I thought that the Kwai’s way of working was pretty darn efficient up to now, but a recent change in external factors has improved our efficiency even more. Since a few months ago, the planes of Air Kiribati have been increasing their service to the Line Islands. There are regular flights now between Christmas, Fanning and Washington. This meant a significant drop in the amount of passengers that seek our services. In stead of the usual full load of passengers, now we carry a dozen or so. This not only means that the conditions on board are more comfortable for all, but the main advantage is that we can house all our guests on the upper aft deck. This means that we do not have to provide shelter on the hatch by setting up a boom tent, which, in sequence means that we do not have do disassemble our cargo gear. This saves us about two hours on every visit.
So on arrival in Washington Island, we just fired up the Cummins hydraulic generator and opened up the hatch. Aluminum tenders were already waiting alongside to receive our, or rather their, cargo.
Brad made the sheer impossible come true. We finished our cargo operation in two days, under dangerous conditions of huge windblown waves from the South East. Praise goes to our winch men Tetaake and Teitera. They are masters in anticipating the center of gravity of a one ton load by using tree hydraulic winch levers and four dimensions (time being of essence) to land the cargo in the middle of a tiny tender. More praise goes to the drivers of the three small aluminum tenders, dancing alongside the towering hull of the Kwai, trying to receive huge loads of grains or concrete into their tiny boats. Then racing towards the pass in the reef, and timing the moment right for surfing a wave up to the beach, where the boat constantly gets to be harassed by the huge surf while the chain gang of locals try to empty the boat as fast as possible. This is the only island where literally everybody helps out with the offloading. It’s heartwarming to see a ten year old girl carrying a box of Irish Spring to the shore.
Teraina Island was magical as usual. Whether it was my stay with the friends at KUC church, hanging around the beach all day, selling Kwai cargo, or helping an ‘old’ man with his broken freezer. And the climax came at the end: landing the Kwai leftover cargo to be put in the KUC store. Items like: composition books, crayons, Lipton tea, sandals, and loads of rice, flour and sugar.
Around five in the afternoon we brought our passengers on board for a overnight passage to Fanning Island where we will arrive around noon.