The splashing of our feet in the water undoubtedly attracted them. No worries…all we had to do was splash toward them and they darted away.

This motu was at a point in the atoll where the ocean comes over the reef so there is sort of channel there. It’s not deep enough to drive a boat through, even the dink, but it does have quite a bit of current. As I was walking along the shoreline I came upon a very disheartening sight. In a stretch of about thirty yards the beach was literally covered with plastic garbage. Most of it was bottle caps from plastic soda bottles. I was horrified at seeing this on this most perfect beach so I went back to the dink, grabbed a garbage bag and began picking up all the trash. In the span of about five minutes I picked up 64 plastic bottle caps!!! In addition to that there was a plastic tube that once held caulking, a dozen or so plastic bottles, plastic lids for five gallon buckets, a plastic bag, and several other pieces of plastic. It was very sad to see all of this trash collecting on a beach that is literally hundreds of miles away from anything. It made me wonder how far this stuff traveled across the ocean to get here. It was very sad!

Cook Trash

On a lighter note we did get to witness nature in action a bit later. We were slowly creeping along the reef near the shore just checking things out when we saw a fish swimming at the top of the water. At first we thought it might be a puffer fish so I told Dan to go back so I could get some video. As we got nearer to the fish we saw about a three foot black tip shark swimming around the fish. He had already taken a bite out of it, which is why it was at the top of the water. As we approached the shark got spooked and darted around the dink. He came up on the other side and went back to his prey. Within seconds he chomped down on the fish and took off. Apparently he thought we might be trying to take his dinner. It was pretty cool and we got it all on video!

Later in the day we went to shore to hang out with some of the other cruisers. Before we bunched up with them we walked to the other side of the motu to what the rangers call Shark Bay. Within seconds of stepping into the water we knew exactly why it’s called that. We literally saw a least a dozen or more sharks swimming near the beach. They weren’t huge by any stretch. The largest was a grey shark about four and a half feet. The rest were in the 2-3 1/2 foot range. Most of them were black tips but there were a couple of greys and a white tip. They literally surfed the waves right into the beach into water that was four to six inches deep. It was absolutely awesome! They were coming right up to us. Of course once we saw them we stepped back toward the beach so they couldn’t get to us. Later Harry told us that is where they clean their fish and get rid of some of their food. He said the shark are like dogs. You can almost call out and get them to come up to the beach. He’s even seen them almost beach themselves trying to get close to them when they were throwing out food. What a sight it was to see.

Cook Sharks
Shark Bay!

As the sun started to get lower we walked back to the anchorage side of the motu. This motu is completely covered with hermit crabs. As it gets darker you literally see the beach come alive. It’s like the entire surface is moving. I am not exaggerating to say down the one path from the ranger station/housing to the picnic area we saw close to a thousand of these things. It was amazing!!! This atoll has certainly provided us with a lot of wildlife experiences to be sure.

We made our way back to the beach where several other cruisers were sitting around the table chatting. They had all just finished learning how to weave a basket out of palm fronds. Ranger John taught the class. Dan brought his ukulele to shore and gave a little concert for everyone. We all had our sundowners and were just enjoying the music, fellowship and amazing sunset. When I say amazing I mean it. The water was so flat that at one point you couldn’t tell where the water ended and the sky began. What great way to end a day.

We awoke on our final day and got ready to make passage. Before we could leave, however, Dan had to get his dive gear on and help SV Maia to get their anchor unfouled. They anchored in about 85 feet of water and were wrapped all up in the bommies. This anchorage is known for its bommie fields.

My amazing man, Captain Save-A-Hoe, came to the rescue again. It took him almost an hour to get their anchor chain unwrapped. He had to make three short 85′ dives to the bottom to get them free but he did it.

Cooks Capt Sav A Hoe

Six boats left the anchorage the day we left and Dazzler and one other boat were the only ones who didn’t have trouble getting their anchors up. Everyone was just gawking at us as we smoothly raised our anchor and cruised out of the anchorage. Yep….we looked like professionals.

Of course all good things must end and so it was with immense sadness that we said goodbye to Harry & John and the mystical and magical place known as Suwarrow. Three days was clearly not enough time to really enjoy all there was to see there but alas we had parts arriving in American Samoa at the end of the week and we had to move on. So, we departed the anchorage for the 80 mile journey to Pago Pago.

Until next time,

Jilly & Dan

CLICK HERE TO SEE A VIDEO OF OUR TRIP TO SUWARROW!

Cooks Best Sunset

 

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Beautiful Bora Bora

BB DazzlerBora Bora is where most cruisers who are making their way across the South Pacific come to check out of French Polynesia, so we met up with a lot of friends and acquaintances from México.

Our first stop in Bora Bora was the village of Vaitape. It is located on the west side of the main island. It’s a nice village with two, well-stocked grocery stores. That’s always a bonus! It’s a little touristy but still somewhat quaint. We spent one afternoon checking out the shops and picking up a few more Polynesian style things. I’ve come to love pareos and wear them all the time. Dan bought me a beautiful, hand painted one that day as well as another flower to wear in my hair. It may surprise you to find that the flowers they wear are all silk flowers…usually not fresh ones. He also bought himself another necklace. This one has a turtle carved from bone with the Marquesan cross in the center of its back that is carved from mother of pearl. It’s pretty cool. Of course after our day of shopping we had to stop by the Mai Kai Yacht Club for a couple of cold ones.

We have noticed some gang activity here but overall we feel pretty safe. For all that is said about México and its dangers, we’ve seen more criminal element here in the Society Islands than we ever did in México. We never had to lock our dink up there but we certainly do here. We actually chain the dink to the side of the boat at night. The motor always gets locked up on the rail as well. I guess there’s criminal element in every part of the world.

One day we took a taxi down to Bloody Mary’s. This is perhaps the coolest restaurant we’ve been to down here. The floors are sand, the ceiling is made of palm fronds and the chairs are made from tree stumps. Oh yea…very cool and the food was really good as well. They’re famous for their Bloody Mary’s and there’s a reason….they are the bomb! It was a fun afternoon.

With so many of us cruisers in the same place we all met up for Happy Hour in the evenings at the Mai Kai Yacht Club. It’s not so much of a yacht club as it is a restaurant/bar with some rental huts by the water. They rent out mooring balls too. Each evening they have half priced drinks from 1700 to 1800. In the land of expensive liquor, that’s a big thing. It was fun meeting up with the old gang and hearing about everyone’s experiences since we last saw each other in the Marquesas. Everyone seems to have taken their own path here so we got to learn about islands we missed and places we are glad we stayed away from.

One evening we had dinner with friends on SV Dash and then attended the Heiva festivities. Heiva is a cultural competition that is held each year. Groups from each island in French Polynesia compete in dancing, singing, canoeing, archery, etc… We had a really nice evening in spite of the rain. And it was amazing watching these dancers shake their hips. We’re always spellbound watching the dancers.

1heiva

One afternoon we took a dinghy ride around the main island. While the area where we were anchored is very deep, the southeast side of the island is quite shallow and the water there is nothing short of spectacular! We actually put our feet in real sand for the first time since we left México. Down here it’s mostly ground coral that is not all that soft. You know, especially when you come from Bradenton where we have some of the whitest, finest sand in the world. Anyway, it was a fun trip around the island.

After we completed our checkout with the gendarmes, we provisioned up and headed out to another anchorage near Motu Toopua. (FYI…a motu is an area where the land rises above the water). This anchorage was simply breathtaking!!! We anchored in 3 meters of crystal clear water. After taking a dinghy ride around to check out the area Dan took a nap and I broke out the royal swan, threw on some tunes and floated behind the boat for hours. I know, I know….but someone has to do these things.

We stayed in this anchorage for five days. Unfortunately two days of it, it was raining all day but it gave us some time to catch up on some writing and boat projects so all was not lost.

1Clouds
Green Clouds! Yes, the water is so vibrant that the clouds actually reflect the green off of them.

One evening we went in to the St. James Restaurant. Oh my! What a treat this was for us. Sitting on the open deck looking across the anchorage and seeing Dazzler in the setting sun while enjoying an ice cold beer was simply wonderful. And the food! It didn’t just look amazing, it WAS amazing!

While we know it can be truly difficult to appreciate it, it is a huge thing when we can get WIFI. Sometimes we go for weeks without any news of what is going on in the world. And when we do get it, it’s usually in some restaurant or bar so you do just what you need to get done and that’s it. There’s no casually surfing the net. Being in a beautiful anchorage with internet was lovely. We sat in the cockpit sharing stories of what we were reading and just enjoyed the afternoon. We were even able to FB video chat with my friends and family in the states.

Up bright and early we are now on the move again. We should arrive in Maupiti sometime around 1200 local. So much to see and so little time.

Well, that’s all there is to tell about Bora Bora.