Voyage 38 has been so busy no one has had time to write any blog, so I will make up some stuff from the office. Actually I know pretty much what is going on from emails and twice daily radio schedule with the ship. Today, 20 February they are in Teraina (Washington Island) for the second time this voyage. Cargo to discharge there are 68 drums of fuel – gasoline and diesel – and 75m3 of dry cargo, mostly rice, flour, and foodstuffs. This morning at 0800 Captain Dominic reported the anchor down just off the pass and the 53 passengers going ashore. They had a fine sail from Fanning with no motor. Starting out at 7-8 knots the crew had to take in the topsail and jibs in the night to slow down for a 0600 arrival at Teraina. Conditions are pretty good with an ENE wind 10 knots and some rain around. It takes about an hour to derig the passenger awning and set up the boom and cargo gear for discharging. The Council Boat, an aluminum “tinny”, rescued several years ago from the Tabuaeran jungle, is then lifted overboard and fired up and the discharge begins. The boom swings over the drums of fuel forward while the aft corner of the cargo hatch is opened and a stream of cargo comes out by hand flowing straight into the 2 or 3 hired boats that will run the cargo ashore. Nowadays these boats are handy fiberglass boats built in Fiji and gifted to the island community groups by Taiwan or Japan. They can carry one ton but only if the pass is quiet. Otherwise the boatman will call a halt at half that amount or whatever he considers safe to run through the swell into the pass. On the first Teraina visit of Voyage 39, only some of the Hawaii cargo went ashore, but much remains. This is mostly due to lack of payment. The island economy runs on copra, of which there is an abundance but cash is often short while waiting for funds to find their way in to the local Copra Society coffers and then to the cutters. Hopefully this has happened and everyone is smiles today and receiving the bounty of modern goodies.
The first roundtrip to Tabuaeran and Teraina was under charter to the Education Ministry to return the students from Christmas and Teraina to the MTSS school on Tabuaeran and from Teraina and Tabuaeran to the high schools of Christmas Island. To ease the cost of the charter Kwai delivers her Hawaii cargoes and loads back copra, but the voyage is under the guidance of the teachers accompanying the students. If the weather is fine this is a happy trip, full of laughter and games. Like most interisland voyages on Kwai it is full of song. Everyone sings in Kiribati, not matter your age. Sometimes when the mood is right it is fully inspiring.
This trip Captain Dominic hired a couple of Teraina crew to balance out the other islands. We often sail with 16 crew on the Outer island trips to make the work lighter and add to the fun. They all jump at a chance to visit friends and family. Many stevedores become crew for the trip and they all learn to sail and steer. Magali returned as guest Cook for the round trip from Tabuaeran, her family home. She lives in France and Congo now with a husband and bebe, Oceane, but we remember her as the school girl who sailed with Kwai and became Head Cook at 18, cooking her French-Polynesian foods and playing ukulele while we ate. Thanks, Magali, and thanks to Bruno and Tapeta, your island parents, running the best B&B in the Pacific.
And change is coming to Tabuaeran (Fanning Island), Air Kiribati flies an 8 seater twice a week and fisherman, surfers and adventure travelers are starting to arrive. This voyage we landed 100m3 of construction materials, boats and household goods for the first lodge for tourists. Teraina is also connected by air now which is a great help for government inspection teams and medical evacuations. Passage on Kwai has not slowed down however. Some folks like the ocean voyage – and it’s half the price.
From Teraina in Kiribati, Kwai will stop at Tabuaeran on her way back to Christmas, then load passengers and cargo once more for a stop her last stop there before heading home to Hawaii to do it all again, plus on V39 its back to the Cooks!