29th December 2019,
Into deep waters again

Bugs, bugs, everywhere I look there are Copra bugs. These tiny metallic beetle-like creatures wear hard hats with funny little antennas. They smell like their staple diet when you accidentally crush them. The familiar  sweet smell of copra lingers in the air while we have no more copra in the hold. The poor creatures are so fond of the stuff, that they actually not can live without it. Hence I find colonies of bugs drowned in a little puddle of diesel oil or stuck in fresh paint. They try anything that is vaguely similar to coconut oil, and that’s the end of them… The Department of Bio security in our next port of call does not need to worry. Without copra around, the bugs will not survive.

Departure from Christmas Island brought me in a state of melancholy. Happy that another successful voyage is coming to a closure, sad because we leave so many good friends behind. One of the last items to leave the ship was the gravestone that I made for our dear friend Tetaake. The 200-pound concrete stone was hoisted onto the bed of a truck on the jetty. Tetaake’s brother Raerang was there to receive it. He called my attention and crossed both his arms over his chest as a sign of brotherhood.

While we were busy preparing the ship for the last leg to Honolulu one of the dedicated crew members came to tell the captain that he could not join us on the voyage because he had to take his baby to the hospital. Another crew member showed up too drunk to work. Captain Anika ordered him to sleep off the alcohol before joining us in the watch-schedule. Oh well, sailors will be sailors. As we are only six on board, we all have to pull our weight in watch-, deck- and galley duties. Setting sail with such a competent crew is a privilege because all is done sharply and in an orderly fashion. We hardly use any words and communicate very ‘island-style’, mostly with our eye-brows.

During this current voyage I deepened my knowledge of the Kiribati customs and food. I was offered the candy made from the sap of the coconut tree: delicious! On our last day our relief-cook Temawa gave me some ‘Te Tuae’, a delicacy made from the sap of the Pandanus fruit. The fruit is dried and the sap extracted. Then it is boiled until it thickens into a solid mass. Finally it is  rolled out paper-thin. This healthy sweet can keep for years without refrigeration and is best served, soaked in fresh coconut cream. The last food I learned to appreciate is ‘Te bua’, the intestine of a fish, turned inside-out, cleaned and stuffed with the heart and the liver of the same fish. Slightly cooked this turns into the most delicious sausage that I’ve ever eaten. These Kiribati people know how to enjoy life!