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Passage to Palmerston

The Picton Castle left Avatiu Harbour in Rarotonga at 2 pm on August 31st. A dock full of well-wishers waved and cheered as we readied the ship for sea. It was reminiscent of a Lunenburg send-off, which was suiting because the Picton Castle also calls this harbour home as well. Among the crowd were some familiar faces – Maggie (our Purser and Voyage Coordinator), Julie, Nadia, Bob, Pania (from the 4th World Voyage), Michael Z, Katie, Garth and Alana (our ‘agents’ in Rarotonga), Vaka crew and members of the Cook Islands Voyaging society. Yes, the Picton Castle had some good friends here in Rarotonga and had made many more on this visit. It was also the end of Leg 1 of the Fifth World Voyage – and consequently we were saying goodbye to some of our crew. They are moving onto other adventures and we all wish Julie, Joanna, Meredith, Kate ‘Bob’, Nadia, Katie, Michael Z and Via fair winds. Maggie will return to Lunenburg and continue to work for the ship at our main office there. You will all be missed onboard!

Along with a ship full of cargo bound for Palmerston, Nassau and Pukapuka we also carried passengers to these remote islands and atolls. Pukapuka and Palmerston had not had a supply ship in some time so the Captain was asked if we could help out. Some of our passengers were off to visit, some for work or campaigning in elections and some were going home for good – ready to be with family again and get away from the hustle and bustle of life in Rarotonga or New Zealand. Their family and friends also stood on the dock waving their farewells and passing messages for their friends far away.

The seas were a sheet of calm and with nothing but a huff of breeze it was necessary to motor for the two days to Palmerston. As we motored out of the harbour and into the deep blue the Captain reminded us of a beautiful tradition. When the Picton Castle arrived in Rarotonga everyone was given leis (called ‘eis here) of deeply aromatic and colourful flowers. They sweetened our living quarters for a time and this was the time to let them go. For to cast them into the water – from bow or stern – was to ensure that we would return to Rarotonga and the South Pacific. And a return was what we all had in mind as we watched the trail of tiare’s drifting on the waves -the dramatic mountains of this beautiful island providing a magnificent backdrop for our dreams.

Motoring has its benefits. It certainly was an easier adjustment for those new to the rhythms of ship living. Without the added excitement of constantly setting and taking in sail they could walk the decks with one of the deckhands and go over the lines and their functions. Soon enough they would see them in action. Helm was especially relaxed in this fair weather. With just slight turns of the wheel one could stay on course. Seasickness was also less likely on a passage such as this. Rolling was expected, but it was gentle and new crew and passengers alike were thankful for this.

The Picton Castle has bunk space for 52 and with our passengers we now had 68 people onboard. The hatch was made into a large and comfy bed and families nestled in for a rest – their belongings stowed neatly away in the hold. To make life a little more comfortable the crew set up a large canvas awning over the hatch. This helped to serve several purposes. It blocked sea spray and sun – and, if it rained, it provided shelter. The Ministry of Transport issued a special certificate for this passage. The islanders are apparently used to camping under blue plastic tarps on cargo ships passing by in order to get back to their islands, and told us that Picton Castle was luxury compared to that. And we fed them too!

With several children aboard slight adjustments needed to be made to the watch assignments. Naturally we still had helm and lookout – and to that we added “kid watch”. Three crew members stood watch for climbing, running or crying young’ns at one time. One was stationed on the aloha deck, one on the starboard side amidships and one of the port side amidships. What a busy hour it turned out to be as well! A few crew members, including Georgie, Shawn, Adrienne, Ollie and Lauren, proved to be particularly skilled when it came to the art of distracting and entertaining children.

Donald was a dream in the Galley, as usual. With many more mouths to feed Joani became Donald’s assistant for the week and between the two of them we had hearty, mouth-watering savoury meals and scrumptious sweet desserts. One could say the ship was cozy. We motored toward Palmerston with a full ship, full bellies and full arms…

cargo loading for Palmerston, Nassau and PukaPuka
Jo, Yo, Nadia, Meredith, Siri and Bob say good byes
passengers and crew-motoring to Palmerston
School visitors

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