11th of December 2018, Penrhyn Island
Our four-day crossing from Christmas to Penrhyn went very smooth. With a moderate wind and slight seas we could shut down the engine for half of the leg and enjoy all sails being set, besides the gaff tops’l.
We made landfall on Saturday morning and were guided through the lagoon by our local pilot. Apparently, the Cook Island government is gaining on the westernized world. As part of the clearance protocol, the Biosecurity officer stepped on board, fully dressed in personal safety gear, breathing apparatus and a backpack with roach-killer, because he needed to ‘sanitize’ the whole ship. Ten minutes later, we were cleared and started our working day.
It was great to see a multitude of people gathering on the dock, waiting for the delivery of their orders. Kwai has come a long way delivering cargo to hundreds of customers every voyage, and this time the system was perfected by Chrissy. The consigned cargo was delivered to individual customers, neatly packaged in a tote (that people were offered to buy at reduced price). This was highly appreciated by the locals.
We also discharged almost a hundred drums of petrol that we brought from Christmas Island. Fossil fuels are still in high demand on the remote Pacific Islands. Although these times are gradually changing. Since last year, all the islands of the Northern Cooks are equipped with solar energy from the grid. Private people are lagging behind though, because they are accustomed to their fossil-fuel burning outboard engines and conventional motorbikes.
There is a pioneer though, on Penrhyn, who is walking his talk. Dr. Michael White has been promoting sustainable living on the island for years. He is growing vegetables through hydroponics, is involved in planting a variety of trees and shrubs along the island’s roads (creating bio diversity) and teaching locals about the advantages of solar energy in relation to conventional energy. On our visit this time, Michael showed me his latest achievement: a solar driven tender. He ordered a 3 kW long-tail solar outboard (the ones that are used on river boats in Asia) and installed 500 pW of solar panels on the boat. Although he is still testing the boat in local circumstances, Michael told me that the engine basically runs straight on the panels only, without having to tap into the closed-cell solar batteries. Top speed is around 6 to 7 knots inside the lagoon. In the Kwai store he purchased a 12V solar system with the purpose of charging his cordless power tools (including a chainsaw) by means of solar power. Hopefully this initiative will be followed suit by other locals, who now can witness that there is someone who is no longer buying fossil fuels and oils, for running his tools, boat and electric scooter.
After an efficient day of working cargo, the whole crew (and two passengers) was invited to share a nice evening with local foods from the earth oven with the family of our hosts Alex and Christine Maretapu.
On Sunday, a true day of rest on the island, many of the crew went to church and did little else then lounge and reach out to family and friends on social media.
On Monday morning we started the day one houe earlier than usual, because we were informed about the arrival of two ships that needed to use the only wharf available on the island. All of a sudden, the harbor master came over to the dock to tell us that we needed to clear the dock right away. Thanks to the intervention of our agent Alex, we were able to offload the lumber that was destined for this island. After that we quickly loaded the shore compressor and moved out to an anchorage in sight of the wharf. In unforeseen circumstances like these, you need to be creative. Alex offered us to use his weekend house next to the Catholic church to set up our Kwai store. In my opinion, this ended out to be the nicest setting for Kwai store ever.
We left Penrhyn around 5pm on Monday and are heading for our next port of call: Rakahanga.