25th of December 2018, Christmas on the high seas

On Christmas eve we passed the Equator, heading North from Pukapuka to Fanning Island. We were lucky to have nothing but steady trade-winds to keep our sails full, while staying on track towards our destination. Although passing the Line went by without any event, we made up for it with the Christmas activities on board today.

The crew had spent half a day making Christmas gifts and decorations. Mate Carson showed how to make ‘snowflakes’ (out of inventory lists, haha). Chrissie showed Jane how to make pom-poms with colorful yarn and an ordinary fork. Jane just couldn’t get enough of these fluffy balls and spent every free minute of her time producing more and more. They were later attached to Christmas stockings and hats.

In the morning Jane surprised us with fresh cinnamon rolls. After breakfast the crew gathered on the bridge wing for a group-shot and handing out of the stockings. Then the festivities started on the aft-deck. Teraititi, together with her husband Tetaake and his brother Tokamaen, led the show. Starting off singing Christmas carols in English (Silent Night, zzzzz) and Kiribati (E bungiaki nakoira Hareeeeruuuujah). And to top it off, the Kiribati crew taught us a game called “guessing name”. Very simple, hilarious, but way too complicated to explain in a few words. My cheeks still hurt from laughing.

And then it was time to GET EVEN! Evy had created a Pinata (peen-yatah) in the shape of a Matson container ship. And what a beautiful job he did. Making the four feet long vessel out of cardboard, with bridge, stack and two cranes. Carson and Moimoto supplied the dinky life rafts and 40-foot containers. After filling the hold with sweets, the pinyata was put to trial…
One after the other, we got a chance to whack the spray out of the Matson container carrier. At fatal blows, the vessel would jettison candy. For a moment we had the feeling that we could ‘beat’ this competition.

For those who are not up-to-date with the actual situation regarding our shipping-operation, here is the news. Recently the large shipping company Matson started a new shipping line between Hawaii and American Samoa. On their way there, they stop over at Christmas Island. Our tiny vessel can never compete with this enormous company, and our main customers soon found their way to the competition. Faced with this sudden challenge, our management is now designing a new strategy (to be continued).

Matson’s decision to serve Christmas island has hit the Kwai and her crew like a bombshell. We spent almost two decades creating sustainable relationships with the local communities, supplying the islands on a regular basis and helping to create the foundation for the growth of small businesses. And now there is this external threat that jeopardizes the continuity of our operation. Not only for us, the crew, but also for the Line Islands as a community, the impact will be enormous. Christmas Island economy will be booming, while the outer islands are left behind. Fanning and Washington island are not profitable enough for  Matson.

At dinner time Jane brought out the best of the galley. Spoiling us with food that she had been saving for this event. It’s amazing how creative she gets towards the end of a voyage, when there are hardly any fresh provisions left. The main dish (turkey) went flying in the galley, because of 12 feet waves. During Jane’s lunch break, a few Kiribati (I’m not gonna mention names) took off with the pre-cooked turkey before it even got chance to reach the oven.  Jane managed to salvage the bigger part of the poultry. Like every year, many of us regret having eaten too much, because it’s all kangkang!!!

Bengineer