Palmerston Atoll Day 2…….

Dear F&F,
We were first to arrive, but the Puddle Jump fleet was about to arrive and in numbers!

Several hours after we\’d arrived, s/v \”Na Maka\” with Jerome, NAT and the kids arrived in the middle of the night. Jerome is not timid and found one of the two other moorings next to which he tied too. The next morning, bright and early, Simon and Edward came to \”claim\” our French friends.

As they were not in time for the great customs check in, they were told they would have to wait till Monday morning which didn\’t make them exactly happy. C\’est la vie! as they say in France.

We also knew that s/v Quickstar, s/v Visions of Johanna and s/v Curious were not far behind. As we were all pretty close and we were in email contact, we would try and give Bob a heads up as to when they expected to arrive. The reason this mattered is that part of the curious behavior of the claiming process is that the families don\’t like the \”boaties\” to get together unless they are with the same claiming family. Why? Well, it\’s due to those long ago established exclusive trading rights business. Please understand. There are NO STORES on this island. NONE, ZIP, ZERO. All food is imported, grown or caught. Hence, we \”boaties\” were and are a prime source of supplies to all the islanders.

Everything from gasoline, tools, entertainment and yes even food are substantially supplied by visiting yachts. The trading ships that do come here make only random visits 2-3 times per YEAR!

The next day, our host family showed up in force. Bob, daughters Taia and Goldeen along with son Bob. Bob was trying to be very careful not to damage our boat with his aluminum dinghy and yelled at Taia just before touch down, \”BAH MA GA\”!…… Suddenly, Taia stood up and kept Bob from playing ding \”Beach House\”.

They came aboard to invite us to lunch, all smiles and very pleasant. I asked Taia if she had a clue what \”BAH MA GA\” meant and she said, \”Of course\”, it means \”Push Em\’ off Girl\”! I said, \”You\’re kidding?\” She smiled and told me that they speak two languages. English and Cook Island Pidgeon. The Pidgeon amonst themselves and the English to the rest of us. I asked if it was a Polynesian dialect similar to Maori? She said, \”No not really, no other Cook Islanders would be able to speak it to us\”. She said none of them spoke Polynesian per say but just the local Pidgeon.

We were whisked off to shore through \”Boat Pass\”, a very small unmarked tricky twisty shallow pass through the reef. Once ashore, we were given a tour of the house. Think very rustic charmer!…. Then lunch, lot of Parrot fish and then a tour of the island by Taia. This to me was a great highlight of our visit. Taia, who is a wonderful young lady has had it pretty rough. She had to go to New Zealand as a very young child and missed a great deal of school. The reason for the trip was a one year medical visit to have eye surgery, a small benign tumor removed and re-hab. So, it wasn\’t exactly fun. The Marsters due to their unique heritage have three threads of health issues. Eyes, asthma and joint issues. This of course has made them a bit of a living laboratory for various study groups from around the world.

The tour was amazing. Taia had done it a hundred times, but made it seem very fresh to me and unabashedly answered any questions. She told us about the families history, the infighting, the jealousies, etc. She among all the islanders was the most open about the history as she understood it. We were shown the demarcation lines of the three families on \”Home Island\”. It quickly became clear that Bob\’s family had the largest piece by far of \”Home Island\”. Though all divided amongst the families in roughly equal amounts when you added up all 7 islands, Home Island was largely Bob\’s families\’. As this was the case and everyone lived here, Bob donated the land for the Church and the School. The original William Marsters house and his first son\’s house were also here as was the islands main cemetary.

Cindy and I asked why boats like ours were not allowed to enter what was known as \”Big Pass\”. Jerome had heard that some boats including a catamaran from the year before had entered the shallow pass. We were told officially that it \”hurt fishing\”. That some of the past \”boaties\” had polluted the lagoon with their toilets.

Jerome listened, read between the lines and it was his opinion (which I shared), that it all came down to control. If the \”boaties\” were inside, they wouldn\’t need an escorted ride ashore. This meant that the host family could not control their movement and it came down to that trading thing again. Frankly, Bob didn\’t seem to care so much, but he knew that the other two families did. Another advantage Bob\’s family had was that all shore traffic had to pass right in front of his house and land on his beach. The other families had no choice, but didn\’t seem trustful of each other when it came to \”business\”. Socially, they seemed to get along fine, but when it came to trade….a trade war was always a looming possibility.

For details on our tour with Taia, see the captions in the Photo Gallery of Palmerston Island.

Scott and Cindy