Heading for Opua
29 October 2009 | Norfolk Island
Michael and Jackie
We have just left Norfolk Island, and are now just leaving its Western shore. There were quite a few boats in Cascade Bay taking a breather before the next stage of the journey to New Zealand. Most of them are planning to head South in the next day or two as the winds become more favourable. The island is quite a gem. However, the anchorage is not. The locals considered the conditions there very calm. This means even in a catamaran, waking up at 2.am as the boat does a violent corkscrew and heave. Tide and wind conflict, swells roll in from all directions making what is a delightful setting a rather difficult spot for a night's sleep. Still, we kept saying it wasn't as bad as last year.
The forecast looks reasonable we have a day or two of slogging south into wind before the winds drop and finally move to the West. Once they do we can set a course straight for the North Cape. At present we are heading South South West, but still generally in the right direction. We really didn't feel like another day in the anchorage and decided the time had come to move on.
The island is a delight. For many years it was a penal colony bequeathing some fine Georgian buildings. The administrative buildings are pure Georgian and you can walk in the remains of the Georgian prison, notorious for its cruelty. After the penal colony closed the British allowed descendants of the mutineers on the Bounty to come from the tiny Pitcairn Island to settle in Norfolk Island. So many of the local people have surnames like Christian, after Fletcher Christian, the leader of the mutineers.
There is a tremendously friendly atmosphere. An islander left a car on the wharf with the keys in, saying anyone on the boats could use it to see the island. Other islanders left boxes of oranges on the wharf as free gifts, and many islanders drove down to the wharf to see the spectacle of around ten boats anchored in the bay. The local museum has horrendous photos of the swell breaking over the wharf here.
We went on an island circuit in the borrowed car. A lot of the island has steep sided cliffs so there are some superb vistas. Probably the best one is from the Captain Cook monument, commemorating his landing nearby. From here you can see the strange shaped rocks the consequence of the soft volcanic rock being eroded by the power of the sea.
The island itself is very dependent on tourism. The tourists fly in, rather than sail, around 30,000 a year, and are greeted by flower bedecked pavements, friendly smiles, good quality restaurants and numerous duty free stores, offering prices well below that in Australia. Norfolk Island is an Australiian protectorate so you clear in and out of Australian customs here.