Today I find myself back on the wheel with Tematang and Ieie, listening to original songs from Penrhyn, in an attempt to hold on to the magical Southern Pacific atmosphere on board. Whether it was the happy people of Nassau Island reuniting with their families on Pukapuka, the great welcome of the people of Rakahanga, the celebration of Constitution day in Manihiki, or the enthusiasm of the inhabitants of Penrhyn Island, all of them left a positive impression on our c rew.
We entered the lagoon in Penrhyn on Sunday evening and dropped anchor in an eddy just South of the pass. The following morning we were visited by the local pilot Turoa who navigated us through the maze of coral heads towards the tiny wharf in Omoka village. After we were docked safely we started discharging drums of fuel and consigned cargo, all under strict supervision of Kristine Maretapu. She did a great job replacing her husband, and our local agent, Alex, who was attending training in Rarotonga as coordinator for the Red Cross organization. Not only did Kristine act as liaison for the local customers, she also managed to find time to go out catching a bag full of lobsters, kill a pig, bake bread, cook a great meal and entertain the whole Kwai crew during the customary ‘tropical party’ at her house at night. Before dinner started Brad acted on behalf of Alex, thanking the Kwai with their arrival, and welcoming all the crew to his house, sharing good times with his wife and family. The last remaining son at home, Steward, was asked to say grace, after which we indulged ourselves with an abundance of local delicacies. For the first time in my life I had a taste of “Uto Porridge”, a desert made out of arrow root and Utu, the sweet spongy innards of the coconut immediately after it starts sprouting. In aftermath, our Kiribati crew treated the party gang to several songs and dance.
After voyage 37, that ended October 2016, I ordered V-belts for the Chinese truck that Alex uses for running Kwai errands. Yesterday, nine months later, I had the opportunity of replacing the old belts that were worn to the thread. Because of a lack of spare parts on the island, it is hard to keep engines running smoothly, and when my helper Steward told me that there were occasions where the engine had troubles starting, all I could do was to show him where to hit the starter motor with a stick. A quick fix, island style. Hopefully I get time to replace the flailing component on my next visit.
For our Super Cargo Inna, this was the first time that she managed the sales of our own trade during the Kwai store on shore. She soon found out that the customers in Penrhyn were very eager to buy our goods, and that there was no fence that could prevent the crowd from touching and feeling the delicate ware and fine garments that we brought. “Next time you bring more!”, was the frequent response whenever we had to tell our customers that we ran out of bubble gum, laundry soap or SPAM! I wonder how humanity would survive without these items of westernized civilization.