Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Days of Perpetual Wind

The reliable Edward picked us up everyday to ferry us into the lagoon.
Sunday Edward picked us up in his 20 ft. aluminum workboat and carefully motored us through the Small Boat Pass which I would never dare to attempt in my dingy. Various sticks guide the way along with a sashay to the right and an allamander left with coral heads passing just feet from the boat on both sides. Well, that was enough excitement for the day.

The New Zealand government helped subsidize hurricane anchors for all the houses on Palmerston. In a strong hurricane the island could be stripped bare.
Edward and his eldest son, David, help with meal preperation.
Like any family, a lot of time is spent watching movies they get from visiting yachtsmen.
A visiting cruiser made this nice plank for Edward.
Jumping off the boat into a foot of warm salt water, we waded up the beach and over to Edward's Cook Island style home, a low four room house with 3/4 poly ropes tied over the top to 400 lb. concrete anchors buried in the sand. This is so the house doesn't blow away in the next cyclone. We quickly changed into our long pants and dress and walked down the path with Edwards wife Shirley. The NFL-sized Minister met us at the door and greeted us in a very soft voice. The church was very basic, but beautiful in this incredible setting surrounded by palm trees, white sand, and an azure blue lagoon.
Shirley and Meryl wear the traditional flower hats in church
Palmerston is a very traditional island. The women sit on the right side of the church and the men on the left.

This little boy spent most of the service staring at Meryl and I.

I always love how the little girls get dressed up for church.

These girls had baked cupcakes and picked flowers for all the mothers in honor of Mother's Day.
Many people greeted us and shook our hands as they entered, with the men sitting on one side and the women on the other. Shirley had given Meryl one of her flowered hats to wear to the service, just like all the other women. The Presbyterian service was much like any at home, except many of the hymns were sung in the Cook (Maori)language. While only about 30 people attended the 10:00 am service (also services at 6:00 am and 3:00 pm), you'd never know from the volume of their voices during the singing. The Pacific languages with all their vowels are beautiful, especially when sung by people whom are all related genetically. Since it was Mother's Day, the little village girls where handing out little Bougainvillea blossoms to wear behind your ear. The children also passed around cards & cupcakes they had made at school for all the Mother's.

The Minister welcomed us and mentioned us to the congregation; and for the first time we could actually understand what was being said during the church service. After church we walked back to Edward's house and enjoyed a delicious Sunday meal fixed by his son, David. Included where BBQ lamb, soy basted chicken, curried goat, potato salad, cole slaw, and taro. All accompanied by the best freshly made limeade I've ever tasted. They don't spare the sugar down here.

After lunch family members, Will from New Zealand, two teachers, Melissa (South African) and Josh (American), and others just sat around and talked for the remainder of the day. I had given them my hard drive with over 400 movies so some people began what I can assume was a marathon movie watching session. It was one of the most pleasant days I have spent with family in years. It is hard to describe the hospitality, which from what I understand is typical in all the Cook Islands, with Palmerston being that much more special given the fact the entire island was sired by one man in the late 1800's. Such a fascinating place.

Edward ferried us out to Flying Cloud, where unfortunately Meryl and I had to begin repairing our damaged bimini. What I forgot to mention is that it's been blowing at least 20 to 25 knots (stronger than mph) and just standing on the pitching deck of our boat has been a challenge. Trying to remove a heavy, unwieldy bimini was just loads of fun. Why one of us wasn't blown into the ocean is a mystery to me.
Fixing torn bimini's is not one of Meryl's favorite pastimes.
That night, and all of the next two days was an exercise in frustration for Meryl trying to repair the bimini. First we have to tear the boat apart to find the 80 lb. industrial sewing machine, the two yards of white Sunbrella fabric (thank God we had that onboard), sewing needles, etc. With all this stuff out just trying to walk somewhere was a challenge, plus the boat is still rolling in confused seas. The bimini is literally rotted to death, it defines the word "threadbare." And with me falling into it, well you get the picture. We had several false starts until we figured out how to attach the new cloth to the somewhere with some structural strength. It was like trying to sew wet tissue paper together. I have to give Meryl credit, she persevered with all the idiosyncrasies of the sewing machine, trying to sew through adhesive based sailcloth patches we used for reinforcement (gumming up the needle every time, sewing through leather, and trying to do detail work while the boat was pitching and rolling. I would have gone nuts in the first five minutes.

After a day of repair we went to install it and it immediately started to rip, forcing a change to our design philosophy and another day of work. Edward was nice enough to bring us egg salad sandwiches (we have no bread) and to take our clearance papers in to be signed by the authorities so we could leave on short notice. I failed to mention during this whole ordeal that we're tied to two separate coral heads, which have lengths of chain woven between them. There's then about 100 ft. of line to Flying Cloud, and in the last three days with the wind ripping through those 100 ft. lines have been frozen (but stretchy) ropes. If one breaks we may be on our way to Tonga whether we like it or not. It's tough going to bed at night not knowing whether your house will be there when you wake up. Well, it's been a strangely wonderful time we've spent here, hopefully tomorrow we'll be able to go in an meet up with the locals again and visit the kids at the school house. We've delayed our departure twice because of high wind and seas and we'd like to depart to Niue this Thursday when the winds are slightly less. We'll keep our fingers crossed.

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