An open letter to Sail Training International:
We are now 1/3rd of the way and 10,000 miles along in this, Picton Castle‘s fifth voyage around the world. This really has been an excellent voyage thus far with truly a great gang, officers and trainees alike; set out in May south to the Caribbean no problems and only one gale and even that one helped us on our way. Quick Panama Canal transit and I love that country anyway, Galapagos good enough. We had a great time at that storied isle for a week after 20 days at sea, all under sail. Short 300 mile hop to Manga Reva and French Polynesia and the lovely lagoon anchorage there, and wonderful overnight sailing/camping trips in longboats and dories to motus for small boat handling training and experience. Trading for black pearls also popular there. Then a ten day passage in fair winds to Rarotonga for a long visit. Wonderful time there at our homeport island. Onward 250 miles NW towards Palmerston Atoll. and then continuing on to Pukapuka Atoll up by Samoa w/14 islanders aboard! On top of our full complement. All this with permission (and even requested by) of the Cook Island Ministry of Transport and of course, literally tons of supplies to replenish the island – nice to have cargo hold sometimes.
We were asked to take desperately needed food supplies on a mission of mercy to Pukapuka which has not had a supply ship in many months. Keen to help in Rarotonga we put out the call for emergency goods for this atoll and soon the wharf was piled high with emergency rations. And the islanders to get home. My mates Melbourne and Haua Marsters (of the famous Palmerston Marsters, he of three island wives in 1868) came up with us as far as Palmerston.
Our Rarotonga visit was tremendous. We go alongside inside the small harbour of Avatiu instead of anchoring off – Brigantine Yankee, on the reef for 40 years or more since being wrecked there is long gone now but well remembered – but there are pictures of her at various restaurants and bars as well as the museum. Rarotonga is not hard to get to by air and, as a manner of speaking much like Tahiti was 30-40 years ago except cheaper and the folks all speak English. Just a great place with many like minded folks. We made many visits to schools with donated supplies collected in Nova Scotia. They usually thanked us with a lunch and a performance of kids dancing for us which is truly enchanting – then we had about 1,000 school children aboard to visit the ship over the course of a week scrambling around the ship, much fun – Plenty running around for the gang on the Rarotonga (6 miles x 4 miles), island dance/feast nights and so on,as well as watch and ship’s work. It truly is a great place. I can strongly recommend a visit to Rarotonga, Cook Islands as a fantastic island getaway vacation spot to anyone. A good place for ship to get things done too.
Weather was fine while we were there. The big things are these: After many meetings with Cook Islands cabinet and the Prime Minister we got our trading licence for the new ship (see Zebroid in the latest ASTA directory) and met with various business interests, I believe we now have the final financing for our first Pacific Schooners Auxiliary-Sail Supply Ship; to be renamed Tiare Taporo after the last big trading schooner hereabouts. The desire for regularly scheduled, dependable professional service, well, they are crying for this they are virtually begging for us to get started. We met with many local business folks, all of whom were very savvy, see the merit and possibilities easily – so, I think we are done with that – now to get started and get the ship fixed up and gone and going towards the islands. And then the next one and the next one and so forth. It is a great model for isolated island groups, and our plan includes a comprehensive apprentice/sail training component. And it is good work for our operation in Lunenburg Nova Scotia to refit such a vessel.
We had great visits to Palmerston and Pukapuka and stories should be up on our website for Palmerston with Pukapuka soon to follow – Now under way for Fiji about 900 miles away. We are also considering a return voyage to Europe in 2012, you all at STI made us feel so welcome and we had such a wonderful, meaningful time in 2008 for the ship and our trainees we figure we have to go again. We are hoping to send our two Shore Team to the Sail Training International conference in Norway in November too.