Kiritbiti, Christmas and Fannin, Hawaii
25 November 2013
About a week of sailing or 600nm to go before next stop. First few days everything find, than about half way the winds dies, then come back to life at a whopping 5kts. This lasted for a couple of days so I got to do a little motoring. My battery bank is not big enough to keep up with the load at night so before morning I'm running the engine to recharge. Then the solar panels take over and before midnight I'm running the engine again. Might as well put it in gear and try to keep up with a faster boat. I manage to land a Wahoo on this passage. Another big guy. Fresh fish when I get to land.
I made landfall on Christmas Island on the 28th or the 29th of Oct. Somewhere along the way they said I crossed the International Date Line. I thought that thing was way over there by Tonga and Fiji, how did it get way over here? A few emails to Aaron and a few Donatto's discussions - the short story - it was determined that the Karibiti government officials wanted all of their country to be on the same date at the same time. And since there is no one organization in charge of where the date line is they move it for their convenience. Fiji did it a few years ago, Karibiti done it just before the millennium. They must have also wanted to be the first country to start off the New Year. So depending on what map you're looking at the date line can be just about anywhere because the map makers don't have any standards to go by. For the navigation log, if you plan on stopping change the date so all the paper work matches.
Silhouette get there a few hours ahead of me and makes contact with the officials. First thing is put up the Q-flag, call them on the radio, and wait for them to come to you. Usually you have to pay for their ride to your boat via water taxi, aka buddy with boat, but we lucked out. There was a big fishing boat that got here before us and when the officials got through with it they stopped at our boats. We just have to get them back to shore and finish the paper work. Total of 6 officials and all overweight. Poor old Leaky - I pumped him up before we left the boat but by the time we reach the shoreline it was limp. One day I'm gonna have to get one of them action cameras. Landing a limp dinghy, full of big people, on a hard beach, in a huge surf, well, it just had to be funny because we were all laughing and wet by the time it was over with. Phil spared his crew the bath but they also had a little excitement landing in that surf. The rest of the check in was a breeze, and dry.
Spent the next few days exploring London Town. Found the place to purchase some Wifi minutes. But you have to go to the telephone office to pay for it first then bring them the receipt then they give you a password. Opps paying by the bytes not the minuets, can't download any movies. Also found an ATM machine, but my ATM card has expired, shit! Christmas have an airport with a regular schedule airline. Once a week mostly tourist arrive here to go surfing or fishing, sometimes both. They have a few hotels and BB. They have a few stores but the supplies are low. The supply ship, the Kwai is due in any day now. So while there are supplies like a place to buy engine oil I might as well change the oil in mine while I have a place to dispose of the used oil. Wow they even have backpacks. We both need new ones. Seen a few stores that had signs saying beer for sale, but non on the shelf. Same thing with the rental cars/scooters. Sign say for rent - but non available. What about the bus? It's broken - like most places that don't have rules about how much weight a bus can carry, it got overloaded every day until the axle broke. Waiting on a new one when the supply ship gets here. So how do people get around? Just stick the thumb up and out and someone will soon stop and give you a ride. All it cost is a thank you.
To get all the facts about this place just Google Kritimati - pronounce and sometimes spelled Christmas Islands. It's either the largest atoll or the largest land mass atoll, either way it's big but not very tall, 30 feet might be the highest elevation. There are a couple of runways here built by the good old USA. One doing the cold war was used for nuclear testing. Or at least the planes that were used in the testing were base here.
To see this place will take a motorize vehicle but we haven't been able to find any, but the crew from Salinander and Silhouette from Seattle are now here and they were able to make arrangements with the Parks and Wildlife guys for a tour. We all loaded up in the government vehicle and off we go to the airfields and the salt ponds and the bird sanctuary and the bay of wrecks and of course the supermarket. Bought a case of beer.
Next; time to fill up with diesel. But the world famous sailing ship the Kwai is now at the dock and unloading for the next couple of days. Plan is to go to town and between 3 boats buy two 600 liter drums, have them delivered to the dock and then we pump them into 5 gallon jerry cans and then pour that into the boat tanks. Went without any problems. The Captain of the Kwai said it look like we have all done that at least once.
Now that we are all filled up and have a few more cans of food aboard we can start making our way north again.
Less then 200nm for the next leg of the journey. Got an early start Monday, good sailing weather the whole trip. No fish but a nice sail. Arrived the next evening and customs and immigration officials was waiting on me. Phil had let them know that I was only a few hours behind him. He even brought them to my boat after I had my anchor down, maybe I won't have to blow up Leaky after all.
Someone told me that there was "nothing" in Fannin. I guess when a cruise ship stop at a place like this they only stay for a few hours and then gone again, hardly enough time to find a bar. But traveling by sailboat you have lots of time to find things like the "Kava Bar." And two of them. Alcohol is illegal or not for sale here. But to take advantage of mankind's need to alter his state of being they sell Fijian Kava. Every Wed. and Sat. it's all you can drink Kava for $5 and then for a $1 you can enter the pool tournament and for another dollar the dart tournament. Phil and the cook from the Kwai entered the pool tournament, I joined the darts and was eliminated the first round. They did better, they won first place, but it was questionable, was the other guys letting them win just to be nice to the visitors?
On one of our Robo Routes, aka walkabouts, we met this nice lady who was very interested in the story about 2 brothers sailing on the oceans on different sailboats going to the same places at the same time. Somewhere along the conversation we find out she's the nurse from the next village. About the only thing here to do to earn money is to make handy crafts to sell to the tourist off the cruise ships. The nursing job doesn't pay well, nobody gets sick. She tell us a story - a few years ago a tall dark skinned American tourist from the cruise ship talked her into excepting some bills from South Africa and now she can't exchange them. No banks here. After we reach her place and take a look they not from South Africa, worst, they from Dominica, Honduras, Guatemala and Venezuela, South America. The guy convinces her they were worth over $100us. Heck there are four $100 bills from Venezuela that's a lot of money, maybe?
Well not for her and the whole village to think that all Brothers are like that we make an effort to correct the wrong. I was just going to take some pictures and send them to Aaron and ask him to find out how much they are worth, but she insisted that we take them with us, was nothing in her world that she could do with them except maybe wipe her ass. Aaron findings via the internet was just as bad as we thought. She had 17cents worth of Honduran and Dominican currency and a whole $4 worth of Quetzals and $63 worth of V. Bolivars but since the US and Venezuela are not on the best of terms it might be next to impossible to exchange them at a bank. No problem mon, Phil has a buddy from collage that lives in Venezuela and travels to the US once a year. He will check with him.
It's getting close to departure time and I have a load of cloths from the sv Privateer whom we meet in Bora Bora. I promised that I would drop them off at the school teacher's house. I haven't been able to find the school teacher yet so I decided to leave them with the nurse. Phils foot is bothering him again and he don't want to make that long walk to the next village so I have to carry that big sack all the way. Lucky me she was home. Gave her $60 for the bills and a speech about currency exchange rates. I got coconuts, the directions to the school teacher's house, and made a friend. Now I got to carry that bag all the way back. At least her son is going to show me were the school teacher lives.
Mission accomplished and I'm feeling good about doing good until I talked to Phil. He heard back from his friend and he confirmed one of Aaron's findings. That was the black market price a few years ago. Today they ain't worth shit. Might as well wipe your ass with 'em.
Rant; I sure hope the SSOB who paid more for a cruise ship ticket then the average person here makes in a life time, I sure hope the SSOB who rip this sweet little lady off is feeling pretty good right now. He might feel that he gave her some worthless bills for some worthless junk, but it took her a week to make that junk and she is proud of her art work even if you think it's junk. Who did he get over on? Someone who's living quarters consist of two thatched huts about the size of his bathroom whom she shares with her husband 2 children and her mother and 3 dogs 4 pigs and a bunch of chickens. Too many bugs to count. Now I'm really pissed and out of $60 but I do feel good. Tourist like that just really pissed me off. So if that SSOB is reading this, you owe me $60 plus you can . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
LOL, Now that that's over with - the rest of the story. While walking along the road one day we take a detour toward the beach. Might find a shell for Cheryl. Just like most atolls, the beaches are made of shells and coral with a little sand mixed in, so are the roads. But here in the middle of it all is a path paved with stones not the normal foot path of coral. Someone made a big effort to build this or had a lot of time. We follow and come upon "A La Belle Etoile" (means something like Open Air) aka Bruno's place. Bruno sailed here from France many years ago and stayed. Got married, started a family and built this place. This place is very similar to the normal thatched huts, except these have 4 walls and a door. It's a bed and breakfast type of place. Just as we were leaving he shows up, give us a tour of the place. Even have a presidential suite, that's where the president of Karibiti stays when he visits. His sister is visiting from France. To get here she had to fly to New York then to Hawaii and then take the once a week flight to Christmas Island wait there until the supply ship s/v Kwai shows up and then join the crowd of locals for the overnight boat ride to Fannin. It only took them 2 months to get here, but I'm sure the stay was worth it.
He mentions that the crew from Saliander is coming for dinner. We inquire about joining; does he have enough food for all? Sure, but just in case it was a private dinner we stopped by and ask Ra and Pete if they mine if we join them, they said they would be glad to have us, so we also invited Patrick and Kristin from the other Silhouette to join us. It wasn't a surprise that fish was on the menu but it was a surprise he served drinks with alcohol in it. And we thought nobody drank alcohol here but us sailors.
Another interesting thing is the cruise ship compound ruins. A few years back a cruise line set up shop here. There was some rule on the books that say something like; a foreign flagged vessel cannot sail from one US port to another. So the cruise ship would leave Hawaii sail here for a day and continue on with the Hawaiian cruise. The rules must have change because they only come here about every other month for an hour or so. But when the cruise ships stop coming they didn't take their stuff with them. Some of the big buildings like the kitchen and bar are falling down. Trucks and tractors and other machinery just rusting away. Big fuel storage tanks, empty of course. And beer cans everywhere. Some in a big pile others in the bushes. There's enough scrap metal here left from the day to make someone a lot of money. But it's just rusting away. But not everything. The Hobie cats have been converted to sea weed harvesting vessels. The rigs and sails have been modified to fit the canoes. The paddle wheelers the same. The wheel chair is now being use to get grandma around. The stretcher is somebody's bed. The church members are working on one of the generators, trying to get power to the church. Some of the buildings are now someone's home. The fence is now a pig pen. And the weeds have taken over the garden and the orchard.
Another money maker is to paddle outside the reef and catch tuna. Some of the fish was almost as big as the dugout canoes they used. Some Japanese fishing company donated some freezers and a couple of generators. One of the generators won't start. I go back to my boat get some tools and begin to trouble shoot. My best guess - not enough compression and if that's the case it's going to need some parts. The JFC will just have to bring another one.
Heading back to the world.
November 15th or 16th depending on which side the date line you are on. Where I'm at it's Saturday but just a thousand miles north in Hawaii it's Friday, but my log book say I left at 1000 local time. Was that Fannin or Hawaii? Don't mater, it the same time in both places. But whatever day it is we decide to set sails toward Hawaii while the weather looks good. Just Drifting just made it to Hawaii and ran into a bit of bad weather. Damage to his sails, all he needs is a sewing machine. The Grib files and the weather faxes say the winds have died down and they were right. First few days 5-7kts of wind from the NE.
The book say get as far East as you can on this passage, since I have to motor anyway to charge the batteries and maintain some boat speed I go NE instead of N. Found that counter current the book talked about going East. I motored East for half a day until the winds picked back up. The weather fax said there was a hole in the ITCZ, a place that always have bad weather, it must have reorganize or I miss the hole, either way the winds came back with the rain with lighting. Then the wind stopped, dead calm except it's still raining cats and dogs, nothing else to do might as well take a nap.
Nothing broke. Except the wind vane paddle came loose and I'm too lazy to put it back on. I have Otto with a new ram to take me across. Phil didn't fare so well in his storm. His leech line on his main broke, but he jury rigged it with electrical wire. Damn electrical engineers.
When the winds were light he keeps sailing north while I motor NE. I'm about 50nm east of him and trying to get even more east, he's headed straight to Oahu. When I almost reached the southern end of the Big Island I'm about 125nm SE of him or a day away - then the wind shifted, just like the book said. I'm on a close reach and headed straight for Honolulu, Damn I've been on this close reach every since leaving Fannin and just about tired of this. Phil is on a close reach and headed straight for Kauai. I have to slow down not to make landfall before sunrise especially with all the AIS traffic. Haven't seen a ship in a week, now they are everywhere and what are those shiny things in the sky making all that noise?
Welcome to America. November 25th at 0900 local time I'm tying up to the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor waiting on Customs and Immigration and the Harbor master. Saliander made it in yesterday and since we talked everyday on the SSB they let the officials know I would be there shortly. What happen to Phil? He finally made it in around closing time. Got tired of tacking and turn on the motor for the last couple of hours. He'll have to wait to do his check in. Irie II wins another. But all those sirens gonna have to go, this place reminds me of America, I rather be listening to the roosters crowing. Hey a reggae station on the FM radio, now I Irie too mon.