Mahina Expeditions offers offshore sail-training expeditions, offshore cruising seminars and boat purchase consultation.

Mahina Expeditions offers offshore sail-training expeditions, offshore cruising seminars and boat purchase consultation.

South Seas Adventures, Leg 3-98, Log 10

July 18,1998 0700
19.24S, 166.31W, Log 15,542, Baro 1015, Air 79F, Water 76

At Sea, Between Small Tropical Islands

Our Leg 3 crew joined us in Rarotonga at noon on Monday, and after going through safety systems checkout, doing a last minute vegetable shop we were ready to have a relaxing dinner at Trader Jack's and an early night.
Nearly every crew that join our expeditions put heavy weather ocean experience high on their list of reasons for sailing with us, and they are rarely disappointed! On this leg, they didn't have to wait long for that experience. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. First, here's our intrepid crew:

David French, 34 is a naval architect at the Bremerton Naval Shipyard, west of Seattle. He designs systems for ships ranging from aircraft carriers to subs, and enjoys kayaking in Puget Sound and Alaska waters in his free time.

Heinz Brueckner, 69 is a retired Motorola mechanical engineer from Phoenix who loves navigation and passagemaking on all types of vessels. He has made two passages on Ocean Star, is signed up on Alaska Eagle's Kiel Canal trip and recently took a freighter from LA to Australia and from Houston to New Zealand.

Ann Belson, 46 runs the largest retail seafood business on the West Coast in Redondo Beach and enjoys collecting American Indian baskets.

Jimmy Belson, 54 has a company called "Audio Books" that sells and rents books on tape (perfect for ocean passages!) and enjoys studying philosophy and mythology in his free time.

Lois Crandall, 55 enjoys hiking and nature photography when she isn't working hard as CEO of a pioneering biotech company in San Diego. She and her husband

Gunter Hofman, 62 (a research physicist) live on San Diego's Mission Bay where they sail their Hobie Cat. They are considering purchasing a boat for a world circumnavigation in the near future.

Once clear of Rarotonga, the wind settled in at 25-30 out of the ENE, putting us on a broad reach. I secretly hope for mellow conditions for our first night at sea with a new crew, so everyone can get used to the motion and routines aboard, but that wasn't to be. The wind freshened to 35 knots with gusts to 43, and even with the main and headsail triple-reefed, steering through the black, rainy squalls with MT charging along at 7.5 - 8 knots was challenging for our crew who, except for Heinz had never sailed at night, steering only by compass.

The 270 mile passage went quickly and the squalls were only packing 25 knots by the time we spotted Palmerston's tiny islets, just six miles off. Palmerston with only 48 people and very little land mass rivals Pitcairn island for isolation and dangerous anchorage conditions. Like Pitcairn, there is no air service, no scheduled shipping, no safe anchorage and a very colorful history.


Bill T Masters - Palmerston Island Guides us through the reef.

The original masters home on Palmerston atoll. Built from shipwreck timbers.

Palmerston was uninhabited when James Cook discovered the island in 1774, but in 1862, William Marsters, an Englishman who had made his fortune in the California gold rush settled on the island to start a coconut plantation with< his three wives (that's not a misprint!) from Penryhn Island in the Northern Cooks. They had 26 children and now there are over 1500 Marsters in Rarotonga, Penryhn and in New Zealand, but only 48 on Palmerston. Soon after they arrived, a three-masted lumber schooner carrying 16"x16" Douglas fir beams from Seattle to Australia was shipwrecked on the tiny island, providing lumber for the original large house which still stands today. The next year a replacement schooner set out for Australia, only to be shipwrecked on tiny Palmerston. Marsters salvaged part of the timber which he sold to another passing ship. Every few years another yacht is lost on Palmerston, and the masts are used by the locals as radio antennas. Twice the island has been washed over by hurricanes and the inhabitants survived by tying themselves in tops of coconut trees.

It is always a welcome relief to hear a friendly voice answer our call on the VHF when making landfall and Palmerston was no exception. An added help was to have Michael on the Canadian yacht Niska Four come up on the radio to relay anchorage conditions which were passable, but not good. The channel into the lagoon is less than 4' deep and full of coral, so anchoring off the pass is the only option.

A small aluminum skiff came out through the pass and directed us where to anchor. With a 3 ft swell running and the wind blowing parallel to the jagged reef, the anchorage didn't look very safe. When I had previously visited Palemerston in 1980 aboard Mahina Tiare I, the wind had been out of the east so it held the boat away from the reef, instead of the northeast wind which held MTIII close to the breakers.

In two boat lengths the depth went from over 600' to 35' so I asked Amanda to jump in the water with mask and snorkel to direct us exactly where to anchor.

On our first try we drifted off the edge of the shelf before the anchor hit the bottom, so on second try we lowered the anchor down 20' and motored very carefully in until Amanda pinpointed the best spot and we dropped the anchor in 36'. We let out 150' of chain and I immediately snorkeled over to make sure the chain wasn't wrapped around any coral heads. The visibility underwater was over 150' and large black-tipped sharks and colorful parrot fish patrolled the depths under Mahina Tiare.

As soon as the anchor was down, Bill Masters, his son, a friend and the Health Inspector pulled alongside in their skiff. Since they had received a telegram from Rarotonga telling them that we were bringing supplies, all formalities of passports, clearance, health inspection were forgotten as we struggled to move huge cartons of vegetables, supplies and a case of corned beef that had filled both showers for the passage from Raro. "On this tiny island only coconuts and fish are available, so any imported foods are a real treat!"

Bill asked if we would like to go ashore to visit and explore - our eager crew jumped in the skiff and were off while Amanda and I tidied the boat up.

In an hour or so Bill was back to pick up Amanda and I stayed aboard on anchor watch. It was interesting to see the white sand beach, rustling palm trees and thatch houses only a mile away, but not to be able to go ashore. Amanda and I had talked only briefly about launching our Avon RIB, but with the large swell running and having watched Bill threading his way through the shallow and tortuous channel, we decided it unwise.

Amanda:
Stepping ashore I felt I was taken back in time to the South Pacific of my childhood.


The small 6 by 7 mile island is beautiful with white sand, coconut trees and tiare flower bushes lining the main street with thatched bures (houses) and shelters leading to a centre square containing a new church, graveyard and the original Masters house with its massive shipwreck beams. A peek inside reveals timbers with burnt patches where the kerosene lanterns caught fire when sailors came to visit and the ukuleles played all night.

If you listen carefully you can still hear the singing and laughter.
With tradition of welcome similar to Pitcairn Island, the family that greets you on your yacht becomes your host family and the crew were whisked away to Bill T. Marsters home.

Here true island hospitality abounds and friendships, though short are warm and genuine. Arriving in the second boat trip I found our crew sprawled out dozing in the shade on one of the many hammocks, their bellies full of crepes and bodies freshly showered. I was greeted by Metua, Bill's girlfriend and we formed a quick friendship. Pulling me aside we discussed island life, I was shown Bill's mother's tivaevae and we quickly established what items she needed. After a small tour of the island that included the renovation of the school house, (to lure a new teacher) and a greeting of Kia Orana, handshake and kiss to the resident mamas it was time for farewells. David donated toothbrushes and a medical kit and we quickly bought yacht club t-shirts, swapped address and promised to return.

Gunter:

Moment of Bliss on Palmerston.
Gliding over the reef into the sheltered lagoon was a good omen for entering a friendly place. Bill Masters, 5th generation descendent of the founder of the Palmerston community, led us to his place and put us down in his living room which was also his office and the family bedroom. "Sit down, lie down, make yourself comfortable". Surrounding the house was an odd assembly of sheds and huts full of mysterious machinery and bits and pieces of ships
wrecked on the reef. A basic West Marine supply - just no catalog and, of
course, no clerks.

"And then, there it was; a hammock between
a group of coconut palms surrounded by flower beds."

I felt coming closer to my dream of what a landfall on a tropical atoll should be about. Bill gave me pillows and I climbed into the hammock. And then - transcendence began. I could feel my soul coming to rest, I could feel the friendliness and good will in the air around me and I could smell the fragrance of the flowers and sense the beauty in the bluest sky between the crowns of the palms with a subdued murmur of the breakers on the reef in the distance.

And then it came to me, a moment of bliss, where
the world outside and inside is in complete harmony for a fleeting time.

July 24,1998 0430
South Seas Adventures, Leg 3-98, Log 11
14.53S, 170.30W, Log: 16,004 Baro: 1012, Air: 79F, Water: 79
Broad reaching at 8 knots in 15kt SE tradewinds

Samoan Landfall Ahead!!
The lights of Tutuila Island are on the bow, we're having a smooth ride sliding down the tradewinds toward what will hopefully be around a noon arrival at the Pago Pago customs dock.

We just left Niue Island a couple mornings ago and have had a great passage, with just a few hours of motorsailing yesterday when the winds lightened up. Our fishing luck took a major shift yesterday afternoon when David spotted a huge mahi mahi on one of Amanda's lines astern.

"This fish was a fighter - it took two of us and a couple cups of Tahitian rum down the gills to subdue it enough to hoist it's rainbow-hued 40lb bulk aboard. We had mahi sashimi, poisson cru (tahitian-style, uncooked, marinated in lime & coconut sauce) and poached mahi for dinner."

Niue was a delightful stop. A large, upraised coral island with less than 2000 inhabitants, it is one of the smallest self-governing countries in the world. The lack of a safe harbor or shallow anchorages have discouraged many cruisers from visiting. When I stopped in 1980 aboard Mahina Tiare I, I stayed just one night, and anchored in 70' in the open roadstead. Niue Yacht Club (no boats, just 3 super-friendly folk) has recently installed 15 HUGE concrete moorings, dropped into holes in the coral, and virtually unmovable. When we called on VHF channel 16, Kevin Fawcett who owns the dive shop welcomed us to Niue, inviting us to pick up a mooring. Here we hung with sharks, turtles, and humpback whales checking us out. The sights that greeted us ashore were equally spectacular, with a day tour of the island being only enough time for us the view what we wanted to explore. After recharging our batteries at the Niue Hotel, whose bar host the Niue Yacht Club, we set of the next day on bikes to discover the secrets of the "Rock of Polynesia" as Niue is affectionaly called. We weren't disappointed.

"The coral makeup of the island creates an exciting rugged coastline and we spent time relishing in intimate swimming coves, with a myriad of caves and chasms to investigate."

Some hiked with Misa, a local who not only is extremely informative on the rainforest flora and fauna but also instructs on bushcraft survival. With a super last feed at Emnanuela's Italian restaurant it was farewell to a slice of Paradise and onward to Pago Pago!

 

To the next log entry Leg 4:
At anchor, Musket Cove, Malololailai Island, Fiji

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