Wednesday, August 15, 2012

At Anchor: Suwarrow Atoll

I didnt get my timing quite right so I didnt drop anchor till right on Noon. The night had been long and almost sleepless, though I tried to sleep while we were hove to for about 8 hours but I was too nervous. At 2.30am I realised the wind had dropped and so ended up putting out all sail and we continued at reasonable pace on a broad reach. Ideally the Pole should have been out but I felt too tired by 4 am when I realized it would help, but didn't fancy balancing on the foredeck with the pole in the dark so eventually I continued with just the main up. My first sighting of the Atoll was about an hour after dawn, a row of what looked like stubble on the horison which gradually enlarged into a small coconut palm covered islet. I thought at first this was my Target but later another row of stubble emerged to the north of the first one and this eventually materialised into Anchorage Island. In between them was a string of tiny islets, some with a few palms on, some with masses of birds circling and wheeling abaout them, all linked by the white line of the surf on the reef, whose roar became apparent as I drew slowly closer. The reduced wind slowed me down and initially it frustrated me but then when I realised it meant that conditions on arrival at the Pass into the Lagoon would be ideal, I just waited and enjoyed the moment. Nevertheless after taking down the mainsail and starting the motor I felt nervous as we headed in with guidance from the GPS and Charlies Charts and the Mark One Eyeball. In fact it was quite straightforward. As we turned into the lagoon and the shelter of Anchorage Island I was surprised to find a dozen yachts tucked away in there - they had been not been visible on my approach and I had begun to wonder if I would be on my own. I motored slowly around the area where they were all anchored and chose a spot that seemed like the Box Seat : right in front of the Jetty and beach where Tom Neale had lived, in 8m of water on sand and a little more out of the wind than anywhere else.

I dropped anchor and sat at the bow waiting to see if it was holding - a shark swam past - and then an inflatable dinghy with two people approached - I had only been there two minutes! I thought maybe they were going to tell me I couldnt anchor there - but no, the guy, Bruce and his partner Marlene just wanted to make me welcome - they were from the nearest boat. They were about to go snorkelling with Manta Rays! Would I like to come? I said of course I would but needed to stay with the boat for a while to make sure the anchor was set - whereupon Bruce leapt into the water and swam across to inspect my anchor - "No" he called back, "its on coral and upside down" And the he helped me move it to a beautiful sandy spot close by, and watched it set and bury itself as I reversed back from it, and then I grabbed some biscuits and had a huge drink of water and off we went to snorkel with Manta Rays! I couldnt believe my luck - these people were so helpful and friendly.

I had been amazed by the Manta Ray I swam with at Bora Bora but here, we found five! It was spectacular! We swam with them for an hour and a half in wonderful clear warm water as they gracefully circled coral mounds and turned back and back again to scoop up food with open mouths. The biggest must have been ten feet or more from wingtip to wingtip, and all jet black. At one point all five were in a line following each other around and around in a circle like a dance - it was majestic.

By 2.30 I was back on the boat. I tidied up and put the sail cover on, had some food and drink, filled out my Log and now the Blog. Ive had very little sleep in the last 36 hours but its been a most wonderful day. So I do feel a little tired - but very pleased to be here, and on reflection, to have had a trouble free trip to at last reach Suwarrow. Its unlike any other place I have been to. Its a good feeling!

Tomorrow I shall get the dinghy out and go ashore.

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