Missing the Cook Islands

Caramor - sailing around the world
Franco Ferrero / Kath Mcnulty
Fri 17 Aug 2018 22:35

17:57S 162:54.2W

Our crossing to Niue continues to be pleasant with light winds and occasionally no wind. The downside is that it will take considerably longer than planned.

In a few hours we will be passing Palmerston Atoll to port. It is part of the Cook Islands and we won’t be stopping.

In this vast Pacific Ocean, there are so many islands to visit but the sailing season is very short because of the risk of cyclones between November and April, so we had to make choices.

The few people I know who have visited the Cook Islands (by plane) loved them so they were high on our list. The two islands we would most have liked to go to are Aitutaki and Rarotonga but neither has good anchoring or mooring. Then there are the fees yachts have to pay to the government, one crew we met had paid US$700 for a week’s stay. 

Palmerston Atoll is on our route, however the moorings are outside the reef and with some wind directions, yachts swing dangerously close to the reef, we didn’t fancy it. It isn’t an official port of entry so legally yachts have to go to Rarotonga or one of the other ports of entry first, though in practice, I doubt that many do.

It was first populated in 1863 by a ship’s carpenter from Gloucester, William Masters and his three wives from Manuae Atoll (500 nautical miles to the east). The sixty or so people (three families) living there today are all descended from these four people. Interesting. 

I enjoyed reading a report by S/V Don Quixote. This is the bit I liked best:

“As for Palmerston itself, imagine taking 60 members of your closest family (first imagine having 60 members of your closest family whose relationship to you is not only known but all within first cousin range), put them all in the same office environment, make them all quite Christian, then stick them on an island roughly the size of a city block, drop the island 350 miles from even the next largest stop which is about the size and population of Cicily (Alaska). Make a short temper breed true. Run supplies in and out every 3 or 4 months, taking islanders on and off in broad looping multiple year runs to get healthcare, provisions and spouses. Then to make it lively, parade roughly 50 boats with yachties from every country in the world - renowned for their independence and eclecticism - past these people every year. Make it a cultural imperative that the islanders offer every possible courtesy and hospitality to these foreigners in exchange for trade goods and services. Then let the whole thing simmer for about 150 years. This is officially the world’s largest tempest in the world’s smallest teapot.”