Monday, July 18, 2011

Day Five: Arrival in Suwarrow!

At 1330 local time, we entered the pass at Suwarrow Island. Unlike the passes in the Tuamotus, this pass has no name. Nor does it have any navigational aids. It does have a bad reputation for poor cartography (meaning the charts for the area are often inaccurate) and Charlie's Charts, one of the most respected cruising guide books, says, "Many vessels have been lost here . . . ". Despite all that, Ruthie did a superb job of picking our way through a complex series of reefs that make up the pass. With the tidal current always flowing out, most of the time we were only making 2 knots even though our engine and prop were working overtime. Since this is a Nature Reserve established by the New Zealand government, there is only one anchorage even though the atoll is over 11 miles across. As it turns out, there were already five boats here, shrinking the available space to anchor down to some postage stamp-sized spots. Once again, Ruthie proved here prowess at boat handling and positioned us perfectly in the best spot in the anchorage.

We're right behind Anchorage Island which is where Tom Neale wrote "An Island to One's Self" after living here for 15 years alone. There's a couple of Cook Islanders living here as caretakers. We hadn't even got the anchor down and the black-tipped reef sharks were already swimming around the boat, checking us out. It certainly is beautiful here and reminds us of the Tuamotus.

In review, our passage was pretty easy but that was largely due to the quality of Rutea's build. According to the Nadi reports (the Fijian weather service) the area we just crossed was considered to be 'rough'. Rutea continuously gobbled up 160+ miles a day despite the big seas and often squally weather. Our sails took quite a beating so now there's a substantial amount of repair work to be done. On top of that, our single side band radio isn't working too well and that's kind of our life line to the rest of the cruising community. Luckily, we can send and receive emails using our satellite phone - so no excuse for not writing us!

I'm exhausted. I bet I could count the hours of sleep I've had in the last four days on one hand. All I need now is a cold beer (or two), a shower, a hot meal and some rest. Then I'll be able to get to work on the projects that need to be completed before we leave here, probably in about a week. Next stop, American Samoa.
At 7/19/2011 2:42 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 13°14.86'S 163°06.47'W

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