Captain's Log

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Arriving at Palmerston Atoll

By Chelsea McBroom

April 12th, 2014

The Picton Castle sailed to Palmerston Island quicker than expected. The winds reminded us of the Roaring 40s and all we needed to sail with to get us to five knots were the topsails, the foresail, the inner jib and the main topmast staysail.

The Captain originally planned for us to arrive at daylight on the morning of the 11th, but we were just a few miles to the island soon after midnight. The Captain was running the 12-4 and I was at helm at about 0100 when he told me to turn the helm hard to starboard handsomely. All the sails were taken in but the lower topsails, which were braced on a starboard tack. The wind force still being a four, I watched as the ship slowly came around on the compass, feeling the odd rolls of the swell and the wind coming around. I didn’t know what to expect and after passing a few compass points, the ship stopped and was steady going less than a knot of speed. I was hesitant to step away from the helm but the Captain assured me it was okay. I sat nearby to make sure it didn’t turn from it’s place. I watched as the ship hung in a balance, hove to, while we went about the rest of our watch duties: deep cleaning the galley, lookout, ship checks, wake-ups. The four to eight took over for us as usual and we went to bed, prepared for all hands to be called at 0800.

Exhausted from an early morning and working through the night, the crew groggily ate breakfast as we motored towards the reef. It was another clear beautiful sunny day with little cloud and good wind. As we got closer to the island we could see small boats motoring towards us. It was the Palmerston people coming out to greet us and take their personal cargo brought from Rarotonga. One of the items was a giant empty fresh water tank that was strapped to our hatch.

The Captain watched the locals as they pointed us in the direction of the reef where they thought we should anchor. It was a very sensitive anchorage, dropping the anchor literally right onto the reef, but the wind and current were in our favor, pushing us away from the shallow wall. We met with Customs – Simon, Alex and “Motha” who were incredibly friendly – and I sensed the excitement that surrounded our visit. A few others came aboard to chat with the crew while some stayed in the boats to receive boxes, freezers and wood – and then the water tank which crew pushed and lifted, Simon from Palmerston actually crouching underneath it to help it up and over the side of the ship and into the boat. When we finished, port watch gathered their things and went ashore for the night while starboard stayed to continue the day of work.

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