position S18 02.683 W163 11.383

Ocean Rival Journey Log
Adam Power Diana Power
Sun 3 Jun 2018 08:10
SATURDAY (eve) 2nd June. Palmerston

As everyone appeared to be tied up with the offloading of the supply boat this morning I thought I would be safe to snorkle over to the reef and back before Bobs 10am scheduled  arrival. We are moored in about 10m depth and can see the bottom very clearly- the coral floor all subtle shades of blue.  The mooring anchor is simply a chain wrapped round a substantial head of coral- Bob did warn us that it is not 100% and if we find ourselves drifting towards Tonga in the night to just let the mooring line go and carry on. As you swim towards the reef cliff so the fish multiply -all colours, shapes and sizes.  I may have got engrossed so when I heard the outboard and looked up to see Bob and his daughter I realised Bob was on time and I was late.
Making a quick return to the yacht and gathering of documents and beer and wine for offerings, we jumped into the aluminium skiff and sped through the pass snaking skilfuly through coral shallows with occasional sticks just protruding to mark a turn.

We joined Bobs family for a coffee in their dining room with views instead of walls. Bob is 8th generation Masters (since William Masters  landed on Palmerston with 2 wives in 1838) and has grandchildren that are 10th generation, though the older children and grandchildren are now based in Australia. The remaining family comprise his wife, an older daughter of about 16 and 7 year old Madeenia and 5 year old son Henry. Also at the table was Steve a New Zealander who is engaged to a local girl (Bob said that outsiders stealing the women is the only crime on Palmerston- possibly in jest) and had attached himself to the Masters family.

The island is like other attolls we have visited in terms of sand, coral, sea and flora but feels quite different in tidyness and organisation. The wide main street is pristine brushed sand with the  church dominant  on one side, and leading nowhere but to a clear view of turquoise water and blue sky. Men were busy moving chest freezers that had been offloaded from the supply boat with a smart new tractor. One of many unique Palmerston statistics one imagines is that there are more chest freezers per head of population here than anywhere else in the world. The freezers are filled with fish fillets and sold to Hotels in Raratonga (capital of the Cook Islands). Bob can make $1000 a day with no great difficulty.

We had arrived on a special day due a) to the supply vessel, b) election day and c) the harvesting and division of Tropic bird chicks.   The sorry looking fat chicks are unable to fly or even walk very well and are easy pickings from nests on the remote islands. They are brought back to the village alive in sacks and thrown roughly into a pen where they mostly sit looking confused- some occasionaly screeching patheticaly. The customs officer then proceeds to oversee the counting and work out how many each family can take based on the number of family members.  I think Bob got 10 altogether in his wheelbarrow. While Bob and eldest daughter tackled the neck breaking and plucking we took a walking tour courtesy of Madeenia and Henry. 

The children gave us an informative and delightful tour- the cemetary filled with old Masters, the  power station (solar panels) the satelite dish, the admistrative centre where election preparations were underway, the school, the nurses house (the smartest house on the island) and the highlight, the wreck of Riri washed up in the trees-a catermeran that broke free of its mooring a few years ago.

We found our way back to Bobs house and as lunch wasn't quite ready headed down to the beach for a swim. I caused some consternation by returning via a somehat circuitose route, necessitating a search party in the form of Madeenia who then prompted a search party in the form of Bob on his motorbike as I had returned and Madeenia vanished. Once all were gathered at the table, grace was said by Bob and the dishes opened to reveal to parot fish gujons, banana fritters, rice and lamb stew. It was an eclectic but wonderful selection of dishes, all  delicious -particularly the parrot fish which Bob prefers to any other and on this evidence I am not going to disagree.

Another guided tour after lunch-this time we were shown the piglets and turtle nests (empty) and returning via the school this time we found the head teacher in her house. She gave us a very thorough run through of the education system and teaching methods that she was trying to modify from punishment to reward. An australian fisherwoman who had studied marine archeology at Bangor university  in Wales before taking a teaching diploma and applying for this job. She tried to withdraw the application (twice) as she found out that all subjects were to be covered and she couldn't do maths at even the most basic level but the islanders pursuaded her that that was a minor disadvantage- much more important was her evident resourcefulness and ability to be stranded on an island with just 30 other souls for company and little chance of escape. She has 3 teaching staff- all island girls and is training one of them to take over from her in a couple of years. She was full of useful information about places to visit or not - her fishing career had taken her to most of the pacific and around australia. She is saving her salary to buy a yacht and sail across the pacific.

Back at Bobs again and a cup of tea- the conversation turned to coconuts and Bob gave us a very clear demonstration in coconut usages. The fresh green ones are good for drinking the water and for using the scraped out flesh for bread making, the older brown ones for grating and squeezing the flesh for coconut milk and the sprouting oldest ones when the water has turned to a solid soft centre that you can grate and make into cakes with added flour and sugar. All the processes were fully executed and the results tasted. His de-husking post is a wonderful tool. The nuts are also used for feeding the family pig and the many chickens pick up the scraps.

We came away with gifts of bananas and left overs from lunch which were just as nice for supper. We promised to take back garlic and some demorera sugar both of which we have surfit. There is also the question of the hand held radio. Steve asked if we happened to have one spare and I do have the original set that came with the boat that I haven't used for ages and I'm not sure is working. I told him I would bring it ashore and he could see if he could get it going. Later on when Steve was absent Bob said I couldn't give the radio to Steve but that he (Bob) could use it. Bob had told Steve off before for trying to procure stuff off of Bobs Yachtsmen and he isn't having it. Clearly Steve is not yet a fully integrated member of the family and I get the impression that Bob isn't entirely sure that he wants him to become one.

We are invited back for church tomorrow and lunch after. Thoughts on religion in this unique society to follow.