When we were in Samoa, we met a lovely ten year old British girl named Zinnia. One of the first things we learned about Zinnia was that she had just been to Penrhyn, met and fell in love with an eight year old boy named Rio, and promised to move back to the island when she was eighteen to live there with his family. This darling yachtie girl had sailed the west coast of Europe, travelled through the Caribbean, transited the Panama Canal, explored the Galapagos Islands, spent a year in the Marquesas, sailed through the Tuomotos, and the Society Islands by the time her family decided to go to Penrhyn. Hardly anyone makes the choice to visit Penrhyn. I know six people that have ever gone there. It’s not on the way to anywhere. This family went, stayed for a couple of months, and loved the island.
Penrhyn is in the Northern Cook Islands (roughly in the middle of nowhere; west of Tahiti; east of Fiji). It won’t show up on your globe. The Cook Islands are spread out over 2 million square kilometers of ocean and yet have a population of about 21,000. Sailboats transiting through the Pacific sometimes get lucky enough to go to Suwarrow, some go to Rarotonga, shallow draft boats go to Aitutaki, and a few others go to Palmerston Atoll. Penrhyn is in the far north and its population hovers around 200. A cargo ship visits about once a month, and takes 10-12 days to arrive there after leaving Rarotonga. It doesn’t always show up, consequently the population survives on fish, coconuts, old potatoes and onions, and if it is like most of the places we have visited in the Pacific, massive quantities of canned meat.
When I heard Zinnia was planning to move to Penrhyn I thought to myself, her mother may never see her again. And I thought that my children may end up moving to a place somewhere in the world, a place so remote that Lonely Planet only has five sentences to say about it. Convivia might be able to sail us to that sort of spot to visit, or we may be able to crew on another boat going in that direction, and stay behind until another, with space to offer, leaves again. But our kids, who are seeing a lot more of the world than we did as kids may end up loving the desert, or the arctic, or the high mountain tops where the logistics of visiting are as difficult as getting to Penrhyn.
Our kids have started making their own plans too. Miles wants to marry his best friend Rayna (he can’t believe she’s already five, he keeps thinking about her when she was three). He wants to be an underwater explorer. He wants to sail to the Arctic, and also around Cape Horn. I guess when you introduce a kid to a couple of folks that have sailed around Cape Horn it’s easily added to their possibilities in life. Ruby plans on living in Maine, Mexico, and Santa Cruz, being an artist, having an amazing flower garden, sailing her own boat when she’s 14, and marrying Zach, a sailor boy one day older than her, just as long as he eats vegetables, likes whipped cream, and if she actually likes him when she meets him. But who knows, they might open a restaurant, build a house on an uninhabited island, live in a city, or go back to the Bay Area. They could easily end up somewhere I haven’t even noticed on the map yet. The possibilities are endless.