Day 6 - Palmerston - 18 02.806S 163 11.548W

Mike and Liz Downing
Sat 11 Sep 2010 09:34
Arrived at 09.30 this morning (Friday) and are tied up to a mooring buoy only just off the reef. There are 8 mooring buoys here and the strong easterly wind is blowing all the boats off. The shelter here is better than we thought, so it's quite comfortable. Hope it stays this way when the stronger winds and bigger swell arrives on Monday - 25-30kts of wind and 12 to 18ft swells are forecast. The sea bed here drops off very quickly and must be almost vertical. We are so close to the reef, but are in a depth of 140ft. Our own anchor is also down to slow our progress out to sea if the mooring, or our ropes to it, chafe and give way!

As we sailed overnight the winds came up as forecast, so it was blowing 20-30kts and again just the storm jib was up all night. We didn't want to get here too early, i.e. before sunrise, so kept the speed down to around 5kts. Slowing down can be a problem with a strong wind behind unless a drogue is used and we didn't want to do that if we could avoid it. We had had 4 1/2 days without any squalls, but last night they came one after another delivering increased wind speed and a lot of rain. So we had our wet weather gear on for the first time for a long time - it was also quite cold with the rain, so needed it. If this is what it's like at 18 degrees south, what's it going to be like when we really head due south?!

2 humpback whales swam through the moorings between the boats this afternoon - blowing as they came up for air and then diving, one with its flukes high in the air. What a sight so close. It made up for the fact that since leaving Bora-Bora and having sailed 671.3 miles, we have seen very little wildlife - the ocean appeared almost sterile with only 2 or 3 birds spotted the whole trip. Apart from the few birds there was no sign of any life whatsoever - no yachts, ships or boats of any kind and no aeroplanes in the sky. From here to Tonga is an area where humpback whales come to give birth at this time of year and we're getting reports of sightings on the radio net most days, so we hope we will see more.

Palmerston atoll has a unique history. All the people here are descendants from a Lancashire man, William Marsters, who settled here in 1862 with 3 wives from one of the other Cook Islands. He fathered 26 children, divided the islands and reefs for the 3 families and established strict rules regarding intermarriage. Three men came out to the boat today to carry out Customs and Immigration procedures - Terry Marsters, Simon Marsters and Edward Marsters. There are still 60 or so of William Marster's descendants living on the island, a quarter of whom are children. They have a good school here catering for those from 5 years to 17. Other descendants have moved to New Zealand and elsewhere in the Cook Islands.

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