Kwai arrived in Christmas Island from Honolulu on 30th of October, and the next day began discharge of cargoes. The trip south was fine, though we ran out of wind for the last half and had to motor sail to keep up speed.
On All Saints Day, the cremated remains of Tetaake Aretana were presented to the family. The extended family was present for this solemn occasion. Tetaake’s uncle received the ashes for the family from Captain Brad for Kwai family. Cremation was a new process for Kiribati and some explanation was needed as to why the body had not been returned whole. Between tears, Taake’s sister told of raising him after their mother died. Banuera told the whole story of discovering the hanged body and Teraititi spoke passionately of her dead husband. The home was decked out with Welcome Home Tetaake Aretana, flowers and pictures of Taake. The elders, brothers and sisters sat in a circle with the children and extended family looked in from outside. In a this traditional Kiribati ceremony the family heard the truths of what had to be said. Taake’s ashes were placed in a shrine in the house, surrounded by flowers and happier pictures. He had come home.
Back at the dock, there was more local interisland cargo to load than could fit in Kwai. Rather than make 2 trips we discharged 20m3 of lumber and 10 pallets of cargo to sell in the Cook Islands to make room for 120m3 of rice, flour, sugar and boxes of food and household products. On deck we loaded 80 drums of petrol and on the hatch 50 drums of Jet A fuel for the plane, all held in by 9 bales of used clothing for Tabuaeran and Teraina. On top was a Hobie Cat, consigned to Bruno on Tabuaeran. She was loaded pretty deeply with plenty of water on deck and the 24 passengers camped out under a tarp on the Aloha Deck and on the Poop Deck. The breeze was fine for sailing and we reached Tabuaeran in 20 hours, in time to start discharge of the cargoes. Ten able stevedores came over the rail and with 3 boats operating the drums of fuel and Christmas cargo flew ashore. We stopped at 1800 but it was late in the night before the cargoes were taken off the beach. Next day was for Kwai Hawaii orders to go ashore, again in a rush of activity, all part of “ship day” on Fanning Island. Finally Wednesday was for Teraititi Store. Our Supercargo along with 6 of the crew turned salesmen, preside over the landing of over 60 totes of cargo, everything from Amazon Fir tablets to laundry soap to potato chips are sold on the beach under the Tamanu trees. By mid afternoon, the action had slowed and the unsold goods returned to the ship, to go ashore again in Teraina.
After a short overnight sail, we arrived at Teraina, traditionally the most difficult island. There is no lagoon only a fresh water lake and all cargo must go through a small pass dynamited through the coral to the beach. This first day the swell was small, but it rained of an on and at least 3 times we had to rig the scaramouche, a big pyramid tent over the cargo hold, and scurry to tarp the cargoes already delivered to shore. By the end of the day the swell started to close out the pass and warned of more to come. We managed to stay at anchor that night, but in the morning the swell was significant. One of our 2 boats could not operate as the 15HP outboard could not be considered safe enough in the pass with 2-3 meter waves breaking all across it. The intrepid local boatmen said we could work with our 40HP boat and we did, discharging 27m3 of Hawaii cargo and starting in the afternoon to take on copra.
By the late afternoon the swell was still picking up and we moved Kwai around to the north side of the island for a safe anchorage. The Mate, Ross commented that he never had lain so lose to destruction as we did that day, and I had to agree. With an onshore wind there is just enough room to drop the anchor over the edge where the bottom drops quickly from 10m to hundreds of meters. This way the anchor has to drag uphill and the ship stays head to the wind and sea with the huge swells passing under her and crashing on the reef 100m astern. Dangerous yes, but with the head to sea and the start button handy, we can work there. The boatmen kept the cargoes moving in between the big sets. One hired local boat lost power in the pass and was swamped and swept over the inside reef. Fortunately the crew were all unhurt and the boat undamaged. Even the load of copra was salvaged. The third day brought the same conditions and once again we hung perilously on stand by while the Teraititi Store went ashore for sales and the copra slowly built up in the hold. We ended up with 36 tons and after recovering the store cargo and depositing the cash back in the local council office loading our 2 boats, and 10 passengers, we were off back to Fanning, arriving the next Sunday morning, in time for Church or a morning surf session in the still big swell. Usually a day off on this Sunday we loaded another 31 tons of Tabuaeran copra, so that Monday the locals could be free to entertain the 1200 passengers off the cruise ship Amsterdam.
With suitable pomp the tourists came ashore by ship’s boats to tour this wonderful island and purchase handicrafts from the many tables set up for them. Two groups sang and danced all day, and most everyone was happy. Fanning is a unique destination, and the people don’t mind at all if the tourists wander through their home compounds, marveling at an older style of life. Another advantage is tourists bring US dollars which Kwai will change for you at 1.4 to 1. At the end of the afternoon there was a line of folks out the wheelhouse door to change US dollars to AU dollars. This is advantageous to all parties. By 1600 we had left the happy locals on the still talking over the days fun and activity, boarded a few more passengers and headed back to Christmas Island where a change will take place. Anika and Carson will take over for Brad and Ross and Bengineer will be back. So stay tuned for his lively blogs while the ship cruises the Northern Group of the Cook Islands.