Bora Bora to Palmerston Island

Wednesday night we treated ourselves to a meal ashore at the Bora Bora Yacht Club and it was absolutely fantastic.  Lovely evening….

Thursday morning we went to see the Gendarmes again – picked up our exit papers – and returned to Morphie. We got the outboard on the rail, dink up on the bow, and we just did final checks before heading out at around 5pm.  We said farewell to Bora Bora and French Polynesia and enjoyed a lovely view as we departed through the pass admiring the breakers again on the reef.

Then we were treated to a wonderful sunset over the island of Maupiti and we were off.

The passage to Palmerston threw everything at us from low winds to high winds and everything in between. At times it was stunning and we had a wonderful time – and other times it was at best uncomfortable and a bit miserable – with huge seas, grey skies and rain. But we were pleased to get another 693 miles under our belts and boosted our confidence in dealing with difficult conditions. Was probably good practice for the New Zealand leg LOL. Here are some photos from our five day passage.

We arrived into Palmerston at around 10 o’clock on Wednesday morning (30 August) and were pleased that there were other boats already here as we were concerned they may send us on our way in the strong wind conditions. But they had laid new mooring balls in the last 12 months so were confident they would hold and welcomed us to the island. These are laid directly behind the reef so if the wind changes to the west we were told we would have to vacate immediately…. Fingers crossed!  On arrival we were met by Bill Marsters who showed us which mooring ball to pick up.

We were told that our ‘host’ family was going to be Bob Marsters (Bill’s brother) and he would be out to see us shortly for the check-in process. I had already completed the Cook Island forms but, as this officially is not a port of entry, weren’t sure what they would require. First on board was the island’s nurse who proceeded to fumigate using the same spray they use on an aircraft. Then we met Arthur Marsters who is the island’s administrator and cleared immigration with him. Then we showed the FP customs papers to the agriculture guy and we were good to go. Surprisingly they gave us a week’s stay up front without any question….generally it is only three days. Fantastic and means we’ll be here for our anniversary. Woo hoo…. The fees were reasonable at around £60 plus £6 a night for the mooring ball.

We stayed on board for the rest of the day cleaning Morphie and ourselves up and just generally relaxed and enjoyed our surroundings before having an early night. Oh yes…and there are whales here….we saw some broaching in the anchorage during the evening. We are definitely hoping for a closer encounter.

Thursday morning we were up early and felt suitably refreshed. Bob came by at 10.30 am to pick us up and took us ashore. We met our host family and had a coffee with them and some other cruisers.

Bob then took us on an island tour and explained how it all works. Basically the island is split into three segments for three families – there are two heads of each family (usually male) – who run the council of six people. If something is to the good of the entire island the council can make decisions on behalf of the other 50 or so residents. If there is an impact on one family more than the other then it is put to a vote. And yes they are all Marsters with direct links to the original ‘Father’ of the island. William Masters is buried here and his original house still stands to this day.

He used to pay rent to the British crown but struggled at times to pay it – and wrote to Queen Victoria who then granted him and his descendants ownership of this atoll. What a story!  The islanders are all very proud of their English heritage and, although they are under the auspices of New Zealand governance as one of the Cook Islands, they are pretty autonomous in how they manage things.

We toured the island with Bob and it is just simply amazing!  We have never been anywhere more beautiful.  On our return to Bob’s house I was told to go to the kitchen to chat to the women while the men sat outside chatting…..very 1950s!  After a wonderful lunch – which is supplied free of charge to all cruisers by their host families during their stay on the island – we wandered around on our own. We sat down and chatted to two more families and heard their stories. Some of them have lived in New Zealand while the kids were at high school and then returned in retirement. Others have never left. Was a fantastic experience and can’t believe, actually, that we are here!

What a wonderful start to our time here…and looking forward to finding out more later.   But, just to whet your appetite, here are a few photos to be getting along with.

Last night we came back on board – watched more whales in the anchorage but never quickly enough to get a photo – enjoyed a moody sunset and had a quiet night on board.

Bye for now