Washington Island whales
However piloting is not obligatory in Kiribati waters, on approach of Washington Island a pod of pilot whales guided us towards the pass in the reef. It was shortly after daybreak and we had not had contact with the shore yet. With 70-odd passengers on board we were anxious to get the aluminum council boat in the water, so we could take our guest ashore. The council boat is bigger than the tenders that the fishermen on Washington use, but it is stored on the hatch and for deploying it we needed to set up the cargo gear first. And for setting up the cargo gear one needs space on the hatch that is filled with people and luggage. We always get it all organized, but it takes some time.
By the time we managed to get the passengers on shore we started to off load the drums of fuel that we carry on the deck and after that the hatch was partially opened to discharge local consigned cargo. With a nice southerly swell and a light breeze from the East, the ship was sitting nicely on anchor without the usual rolling. Toki, Burangki and Bota were send ashore for tallying. Three tenders were running in- and out towards the beach where our clients were waiting in the tree line. It was a beautiful day and the operation was running smoothly.
As I related in the former blog, the island of Teraina is stocked up to its teeth with bags of copra (dried coconut) and we are as anxious as the islanders to get it on board of our vessel a.s.a.p. For this, however, we needed clearance from the port of destination, Chistmas Island, and as things were going, it did not looked favorable. The second day on the island news arrived from Christmas that their warehouse was full and that they did not want to receive more of the ‘island gold’. In the end captain Brad made the wise decision to start loading the thirty six tons of copra anyway with the risk of getting into the situation that we need to bring the copra all the way to Fiji with us and try to find a buyer there. Let’s wait and see…
During our stay in Washington Island we had our faithful old-time crew member Banu in charge of the private sales of our own trade that we carry on board. He was assisted by his new wife Nana. While they kept local customers busy, Super Cargo Kelly took charge of preparing items on the deck for orders, assisted by Liz, Arioka, Ieie and me. It’s exciting to see how these things go on the Kwai. With so many customers on the ship I did my share of police-work, because the ship is like a candy-store to the population of this remote island, and it’s hard for them to understand that they might have to wait a little until a crew member is available to assist. It’s completely understandable if you see it from the perspective of a person living on a far-away island like this. You can see the bicycle that you ordered and you have your money ready, but there is a line of people waiting in front of you. It must be exhilarating.
On the third day, around three in the afternoon, we closed the hatch and prepared the ship for receiving thirty-four passengers. As usual it looked like the prevailing winds were on the nose, but not even an hour before departure Brad told us to prepare for ‘starboard tack’. The wind had shifted to the South! What a nice present. So we started motor sailing until we had to drop sails around four o’clock in the morning, two hours before arrival in Fanning.