Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pinned to the Rock

If there is a middle of *ing nowhere, this is it. We have finally gone far enough to find it. Google "Cook Islands Palmerston". Prepare to browse their web site as well as numerous glowing reports from visiting cruisers while you learn about one of the more unique sociological experiments conducted in the last two centuries. Give yourself time to process it.

There is a high sitting its big fat ass just south of us reinforcing the trades and dishing out 25 to 30 on the hook and a good 5 to 15 more than that out on the blue. Boats underway are reporting 5 meter seas from two quarters. Watching the waves break on the edge of the reef, I can believe it. So we are pinned here like bugs waiting for the weather to moderate. Don Quixote has two attachment points to the reef, three to those lines, and we're maintaining a round the clock watch on all the boats. We've already had two boats break off moorings and anchors. In fact, just this morning, DrC and Jaime larked off in the dinghy with Graham of Catacaos to chase down a wayward Discovery who -- after yanking out an anchor AND a mooring line -- was hell bent west, next stop Tonga.

Even so, we are all more fortunate than the lost Riri. The winds are blowing from the southeast attempting with every blast to scrape us off this rock and send us winging at high speed towards Australia with nary a pause. Riri fared less well last week when a blast broke her mooring and drove her south and east straight on to the reef. I sit here gazing at the carcass of what was a beautiful, well founded cruising boat with the dread feeling that there but for the grace of all the gods sit we. We all -- every cruiser out here -- have made a mistake that could have resulted in the loss of our lives or the boats we sail on so blithely. Luck only takes you so far. Talking with Riri's captain has been a sobering experience; Helping him get his salvage off the island to somewhere he can put his life back together again is both the right thing to do and a wave at the Fates asking for positive karma points paying forward to our next eventual mistake. Make it small, make it recoverable, thank you Fates for not taking Frank and Gail as well as Riri. Now stay away from my children, bitch.

I am taking the day off, today, staying aboard Don Quixote while the family visits ashore. My political economy, public policy trained brain is absolutely awhirl after three days here, and I desperately need some time to myself. Imagine taking 60 members of your closest family (first imagine having 60 members of your closest family whose relationship to you is not only known but all within first cousin range), put them all in the same office environment, make them work for 2 different governments in 20 administrative capacities, make them all quite Christian, then stick them on an island roughly the size of a city block, drop the island 350 miles from even the next largest stop which is about the size and population of Cicily, Alaska (Northern Exposure). Make a short temper breed true. Run supplies in and out every 3 or 4 months, taking islanders on and off in broad looping multiple year runs to get health care, provisions, and spouses. Then just to make it lively, parade roughly 50 boats with yachties from every country in the world -- renowned for their independence and eclecticism -- past these people every year. Make it a cultural imperative that the islanders offer every possible courtesy and hospitality to these foreingers in exchange for trade goods and services. Then let the whole thing simmer for about 150 years. This is officially the world's largest tempest in the world's smallest teapot.

For now we are quite safe, DrC is busy, and the girls are having an amazingly good time. As a barter for our time on the mooring, DrC is treating the islanders' health care issues in the small clinic. The kids study in the mornings, play all afternoon, spend the night with their new best friends on the island. I try to stay out of trouble. However, I'm sure you can imagine how successful it is to mix Toast in with a strong patriarchal society where we're supposed to relay everything through the men before so much as walking down to the beach. The only reason I'm not in the village center fomenting a feminist revolution is that I'm down to my last two bras and can't afford to burn them.

So probably, it's safer for everybody if I just take anchor watch till we depart. It's okay. The dolphins and I are on a first name basis now, and they promised me that they'd explain to the whales in here yesterday why the mooring lines are not to be used for back scratching. Not sure we can trust the grouper, though. There are two under the boat who have been taunting me since we arrived, "Nyah na, we've got cigueterra. Just eat me. I dare you."


Deb said...

Discretion is the better part of valour in this case I'm sure. I'm afraid I would be in the same position as you are with much less success in restraining my feminist convictions. My hat tips to you!

S/V Kintala

dmmbruce said...

Where do you get into that lagoon at Palmerston? The google immages show the atoll to have a continuous reef all the way around it.