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Leg 4 - Update 1


September 13, 2018, 0540 hrs, 19.11 S, 162.14, W, Log: 217,971 miles
Baro: 1015.6, Cabin Temp: 79 F, Cockpit: 80 F, Sea Water: 78.1 F
Running downwind in 15kt SE winds, 94 miles to Palmerston Atoll

Between Legs 3 & 4 we had fairly good conditions in Rarotonga’s small Avatiu Harbour but the morning our crew joined the wind had come around to the NNE at 12 kts, straight into the harbor with swells began to build as the tide came in. It soon became a scramble and challenge to safely collect delivery boxes for Palmerston, load our new crew aboard with their gear plus complete a final provisioning run. We managed to get our four stern and breast lines aboard and both anchors up as a just-arriving English yacht repeatedly tried to moor next to us. When, on their second of three tries they came very close to running into us, we moved away from the harbor wall and re-anchored just inside the harbor entrance to give us time to get the dinghy aboard and lines stowed.

Here's our eager Leg 4 crew ready for sailing adventures Sue, KT (Kevin), Barry, Gerry, Kevin and Paul

We weren’t in a hurry to leave as our first planned anchorage to Winslow Reef was 80 miles and we planned to arrive in the morning. Kevin Christian, a Kiwi fisherman and charter captain who has lived in Raro many years first told me about Winslow Reef five years ago, explaining he’d taken several groups of divers to this 6-meter-deep, mid-ocean seamount for incredible snorkeling and diving so I’ve been keen to anchor and snorkel over it ever since.

On current charts it is just labeled as a 6-meter shoal, with the notation 1916, PA (first reported in 1916, position approximate) but on some older charts, it is labeled Winslow Reef.

Upon departing Raro we had a great reach with the 18 kt winds slightly abaft the beam, but during the night winds lightened and we ended up motoring in flat calm conditions for the last few hours.

Our target was the position on the charts, 20 37.800 S, 161 03.600 W but when we got there, we didn’t see any sign of the reef. After two hours of conducting a spiral search pattern, I called Rarotonga Harbourmaster, John Jessie on the satphone, asking if he knew the exact location. He emailed back the following, which I expect is from the British Admiralty South Pacific Pilot book:

Winslow Reef is a submerged coral reef of the southern Cook Islands, located 83 miles northwest of Rarotonga, at 20°38'S 160°56'W. It is a shallow platform reef.

This position is six miles directly east of the charted position, so we motored back to the east, nearly retracing our track and started searching. Amanda agreed to look from the second spreaders and ended up spending three hours aloft, fruitlessly scanning as we started another search pattern. I repeatedly tried calling Keith Christian without getting an answer, then called Skip Sims, a cruising friend in Hawaii, asking him to check on Google Earth. He did, finding several shoals, but none within 30 miles, so after six hours of searching, we altered course to Palmerston Atoll, 200 miles to the NW. If you check on our Google Earth track, located halfway down our homepage, you’ll see our search pattern.

Now we’re hoping to reach Palmerston’s tenuous anchorage before dark today so we can deliver many boxes of school books from the Ministry of Education and a dozen or so boxes of food and supplies for my distant cousin, Arthur Neale and friends from earlier visits, Bill and Metua Marsters.

Palmerston has a very colorful history and was uninhabited when Englishman William Masters settled ashore in 1863 with his three Cook Island wives. Each of the current 60 inhabitants (except for the school teacher) is a direct descendant from one of three of the wives and thousands more live in Rarotonga, NZ and Australia.

Palmerston’s government administrator is Arthur Neale, a very distant cousin of mine whose famous father, Tom Neale lived a hermit’s existence on nearby Suwarrow Island, many say searching for buried treasure. His book, Island to Myself is a classic of South Seas literature. I first met Arthur about 38 years ago when he was living on Manihiki Island in the Northern Cooks, and involved in the budding black pearl farming industry there and most recently about ten years ago when he spotted Mahina Tiare in Raro’s harbor. Arthur’s 92-year-old mother is a Marsters and still lives on Palmerston.

When I emailed Arthur, asking if there were any supplies we could deliver to Palmerston, he had his sister Stella, who works as a nurse both in NZ and in the Cooks drop off several boxes including school books. Recently two large yachts have visited the island, each taking considerable supplies and several passengers, plus the Lady Moana, a local supply ship is due to be arriving today as well. Otherwise MT’s showers would have been stacked to the ceilings!


Leg 4 Itinerary

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