We sailed west from Bora Bora on a Wednesday morning. Our last night in French Polynesia was spent at the local Karaoke restaurant, listening to the local crowd busting out love song after love song â€“ surprisingly entertaining!! Our initial plan was to sail to Maupihaa Atoll, followed by Palmerston island in the Central Cook islands. I looked at the weather and all signs were pointing at us changing plans and pointing Squander at the Northern Cook island of Suwarrow. Itâ€™s a destination that was 150 Nautical miles out of our way, but one that I had read about years earlier and was really excited to visit one day â€“ I crossed my fingers and hoped it was the right decision.
Our first two nights at sea were tough. The seas were in the 3m+ range and confused at best, Andy and I hadnâ€™t had a good shakedown since sailing from the Marquesas to the Tuamotus back in May, whereas Dad was fresh offÂ a plane and Scott was still coming to terms with his sea legs not wanting to co-operate.
But by Day 3 the seas had calmed down, the sea legs kicked in and Scotty reeled in his first Tuna â€“ things were looking up.
Dad took his watches very seriously, and was always up on deck on time â€“ checking for light leaks??.
Scotty was getting involved in every aspect of sailing, fishing, and day to day life onboard. Seen here wrestling a BIG fish at sunset.
We had a couple of good days and the evening of Day 3 we realised there was a slim chance we could make it to Suwarrow by Sunset of Day 4 â€“ not a bad run for a 660 mile trip.
By Sunrise the Spinnaker was set, and Andy and I took turns hand steering aiming for a 180 mile run in 24 hrs.Â
Yeeooowâ€¦.the target is in our sights â€“ Andy can taste that arrival rum already!
Everyone was eager to arrive before sunset as our charts of the pass werenâ€™t ideal. Pappa G getting involved with some keen eyeball naviguess-tion.
Glad to be hereâ€¦ inside the Atoll heading for the anchorage as the sun begins to set.
Squander was the 36th yacht to visit Suwarrow in 2011 â€“ not a whole lot of traffic around these parts.
Anchorage island â€“ population = 2
With a cracker sunset, we enjoyed a quiet rum and an early night followed by a well deserved nightâ€™s rest.
The next morning Andy had a fun time launching the dinghy amongst our welcoming committee
Scotty stoked to be back on terra firmaâ€¦
We had aspiration to explore more of the Atoll, but solid trade winds and the resulting chop inside the lagoon confined us to the area around Anchorage island.
Scotty and Andy stretching their legs â€“ a walk around Anchorage island takes approx 30 minutes.
Pappa G appreciating the local sights.
Squander hanging out with some new friends. You begin to understand why the hermit, Tom Neale chose to live here for 17 years.
Everywhere you turn, there seems to be a conveniently placed Hammock to stretch out on – Andy testing the eastern side of the island.
the path to the â€œofficeâ€
Going through customs, Quarantine and immigration at Suwarrow â€“ why canâ€™t Sydney airport be this relaxed??
With all of the formalities out of the way, it was time to start exploring the underwater world. For the first time since being the in the Pacific, we were told the words we wanted to hear â€“ â€œthereâ€™s no threat of Ciguatera poisoning here, you can eat whatever you catch!â€
James, one of the two rangers that live on the island for 6-7 months a year, told us of a giant grouper that had been spotted near whale island the previous season â€“ thatâ€™s all we needed as incentive to head that way as a starting spot for exploring.
No giant grouper in sight, but plenty of interesting fish and coral.
ahmmmâ€¦ speaking of interesting fish – The black-saddled grouper became our main target with the spear gun. Most were between 30-60cms with Andy being the leading marksman teaching Scotty and I his skills.
Scott happy with just one flipper
A small grey shark comes for a closer look.
Hey boys, I might check out the sharks from up here for now.
More interesting fish that we have never seen beforeâ€¦ a Bird Wrasse on the bottom right amongst them.
the trumpet fish.
Getting involved in the â€œfood chain gameâ€ is interesting businessâ€¦ Scotty spotting Andy in the early days as we tried to work out how aggressive the local sharks are.
The black tips are generally first to show upâ€¦
Being a born king of diplomacy, Scotty brokered a deal with Mr Sharky.
Thumbs up, we kill one and keep itâ€¦ and then we shoot one and leave it for the sharks to eat â€“ thatâ€™s the deal!
The Lion fish â€“ a pest in the southern Caribbean, seems to be at home here.
Despite the deal we brokered, the black tip gang kept up its patrol and was never far away.
AndyÂ decided to take matters into his own hands with a less diplomatic approach. Squander was suddenly thrown into a kidnapping ring.
Now listen here pal â€“ you go tell ya mates, that if they donâ€™t let me shoot three grouper per day, there will be serious trouble!
The wild animal and his shark!
One morning James and John asked if we could all come and help rebuild the jetty after one of the ladies caused a minor land slide upon entering her dinghy. Scott and Andy took up positions of Foreman and leading hand, while Gav & Matthew, also known as the â€œBlistersâ€, decided to show up after all the hard work was done.Â Â
Following all the hard work on the Jetty, Scotty volunteered to use the over ripened bananas to bake a banana bread. There may have been some confusion with the ingredients or maybe it was Masterchef at his best?? either way an egg got replaced by chocolate and a good dose of rum, extra bananas were added and the baking time was extended by a solid 100% â€“ the results were very â€œsurprisingâ€Â to all of us â€“ one word of warning â€“ this is for professionals only -donâ€™t try it at home kids!
With the day drawing to a close, we munched on banana bread and reflected on the To Do list which needed attention. A storm was brewing on the horizon so I squeezed in one last snorkel before tackling the jobs the following day.
The elusive â€œMoorish Idolâ€
As I swam back to Squander, Dad had launched a search and recovery mission â€“ I guess I hadnâ€™t realised I was back to being the kid and had to tell dad where I was going and what time I would be backâ€¦ funny in retrospect!
REALITY CORNER -Â A NEW CONCEPT
We recently had a dinner conversation discussing the contrast of the images represented in the blog, with the reality of sailing and living aboard. There were a number of statements put forward as potential descriptions of the blog ranging from â€œhighlights packageâ€, to â€œfalse advertisingâ€ to â€œit doesnâ€™t show the motion of the oceanâ€ and a few others that escape me. It made me laugh but also made me wonder if I should start a â€œreality cornerâ€ aspect of the blog where we discuss the less glamorous aspects of our existence. Iâ€™m fairly certain, you, our audience is not interested, however I will give it a tryâ€¦. hereâ€™s this monthâ€™sÂ top 5 of things that â€œwerenâ€™t in the brochureâ€ .
5. learning to cook lunch and dinner for 4 people and cleaning up in a small cabin, that has been attached to the latest rollercoaster ride at sea world and happens to have a perfect temperature for bikram yoga. Not to mention the inspiration that comes from the taste of the breakfast that refuses to stop crawling up your esophagus.
4. Not using fresh water â€“ we do most of our showering, shampooing, washingÂ dishes in salt water. It really is no problem once you get used to it.
3. Oil filter vibrated loose on generator and caused masses of black oil to spill through the bilges mixing with the salt water from the leaky foot pump. Today activity – on your hands and knees with toilet paper scooping up black diesel oil for hours â€“ fun for everyone.
2.Â One of the toilets backwashed whilst we were sailing in some bumpy conditions, spilling you know what into the intricate shower floor (rock, scissors, paper for who get to clean it up)
1. Sailing up wind for 36 hours in big swells, Squally winds 20-35 knots and pouring rain â€“ did I mention we actually had to put a jacket on â€“ almost unheard of!
Now back to what we really get up toâ€¦.
With the sharks still not honouring their end of the deal, we decided to get more tricky with spear fishing â€“ the idea is you pretend youâ€™re just snorkeling, check out the sites, and when the sharks get bored and swim away you shoot the grouper youâ€™ve being eyeing off for the past 15 minutes.
Three species in one shot. From left to rightÂ the White tip (top), the Black tip and the Grey shark.
Up close with the menacing-looking white tip
With the message loud and clear, we focused on the snorkeling for a whileâ€¦
This Giant Moray was looking hungry.
The smaller fish teasing the hungry eel.
Starry Puffer â€“ Winner of strangest looking fish in Suwarrow
They could be brothers.
With the sharks distracted, we quietly slipped the spear gun back in the water and went in search of lunch.
Ooopsâ€¦ obviously not quietly enough â€“ The white tip showing his stealth as Gav realises he has company â€“ change of shorts please!
Not having much luck, I decided to hand over the gun to Andy.
It didnâ€™t take long for Andy to spot his target in about 15 m of water.
and seconds later The white tip and the Grey shark were also coming in for the kill
The race is on to get it into the dinghy before the sharks eat your fish orâ€¦. you.
Unlucky mate, no fish for you, go find your own
Itâ€™s best to get a kill shot through the head so the sharks donâ€™t get into a frenzy and mistakenly eat you. Scotty with a solid kill.
Andy with the dayâ€™s catch. heading up to the filleting board. We ate fresh Black-saddled grouper, peacock hind grouper and marbled grouper on a daily basis. Just a few of the creations â€“ Fish soup, fish Thai red curry, pan fried in Garlic, Butter, Chili. The best.
With the fishing out of the way, it was time to take care of some washing. So the women were sent to shore to the laundromat.
The shark feeding area used to be around the other side of the island where the boats are anchored. But that all changed when one of the rangers got nipped on his ribs by a black tip.
Following the sunset shark feeding session, John and James (the rangers)Â organised a â€œpotluckâ€ dinner for the yachties in the anchorage. EveryoneÂ brings a plate and let the feast begin.
Dinner time = Happy Andy
One of our neighbours plays the trump card. Baked apple pie.
Best immigration guy, AKA John the legend, in the world â€“ now have a beer bro!Â
It wasnâ€™t long before some Rum was fetched from the boat and Scotty Sax came out for a one off show.
Ranger John, Corey from Rutea, and Lars from twister.
Papa G giving some solid life advice.. after a bottle of wine and a few rums. John seems to be taking it seriously.
One of the many great aspects of visiting places like Suwarrow, is that you tend to live life according to Natureâ€™s will â€“ you rise when the sun rises and once it sets, thereâ€™s no electricity to keep you awake (unless the full moon is out), so you tend to go to sleep early â€“ if it rains you read a book, when the wind blows you kite, when itâ€™s still you snorkelâ€¦ most people are tired by 10pm and any attempt to bend natureâ€™s laws tend to failâ€¦. so despite a great evening being had by all, we were all back on our boats by 10:00pm ready for the next dayâ€™s activities.
Andy, the owner/skipper of Savannah told Andy and Scott there were big Manta Rays at a nearby reef. Iâ€™ve dreamt of swimming with these gentle giants for years. The tanks were prepped and we went off in search…
No sign of the Mantas yet, Andy in the distance and Scott in the foreground.
Cruising through the rugged terrain. 15 minutes and still no sign of any rays.
And then â€“ out of the blue, the first of three Manta Rays that we saw within half an hour.
The Manta Ray is the largest species of the rays. They can grow up to 8m wide and weigh in at a solid 2300kgs. The biggest we saw were about 4 meters across.
they are incredibly playful and not in the slightest bit shy.
Follow meâ€¦like thisâ€¦.!
Andy â€œflying like a mantaâ€ ,getting in close and personal, at one point just a few inches away.
Blow some bubbles for me!! go onâ€¦
haaaaaâ€¦..Enjoying the Spa bath!
Scotty exchanging fighter pilot tricks with our new friend.
â€¦.And the Manta reciprocating with an evasive bank to the left.
Our white bellied friend decided it was time to leave us for now â€“ the show ended all too soon and we hoped we had enough air left to see on more Ray before having to surface.
We didnâ€™t have to wait long, out of nowhere this black one almost blindsided Gav
Hello humanâ€¦ I turned around and there it was â€“ wow!
Seen with a 4 foot shark following it.
Like us they are curious and love to play
Speaking of playing, we definitely met our match in terms of a boat with the most toys onboard â€“ in fact we were well and truly trumped by Pete and Daria from Downtime who have the best floating play pen we have seen to date. Kites, scuba gear, fishing gear, snorkeling, the best tender in town â€“ Pete knows how to have fun â€“ and so it was no surprise that they kindly decided to host a number of poker, dinner and drinks nights aboard Downtime â€“ Thank you guys â€“ good times and look forward to catching up again soon!
Pete AKA â€œGary Buseyâ€Â and the lovely Daria hosted a number of great poker and drinks nights aboard â€œDowntimeâ€
Pete came over one morning and suggested we go kiting â€“ he had devised a way of launching a kite of the back of his boat â€“ it sounded great â€“ Scott and Andy were out spearfishing, So Dad and I jumped in to Peteâ€™s dinghy and headed over to setup.
Imagine our surprise finding a movie star in the middle of the pacific. Jack Nicholson in Suwarrow.Â Â
before long we were hooting up and down the bay in near perfect conditions â€“ yet another tick for Suwarrow!
With a fun afternoon of kiting and a couple of celebratory beers under our belts, we went andÂ got cleaned up before returning to Downtime for a night of poker.Â
Most of the people in the anchorage took up the invite â€“ the stern of Downtime still had room for a few more dinghies!
The winner â€“ ANDY from Savannah in the centre of the photo.
It was Day 8 in Suwarrow, time had flown and like it or not we had to start thinking about moving on to Tonga. A 720 Mile crossing. The weather was looking tentative at best, but we had little choice as it looked like it was now or not for another week. before leaving we took Dad for a snorkel in the hope of showing him a Manta Ray.
Pappa G searching the depths.
Blowing bubbles to try and attract the Mantas.
We had almost given up whenÂ a Black bellied Manta Ray flew in for a look accompanied by a bunch of Remora sucker fish.
It didnâ€™t feel like sticking around for too longâ€¦.
Until Scotty went and grabbed its â€˜handâ€™â€¦
And it was soon back for another fly by!
And so on that note we all signed out from Suwarrow in our own wayâ€¦.
Scotty saying goodbye to the underwater world.
Until next time black tip.Â Â Â
Floating in the blue Abyss â€“ Thanks Suwarrow!
Pappa G kicking back in the Dinghy â€“ satisfied with his efforts!
on the morning of leaving Gav went up the mast to have a look at some strange noises coming from the Staysail Furler â€“ nice view from up here!Â Â Â
With all said and done we went ashore to say goodbye to James and John – Andy sacrificed his Squander T-shirt, left behind as a memento.
John and James soon stapled it to a leg of their house
And so we sailed off on a Monday morning â€“ bound for Tonga â€“ it was an interesting trip, we caught 2 Wahoo and a decent Mahi Mahi, lost a number of lures to BIG fish and ended up getting both lines spooled arriving in Tonga with no fishing lines left. there are some serious fish in these waters!!!
Sailing with Dad â€“ over 4 weeks onboard Squander â€“ weâ€™ll miss you Pappa G!
Stoked with Wahoo numero uno!
Smiles all around as we catch dinner!
Pappa G has been awesome â€“ cooking dinner, washing up and generally helping around the boat wherever he could!
Scotty getting some driving under his belt!
resting â€“ the calm before the storm!
We had a hard final 36 hrs â€“ upwind in 25-35kn apparent at 30 to 45 degrees â€“short, steep swells – Huey decided to give us a good old pounding â€“ we were struggling to keep on course. with some of the most serious conditions we have had to sail in.
We all had a good laugh at it in the end though – Scotty and Dad got a comprehensive intro to sailing in the last month â€“ sailing over 1500 Nautical miles in a big variety of conditions, Squander held her own and weâ€™re all here in Tonga, safe and sound and enjoying the local attractions!
Until next time!