16th of July 2018, washed-out to sea

Captain Evy allowed me to write a blog while sailing on the Kwai as a passenger. As a long-time member of the Kwai family, I was very happy to be part of Voyage 45, at least for a tiny bit.

Currently I am visiting the Line Group with my own sailing vessel “Rosalie Clare”, a 70-foot sloop-rigged wooden yacht. With my partner I started a NGO called “Sea Stewardship”, with the mission to aid the remote Pacific island communities in facing modern-life challenges. With our crew, we organize workshops on shore in the areas of Agriculture, Arts and Environment.

While we were on our mooring in Fanning Lagoon, we saw the Kwai arrive in the middle of the celebration of “Independence Day”. Although this annual event is a big deal in the lives of our Kiribati friends, the council allowed the ship to discharge consigned cargo. The customers were very happy to receive their orders because this is the prime time for doing business on the island. Kwai supplies countless small businesses, and thus keeps the local economy turning.

In the evening I invited the Kwai crew over for dinner. This memorable gathering almost turned into a catastrophe when first mate Anika came to pick up the dinner guests. In clear sight of the mother ship, the outboard engine stalled and could not be re-started. Because of the raging current, the dinghy quickly drifted out of the safety of the lagoon and out to sea. Jane immediately contacted Evy on the bridge and called “MAYDAY”. Evy, on his turn, managed to contact “L.C. Linnix”, the Kiribati government vessel that happened to be on anchor just outside of the lagoon.  In the middle of the night, our Kwai crew was rescued by a joyous Kiribati team. That was a close call for the Cook, the Mate and the Super Cargo of the Kwai. They all told me that it was a very ‘bonding’ experience between them.

Although I wanted the Sea Stewardship team to visit Washington island, we had not yet managed to materialize this because of the rough seas around this remote little island. Besides me, our crew is not familiar with the anchorage and the dangers involved. When the Kwai showed up, I asked Evy for a return passage with the four of us, and this was gladly accepted. Personally, it made me very happy to reunite with my Kwai family for a couple of days, and I felt proud to show my team members the awesome work that the Kwai is involved in. Not only delivering consigned cargo to this remote island, but also loading 30 tons of copra. And this in seas that would wet the pants of the average sailor. One of our major customers, Taatoa, was badly hurt on his throat while trying to climb on board out of the tender. Our cook and private-nurse Jane took good care of him. She told me that the cut missed the carotid artery by half an inch.

While the Kwai crew and the local stevedores were carrying boat loads of cargo up and down through the pass and onto the steep beach, our Sea Stewardship team went ashore to re-establish contacts with local communities. We were invited by the KUC women’s community to show them how to make BIOCHAR, while the “Sunshine” Primary School asked us to teach them new ways of organic agriculture.

BIOCHAR, by the way, could be a solution to the huge problem that the island has with “organic waste”. Our team managed to create a high-value product out of stale copra and coconut husk. These last two waste products are available in abundance on the island, and BIOCHAR would mean a modern way to turn waste into profit. Because of the success of the mini-workshop, we intent to continue the education on other islands, on our next voyage.

While my team was involved in the workshops on shore, I offered to help the Kwai out with some technical chores. In the morning I managed to fix two outboard engines, and in the afternoon,  I re-connecting the island to the rest of the world by supplying our local agent Johnny with a spare short-wave radio.

Just in time for departure, our team stepped back on board and we are now heading back to Fanning island, against seas and weather. Our average speed: 4.8 knots.

(For more info on our NGO, please visit www.seastewardship.com)