Bj's Tabuaeran Tidings: (January 27 – February 24, 2006)

27 Jan 2006 (Freyaday)

I said goodbye to Barb today; she is headed back to Victoria via Kiritimati and Hawai'i and perhaps a bunch of other waypoints. It'll be about a month until we see each other again, which is longer than we've been apart since probably 1991. Wow. Hard to believe. Its pretty quiet on Freya tonight - we'll see how used to it I get, but I'm pretty sure singlehanding is not my cuppa tea.

Seeing Argos off was a bit of a chore, as their anchor chain was securely wrapped under a coral boulder the size of a dinghy. Following some unsuccessful attempts to pull free, I hopped in with snorkel/mask to have a look. I could see the boulder lifting a few inches each time a wave hoisted Argos' bow, but it wasn't relinquishing its hold on the chain. Though the water is only 3 m deep, the vis wasn't so great, so I needed to go down a metre or more to watch what was happening. We tried letting out some slack and then I unwound one wrap in the direction I guessed it had gone in. Then a good horizontal tug by Argos upwind of the anchor managed to pull the chain from under the boulder and they were off. I watched through snoopoculars as they headed out the pass and waved bye to Barb one last time. The weather was great - sunny and 20 knots E, so they should have a good trip.

Back on Freya I rooted around for a 12V bulb, some wire, half a coconut shell, and a scrap of aluminum foil. These parts I fashioned into a lamp for Bwaraatu. Stuffing the lamp and a few odds 'n' ends into a dry bag I dinghied ashore in the bathtub (our 'new' dinghy with the separating floor) and walked to Bruno's. Bwaraatu was appreciative of the lamp and mentioned that he had all the wood to make a mast and boom for his canoe, and that he had a friend helping him with that later this afternoon. He headed off and I joined Bruno to provide unsolicited suggestions whilst he fashioned an old anchor windlass into a wood lathe. Looks like the mandrel will work, but there is still some question of whether the windlass will turn fast enough. He showed me a bread-dough stirrer he had fashioned from an old washing machine (yes, this thing will mix 15 kilos of dough!) Only problem is that the gearbox couldn't handle the stress of stirring the stiff dough; the plastic gear lost its teeth.

I scurried back to Freya for 1800 to have a listen on 2182 kHz for Barb, as we had previously agreed, but unfortunately heard only static. Perhaps the range isn't right at the moment. We'll try again tomorrow.

28 Jan (Saturday)

Time for some boat chores. I carefully selected and cut up one of the plastic fittings kindly donated by Argos, and sewed it into a hole in a tarp we'll use as a rainWater Collection System (WCS). An obliging shower arrived shortly so I could test the creation. Needs a bit more work - there's a low spot keeping the water away from the hole, and the hose has some high points the water has to gurgle past.

I needed food so I made a batch of buns and bread. Yummmm.

Our new dinghy Argosnot needs to be kept out of the sea to reduce the growing green slime, so I rigged up a hoisting harness similar to the one we had on ONS. This dinghy is definitely shorter than ONS, though possibly a little higher on the bow. I have a feeling that, when it isn't flooded, it may be drier than ONS.

Should explain about Argosnot: Wolfgang and Ana on Argos bought a Zodiac inflatable dinghy a couple of years back and recently its floor began separating from the sides. They plan on heading south from here and expect that it will be difficult to get the dinghy repaired/replaced, so they asked Giva and then us if we would be willing to exchange our dinghy for theirs, plus $500. ONS has provided good service since we bought her (used) in 2000, but didn't mind too much doing W & A a favour; it should be possible to get the Zodiac fixed in Hawai'i. So, the day that Argos and Barb left for Kiritimati we exchanged dinghies. Our 'new' one was painted with the name 'Argos', but since that's no longer appropriate we decided to call her Argos-not, or Argosnot for short. Annoyance with the green slime led to an emphasis on the last four letters.

Seafire arrived at noon today, fresh in from Kiritimati Island. Saw them heading in the pass so I hailed and chatted with Karryn. They had a good passage here - took just over 24 hours - but didn't see Argos along the way. We got together later after they had napped and supped, and I picked up some oranges and eggs we had arranged for them to bring. Some of the produce wasn't exactly in its prime, so I volunteered to give up two of our oranges to Giva since Barb seems to not be eating her share of our provisions.

29 Jan (Sunday)

Today dawned sunny and fairly quiet on the wind front (10 knots) so it seemed a good time to finish the rebedding of our starboard bow stanchion. Some chiseling to level out the fibreglass, sanding to smooth it, and a dab of our old friend 3M 4200 to seal it and the stanchion seems as good as new. Except for the missing paint. That will follow some other day...

Whilst working on the bow, I spied a fizz boat with two aboard heading out from town at high speed, aiming at Seafire. It settled to a stop at their stern and one fellow hopped aboard immediately (without the customary "Ahoy! Permission to come aboard?"). I saw Bill scramble out of the hatch, upper body bare, and welcome Bernard, the police/immigration officer, aboard. Speaking later with Seafire I find out that they were all in their underwear and had to scramble to don clothes for the surprise visit. In the kafuffle, Karryn forgot she had brownies in the oven and the bottoms ended up browner than planned. There's an advantage to taking the initiative when meeting with the officials - better to do it on their turf, on your time. The formalities went fine, and Bill chatted a bit with Roland (who drove the NCL-owned boat). Bill brought up the question of mingling with the cruise ship passengers, specifically the possibility of bringing some out to see Seafire, but Roland discouraged that idea, citing liability for safety of the passengers issues. Roland did, however, invite Seafire to drop by and borrow a few of the 300 bicycles to do a bit of sightseeing.

Noon arrived and it was time to prepare for the weekly wine'n'dine chez Bruno's. OK, so far the lunches haven't included wine, but I keep hoping :-) I sliced up a loaf of bread, slathered it with garlic and margarine (courtesy of Seafire) and tossed it in the oven for 20 minutes. Carefully wrapped, it made it to the table with some warmth remaining and was quickly devoured. The most appreciative folks were Robin and Norm (the Mormon missionaries), though Jackson and Naomi (Seafire's pre-teen kids) probably ate the most slices. Jackson has a pretty demanding appetite, and an attitude to match - he several times loudly proclaimed "Give it all to me, give it all to me!" referring to the brownies and bread. Seafire had also made a fruit salad; Giva had baked a tourtiere using canned beef and breadbruit - all were hits. I brought my Mom's jar of ginger pickled zucchini and Robin liked it so much I left her with the rest, though perhaps Gigi was a tad disappointed since she liked it too. Bruno wasn't much impressed, but then he hates cinnamon so his tastes are suspect.

I started reading "The Botany of Desire" borrowed from Seafire. Made it through the apple, tulip, and part of the marijuana sections - pretty interesting. Good book on the histories of a few very influential plants.

Bit o' humourous news - a couple of Cornell U. entomologists have been naming 65 new species of Slime-mold Beetles. Three of their chosen names are: Agathidium bushi, A. cheneyi, and A. rumsfeldi.

30 Jan (Monday)

It's a very cloudy day and we seem to get drizzle every half hour or so. Bill says the ITCZ (Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone - aka Doldrums) is 300 miles wide now and we are under it. Doesn't bother me yet, since the wind also seems to be down under 15 knots and I was tired of the thumping waves. Makes drying clothes harder though.

Stayed onboard and finished "The Botany of Desire". Puttered about, but didn't do any real chores. The wind is picking up and Freya's bouncing is making it difficult to sand the coconut shell carvings. I decided to make a batch of bread, just as Seafire called to invite me over for supper. An offer to bring over cinnamon buns was eagerly accepted, so I finished assembling the treats and brought them over to bake on Seafire. They had prepared rice with curry (not very hot, but Karryn thought it was - they ought to check out Fiji's curry powders :-) and stewed tomoatoes with green beans. The red wine complemented this meal just fine. We chatted, sometimes intensely, about religion, politics, and the environment. Bill's searching for something to do on their return to the Northwest, preferably something to do with conservation of petroleum/renewable resources/disaster planning. He feels, rightly I think, that as petroleum gets scarcer some people won't deal with it in a calm manner: panic and fighting may break out. Some countries' leaders already have voiced scary opinions (e.g. GW Bush).

While the buns were in the oven we played poker. Naomi and Jackson didn't ever want to fold, but they fared fine anyhow, as it seemed they got good hands often enough to keep their stakes up. A pause midway through served to get our hands all sticky with yummy cinnamon/sugar/raisins/and margarine. Bill ended up winning at the end; we had decided it was to be the last hand and everyone bet high - his three aces took the pot.

Returning to Freya was a tad exciting in the 30 knot gusts and whitecaps. EvinRUDE started OK but about four boatlengths away coughed to a standstill. Drifting backwards rapidly, and heading out the pass, I deployed the oars and steered for the wharf where I could tie up and try restarting the recalcitrant engine. After a few pulls, the dirt/water seemed to clear out and EVILrude was back in business. By this time Seafire had decided I hadn't reached Freya, so they were scouring the sea with two searchlights. The bright lights, or perhaps EvinRUDE's coughing, must have attracted shoreward attention too, since I also saw a roving light sweeping from there. Seafire pinned me in the glare as I was coming up behind the first NCL tender, and followed my slow progress back upwind and up current to finally reach Freya.

Back onboard I towelled off and hopped into the V-berth. Soon, however, the increasing wind and waves made it too darn bouncy to sleep there, so I remade the bed in our sea-berth where the motion was much more tolerable. Zzzzz.

31 Jan (Tuesday)

Last day of Jan! Time's fugit-ing! My leftover dough from yesterday was quickly fashioned into a loaf of what smells like sourdough and stuffed into the oven. While that baked and I ate breakfast, I listened to Radio Canada International (RCI is broadcasting to Africa at that time, and we happen to get the signal too in the middle of the Pacific) and heard that Canada has a human breast-milk bank in W. Vancouver. Women with a surplus donate their milk to be redistributed to women who aren't lactating or who shouldn't breastfeed their baby (e.g. if they are HIV positive).

I finished off another dolphin carving, and started and finished a frigate bird. The waves seem to be easing and the sky doesn't look quite as angry, so I hope the afternoon improves. While cracking eggs for a sandwich I discovered that four (of the dozen) from Kiritimati I. were bad - the contents were dark brown-black, and the outside of the eggs smelled bad. These got tossed into the sea and two fresher ones tossed into the frying pan. Guess I'd better eat the rest up faster. Interestingly, the bad ones didn't float in salt water, which shows that this test isn't foolproof. Holding them up to sunlight however, made it easier to see the discolouration.

Well, I guess I'll compose an email for Barb. I haven't heard that she's arrived at Kiritimati yet, but she ought to be there by now, especially since it is tomorrow that she wanted to catch a flight out to Honolulu...

Today felt opportune for a shower (not that anyone else on board had had one recently either) so I paddled into Bruno's to say hi and share in his conveniences. His "projet du jour" had been repairing a cabinet of one of the locals. In many of the islands we've visited where folks live in a communal setting, like in the maneabas of Kiribati, each family usually has a place to store their own few personal goods, like spices, plates and utensils, photos, perhaps a favourite necklace. These wooden cabinets stand about waist high and have fly-screens on at least one side for ventilation, and double doors on the front. Bruno had replaced the screen on this one and beefed up the doors with additional bracing; he claimed it was now more like a safe or strongbox than a cabinet. Bruno's other proud innovation today was a new nozzle on his water fountain, that sprayed water over the top of a carved dolphin. It's tremendously peaceful to perch on the bench in front of the fountain, listening to the gurgle of water while one's gaze wanders over the lush green plants and carefully chosen shells and stones arranged about.

Heard that four people had died in the area in the last couple of days! The cook on Nei Momi (cargo ship) expired (bad food?) and they had to bury him at sea; a young baby died of liver problems; a fellow fell out of a tree here on Tabuaeran; and a drunk fellow tried unsuccessfully to swim across the pass during a strong ebb current.

Returning from my fresh water shower, I received the usual baptism of salt water from Neptune's domain, aided by our holy dinghy and boisterous waves. I stopped at Giva for news on the Barb front, and heard that Chuck reports them safely arrived at Kiritimati, with Barb booked on tomorrow's flight out. Yayy! That was cutting the arrival time a little close, but then we did think a day and a half was a tad optimistic for making this upwind and upcurrent run. Valois & I chatted for a bit and he introduced me to "T-Punch" which they had learned about in the Caribbean. As you know, in that part of the world rum is cheaper than mix, and sometimes cheaper than water. So, the ingredients in this T-Punch is Rum, Lime Juice, and a bit of sugar. Mmmmmmm.

1 Feb 2006 (Wednesday)

Disaster! Aaaaack! I had been rooting around in our V-berth stowage, getting out some more flour, when I was reminded that there was still some licorice from NZ in one of our supply bins. I found the right container and opened it expectantly. Hmmmmmm - what's that? Smells a tad funny... Sure enough, the licorice had gone moldy! Yuck. It was a sealed bag too (albeit almost 9 months past its expiry date; no wonder it was giving birth). The shame of it all was that I had been saving it for too long.

In addition to filling the flour container (no bugs seen!) I also filled the cinnamon jar. Somehow it had gone empty.

This morning I worked again on Argosnot. As the floor peeled off more from the hulls, I found that the dinghy was scooping up gobs of water when motoring, making the whole operation rather wet and heavy. Inspection showed that about one-third of the perimeter of the floor had separated from the hulls. Piss-poor manufacturing I'd say - this seam should be melt-bonded together, or a stronger adhesive used. I used up our entire tube of hypalon repair adhesive to try and stick the floor edge on again and then used a hole-punch every 10 cm around the edge of the floor to lace the floor to the hull.

Over to Giva this afternoon on a stealth mission. Val asked me to teach him the secrets of making cinnamon buns - he wanted to surprise Gigi (and not be tethered to her schedule when he wants a treat). He picked me up after a squall blew through (third one today) and we had fun making dough while he told me about his restaurant-owning experiences. He had a friend who owned a pizza joint, and Val has tossed crust, but he says that the dough was always machine-mixed, so he wanted the homemade recipe. During the rising he showed me the calendar he was working on for Bruno and Tyrone; apparently there are no 2006 calendars anywhere on Fanning. I guess no one gets the commercial cigarette packages - the kind that used to (do they still?) have a calendar printed on the inside. Smokes here are made by cutting tobacco off a hard packed square and rolling it in dried pandanus leaves.

In the middle of rolling out the buns, a big red inflatable zoomed up with Roland at the helm. He had taken a couple of photos this morning that he was hoping Val would print out. Turns out Val had been at the same point this morning and photoed the same garmungous fish being hauled out of the water by two locals - it was only a foot shorter than them and must have weighed about 90 pounds! Zowee! Roland stayed for a sample of the buns and we chatted quite a bit. He doesn't seem like quite the ogre some stories have made him out to be - he offered that we could borrow (not in the S. Pacific sense :-) the NCL bikes to tour around on, on non-cruise-ship days. He's leaving Fanning on the last ship out in March, when it departs for dry-dock, and will be spending some holiday time back in BC with his relatives. Because Val gave him a hard time about not bringing any beer, Roland invited us to his house tomorrow at 1630 for some brews and maybe shooting some pool.

2 Feb 2006 (Thursday)

Well, we didn't shoot any pool, but had fun anyhow! I reassembled Argosnot and tossed it in the water - even before the floorboards were stuffed in the bottom I could see that the hypalon glue was not going to stick well to the hulls. Oh well - at least the lacing will do some good for a while. I and the not-quite-set-yet Cocoa Quickies rowed ashore and wandered up to Roland's pad in the NCL compound. They have several residences scattered about the mostly-rocky terrain inside the fenced yard, ranging from shipping containers with windows and air-conditioning, to 500 sq. ft. wooden bungalows. The landscaping, as mentioned above, consists mainly of rock, with some pebbles thrown in. It does appear that efforts are in progress to clear some paths and arrange the rocks in an appealing manner. Roland was seated with two other folks around a picnic table and I was welcomed and quickly passed a cold beer. Yummmm! I was introduced to the two Norwegian engineers, Sværre and Bjørnar (good Viking names), who are here for a few months to work on electrical, mechanical, and engine maintenance. We spoke scandihoovian and generally made fun of the rest of the world. Val showed up just as we finished discussing Québec separatists, and Gigi joined us later (after quilting) and about the same time that Tyrone strolled in. Beers all around, plus some taco chips with delicious sour cream and yoghurt dip made fresh by Roland. The more the merrier - Bill and Jackson noticed the party and came by too. While Jackson was climbing a tree (discouraged by Roland, see above note about person falling out of tree), Bill was offering knives, soap, condoms, and razors to Tyrone. He then, rashly the rest of us yachties thought, started asking Roland more questions about cruise-ship day and about mingling with the passengers. As expected, Roland said that wandering around was OK, but taking them out boating was discouraged, and that the Hotel Director (another name for Cruise Director?) would fetch security if he/she noticed yachties hanging around.

After dark, and four or five beers later, Roland, Giva, Sværre, Bjørnar and I retired to the upper floor of the only mansion on the island. Built in the early 1900s by the British, its tall ceiling, wooden floors, and verandah around the 2nd story harken back to colonial days. The rooms are mostly empty, except for a kitchen on the main floor and a pool table on the top. We sat around a red gingham covered table and feasted on roast beef, rice & mixed veggies, fried breadfruit, corn on the cob, and pork cubes! To drink we could have more beer, or choose from Coke or mineral water from the fridge. We chatted about sailing, in both small boats and big, and what some different countries are like. Sværre is from Brazil and is married to a local there, but has been working on boats for about 30 years. When he's at sea, he earns $11.5k / month! After cleaning our plates, Roland dug a huge tub of vanilla ice cream from the freezer, and we married scoops of this with large squares of chocolate cake. I'm stuffed!

Earlier today I assembled the electronic timer kit I had picked up in NZ at Dick Smiths (Radio Shack for Kiwis). Bruno has a half-baked automatic timer for watering his garden and I think this thing will finish it off... We'll see tomorrow.

Coming back after cruiser midnight (9pm), Evilrude decided to die, but fortunately Giva and I were buddy-boating. Perhaps E needs some gas, or perhaps that carburetor really ought to be cleaned out...

3 Feb (Freyaday)

Yep, it was the carburetor that needed cleaning; this am after pulling the bottom bowl off (took only 15 minutes - getting faster at this - could get a job at a race track maybe :-0) found a half-dozen bits of greeny grains of agglomerated dirt. They were hardish, but could be crushed like aspirin tablets. Don't know what this mystery gunge is, but we oughta put an inline fuel filter on the hose coming from the tank. Where's Canadian Tire when you need it? Cleaned and flushed the bowl and reassembled EvinRude, then tossed it onto Argosnot. I also grabbed the circuit board I had worked most of yesterday on - this is the timer kit that I bought on sale in NZ that was just waiting for an application. The rest of the dry bag I stuffed with some laundry and the bed sheets - these latter had gotten rather salty from spray flying in our hatch (in addition to unwashed Bj).

Off to Bruno's, where I attached the timer circuit to his garden water pump. The timer is triggered by a wall clock whose hour hand wipes across and shorts two contacts between 6 and 9 o'clock every day. The timer then turns the pump on for 15 minutes. Bruno had previously worked with another yachtie here and they tried unsuccessfully to get the clock to operate the pump directly. This new circuit is more tolerant of the intermittent contact with the wiper and after a few hours of diddling with resistor values to get the sensitivity right, works. We'll see over the next few weeks if it continues to cooperate. It's overkill for this simple application, but the blinking LEDs add a lot of je-ne-sais-crois to that corner of the workshop :-)

I gave a couple of the carved frigate birds to Bruno and he had fun today attaching them to a stick. Initially he was going to set it up so they rotated in the wind, but I'm happy to report that this didn't quite work out (I had visions of something like the garden ornaments like ducks with spinning legs). They are now hanging over by the water fountain.

Our banana bunch is quite ripe now - been eating a few each day for the last couple of days and they are almost optimum now. I suspect in three more days I'll be doing a banana cake. Giva was drying a several trayfuls of 'nanas two days ago as their bunch ripened a bit faster than ours. Interestingly, the rest of our bunch, which has been hanging at Bruno's in the shade, is still green, so I guess sunlight speeds ripening.

Midafternoon the secret project that Gigi, Nukai, & Benni had been beavering away at all week came to a close, with the presentation to Bruno of the very beautiful quilt the Fanning Island Quilting Assn had made. It has a sailboat on one side, complete with French flag, and stylized waves with embroidered names of Bruno's family (including animals) on the other side. He seemed very pleased with the gift, as were the rest of us with the chocolate cake Gigi had made to round out the mini-ceremony. We enjoyed a plateful each while sitting by the fountain.

Simba (Bruno's dog) is under the weather at the moment. Just after lunch there was a loud dog scrap out on the street, and a short while after Simba comes limping back, with a pad on one of his hind legs half torn off and bleeding. He lay licking his wounds for a while, while we felt sorry at all the flies crowding around, before Val tore a strip of cloth and wrapped it around the foot. Simba was remarkable patient with this first-aid, though he started licking the antiseptic wash off immediately, so Val and Bruno had to wash it off with water before rebinding the foot.

Word's getting around about bread-making. Gigi thanked me for teaching Val, and says that he's now the chief breadmaker on board. Karryn had had problems with her bread being dense, and my advice to watch the amount of flour added and to just let it rise longer seems to have done the trick. Robin gave me a bag of BisQuick that I said I'd turn into bread for her and Norm; she was a bit hesitant about cooking in a pot and I said I had to do bread tomorrow anyway.

Evinrude got me back here fine, so the carb cleaning seems successful. Val tells me there's email from Barb reporting her safely in Victoria.

4 Feb (Saturday)

Spent the morning on Freya making dough and doing a couple of fix-its. The bumpers on our ladder were starting to fall off again, despite the silicone put on a few weeks ago, so I drilled four holes and riveted them in place. Now they aren't going anywhere... A few days ago during a particularly splashy night I noticed that water was seeping in our forward hatch dog and dripping down onto our berth. This time, disassembling and rewaxing the shaft went a lot faster, since it was pinned with screws instead of rusted split pins.

I dinghied over to Giva to fetch and send mail, and then stopped by Seafire where Bruno was enjoying a mid-morning coffee. I passed along a few more ripe bananas and we all chatted a bunch (some rather intensely and more than others) but the dough was waiting for no one, so I escaped back to Freya. After a bit of woodworking the bread was ready so I rowed ashore and gave a loaf to Robin & Norman ("Now we won't starve!" [I think the rice is getting to them]) and half a loaf to Bruno. Magali was fetching some flowers for a dance that evening. I asked where it was going to be held but got a vague kind of gesture, "...far end of village."

Hmmmm, seems whenever something is working (Evinrude), someone else starts coveting it. This time it is Bruno that is making "I would like to buy it" noises. I told him that, while Evilrude has some quirks (hah!), we've come to understand them and believe we had better stay with the devil we know. Now if Bruno had made the same offer during a particular two-week period in Fiji...

The wind has been easing all day and I think it's now below 10 knots! Woohoo. No rain either. I made a fried egg sandwich for supper and discovered yet another spoiled egg (that makes 5 out of the 12 so far). Yeeech. Seafire called to ask when the cruise ship usually came in and when the food was out. I ignored the part about the food, told them that the passengers start arriving 1030ish, and made a mental note to talk to them about communications security on open radio channels.

5 Feb (Cruise-ship day)

After a really restful calm night, I awoke early and deployed our Canadian flag for the benefit of the tourists. I notice that our Kiribati flag is even more tattered; I really ought to sew up a new one. Soon... I tuned our VHF to scan channel 74, to keep up with developments, and heard that the Norwegian Wind's ETA was 0920. I also found out that Sværre was due to ship out today, having completed all his electrical fix-it projects. Drat - I had hoped to maybe chat a bit more with this big friendly bear of a Norwegian.

Time to cut down the banana bunch and store the remaining dozen or so in a bucket, as they are now all so ripe they are in danger of falling off. In the check-offable category (i.e. was on the to-do list), I checked and topped up the batteries - they were getting a bit dry, so I was happy to see that we had squirreled away some rain water in the fridge.

Argosnot earned it's name today - the starboard oar has started popping out of its socket. The retaining pin seems to have become displaced, bent, or stuck. Some fiddling with it using a pokey tool didn't seem to help; it's hard to see what's happening at the bottom of the hole. I notice that the oarlock designer neglected to make a drain hole for water and junk. For now I motored ashore and anchored off the beach (since Argosnot's bottom is already in rough enough shape without also dragging it onto the sand).

Seafire had arrived just ahead of me, and Bill passed on the news that he had chatted with Roland last night, who had requested that we yachties lie low for a couple of weeks, as there is a new hotel manager who really doesn't want/need any incidents. Well, I thought we were lying low usually, but in the interest of furthering relations with Roland I figured I would give it a go. Besides, Seafire had made food (including brownies) to eat at Bruno's. I took my book and sat by the fountain while waiting for lunchtime. Simba is doing better - the paw isn't bleeding anymore, but the pad really has separated over a large area. I wonder how it will heal...

While at Bruno's a group of five tourists came wandering by, asking "Is this where Bruno lives?" We were wondering how to answer this (Bruno is usually quite happy when the boat leaves), but it turned out they were Mormons who had met Norm bicycling, and he had invited them by to see his temporary pad. Two were from Calgary, one was a Kiwi now living in the US, and I didn't catch where the other two came from. The ex-Kiwi was downplaying differences between Canucks and Yanks, so I fell back on the old standby, "Well, Kiwis and Ozzies are pretty much the same aren't they?"

6 Feb (Monday)

The wind continues low - and most of the day until early evening has been sunny. Now, as I write at 2030, it has been raining for about three hours, sometimes harder, sometimes softer. We've collected about 12 litres so far - woohoo! Before I hit the sack I had best empty the jerry into Freya's main tank.

I got the exercise I needed. What a good feeling I have now; lassitude without sluggishness. I rowed in and changed at Bruno's into something I haven't worn for months - jogging shoes. After a brief stretching (I figure there's less need to 'warm up' in the tropics) I headed out on the road to Bwaraatu's. About two minutes into the jog, just as my breathing was settling in, I pushed into a cloud of smoke coming from some burning leaves. Drat - no deep breaths for the next hundred metres. My stopwatch was going and I figured twelve minutes out and twelve back would be my goal, with a walking break in the middle. Rounding the school yard on the way out I passed a passle of kids who yelled out, "Where are you going?" I didn't stop to explain the weird idea of going for a jog with no fixed destination - just made do with an energetic "Mauri!" At the 12 minute mark I had made it as far as the start of the seaweed farms, so I happily slowed to a walk for four minutes. On the way back my legs were feeling rather rubbery, so I clambered down and around the deep ditch just by the school, instead of leaping over it as I had on the way out. My training plan got modified into a seven minute jog for the second leg, but other than that I counted it a success. Bruno's shower's cool water felt wonderful!

As I approached Bruno's island resort I heard as unmistakeable voice shouting, "Liar! Liar! He said 'True Love'" and "I'm not a witch; I'm your wife!" Someone had rented The Princess Bride and I gladly joined the screening, interjecting my version of the lines occasionally.

On the path I encountered Roland, carrying a can of corned beef he said was for his late lunch. The cruise ship visit yesterday went well, though he said it was a long day as the last launch didn't leave until 1715. I invited him over to Freya for dinner on Wednesday.

My shore visit was productive in another way - Bwaraatu had donated some papayas to Freya and Giva. He was discussing with Bruno how to fix the bike he was on, as the handlebars had broken off the steering post. Bruno thought welding it at NCL's was the best bet, but they were on their post-cruise day off. Bwaraatu left to look for another bike to borrow so he could return home with his bag of breadfruit.

I heard that today was the first day of school after the break, and it was accompanied with a typical Kiribati story. The kids show up as do six of the twelve staff; the remainder of the teachers are on the Nei Momi slow boat somewhere between here and Timbukthree. The principal decides to send all the kids home again while he and the few staff discuss class and schedule arrangements for the interim until the rest of the teachers arrive. To me, this seems like a very after-the-fact action - was not everyone aware that the cargo boat has not come in yet? A proactive principal would have rearranged the schedules before the first day of classes, so that it wouldn't have been necessary to send everyone home. Oh well...

The radio was hopping just before dark, with Naomi negotiating a sleepover with Magali so they could go to school together in the morning. Karryn kindly rounded up an overnight kit which Bill rowed in the rain to shore to deliver. They were probably happy to have one less body on board for a change.

7 Feb 2006 (Tuesday)

Rain, rain, rain (35 litres added to our tank!) The ITCZ is parked right over Fanning according to Val's weather reports. Not much wind, happily, except for two hours last night during an extended squall, when I retired to the sea-berth. I spent the day cleaning Freya (wow, the cockpit scuppers were swirling serious dirt for a while) since I'd invited the other boats over for an LED-building party in the afternoon [Ed. note: who else would come up with such a party theme?]. Oh yes, and I also fixed an amplifier of Bruno's ex-wife's. It had been hooked up backwards to a battery (I think that's the leading cause of electronic death here) and needed a new fuse and diode. Oh, double yes, I also fixed our busted solar-shower spigot shaft, substituting a stainless steel screw for the stupid plastic handle.

While Val, Bill, and Jackson were here Roland swung by after a fishing trip and kindly dropped off seven fish - I kept two and Val took five. I gave Roland a half-dozen fresh gingerbread cookies in thanks.

In baking the cookies I tried using the last two eggs, but they had both spoiled. That's 7 bad eggs out of twelve - not good odds. I'd guess they maybe were put away wet, or not turned often enough, or maybe really old eggs. (Then again, the ones that were OK had a nice intact yolk, so that points to them not being all that old)

The moon is now a bit over half full, and it's nice seeing it lighting the night in between showers. I continue improving at Pinball on the computer - haven't touched the Roller Coaster game. Maybe that's better played in company....

8 Feb 2006 (Wednesday)

Allright! Heard from Val that Barb had sent an email saying the surgery went fine and that Dad was cracking jokes. Excellent! I'm sooooo happy!

This morning I emptied our jerry can - another 12 litres of rainwater into our main tank. Yippeee... The actual day was good weather, with lots of sun, some occsl wind/rain squalls, but nothing horrible. The wind has been as north as I've seen it yet, coming from about 25 degrees magnetic.

I rowed to shore to drop off the fixed amplifier and pick some more water from Bruno's but he wasn't in. Suspect he's off fishing again. It was quiet around the house, as Robin and Norm were out meeting folks and Magali is in school. Just Simba holding down the fort, with his bum leg. It has started healing, but I wonder if the pad will ever reattach properly as it still looks like a big flap of skin.

Freya is still fairly clean from yesterday, so there was just me to tidy up for dinner. I hopped in the sea and circumnavigated Freya a couple of times to get my dirt off. Boy, is the green slime ever thick on Freya's bow! Gonna take some serious scrubbing sometime... I also hauled out the V-berth cushions for a much-deserved airing. If tomorrow's sunny I think they could use another exposure.

Midafternoon I started hunting for supper ideas. I had already decided to make roti, but I didn't know what to fill it with. I ended up making a bowl each of refried beans; stewed tomatoes + spices (kinda like a salsa); grated cheese; and brown rice with chilli peppers. The rice, when I poured it out of the bag, had crawlies in it, so I floated them off and made a mental note to process the rest of the bag (only one serving left) tomorrow. In the bilge I also discovered that one of our bricks of process cheddar cheese seems to have leaked liquid, which has turned brown. Wierd - something else to investigate. For dessert I mixed up some bread dough and made cinnamon rolls.

Roland and Bjørnar came by at 1740 and we enjoyed a cold beer while watching me finish the last few roti. All seemed to like the dinner - I think the menu prepared by the cook on shore (a local), while good, repeats itself a bit too often. I'm sure that happens everywhere; I know we've felt that way at home even. I heard a few more stories about rude yachties (one arrived and immediately strolled into Bob's office and *demanded* to use his phone. Didn't seem like an emergency, so Bob told him to come back in a week after he calmed down a bit. Another skipper arrived from Hawaii (he was now on his third crew member - the others jumped ship) after having had engine and sail troubles while still within sight of Hawaii. He radioed the US Coast Guard but rather than waiting around for assistance, took off for Fanning because his crew member said he too was jumping ship as soon as they made it to port. Anyway, they ran out of water 5 days out. Upon arriving here, the skipper presents to NCL a list of things he needs (diesel, water, food) and acts as though they are responsible for provisioning him. Bob took pity on him and gave him 50 gallons of water and told him where to buy diesel, but said that this wasn't a place he could get groceries. This wanker of a skipper proceeds on south, and two days later another ship here says the US Coast Guard has an alert out on this boat, as they never informed the Coast Guard that they were heading away from Hawai'i.

Bjørnar has worked on many large ships. The largest wave he saw was on the way to Japan from N. America in 1968. Their 300 000 ton ship was steaming at 12 to 15 knots, into swells that were big enough to push their ship backwards as they rose up the faces. Yikes!

9 Feb 2006 (Thursday)

ITCZ continues to hover over us - 10 litres of raindrops today fell into our tank. I took the opportunity to stay indoors and make us a new Kiribati flag. Hopefully this one will take us through until we leave; the last one looked more like a pennant - one that had been through a war. Broke three needles sewing the flag, but in my defence I must point out that two of them were old and pre-bent. We also have another case of 30 new needles, so we aren't in danger of running out.

Been reading lots. Finished the three books from SeaFire, and Hard Drive from Giva (about Bill Gates and the Microsoft empire).

The sore on my right foot is still there. About a week ago I thought it was finally going away, but then it became itchy and puss-filled again. Two days later I squeezed out a small lump of white rock (coral, I'm sure) and I thought that would be it. Yesterday though the sore oozed once more and I soaked it in hot water, and repeated this treatment again this morning. Poking around with a needle hasn't dislodged anything new, so we'll just wait and see. Maybe there's one more deeply buried bit...

The Nutella I opened a few days ago continues to taste good on bread. Fortunately there is yet one more jar, unopened, so I don't have to feel I am depriving Barb. Hah, what am I saying - she's emailing me telling me about the PIZZA she's enjoying! I think I'll see if I can scare up a 'za myself, using that jarred cheeze I just opened. Still tasted fine, despite dating back to October. It might even have a bit of an aged sharpness to it.

10 Feb 2006 (Freyaday)

We're moving to Frederickton, NB! I just heard on RCI that this wonderful town is setting up free wireless internet access for everyone. The town council wishes to attract more high-tech workers and industries, and they see this as a good incentive. It's the first N. American city to have free internet for the whole area (many places have free access in limited places like libraries).

Went to shore after supper to go hang with the NCL crowd (since they say three's a crowd). Val and I met up with Roland, Bjørnar, and Tyrone and we went to the second floor of the old mansion, where the pool table is. We drank beers and took turns upsetting each other as champeen pool player, and listening to tunes on a blaster they had lugged up from (I think) Roland's house. Well, the others had beers; I just had one, 'cause my stomach was feeling crampy. Instead I drank several fizzy pops and they seemed to sit all right with me. Gigi was invited too, but her knees have been bothering her a lot lately, so she's been staying on Giva mostly. They're sore enough that she's having to down codeine to sleep at night.

13 Feb 2006 (Monday)

The weekend came and went, and I was sick but now I'm better. I went through the stages of upset stomach, scratchy throat, sweaty spells, and now it's pretty much gone. I skipped the Sunday lunch chez Bruno, 'cause I didn't want to spread the germs around. Would have been good too - Seafire made tortillas and brought Mexican toppings. Apparently Robin & Norm went 'woohoo!' and didn't touch the fish that was also in front of them.

Rumour had it that the cargo ship was coming in tomorrow, but late-breaking (pun intended) news now says Thursday. The Chinese fellow who owns this ship apparently flew in to Kiritimati to kick a few crew butts out of the bars and back onto his boat. We were discussing the quality (or lack thereof) of the crew with Tyrone, and he claims they are the bottom of the barrel, mostly on account of the pay being so crappy. The chief engineer makes $50 a week - even I would be looking around for a better boat. The turnover rate is very high due to firings for being drunk or stealing from the cargo and selling it on the side. This latter vice might be related to the poor salaries...

A fancier boat, NCL's Norwegian Wind, motored in today - pretty early too at around 0730. That meant there was plenty of time to set up the food buffet, which I went in to take advantage of. Unfortunately the burgers were overcooked and they were out of tomatoes. The chicken was a bit burnt too. I felt like telling the staff that they had done better last week and the week before that too :-) In compensation, I sat with a pleasant older couple from Kitchener, and we talked about Laurier, grandkids, Alaska, how big the Pacific is, and what we did for a living and for fun.

Gigi saw the ship's doctor about her knees, and got some icecream - I assume it was for internal use, not topical application. She told me afterwards on the radio that the doc reassured her that it wasn't anything really bad and that it should improve.

I had fixed a small power supply of Bruno's and he was happy to get it back, working. We chatted for half an hour afterwards (while the rice was burning - oops!) about what Bruno's going to do when he leaves in the next few months. He's quite worried about his place being stripped/wrecked in his absence, which could run up to a year. Bruno says that if you lock things up, someone breaks in and steals valuables; they know he has many good items. If instead you get someone to live there and guard the place, their whole family of 15 shows up, and every night is a party, and stuff breaks and is not repaired. His best idea is he hopes to persuade the next Mormon couple to rent his place and look after it with Tyrone's help.

Dropped off our celestial navigation book & almanac with Seafire, and ended up watching them try to spear fish from the side of their boat. They got one of the blue/yellow finned ones, but then the rest disappeared.

It seems like it will be a bit bouncy tonite. Oh well...

14 Feb 2005 (Tuesday)

Laundry day, so I bundled up the smelly towels and damp tshirts and went to Bruno's with a suitable bribe - muffins. I had made a batch of orange and choccy bits, using some of the BisQuick that Robin gave me, so after I had eaten my share I dinghied to Giva, bribed them and dropped off email, and then went ashore to bribe Bruno. It's not a cash economy - it's a food economy. While the laundry was drying, which happened fast in the sun, I sat by his fountain and read the rest of Geta. We had a break for lunch when R&N came by, and they enjoyed their fish and rice as usual :-)

Bruno had another bunch of small bananas hanging, and encouraged me to take them to Freya. He says the fellow whom I had repaired the stereo amp for, left the bananas on Bruno's bike. Turns out he's one of the two magistrates, so I guess that's also my get-out-of-jail-free card. (Earlier I had speculated that the amp belonged to Bruno's ex-wife, but it turned out that she was just acting as a courier).

Before I returned to Freya I dropped off four CDs with Roland. He wasn't in but I left them on his back doorstep. I'll likely see him tomorrow.

I spent the rest of the day squidding away at a program to analyse our web site traffic. Hey, it's a living!

15 Feb 2006 (Wednesday)

Numb bum tonite! I left right after breakfast and found Roland working in the beachhouse. He thanked me for the CDs (Great Big Sea, Santana, Tiller's Folly, and The Knack) and outfitted me with a bicycle for the day. It's good to have friends with cargo. In my backpack I had 2 liters of water, 4 granola bars, a book, and the GPS so I wouldn't get lost. I brought a knife so I could live off the land, in case the GPS failed. I also brought the handheld VHF in case I got tired of living off the land. Off to explore the road leading SE...

My first stop was to say hi to Robin. She was about 10 minutes ahead, waiting for Norm. They had been asked to a wedding and were all dressed up. The couple had been living together for 15 years already, and have several children, but wanted to formalize their relationship. No sense rushing these things. Unfortunately, the couple getting married were over an hour late, and Robin was wondering (and hoping that it wasn't) if it was because their baby was very ill last night.

My next rest stop was at Bwaraatu's. Freya junior is still looking fine. B had 'borrowed' some paint from Bruno to touch up some flaky spots on the inside, but I thought the outside was holding up well, including the vinyl lettering. B is still working on cutting wood for his mast. He says the saw he has is very dull and it takes a long time to rip the long board they have. If he still isn't done in a few days I'll see if our tools can help out a bit. His youngest daughter and one of the middle kids were following me around, wide eyed. Cute kids so I took their photo. The youngest (4 years?) was pulling sticks from the fire and walking around with burning brands. No one seemed too concerned, though B did suggest to her that she put it back into the fire instead of leaving the burning stick on the ground.

The road gradually narrows after passing two more village, though it gets less potholey. I guess the bike traffic is not as hard on it as the occasional truck. Since Roland strongly urged that I not immerse the bike in salt water, I carried it across seven fords ranging from toenail to thigh deep. Nowhere was it flowing fast, and it was easy to see the bottom so I just took my shoes off and waded across.

About 20 minutes after passing the last village I pretty much had the path to myself, though I could see that folks do head into the area to harvest coconuts as there are plenty of split husks lying about. There's also plenty of drilled nuts, and corresponding crab burrows nearby. I came to a forest where I was amazed by the number of birds I could hear and see. It points out how large of an impact humans have when one arrives in an infrequented area. The white birds had an amazing behaviour - they would swoop down close (within 3 m) of me and then hover and flitter around my head. They didn't act angry, more curious I would guess.

I kept my eyes peeled but didn't see the famous spiral coconut tree [ed. We did find it a month later - photo to follow], and the two folks I came across didn't speak enough English, nor me enough Kiribatese, to communicate what I was looking for. It was quite a beautiful trail nontheless, and I stopped to read in the forest for about 30 minutes at lunchtime.

Four hours of stop and go at an unhurried pace brought me to the end of the line. I forded one last shallow lagoon and arrived at Canoe Passage, which I couldn't cross without getting quite a bit more wet. On the spit I found a lean-to and some fish-drying racks, so I wasn't the first person there. Still, it did seem suitably remote that there's a good sense of accomplishment at arriving. I stayed another 15 minutes watching the swells, small today, roll in from the east, before heading back.

On coming back through the first village area I was greeted with a query as to whether I could double this fellow back to his house. I pondered a bit, and concluded that he was small enough that our combined weight is likely less than some of the tourists I've seen on these bikes. He perched on the front bar and I managed to wheel us along fine. At one point we beep-beeped an older fellow also on a bike, heading the same direction. Turned out to be the grandfather of the guy I was doubling. They were both going to the same house which is just past Bwaraatu's.

Once back in town, I dropped the bike off with Roland and stayed for a couple of beers. Some folks can smell beer a mile away. We joked about it, but I'm sure there's some truth to it: no sooner had the first bottles been opened than three more people showed up (Bob, Tyrone, Bjørnar). A fourth person was a bit slower - I guess his nose is plugged up some. Island gossip says that the cargo ship carrying the school kids (and teachers) is due here tomorrow. That should provide some excitement. The others were lamenting that it'll be a zoo here now for a while - there'll be all this fresh petrol and cigarettes and Victoria Bitter beer.

I headed back to Freya, tired, at dusk and made a big bowl of KD. A good fun day.

16 Feb 2006 (Thursday)

Feeling ambitious today, plus I wanted to stay close to Freya until the incoming cargo ship had anchored - just in case a quick move out of the way was necessary - so, I worked on boat chores. Specifically, I installed the new bilge pump control panel, installed the new float switch and old spare pump, and rewired the system so it no longer runs through the main electrical panel but uses the new panel instead. Whew! It was going fairly smoothly (albeit at an island pace) but by the time lunchtime and the ship arrived I still hadn't finished. I filled up on bananas and yoghurt, both of which have a use-by date of probably tomorrow, and then headed into Bruno's. Boyoboy - the dock area sure was crowded. There were a good 300 people waiting around to welcome their returning family members. Lots of excitement in the air. I spied Robin & Norman, eagerly awaiting their replacements. They didn't know what each other look like, but Robin said that they were expecting someone with nametags (it wouldn't work to look for white-skins, since the newcomer Mormons are Polynesians from Hawai'i). I thought maybe they could add long pants to the search criteria...

Seafire was nervous about being in the way of the cargo ship after several stories of failures to negotiate the pass (in and out-bound) resulting in NCL needing to pull the cargo ship off shallow water. Once Tyrone was on the point when the captain of one of the ships (following a night of heavy drinking) decided it was time to leave, despite the incoming current. The ship didn't have enough power, the helmsperson lost control, the ship went sideways, and the stern ended up overhanging the spot where Tyrone was standing. He really regretted not having a camera. After hearing these stories, Seafire decided to head for safety, so an hour before Nei Matangare pulled in, they pulled up anchor and headed to the other side of the pass.

I was needing a couple of extra connectors, plus I had promised Bruno I would re-crimp the wires going to his grow-op pump since a few connections were heating up, so I dinghied ashore. He didn't have the connectors I needed, but his shower felt good. Before jumping back in Argosnot I walked out to the point to look at the cargo ship from another perspective. I pointed the dinghy at Giva to check for email, and Val told me there were three! Val had to get a hot water bottle for Gigi (her knees are really swollen and painful :-( so I took the opportunity to read and answer them on the spot. Then Bruno & Magali showed up, which was convenient since he could answer Barb's question about the chainsaw chain she was buying for him at Canadian Tire. I stayed until dusk, discussing electronics with Val. He has a hundred and one miniprojects he wants to do when he gets to Hawaii, and is hoping that we'll be in the same anchorage...

Back on Freya I took Barb's advice to eat more vegetables, so I had some (pop)corn for supper :-) Nei Matangare didn't stay long; they left this evening after dropping off the kids and teachers. Apparently they are headed to Washington Island with more people, then returning here to unload their cargo.

17 Feb 2006 (Freyaday)

This morning I finished the bilge pump project - tidied and marked the wiring, relabelled the breaker panel, and added 2 more LEDs to show that the pumps are on AUTO (with the fringe benny that there is now a nightlight (green) in the pots 'n' pans cupboard). It was getting warm down below with all this industrious activity, so I turned on the fan. I noticed that I have been using it more lately - possibly 'cause the wind has died down a bit.

Midmorning my quidnunc compulsion was alerted when I heard the Sea-Doo(tm) zipping by. Roland was piloting and he stopped at Giva for a few minutes and then headed over to Freya. He invited us to come to a party at the Sandbar tonite - bring appetites and thirst but nothing else needed! Woohoo! He then headed off to the north at high speed, though I didn't see him stopping at Seafire's. I found out later that he went to see someone at the school over on the other side of the island.

A radio call revealed that Bruno needed a syringe and needle. Before we came on the air to offer him drugs too, he clarified that it was to refill his compass with oil, as some had leaked out and there was now an annoying bubble inside. I needed a shower for tonite, so I offered to bring him a spare syringe after lunch. He's been working on getting Ilobaby ready for a passage to F.Poly, sometime in March or April.

I hadn't paid Roland yet for the bicycle rental, so I made a batch of Cinnamon buns for him and some cookies to bring to the party. Val & I dinghied in at 1830 (Gigi's knees still not up to bending activities - she's been on the boat a week now :-( and I was tasked with rounding up barstools while Val and Tyrone flipped chicken wings and ribs on the BBQ. We, Bobbie, Bjørnar and Roland chatted while waiting for the food to cook and the rest of the guests to arrive.

Tyrone had had a sleepless night: cargo that he was expecting on this ship was not onboard. He had ordered, and paid for, $11 000 worth of supplies for his store from a wholesaler in Tarawa. The story he got from the representative on board was that his supplies had been loaded, but while the ship was at Kiritimati they had run out of other cargo and there were still customers wanting cigarettes, soap, oil, etc., so the wholesaler authorized the representative to sell Tyrone's stuff to other people! When the boat got here, Tyrone saw a whole bunch of people walking around with stuff in cardboard boxes with his name on them, and they said they had bought it from the wholesaler's representative. Tyrone inquired how much they had paid for things and it turned out to be more than what he had been charged, suggesting that the representative was making extra profit (in addition to selling the same things twice) and pocketing it. What a scam! He was frustrated, but said that he'd be contacting his sister in Tarawa to see what she could do at the company's office. The rest of us, hearing this story, seemed even more outraged. Bjørnar was ready to board the ship with official-looking papers and say that he was performing a seaworthiness inspection, and that the ship was prohibited from leaving until all the deficiencies were corrected, or until Tyrone got his money back.

Back to the festivities... At about 2000 the MC showed up, and announced that this was a 'farewell to Roland' party, declared the food line open, and everyone dug into the fried breadfruit, BBQ meats, a sausage and macaroni salad, and the cookies (which didn't last long :-) I noticed quite a few folks heaping up plates with food and covering them with foil to take home later. There was plenty of beer, pop, and kokio (sp?)(fermented coconut toddy). I tried a glass of the latter and thought it was pretty good. It was reminiscent of our home-brew ginger beer, but without the ginger flavour of course. Lots of hopping island beat music kept folks dancing; Roland even got up on the bar table at one point and did a dance. Catcalls for him to strip were met with a full moon, but (un)fortunately I didn't get a photo of that moment. Several of the locals lost their shyness with increasing alcohol levels and were fun to chat with. I learned the word for 'drunk', but naturally can't remember it now that I'm sober :-) Val & I returned to our mother ships at 0130 - I think the party went on for another 3/4 of an hour.

18 Feb 2006 (Saturday)

I awoke to some rain, but not a lot was collected, so I guess it didn't rain for long. The day promises to be full of frequent low gray clouds, interspersed with sunny breaks. Nei Matangare returned today, after a quick zip up to Teraina (Washington) Island and back. Looks like they are unloading cargo - I see a motorcycle being lowered in a sling into the wide catamaran they use for bulky cargo.

Feeling like I hadn't been appreciating the sealife enough, I determined to go snorkeling. I put out a general radio call to see if anyone else was interested; Bill replied and we arranged to rendezvous at the north point inside the pass. I rowed Argosnot past the Nei Matangare and rubbernecked the activity. This boat looks to be in better shape than the Nei Momi, but not a whole lot. Perhaps a bit less rust, or maybe the paint is more recent. With the current threatening to push me out the pass, I carried on. As I approached the point, Bill and Jackson arrived in their dinghy and we decided to stay in our respective vessels, drift out to the buoy on the outside of the pass, and tie up to it. The water was pretty clear as it was now 1500 and there was little current at the buoy. B & J had brought their spears - I was armed with the camera. We split up and I happily snorked around for about an hour. Every so often I could hear a metallic 'plink' as a spear hit bottom, but most of the time we were out of sight. The coral in the area is fairly flat and uninteresting, but there were plenty of fish. Once I hovered above a school of more than 100 sergeant majors, all grouped around and picking at the bottom. A few groupers stayed at the periphery of my vision range, and presumably spearing range. As the tide change time neared, a layer of warm murky lagoon water floated closer, riding on top of the cooler clearer water. I had decided to head slowly for Argosnot when suddenly a wide black shadow drifted below me. It was a Manta ray at least 2 m wide, undulating slowly. I was able to keep up with it, above and slightly behind, for over 2 minutes, after which it turned sharply upward, rolled sideways, and sped off into deeper water. Very cool! Definately the highlight of the expedition!

19 Feb 2006 (Sunday)

Being Sunday, it was lunch @ Bruno's day. Giva begged off, as Gigi wanted to rest her knees. Seafire begged off because they are anchored way out in the booneys. Me and my biscuits had lunch with Bruno, Magali, Paul, and Diane (the new Mormons). It was tasty: we had crab, poisson cru with cherry tomatoes, pakalolo (a breadfruit dish, although in Hawaiian it is the word for marijuana), rice (naturally), and chicken from the garden. I had brought in a couple kilos of sugar, so Bruno made lemonade to drink which was a pleasant change from water or powder juices. We chatted and I learned a bit more about the Mormon couple. I think they will fit in nicely here during the 18 months that they are planning on staying - they have lived in places before where showers came out of a bucket and food came out of the sea, and Bruno reports that they are used to fixing things themselves instead of calling for a repair person. One new skill they are acquiring is being able to use a computer. They have never had one, and Val has spent quite a few hours setting up their sat phone email - I think it is almost working - he has to compare some settings with Bobbie's on Tuesday.

Nei Matangare left and the cargo ship Mataroi arrived. As it rounded the pass, I was below reading and Val hailed me to have a look. It was pointed straight at Freya and I was mentally reviewing my options when I saw the anchor plop into the water followed by a big wad of chain. I just hope it holds!

20 Feb 2006 (Monday)

This morning the jerry can had accumulated enough rain (over the past week) that it was worth dumping into the main tank. The wind was above 20 knots most of the day, so I hung out on Freya, reading and coconut carving and squidding. To earn my keep I made a short bungee for the hanging locker to keep the boots and foulies tucked up against the aft bulkhead. Breakfast was blackberry muffins (which taste a bit funny as I forgot the salt) and dinner was Irish Stew. Nothing else of note...

21 Feb 2006 (Tuesday)

Stayed onboard Freya again today, puttering away at small projects. I redid the strap for the hanging locker, as the rubber one had already broken where it passed over the hooks. Drat. Another drat when I discovered that our instruments are acting up, AGAIN! I was trying to see what the windspeed was, and the windometer wasn't registering. Checking the connections down here didn't help, so I suspect we'll have to poke at the one at the masthead. Of more annoyance is the depthometer. It's doing that periodic idiotic reboot thing, where it beeps, the display goes blank, and sometimes comes back again to repeat it all over. I checked the power connections, but even alligator clipping it directly to the fuse panel didn't help. I pulled the instrument off the wall and had a look at the circuit board for loose connections but nothing obvious poked out. I resoldered all the components I could reach and retested it. I thought I had it fixed, for about five minutes, then the repeated beeping restarted. Drat! I resoldered stuff again, for lack of anything better to do, closed up the box and remounted it. It's still cutting out every once in a while, so I guess we can't rely on having a depthometer.

Started reading Michener's Caribbean. Good book! Also finished another dolphin carving - a baby one.

22 Feb 2006 (Barb's Day!)

Yayyyyy! Barb's back in this neck of the sea - she's supposed to land at Kiritimati. I'm sure looking forward to hugging her again.

Better start cleaning up... I gathered the laundry and a few projects and headed off to Bruno's. He was chatty and working on a solar controller belonging (I think) to the policeman. Did you know that the red tractor at the Y-junction in town used to work fine? It had gotten a flat tire, so the driver left it for a few days until it could get fixed. In the meanwhile, folks thought it was fair game for scavenging, so parts were unbolted and in a day or so it became unusable! I thought it was a bad idea parking in some parts of New York; Tabuaeran is just as terrible! In the two months we've been here the poor tractor has become noticeably diminished.

While the clothes were drying I went off to find Tyrone, as he had mentioned an inverter he had bought that was constantly alarming when in standby mode. He & Bruno had looked it over, couldn't locate the problem, and brought it back to the store. Tyrone said that the store was willing to give him a discount on it, but that if he bought it this time he couldn't return it even if we couldn't fix it. So, he was going to think about it. Meanwhile, he has a boom-box that has not been able to play at more than half volume for the past year; it shuts down automatically when the music reaches a certain loudness. He thought the problem started just after he had lent it to NCL for their Christmas party, and they had perhaps blown something. We put it on the bench and pulled the cover. There were a few spiderwebs inside, but nothing untoward. I couldn't see anything obviously burnt or shorted, so started investigating the symptoms further. One at a time, I hooked up the speakers and gradually turned up the volume until the boom-box shut down. (First we checked that the Mormons were out - they were). Eventually we noticed that it could play at full volume _except_ when the tweeter of the right-side speaker was connected. Hmmmm, perhaps that speaker was partly blown. With a screwdriver we pried open the speaker box. Inside was some matted cloth and paper; I thought at first it was some acoustic damping material. Nope, those wires actually look chewed on! Rats had gotten into the speaker, built a nest, and chewed the insulation off the wires. When the music got loud enough, the wires vibrated into touching, and the music stopped. We laughed, and then spent the next couple of hours evicting a cockroach and cleaning out each of the speaker boxes and repairing the wiring inside the one box (the second speaker was also inhabited, but the wires were OK). Bruno had some wire mesh that we affixed over the speakers' openings to keep the rats out but let the sound pass. Tyrone was very happy to have his full volume back - Bruno maybe not so much :-)

Tyrone returned half an hour later to let us know it was beer-o-clock. The island has just received 5000 cases of Australian XXXX beer, with a best-before date two months hence, so lots of drinking happening. He had brought us three each so we could help. I asked about his cargo, and he says he managed to get about $3000 worth of his stuff off the ship, and he bought another $1200 of cargo from another wholesaler. His sister in Tarawa has indicated that the company 'One-Stop' from whom he had ordered and paid for $11 000 worth of supplies denied telling their agent he could sell Tyrone's stuff en-route. Tyrone figures the agent got greedy during the voyage to here from Tarawa and decided he could make a lot of $$$ selling to the 500 passengers on board and folks at Kiritimati. Tyrone is still asking around and says he will be writing an email formally complaining to 'One-Stop'.

The economics of the cargo ships is interesting. Each shipping container can hold about $100 000 worth of goods, and the profit to the reseller on these is about $20 000. The Nei Matangare this trip was chartered to the Ministry of Education, for transporting school kids and teachers. Living onboard in a cabin was an employee of the Ministry, presumably to ensure the ship and Captain adhered to the charter's terms. However, he was also engaged in a bit of extra-curricular work. He had had five shipping containers loaded on board at Tarawa, the contents of which he sold at the stops along the way (it was this person from whom Tyrone managed to buy $1200 worth of goods for his store). So, this Ministry fellow stood to make about $100 000 personal profit from this trip - and he has made quite a few. Apparently each time he returns to Tarawa he buys a new bus, and he now operates the largest bus fleet on the island.

Now, this One-Stop agent was also onboard Nei Matangare. He wasn't a Ministry of Education employee, however, he had paid (bribed?) the MinEd fellow to let him and some more cargo on. I don't know how much cargo he had, but he certainly had more than just Tyrone's, and one wonders how much of it was sold more than once.

Bruno finally received his cement (ordered a year ago) and gas bottle - they were on the Mataroi. We had heard from Wolfgang that there were 2500 bags of cement on Kiritimati, and Tyrone confirmed this, but apparently these bags were _all_ to fill orders that had been placed and paid for many months ago, like Bruno's. Talk about a backlog.

One sad story came out. Two days ago a young child was run over by a truck and killed. He was apparently trying to climb up into the cab, was told to hop off, and fell under the wheels. Bruno saw it happen, and figures that kids are unused to moving vehicles and now that there is gasoline on the island again there may be more accidents like this one.

23 Feb 2006 (Thursday)

I spent this morning wiping the walls and oiling the teak. Freya seems to have gotten a bit mildewy lately - thanks to the high humidity. Still waiting for news on Barb - the original plan was for her to catch a ride back with Argos, and it's about a one-day passage when going west.

24 Feb 2006 (Freyaday)

Got news of a surprising email - Barb is onboard Nei Matangare and will be arriving today! Yippee! Good thing that the Nei Matangare has been hanging around this side of the Pacific, shuttling a backlog of cargo between Kiritimati, Tabuaeran, and Teraina. [Ed. Barb has written separately about her journey. Check the Journal Index for her account.]

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