Kwai sailed from Honolulu on schedule on 23rd of October with mostly old hands aboard. Captain Evy took over the day before departure, and Cory Young returned to the ship as First Mate. She has been working in sail training vessel s since her trip on Kwai as a Deckhand on Voyage 10 in 2007. She now has her 500 ton Master’s License. Branan Rountree aka Chloe sails as Engineer. Frankie ventures out again as Supercargo. She had a “break” last trip when she took on sailing as First Mate in training (she has no license so can not sail as Mate), and Henny sailed as Supercargo. This voyage Henny sailed as Cook to Christmas Island where she got off until Kwai returns from the Cook Islands. Arina and Teruia from Fanning Island once again took over the cooking in Kiribati and then on to the Cook Islands. Tanawai and Teibitoa, our 2 oldest Kiribati crew made the trip up on V29 and back on V30. Tanawai now doubles as our financial agent on Christmas, keeping track of our business interests there. Teibitoa is our star iron worker. In Honolulu he has been fabricating the parts for the bridge wings to be added when the wheelhouse is lowered this year. Teitera, Tetaake, Kabiriera and Banuera rounded out the departing crew. All of these guys have sailed with us for years. Bosun Teitera and Teibitoa have over 1200 days on Kwai, only surpassed by Captain Brad. Tetaake runs the cargo operations, Kabiriera is our rigger, and Banuera wears many hats from Assistant Engineer to Entertainer in Chief and this voyage as Supercargo Assistant. In Christmas some new hands took over. Burangke and Arioka sailed south to the Cooks and our first Cadet from the Fiji Maritime Academy, Nacieneli Polania, boarded in Christmas as well. Kabi and Banuera are the old hands and Cory is training all of them in sailing and seamanship.
The first leg was happily uneventful. The ship was full but not too heavy with 6” below the Plimsoll line which is just how we like her. The trade wind blew mild and fair until the last few days when it hauled ahead and the Detroit Diesel did her work. Since last voyage we have been battling a cooling problem. Thermostats were swapped out and this trip we flew down a rebuilt heat exchanger core. This worked well for one trip out to Fanning and Washington, but then developed a leak. When Evy and Chloe removed it they found oil in the cooling water as well. This has now been traced to a leak in the oil cooler. In Penrhyn they have patched this and hopefully all is well. We are flying another oil cooler core to Rarotonga as backup.
Today the ship worked in Rakahanga after a one day sail form Penrhyn. We are about 3 weeks behind the original schedule at this point, but for some good reasons. After discharging more than half of the Honolulu cargo in Christmas Island, Kwai loaded fuel drums and about 60m3 of dry cargo for Fanning and Washington and 60 passengers on deck under the yellow tarp. The dry cargo came up to Christmas from Fiji, a major supplier of food and construction materials to the Line Islands. The round trip to the Outer Islands took a few extra days as the crew loaded copra once again in Teraina (Washington). Pacific Islands Medical Aid sent a team of eye doctors and local nurses on this trip to dispense glasses and identify patients in need of eye surgery. We have made several voyages now with these fine doctors. Please see their website http://www.pacificislandsaid.org the founder, Carlton Smith, has done a fine hands on job, working with the local medical teams, to bring much needed medical supplies and help to this area.
Upon returning to Christmas Island, Captain Evy was approached by the Ministry of Education to carry students home from their secondary schools on Christmas to Tabuaeran and Teraina for the Christmas holidays. We could not say no and the ship sailed again around the Line Islands full of student passengers. The weather was rainy, but all huddled together on the hatch. The pass at Teraina was workable, but we could not load copra again due to the rain, so we stopped at Tabuaeran on the way back and loaded another 80 tons there.
Since Voyage 28 we have had a new agent to handle the ship’s business in Kiribati. This is an old friend Nantongo, Timeon, and his son, Uatati, operating Kiribati Sea Company. These guys have been very valuable in all aspects – keeping the passenger lists, accepting cargo and following up with the endless details of the shipping business in Kiribati. They have a great attitude and everything is accomplished with a smile and a laugh.
Finally on 24th of November Kwai got away for the Cooks, arriving the 3rd of December in Penrhyn. Kwai was long expected and warmly welcomed as food was running short again on the island. There is a miniboom on the island as the ‘pippi” pearls – small golden, natural occurring pearls – are now valuable and everyone is out diving for them on the coral heads in the lagoon. And they are ready to spend their money in Kwai Store on shore. Unlike Kiribati, we are licensed in the Cooks to sell right off the ship. This is the age old tradition in the South Seas and one we love to continue. First the drums of petrol, loaded in Christmas Island come off, then the ordered goods are distributed. Everyone knows what is next. The Supercargoes have learned now not to bring everything out at once. The rush is too great so during the day different items come ashore to the store. All the goodies are on display and the selling is brisk. When it slows a bit the customers pay for the basics, rice flour, sugar, oil, and noodles then take their signed invoice to the ship where the items are sent up and distributed. All Kwai crew are now sales people.
The oil cooler leak was confirmed in Penrhyn. Chloe and Evy worked to patch it up. Like most engine work this is a tedious process of assembly, testing once then twice until all is right. This took a few days alongside the dock in Omoka, Penrhyn. Work finished on Saturday when the repair was tested on a run across the lagoon to Tetautua, the village on the eastern side of Penrhyn. Sunday was a rare day off for Kwai and Monday morning they shot out the small pass and on to Rakahanga.
That is all for now.
We wish you all a good day and a happy holiday season.