We're now en route to Tonga, and have time to reflect on the 10 days we spent at Suwarrow atoll. I have no doubt it's going to be one of the standout memories from our trek across the Pacific. Anchored in turquoise water, looking out at a palm-fringed islet, watching waves crash on the outer reef as we sit in the calm waters of the lagoon, and the clouds turn into the pink cotton candy fluff of sunset… it is picture perfect.
French Polynesia was stunning, to be sure, but this was untouched in a way none of the islands we visited there were. The checking in process was a perfect counterpoint to the triplicate forms, mailers, and stiff gendarmes of French Polynesia. Instead, a big Maori/Cook Islander- James- comes alongside with a warm "G'day!" and we complete the basic formalities in our cockpit with popcorn and juice. It takes all of about five minutes to finish the official stuff, but he's happy to hang out and let us pepper him with questions. As we soak up the knowledge he has to share about the island, his fellow ranger Apii comes by to see if Niall wants to go fishing with him- he's off to catch dinner for that night's potluck. We felt instantly welcomed.
Last year, our friends on s/v Whisper tried to articulate the experience that is life at Suwarrow. I like Mary's take: she called it "Boy Scouts for grownups." It's true: no badges are awarded, but our time is divided between collaborative, merit worthy efforts to provide sustenance, shelter, and entertainment. Cruisers tend to form ad-hoc communities easily, but something about the remoteness of this place- the real need for reliance on each other- seemed to prompt us all to engage that more quickly and deeply. There were a couple of other US flagged boats; the anchorage was a collection of Dutch, French, German, Russian, Swiss, Canadian and Australian vessels.
Several boats have more than the usual set of routine maintenance chores on board to make their floating homes ready for the next passage, and those who have parts of skills to offer lighten the load. Everyone pitches in to offer support for the living environment of the rangers, too- they need our donations of gas and propane to keep their small boat running, and spartan accommodations lit. For sustenance, one of the rangers takes people out almost daily to forage. Most of the time, this involves a bunch of testosterone pumped guys with spearguns bombing out to different points in the atoll to catch fish (trolling as they go), but coconut crab and lobster were targets on other days. And entertainment? The gorgeous clear water offers endless snorkeling… the evening potlucks on the main motu at the "yacht club" great socializing… and we even- oh, do I want to admit this?- we *even* sang Kum-bah-yah one night. Oh yes, we did.
Posted via radio: we have no internet access at sea