Posted by: catamarantwooceans | May 8, 2010

Suvarov Atoll

26.4.10 – Monday – We continue to follow our itinerary by sailing to Suvarov atoll,about 290 n.m from Palmerston. Suvarov is an un inhabited atoll, now a nature reserve. During the sailing season a park caretaker resides there with his family. In 1952 a New Zealander, Tom Neale, came to the atoll and made the place his home. For 16 years he lived there by himself, with only the occasional yacht visits being his sole contact with the world outside. He wrote a book “An island to onself” which should be an interesting reading. We were told in Aitutaki that the caretaker is not yet there, so we may have the place to ourselves. We left Palmerston at 0845. The wind obeyed the forecast, and blew 8 knots from the northeast. Motorsailing to start with we wind veered a bit so we could sail, not too fast in the right direction. We trolled all day but no fish. What’s wrong?

27.4.10 – Tuesday – During the night better winds. Progress OK and a beautiful moon. No rain since leaving! It’s so good to be dry! During the day, though, the wind got crazy, influenced by some big clouds that passed overhead, changed speed and direction frequently making me jumpy and frustrated. Just after dinner it decided to back up to the north, right on the nose. No time for tacks, so the engine takes over. When I start my watch at 2230 everything is back to normal and we are sailing happily under a full moon, less than 80 miles to go.

28.4.10 – Wednesday – Not enough wind and backing to the north which is on the nose for us. At a certain point when it veered and we opened the jib, I let the furling line out too quickly and the rope entangled itself around the base of the furler. Very difficult to release! At some other point I wanted to start the starboard engine and found out that the battery was weak. Before I connected the main batteries to start, I peaked into the engine room, checking the alternator belt tension. Belt sagging awfully and black residue of it is all over the area. I tighten it, start the engine and the belt squeals. I’ll change it once we are at anchor.

 At about 9 miles to the atoll land is seen. We follow the reef, passing the remains of a ship that ran aground there many years ago and approached the pass. When it was time to lower the mainsail – it did not go down freely. What? Again? Pulled the thing down with the reefing lines, we’ll see about that problem while we are at anchor… At the pass the waters are calm, good sunlight makes it possible to read the bottom easily. We go inside, with just a knot of a current against us, turn the corner just before “south reef”to go to the anchoring area near aptly named “Anchorage island” and – we are not alone! A monohull is at anchor in the bay! The name is “Freyja”, thre flag Swedish. We all wave, we’ll talk to them later. A little turn around the place and then I choose a spot with 16 meters depth and drop the anchor.

 Anchorage island, full of coconuts and other trees is in front and all around we see Motus on the circumference of the atoll. Beautiful view! I’m so happy I decided to come here!

Suvarov view

After a while we take the dinghy ashore. Between the trees hide two buildings, one is the shelter, where the island’s caretaker lives when he is in residence and the other a “yacht club” with the sign “Book exchange” and a pile of books within. I left there some Hebrew books (a first for the place, I’m sure) and took an Asimov and “Tales of the Pacific” by Mitchener.

The shelter

Cruisers library

 Near it stands a memorial sculpture to Tom Neale. 

Tom Neale's statue

The writing below says:” HE lived his dream on this island”.

 The human habitation in not in good shape, the jungle is conquering, sending its coconut soldiers to sprout everywhere. In most of the island the vegetation is so thick as to make it impenetrable. A path leads from the buildings to the shore facing the entrance where a big sign warns against swimming due to sharks.


On the way back we stopped by Freyja and invited the couple on it to come for a drink. Thomas and Kerstine (pronounced Chestine) are on their SECOND circumnavigation. They bought their boat, a Tayana 52 in the U.S and have been sailing for the last 4 years. They came here straight from Bora Bora. We had a lovely talk and when they  left – dinner and sleep. We were tired, can you believe it?



29.4.10 – Thursday – I slept uninteruptedly from 2130 to 0630. Got up and said to myself:”Why not some bait on a hook to start the morning?” In the absence of proper bait I used a piece of frozen chicken and in 5 minutes I had a nice red snapper on deck! Cleaning the fish brought visitors – black tip sharks started patrolling around “Two Oceans” waiting for more scraps, I counted seven of them. After Michael woke up and joined me, I filleted the fish a we threw the remains to the sharks, starting a feeding frenzy in the water and a photo frenzy on deck. I should have videoed it!     Next time!


 No swimming near the boat with those blacktips around!  Later I finished some of the jobs that accumulated on the last days (furler, alternator belt change, rearranging the forward locker and refastening the port Targa support whose bolt came loose). Our neigbours came by on their way ashore bringing some cream and elastic bandage for Michael aching foot (he mentioned it on their visit the day before), which Kerstine expertly applied.

Medical help

We took the dinghy to one of the Motus, where we saw some birds nesting including red footed boobies.

Redfoot booby

Thomas and Kerstine invited us for happy hour and the evening was finished with a snapper dinner. Kerstine gave us some limes that she brought all the way from French Polynesia. We love limes! Great with fish! Oh! Almost forgot! When we came back in the evening we tried fishing. The first piece of bait was grabbed by a 3 foot shark that came to our stern peacefully enough so I was able to play dentist and take the hook out and set him free. Other tries ended with lines cut by sharp teeth. Clearly it was not the time or place to go fishing!

30.4.10 – Friday – Just relaxing around the boat, looking at the ever present sharks guard, then around noon we persuaded Thomas and Kerstine to join us for a dinghy trip to a motu on the north-eastern part of the atoll where we’ve seen a large population of birds. We saw many nesting Boobies and Frigate birds, but frankly – after the Galapagos everything pales down.

1.5.10 – Saturday – The weather, which we were lucky to get from Thomas, favours going out on Sunday, plus we really wanted to stay another day here. So a decision is taken to change course to American Samoa, from which Michael flies back on the 6th. If we leave Sunday and the right god smiles on us, we’ll get there on the 5th.

Thinking about leaving, I was a bit worried about hauling the 35 lbs. anchor and 50 meters of chain manually from a depth of 17 meters (windlass not working, remember?). Although I tied a long tripping line with a float to the anchor’s head, thinking of pulling it up with that, but it was not that strong and I was not sure it could work. I then had the idea to use the regular winch with the spinnaker halyard to do it. I prepared two stainless steel hooks on strong lines, one to connect the chain to the halyard and the other to serve as a stopper when the chain gets too high up the mast and needs to be lowered to deck and locker. We’ll see how that works out tomorrow.

Fishing turns out to be a frustrating business. Ther blacktips are all over the place! I take the dinghy closer to shore and they follow! I did manage to hook a small trigger fish  and brought it to the boat. After cleaning it I stood by with my camera, threw the fish remains in the water and and took a video of the shark action. In addition to the sharks, who grew up in numbers (we counted a dozen at one moment) we had a school of tiny fish hiding behind “Two Oceans”. Blue needle fish were attacking and feeding on them and other unidentified fish were also seen. None were attracted to our bait! Neigbours invited us to dinner of ham pie and we had a very pleasant evening, they are also leaving tomorrow, straight to Apia in Western Samoa.


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