We arrived just as the sun was coming up and what a show…
I have heard the term the sky looked like molten lava et voila.
Palmerston Atoll started with William Marsters, a young Lancashireman
who left England to sail the Pacific on the whaling ships to make his fortune.
He sailed the Pacific for a number of years passing Palmerston Atoll and then
in 1862 he decided to live there. He first visited Penrhyn Island to pick up
his three new brides and started the Marsten dynasty. William Marsters
fathered 26 children, he divided the atolls and reefs into three sections for
his three families. The three families are still living on the atoll –
there are about 50 people still left, many have moved to New Zealand or
elsewhere in the Cook Islands. The tradition of the Marsters families is to
invite visiting yachts to join them for lunch and to get to know their families
and the other families on the atoll.
Lot of Plumeria trees around the atoll.
This is the old Marsters original home.
The headstone of William Marsters daughter, one girl. There are family
burial sites throughout the atoll, much more personal and an easy way to keep
track of the three families. The islanders all have nicknames.
This is our first look at our hosts, Bob and Taia, his 20 year old
daughter. They have friendly competitions amongst the three families; they
watch for boats then see who can get to the sailing vessel first. Bob introduced
himself and his daughter, said to follow him to his mooring ball and when we
arrived he told us Tere from customs would come to our boat at 11:00am and then
he would take us to his home for lunch and a tour of the island. We were not
sure what we would find as listening to other yachties who preceded us said the
competition was fierce amongst the three families and you couldn’t just
wander around on your own, so we agreed and thanked bob for the invitation with
this knowledge in the back of our minds.
Promptly at 11:20am Tere arrived to check into Palmerston Atoll and of
course ensured we received our entrance and exit papers. When he was finished
Bob took us in his skiff and headed towards the island through a narrow
entrance with coral heads all around and you really have to live here to know
exactly where to go without hitting your motor on a coral head!
When there is this much of a blank page you know another story will be
Here we are gathered around the outdoor dining room, with another Yacht
called Salachia, they were guests of Edward and Shirley. We found out the
competition is friendly and only to see who can spot a yacht coming in and get
out there first. We met cousins, aunts and uncles and they are introduced by
their Christian name, Polynesian name and nickname. By the time we got to the
nickname, we couldn’t remember the first two names.
The ‘lady in green’ is Tupou married to Bob and next to her
is Shirley who is married to Edward, in the flowered shirt. Shirley and Tupou
make the best donuts, Tim Horton couldn’t compete, and their pancakes are
really really good, we ate a lot at every meal, Tupou gave me the recipe for
the donuts and her bread, and we enjoyed two loaves of her bread on our journey
to Niue. The young fellow in front is Andrew or fondly known as Bury, who is
eleven years old. We would have liked to be part of his “Hair Cutting
Ceremony”, it is the decision of the parents and the boys as to when they
want to have their hair cut off, some choose five years old, some choose eleven
years old. The whole island is invited and the huge pig that they have been
fattening up for a whole year is butchered and shared amongst the inhabitants
of the island or atoll. The families sometimes don’t have a pig large
enough to feed everyone so they take a large pig from another family and pay
them back when their pig is big enough.
This is Andrew with his plait that most women would love to have. He
is playing ball with his sister Mehay, or Meow, she is eight years old.
Goldeen was named after her uncle who won the gold medal for boxing;
she would like to become a flight attendant.
We met Meow whilst on our tour and she decided to tag along, until her
big sister told her to get on home to give her mother the breadfruit she was
Bob Marsten, our host has about 100 chickens but they never have any
chicken eggs, sometimes seabird eggs, why waste a hen on eggs when she will
feed the family, meat, is their motto. I found it interesting how we listen and
watch how they do things – thinking how they could be changed, and be
more efficient, etc, like the chickens, with 100 chickens, why not have 10 hens
for laying eggs - but then if every visitor changed just one thing about the
atoll, it would no longer be what it is, a haven for visiting yachties to relax
and enjoy the Marsten family hospitality, who are very laid back and enjoy
their lives just the way they are.
Four of the one hundred.
The rule of thumb is the largest
bird is tomorrow’s dinner…
He was getting a little cocky.
The little chicks love to get inside the coconuts and hang
We went on a tour of the island with
Taia, was our guide, she showed us all of the important buildings and
introduced us to the other two Marsten families.
She had recently returned from New Zealand and was helping
her father out for a few months before she returned to New Zealand to get a job.
Ti as she is fondly called would like to get into a job that involves computers
or become crew on a large sail boat or motor yacht.