Day 674: Fish, fish everywhere

After a bit of a fish drought the crew of Egret now has more seafood than it knows what to do with

After a bit of a fish drought the crew ofEgretnow has more seafood than it knows what to do with

S13 14.90 W163 06.71 Suworrow (Suvorov) Atoll, Cook Islands (Northern Group). Suvorov is the name of the Russian expedition ship that discovered the atoll and the name they gave the atoll. It has since been renamed Suworrow by the Cook Islanders. )

Scott (YT) and Mary Flanders (MS) left Gibraltar on 16 September 2006, and we’ll be following their journey every step of the way, thanks to this unique online “blog”. For a complete list of all the couple’s blog entries click here 

Thursday 24 July
Well, mis amigos, after our last post we enjoyed another calm and sunny day at sea. It was a routine day with watch changes, engineroom checks, great meals and conversation, all of which was suddenly interrupted just before sundown when the right rigger went off (fish speak). The right outrigger (right as you look aft) extends the artificial bait away from the boat into calmer water (less wake) making it more visible to our fishy friends. The swabs take turns to fish and when one picks up a rod with a fish on, their turn is over whether the fish is landed or not. At present the reel drag is screaming as the fish pulls the line off the reel at an alarming rate whileEgretis still making 6.8 knots and the fish is trying its best to be somewhere else. The swab that is next up is fast asleep so I cancel navigation, reduce speed to dead idle and wake him up. He staggers up the stairs thinking “it can’t be time for watch yet” so he goes from sleepy head to wide-open throttle in a nano second. I went to the flybridge to give chase, the swab was trying to reel before putting on the gimbal belt (a device that attaches across your lap with a belt that receives the base of the rod and spreads the rod load over its surface) so he had the rod base shoved into his stuff and his toes turned inward/heels outward trying to relieve the pain. The fish escaped, we never did see it but we knew it was large.

Five minutes later and before he’d even had the chance to retell the story the right rigger went off again. This time it was RF’s turn (rookie fisherman) who stood there frozen, straining himself trying to sort through advice and commands from three different people. We slowed the boat down, Mary put the gimbal belt on and RF set to work. The fish pulled a lot of drag, turned left and ran across the back of the boat, then turned and ran toward the boat. By now I was in the flybridge and both Mary and the other swab were telling RF to “Reel, reel!” RF reeled as if his young life depended on it. In the end the fish jumped near the boat and spat the hook. It was a 35lb swordfish, a first for me. Swordfish are nocturnal feeders that feed very deep, primarily on squid. Down deep it is quite cold so swordfish often lay on the surface or near the surface during the day getting all warm and toasty before heading down for dinner after dark. It is very rare that they snap on surface bait.

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After all this excitement RF’s adrenaline has transferred to his jaws and he tells us all the story of what just happened (even though we all witnessed it).

Friday 25 july
It is now just after daybreak and we are 27.37nm from the offshore waypoint of Suvorov.

The atoll appeared as a bunch of dots (motu’s) on the radar. One of the swabs spotted the rusty remains of a freighter who had had a bit of bad luck and driven straight on to the reef. Then Anchorage Island, the largest motu appeared. Anchorage Island is about 3/4nm long and less than 1/4 mile wide and covered with coconut trees. Its highest land is less than 5ft above sea level and the current rip at the entrance was in full swing with smallish current waves extending a mile or so offshore. We thought we could smell fish but it must have been the swabs because we didn’t have a single bite. The entrance is straightforward if you have the patience to wait a bit as it opens up and has no hazards. It does help to be in a flybridge and have the sun overhead.

We dropped the anchor in 26ft of white sand and mixed coral heads, the best we could find after scouting around. We were the 12th boat in the harbour. Three had left that morning (we had heard them saying their goodbyes on the VHF).

Going ashore to check in we met the two Cook Island caretakers, Veronica and John and their five kids. Typical of laid-back island folk they were super friendly and answered all our questions. It is hard to believe that we are finally here after reading about Suvorov (Suworrow) Atoll for many years.

Saturday 26 July am
It is just after daylight. I was up early making coffee for Mary. We decided to drop a heavy fishing jig down where the bad boys live near the bottom while the water was heating. WOW! Something big snapped and pulled a ton of drag before the hook pulled. Moments later fisher swab joined the fishing. Fisher swab soon had a 4lb snapper aboard (later defined as an empress snapper) and I soon pulled in a fat little grouper. This commotion got RF swab out of bed and he too joined in the fishing. Soon he too caught a grouper and a couple of black jacks. Fisher swab then caught a black jack before small sharks moved in and ate the next fish so we quit for the day.

The swabs took the fish ashore (you are not allowed to clean fish in the anchorage as this attracts sharks) for cleaning. Now we have two one-gallon zip lock bags full of fish that we’ll donate to the caretakers. So our time in Suvorov begins. I think we are going to like this place.

Saturday 26 July pm
We circumnavigated half of the island on foot. The shallow water was full of small sharks and parrotfish as well as typical reef fish. Sea birds nest on the island so we took lots of pictures. The caretakers declined our fish (“it would spoil our afternoon fun”) so now we are eating fresh snapper and grouper for dinner (ho hum). And all this after a lunch of fresh yellowfin tuna (yawn). Hopefully a few more boats will show up that we can give fish to so we can keep fishing. N55’sNew PaigeandMyahsent an email this morning announcing their expected arrival on Tuesday.

Sunday 27 July am
Today was a boat chores half day for me. Mary and the swabs took the dink to a nearby high sandy shallow spot to try to find the resident manta rays. Fisher swab went underwater with his small camera, waterproof to 10ft, and was able to get pictures of one manta. Despite knowing they are plankton eaters he still got a bit nervous when the manta came up from the deeper water toward him with its 8ft wings barely moving and its mouth wide.

We got a call on the VHF from a nearby British single-hander looking for 10 gallons (35 litres) of diesel to fill his tank half way (it is a 25 gallon tank). We had a full 35-litre jug of fuel so the swabs and I took it over. He was thrilled we would sell him fuel at Papeete duty-free price.

The man, in his late seventies has been wandering the world for years in a 37ft rusty steel sloop, obviously built somewhere in a backyard. His compass is nearly covered with green tape to retain what fluid is left, and the cockpit bulkhead has an assortment of antique instruments that probably don’t work. A while ago he called on the VHF for weather information to get his departure forecast. This lead to a return call asking if he had got his fuel issues sorted. He said he did after he changed his primary filter and the diaphragm on the fuel pump. I suspect it was the fuel filter and seldom or never cleaned tank. He said “most years I change the filter once a year but this year we went a little over”. We could sit here and be critical but the bottom line is this curmudgeon is out here seeing the world and living his life. He has chosen not to sit around watching soaps somewhere and wait for the big trip to end and he has the respect of his fellow cruisers as well as their help to keep him going. Later this morning he is off to Pago Pago, American Samoa, which is also our next destination.

Sunday 27 July
The swabs and I went fishing nearby. We have now figured out the fishing technique and where the fish hold in this particular part of the world. We loaded up with a nice fat grouper in no time. In the end we got a triple hook-up. RF caught the biggest and before leaving a nearby boat called on the VHF and said they had a smoker on board and would smoke the fish for everyone in return for some themselves. Smoking fish on the beach will be a job for tomorrow.

Now we have a dilemma and it is one we didn’t anticipate. We have the ability to catch fish at will bit it’s not right that just because we have this ability to fill everyone’s freezers with fish that we should do. We’ll back off from supplying fish for potluck dinners from now on and the swabs will have to snorkel the shallow reefs to see their fish.

We’re also planning on exploring some nearby islands, and lazing around Anchorage Island. N55New PaigeandMyahwill be here tomorrow, our Swedish sailboat buddies emailed this morning and they are on their way, plus we have already met four boats here, “Ain’t life grand” to quote a cruising buddy. Ciao.

Picture 1. Suworrow (Suvorov) beach
Picture 2. Cook Islands atomic clock.



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