Palmerston, Cook Islands
Sun 10 Jul 2011 02:31
18.23 S 165.26 W
Our time at Palmerston Island was unique, starting with bringing in three huge Mahi Mahi as we approached the island! We had heard from many people about the warm welcome received here and that is really what we found. From the moment Bob Masters came out in his dinghy to guide us to a mooring (the one laid by "Ghost" last year) and we were able to greet him with a Mahi Mahi, to the time we were delivered back to Boundless the following afternoon, we were treated as family. The facts from Bob are that the three families have always lived on the one island - Palmerston, but in his wisdom, old William Masters divided it into thirds (along with the other motus of the atoll). Each family has a very well delineated area - divided by sand roads that are well marked and even lit at night.
After we had been visited by customs/immigration and health (islanders acting in these govt. roles) and all bilges, lockers and cupboards had been sprayed by the nurse, we were cleared to go ashore, which we did with the whole entourage in Bob's dinghy. The afternoon was spent with a guided tour of parts of the island with Bob, meeting his cousins and sharing cold drinks, tea and TimTams with his wife and four children. We learnt a lot about coconuts and their many uses and life on the island in general, and joined in feeding the pigs and chooks and a baby frigate bird being fattened up for dinner!. Bob is currently Mayor of Palmerston, each family takes on the role for a three year term consecutively. Palmerston is independently managed by the Masters family and comes under the jurisdiction of the Cook Islands (NZ).
Bob returned us to the boat late in the afternoon and arranged to pick us up at 10am the following day as we were to be guests at the opening of the new school which has just been completed. There are currently 73 residents on the island and 30 children, with other family members that come and go. We took muffins and popcorn as our contribution to the feast to be held after the opening, and books, pens, fishing gear, beer and pantry items for Bob's family and a few things out of our First Aid kit for the Health Clinic.
We were welcomed by everyone we met with hugs and kisses, particularly by the five delightful matriarchs in their 70's and 80's. The stories they told and the linkages to other islands and other nations fascinating. The Boundless crew were welcomed in the official speeches and when the dancing began we were the first to be invited as partners by the school children. We couldn't stop laughing, it was such fun, my partner was a charming 8 year old boy who had done the traditional welcome dance - all the students danced with their parents or relatives. The drums were wonderful, the Cook Islands having a unique drum beat, different to the other island groups.All present sang a very emotional island anthem, with the matriarchs leading in very strong voice. After the feast, which everyone had contributed to, a ball game was played with young and old joining in and again a lot of fun and laughter.
We spent some time talking to the Headmistress and the Nurse among many others. It seems relations between the family groups are not always harmonious and we certainly picked that up in some of the conversations - not really surprising.
After a final farewell to everyone and then to Bob's family, we were delivered back to the boat feeling priveleged to have been a part of island life for 24 hours, so different to being a visitor on the many other islands we have been to.
An hour later, we were on our way to Tonga with light E/SE, 8-14 knots, with full main and gennaker and making 6 knots most of the night. This light weather is forcast to continue so we will probably not stop at Nuie, but continue on to Niafu so we can hopefully be there to meet Barb when she arrives on the 15th.
We will be crossing the International Dateline between here and Tonga, so we will really feel we are getting closer to home!