As we sailed from Pukapuka on September 16 our laughter could almost be heard above the ships horn which signalled our away. We were giddy for a variety of reasons. For one, we’d had a great couple of days enjoying the hospitality of the people of Pukapuka. Among the highlights for us were the cross island tours by motorbike and pick-up truck; the home-stays with delightful families (who just like Palmerston ‘Atollers’ bent over backwards to make us feel welcome and cared for); the grand feast the islanders prepared to welcome us ashore; the island crafts (Adrienne, Sophie, Paulina and Roselyne in particular were keen and mate Mike purchased the most extraordinary hat); the rainy boat trip Yo and Cheri took to the nearby motu. Pukapuka has several islands all linked together by miles of coral reef. At low tide you can feasibly walk from one to the other – in good sturdy walking shoes – but most prefer to visit by boat.
Cultural subtleties make for the most interesting of island visits. On Monday the Picton Castle crew and a few Pukapukans organized a dance party. We had heard legend told that Pukapuka is renowned in the South Pacific island group for their singing and dancing and, well, we wanted to be a part of it. So DJ Mate Mike and a man named Billy put together an excellent play list which mingled Western ‘unst-unst’ dance beats with traditional island ‘swoosh-swoosh’ tunes. The crew danced and danced and made several announcements inviting the locals to join us and yet, but for a few, we are alone in the lights on stage. The island certainly showed up – everyone gathering around the perimeter of the outdoor dance hall – and we were assured that they were all thoroughly entertained by our dancing. But we were perplexed as to the reason why more did not get up and join us. At the next night’s dance we got our answer.
Again we threw a dance party. Pukapuka dance party 2010. Many of the host families made us beautiful flower crowns and leis to wear and we were assured there would be a big local turnout. Once again there was and once again the locals were gathering on the perimeter and at first we danced alone. Robert Hoffman informed us that the night before many people wanted to dance with us, but that it was custom to be asked to dance. So we rallied the troops and ran out into the crowd inviting the locals onto the dance floor. And they came! And we danced! What fun!
So yes, as we sailed away we smiled. During our stay we had unloaded a massive amount of cargo – dancing and laughing in good company as we did so. We had been forced to let go the mooring when the wind shifted and the 4-8 watch – under the careful guidance of the Captain and Second Mate Paul – spent the night heaving to off the island. We had visited an island a wee bit off the beaten path. An island in need of regular shipments of supplies with no anchorage and friendly people. Just before we left many of the islanders came out to the ship – accepting our invitation to host them. In farewell and thanks they sang to us – their voices filling the sails with incredible harmonies – their singing bringing even some of the saltier of the sailors to the verge of tears.
We also smiled that day for a different reason. We were heading out to sea. The promise of wind was in the air and the crew was ready. Lorraine put it well when she said that the islands were amazing, but it was the sea that had truly called her back to the Picton Castle after close to eight years on land. All hands to set sail and we were off – out of the lee of the island and once more into the sweet, deep blue of the South Pacific.