When we finally reached Palmerston there were no mooring balls but we were told that it should be ok to anchor. Basically Palmerston is a few small islands surrounded by a reef. There is a nice calm inner lagoon, as there has been on many of the other islands but the problem is that there isn't a large enough pass to get into the inner lagoon with a sailboat and the depth is only 4 feet or less in many parts. Given this, all the sailboats are tied up to mooring balls on the outside of the reef....in the open ocean! Since there were no balls left for us, we brought Artemo right up close to the reef and dropped the hook in 7 meters of depth and then the depth drops off to over 100 meters within only a few feet. Here in lies the problem.....if the wind shifts so that we are not being blown away from reef but rather on to it....then YIKES....we will have a huge problem. For now the wind continues to be strong and from the South East...so no problem! (knock on wood for us)
We anchored right beside a Canadian tall ship named Picton Castle. Graham could not believe our luck to be in Palmerston with the Picton Castle. Many years ago when this dream wasn't even a spark in his imagination he watched a Canadian documentary series called, "Tall Ship Chronicles". This show tweaked his interested in sailing and it was on one of these shows that they went to Palmerston...the first time he had ever heard of this place. Now all these years later here we were anchored next to them. You can imagine how special this was.
Our luck continued and the next morning the Picton Castle invited everyone from the island and all of the cruisers over to their boat for a huge goodbye celebration. I made up a batch of chocolate gooey's and we were off to the the tall ship. We were the last people to arrive. There must of been over a 100 people total onboard. We were all a bit overwhelmed as we climbed up over the side of the huge ship. I stepped on deck with my bowl of chocolate gooey's and I looked around for where I could put them...each step I took the islanders grabbed cookies....I was surrounded in a mass feeding frenzy....totally crazy moment. Finally I was able to put the bowl down and leave the crowd and take everything in. HOLY....so totally wild. The ship is totally traditional...even the stove is from 1863.....big old black thing. The ship was packed with the town and all the crew and many familiar cruising friends faces. A number of dances were put on and the ukulele's and singing accompanied them. The kids made fast friends with all the local kids. They were all so lovable. During one of the dances I started to look around at the crowd. I could see the happy young energetic crew members excited to be heading off on their voyage later in the day. I could see many of the islanders with tears in their eyes since one of the girls was going with the Picton Castle on a 14 month circumnavigation. I could see the small children singing along and doing the dance steps....even though they weren't up in front of everyone. I could see above me....up on the top of the ship...Amelia and Alex with many many kids looking down at the show.....huge smiles on their faces. I could see our friends Louis and Jules from Simpatica on the other side of the ship with their arms around each other as they watched. Finally my eyes found Graham in the crowd....he had found a nice spot for himself in the back and I watched as he took it all in ....he looked so happy....made me feel so good for him to be a part of this. The universe is constantly surprising me.
After the party we were brought into the island. The way they work it here is that each sailboat is hosted by a family on the island. The family takes care of you while you are here. Their generosity is really unbelievable. Our host families names are Edward and Shirley and their two kids David and John. Edward shuttles us back and forth between our boat and the island while we are here. When we are on the island we are his guest.....basically the same way family would be if they visited. We went to his house and we sat and visited. Then Edward and Shirley went to work preparing us a huge feast. Their son David took us on a tour of the small island. The island has a cool history and it is definitely worth a google. One of the things that I find the most interesting is that they have no problem giving away their babies. Shirley gave her sister her baby girl and she said it is really common. Often times children will even give their first born child to their parents. When I ask the kids how many brothers or sisters they have....many of them answer...that they have so many brothers and sisters, and so many cousins who are living with them like brothers and sisters and also so many feeding brother and sisters".....the feeding kids are basically just kids who come and eat all the meals with them but don't sleep at their homes. Needless to say it has been a VERY interesting couple of days. They welcome you into their lives and expect nothing in return. Shirley had me bring in all my laundry today and let me us the washing machine....again...no charge...and before I realized it she had even hung it up for me. She took me aside yesterday and told me how much she loved my chocolate gooey's and apologized for eating so many on the Picton Castle. I had to laugh. I told her how happy I was she enjoyed them and that I would make her more.
Today we brought in a huge chocolate cake for Alex's birthday party and Edward and Shirley made another feast. We had a birthday celebration that I don't think Alex will soon forget. We were invited to the school and we had such a good time there. Alex played soccer with the boys. The smaller children climbed all over Graham. A really cute boy took me into his outdoor classroom and showed me his desk and all of his work. He was just so proud. Another girl with quite the sense of humor told me how she was the oldest child, so she was basically everyone in her families slave! She said that if she didn't do everything just right then she would get a beating (she didn't use the word beating....it was a word that started with an s....like a stitching...or something) ....anyway she said she would either get the belt, the broom, the palm frawn, or a wooden spoon. I asked which she preferred and she said the broom since it sprung back. Yikes eh.
Later in the day we went for a snorkel. The underwater world here is beautiful. Right off the beach you can see beautiful coral, sharks, rays, turtles, grouper, parrot fish and the list goes on. Amelia and I snorkeled until we came across a shark and then we began making our way back. The boys said they saw 2 aggressive white tip sharks. Most often the sharks don't even take notice of you and just swim away. They said that these 2 began to circle them and one got his back curled up. Graham and Alex kept their eyes on them and backed out of their territory. Alex said it was the first time he felt a bit scared by a shark.
Last night Edward brought us back to our boat just before sunset. We were all just trying to come down from such an awesome day when we heard over the radio....."we got whales out here!"....We all jumped out on deck and way off on the other side of the anchorage we see the big spouts of water but they are quite far. Alex stays up on deck and the rest of us go back down. A while later Alex calls us ....."they are right behind our boat!!!" OMG....HUGE whales.....3 of them. We all stood at the back cheering and clapping and jumping. The whales came up and down and up and down and spouts of water....everything I had always hoped for. WOW, what a day. I called Louis on the radio and told him that Palmerston was everything he promised it would be. He replied in his fantastic Texan accent...."Darlin, sometimes you have to endure a little hell to have a piece of heaven!"
ps...We went through all of our supplies and put together a bunch of stuff for Edward and Shirley. They haven't had a cargo ship here in 8 months so supplies are running low. We were happy to be able to give them sugar, flour, rice, cake mixes, drink crystals (would you believe that this was on the top of their list), muffin mixes, candy and a bunch of gasoline. I am finding it hard to sleep at night, so many thoughts going through my head......at the top of the list though is....I am grateful, I am grateful, I am grateful