We spent two days in the serene shelter of Omoka dock. This is the only atoll in which we actually can enter the lagoon and go alongside a small keywall. It seems like the dock is tailor fit to Kwai size, so tying-up is always an energizing event. If you get it wrong, then the bow will hit the end of the dock. There is little room for error, so the procedure takes all concentration of captain, crew and locals on shore.
After the dock lines were all neatly tied, we invited the boarding party on the aft deck to arrange the clearance of our ship and crew. Until the crew is cleared, nobody could leave the ship, so we shared hugs and gossip with local friends ‘over the bulwarks’. Penrhyn island is a quite prosperous island. People live in simple but comfortable houses with solar energy from the grid, and running water from own catchment facilities. In general there are outhouses with bathroom and shower. The only thing that the community seems to be lacking is jobs. There is a lot of unemployment, especially with the youth. This is the reason why many youngsters are sent abroad for additional schooling and a professional career.
The whole crew set off to find the items that people ordered. If you live on a remote atoll then the arrival of a cargo ship is an event on its own, and we saw many happy faces. Unless… the ordered items could not been found in the hold, like in the case of the lost heads of garlic. The lady in question didn’t mind the rest of her order, because she especially was interested in that one item that could not be found. In this case, our mate Megan solved the issue by borrowing garlic from our own galley, achieving one more satisfied customer.
Because of a special request of our agent Alex and his lovely wife Christina, in the evening we were having a ‘Christmas Party’ on board. The table on the aft deck was filled with local delicacies, like lobster, Utu pancakes, breadfruit in coconut cream and Ika Mata.
During our stay, I found time to visit my friend Michael White. He is a Marine Zoologist from British origin, who has been based on Penrhyn Island for many years. He has been studying Endangered Species like Sea Turtles for many years. He is also specialized in Remote Island Research and Climate Change. In 2015 he founded an Inc. called Hakono Hararanga (taking care of Penrhyn). http://hararanga.org
With his long silvery grey hair and ditto beard, Michael is a conspicuous figure on the island. Regardless of his typical ‘mad scientist’-look he is very sociable and highly motivated to raise awareness of local islanders for environmental issues. “The time is right for the local people to take care of their own environment”. And he put his words into action. He also had both communities on Penrhyn (Omoka and Tetautua) involved in establishing an ‘environmental baseline’. The gathered data on consumption of fossil fuel show that twice as much fuel is used for outboards than for road transport on the island. The Tekukupa, the only patrol boat in the Cook Islands, has an enormous impact on the Carbon Footprint of the Island state. The motor vessel burns 30.000 liters on a 10 day patrol. And there are in average 10 patrols a year.
Michael doesn’t only raise awareness, but also offers solutions. He recently finished managing a 6 week local school program concluding in a science project fair, where he presented the working of a solar oven, a hydroponic vegetable grow station, and battery powered tools that were charged with solar energy. In the moment he is working on the implementation of an solar outboard engine for the local fishermen.
After we finish the Kwai store on shore, with the wind in the Northerly Quarter, we are bound to sail downwind towards Rakahanga and Manhiki this evening.