Suwarrow Atoll ... Cook Islands only national park
An isolated refuge of unparalleled beauty, the Cook's only national park is an atoll comprised of 20 motus (islets). The first European to visit the atoll was in 1814 by a Russian explorer, Mikhail Lasarev, aboard the Suvarov after which he named the atoll. When the Cook Islands gained their independence in 1965, the name was changed to Suwarrow, more in keeping with the Cook Island Maori language.
Suwarrow Atoll National Park
Population: 0 humans*, thousands of birds, fish and sharks, coconut crabs and turtles
Area: 0.15 sq miles
*Suwarrow Atoll is populated only six months of the year by caretakers. While we were there, John Samuelson, his wife, Veronica and their four sons, Jeremiah, Jonah, Vani and Tino were in residence. Cruising vessels can visit with permission and stay only two weeks. Suwarrow is an official entry/exit port for the Cook Islands.
Yes, yes, yes ... it should have been an easy two day sail from Manihiki to Suwarrow, but it wasn't. Old Neptune was wreaking havoc at our expense.
Strong SSE winds (25-35 kts sustained) with big gusts and lumpy seas, left us close hauled all the way and seasick until we finally opted to heave-to for a few hours. We noted a small tear in the main and taped it immediately, but a large gust caught it later and BOOM! the mainsail was in shreds. We quickly lashed it down and hanked on the storm trisail. The wind gen began making a loud clanking noise and while shutting it down, David noted that the starboard stainless support for it had pulled away from its secure point on the cap rail. He lashed it down just in time to notice the jib turning block which we used for the trisail sheets was pulling out of the deck. As we entered the pass into the Suwarrow Atoll, the wind continued to howl and howled for the next two days. Finally, a break in the weather and we began the process of putting Cups back together.
It wasn't all work though. We found time for playing and exploring, too. There were 10 boats anchored off Anchorage Island and we got together frequently for potlucks, parties and camaraderie at the "Suwarrow Yacht Club". John & Veronica were great hosts. John and his boys usually fished during the day and supplied fish and crabs for the evening potlucks. The cruisers brought all the rest and nobody went hungry.
We got to know John & Veronica quite well and spent some time exploring some of the other motus (islets) in the atoll which were usually off-limits to cruisers. The islets are populated with thousands of nesting birds who seem to be unafraid of humans.
We could have stayed anchored at Suwarrow for months, but, as usual, it was time to be on the move. With Nine of Cups repaired and in as good a condition as we could manage under the circumstances, we set off with a good weather forecast and headed for Niue, "the Rock of the Polynesia."