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Voyage 28

Kwai is homeward bound today only 2 days out of Honolulu.  Wind has been light so far this trip and  Captain Evy has worked her to the East making back up 3 degrees of longitude from Washington.   As the wind now fills in from the East they should be able to start the sheets and run on home. 

After arriving in Christmas Island on the 9th of May, Kwai made a round trip to Fanning and Washington, full of passengers each leg and with 100m3 of local cargo from Christmas to the Outer Islands.  She came back to Christmas with a full belly of Washington copra and loaded full of passengers and a bit of cargo again for the outer Islands.  The weather has been variable with plenty of rain.  The challenge is to load cargo and passengers between squalls and to keep the  passengers dry at sea.  Kwai’s old hands and new recruits do their best to feed and comfort 60 passengers huddled together on the hatch.

Captain Evy has got an early start on the work list for this Honolulu stop.  We plan to rebuild the Ritz (original Captain’s cabin) and the old Paint Locker into crew and investor cabins.  Evy, Kabiriera and Banuera, have gutted the Ritz, and Lisle cut out the bulkhead between the cabins one Saturday in Fanning.  Gabe is here with us on the Big Island and will start right away with the carpentry.  New floors, bunks, shelves all the ecoutrements of fine living and we will have one more bunk and stand one step closer to removing the wheelhouse and adding the mizzenmast.  For these final stages we still await the arrival of Tiare Tapporo in the Pacific.  We have chartered this ship, rigged similarly to Kwai, ( see,  but she has been seized in Nova Scotia for the last 5 months with an old court case.  Eventually she will come out and take over Kwai’s run while we refit the ship.  Meanwhile we undertake projects ever time the ship is in Hawaii.  The new mizzen mast is on the dock awaiting structural work and many pieces for the new bridge deck are cut out or in process.  Ethan’s excellent 3D drawings of every part of the rebuild allows us to work on each section separately.

And in Honolulu, we have a new berth.  Our old warehouse is torn down to allow Mokihana, one of the Matson fleet, to put down her stern ramp and land cars.  We are moved 800 feet down the dock and cling to the last bit of warehouse in the Port of Honolulu.  Containerships and ro-ro’s don’t need covered space which is critical to our work.  Hopefully we will hold on to this last spot and continue to do what we do.   

Aloha and Tekeraoi- Brad


27th of May 2014, Halfway to Hawaii

This feels like one of the most remote pieces of ocean in the world. We haven't seen a ship for weeks. For 400 nautical miles around there is no land to be found and I haven't seen a birds since two days now.

The ocean looks vast and tranquil. Seas are slight and the wind is fluctuating from a light to a moderate breeze. Days are mostly overcast with some sunshine. For days I have been trying to practice celestial navigation but the clouds and the foggy horizon make sightings very difficult. Only a few hours after nightfall the clouds give way to a beautiful starry hemisphere. These nights are my favourite. Steering by the stars and finding small constellations that are unknown to me. In the moment we are keeping Hercules two clicks on starboard bow.

Yesterday the wind shifted to the North and we had to drop the sails. A few hours later the wind turned back East again and we could hoist the Jib, Stays'l and Main. We are making enough easterly to make it to Ohau under sail. Let's hope the situation stays like it is.

For the first couple of days of this leg we had a lot of crew suffering from some kind of virus causing headache, chest pain and flew like symptoms. All of the victims however kept on performing their duties on watch or day work because... we are sailors! Slowly but surely they are all recovering from the illness.

One of the most important moments in the routine on board are the meals. Our Kiwi cook Sam is a wizard now food stocks are running low. He is a master in creative cooking. Have you ever heard of red cabbage and cashew Mihoen? Or what about chickpea and pine nut risotto?

Over the last two days we have been catching fishes like Mahi Mahi and Te Para (Uahu). This gave Sam the opportunity to produce fresh sushi while the Kiribati crew helped themselves to raw fish and white rice. Sophisticated or not it comes down to the same thing: delicious and healthy food.

As we are approaching the ITCZ zone the seas are building. Me and my cabin mate Mike, an American sailor who was stranded on Fanning Island, are hovering above our bunks in the Foc's'l as the ship drops below us on the waves. Maybe I'll join the crew sleeping on the hatch tonight.


Penrhyn to Manihiki and Rakahanga

On Wednesday we set off sailing to Rakahanga some 180 nm South-by-South-West of Penrhyn but the winds shifted to the North-West and we could not hoist sail. Halfway captain Evy decided to visit Manihiki first as the forecast showed no changes in the weather.

On Friday we arrived in Manihiki where we usually discharge in two places: Tauhunu and Tukao. It entails good logistical planning to get the cargo for the right clients off in the right place. Except one we managed doing exactly this thank to our logistical team of Evy and Super Cargo Henny. On the first day the Kwai stayed adrift with mate Lisle on the wheel. He had to be on his guard to keep us off the reef as the wind and current continued setting the ship towards the shore. With the help of two tenders with local stevedores we managed to discharge designated cargo and sell floating cargo in Tauhunu on the same day. At night we stayed on anchor off South-West point.

On Saturday morning we were left with the challenge to sail to the other side of Manihiki to finish our business in Tukao then sail to Manihiki (22 nm) to discharge cargo and sell floating cargo articles on shore. Thanks to the combined work of all crew members we managed to close the hatch by nightfall and prepare the ship for the voyage back to Christmas Island. Our patience was put to the test when a squall made us take down the sails only twenty minutes after we had set them. Exhausted we turned to our bunks.


29th of April 2014, Penrhyn Island

Penrhyn Island, or Tongareva as the islanders use to call it, is the first island in the Northern Cooks that we visited. This time we hired a pilot to guide us though the lagoon with its treacherous coral heads. After docking we immediately started offloading designated cargo and at four o'clock we cleared the deck to prepare the ship for the next day when we were dealing with 'floating cargo'. This meant that we had our totes with food, clothing, electronic and other items on display on the hatch while the clients were clinging to the railing to try to acquire their necessities. As the sun was almost overhead this time of year captain Evy decided to put up the scaramouche to create a nicely shaded area for our clients. Because our two female Kiribati crew members were cooking Sam was put in charge of organizing the discharge of cargo in the foc's'l.

This time I was assigned to help out with technical problems varying from DVD players to flat bed trucks. In all cases I managed to solve the problems and the clients showed their gratitude offering me three coconuts, four bananas and a fragrant papaya.

Tonight we are invited by our agent Alex and his wife Kristine (auntie Telelua) for a tropic night at their place. Sharing a lovely meal with local dishes and drink.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) we will be leaving shore for our next trip to Rakahanga.


12th of April 2014, Washington Island

The trip from Fanning to Washington was smooth. There was a slight sea so hardly any people suffered from nimarawarawa (seasickness). Because of the favorable wind we had our engine running at very low speed. 

Amongst the passengers that we had on board there were several officials from the Kiribati Fisheries Department, the Government Police Department and the Copra Association. The Copra Association held meetings on the viability of a small scale copra plant on the island to try to solve the issue of the warehouses bulging out with copra. Tons of copra are sitting there waiting to be transported while there are no ships but the Kwai to take it, so why not transform the raw material into a more valuable product.

While the local stevedores started loading the ships hold with copra I was sent ashore to help out with technical problems, one of which was the installation of an engine in a small tractor. For three days and two nights I had the privilege of getting an inside view into a society of one of the most remote places on earth.  I do not know how to start to describe all the heart warming experiences. Instead of telling you the facts in Washington I'd rather give examples of encounters that made a deep impression on this European engineer.

Walking on the public coral road into the main village somebody called me over. It turned out to be one of our passengers, a member of the Governmental Police Department. He told me of the reasons why he and his colleagues were sent to Washington. They just finished doing a actual survey of the local police station (in this case consisting of a four square meters big concrete shack with corrugated steel roofing). Besides this survey the officers would attend meetings to inform the population on the enactment of a new bill regarding domestic violence.

The first night on Teraina I spent with the family of the JSS school principal, Margaret Tawati. She and her extended family of relatives lived on the school compound in a cluster of several palm tree huts on stilts. On my arrival the family was gathered together in the main outi (house). As night fell the women started preparing dinner while the men gathered around a CB radio to communicate with relatives on islands in the western Gilberts group. A dim led-light lit the space and I found myself surrounded by kind people while babies went from hand to hand and screaming piglets ran underneath the platform that we were gathered on.

 For two days I worked on Andrews's tractor in a yard with plenty of kids and muddy pigs standing around. On the second day of work we had the engine running. And what a beautiful sound that was.

 The second night I was invited by the family to attend a ceremony of song and dance. There I was sitting crowned with flowers in the circle of wise men. I could hardly refrain from grinning when I heard the first choir sing: "Harerúúja, harééééérúúúúja". This is what you get when your alphabet doesn't know the letter "L", Ha-ha.

 In fact I felt really privileged to be attending this ancient ceremony. Beautiful brown people in traditional dresses performed their dances while piglets and dogs were crossing the yard of the maneaba. As I caught the eye of men they nodded my welcome. Several hours later the men were served dinner. (I was very glad to finally be able to have some small talk in Kiribati language). After the men had finished they passed their plates and bowls to the women and children in the outer circle while dogs and cats sat waiting in third row.

 On the third day of our stay in Teraina the Fisheries Department asked the Kwai to deploy a FAD (Fish Attraction Device). The contraption consisted of two huge concrete anchors connected to 100 meters of chain and line to netting and floatation devises. The FAD will create a new habitat for small fish that on their turn attract bigger fish.

 After deploying the FAD we quickly loaded the passengers that were gathered on the beach and sailed back to Fanning Island. Here we stayed overnight to continue our voyage back to Christmas Island.


5th of April, Line Islands

We landed the majority of our cargo in Christmas Island according to schedule. On our second day of discharging the swell started to build up. This meant a serious problem in our operation because when we were alongside the jetty the Kwai was moving back and forth laterally in a way that we ran the risk of damaging the ship against the steel and concrete structure of the jetty. Fortunately the wind off the island increased so I climbed up to the top of the bridge to set a small sail which helped us to stay away from the jetty. One can imagine the strain of the rocking Kwai on the four dock lines. We even had to belay the stern line to another bollard as the usual one started to move as result of the enormous tension.

Last Thursday morning we started loading fifty-four passengers for our next leg to Fanning Island. I want to give credit to our new cook Sam who manages to serve almost seventy people from our small galley with an impressive ease. For the better part of the journey we were able to keep the sails full so we arrived in Fanning shortly after noon on Friday. This time two small yachts were already on anchor in the lagoon. One Brasilian and the other under Chilean flag.

After a period of serious draught on Fanning Island it happened that the change in weather had come a week or so ago. The islanders were very happy to finally be able to fill their water tanks again. Unfortunately for our work the clouds filled with rain kept on spilling their contents over the island. Time and again we had to delay the unloading  and cover the cargo hold with the scaramouche. Scaramouche I hear you ask? I asked around the crew for an explanation of this expression for the heavy duty tent that we use to cover the hold with. It's a clever contraption that only takes two minutes to deploy. But why the name? Well, after trying to find rational explanations involving Italian plays with clowns and therefore circus tents we had to conclude that the name scaramouche is just another example of the twists in the Kwai owners brain...ha! (ergo: Dwarf Castle for Brigde Wing Quarters, Log Flume for the stern head facility, or Monkey Island for the deck on top of the bridge etc. etc.)

Tomorrow (Monday) we will be discharging the last bit of designated cargo in Fanning. After putting up the boom tent and loading passengers we will continue our voyage to the North-West for a two day trip to Washington Island.

Washington Island is in more than one way a destination of hope. Not only is this remote island a place of natural beauty and pacific hospitality but we all hope that our two weeks of "radio silence" will be relieved. Many of our crew members including me spent many fruitless hours in "internet facilities" (sea containers) on Christmas and Fanning Island. To all my family, friends and lovers I want to apologise and ask: "please don't call the coast guard, the Kwai is still afloat".

Tiabo and Aloha- Bengineer

March 24, 2014

"....five, six, seven", I count the time in which we sway from one side to the other and back. "Perfect", with a beam of 7,13 meter our stability is guaranteed. With a load of over two-hundred-THOUSAND-kilos the Kwai is working her way down the Pacific Ocean like a pregnant whale ready to pop. "She really likes to have her belly full", I hear captain Evy say. And he is right. The movements are very comfortable even as the sea is building.

Our heading is 160 degrees, course over ground 171. The weather couldn't be better with the prevailing westerly current and ENE winds driving us South. Winds will be picking up to 25-50 knots from the same direction tomorrow, so expectations are that we will be arriving at our destination on Thursday the 27th of March (Friday in Kiribati).

When we were two days underway I saw Tetaake fabricating new lures for the fishing lines and asked him when we were gonna catch fish. He said: "tomorrow". Tebitoa did not agree. "These waters close to Hawaii lost their fish", he said. "We will start to catch after day four". And thus happened: "clang clang", on day four the fishing bell on the aft deck rang fiercely. Both of the lines were tight with two beautiful Mahi Mahi. Its time for fresh fish tonight!

Voyage 28 is underway with an international crew. Captain Evy (Isreal), First Mate Lisle (USA) and our reliable Kiribati colleagues: Teitera, Tetaake, Kabiriera, Banuera and Tebitoa. As Super Cargos we have Frankie (USA) and Hennie who was born in Switzerland. Our cook Sam we imported from New Zealand while I, the engineer, come from the Netherlands.



21 March
A short nautical quote for you:
“We clear the harbor and the wind catches her sails and my beautiful ship leans over ever so gracefully, and her elegant bow cuts cleanly into the increasing chop of the waves. I take a deep breath and my chest expands and my heart starts thumping so strongly I fear the others might see it beat through the cloth of my jacket. I face the wind and my lips peel back from my teeth in a grin of pure joy.”
L.A. Meyer, Under the Jolly Roger: Being an Account of the Further Nautical Adventures of Jacky Faber

14 March, Honolulu harbor. 

The Kwai is waiting patiently alongside the  wall of Pier 31. While she was on the dry in February the crew treated her to a true face lift. Her body was scrubbed (sand sweep) coated and painted. The paint locker found a new spot on the fore deck, and the hold got a new wooden and cement floor which makes moving pallets around a lot easier.

When I entered the engine room after I came back from my trip to Europe I couldn't believe my eyes. First mate Ethan had been upgrading safety systems for fire and engine alarms. Even the hydraulic winch was fitted with gauges so that we can estimate the weight of the load that we are lifting.

This Saturday captain Evy will arrive just in time for the departure that is set for Wednesday 19 of March. Big news story is that the  crew broke a new record loading the hold. What normally takes three days was done in only two! Go KWAI !

Today was a hectic day. The very last pallet tipped over in mid air and most of the goods landed in the water between ship and shore. Our brave assistant super cargo Hennie took off her helmet and boots and dove in the water followed by most of the Kiribati crew. As most of the goods consisted of bars of soap, we considered the salvage action more like a communal bath, haha. Now the ship and its crew smells like Irish Spring!