Wow, wow, wow! Before I begin, let me go back a step or two…
Departure from Samoa was with a few minor frustrations. One concerned how to complete the bunkering process which, I must admit, seemed to be different depending on the person you spoke to. Thankfully, I met a lovely lady at the PPS office (Fuel Supplier) who walked me through the steps and even provided me with the letters required for the two other government departments in Samoa from whom I would need permission from, before being able to book in a time with PPS to meet them and their fuel truck on Apia’s commercial wharf.
Without waxing lyrical about the process here, I have written a small piece for noonsite.com so that the process of how to go about bunkering in Apia, Samoa is known to all. The link to article can be found here.
With Pendana refuelled, customs and immigration departure complete and with forecast in hand we were ready to make the longer than usual (not sure what usual is anymore!) passage to a tiny atoll in the North Pacific called Kiritimati, which is pronounced Christmas in Kirabati.
Again for the weather lovers out there, here is the forecast below that we received the day before departure together with our weather forecaster/routers comments:
“James, there may be some showers/squalls for you on Sat 6 June (UTC) and also around Kirimati . I have added a waypoint at Eq 161W , this helps make the winds on 6 June not so nosey, helps avoid Jarvis Island, and allows us more free tail current around the equator. You may indeed defer from this if you wish (let me know so I can take this into account in my updates). OK according to models it should be 8 to 9seconds and a mix of waves from the east and the background swell from the southwest”.
UTC- HH:MM|—-Lat:/ Long—-:| hPa | lull~avg~gust |Brg-Kt|TWA|Drift@Brg?T|Sig~ocnl
Wind swings across the nose
Waypoint at next line — look at these tail currents.
08-Jun-10:34|02:05N/157:31W|1011|-SW05~06~09|ETA around local midnight
Here is map below for reference re ocean current:
The passage from Apia, Samoa to Kiritimati island in total took seven full days or, in other words, 167 hours at an average of 7.88kts (ok so one hour short of seven full days) to complete. The forecast for the first three days didn’t match the reality as we faced three days of SE winds of between 22-27kts which resulted in a more uncomfortable ride than we would have hoped for. The last four days, however, were magnificent as the winds slowly eased and Pendana settled into her rhythm and the crew came back to life!
On departure from Samoa, about ten hours into our trip, I was thinking that the engine room once again seemed warmer than it should and this was now causing me some concern – I was even considering turning back to port to investigate further. During our stay in Samoa I had contacted James Knight, Matt from On The Water Sydney and James Hamilton about my concerns post the Fiji-Samoa leg when on the last day of the passage the engine room first started to seem warmer than usual. Something wasn’t right! Pendana is bulletproof! We have been in warm waters before! What was going on?
The Commander and Chief, Claire (gotta love this girl!) came up from her engine room (“ER”) check and said, “James, it doesn’t appear the port exhaust fan is working as it should”. With a spring in my step, I went to the ER and discovered she was right. In fact, what had happened was the mounting face plate had slipped over the exhaust fan reducing its capacity to expel hot air from the ER by about 80%. With hammer and super glue in hand (ok no super glue!) and repair complete, I went back and told Claire I was pretty sure our worries about the hot ER were over and within about eight hours this was proved to be the case. Who would have thought! Why didn’t I/we pick it up earlier? All good questions for which I have no answer as checking all three fans in the ER are on the checklist – emmmmm shame, shame, shame!
With Pendana humming along with a nice coolish ER we continued forth. On this trip we crossed the Equator – which was pretty exciting as Claire, Abi and Bianca all went from being Polywogs (people who haven’t crossed the equator in a boat) to become fully fledged Shellbacks, which is the term used to identify this achievement i.e. an equatorial crossing.
On this trip we were once again visited by Albert Ross (the albatross – ref to Albert Ross can be found here) who decided to make an awful mess of the boat doing what birds do – grrrrr!. While these are magnificent creatures, I have decided that enough is enough and that encouraging them to hitch a ride on Pendana is not something that I want to encourage anymore.
For this trip we decided to run a new watch cycle to see if that improved our sleep patterns and somehow allowed a little more time off than usual. The new watch cycle worked really well and is something we are going to continue to use on our run to Hawaii.
As you can see from above, the new watch cycle allows both Claire and I plenty of time to relax, sleep or do whatever we need to do during the passage and does not over burden Abi and Bianca with too much watch keeping. As I have said before, I do not want to force this on the children but rather have them decide that they can do more, which is precisely what they did in this case. There is no doubt that this cycle worked really well for us but I do need to report that the Commander and Chief is still having problems sleeping during daylight hours. I, on the other hand, can sleep anywhere, anytime and in any configuration!
After learning my lesson about night arrivals and with about 24 hours to run we slowed Pendana to 6.5kts to ensure daylight was present as we approached this tiny atoll nation. I am sure glad we did! See image below of where we are currently anchored.
As we approached Christmas Island, remember the ECS (Electronic Charting Software) is not accurate, I slowed Pendana to a crawl and watched our depth sounder slowly tick down 25 metres, … 20metes ….15mtrs ….. 10 mtrs….. I remembered reading on Noonsite that anchoring here should be in approx. 10mtrs / 30ft of water as to avoid being anchored in the surf zone if the wind changes and seas kick up, as such, I said to Claire we would aim for between 10–15mtrs of water to which she agreed.
I must admit, although it pains me to do so, but in 12mtrs of water we could see the bottom. The water was gin clear and as folks know, I don’t like seeing the bottom. With anchor set, I decided I just didn’t like our position and requested that we pull up anchor and move to deeper water. Claire, kindly agreed and we moved (first time). At our second location and with anchor set I said, “What was that? A shark? A monster fish? A turtle? A man eating tuna? So, for the second time, I requested that we pull up anchor and move to a little deeper water. Claire, kindly agreed. Our third and final attempt in sixteen metres of water was perfect – deep enough not to see the bottom yet close enough to still be in crystal clear water – perfect! I know, I know, I’m crazy as we used to anchor in 4 to 5 meters of water in Refuge Bay, Sydney and never had a problem! That’s because you couldn’t see the bottom!
Finally anchored, for the third time (sure the locals thought we were mad) we set about completing our immigration, customs, police check and quarantine clearance and as is becoming tradition on the day of arrival, cleaning Pendana inside and out.
With day two’s arrival we needed to go into town and do some exploring as Christmas Island really does look incredibly idyllic from our anchored position offshore. That said there is a very old pier/wharf here that looks less than inviting.
Christmas Island is a little like living in a David Attenborough nature documentary. I can hear him now narrating away – “Look at these magnificent, majestic Frigatebirds soar above the crystal clear water looking for their next meal. The Frigate is the master of the skies and an ever present danger for the many fish the lie below the turquoise waters”……and on and on it goes. Life here for all animals is plentiful and in fact, the birds are so well fed from what the ocean holds that the fish heads left on the wharf are not touched by the birds only a few feet away. I can assure you that if that was in Sydney the birds would be all over the scraps left behind.
The people here are without doubt the most genuine we have met so far. While the south pacific is our backyard we have always felt that in places like Vanuatu, Fiji and Samoa the reason for the occasionally over the top friendly nature of the folks may sometimes be driven by commercial intentions rather than genuine desire. This is simply not the case here in Christmas Island as the people here are as genuinely friendly and kind as you could ever wish to meet. To put this into perspective, when we were looking for a car to rent (all rentals here are private i.e there is no AVIS in this town) someone suggested we go to the local police station. Why not, what do we have to lose! So on entry into the police station we announced to several officers our requirements for a car rental – an hour later a car was sourced and I was driven by the police to collect the car. These guys went well and truly out of their way and went way above the call of duty not because they had to, but because they wanted to. Hats off to the folks in this nation and hats off to the police on Christmas Island!
While we enjoyed our time at Christmas Island we actually might have left sooner if the weather had allowed as it really is a place that time forgot. Idyllic? Sure. Perfect natural paradise? Indeed. A place the modern world has forgotten? Yes! The slowest internet in the world? Absolutely! So in short, Claire and I were together 110% on the fact that we really aren’t the island hopping, beach going, rouging it types (as we always knew) but were much more interested in being in areas that are well serviced and where internet speeds are faster than dial-up. Hawaii here we come and Verizon, you are on notice that 4G will do very nicely thank you.
I know that for some this may sound ridiculous but the reality is that I, actually not just me but the entire Ellingford clan are, to varying degrees, internet addicts and, as such, feel very unwell without connectivity for any period longer than about twenty four hours, ok, twenty four minutes for me! Claire, the girls and I like restaurants, we like well serviced marinas, we like anchoring in places where the choice of restaurants to go to, is greater than one! As such, to say we are looking forward to the USA would be to understate our position completely. As I have always maintained, for us, the journey really starts when we arrive in Hawaii.
Cassidy International Airport arrivals building above and yes, we were on the tarmac side of the fence as the gate was open so we drove right on in! One charter a flight per week arrived and departs from this remote island athol.
Before being able to depart I needed to do an oil change on the mighty Cummins N14. I am pleased to report that all went well and Abi (my helper) and I managed to complete the oil change in a remarkable 74 minutes which is an improvement on my first solo attempt (without qualified help).
Another job that was required was to take on some fuel at the very scary looking and in a shocking state of repair, Kiritimati commercial wharf. Again, I am happy to report that all went well and we managed to balance Pendana amidships against one of the giant fenders attached to the wharf. Lines were thrown from the portuguese bridge due to the height difference and everything went to plan perfectly. I don’t mind admitting that I went up to this structure a number of times in the tender to plan this docking. Current here is nasty and with wind blowing me off the wharf the approach needed to be perfect. I must confess to some serious nerves about approaching this wharf as it really is a shocker! I may be scared of being able to see the bottom of the ocean but I am not scared of scary wharves!
Keeping this fender from touching Pendana’s hull was the job of five of our fenders and Abi who did a magnificent job.
Claire keeping a close look on the stern line – this really was scary stuff as the ocean swell had us rolling back and forth. Anyway job done!
So, Kiritimati done, Hawaii here we come!