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Captain's Blog

posted Oct 22, 2011, 11:41 AM by April Fountain

Sunday morning at Teraina  (Washington) Island.  We are rolling gently and occasionally not so gently, at anchor ¼ mile off the NW side of the island.  Kwai lies head to the ESE wind with a low north swell running under her, breaking on the reef and beach.  This is a quiet moment in her busy life.  Every other day of the week we have breakfast at 0700 and pick up anchor to move around to the pass on the SW side of the island and start cargo operations.  This Sunday we will start at 1000 to allow the stevedores time to go to church. For 2 days now we have been discharging cargo, precariously at anchor off the pass.  The wind has been SE which is slightly onshore at the pass 15-20 knots. With a 4 foot wind swell running along her topsides, Kwai lies with her anchor in 10m of water on the narrow ledge of coral.  10m further offshore the depths drop steeply to ocean depths.  The main engine has been running at idle most of the time this trip to keep her head to swell to avoid the lifts of cement, rice, flour and general cargo swinging out of control and to keep her stern off the breaking reef just 100m inside.  We shut down for a few hours yesterday morning in a lull, but were back jogging in the afternoon. With 3 shackles out we slowly drag along the reef which is very poor holding, but this trip have not had to reset the anchor during the day.


The deck is a madhouse of activity.  This island like Tabuaeran has been without fuel and grain for several months.  We brought orders for over 100 people for everything from one C/B radio to hundreds of bags of grain.  And they all want to get it right away.   Supercargo Frankie is surrounded most of the day with folks getting their invoices, paying her and then Ientau, the Customs Officer who sits nearby calculating and collecting duty.  With their stamped invoices they look for one of the crew to find their cargo in the ship.  Frankie highlights for us cargo which is either in the hold (most big items), fo'c'sle (electronics, solar panels, delicate goods) or the Captains's cabin.  Under my bunk are CB and VHF radios, computers and accessories, printer inks etc.  The last of our 150 used bikes were on Monkey Island, the roof of the bridge, and I also release these.  Boats are bouncing around both sides, cargo swinging over the side, the deck awash with people waving their papers trying to get attention or just out for a visit.  There isn't that much to do on Teraina, and "ship day" is a big deal.  Through it all, Kwai's crew wades, quietly going about their jobs, filling orders, keeping the boats tended, running the winch and discharging the cargo.  Not to mention that the Mate Christopher or I are always on the bridge with an eye on the weather and reef.  The Engineer Jarren stays out of the fray.  We prefer him with his eyes and ears in the engine room with his 3 motors running or on standby.  Somehow it works.  Our agent, Johnny, keeps some sense of order working his clipboard and managing the flow.. We have all done this before now, only Frankie is new to it and she has stood up  well to the onslaught.  The islanders also are used to this.  Everyone helps as steverdores.  Banuera, our boat driver, knows when to limit the number of customers at the beach and if not, the Mate waves them off when they approach.  The pass has not been breaking this trip which is a blessing.  We are using the big aluminum boat we bring from Tabuaeran and 2 local "tinnies"

This trip we had 80 drums of fuel and 150m3 of cargo from Christmas Island for Tabuaeran and Teraina besides the Hawaii cargoes.  The hatch was full and the deck loaded with drums and 40 passengers departing Christmas.  The scene in Tabuaeran was much the same, minus the rocking and rolling as the anchorage is inside the lagoon.  We spent 5 days there, 4 discharging and one catching our breath.  Christmas was also busy.  We arrived Saturday afternoon and spent the full work week at the dock, 3 days discharging 280m3 of cargo and 2 loading for the Outer Islands.  Weather was good and we were able to work alongside the Jetty every day.  Gabriel spent much of the time on the strongback with bicycles, sewing up tears and holes in the mainsail.  Longtime stalwarts Teibitoa and Teitera stayed home in Christmas.  The Bosun Tanawai stepped easily back aboard and we again stole the head stevedore, Taake, from KPA.  In Tabuaeran, Beeto stepped off to return to his project building a surf house at the break at Whaler's Anchorage on the NW side of Tabuaeran.  Kabriera and Tamelle joined as deckhand and galley worker to help with feeding the masses of passengers along with Banuera, the boat captain.  This crew of I-Kiribati are the backbone of our crew corps.  Only Tamelle is on her first trip.  The others know the ship and know the work.  They deal easily with passengers and cargo.  And along with our excellent island agents, Tyrone and Johnny, and our wise Cookie, keep us informed on the local politics.  Customer service, professional pride and dedication to the ship and her mission are what makes it all work.  Thanks to all of you.


Tomorrow is Election Day here at Teraina and Tabuaeran.  Friday the rest of Kiribati voted but these Outer Islands are still awaiting the ballots sent by special charter from Tarawa.  The 2 candidates here, Rereao and Johhny are both good friends.  We will be taking one of them with us back to Christmas to fly to the new Parliament session.  ETD is set for Tuesday afternoon and we will stop again in Tabuaeran to discharge cargo we missed the first time and load a truck and Bobcat and passengers.  We may have a couple of days off as well a container ship, Southren Reef is expected to tie up the Jetty  on Kiritimati (Chirstmas Island) for a week and we will have to wait to discharge the copra we will load in the next 3 days here at Teraina.  Johnny has a pyramid of 80 tons at the landing for us.  As usual the island is overflowing with copra.  The Copra Society will not weigh and buy any more until the backlog is cleared, so we cannot get away without loading full. 

Some time off in Tabuaeran will be welcome.  Surf has been excellent there and looks good here as well.  I'm off now to run my body board over some clean waves just inshore from us.  

Aloha, Captain Brad