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Palmerston Island – Part 1 September 23, 2014

Posted by steveandjudy in Code Blue 2014.
Code Blue beyond the reef on a mooring

Code Blue beyond the reef on a mooring

Palmerston, Cook Islands Mayor is Bob, his Father in Aitutaki is Matt that provided vegetables, squash 10 and banana stalk. Tracy also taking a bunch of bananas, apx 5 stalks, 10 squash. Daniel and Wife, s/v Lambad, Catamaran helped on their dinghy, with Tracy. I did a snorkel on our keel and everything seems fine for damage except bottom paint is scraped off mostly on the bottom and about 6 inches up in some places on the side. The front of the keel on the bottom has primer missing for about a foot long. S/V Ingrid Princess had the same problem when they came out the next day, but due to our mishap they were already prepared with a dinghy of s/v Lambad following them along. They immediately set into action and got the halyard from the top of the mast and tilted the boat to release them right away. Seems the channel is less deep than previously noted or listed in guides due to sand filling in the channel.

We are at Palmerston Island as of Saturday 9-20, and have had whales visit us or have seen them every day so far. Ingrid Princess is now here as of Sunday afternoon. We are on mooring balls on the outside of the reef. Our depth is 27 feet to 105 feet depending on the wind and if we close to the reef or not. As an extra safety matter, Bob asked us to drop our anchor to just above the bottom, when we were close to the reef as an extra safety measure.
Church was well received with 41 locals out of 61 on the island attending, with men sitting on the left and women on the right. Quite a few Cook Island Maori songs and a few English hymns were sung. Ina Moetaua is the reverend on Sunday with a local, David on Saturday. After service everyone goes to their home for a big lunch. We have been adopted by Bob’s family, with his wife Tupou Marsters, that we have brought the produce from Aitutaki for. They have a son Andrew 16, daughters Mehau 12, and Madeenia 3. Bob is 47. They also care full time for a grandson, Henry 20 months, from Bob’s daughter in Rarotonga. He also has an older son in Australia. After lunch, everyone takes a nap from the big meal. We circled the island by foot on the sand beach with a few stops along the way talking to locals.

We met Edward Marsters near the wreck of a 42’ fiberglass sailboat called Ri Ri, from Philidelphia, PA that landed in 2011. They didn’t tie their line to the mooring properly, too short by just using the short tag line, and even after being told about it they didn’t revise their line. You need an extension line of at least 15 feet from the mooring to handle the seas that sometimes come in. The longer the line the better to some extent on the mooring. We have about a 30 foot extension in calm seas at this point after Edward explained why. The mooring is chained to the coral with a line to the float. The tag line is too short by itself to prevent damage to the mooring, so thus the need for an extension to handle waves, swell and height of the bowsprit of the boat.

They have just diesel power at this point on the island from 6pm to midnight and 6am to noon, at 65 cents a kilowatt. The government is working on putting in a large solar field in the middle of the island in November or December as an improvement. Then they should have power full time and hopefully at a cheaper rate.

The island’s inhabitants have a unique history. They are the descendants of a patriarchal figure, William Marsters, a Lanchashire sea captain who settled here with three Penrhyn Island wives in 1862. He fathered 26 children, divided the islands and reefs into sections for each of the three “families” and established strict rules regarding intermarriage. The one mile long island is divided into three segments, with each occupied by the descendants of Marsters and respectively one of his three wives; the “middle” family is traditionally the dominant one per Charlie’s Guide book, but Bob our host says not so. William is still referred to as “Father” and long ago he decreed that English was to be the language of his descendants. The original home was built using massive beams salvaged from shipwrecks washed ashore and although it still stands, it bears the scars of many cyclones. The church bell is all that remains of the wreck of HMS Thistle. They rang it before Sunday’s church service many times by each of the three families.

Today 9-22 s/v Ingrid Princess passed thru customs and we went to shore together in Bob’s boat “Three Sonny Fox” and Bob drove the boat as Andrew was in school. We were given a tour of the island by Bob. Several burial plot groups, division of the land, roads, school, health clinic, several neighbor homes we stopped on the way and visited, outside tour of the original home, church, new solar farm location to be, water tanks, Palmerston Yacht Club and administration center for the island. One of the visits was with Edward, the island police, at his home. He gave us a better tour of the wrecked sailboat Ri Ri. We found the serial number on the hull, WSSK30420877. It has a Perkins 4 cylinder engine, they say in still running condition, I noticed a number on the block, of 236U. Later, at another house, we found a picture of the owner, Frank; and friend, Gale that were on the boat when it wrecked. Tracy thought maybe the boat was a Southern Cross 42, as he used to own a Southern Cross 28, but he didn’t recognize the WSSK as being Southern Cross. It has a full keel with a canoe stern. While talking with Edward, his neighbor walked by with 14 fish he had caught, mostly parrot fish. I asked how much he would get for the parrot fish, four to five dollars a kilo, so offered to buy some. He ended up giving both of us couples some fish in ice cream tubs.

The next major visit was with Bill and Metua Marsters of which Bill introduced himself as Bill Clinton. Bob left us with Bill and family. They offered up ice cream, so we couldn’t turn that down. They were like triple scoops of strawberry and Michelle wanted to try the lime flavor which was four scoops of lime with gummy type candy in it. We each got a taste of the lime ice cream, since she had so much and unusual flavor. Bob had said to meet at his house for lunch at 2:30pm. Lunch was grilled parrot fish, rice, peas with carrots, chicken, potatoes, coconut juice and bananas for dessert.

After lunch, we took off to explore the island more while Bob and family ate. We headed to the health clinic but got lost to the school. Pat, one of the teachers took us near to the clinic. So we got a tour of the clinic. We then went to Bill’s house as we had heard from Rose one of the teachers that Bill’s mum, had a copy of a book “On the Wind of a Dream, the Saga of Solace” by Commander Victor Clark. Bill’s family offered up tea, and small pancakes while chatting about Clark and other items. Clark was shipwrecked on the island as I remember in 1954, for 20 months on the island. The locals floated the wreck using barrels and coconut tree trunks and pulled s/v Solace to shore. They cut local mahogany trees, built new ribs where needed and made new planks and put the boat back together. Then they refloated her out to sea, all with dinghies that were powered by oars back in those days. Clark made several trips to Tahiti and New Zealand gathering supplies to take back to Palmerston as thank you gifts. Later when he went to New Zealand, he dry docked her and asked the yard to fix her like new. The yard people said they couldn’t do any better than what was already in place. We headed back to Bob’s place and gathered up our stuff and Andrew and his sister took us back out to the boats. The pass we go thru is very swift at times, with several turns and usually boaters are not allowed to take their own dinghy into shore.


Steve and Judy
s/v Code Blue
Palmerston Island

– s/j –



1. Marie & Greg - September 23, 2014

What an incredible experience to be able to enjoy local folks. Great photos for us to share the history with you. Marie

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