Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
By Kate “Bob” Addison
Well our Picton Castle gang is enjoying French Polynesia so far. The fresh baguettes from the bakery on the small round-island road and fresh tropical fruit (pamplemousse and papaye, grapefruit and papaya in French) every day don’t hurt, nor the incredible beauty of the coral lagoon surrounded by steep mountainous islands. We are enjoying the company of the friendly local people too – they seem always happy to go out of their way to help us, and always ready to laugh, even if it’s just at my terrible French.
Due to the trough we are waiting out it’s pretty hot and humid, so the 5pm swim calls at the end of each work day are welcome. The water is warm, sheltered as we are inside the lagoon, and it’s not unusual for the pool to stay open until dinner at 6pm. We’ve had the swing-rope rigged up and a few adrenaline junkies have been using the 7m high jibboom as a jumping platform. Some fish come up to check us out from time to time.
All very agreeable, but the real highlight of our stay so far has been the overnight small boat expeditions to the outer islands. Like any voyage, first came passage planning and a careful studying of the weather forecasts. A crew of willing recruits was mustered, briefed and assigned stations in long boat monomoy, and Lunenburg dory Sea Never Dry and our Lunenburg Dory Shop-built wooden semi dory.
Provisions and stores were carefully assembled and stowed – tarpaulins, machetes, water, the makings of dinner and a big pot to cook it in, suncream, bug spray, hammocks, fishing lines. Safety and emergency gear: first aid kit, anchors and tow ropes, lights, VHF radios, instant coffee. The boats were pretty well loaded when all the kit was aboard, but our semi dory is a very fine vessel for such operations, broad and stable, she is and she gobbled up the kit comfortably.
On the charts we could make out a likely looking camping spot about four miles or so across the wind from Picton Castle’s anchorage here at Rikitea. There was a clear channel between the coral heads leading to a nice sandy beach on a small island called Akamaru. The landing looked sheltered by a small, steep island in front of it, marked on the chart as Goat Island. We couldn’t resist a place called Goat Island and so our destination was decided, our vessels stowed and we were ready to set sail.
All hands boarded the boats, we waved our goodbyes and cast off our lines. Excitement was high – what adventures lay ahead? Maybe we would discover new and uncharted lands amongst the treacherous coral reefs. Perhaps there would be coconuts or new and delicious exotic fruits to eat? Maybe the famous Polynesian pamplemousse?! Almost certainly there would be black pearls and buried treasure. But would we find that people had already settled our island and if so, how they would feel about a bunch of grubby sailors setting up camp for the night there too? How would the boats sail? Would the reef points, newly sewn onto the mainsails, help keep the boats better balanced in strong winds? Had anybody remembered to pack marshmallows to toast on the campfire? Large questions to be sure…
Find out in the next edition of the Picton Castle Captain’s Log!