Suwarrow, Northern Cook Islands

13:14.836S 163:06.49W

Monday 23rd September 2013

Distance run Day 1: 147 (27 hours)
Distance run Day 2: 128
Distance run Day 3: 136
Distance run Day 4: 134
Distance run Day 5: 150
Total distance run: 695 nmiles

We arrived this morning in Suwarrow in the Northern Cook Islands after an interesting five-day trip. No two days were the same either in terms of winds or seas. An offshooot of the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ) had nestled itself firmly over our heads for the best part of three days, bringing 100% dense cloud cover, and dark, squally skies. It was simply a matter of which chose to miss us and which to hit us, as the lines of squalls were so long (miles!) that it was impossible to go around them. Some had a little rain and a little wind, some had no rain and lots of wind, some had lots of both. One blessing though, they seemed to disappear at night, so at least we got some sleep ready for the festivities of the next day when they returned. The seas were alternately rough and calm, the swell and waves in turns big or small.

Yesterday and today the clouds mostly cleared away and we had sometimes a gentle 15-18 knots, and sometimes 22-28 knots. It meant we could make up on time lost when reefing down for squalls, and comfortably made the passage in almost exactly five days. Being a coral atoll, Suwarrow has a pass to negotiate to get inside the reef, and although it was still blowing old boots as we motored between the reefs, the sea was not very lumpy and the passage in uneventful. The anchorage looked rather full and we were pleased to be met by Charlie, one of the resident park rangers, who showed us a spot to anchor, tucked up behind Anchorage Island. A little close to the reef for my liking, but once we were anchored he promptly donned his mask and snorkel and checked the anchor was set and not caught on rocks. He swam back to the boat to ask us to check in at the island before 4 p.m. - after you've had a sleep of course, he said. What a nice chap.

Suwarrow belongs to the Cook Islands and is a coral atoll that has been designated a National Park. Nobody lives here except, for six months of the year, two park rangers who look after the park and administer paperwork for their only visitors - passing yachts. It isn't necessary to formally check in to the Cook Islands to come here, but we do have to register with the wardens and apparently there's a lot we're not allowed to do, which we will find out when we go to register. The two park rangers, together with their six months' supplies, get dropped off by a supply boat in May and are collected again at the end of October. They supplement their stores with fresh fish that is abundant in the lagoon and items given to them or bartered by yachties. We met Charlie already, and Steve is just off to see Harry to complete the paperwork and hear about the rules. I'm keeping my fingers crossed they don't want to see me with my passport as it's still blowing out there and I don't fancy a tramp ashore just yet. We'll see.