The group of islands that is called “Kiribati Line Islands” can be considered as the spittle of volcanic activity through shifting shelves, creating a series of islands and reefs situated in a line that runs from South-East to North-West, just a few degrees above the Equator. Because the prevailing winds and current are from the East, we tend to use sails to run up the Line towards Teraina, and engine power to get back down to Christmas Island.
When we left Teraina a week ago, we were supposed to take 50 tons of copra. Because the locals were eager to get this one source of income out of the island, we ended up carrying more than 80 tons back to Christmas Island. In this remote area it doesn’t happen often that ships are lining up to load copra, but this time everybody was happy to see the government owned LC Aratoba waiting its turn on anchor. They carried more than a hundred tons off the island.
As usual we made a quick stop-over on Tabueran to pick up local passengers and headed back to Christmas. The ship’s log reads: “still punching seas to 10 feet on the nose, but copra is carrying us through well”. So the loading of copra is not only beneficial to the local economy but also to safety of navigation. With an ’empty’ hold we would have had more exposed area above the waterline which would have affected our stability and speed in a negative way.
In Christmas Island we discharged passengers with our own crane, because the local crane driver Uatebe was admitted to the hospital the week before, and no one else was able to get the crane running. The poor guy had to be carried to the KPA grounds to start up the boom crane, which led to a delay of one and a half hours. The next day I paid a visit to Uatebe in the hospital. He showed me his right leg that was badly affected by cellulitis. This is clearly a job-related disease for a man who spends 10 hours or more per day sitting in the cabin of his crane. I brought a ‘cup noodles’ to cheer him up and wished him a quick recovery.
We were happy to hear that the island was re-supplied with fuel (see former Christmas blog) and asked KOIL to deliver 160 drums of fuel destined for the outer islands. Our own fuel arrived around dusk, so the Kwai stayed tied to the jetty for another two hours to bunker 8000 liters of diesel oil. We will not be using even half of that amount to get back to Hawaii. It’s just a safety precaution that drives us to always have plenty of fuel on board.
We are now 60 days underway on this, already successful, voyage number 42 and we are on our last run up towards Teraina where we will arrive early this morning. It will take us only a few hours to off load drums of fuel and organize ‘final sales’ of Kwai store on the beach. My purpose today is to visit some customers and to fulfill a promise to the Protestant community. On my last visit I asked Minister Mereta Faletoise what she needed for the development of her parish, and to my surprise she said: “Sports”. I found a nice ‘Wilson’ on board and decided to donate it to a worthy cause.