Blog 3 V55
Today Kwai is at anchor in Ebon, Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI). Through Marshall Islands Shipping Corporation (MISC, which has chartered Kwai for 4 months work in RMI, the ship was voyage chartered to Ebon to carry 35 passengers and cargoes for a funeral and burial for the former Iroj (Chief) of these islands and the former President of RMI. Today the body will arrive by plane and there will be a major event and feast over the next couple of days. We are lucky and proud to be here.
This is our third voyage out of Majuro since arrival in RMI in mid-September. Commissioned here to help reduce the carbon emissions of the shipping industry as a commitment made to the Paris Climate Agreement, Kwai carries on her service. The work is similar to our work in the Line and Cook Islands, but there are many more islands here and the need for shipping is huge. Ebon is a beautiful almost circular ring of coral atoll with motus spread around the perimeter. We are anchored off the main island of Ebon. The beach is lined with the biggest Kaumani trees I have ever seen. The huge twisted trunks send branches out low over the water and make a cathedral of overstory as we walk along the shady beach. Ashore the straight lined road and dotted houses are all neat and clean, ready for the ceremony. This is clearly an important island in Marshallese history and the funeral of the Iroj is a major event. Two other vessels are here with us – the Jebro, a 15m fisheries patrol boat and the MV Majuro a big landing craft also under charter to bring people and goods. The single passage into the lagoon has an intricate channel. Due to the narrow width and strong currents, vessels only transit the pass at slack water. High tide today should bring the national Police boat, a 35m patrol ship capable of speeds up to 20 knots. Amongst all these gas guzzler lays our Kwai. 250 miles from Majuro to here and we burned 300 liters (80 gallons) as we sailed most of the way with a fine wind on the beam and speeds reaching 8 knots under sail.
The second voyage from Majuro (17-31 October)was also a charter to the island of Wotje to bring a load of construction materials and food products to this island 160 miles NNW of Majuro in the Radak chain. This island was used in the Second World War as a Japanese base and many relics remain, including the remains of a wharf. Kwai was able to get alongside here at high tide and efficiently land the cargo. The first day the ladies came to the ship for a fine welcoming ceremony then we were able to get off the foodstuffs. The second day we were able to discharge 35 pallets of cement block, 10 pallets of cement and many lifts of rebar and timber. We left a huge pile on the wharf and backed out as the tide was falling under the ship. This saved 4 or 5 days of landing the construction materials by boat and hand carrying up the beach. Despite her capacity, our Kwai is a handy vessel that can take advantage of an opportunity to work efficiently.
With the Wotje charter complete, we sailed to Jaluit once again to load copra in the southern motus. MISC policy is to clean up an island of copra roughly every 3 months and here we completed the work of MV Aemman which had worked copra here a month ago. This work involved sending our boat (barge) into the beach through the shallow water and loading at individual houses. Sometime this meant only 2 bags of copra, but more often the families had 10 bags or more ready to transport to the ship. It took most of the afternoon to collect 177 bags of copra. The families all come to the ship to follow the weighing of the copra which happens in the ship’s hold. Then they stand by to get paid and purchase goods from the company store. As this was Saturday evening, we closed up shop until Sunday afternoon when everyone returned after church to receive money and provisions. In the late afternoon we moved 5 miles to the island of Mejrirok to repeat the operation. By Monday evening we had loaded another 350 bags and were anchored outside the pass while the business was finished. The SW Pass on Jaluit is not navigable at night, so in this way by 2100 we could depart for Namorik.
Namorik was one of our destinations on the first voyage out of Majuro. We had dropped cargo including a truck here and loaded copra for 3 days, but could only take 1639 bags (115 tons) before loading full. So we were back to finish up what came to 787 more bags. Namorik has no passage into the lagoon. So all work was carried out while steaming. There is also a tidal restriction and the barge can only reach the beach at half tide and above. On our first visit we worked about 5 hours at the top of the tide in the day and another 5 hours in the dark. Only 5 miles long the island is steep to so anchoring is impossible. With the right weather conditions we did manage to tie up to the reef for some hours, but all cargo ops were carried out while holding position off the boat passage. Our Teraina experience was most helpful and Kwai was able on both visits to get off the copra in a timely manner. Here all the copra is staged at the community copra warehouse and the beach and once the tide is high enough loading can proceed rapidly. This was a challenging island for Kwai (or any ship), but the ship and crew all performed well, from the boatmen whisking in and out, or slow walking when the tide became marginal, to the deck crew winching it aboard and stowing the hold to the bridge team keeping the ship close enough to work but off the reef, ever present over the side. The resourceful population of Namorik have a beginning pearl farm in their lagoon and a virgin oil coconut business. Each visit we hauled off up to 1500 liters of virgin oil.
Fair winds have often favored us since arrival in RMI. We did get a bit of hammering on V2 after departing Jaluit with a couple of trucks on deck and 1300 bags of copra in her belly. A tropical wave moving with the trade wind flow pumped the NE wind up to 25 knots on the nose. We put Kwai on the port tack and sailed full and by until midnight, then tacked as the wind came more E’ly. By the morning the ship was on a close reach and fetching the NW corner of Majuro and by midday sheets were eased and we were making 8 knots, with internet from the western end of Majuro, just coming on. By 1700 we were fast alongside the copra dock in Majuro.
Kinahora, so far Kwai is completely living up to the terms of the charter and proving her worth in capacity and fuel efficiency. Over the first 2 months of the charter she covered over 3000 miles and bunkered only 3000 gallons. This is an exceptional rate and includes considerable fuel burned in cargo ops and electrical generation. The voyage reports furnished to MISC and RMI Cabinet are impressive. Kwai is for sale at the end of the charter on the first of the year and RMI is seriously considering the purchase. We are already training Engineers, and Mates. I would like to put together a team of experience Kwai personnel to carry out a contract to crew the ship for the next year to complete training and handover. There are challenges with the COVID precautions in force in RMI, but we need to accomplish this. Any Kwai crew or other interested experienced mariners, please get in touch.
Aloha, Brad 5 November, 2020 Ebon Island, RMI