Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sweet Soulful Special Suwarrow

I can't believe I almost skipped this spot because I was nervous it would be too crowded with too many social obligations (aka potlucks). Many blogs mentioned potlucks at Suwarrow, so I wasn't sure if they were a daily event and I'm not good at saying "no to potlucks" when I need more time alone. In our 10 day stay there were only between 6-12 boats anchored and only 2 potlucks, which I should add were a lot of fun. I understand now that cruisers write so much about these potlucks because they are so special. During the potlucks …
….cruisers sang songs they'd written about Suwarrow because they love the place so much
…..Harry played guitar
…..Charlie welcomed us with many words and Maori dancing
…..we ate fresh fish and coconut crabs
……we played games, sang, danced and just had a lot of plain old fun

I snorkeled daily off of the boat in crystal clear waters. It was a good way to check on our anchor and I enjoyed it immensely, even on our rainy days. I was treated to turtle, eel, shark and many fishie sightings. I even discovered that coral grows beautifully on sticks and branches.

We swam with giant manta rays who gracefully glided around us as we starred in awe. They come for a cleaning twice daily on a reef near the anchorage and snorkeling with them never got old.
Manta-Annie Collision Course. I felt like I was so close...
Like my new tattoo?

We went on beautiful walks. We had 4 days of rainy and windy weather and we took this walk during one of those days. You'd never guess it from the photo because we found the one blue patch of sky to photograph!
We made it to Suwarrow!

We played with beautiful children. We had lots of play-dates with these wonderful kiddos. Nothing beats hearing Teddy's voice on the VHF radio asking if we have time to play or feeling Poppy's hand reach out to hold mine as we walked along the beach side-by-side.

Thank you Harry and Charlie for being such wonderful hosts at this magical atoll. I loved the remote raw beauty of this island and my soul was truly happy at Suwarrow.

For more pictures of our Suwarrow stay, check out: https://picasaweb.google.com/chris.foxxxy/Suwarrow

Note: We've made the 700 nautical mile journey to the kingdom of Tonga (Vava'u Group). We look forward to exploring the nooks and crannies of this country in the coming weeks.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Made it to Suwarrow! - Day 5

What a wonderful feeling to pull into a beautiful and calm anchorage after 5 days of rolling around at sea! The Park Rangers (Charlie & Harry) came to the boat 15 minutes after we dropped the anchor to check us in. They were super friendly and invited us to a beach BBQ tomorrow! They'll supply the fish and they requested that we bring a salad if possible. No problemo! I brought extra veggies just for this occasion. We're really excited get a full nights sleep tonight and explore Suwarrow in the coming days.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Bora Bora to Suwarrow - Day 3

We're half way there! Woo Hoo!

The seas have increased, but they're following, so we're enjoying a relatively smooth ride. Our wing-on-wing sailing configuration seems to be less rolly than usual; Chris and I aren't quite sure why though, but we're sure enjoying it.

I think we've got a good watch schedule going that allows both of us to feel "relatively" rested. As rested as you can get when you only sleep for 3-4 hour chunks of time.

7 pm - 11 pm --> Anne-Marie's watch
11 pm - 2 am --> Chris' watch
2 am - 5 am --> Anne-Marie's watch
5 am - 9 am --> Chris's watch

Chris then naps for a few hours in the morning and me in the afternoon. Consistent napping during the day is the big ticket item! Even if we don't feel super sleepy, we make sure to at least lie down and try to sleep, which helps a lot to make the night watches easier.

We are in SSB radio contact with about 7 other boats that are headed to Suwarrow. In the morning is the Official Net where we give our position, weather etc... In the evenings is a Social Net where people discuss sail plans and just have general chit-chat. It's nice to feel like part of a community when you're traveling in you little boat across the big blue!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bora Bora to Suwarrow - Day 1

We're on the road again. Good bye French Polynesia! Here we come Cook Islands!

We left at 4 pm yesterday and were treated to a beautiful sunset. Chris and I were in good spirits and excited to be moving on to a new country. I've always been very intrigued by Suwarrow. It's an uninhabited atoll lying a few hundred miles from any other island. Two Park rangers live on this National Park during the non-hurricane season and act as ambassadors and unofficial tour guides to the island. Apparently they are not given enough supplies to last the season and often trade (or show you how to gather) fish/lobsters/crabs for items they need like fresh vegetables, flour and gasoline. The wildlife, snorkeling and scenery are supposed to be amazing. I'm sure you can understand from the description why Suwarrow is one of the places I've been most excited to visit in the South Pacific. I'm curious to see for myself how it really is!

For this passage, instead of taking seasickness meds, I thought I'd try my friend Sarah's (SV Hydroquest) technique of willing myself to stay well. "I do not get seasick! I have a stomach of steel" I've been repeating in my head for last few days. It was all working very well until I threw up during my night shift... Oh well...back to seasickness meds for me!

This morning we had the worst squall ever with a heavy torrential downpour for hours! We were in our full foul weather gear (including booties)....I think the last time we got out all this stuff was in California. We quickly realized that our jackets are no longer waterproof, so it was a wet few hours :(

BUT, now the sun is shining, the wind is at our backs, the seas are small and following, our wet clothes are drying, Chris is napping peacefully below and I'm a happy and hopeful girl.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Peak into Paradise

* Back by popular demand! Guest blogger Annette (Anne-Marie's Mom)

A strike in Paris delayed our arrival to 2 am. As we were going through customs,  I could not believe my eyes to be greeted by a man playing the ukulele and a Tahitian beauty shaking her hips. It felt like Captain Cook and his crew had arrived. This was setting the stage for our trip to Paradise.

The first hug from our kids after their Pacific crossing was imagined and hoped for many times and cannot be described in words. Twinkle's motor was sick, so Anne-Marie and Chris rowed us all for 30 minutes, including luggage to Starship under the stars of heaven, which treated us with shooting stars. Luckily we picked up the fixed motor the next day

Anne-Marie and Chris were excited to see that all the Canadian goodies and ordered items had made it through customs safely. Grandma Mary's baked goodies, Aunt Wow's cool magazines and Clay's music were a highlight.

After recovering from jet lag, going to bed at 4am and adjusting to the tropical climate, we sailed with a boat full of good food, beer and not so good wine from Tahiti to Moorea. We definitely arrived in Paradise! Wherever we looked, sites of immense beauty stared us in the eye. Just looking down beside Starship, the crystal clear aqua marine water did not hide the smallest fish.

Day and night, the temperature is wonderful, as well as the temperature of the ocean. Since we arrived, Chris' strep throat sidelined him, so he could not join us to climb the mountains, visit ancient sites and swim with stingrays and sharks in Moorea.

Chris recovered in less than a week and like two weasels, Anne-Marie and Chris got the boat ready for our one and only (thankfully!) over night sail. It was quite the undertaking and Twinkleman (aka Kevin) was a big help. I felt very bad not being able to fulfill my role as Mrs. Patmore (aka cook), as the first sign of a nasty cold appeared. Anne-Marie made the most delicious passage food, macaroni and cheese a la Starship. Shortly after noon we started to sail towards Huahine. Everyone besides Chris felt seasick and I could hardly trust my ears when at dusk I heard commotion from the deck that a tuna was caught. Lying in my Queen-like cot, I could not bring myself to get up and my only thought was, "I would just cut the line". From the voices I could hear Kevin and Anne-Marie taking care of the catch, what a tough girl she is making her Dad's dream come true….fresh tuna on board.

Did you ever see photos of kleenexes or coughing or sneezing in paradise? Well, I should have taken some pictures because there was lots of opportunity when Kevin came down with the cold too. We made quite a dent in Starship's Mexican Costco kleenex supply. Can you imagine the cost of a kleenex box in paradise is $5? Thanks to the tender and loving care of nurse Anne-Marie, we continued to enjoy life on Starship. It seemed somebody was always coughing or sneezing, but we were so lucky to experience so many wonderful things. Just to mention a few….

… in Huahine - a traditional earth oven cooked lunch for the Chief's birthday, drums at night, outrigger canoe competition in the morning and visiting early Polynesian settlements

…in Raiatea - kitesurfing and girl's day on the town

…in Tahaa - snorkeling in 2-3 foot deep coral garden

… in Bora Bora - hiking up it's famous mountain, special Canada day celebration, cleaning Starship's hull, snorkeling the reef

Lots of new impressions and facts I take away and learned about during a very special time visiting French Polynesia. I'm so very grateful to Starship and her crew for showing me the raw beauty of it all.

TV or books did not convey to me how the coral reef protects the island and people from the power of the sea. The loving and strong unit, which Chris and Anne-Marie did let us experience during our stay is as strong and beautiful as a coral reef and so contains the greatest foundation to complete the rest of their journey successfully. With gratitude for an unforgettable time visiting Paradise on Earth where one should not forget to bring kleenexes.