Astra Blog: Palmerston Island 15.09.08 - 17.09.08

Jeremy & Sally Paul
Mon 6 Oct 2008 20:54

Astra Blog: Palmerston Island 15.09.08 – 17.09.08


We woke to a very pleasant morning and wasted no time in getting on with the jobs in hand.  First up was diving on our mooring to see what exactly whoever had laid it might have attached us to.  Sally deposited Ash and George into the crystal clear waters just up current of Zulu and from there the boys drifted happily along over the beautiful coral checking each link in the moorings.  They are simply a heavy chain wrapped and shackled around a coral head.  They all looked in good shape (although a yacht had broken free only the week before) so the divers returned to Astra just in time for a visit from customs and immigration.  During this, the officials of Palmerston Island offloaded their furniture from Astra, negotiated that we would lay two more moorings for them (with chain and shackles from other cruisers) and invited us for a welcome lunch on the island.


Operating on ‘island time’ we were finally collected from Astra at about 1500 and along with several other cruisers were expertly conned through the narrowest pass on the planet (the current is too strong for the average yacht tender to cope with) across the beautiful lagoon to the beach.  Lunch was served at Edward and Simon Marsters’ family home(s) and was absolutely delicious; consisting of chicken, sweat bread, coconut, papaya and a huge amount of fresh parrot fish.


Pleasantly full, we were then taken on a tour of the island by our hosts who showed us all of their current projects, street lamps from New Zealand, the communications centre (complete with telephone), the original house of founding father William Marsters and most importantly the coconut splitting spike.  We were also shown the school where George was expected to take up residence for the next 3 months.  Unfortunately, due to some rather strange island politics, they were unable to take him on as the teacher he was going to replace had decided not to leave after all.  However, he was invited to attend school the following morning to meet the class of 14 children and help out!


In the morning we saw George off to school and Edward Marsters bought his boat out so that Ash and Sally, with surface support from Pete (Zulu), could lay two new moorings so that visiting yachts could moor up.  With the next two yachts arriving that same afternoon the pressure was on.  Neither Sally nor Ash had ever done this before so several minutes were spent at each location on the seabed making frantic hand signals about which each felt was the largest coral head in the vicinity.  Finally they settled on some seriously chunky arches which they had to really stretch from either side to pass the chain through to each other before they could shackle the chain and seize it.  It was an exciting operation made more so by the fact that if they are not good enough a yacht might float out to sea!  Thankfully they are attached to the most immense bits of coral and those who have managed to dive remotely close to them agree that they look the business.


Edward then informed us that there was a ‘pot luck’ BBQ on the beach at 1500 the same afternoon.  Sally rushed back to Astra to prepare some food while Ash went to help Zulu actually catch some food!  Ash, Pete and Phil then spent the next three hours in the water chasing the largest parrot fish they could find with a spear gun.  Phil managed to get a hit by aiming at a cloud of yellow snapper, he and Pete then climbed up on tip toes on the reef while Ash went to get the tender.  He was swimming back at full throttle when several sharks shot past him in the other direction at about mach 3 making a beeline for the fish blood!  Finally all three were back in the tender, unfortunately, Phil had shot the snapper in such a place that there was not enough left to bother bringing back.  So Ash was dropped in deeper water away from the previous location to continue the search.  After pursuing the largest parrot fish he could find for an hour and lying in wait on the seabed for other unsuspecting victims without much success, the growing concentration of rather excited sharks forced him to beat a retreat to the tender.


At 1500 Edward picked up about 12 hungry cruisers and took us all ashore for the BBQ.  It was a great success and there was plenty of food to go round despite the fact that the boys had had no success with the fishing.  This was followed up with a volleyball match: sailors v locals (that is local children aged about 6-15!).  Perhaps it was because we had eaten too much but we were soundly beaten 2-1.


We were just heading back to the boats to lick our wounds when Edward suggested that the boys (Ash, George, Pete and Phil) go hunting for crayfish and then stay the night on the island for a bit of a party…guess he doesn’t get out that much!  So that night while Sally and Jeremy were having a bit of a party with Findlay on Zulu, the boys were running around the reef in thigh deep water with dive torches chasing the surprisingly manoeuverable cray fish.  The technique was to skirt around in the deep water on the seaward side, all in a line as though we were on a man hunt, and the second we saw the cray fish’s eyes glow in the torch light we were to try to put our foot on them until Edward could arrive to put them in a bag.  We were amazed at how fast these creatures could move, the instant they knew they were in trouble they would ‘reverse’ straight towards the breakers with the five of us in hot pursuit.  It was reasonably successful; we managed to bring back three decent specimen for the pot and had a bit of a celebration before heading to our quarters in Edward’s (nearly complete) house.