Like a huge swan spreading her wings, we unfurl our sails and start our last leg Southbound. For half of the 270nm leg we are actually able to shut down the engine and hover between wind and waves. Our destination is Nassau Island, a tiny dot in the vast Deep Waters. Usually the population does not exceed 80 souls and this time is no different.
We are six weeks into our voyage and, apart from three onions and a handful potatoes, we are running out of fresh produce. Now is the time to compliment our Chef Arina and Kitchen Aid Temeaua for the creativity that they manage to put into the daily dishes. And, being born on a remote island, the girls are great at using left-overs for another meal. Hardly any food gets tossed over the side.
As soon as we make landfall at Nassau, the aluminum ‘speedboat’ comes alongside to take on consigned cargo. The boat looks like a giant inflatable tender of a clever design. The rounded pontoons guarantee stability on rough seas, and the slender hull can accommodate four standard pallets of cargo. It’s a good thing that the island owns this rocket-ship, because after one year (or is it two already), the cargo vessel of Taio that got wrecked on Nassau’s reef, is blocking the pass trough the reef. For a long time the islanders have been running through the pass, barely avoiding a collision sith the ship wreck. Intel has it that a team from Rarotonga is now preparing to shove the wreck into the sea, using flotation devises and a giant digger. For the islanders sake, I wish the team all the luck with this ‘mission impossible’.
Our shore party sets up a station inside the facilities of “Nassau Fishing Club”. This is where I meet with one of the island elders Papa Topetai. As usual we sing our two Dutch songs from yesteryear: “En van je hela-hola” and “Dattuh we toffe jongens zijn”.
In between showers we manage to keep our cargo dry and depart in the evening for a 50 miles crossing to Pukapuka.
Pukapuka, aka Wale or Danger Island turns out to be the climax of this voyage. We were challenged by weather and swell from the West, totally contrary to the usual pattern. Because there is no alternative to the Westerly pass through the reef, the Island Council decided to do all cargo operations with two small aluminum tenders. I don’t blaim them, because I was on board of the island Barge in one of her attempts to challenge the pass, and we barely avoided broaching and thus capsizing.
The second day on the island will go into history as one of the wettest ever. So, captain decided to allow us a Kwai day-off. On my three hour island-break I visited my dear friend Papa Charlie Frisbee, the 74 year old son of the author of “Island of Desire”, a romantic novel about life on Danger Island.
The next day we set up Kwai store in the local community center. As a result of the lack of cargo capacity in the small boats, the operations took much longer than foreseen. Our patience was rewarded by the enthusiasm of the islanders. Kwai store turned into a village gathering with kids running and playing around the community center. Over the last years I have witnessed the atmpsphere on the island improve a lot. It is more harmonious than before, reason unknown. Regardless of the remotness of the island, locals agree with me: “Wale a good place to live”.
Happy Thanksgiving to our readers!