Kwai sailed for Honolulu on schedule, on the first of November, 2015 on Voyage number 33, the 31st trip out of Honolulu in the last 9 years.  This voyage is bound just for the Line Islands of Kiribati and should take about 6 weeks.  We will make at least 2 round trips from Christmas Island to Tabuaeran and Teraina with dry cargo outbound and copra back to Christmas.  We will likely carry students returning to their home islands for Christmas vacation. We are loaded now with 481m3 of cargo for the 3 islands, mostly consigned to Christmas.  300m3 are in the hold, 25m3 in the fo’c’sle and 156m3 on deck.  The deck cargo includes 110 empty drums loaded on the aloha deck over the fantail, 35 propane cylinders and about 80 tires on the main deck, 6000BF of timber in the side decks and the balance on the hatch under tarps. Twenty four 900lb bales of used clothes run down the sides of the hatch with 20 pallets in the middle.  The bales are prefect for stowage as they hold the pallets tightly when lashed with ratchet straps.  We have carried 540m3 at times, but this is a fine load.  The Plimsoll Mark is still a good 8″ above the waterline, indicating a weight of about 180 metric tons.  The roll period is a comfortable 6 second.

The Southern Phoenix is in Christmas this week with cargo from Fiji and we will hopefully load full again at least once leaving Christmas for the Outer Islands. 

We are 2 days out now and finally shut down the main engine.  We are making 6-7 knots with all sail set in 15-20 knots of ExN wind just behind the beam.  This trip the Captain has planned to run the rhumb line to Christmas.  Often we make easting on this leg to allow for the Equatorial Current setting West and ESE winds below 6 degrees North latitude.  Forecast is still for El Nino conditions closer to the Equator which could mean a healthy Countercurrent setting to the East between 9 and 5 North and light or even Westerly winds south of 5 North.   If this proves true then the rhumbline will make for a quick trip.  If not and we are stuck punching SE weather at the end it will be slower.  Biggest excitement so far was Tetaake’s midnight trip to the end of the gaff to retrieve the outhaul wire.  An hour after setting the main the head slide back down the gaff and he walked then span wires and shimmied the last 10′ to recover the wire end.

Work in Honolulu this port visit included re-stitching the entire mainsail.  On the way north one seam let go from head to foot, indicating it was time to resew all the seams.  We did this on the dock with our Singer 7-33 machine callumping along for 5 days.  Kabiriera ran the machine with 3-5 helpers to push the big sail along rollers while stitching.  We took the gaff down to finally fix the track at the peak which had caused some jamming of slides and difficulty taking the sail in.  The biggest project was to build a new hatch cover. The old one with 4 folding panels was rotted in places from corrosion.  Captain Evy and Ethan designed a new cover with more folding panels. Teibitoa, Banuera and Naci welded up the 8 new sections, under Ethan’s watchful eye.  Two of the heavy panels were hinged together on the dock, then lifted aboard where the final 12 hinge sets were welded on. We now have an 8 panel set which opens by folding up at the aft end of the hold.  The hatch can now be opened and closed with a single wire.  There is still a bit of experimentation to get it all working smoothly, but it is already a big improvement in an important part of cargo operations.

Ethan spent much of his days aboard designing the new exhaust system.  This will go up the lower section of the new mizzen mast and exit the mast about 20 feet above deck in a stack designed to swivel to the leeward side.  The muffler will now sit above and aft of the engine, under the deck of the fiddley which eventually will be the new mess area.  The exhaust work and fitting of a rebuilt Cummins diesel to replace the aging Bedford driving the hydraulics for cargo and anchor winches, are scheduled for December to January, 2016 in Honolulu.  Subsequent port visits in 2016 will afford the biannual drydocking, decking of the aloha deck, and finally, installation of the mizzen mast on top of the new exhaust.

As Captain Brad and Shore Manager April move closer to retirement there are some changes afoot.  Franki has taken over the task of crew recruitment and we are actively looking for Mates to train as Captains, Supercargoes and Engineers.  This trip we have our first Kiribati Mate in Training, Taoba Bainrebu, a Cadet at the California Maritime Academy. We have a new Supercargo, Chrissy Shyne, who also holds a 100 ton Masters License and will be earning seatime toward her 200 ton license.  Gabriel Boylan is back for another trip as Carpenter.  Leslie Cook was with us in Honolulu as Chief Cook and Provisioning Guru.  Now Arina is back in charge, feeding her hungry crew.  With a crew of 12 all bunks are full, either with bodies or cargo finding its way across the waves to the islands.

Aloha, Capt Brad