Day 7: Sunday on Sunday Island (Raoul)
Looking for anchorage in Boat Cove
I slept soundly in my ‘cave’, but the others in the main cabin slept fitfully as the anchor alarm went off all through the night. Raoul is notorious for poor anchorages and our experience was no different. The wind gusted into the bay and by morning had risen to 50 knots from the north with willy whorls forming in the bay. Disaster overnight and the small inflatable dinghy which was tied up alongside with the small outboard attached, had flipped over and the motor was immersed in seawater. This would make landing difficult with just tiny oars, especially with the strong winds gusting into the bay.
Storm over Meyer Island
Just then a huge squall hit us from a completely different direction, knocking the boat sideways and pushing us nearer to shore. The guys were half way back by then, just a couple of heads visible in the foaming bay. Unsure if the anchor was holding from our new position we prepared to get underway, as they climbed aboard. The squall passed and Karl dove back in to check the anchor, which seemed secure. However we decided to wait it out till the worst passed. Eventually three of us headed for shore taking the motor with us to clean up in the DOC base workshop. Two stayed on board to look after the boat. Lachlan, one of the Raoul team met us and strode effortlessly up the hill with the motor under one arm! Obviously living on a steep rugged island has its advantages, while we seafarers struggled to find our land legs and keep up.
Fixing the anchor winch
Climbed into the mule (All terrain vehicle) and headed round to the DOC base on the north side of the island. Kermadec parakeets frequently flew off the track in front of us, a reminder of the success of the DOC rat and cat eradication programme in the early 2000’s. These birds were previously confined to the tiny Herald Islets nearby due to predators on Raoul but as soon as they were eradicated they began returning and are now widespread around the island. The four wheel track from Boat Cove passes through lush Kermadec pohutukawa and nikau forest and there was just enough mist hanging in the forest to give it an ethereal quality. The plants of Raoul are a unique and internationally significant mixture of temperate and tropical vegetation, along with an eclectic mix of introduced plants from Polynesians passing through and early European attempts at settlement thrown in. Some of these introduced plants are the target of the final part of a restoration programme that has spanned nearly 40 years. The DOC base is centred on the hostel, a fantastic colonial style 1939 wooden building with a double hipped roof and inbuilt veranda. We met the current team and handed over the eagerly awaited mail bag from home, the last mail drop having been over 3 months ago. John presented Canadian lapel badges in appreciation of their hospitality and recognition of their contribution to world conservation efforts!
Ash the resident mechanic and Karl went off to the workshop to clean salt water out of the hapless motor and John and I sat down for a welcome cuppa and traditional scones and cake! Biosecurity provisions make it too risky to take food ashore. We had already checked our shoes, socks and Velcro on coats to make sure there were no seeds or dirt and cleaned the soles with bleach for extra good measure! We strolled up to the flagpole overlooking the northern coast of Raoul Island. A memorial stone sits here for Mark Kearney a Raoul DOC staff person who died in the 2006 eruption. Small flocks of grey ternlets flitted past as we gazed over the sea to the now sunlit Meyer Islets. The storm had passed but the sea would take some time to calm. After a tour of the base and meteorological station we loaded up with a bucket of oranges from the laden trees around the base and the mail to take back to the boat for later posting in Niue.
Launching the dinghy was a little more interesting with a low tide exposing the enormous limpets stuck like climbing wall hand holds all over the rocks. These limpets are yet another endemic feature of these remarkable islands. Holding the tiny dinghy into the surf proved challenging for Karlos but with the help of the Raoul Team Leader Ian Thorne to load the outboard, oranges, bread and mail we finally broke through the surf and sallied forth hand over hand as we hauled the dinghy back to our ship.