19th of 2016 (KI date), Fanning to Christmas
In Fanning we found the Kiribati government boat ‘Moamoa’ (Chickenchicken?) sitting inside the lagoon, involved in loading seaweed. The ship was tied to our mooring and the captain was not on board, so Brad decided to anchor off next to the ship. The Kwai carries two anchors for coral-bottom situations and because the lagoon has a sandy bottom, we needed an officer constantly on watch on the bridge to prevent the strong tidal currents to drag us to shore.
Our passengers were sent ashore with a belly full of good food from our cook Taua, and we started to load 30 tons of copra. Brad noticed that there was a window of northerly winds so he decided to leave for Christmas island the same evening. This decision turned out to be the right one because we could set sail right after we departed. The favorable wind stayed with us until 6 hours before arrival in Christmas.
Besides the 115 tons of copra that filled our hold there was some interesting cargo on board. A trunk of the breadfuit-tree and a bunch of brightly colored thin planks that were to be re-assembled in Christmas to make a local outrigger canoe ‘te waa’. Because Washington island is very fertile and Christmas is virtually a bare patch of coral, many passengers carried fresh produce for family or for selling. The retail value of one banana is ‘fifty cents’, so a good bunch bring in about 70 dollars. Good business.
It was a beautiful moonlit night when we arrived on the Christamas coast, so we allowed passengers to go ashore if they wished to do so. Our agent Nantongo had his son Uatati drove a small vessel in and out of the lagoon, dropping off passengers in the heart of Ronton (London) village, the main township on Christmas.
On Sunday we were allowed a day off after the remaining passengers and their luggage were put on shore. Around lunchtime all the local crew went ashore and our supercargo decided to explore the island, as it was his first voyage to the Kiribati. So the captain and I spent the afternoon reading while enjoying the silence on board.
On Monday the ship went alongside the jetty and we started to transfer the countless bags of copra to the jetty. All day long our crew, assisted by local stevedores, were busy inside the hold throwing 80 lb bags into cargo nets that were picked up by the growling rusty giant with the wire and hook. Luckily no break-down of the old crane this time, so by the end of the day our happy captain thanked the crew for their great effort.
Our captain (Brad), in the mean time, had arranged a big order for cargo to be shipped to Fanning island. So tomorrow, instead of returning to Honolulu, we will first sail to Fanning. And while news travels fast through the island, we will probably have a hatch full of passengers to accompany us to the outer-island to the North-West.