Preview: Tom Robinson’s Solo Row Across the Pacific – Update #20 – The Second Leg: Penrhyn to American Samoa

June 2, 2023

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by Tom Mahuta Robinson

Cars, birds, trees, shops, wharves, restaurants and so much more – what a pleasure it is to be on a big island and experiencing all the sights, sounds and smells that go with it. But before we delve into any luxuriation, I had better take you back to the start, back to Penrhyn.

Never before has a departure been so difficult; of course, departures are not always easy, but thisone was downright hard. The morning of the 14th of April started well before the sun came up; I was not up early to finish off any last-minute packing, although perhaps I should have been, instead I was getting dressed for church, as I did most Friday mornings. The service was just as they always are, with plenty of singing, but this time with a special mention of my departure later that morning. After the service, I went straight to the boat and continued to pack while the sun came up. I continued in this fashion until the clock struck eight – when the formalities began. Adorned with flowers and shells, I sat down at a large table covered with plates of fish, rice, sausages and bread; everyone in the village had made me breakfast. I sat there and ate in silence and trepidation as the village sang. Never before had the singing been so powerful and moving, it was an emotional morning for everybody. What followed was a heartwarming array of speeches, hymns, prayers and biblical recitations. It was then my turn to stand up and make a speech of my own. In doing so I thanked everyone for their kindness and showed my appreciation and love for Penrhyn and its people. I then made a firm commitment to one day return to Penrhyn, which was met with a round of applause. After the formalities had concluded I smiled for many, many photographs and was further adorned with shell necklaces – sincere gifts considering the time taken to collect, clean, drill and thread the shells. Among the gifts of the past 48 hour’s festivities had been many bags of food, a remarkably kind gesture considering the scarcity of imported foods on the island. I was truly touched by everyone’s kindness.

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