There have been no writters aboard Kwai this trip. Bengineer who was our steady blog writter is off the ship until next voyage and no one has taken up the writing job so we I will fill in the details of V34 from here in Hawaii.
Kwai arrived in the Line Islands to the surprise of the Nakaroai, a local ship from Tarawa, discharging grain and other cargoes in Christmas Island. The Ministry of Commerce chartered the ship to help the grain shortage and to lift copra from Fanning and Washington Islands, which is our regular work. Nakaroai stayed just a few days ahead of Kwai throughout the Outer Island voyage, tying up the Jetty, grabbing the internal cargo and return copra. Kwai had her regular business of landing the Hawaii cargoes and some passenger work, but nothing like we usually enjoy. Such is the shipping business. There are 3 ships which visit the Line Islands infrequently from Tarawa, but it is a long way for them to come – 1800 miles, upwind, while Hawaii is only 1100 miles away across the wind, so we have a natural advantage.
The tanker from Fiji to Christmas was delayed due to Cyclone Winston and there was a shortage of petrol for us to take to the Northern Cook Islands. So Captain Evy made another quick trip out to Fanning with passengers, a small amount of cargo and 80 tons of copra on the return. Easter came in the next week and there is no point to arrive in the Cooks at that time as no work is carried out. Departure from Christmas was timed to arrive on Penrhyn on Easter Monday. The trip south was very quiet with only light winds. In fact the only good sailing of the trip was on the Honolulu Christmas leg with some fresh ENE winds. The interisland trips were well sailed as well with the breeze holding in the NE which allows use of sails in both directions.
Penrhyn, Rakahanga and Manihiki were visited this last week in our usual rotation. The islanders were as always happy to see Kwai, receive their orders and have a chance to ship for the goods in Kwai Store. The Northern Group has been getting good service from Rarotonga with the arrival of the Tiare Taporo to augment the services of Lady Moana and Maunga Roa II, owned by Taio Shipping. Business was a bit slow, but social visiting and Kwai Store active as usual.
Nassau Island will be the stop tomorrow, for one day before moving on to Pukapuka. Nassau has a wonderful population of around 50 hearty souls. The island is unusual as it is not an atoll, just a round island only about ½ a square mile, and at 28 feet higher than the other islands of the Northern Cooks. It is a former copra plantation and the islanders tend taro in a mid island hand dug patch and groom the roads and paths through out beautifully.
Tomorrow night Kwai will sail on to Pukapuka and weather permitting tie up to the reef just outside the pass. If there is enough ESE wind Kwai can lie on a safe tether to receive the island barge and discharge her cargo. If not favorable Kwai will drift while discharging, returning to the pass whenever the barge comes out. As the last stop in the Cooks, the Supercargo and crew will hope for a big Kwai Store sales as is the tradition on Pukapuka.
A stop in Pago Pago, Samoa, was planned after Pukapuka. There was the possibility of dry docking there, but this has proved unlikely, and there just is not enough business there to warrant a visit. Dry dock was also considered in Fiji, but a favorable date was not possible. So a new plan is under consideration – to take the ship to Fiji on the next voyage for dry dock and to finish the refit all at one time. Kwai would make her regular run through the islands then expect to be in Suva for 2 months in August and September and to depart Fiji with a full sailing rig.
The 1000 mile voyage back to Christmas Island will be upwind and hopefully the calm conditions will prevail. The Cook Islands have been lucky this cyclone season and despite a dire forecast, have only been affected by one named storm. Storm Ula.
The westerly winds that the Polynesians used to drive their canoes to the east have gone now and only weak, variable winds have prevailed for the last 2 weeks. While a west wind would be prized for the trip back to Christmas, light winds will be far better than strong trades. The ship will be empty, except for a bit of unsold cargo and an aluminum barge purchased from a Manihiki pearl farm to augment our work in the Line Islands.
Aloha from Captain Brad ashore in Pahoa, Hawaii