Day 684: The Egret crew prepares to leave Suworrow, but not before more fish, more beach suppers and more laughs

Egret prepares to leave Suworrow for Pago Pago in American Samoa

Position: S13 14.90 W163 06.71 Suworrow (Suvorov) Atoll, Cook Islands (Northern Group)

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 

Friday 2 August amWell, mis amigos, it is just after daybreak here at our island prison. This place just won’t let us leave and we have decided to go back to work. Yup, work for pay. The other morning I was up early to run the generator and charge the rapidly deteriorating batteries. The sun was just coming up in a beautiful burst of orange and light shafts overSouthern Cross, an American wood ketch. So with the sunrise, shadowed ketch and palm trees outlined by the light we snapped a few pictures. They turned out great so we made a CD copy and gave it to SC. The admiral fromGrace, a large South African sailing catamaran with the pile of kids, heard me talking to SC and offered to bake a chocolate cake for pictures of their boat. Well, mis amigos, for a chocolate cake in the middle of nowhere we have reversed our decision to never work again and have gone back to work. So here we sit after taking some good pictures, but not great, ofGraceearly this morning. (There were no clouds to highlight the sun). There was however a pretty blue shaft of light ending up on Grace separating the pink morning sky so there may be something there. This project may take a few days.

SV Graceis an interesting story. Youngish parents with 3 children ranging from 6 to 12 sold their business in Johannesburg, South Africa, flew to Ft Lauderdale and bought a 10-year-old sailing catamaran. NEVER having sailed or been to sea they hired a captain and set off for Panama. Learning from the captain as they went they dropped the captain in Panama and here they are. They plan to be out for 2 years, sell the boat and move to Durban, a smaller seaside town, and start another business. The kids are home schooled each morning until around noon then are free to join the other yachtie kids or the caretakers kids on the beach. Our kind of intrepid folks and quite an adventure for the kids. As for kids to play with,Momo, an American sloop anchored in front ofEgrethas two children 3 and 6.Southern Crosshas adopted a 9-year-old boy from Kiribati (formerly the Gilbert Islands, an island group in the western Pacific) and Suworrow caretakers John and Veronica have 4 boys from 6 (twins) to 12.

Yesterday we received an e-mail from a parent of one of the swabs. They must have been at work without access toEgret’spersonal satellite e-mail address so fired off a tear soaked message about missing their son using the VofE Forum venue. (The forum is where a reader may ask cruising questions then we respond with a personal reply thru the Forum). Not to clutter the Forum with sobbing parents anguish we’ll include our reply here.

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“XXXX is now our adopted son. We are enjoying him thoroughly. He has decided to stay with us until New Zealand where his girlfriend will get off as well. (ed note: XXXX is 17 and still in high school). This will also give his new tattoo a chance to heal. He is pretty sore right now and has to stay out of the sun. He had a close call the other day snorkelling with a bunch of small sharks. They became aggressive when he shot a parrotfish with his spear gun.

Now we are getting ready to go ashore, XXXX is covered from head to toe in clothes as well as Falani taking care of the new tattoos. She is really sweet and helps Mary around the boat. You’ll enjoy meeting her. Poor XXXX now has to sleep in the salon.

So XXXX is having the time of his life enjoying new pleasures. Take care, Scott & Mary”

So there you have it. Every parent’s nightmare. Oh well.

Friday 2 August pmWe’ve been busy, busy, busy with social tings. Friday most of the anchorage dinks were in a flotilla led by Caretaker John (CJ) and his family to a couple nearby motu’s with nesting birds. We stopped by ourselves first at an island that has a lot of nesting frigate birds (Man O War Birds) with frigates holding stationary in the breeze over the island. We wanted good pictures of a frigate bird, something that is hard to get. We were patient and waited. When the birds got used to us standing stationary they resumed their vigil over the low island and we snapped away. One thing we have noticed since taking up photography is sea birds can rotate their eyes in every direction including down and back. We use the zoom on the Picasa2 editing program (free download from Goggle) to see just that. When editing the frigate pictures we stumbled onto a phenomenon we have never seen before. Not only do the frigate eyes rotate but they have a black accordion type membrane that extends the eyeball out away and down from the head. Amazing!! We were telling friends last night at the potluck dinner (more on that later) and they probably thought we were a little heavy into the white. Nope. We have zoomed 150% on one picture and have it ready when they come this morning for coffee and cake.

OK, back to the bird island story. Sorry, got distracted with our discovery. After the frigate shots we motored to the island with the other cruisers. This island was covered top to bottom with sooty terns, white terns, a few frigate birds and boobies. The sooty terns would hover stationary in the wind just over your head. It would seem simple to take full frame pictures with birds so close but it isn’t easy. The camera takes a bit of time to focus then the bird moves. Again patience pays and in the end we did well. We have mentioned before there are quite few kids in the anchorage, one still in diapers. Boat kids are attracted to each other like magnets and here at bird island they were as thick as the terns running back and forth looking at the birds just over their heads and all shouting to be heard. Great fun for the older folks as well as we got together in groups and had our picnic lunch.

This get together inspired a potluck dinner on the beach the next afternoon (Sat). CJ asked the swabs and I if we would provide fish for the potluck. After piling his fillet table with grouper and snapper we felt a bit guilty about fishing so have laid off. The swabs were thrilled, so near dark we left on our fishin mission. It was rough, it rained hard then the sharks moved in so we had to quit. The tally was 1 nice snapper and 3 grouper. Soooo, we cleaned fish in the pouring rain then fed the sharks the leftovers on the other side of the island. We returned toEgretafter dark. Saturday morning at daybreak we left to complete our mission to furnish the now 16 boats in the anchorage along with Caretaker John and his family. We had shark problems but in the end had 3 nice grouper including our trip’s largest caught by FS (fisher swab).

Saturday 2 AugustA couple days before we had given Caretaker John a few fishing lures. When we first arrived and were asking fishing advice he mentioned a lure he named Alfonso after the cruiser who left a diving, swimming lure for him to use but eventually lost it. We wrote on the bottom of each swimming lure the swab’s names, Mark and Eric, and on the two spoons, Scott and Mary. Like a kid with a new toy off went CJ and his boys before daybreak to his favourite fishing spot around the corner. They came back with 4 fat grouper so there was plenty for all.

The potluck was a typical cruiser potluck dinner with too much food, a lot of conversation and fun for everyone. The older kids played football (soccer), the wee ones splashed in the water and CJ’s kids were climbing coconut trees like they had steps to send down coconuts for everyone to enjoy fresh coconut milk. Even his youngest (6) could open a coconut with a machete in just a couple strokes. Next they would split a coconut into two halves and use a purpose cut chip as a spoon to scrape out the meat. The dinner went on into well after dark. CJ brought out a light to keep tings going.

Mary overheard one of the swabs telling another cruiser he doesn’t want to leave here. We have heard that from both swabs now. It is interesting to watch the dynamics of these two young guys thrown into an unfamiliar environment (living aboard a boat moving from anchorage to anchorage) change as they become more comfortable with the routine. I believe they feel part of the crew now and cruisiers being cruisiers accept them as part of the crew as well. A number of the boats were anchored with us here and there along the way and have gotten to know the swabs names making them even more comfortable and accepted.

The South African catamaran delivered their chocolate cake in exchange for pictures. (They were thrilled with the pictures and said they were going to blow them up and put them on the walls of their new house to be). Stewart drove the dinghy over balancing the cake in one hand and steered with the other thru the chop. Another potential Olympic event. The swabs were starving yesterday afternoon (what else is new?) when the cake arrived. Warden Mary held firm and told them (with tears welling in their eyes) we were saving the cake for tomorrow morning (today) when friends were coming over for coffee and cake.

Sunday 3 August amWe had a little excitement this morning. We kept hearing the anchor chain rubbing on coral, something we haven’t experienced before. I got up to investigate around 4am. For the first time in our cruising we had chafed thru our anchor snubber. When we initially set the anchor, the fire hose chafe guard on the snubber slipped over the bow roller but it was super calm, had been calm so we unwisely let it go rather than retrieving the chain a few feet and reattaching the snubber and chafe guard properly. Double dumb lazy attack. The winds of the past week and all the associated pitching took its toll. Fortunately as a precaution Mary attached our ‘at sea’ snubber just before the windlass as well as flipping the chain wheel lock on the windlass. (Egretdoesn’t have a chain stopper and should). The chain was now hard onto the bow roller so the grinding noise was transferring up the chain, thru the roller to the hull instead of the snubber taking the shock and eliminating the noise. After daylight we started the main and moved forward a bit releasing the tension on the two additional snubbers we attached early in the morning. We let our replacement snubber out its normal 20′ past the bowroller then Mary centred the fire hose chafe guard and cleated it off. We then added a second precautionary long snubber as well AND reattached the at sea snubber.

There is a little trick to cleating lines/snubbers we’ll pass along. This works well for docklines as well in high winds. We take two complete wraps on the base of the cleat before finishing the usual figure 8 tie off. The reason is in high winds where there is a lot of stress on the line if you have the normal one turn around the base then the figure 8, releasing the figure 8 with that much tension is difficult if not impossible at times. Our main anchor snubbers are 5/8″ X 30′ (16mm X 9m) with 4-5′ of fire hose 20′ from the forged stainless steel chain hook. Our at sea snubber is 5/8″ X 8′. At sea we attach a short snubber and cleat it off as a precaution to the anchor becoming loose in heavy picturing. With the short unused tail end any water coming on deck won’t wash the balance of the usual snubber line out the scupper.

Sunday 3 August pmTwo more boats arrived today and both were happy to get here after the lumpy seas of the past week. One is Swiss and the other French. The Swiss boat we have seen here and there but not the French.

It is time to start thinking about leaving on the 3 1/2 day trip to Pago Pago, American Samoa. The swabs have a return flight to the States the evening of August 14th. We don’t want to be trapped by weather here and have to leave in conditions we would prefer not to leave. We’ll look for an optimum weather window of 20 or less knots (sustained) from the SE (normal trade winds). Our course to American Samoa is WSW puting the trade wind seas on the port stern quarter giving us a push but a corkscrew ride as well. If we are lucky the winds will be a little more E than SE. Of course our dream seas would be NE but I doubt we could be so lucky. Bottom line is we will fire off an e-mail to OMNI Bob and check the gribs as well.

So there you have it. A couple more days in The Life. Ciao.

Picture 1. Suworrow’s caretaker, John, and wife, Veronica
Picture 2. CJ’s & Veronica’s boys and cruiser kid.



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