3rd of November 2016, Suva dry-dock

Life is back to normal. Night dropped while the Kwai is sitting on anchor. Almost everybody is communicating with friends and family on social media. It won’t be long before we are cut-off from the virtual world when we set sail for the voyage back to Kiribati and Hawaii. 

For eight days the ship has been ‘on the dry’ for survey and work on the submerged part of the vessel. The engineering department of the shipyard in Suva turned out to be very efficient. While our crew continued with their work on deck or on the new mizzen mast, many local hands were involved in painting the hull, extracting the propeller, the rudder and the rudder-stock.

While the ship was in dry-dock, we were allowed to live on board. Comfort on the ship was down to a minimum. The galley-crew had to adapt their ways to the new environment where there was no ocean around the ship. So no chucking-over-the-side of food waist or water. For a pee, female crew members had to climb all the way down the scaffolding to use the yard facilities. (Or use ‘the bucket’, of course). For our male colleagues I set-up a temporary urinoir on the taffrail of the aft deck. 

I had spent two days extracting the trough-hull valves so they could be serviced. Another two days were necessary to put the valves back in, and today was the final test to see if there were no leaks. So while the ship was being lowered back into the welcoming salty water, I was on stand-by in the engine room, checking the bilge for possible water trickling in. By the time the ship detached itself from the cradle that rolled down the slipway, I called the bridge that ‘all was well’. I started the main engine and Ethan took the Kwai to the anchorage off-shore.

We are surrounded by a multitude of ships: rusty Chinese fishing vessels, small container ships, landing-crafts under foreign flag, and quite a few shiny polyester yachts. First Mate Megan organized an anchor watch because these waters are renowned for thievery, so we have to be vigilant.

This Monday we are expecting captain Brad back on board. Evy will then hand over the command of the ship to him and fly back to his home in Hawaii. On Tuesday the ship will move to the dock at South Gate, close behind the central bus station and market in Suva. This is where we will start loading our holds with consigned cargo, provisions and trade. We are also expecting customers to drop-off their cargo that needs to be shipped to the Kiribati islands.

After two months on shore we can hardly wait to set sail again. Especially Brad, captain and owner of the Kwai, must be thrilled to try out the new rig. After ten years of sailing cargo in the Pacific Ocean, finally the ship is now how he envisioned it from the start. A proud sailing vessel with maximum cargo capacity in holds and on deck.

After our departure next week, I will inform you about the sailing properties of the brand new Kwai.

Bengineer