Schooner Seawanhaka

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Posting - Fanning Island, Kiribati (aka Tabuaeran Atoll)

Date and Time:

May 17 - 21, 2004


English Harbour, Fanning Island


May 17th (Day 23) - Tabuaeran! After suffering the cruelty of the fickle winds so close to our destination, we have arrived. The day dawned to find us looking at a squat atoll covered in green trees and ringed by white beaches. This even overcomes the indignity of having been spat at by a squid in the night, his black ink spattered across myself and the bow of Seawanhaka, like gunfire. I certainly seem to inspire the wrath of the beasts in the sea. I swear I did not do anything to that albatross. Tabuaeran stirs our hearts after such a long passage: the emerald green lagoon, the green palms in the sunshine, roaring surf, coral and igneous rock under our feet, our first steps off the boat in over 3 weeks. The inhabitants are quite friendly, with bright smiling faces, but it is staggering to consider life in such a remote place. Tonight we feast with the other crews on a fresh catch of barracuda, and we will make a special treat of our bottle of Vodka. - Mike

May 18th (Day 24) - Fanning Island (Day 2) Wow, how to explain our day today is no easy feat and I am sure I will not be able to do it justice. So as a summary of the fantastic events that occurred today I will begin with sunrise over a perfectly still lagoon in a tropical paradise with fish splashing about and palms waving lazily. Next we watched the 200ft cargo freighter loaded to the gills with people and stuff run aground when attempting to depart Fanning Island. Then there was the harrowing event of our outboard motor quitting and the subsequent threat of being carried out to sea through the lagoon pass, then we paid a visit to the resident surfing king, Chuck on his 60 foot steel "Fanning Island Trader", quite a site for sure. He gave us the local tips for snorkeling which we then proceeded to do as a warm up to the most spectacular "drift dive" on the planet. On the warm up snorkel, we managed to see Manta Rays, Barracuda, many multi-colored schools of fish and vibrant coral. A sumptuous lunch was then provided by Chuck and his local Kiribati family aboard his vessel which consisted of freshly caught fish, fried breadfruit, papaya salsa and a coconut/breadfruit soup. Outstanding! This finally prepared us for two wild rides as we rode the incoming flood tide from outside the lagoon, through its narrow passage and then into the middle of the lagoon. Absolutely outstanding! Imagine free-floating in warm waters, flying along at 6 knots as you skim the ocean bottom, its coral, fish, drop-offs and color changes. Rays, schools of fish, coral and the constant excitement of speed culminated in a sheer drop off into the "blue lagoon abyss"…difficult to describe. Finally, we managed to return to Seawanaha and host a relaxing evening of beer and chatting with the other cruisers currently anchored besides us. Geez, not a bad day in paradise - Darren

May 19th (Day 25) - Tabuaeran (Day 3) - This island rocks! It truly is a tropical paradise. Today our unofficial event organizer, Chuck, rounded up about 15 people to go crab catching on the other side of the island. We motored across the lagoon to the far side of the atoll where only a few people live. Catching crabs was crazy! They scurried all around and tried to pinch us. We also saw lizards and lots of birds in the jungley forest. There was even a baby booby bird who fell from its nest and sat chirping at us (it was very furry and about the size of a small chicken). We cooked up the crabs and had a feast of crab legs, rice, coconut-breadfruit pudding and coconut juice. It was heavenly. On our way back across the lagoon we were trolling 2 fishing lines and I caught my first fish ever! The first bite was a barracuda, which unfortunately got away before we got the net around it. Successfully caught a blue trivali fish. There aren't many other cruising boats here but the few here have become an immediate community of friends. I'm overwhelmed by how amazingly friendly both the locals and the island visitors are…everyone is welcoming and shares what they have with you. It is such a charming place and it will be sad indeed to say goodbye to Tabuaeran. -Elizabeth

May 20th (Day 26) - Tabuaeran (Day 4) - We completed our exit documentation with the immigration and customs officials on the island. "Government House" is a small, squat building with stalls for offices, each with a desk, typewriter and rusty filing cabinet. The windows are covered only with chicken wire. We then went to Johnny's, the local convenience store, selling canned food, radios, cigarettes, and more. Darren mailed a postcard to himself as an experiment. Given the next supply ship may not arrive for 3 months, and his postcard was unceremoniously dropped onto an unorganized pile of new and old postcards, this could ultimately challenge the "viscosity of pitch" studies in Australia that have been running for 75 years (it has dripped twice). Roland, a Norwegian Cruise Lines rep, was kind enough to loan us bicycles (few activities compare to the simple pleasure of riding a bicycle), which we rode around to the far side of the island, to the old British relay substation. This massive complex of concrete buildings served the transpacific cable that went from Australia to Canada. Villagers now live in the buildings. We pedaled for miles through the tropical sun and heat, passing copra harvests, seaweed farms, small huts, and dense forest. The children play what appears to be dodgeball meets cricket. While this is truly a beautiful place with beautiful people, paradise does have a bite. The island is riddled with disease, and people hold large celebrations for the first birthday of each child as a great achievement. The wind has returned, and tomorrow we sail on the morning slackwater, 7am, for Suwarrow Island, then on to Pago Pago. - Mike

May 21st (Day 27) - We slipped away from Tabuaeran unceremoniously early this morning and are back sailing on the Pacific today. Last night we said our goodbyes and hosted a little dinner party on Seawanhaka. It's nice to be sailing again and the weather has been pretty exciting. We ran into several big squalls…the wind changed from only 2 knots to 25-30 knots in a matter of minutes. Then the storm blew by and we are drifting along again. The weather on the ocean moves so quickly! We are sailing south toward tiny Jarvis Island (only 1 mile by 1-3/4 miles in area) where we will stopover for a day. Since Jarvis is 23 miles south of the equator, we are planning a big Equator Crossing party…big, of course, being a relative term since no one lives on Jarvis Island and there will be exactly 4 people at the party. - Elizabeth

View Photos from Fanning Island:

View Previous Postings:

April 24 - May 16, 2004 - Pacific Ocean Crossing
April 19, 2004 - San Diego Bay, California
April 4, 2004 - San Diego Bay, California

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