19th of December 2018, Coconut Crab

We came to our most southern destination of Voyage 47, and landed at my favorite of islands on our route. Nassau island only knows about 6 dozen inhabitants but their positive energy make up for their numbers. This energy is palpable and so downright uplifting that all the other islands in the group send their ‘problem kids’ here, to start a new life. Many a ‘lost case’ found him/herself back on track.

After a handful of cargo was discharged, we prepared to organize Kwai store. The circumstances did not allow us to run all the totes on shore to set up our usual gig with essentials and trivialia. The cargo vessel ‘Moana Nui’, that was wrecked on the reef almost two years ago, capsized in the worst location imaginable: right inside the only pass through the reef. When the ship was still sitting dry, upright on the reef, there was still a possibility of removal of the wreck. Now, with the hull capsized and half submerged, the operation is hardly feasible, without an enormous amount of effort and money.

Anyway, the local boat driver Tim (Pairo) managed to get our team safely on shore with a printed list of goodies that we offered to sell. It took the better part of the day to satisfy all the customers wishes, with the local barge running between ship and shore.

Around 5 pm I joined my fellow crew members on shore and witnessed how hard it is for the local boats to time the swell, choose the right wave and run through the pass, avoiding a collision with the wreck. Once inside the reef, the barge was tied alongside a concrete wharf, in a maelstrom of ‘boiling water’. By the time I arrived at the cargo-discharge shed, the kwai store had already come to an end, and the crew had gone out hunting for coconut-crab. I took my time interacting with locals and met with my old friend papa Topetai. To my knowledge, he is the only Pacific Islander that knows a few ancient Dutch songs. On every visit he teaches me more lyrics that I already forgot. This time he even remembered the first verse of a song that I haven’t heard since my childhood, called ‘Sary Marijs’. A song about the old days of the Dutch VOC in Indonesia. How did this song make it to the Cook Islands? A Dutch missionary taught it to the locals 25 years ago, and this amazing friend of mine still remembers the words (without knowing the meaning of course). So, for our Dutch followers: if you ever make it to Nassau Island, better be prepared to hear the songs “En van je heela-hoola” and “En dattuh we Toffe Jongus zijn”.

Just before dusk, our crew arrived with a basket full of gigantic coconut-crabs and we made our way back to the landing place. Jolliness was all around. Kids and adults alike kept on jumping and summer-saulting into the water. Our first-time crew member Ben (a.k.a. Moimoto) mentioned later: “I can now see why this is your favorite island”.

Bengineer