Monday 3rd September - Palmerston Island

Jon & Carol Dutton
Tue 4 Sep 2012 07:13

18:02.81S 163:11.54W

Monday 3rd September – Palmerston Island

Whew – we made it about half an hour before sunset and picked up one of the half a dozen moorings maintained by the 3 families on Palmerston Island at 1815. 

We’d tried calling one of 3 addressees on the island using the VHF radio but without any joy.  The deal is supposed to be that you call one of these at least 15NM out.  One family - perhaps competing with one or both of the other families - comes out to you by boat once you have made it to the leeward side of Palmerston Island, guides you in to a mooring and then adopts you for the period of your stay.

Anyway, none of that worked. That was a touch concerning because we knew we were tight for time.  The charting hereabouts is not very detailed – it says something like “Here be very deep (too deep to register on your echo sounder); here be very shallow (so shallow that even if it did register you’d be beyond caring)”. So, going explorin’ after dark is not wise. Messing around without a clear target around sunset is not what we’re after.  Fortunately, our calls were picked up by a 34’yacht called La Luna already moored off the island.  They intervened and advised us on what to expect. 

We’ve picked up a mooring for the night although it’s hard to be totally confident about these things until you’ve snorkelled or dived on them.  The wind is a pretty steady 20 – 25 knots and no anchorage or mooring here will afford any protection from that – much as in the Tuamotus.  But, there is little swell and the boat is reasonably steady.  Anchoring?  Don’t think we’d consider it.  The holding is poor, the anchoring shelf is narrow and once off it you’re in massive depths.  We also note in the pilot for this area that the firm advice is to leave this island in the event that the wind stops doing what it’s supposed to do (blow from the east) and decides to blow from the west. Oh, yeah – no question about it.  Our mooring is intriguingly close to a very grown-up reef which doesn’t look as though it takes any prisoners at all.

What’s also quite interesting is that the charting here does not match up with the radar picture in the same precise way that it has done throughout French Polynesia.  That’ll be worth bearing in mind. 

 So, we now await developments.  Someone from the island will have to come out to us to clear us in to the Cook Islands.  It’s also the only way that we’ll be able to get ashore.  There are a number of very small and very dangerous passages into the lagoon and so to Palmerston Island.  Taking yachts through any of these is out of the question. Moreover, they are so tricky that yacht tenders are banned from attempting passage and the only way to get ashore is in the boat of the family that adopts you. Incidentally, we are moored off the biggest of the passages (named somewhat confusingly “Big Passage”).  Big, it definitely is not.