Phil and I got our watches swapped, he got the 12 to 4 and I got the 8 to 12. He now has the best shift for radio Kwai! The switch resulted in me having only 4 hours between watches while Phil got 12 off, the lucky dog! Can't complain too much; I've since been switched to the 4 to 8 and got a 12 hour break for that. This jumping around and short sleep is wrecking havoc with my bio-rhythms (How very Californian of me!) :
Radio KWAI appears to be making our listeners happy… both of them! The concept was Phil's, especially any reference to copra beetles (he loves them so!) I tried to get him to co-write the program with me, but he was too busy scaring the bejeezus out of the Kiribati crew with scary movies… they all slept together on deck for a few nights in a row!
In all the excitement of being able to do a wash from start to finish in rainwater alone, I forgot to describe how we DRY the clothes! We check to make sure the radar is off and climb the ladder to the bridge roof, fondly referred to as 'Monkey Island'. This is where the liferafts, solar panel and radar transmitter are located, as well as the clothesline. With the wind and rolling back and forth, it isn't always so easy to hang out clothes, and extra clothespins jammed on tight are necessary to keep the clothes from flying off to leeward. I'm surprised I have lost only one pair of undies! There is another clothesline at bridge level, roughly 5 meters above the water and in-board a bit, but the last time I used it, I got sea spray on my clothes and they didn't dry properly.
The big excitement over the last 5 days is catching Mahi Mahi - one a day (like the vitamin) with two so far this morning! These are beautiful, iridescent golden fish with deep blue fins. They flash through each color in the rainbow with the colors fading as they expire. I wonder if there is a connection there with the Hawaiian belief that rainbows take you to 'the other side'? Between the fish, the clouds and the rainbows, we truly are in Big Island waters… currently, nearly due south and less than 250 miles from our Honolulu waypoint.
The crew has been repairing and painting everything that doesn't move on its own. Tanawai's big toenail even has primer on it! Everyone seems to be looking forward to landfall in their own way. Lots of smiles from Tanawai and Teitera… or maybe it's just the good fishing as there'll be lots of work ashore for the off-loading of Voyage 19 and the loading of Voyage 20. Tebitoa is now sporting the start of a mustache and beard and looking rather like George Clooney, particularly in profile. Evy MIGHT have one pair of shorts left without a hole in the butt, and there is no evidence he has any shirts left at all… I haven't seen him in one since Penrhyn (and that was Tyrone's!) Phil's pants have been jumping overboard, one by one. Magali has gotten into my beading kit and is making some nice bracelets and earrings and Cookie is singing along to the galley radio more and more.
My manicurist may never speak to me again, and my pedicurist is going to kill me! Naw, I don't go in for all that, but between the shape of my nails and the calluses on my hands and feet, you can tell this hasn't exactly been a desk job. Most of the cuts and bruises have healed, and I managed to escape getting burned (by the sun OR the engine!) so not looking too bad, after all. I might even be presentable in a week or so!
In about 2 days, we'll be in Honozulu! We are due to arrive in port at Honolulu Pier 31 late Wednesday morning, February 9th. I hope to have my cell phone back up before then - it'll be good to hear my friend's voices again!
Phil gets his work pants so filthy, they not only can stand up on their own, I've also seen them get up and walk around! Of course, this only happens late at night when no one else is around to see it…
Most of the crew seem to have brought enough clothes so they can wait until land-fall to get them washed, but I have only enough for maybe a couple weeks before needing to do laundry. Back in the Cooks, when we had lots of passengers, we took water conservation measures as Rarotonga was the last place for filling our water tanks until Hawai'i. Navy showers are the norm at sea (a few liters to wet down - turn off the water to soap up and scrub, then rinse in as little water as possible) but we also instituted sea water cleaning for everything else. Of course laundry, wet with seawater, will not dry, so a fresh water rinse is needed. That is why, contrary to the norm (as so many things are aboard the Kwai) when it looks like rain was coming, I rush to get the laundry done so it gets a rain-water rinse. We didn't really get much rain until we were leaving the Line Islands; during a series of squalls at Fanning, I did a big hand-wash load of laundry using solely rainwater. It really doesn't take much to make me happy!
Mostly, I had to get seawater by lowering a bucket from the deck. Hand-washing this way, especially with lots of seawater rinses and a final fresh water rinse, is rather labor-intensive. Also, dirty clothing on the Kwai is REALLY dirty! Sweat and salt are just the underpinning for the grease and rust. The occasional paint spots and tears just add character. When doing laundry at night, the seawater sometimes sparkles (the whites certainly don't!) As the clothes are swished around in the seawater, little flashes of bio-luminescence can sometimes be seen, caused by some poor little dynoflaggelate or other luminescent phytoplankter unlucky enough to be caught in the washing process.
I use the past tense as, with no passengers and only a few days to reach Hawai'i, we're not so worried about fresh water usage. I also think I've got enough clean clothes to make it to the next laundromat! Considering the condition of my work clothes, it is a good thing I had the foresight to put a few things aside so I can be at least somewhat presentable once we reach Honozulu.
Last night we passed the half way mark on on the final leg of Voyage 19. With 500 miles to go to Honolulu and perfect Easterly breezes I am already starting to feel a little nostalgic about my time on Kwai.
There are certainly things that I will miss... the pale curve of the mainsail in the moonlight, scampering barefoot in the rig, diving over the side into warm clean ocean at the end of a day of cargo, the palette of impossible blues in Tabueran lagoon, the soulful sound of Leslie blowing the dinner horn, feasting on fresh fish & breadfruit chips on deck.
I am thinking of the cast of colourful characters who will make this a memorable chapter in my seafaring career. Of course, the crew but also the customers, the agents & the passengers. Brad & April who have realised the dream of running a sailing cargo vessel in the pacific. My hat is off to you. As I have said many times, "You certainly didn't chose an easy way to make a living."
Now with 4 days to run we are busy with final projects. I am beefing up a cargo net (kindly donated by a Spanish purse seiner), Phil is beavering in the engine room, Evy is working on a hinge for the Aloha Deck Boom, Magali just fixed us a magnificent lunch with freshly grated coconut cream, Leslie is cleaning the freezer, Team Kiribati is painting anything that doesn't move.
There is great pleasure in bringing a vessel back at the end of a voyage with everything in good shape.
Thank you Brad & April for giving me this opportunity to sail on Kwai. I have learned so much. I now know what Brad means by "close to the reef" & "not much swinging room". Both of these expressions mean nerve wracking hours on the bridge.
I have dabbled in the business of general cargo and I now realise that it is so much more that just delivering cargo to faraway places. It is about pondering over orders, hunting in the hold, negotiating, exchanging currencies, explaining short-landings and damaged goods & trying to keep everyone satisfied.
It has been five months since I joined Kwai at Pier 32 in Honolulu and it is a voyage I will never forget.
Phil is the producer of radio station KWAI, home of Roll. Keep that dial on frequency 0.233 (rolls/second)! I am the midnight DJ, Dr. Debbie the Beachcomber, bringing you music from all over the map, or chart, or whatever. Our compass bounces from 'Copra Cabana', 'Sixteen Tons', 'Let it Roll', 'Pour Some Sugar on Me' and anything by the Beetles. Let's start the watch with 'After Midnight' by Eric Clapton. The request lines are open… last week we were swamped with requests from the galley for 'Spring Break Lover' and 'Super Sorry'. They called so often, we have them on caller ID. And here's a call from them now! Hello, galley, you're on the air. What'cha got?
"There's a Rat in the Kitchen."
OK! Thanks for that! Bringing that UB40 hit up for you right after a word from D-Con.
We're back, with another galley request for 'Ben' by Michael Jackson. Whatever happened to him, anyway? We're a little out of the loop out here on the waves, so nothing at the top of the hour for news. The panels are really lighting up tonight, though… lots of red, blinky lights! Blinking and flashing and flashing and blinking….
Ahem! This just in from the engine room, they want to hear… anything. Maybe take the ear protection gear off, guys! Turn it up for 'Making Electricity', 'Welcome to the Machine' and 'Born to Run', playing especially for you! Things must be getting pretty hot down there in engine room-land… new requests just in from the early watch crew for 'I'm Burning for You' and 'Branded'. On deck are requests from the Foc'sle for 'Ooo, That Smell' and a rendered classical, 'Seaweed Serenade'.
After this commercial break, featuring Neosporin, we'll be bringing you 'First Cut is the Deepest' by Rod Stewart and 'Scar Tissue' by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Then we'll hit mid-watch with 'Twilight Zone (It's 2 AM)' by Golden Earring.
A few years ago a movie about a 1960's British offshore pirate radio station came out. It was called "The Boat that Rocked". Well, here at Radio KWAI, we are the Boat that Rolled! Sometimes quite spectacularly… try to keep your feet when the deck takes a radical dip to port then slingshots back to starboard. Bring it! 'Whee!' doesn't quite cover it.
I spoke with the bosun during the last set; he'd like to hear a couple of classics by Neil; Young and The Stones: 'Rust Never Sleeps' and 'Paint it Black'.
"Hey hey, my my, Roll and Roll will never die…"
Back in the Cook Islands, 'Summertime' was all the rage. In Kiribati, 'I Walk the Line' by Johnny Cash and anything by Phish were the hot numbers. Crossing and re-crossing the Dateline brought more calls for 'Times, They are A-Changin' by Bob Dylan. Now the crew is clamoring for 'Sailing' and 'My Single Bed'. Hmmm…. Maybe they mean let's get the sails up to get to Hawai'i faster so they can sleep in a real bed, not songs by Rod Stewart and Bob Marley? 'SPAM' by Monty Python (and Hormel) is a big favorite - it makes the playlist at least once a week.
It's time to wake up the next watch. 'Zombies' by the Cranberries seems fitting. Then on to a couple of songs with great personal meaning for me: 'Crazy' by Patsy Cline and 'Won't Get Fooled Again' by The Who. We'll wrap up the watch with the rather appropriate (at this point in our trek to Hawai'i) '500 Miles' by the Proclaimers.
Mahalo nui loa for listening! Good watch and good night!
Subject: Fanning Farewell blog
Phil, Mad Cap, Tanawai and I all stayed aboard Kwai at our quiet Fanning lagoon anchorage while the rest of the crew went ashore for the night. Evy is brushing up on his native dance steps and will be taking a well-deserved day off and the Kiribati crew are visiting friends and family once more before our trip to Hawai'i.
As we were approaching the entrance to the lagoon, just as we were thinking of taking in the fishing lines, we caught THREE Wahoo! One right after the other. but the last one managed to slip out the scupper. We are clearly not set up for so much success! The swell that was picking up as we left Fanning last time took out the remains of Bruno's wrecked sloop; leaving only the keel behind. Much to Bruno's relief, no doubt. out of sight, out of mind!
Once we off-loaded the fuel, seaweed was loaded one barge-load at a time.
Since it was Saturday and a truck would not be available Sunday, Tyrone's seaweed workers stayed up until 1 in the morning stacking bales of seaweed on the beach so we could continue loading it Sunday. I spent most of Sunday (Kiribati time) cleaning and attaching whistles and glow-sticks to 51 life jackets. I then fashioned straps so they could be readily unclipped in an emergency. I got ashore for a couple hours to check in with Tyrone, visit Bruno and go in search of coconuts for making coconut cream. We only had drinking coconuts, which don't have much meat in them. Karitta agreed to bring some to the ship the next day and Cookie and I dug up a nice little woven hand-bag and some candy to trade her for them. Most items are traded for, but we do ay cash for most standard groceries. A combination of cash and trade items is also sometimes employed.
On Monday, after taking some orders, I was able to go ashore for a few hours. I checked in with Tyrone, who was weighing MORE seaweed and then went in search of mangoes, but it was not a straight-forward endeavor and they were rather small. They are 20 cents each, but you have to find someone in the council office to pay for them and then take the receipt to the seller. if you can find them. Tyrone had asked me to check on the progress of the water-maker so it was fortunate I ran into Phil and Magali at Bruno's, where they told me all is well and it was to be loaded tomorrow.
This will be a nice addition to Kwai equipment, if it works! I was looking for Veramene to clarify an order item, but to no avail, so back to the Kwai for dinner and putting together a puzzle of some German castle with Evy and Phil. Only missing a half-dozen pieces. pretty good aboard a ship!
The next morning we were inundated with reef fish. We had purchased a huge cooler full of uncleaned fish (with cash and raincoats.) With only one decent fillet knife, cleaning them all efficiently was an arduous task.
Phil, Cookie and I started (it quickly became apparent that I was hopeless at getting the flesh off the bone step.) Phil dropped out quickly to be the engineer, Magali stepped in briefly when Cookie was making lunch and then it was me and Sean for the photo-finish. less than an hour or so before heaving anchor to leave! I did a lot of moving the fish from place-to-place which meant I ended up getting poked by spines quite a bit. My hands are so swollen, I'm having a bit of difficulty typing, but they seem to be getting better, after two days! Cookie said lots of the fish have a poison in their spines. great! I will say I have lost my appetite for fish. It didn't help that some had gone bad already - they all started to smell bad to me. Also, a couple of the larger ones were thrown out as they are most at risk for having accumulated Cigaterra. a nasty toxin found in some tropical fish. It concentrates up the food chain, so most locals don't eat the larger reef fish.
Stuffed full of seaweed and a bit of cargo, Kwai waddled out of the lagoon.
I am still on the 12-4 watch, but now with Sean as the Kiribati crew are all on day work to do as much cleaning and repair as possible while we're underway. It will take 8-10 days for us to return to Honolulu, Hawai'i, dependent upon conditions. We departed Fanning Tuesday, February 1 Kiribati time. that was two days ago and we're now back on Hawai'i time so it is now Wednesday, February 2 - for real! Back at you with another blog in a few days - gotta do some last accounting and money counting, first.
P.S. Thanks to my friends for the nice notes. but I'm surprised no one has yet asked why we have a French Maid's costume on the ship! ;)
We are in the ITCZ (the international tropical convergence zone). The sky is grey and it varies between drizzle and downpour. But the wind is favourable. We have shaken out the sails & turned off the engine. Kwai has the bit between her teeth & the wind up her skirt as we head to Honolulu at a respectable 5 knots. We just hooked a Mahi mahi on the lucky lure that Toure gave to us on Christmas Island.
At our last port of call, Tabueran (Fanning Island) we loaded 75 tonnes of dried compressed seaweed that will be trans shipped in Honolulu to China where it will be used to thicken cosmetics. Now the ship smells salty & slightly fishy, as opposed to sweet & slightly rancid when we are carrying copra.
So with a full hold and a full crew we turned north to Hawai'i for the 1000 nautical mile journey to the end of voyage 19.
We have Team Kiribati (Tanawai, Teibitoa & Teitera) on day work and no doubt the Kwai will be ship shape for arrival. Already the fo'csle looks more orderly than it has been in months.
It is into the rhythm of watches as we count down the days and speculate on our arrival time. This afternoon will be a fire drill and some sail training for the newer crew. It is time to do inventories, tidy cabins and plan the job list for a quick turnaround in Honolulu.
Phil made an Egg McKiribati sandwich for breakfast when we got to the Line Islands. This consists of what passes for a donut in these parts (deep-fried ball of dense, slightly-sweetened dough) cut in half with a fried egg, Spam and Vegamite in it. Sounds like a heart-attack in the making.
As we approached Christmas Island for the second time we saw a planet, probably Venus, rising ahead - very nativity-scene-esque. The stevedores, led by Henry, off-loaded the copra quickly and we took on more fuel drums to bring back to Fanning. We also needed to sort out some customers and goods; Beta from one of the larger companies we deal with was very helpful (you know I don't play the heavy very well!) Phil and I made a very quick run to the Internet 'café', he wanted to drive so I let him… still couldn't spot the other side of the lagoon, tho'. ;)
Tebitoa stayed in Christmas Island to take a brief break while we go to Fanning for more copra and then come back to unload it. Now I'm on watch with Teitera… he listens to music popular with the younger set on Christmas - I'm getting used to it, and he did like "Sixteen Tons" by Tennessee Ernie Ford (and WE did 107 tons of cargo the other day!) There is some musical-taste over-lap, an important consideration with watch-mates, so all is well!
Approaching Fanning, we got a Wahoo (fish) . Yahooooo! Fresh fish is very popular with all the crew,
but most especially the Kiribati guys and me.
Once anchored in the lagoon, the fuel was quickly off-loaded and then the copra was loaded by launches. There wasn't much for me to do, so after cleaning up for a bit, I went ashore. I picked up Cookie at Bruno's and we visited friends of the ship. We were given very nice shell necklaces and Cookie traded for some more. After purchasing bread for the ship, we found Veramene, so I joined her for some errands, visiting and a swim. We walked around quite a bit talking to people about a dance performance, but it was canceled - hopefully it will be on when we return.
Fanning Island is actually Tabuaeran Atoll - Veramene told me people from Manihiki originally settled this island and gave it its name, which translates to "Heavenly Footprint". After the arduous journey to get here, I can see that it fits! Plus, if you look at a chart, it sort of looks like a big, fat right foot print.
Tyrone had a big farewell party for his Stewart, who is leaving for London (England, not Christmas Island!) There was fresh-roasted pig, beer and a potluck. I stuck to the side-dishes of taro, rice and raw fish in coconut and lime - and the brownie cake! I stayed at Bruno's and borrowed his bike as Veramene and I were meeting early to go for a bike ride on the other side across the lagoon. We loaded our bikes on a small catamaran and squeezed aboard. Veramene's nephew sailed us over to the landing and we cycled for about 45 minutes to where the big boarding school for the older kids is located. Quite a commute for them every day! We then picked up a friend of hers in the village and continued along the lagoon past lots of copra and several busted-up stone bridges. We had some fresh-off-the-tree drinking coconuts and headed back as were meeting our catamaran ride at 11:30 so I had plenty of time to get back to the ship for the scheduled 1pm departure.
The launch for the Kwai passengers going to Christmas Island showed up first, so we took that over. We discovered that waves breaking across the lagoon mouth were causing a delay. The Kwai waited for a few hours for the tide to change and then we fairly squirted out of the lagoon with no troubles, so it was worth the wait.
Now for another long, slow bash. The prevailing Easterlies and the current make the legs back to Christmas Islands quite arduous, perhaps worse than our northward progress through and from the Cooks. Steering is a bit random and requires constant attention or the swell picks up the bow and picks another course for you. We made good time considering and arrived to find BOTH Kiribati ships and two Spanish fishing trawlers anchored off the pier!
New York Harbor's got nothing on Christmas Island! ;)
Next time: Christmas to Fanning, the finale!
We had a quick passage from Christmas Island to Tabueran (Fanning Island) traveling the 157 nautical miles in 22 hours. As we approached the island in the early afternoon we we surrounded by a massive school of dolphins which escorted us along the coast. Eyes were on the fishing line and a few miles from the entrance to the lagoon I heard the cry of "fish on" and we pulled in a good sized wahoo.
On Saturday morning we opened the hatch early and we were ready to fill the hold with copra. It was a frustratingly slow start to the day. I could see the piles of copra on shore but there were issues with outboard engines and the barge was needed on council business. One thing (of the many things) I have learned on this trip is that a slow start doesn't mean that the job won't get done.
Suddenly everything came together. A wonderful team of stevedores jumped down into the hold while another team worked on shore. Soon we had a regular rhythm going with two boats making the short calm run from the beach to the ship.
I was happy to finally have a chance to learn to operate the winch. Generally this is Evy & Tanawai's domain. The conditions were perfect - no rolling and cargo nets of copra which can be bounced on the hatch coaming without any damage. Evy worked the hook & Teitera was the boss-man stacking in the hold.
I had to smile standing there; barefoot, in a pair of shorts & bikini top, loading copra into a small general cargo vessel with an old "derrick" system. I wished that my lecturers from Maritime College could see me!
Kwai loaded 101.7 tonnes of copra in a single day. This is a a record for Tabueran. The whole team was wonderful and we sparked up the deck lights so that we could work through until 1930 to get the final sacks off the beach. It was a very satisfying day.
Some of the crew slipped ashore to join a feast for Stuart, the son of our agent, Tyrone. Stuart is sailing with us to Christmas Island where he will start his journey to school in England. It is a big step for a boy from Tabueran. A pig was killed and cooked to perfection and lots of people gathered for the feast.
Phil, Evy & I stayed on board to monitor Kwai during the change of the tide. Earlier in the day the wind had died off completely and we swung very close to the jetty. At 0300 Kwai swung again. I jumped out of my bunk and started the main engine. It was really reassuring to see that Evy & Phil were both on the bridge in a few seconds and ready to heave anchor. It is great to have such wonderful shipmates. A couple of hours later I started up again when we got hit by a squall & Evy & Phil were right there again.
At dawn I was amazed to see the size of the swell crashing into the reef at the boat passage. Bruno's wrecked yacht had been washed away and waves were sweeping right into the lagoon. I climbed to the mast-head & watched set after set break in the passage. There was no way I was taking Kwai out through there!
So there was a chance to work on projects and catch up with friends as we waited for the swell to die.
Then suddenly as it arrived, the swell was gone and the passage was transformed again into a smooth fast-running stream. I blew the ship's horn and called for passengers. The "coconut wireless" did it's job and in an hour we were loaded and ready to go.
We pushed the current out through the passage and turned towards Christmas Island for the last time this voyage. The fishing lines were set and right on sunset we hooked a massive yellow fin tuna. That should keep us fed for a while.
Aloha and almost homeward bound- Captain Madeleine
We arrived at Christmas Island on Wednesday morning. From 5 miles off we could see the line of breakers on the north shore. This was a massive north west swell that had surfers flocking to Christmas Island. Great for surfers, bad for a ship that wants to come alongside and discharge cargo.
So we were obliged to anchor and wait it out. It was impressive to see the huge waves sending spray over the jetty, but we were all wishing that the swell would subside so that we could discharge the copra from Teraina (Washington Island).
The day at anchor was not wasted. Leslie moved the galley out onto the aft deck and disassembled the shelves. Dinner felt like we were camping. Today Leslie and a friend painted the walls and half the galley sole and now the galley looks fresh and bright again.
I went ashore yesterday to chase up missing funds and managed to give Kwai's bank balance a healthy boost.
This morning the swell had abated and I decided it was worth trying to come alongside. Fortunately there was a steady Easterly breeze and by rigging the topsail from the stack we were able to hold the ship off the dock even as she surged & lurched when the big sets came in.
Amazingly we managed to discharge our 69 empty drums and 107 tonnes of copra and reload 20 drums of fuel in one day! The stevedores worked over-time and of course we had Toure (our Christmas Island helper) who was busy all day in the hold.
As the full moon rose over the island and the sun slipped into the ocean we pulled away from the jetty feeling very satisfied with ourselves. Now we are heading back to Tabueran (Fanning Island) to pick up another load of copra for Christmas Island. We have the current with us and at times we are reaching 8 knots - which feels very fast on Kwai. We will arrive on tomorrow afternoon and spend the week-end filling the hold with copra.
Phil is sick and I'm tired. No excuse not to keep you all appraised of
our activities, and I hope no one was worried about Phil using his
(soldering) gun. Wondering what I'm up to is the norm for my friends, but I
will endeavor to catch up on the news from the Kwai.
Ten days ago, in my last report, we were approaching the Line. I was on the
computer doing accounts so I missed 'seeing' it. not to worry, since there
was a pollywog (namely, me) on board, the occasion did not pass unmarked. I
could tell you all about my meeting with Neptune and entourage, but then I'd
have to kill you. There were a few non-standard activities in this
particular ceremony I can probably mention in passing - such as how hot
Teitera (aka Spiderman) looked as a mermaid dressed in the French Maid's
costume and how the large skipjack I'd helped catch that morning featured in
the proceedings: on my lap.
We had had a couple slow days in our long trek from the Cook Islands to the
Line Islands, but mostly fairly good sailing. The Cook Islands are mostly
small land masses with populations in the hundreds; some with very large
lagoons. In Kiribati the islands are larger, without lagoons to speak of
and much higher populations - over a thousand on Christmas, our first stop.
There is a substantial pier here - located rather far from the main village.
The pier sports new, large fenders, but is tall enough that the stern
structure on Kwai could get caught under it. The surf and attendant surge is
impressive, so we do not snug ourselves to the pier, but keep the mooring
lines long so the off-shore winds hold us off. Not wanting to be too close
before being somewhat secured, we used the dingy to bring the bow line in,
then heaving lines for the stern and spring line. We dropped off empty drums
to be filled with diesel, petrol and kerosene for the Outer Islands as well
as orders of cement, bottled water etc. During lunch break the first day,
the surge was throwing us around so much, we had to get off the pier and
anchor out with the Moa Moa, a Kiribati government cargo ship that had been
anchored there for a week or so.
This is Peter's home, and he left the ship here. We'll miss him. Peter's
daughter-in-law did the copious amount of ship's linens quickly - it would
be difficult to find a good space to hang out sheets to dry on the Kwai! Our
agent scared up a car for us to use - the cook needed to get into town for
provisions - and we put the word out for fish as the above-mentioned
skipjack was the last we caught underway. Later that afternoon, I took the
dingy to the pier to drive into 'town' to do some internet. Left-hand drive
while driving on the left is a bit trippy, but there was little traffic and
I didn't goof it up. Christmas Island is very dry - they rely on rain for
their water, but the rainy season isn't for a couple months yet. I asked
directions several times, but no one seemed to know where the internet place
was, or they couldn't understand me. I found it next to the large satellite
dish - fancy that! It was a rather slow connection, but only $1 AUD for an
hour. Wanting to use my entire hour, I checked the Kwai website. I've
already scolded Mama Kwai that those sharks were NOT nurse sharks! And
Black-tipped reef sharks, while not man-eaters, have been known to be
enthusiastic leg nibblers!
Back on the Kwai we rolled around all night. How unusual - not! The next
morning, I was nominated to swim the bowline in. Doing my very best Ester
Williams imitation, I jumped off the port bow with the line attached to the
bowline tied to me, did a free-style sprint to the ladder, scrambled to the
top, hauled in the line and plopped the bowline onto the Samson post - Mad
Cap timed it at 5 minutes. A new Olympic sport? We worked all day loading
cargo of mostly food goods (rice, flour, noodles, etc) for a couple other
distributors and picking up the now-full barrels of fuel. We took nearly 30
passengers (who had been waiting for the Moa Moa to pull their finger out)
and headed off on an over-night run to Fanning Island.
I'll cover the 'Outer Islands' in the next blog.
Blog continued the next day......................
Phil completely fumigated his bunk. First he went after the copra bug nests
with bleach, then sprayed bug spray, then, for icing on the cake I suppose,
Febreeze. After an hour of actively airing it out with a fan, my eyes still
watered upon entering our cabin. Good thing I could sleep ashore (at
Bruno's on Fanning Island) that night. Ahh. but I am getting ahead of
In my last report, we were leaving Christmas Island. Tanawai stayed ashore
with his family for a bit of a break and we were joined by the lovely Magali
of Fanning Island. She will be assistant cook while we have passengers and
regular crew for the trip back to Hawai'i. This girl can cook! And she
makes dessert for every dinner - mainly with chocolate in them - so I do
love her dearly.
Arriving at Fanning Island, we enter the lagoon through a narrow channel
that usually has quite a bit of current pouring out. I know I mentioned in
my last blog that in Kiribati doesn't have the lagoons seen in the Cooks,
but I must plead sea-nility. The main island, Christmas, has one of the
biggest lagoons in the world - I just didn't see it on the close-up part of
the chart I looked at that has the pier, and it is so far across, I didn't
see it from shore, either! No excuse for Fanning, really, as we anchored IN
the lagoon! When I wrote that last blog, I had just come from a walk around
Washington Island, which doesn't have a lagoon (for real!) and it was nearly
midnight so my brain had already clocked out.
ANYWAY, the anchorage at Fanning is excellent - calm and very close to the
Fanning also has a population of about two thousand and their main export is
seaweed that they cultivate in the lagoon. They are quite a bit wetter than
Christmas, shallow wells are dug for drinking water. Phil got pretty sick
on it - one has to get used to the pig and chicken contamination, I suppose
- or bring a filter or, like me, one's own water. We were off-loading orders
and fuel so I was pretty busy the first day. I met our agent, Tyrone, who is
also involved in the seaweed production on the island. Many of the crew went
ashore and stayed with relatives or at Bruno's Place that first night. Bruno
is French but has been on the island for many years. His yacht marks the
entrance to the lagoon - scuttled on the north side with the words "C'est la
vie" painted on her. He still gets some ribbing about that, apparently.
I was able to go ashore most of the second day, so I walked along the beach
side for a bit, then cut into the center of the island. The beach is mostly
serving-platter-sized coral plates about 2 inches thick. not much sand
except in the lagoon. I crossed a fresh to brackish estuary on my way back
to the main village, coming out near the school. Veremine, who has a dance
troup on the island, waved me down to let me know she was bringing fresh
breadfruit for the ship before we departed that day. I then headed up the
main track along the lagoon side nearly to the last village. I ran into
several groups of little kids who were very interested in following me
around and offering me shells (they had noticed I was collecting them,
though there aren't that many and mostly of one type.) People would call me
over to ask who I was and where I was from. a very friendly place.
I went aboard before the passengers and had a few people interested in our
remaining damaged rice and sugar. A bunch of 25lb bags of sugar, loaded in
Hawai'i, had had soda spilled on it, so it was hardened in places and the
bags were mostly broken, as well. Sugar is a popular item - flour and rice
can run short out here, as well. Bruno came aboard to say goodbye to his
daughter (Magali) and I pulled out the least solid sugar that we had left
for him and put it in a plastic bag (also at a premium) as the sugar bag was
badly broken. He lowered the bag to Magali, who was seated next to Evy in
the dingy going ashore, but she didn't realize the bag inside was broken, so
sugar went all over her, down her top and onto Evy (who claims to already be
sweet enough.) The song 'Pour some sugar on me' came to mind. :)
Once our few passengers for the over-night trip to Washington Island were
aboard, we heaved anchor and slipped out of the lagoon. For a bit of
fore-shadowing on my next missive: "Coconuts, coconuts, everywhere" and HOW
many times are we going to 'walk' the line?!