Suvarov and fishing

September 6, 2007

We are still in Suvarov (Suwarrow) in the Cook Islands. We had
hoped to leave five days ago for Samoa but the weather has not
cooperated. It is beautiful here so we are not complaining
about being stuck in paradise. The wind had slowed to less than
8 knots and came out of the north. That brought rain and
squalls, some intense, mixed in with periods of sun. We used
those sunny periods to snorkel all around the lagoon, and took a
long walk along the reef to Monkey’s Island at low tide during a
cloudy morning. Then the wind shifted from the south but still
light. We used up quite a bit of diesel getting here from
Bora-Bora and then subsequentlyunning the generator and making
water, so we do not have nearly enought to get to Samoa without
a few days of good wind.

There is one thing fairly new to us that has become an important
part of our stay in Suvarov, and that thing is fishing. To
illustrate its allure, consider that yesterday, while we were
snorkeling in the most amazing reef, watching colorful fish in
the crystal clear water, Laura turned to me and said “Let’s go
back to the boat and go fishing.” Even Laura is smitten with
the fishing bug. It is not just the sporting aspects of fishing
that moitivate us. It is also that the fish that we catch –
grouper – is quite delicious and is far better to eat than
anything that we have left on the boat. We and our friends on
Risho Manu and Yara are all out of fresh food. Only one of our
two fridges is running and it has only has some cheese, beer and
coke. We had our last apple with breakfast. We have lots of
dried and canned food, but none of it seems as appealing as
baked or barbequed grouper.

It is fairly easy to catch grouper in the lagoon once John, the
park warden, gave us some pointers. From our dinghy, we drag
150 feet of 200 pound test line off of a plastic spool (called a
yo-yo) with a diving Rapala lure attached. No fishing rod or
reel required. Laura steers the dinghy along the dropoff near
reefs. We have found the reef just behind the sailboats is very
productive so we do not have to go very far. We are now
confident that if we spend one to two hours trolling a line from
the dinghy, we will land a big grouper. The other day while
contemplating the options for supper just one hour before
sunset, we decided to go out for 45 minutes and see if we could
catch something (sort of like a last minute trip to Whole
Foods). After 30 minutes, we had a fish on the line and I
started to haul it in while wrapping the line around the plastic
yo-yo. As the fish got almost up to the dinghy I was surprised
by the sudden strength of the tug on the line. I pulled up hard
and found that there were two fish heads staring to me — one
belonging to a large grouper and the other to a shark with its
jaws around the grouper. The shark and I were both shocked to
see each other — the grouper already knew what was up. The
shark chomped down, taking the back 60 percent of the fish,
leaving me to haul in the front 40%. The shark had the better
part by far since grouper heads are quite large and are not
eaten by us. Nonetheless, there was enough grouper left for a
nice supper for Laura and I. However, this fish was not as
tasty as the others, which we attribute to the trauma the poor
fish went through in those last moments. Late yesterday
afternoon, Laura and I caught a grouper big enough to feed us,
Risho Maru, and Yara plus leftovers. The fresh fish keeps the
beans and rice dinners on hold.

The wind is supposed to pick up a bit tomorrow and we may use
the opportunity to start off for Apia, Samoa some 520 nautical
miles away. With the forecast winds, it should take us 4 days
to reach Samoa. We will miss the annual festival that we had
planned to attend but this loss is offset by the wonderful time
that we have had in Suvarov.