To Palmerston Island 15:02.9S, 163:11.6W
We set out from Bora Bora 07.00 on Thursday, leaving quietly before most boats were awake, by 08.00 we were clear of the reef and with the full main and a poled out genoa set our course for the 660mile trip to Palmerston Island. Palmerston is an interesting place. It is one of the Southern Cook Islands and although not a port of entry they can clear yachts in and out if there is good reason for them stopping. One good reason is being in need of rest. The entry ports are Raratonga or Aitutaki neither of which we really wanted to go to. Raratonga only has one port which is the commercial port and doesn’t really suit yachts especially if the swell is running into the harbour, Aitutaki has a shallow entrance which we would not be able to go through and the anchorage outside is on coral with no shelter. We had also heard that both those ports have high fees.
Through Thursday we ran down wind with SE 15-18 knots, but by early Friday we had put in one reef and kept this through the day. Saturday, early hours, the second reef went in and we then had a frustrating time as the wind speed varied from 8-20 knots. We seemed to be constantly reefing and unreefing as we had squalls pass us. We knew there was the possibility of stronger winds on this passage so were fairly cautious. Early in the evening we had three reefs in and just after midnight dropped the main completely and sailed as we had across the Atlantic with just the poled out Genoa which could be rolled in and out to suit the wind. At this point our speed instrument (log) stopped reading so we were unable to tell the true wind speed and had to make estimates by adding our estimated speed to the apparent wind speed. We know that the wind was blowing between 25 and at least 35 knots and Serenity was sailing well in a confused sea with swell running over 3 metres high. The wind eased a bit during Monday but was still 20-30 knots. On Tuesday morning we took down the pole to allow us to come onto the wind and head in toward the island where we arrived about 13.00hrs.
As requested we had contacted the island before we set out and had instructions to keep them up to date with ETA’s by email but not to radio in. There are three families on the island all descendants of the William Marsters an Englishman who had settled on the island in 1860 with three ‘wives’ that he brought from Penrhyn Island. The families have a tradition of hosting and looking after visiting yachts, there is rivalry between them as to who gets to put the boats onto the moorings and thereby get the right to be hosts. As we had emailed and made contact with Bill and Matua they wanted to be our hosts. They were sitting out in their skiff on the moorings for a good couple of hours before we arrived but this waiting didn’t seem to worry them as they managed to catch some fish.
Having been put on a mooring we then had to wait for the officials to be brought out to complete our entry. Health, immigration/customs and ministry of agriculture. First the nurse came on board and fumigated the boat, then the island administrator completed customs and immigration and the Min. of Ag. rep. satisfied himself that we weren’t going to bring any bugs or diseases ashore. We were then left to get some rest till Wednesday when Bill would come and collect us. Because the passage through the reef is shallow and tortuous they do not want to use your own dinghy, good job as I doubt our little outboard would have made it against the wind and the six knot current.
So far we have failed to photograph the Humpback Whales that swim around the bay and can be quite close to the yachts. Two swam in front of us as we approached, and Thursday Sarah saw one in the distance jump right out of the water.
Bill in his Skiff
Moored so close to the reef
Bill’s son Tomotau by the grave of his 4 times great grandfather the first William Marsters