Here is a brief recap of our Voyage 44. So much happened that could not be published at the time due to the loss of the office.
Kwai departed Honolulu on the 14 of April with another very full load for the Line Islands and northern Cook Islands. The trip south was quick and enjoyable with good sailing in the first half and some effective motor sailing in the last 500 miles when the wind turned light and eventually ESE. We reached Christmas Island on Tuesday 23rd of April. The night before arrival the high temperature alarm went off on the main engine and the coolant level was again low. Finally we had to admit that we had a problem – most likely a cracked head. On Wednesday 3 important passengers arrived – my daughter Willow, and Lurline MacGregor, and PF Bentley, writer and photographer for Hana Hou Magazine, the inflight magazine of Hawaiian Airlines. This is a huge deal for us. In our 12 years of operation out of Hawaii we have had zero publicity. We have not felt ready as the ship was not finished. Now after the last refit, it is time to show her off and we can think of no better venue than this magazine seen by so many people in Hawaii. Cargo was discharged efficiently and almost 200m3 of local cargoes from CXI top the Outer Islands was laden. We had to leave behind some Fanning cargo and concentrate on Washington food and fuel supplies. Almost all cargoes out of Christmas are loaded in nets and hand stacked. This makes for a great stow but takes time. On Saturday the last drums and 38 passengers were loaded and we headed off for Fanning until… High temperature alarm again and there was evidence of water in the oil. Now Fanning and Washington are an easy downwind sail form CXI, but can be a long haul upwind and current to get back. I decided to wait a day before taking off with a damaged engine. Passengers came off and we tested successfully the engine that night at the dock. We knew we had a problem, but after consultation with Hal Rainwater, our Honolulu engine guru, we took off the next day with the same passengers and guests.
The Outer Islands trip was wonderful, with plenty of good photo shots and information for Lurline to build into a story about us.
My daughter Willow spent the first 6 years of her life on Edna and was at home right from the start as if she had never left the sea. Our other guest this trip was Jack Risser, long time crew and owner of Kwai, who celebrated his 75th birthday aboard. He was Willow’s and Brother Simon’s teacher on Edna and this time Willow got to help care for him. Hawaii and local cargoes were discharged in Fanning and Kwai sailed on to Washington. Weather was decent there this time; little swell on the pass and not too much wind. Working with the able boatmen and stevedores, we were able to discharge 100m3 of cargo and load back 40 tons of copra in 2 days. Then back to Fanning, nursing the engine at 1200 RPM. We caught a fine break with some NNE wind and squall to 25 knots and could shut down for the last few hours.
The crew even got a Sunday off in Fanning, our island home base. We sit on a good mooring and enjoy this welcoming island with good surf and many friends. It was here we started to hear of a new volcanic eruption that has now taken over much of our lives. It was by now clear that we had serious problems with the main engine. Kwai limped back to Christmas where Captain Brad departed with Willow, Lurline and PF, to help with the salvage of the house and office. April had been forced to evacuate in 20 minutes. After days of tremors and earth movements, a new vent opened up just 1 mile above our house. Over the next 2 weeks many fissures opened above and below our property. In a couple of trips to our house, accompanied by Captain Evy and his wife Robinette, we were able to remove the KWAI office files and some furniture, before this became too dangerous. Cracks were opening in the roads and noxious fumes pouring out. We only went in with full gas masks if needed. In the end lava took our house and office. Pictures clearly show a 164’ fountain of lava directly where the house had been and now the whole subdivision is covered in lava. Everything we didn’t grab and toss into the truck is gone.
We have been very lucky to rent a house 8 miles away and mostly safe. Only when the trade winds die do we get fumes here, though the sky is hugely red every night. The office is running, but both Cheryl and Wendy have had to abandon their homes and find shelter elsewhere. And our whole community is in mourning and disarray.
Kwai, meanwhile, managed another run out to Fanning to clean up the last cargo and bring back another 80 tons of copra and 32 passengers. The engine could only be run at half speed. We were blessed with mild weather and safely returned to Christmas. While I was in the Big Island the Mate Inna stood in ably as Captain, while Miles Rainwater and Charles, our Engineer, replaced a head. This solved the water problem but 3 cylinders were found not firing due to excessive wear and lack of compression. These they blanked off and we ended up with a 9 cylinder GM. All this happened while anchored with both anchors for security. Several sea trials were required and much trial and error to get the engine performing adequately to get us back to Hawaii. The Cook Islands trip had to be cancelled. That cargo was left in storage in CXI to be picked up on V45.
The trip north was another jewel, with 6 of 9 days under sail. The breeze came in SE for the first 2 days and we made easting across 155W, before it settled in ENE 20-25 for 3 days. Finally it blew easterly at 20-30 knots for the last few days and the Kwai flew home with full fuel tanks. Only serious mishap was the demise of the topsail. The halyard lost a strand aloft and the sail would not come down. By the time Teitera went aloft in the bosun’s chair to cut it down the sail had beat itself to shreds.
Today the engine is getting swapped for the rebuilt one we have in the warehouse, work goes on deck, and cargo is amassing in the warehouse. Hopefully the topsail can be stitched back together for one more voyage.
Aloha, Captain Brad