This evening Kwai is running back to Fanning Island from Christmas Island, under charter to the Kiribati Education Ministry, carrying the high school students home at the end of the terms. Many school kids move to Christmas Island for secondary education. Now they are going home to Fanning and Washington. There is also a secondary school on Fanning. We will carry these students to Washington and then back to Christmas. Weather is beautiful and we are motor sailing at 8.5 knots with 60 passengers on deck. After a long spell of light and west winds, we are back to trade wind conditions of 15-20 knots ENE. The 4 sails, main, topsail, jib and flying jib, are pulling strongly. With this many passengers handling sail is a little challenging. Crew has to dip under the lines of the big tent covering the hatch to get forward and step over sleeping bodies to haul on lines. Sometimes the passengers heave with us. The old lady is flying across the ocean with a full deck load. Wind is just abaft the beam and the sea has not built up. Soon the full moon will rise and touch the ship with her light.
Just 2 days ago Kwai was misbehaving at anchor. Twelve other vessels in the roadstead and not one was rolling, but Kwai was rolling 15 degrees in a short NW slop left over from a local low pressure system passing. This went on for a day and a half until finally I tied up stern to the dock to keep her head to the sea. We arrived back at Christmas with a full belly of copra and 60 passengers from Washington and Fanning. The wind was N’ly on arrival an blowing on to the Jetty. The fendering is mostly gone and we had to keep one anchor out to sea and another ahead with the ship at a 30 degree angle to afford a working position. The shore crane could reach out and pluck the passengers and several tons of baggage including taro and several hundred bunches of bananas off the deck. That night we went to anchor in expectation of discharging the copra the next day. The weather deteriorated further with heavy rain. Instead of working cargo we spent the morning catching water off the house roof and top decks. With hoses and siphons flowing and steady bucket brigades and a lot of laughter we filled one of our 5 ton tanks. This is a windfall as water is short on this voyage just to Kiribati and with 3 planned Outer Island trips. I am still resisting a water maker and rain catchment is a fine alternative.
We made the Honolulu Christmas trip in less than 8 days arriving on a Tuesday morning in time to clear customs and discharge the deck load of cargo. Conditions were not great with SW wind and we had to keep an anchor out at the Jetty in case a quick getaway was needed. It took 4 days to discharge 380m3 cargo and load back 140m3 including 110 drums of fuel for the Fanning and Washington. The passenger list was full to overflowing and some standbys were left on the dock.
The first Outer Island trip to Fanning and Washington went pretty well. El Nino is still with us with the current here mostly running to the east, which is a boon. Winds were mostly light. The biggest challenge was landing the Washington cargo and loading back 100 tons of copra. A south swell arrived with us and closed out the pass about half the time in the first 2 days. This meant the boats landing the cargo had to circle outside and wait for a calm time before running through the pass. Fanning was mostly calm and beautiful, with some heavy rain but little wind. We have a wonderful mooring there and can lie securely in most weather with no fear of dragging anchor. On a moonless night in a small lagoon with up to 6 knots of current running in or out the nearby pass, a 40 knot squall can be serious. So the mooring is a real blessing. This trip we brought Magali, Bruno’s daughter, home with her new baby and enjoyed the reunion. Surf was not huge but very fun. Hopefully there is time for some surfing tomorrow. Brendan Murphy joined us in Christmas Island as a training Mate. It turns out he is a carpenter as well and took over for Gabe who took the Wednesday flight out of Christmas headed to winter. There are still a number of wood working projects going on.
Aloha, Captain Brad