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Captain's log, December 13, 2011

posted Dec 14, 2011, 12:08 PM by April Fountain   [ updated Dec 14, 2011, 12:09 PM ]
Kwai arrived safely in Rarotonga on schedule on Wednesday, 7 December.   The trip form Palmerston was delightedly uneventful.  A light breeze held in the North and we had sails up when there was enough wind to keep them full.   Five passengers joined in Palmerston and despite a few heavy showers all were comfortable on the passage.  We had surfing and a swim call on the second day.  One of the  children found a hardhat floating in the ocean.  We rarely see flotsam here yet somehow in the big ocean we had stopped right next to some. 

While loading  freezers of frozen fish in Palmerston, we got an onshore NW squall.  The wind was only 25 knots and we managed to stay anchored while loading.  A mini waterspout out of the squall line passed just next to the ship.  It was just forming and not yet connected to the cloud.  The circulation about 5 meters across was picking up sea water.  A picture will be on the website.  We continued loading  in the drizzle as it didn't look like it would stop, and the passengers came out a bit wet.  The Puka Puka and Nassau passengers were treated to lunch and a soggy island tour by Bill and Metua Marsters.  By 1630 we were underway again. 

Wednesday afternoon in Raro we were discharging freezers when the Bedford driving our haydraulic crane abruptly stopped.   This is always a problem as the cargo gear is aloft and can now not be lowered.  Problem turned out to be the fuel injection pump which is not a quick fix.  We have sent for another one from New Zealand. which should be arriving tomorrow. 
The next day we hired a crane to discharge the remainder of the freezers.  At Palmerston they seal these up with frozen parrotfish and they are not plugged in, so they had to come off quickly.  Jarren and a local engineer Ron McKenzie worked on the fuel pump.  We have a spare but it turned out not to fit.  With the help of the consignee, and using the standing gaff as a tackle the crew discharged much of the construction equipment in the afternoon.

Thursday morning disaster struck.  The 50 ton crane returned to discharge the heavy lifts of construction materials which went smoothly.   I decided to have the crane continue with the loading of the ship so we could keep moving.   As it was within the capacity of the crane I had them lift the 23 ton container of rice an flour  we ordered form New Zealand into the ship where the crew would devan it.  While doing this the crane toppled over on to the ship.  The container landed safely in the cargo hold, but the crane boom smashed in to the port bulwarks and landed on the hatch coaming.  The  crane itself ending up standing on its head on the wharf next to the ship leaning ominously over the wheelhouse.  The ship lay over at a heavy angle, but was not making any water.   The crew and all port personnel were stunned.  The driver came out through the smashed windshield but landed in the only safe place he could - the water between the ship and the wharf.  He walked away and was released later form the hospital.  No one else was hurt. 

    

Over the course of the day the crane was extracted from the ship.  With the big container forklifts, and eventually the 60 ton crane doing harbor construction, the body was brought down on the wharf with no damage to Kwai and the whole crane dragged sideways off the ship.  Unfortunately the boom caught on the coming as it came off and bent it inboard 50cm tearing the stanchions out of the deck.  The big crane then picked up the boom while the forklifts dragged and no further damage occurred. 

Kwai moved out of that berth by 1700 and we went up in to the corner of the harbor to heal.    Saturday we busted out the concrete around the stanchions to assess the damage.  The bulwarks was straightforward.  The old steel Kwai is built of tore in a neat swath and accordioned up to make a soft landing.  There was no damage to the deck or deck edge and the damage did not carry out beyond a 3m strip.  The coaming was more serious as we  could now not close the hatch or seal the ship.  The crane owners brought in Raro Welding on Friday the same day to assess and on Monday morning  they showed up with several capable iron workers. 
Before cutting on the hatch coaming.  Capt Kim, who arrived the same Friday night, turned the ship around so the damaged side was against the wharf.  We begged the use of the big forklift again and with the judicious use of wire slings shackles and cut holes in the coaming, by 10:00 the coaming was back straight enough to drop in the hatch beams.   And the welding of the stanchions began.  What a relief to all of us!  What looked like a week long project was finished in one day.  By Monday afternoon, Kim and the Mate, Christopher had the cargo from the container sliding down a ramp into the hold.  MacDow the construction firm doing the harbor work sent by cement to and workers and the job was done except for the painting.   Tuesday they fitted the bulwark section, prefabricated in the shop, and we turned the ship again so we could load while they continued the welding on the outside of the bulwarks.  By 13:00 another shoreside crane was swinging in pallets of grain and cement. 

The healing of Kwai comes about with a big outpouring of support from many sides in Rarotonga.  Thanks to the Port Authority, Mac Dow, General Transport, Raro Welding and all our extended family who rallied to help out.  

We have the Tere party , the Nikao family reunion, headed to Tautua breathing down our necks to get them to Penrhyn by Christmas, so there is no time to dawdle.  The crew is back in good spirits and we hope to be back at sea by Thursday evening.

Captain Brad. 

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