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Cook Islands Clean-up by World ARC Crews

By Sue Richards last modified Jun 02, 2008 04:43 PM

Published: 2008-06-02 16:43:29
Topics: Rallies
Countries: Cook Islands

Suworrow, Cook Islands
31 May 2008

Crews from some of the forty yachts participating in World ARC – the global circumnavigation organised by rally specialists World Cruising Club – were keen to lend a hand in a beach clean-up on this remote coral atoll in the Cook Islands in the central Pacific. Suworrow, one of the most isolated of the Cook Islands is a national park and wildlife sanctuary, normally resident to just the warden, John Samuels, and his family. Special permission had been obtained for World ARC yachts to call at this unique location, and as a thank-you, the crews were keen to help clear up winter storm damage.

Day one of the clean up campaign began with a beach clearance on Suworrow’s Anchorage Bay beach. A hut that had stood on the beach for four years was lying smashed up against a palm tree. With many hands to help it was swiftly dismantled and the timber salvaged for a new hut. A huge number of windfall coconuts and palm branches were put into piles for burning and lumps of coral arranged to form a path. By midday the heat was building up and the workers were flagging, so John gave the weary helpers a timely demonstration of palm tree climbing and cut down fresh green drinking coconuts for the sailors to share, some even attempting to learn the climbing skill themselves.

That evening, crews were able to share this little slice of paradise with a beach party, joining John and his family around the campfire under the wide Pacific night sky.

The next day, heading off in a flotilla of dinghies from Anchorage Bay, the clean-up team headed for Bird Island and a day of natural history combined with eco-tourism of the best kind. Led by the warden John, crews were able to view the teeming birdlife at first hand; the island takes its name from dense populations of seabirds that nest there. Its sky a mass of screeching and swooping birds whilst the ground is busy with thousands of fledgling chicks and eggs lying perfectly camouflaged on the rough coral sand. Exploring areas that are usually out of bounds to visitors, crews are able walked around Brushwood Islands, One Tree Island, and Turtle Island and wade across the adjoining lukewarm shallow reefs.

A cyclone had gone through over the winter leaving a kaleidoscope of flotsam and jetsam strewn across the beaches. Here "in the middle of nowhere", 200 miles from the nearest island, crews collected flip-flops, fishing buoys, plastic bottles, heavy rope, a half full jar of coffee and numerous toothbrushes. The find of the day was an aluminium dinghy, buckled and bent, but still floating. Imagine the scene - a cruising yachtie waking up in the morning, crying, "where's the dinghy gone!" It's stamped "Made in Auckland, New Zealand" so if anyone's missing a dinghy, they should apply to the warden at Suworrow!

World ARC yachts will soon be leaving this delightfully remote island, continuing their cruise through the south Pacific to Niue, then onto the Tongan Archipelago, Fiji and Vanuatu.