A very special load
Yesterday early morning Kwai arrived at Nassau Island. This time the purpose of the trip to Nassau is not to unload the cargo for our customers, or to do Kwai store on Nassau, but to receive passengers and their cargo to bring to Puka Puka for the celebration of their Independenc Day. All inhabitants of Nassau Island will participate in this voyage. For some this trip is a regular one but others have not left the island since the seventies.
It is far too deep to anchor anywhere at the island, so Kwai has to maneuver with great care close to the reef, where swell is less and a safe transshipment of cargo, luggage and later, passengers, can take place. That precaution is needed as is sadly illustrated by the Moana Nui, the big cargo ship which now sits high on the reef. Bad luck and heavy seas have brought her to this accident some months ago. And her silhouette against the island is a warning to all ships and sailors. The aluminum boat of the Nassau community has to pass under her stern when leaving the island through the small passage in the reef.
The community boat drives back and forth to bring many things, such as nine freezers (some with content to freeze during the trip to Puka Puka), a lot of ‘tapora’ (‘bwabwa’ or palmleafbasket) with taro, coconuts and other food, motorbikes, and the two only ducks of Nassau, which will accompany the people on their stay and trips to and from Puka Puka. All is stowed in the hold on top of the petrol drums, rice and other cargo which Kwai is shipping from Honolulu and Kiribati to the Cook Islands. Slowly the hold fills up with what seems to be all possessions of the islanders. We hear that they will stay at least a month in Puka Puka, which explains the big quantity of cargo. It is not easy to bring the load safely on board. The swell asks for a skilled use of the winch and boom, but with all hands on deck and the help of some of the islanders, the job is performed during morning and afternoon with singing and laughter at the moments of waiting for each next load brought from shore. Kwai is always a happy ship, during work and during rests.
Late in the afternoon all cargo is on board. After a departure ceremony on top of the entrance hill, overlooking the sea, all passengers are brought on board. A total of 86 men, women and children and not to forget, the last passenger, Tinu the pig, the only pig left alive on the island. The community boat is lifted on the hatch and all is made safe for sea and accommodated for a nightly sail trip to Puka Puka. Kwai takes off, sails are set and dinner is served for everybody. The sun sets after receiving the last glances of Nassau island, where chickens, rats, cats and silence will reign for some weeks from now on.
We sail with a beautiful eastern wind. Mainsail, staysail and jib are set and there is no need for engine use on this course abaft the beam. Most of us are asleep and quietness reigns on the Kwai, rocked by the swell and moved forward by the wind. Writing this blog in the wheelhouse while the watch is at the wheel, I wonder: Kwai is shipping the whole population of Nassau this night, the island itself is temporarily left on its own. So we might say that, only for this moment, Kwai IS Nassau, a moving island…. It is a precious feeling.
A very special load