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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tragedy in Suwarrow

It was every cruiser’s nightmare – a middle of the night gale with howling winds and torrential rain in a confined anchorage strewn with coral heads.   We’d only just arrived in Suwarrow after a  rather scruffy and tiring five day/night passage from Maupiti and all we wanted was a good night’s sleep.  After an early dinner we crashed into bed at 7pm but were rudely awoken at midnight when the gale tore through the anchorage.  Instead of sleeping we, and everyone else in the anchorage, spent a long night on anchor watch…terrified of dragging.  Australian friends Liz and Steve on Amiable, anchored behind us, had the worst stroke of luck when they snapped their anchor chain on coral and were blown onto a reef in a 40knot gust.
They spent a terrifying night waiting for rescue as conditions were too atrocious for any attempt to be made before daylight.  Cruisers maintained a VHF vigil to support them and try and nut out a rescue plan.  At first light Suwarrow caretaker Harry Papai was roused and he lifted an unhurt but shattered Steve and Liz off Amiable using his aluminium dinghy.  For the next five days cruisers did what they could to help and support the couple particularly with the salvage of items from Amiable.  It was a very tough time for everyone.
The tragedy marred our time in beautiful Suwarrow and our thoughts are with Steve and Liz whose cruising time in the Pacific has been cut cruelly short.  The cruising community showed its depth and dozens of offers of support and help flowed in.  Liz opted to leave on another boat heading to Samoa so she could deal with the aftermath with decent internet and telephone facilities (there is nothing in Suwarrow) while Steve stayed on to wait for his friend Franz on Vela to arrive.   A terribly sobering reminder of how things on yachts can, and do, go wrong so very quickly. 

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