Palmerston behind us.....Niue ahead
18 07 S 163 57 W
We dropped our mooring ball at Palmerston Atoll about noon today and are now 8 hours into our 3 day passage to Niue.
We arrived at Palmerston at dawn on Wednesday, Aug 18th after a VERY rolly ride…..reason being >>> just after I posted the last blog entry, and we switched to wing on wing sail configuration due to the wind direction, the slapping of the sail in the dark hours of Sunday night resulted in a torn main sail….a large tear along the leech of the sail ( the trailing vertical side of the sail’s triangle). A quick choice had to be made….get the sail down before the rolling vessel and the wind would further tear the sail ….or…take a chance on furling the sail into the mast and worry about getting it unfurled and taken down to assess the damage once we had arrived in Palmerston. We chose the later….and when we did take the sail down after arrival, the tear became much worse in the process and it was clear that there would be no way that this mainsail would be used again until we could get it to a sailmaker….and that is not a possibility until arrival in New Zealand in November.
We had planned on replacing this original mainsail when in NZ…but I had expected/hoped that it would take us the remaining distance. Now, we had to find a way to get on with acquiring a sail ASAP as it would not be wise to depart from Tonga to go to NZ without a mainsail…..that passage has a history of cruisers having to face tough weather somewhere along the 1100 nm distance. By the time we reached Palmerston, I had been able to get Doyle Sails in NZ to give me a quote to build a new sail and ship it to me in Tonga. After assessing all possible options over the last week, we placed the order today for the new sail. Now we just have to limp to Niue and on to Tonga with only a Yankee headsail for wind propulsion…..slow going and less stable than if we had a main, but doable….albeit we will have to sparingly use the engine to motor or motor-sail some of the distance as the fuel tank reserves are insufficient to motor the whole distance. Winds are going to be light for the foreseeable days ahead so we decided to leave today as it would not get better (i.e. stronger/more sailable winds) if we were to wait for some days before departing. So far, we have been averaging about 5.5 kts of speed with winds behind us at a very light 11 -13 kts. Our estimate is for arrival in Niue about noon on Wednesday, Aug 24th. …..3 days enroute vs probably 2 to 2 ½ days if we had the main for this short 400 nm passage.
Now for a little detail on a most remarkable experience at Palmerston:
Customs, immigration, health, agriculture inspections were done very simply and non-bureaucratically on board by a NZ official before noon and then we were off with our HOST….BOB….to meet his family and be toured and fed. After an enormous lunch of the finest fish one could ever find in the finest restaurants anywhere, we then participated in selecting the right coconuts to pick from the palm trees…open them (special coconuts for pigs different from hens/roosters…different from chicks) and then feeding pigs, hens/roosters and chickens. Finally, we were delivered back to Sea Mist as it was getting dark……and 5 kids and 2 dads invited themselves on-board for beer, soft drinks and a look at “our home”. The least we could do was say “yes” after our unbelievable experience with their (and the whole community of Palmerston’s) hospitality during the day.
We will provide more on Palmerston in later blog postings complete with photos which we are sure you will enjoy and which will give a better sense of the island. However, a tiny preview/peak at this time into this community goes like this >> 67 inhabitants at present, over half of them are school age or younger…all are descendents of William Marsters who was a young lad from Lancashire/UK who ran away from home in the 1860’s and worked whaling ships in the Pacific……..met 3 young native women (probably Maories) on Penrhyn Island (650 nm to the north of Palmerston)…and took them to this uninhabited atoll in 1863 and subsequently had 21 children by them as he began his part in creating this dynasty and lived here til he died at age 74. All the present inhabitants….a surprising surname “Masters”…..are descendents of those 3 separate families…..all are brothers, uncles, aunts, grandparents, cousins, etc… but they are smart about not marrying brothers, sisters nor first cousins…marriages are smartly made with 2nd ,3rd and more distant cousins……all follows the original William Masters’ rules about intermarriage as this Brit understood the downside of ”inbreeding”. Terrific, friendly, religious, most genuine people….. who only see a supply ship arrive twice a year…last one was over 7 months ago….should be here next week …”if it shows”…..so us yachties (with any goodies that we might spare) are important to them….. and hosting about 50 – 60 boats like us each year is a very important part of their ongoing lives….and something they really, obviously, enjoy.
We have truly had the most remarkable past 3 days here …really became part of our host’s family – mother/father/daughter age 20/daughter age 17/son age 11/daughter 7 – enjoying overall hospitality/enormous meal at noon each day/leisurely beer coffee soft drinks whenever/wanderings around the island to see the various island amenities/various games of volleyball/soccer/catch/etc – guitar/yukalalee singalongs…..never a dull moment…..we did not put our dinghy down as our host ferried us between Sea Mist and shore each day as required….picking us up sometime in the morning and getting us back to Sea Mist late afternoon just before dark. We had our host (Bob) on board a few times and yesterday, his wife Tutou, came out for a visit just before sundown…..the 3 kids as well as other friends had been on-board the previous day for awhile. We have never in our lives seen such happy, constantly smiling faces on children and adults of all ages…..they really love their lives here and see the hosting of yachties as a way to enrich their lives and the island’s experiences each year during this season when boats are passing by as they cross the Pacific.
AND….they do this without any expectation or demand for money! We found a number of things on-board that we gave to them over our days here including some outboard gasoline but no charges from them for anything….the moorings/all the meals/ferrying us in and out through the barrier reef. It is in their nature as a community culture/set of values……goes way back in their island history that began when William Marsters settled here in 1863…..the hosting of yachties has gone on for about 15 years. There are 5 families who do the hosting but you experience most of the 67 people over the time you are here as it is literally one “extended family”….and cousins, nephews, nieces, uncles are always dropping by and staying for hours if you are at your hosts home….seated outdoors around the family table (3 tables with lots of seating for everyone)…protected overhead from the sun (and the rare but occasional shower). There are 7 moorings and all were full just before we arrived on Wed morning but 3 boats were in process of leaving that hour….otherwise we have had about 5 boats here during our stay with some arrivals and departures. As I am writing this, I have just heard 3 more boats radio in that they are within an hour of arrival. Nationalities of boats while we have been here include: Norway/Denmark/Australia/New Zealand/USA/Canada/Ireland.
Even the NZ official who checked us in is a Marster descendent having been born and brought up in NZ by one of many Marsters who have emigrated to NZ or Aus over the years. He decided to come back to his roots and took this posting 7 years ago and his wife, from “down under”, became the school principal here on the island and expanded the locally available education ….taking it from Grade 5 or 6 as the limit for decades… to now being all the way to High school leaving/college entrance …enabling island children to be prepared here, locally, if they decide to continue post secondary education….and that would generally be undertaken in NZ or Aus. The curriculum is a “USA home schooling program” but has been altered with Australian input to accommodate this part of the world….a minor example would be the incorporation of the metric system.
Quite enough for the sneak preview; the real account will come to life when we get a chance to post blog entries with photos……that will not be possible until we get to shore-based internet facilities somewhere along our westward track.
Next update will be from Niue where we expect to stay for about a week….exploring the island by rental car and taking in the unique caves/caverns we have heard so much about…not to mention the native people who make the stop there another joy to absorb.
Cheers to all from the Seamisters
DTG to Niue 350 nm; DTG to Tonga 597 nm