Haganes - 6th October 2011. Fanning Island.
Haganes – Fanning Atoll – 6,500 miles from Singapore – 4700 from Panama 6th October 2011. - 03 51N – 159 20W
After head winds, counter currents and uncomfortable seas on the nose from Majuro where we refuelled, we had a few issues that needed sorting (mechanical ones that is), and decided that some calm water might not do any harm for a couple of days while we did the repairs.
Palmyra was my first choice but after arriving there were met outside the reef by a delegation of rangers from the island. Transpires it is a wildlife sanctuary with U.S. park rangers in residence and you are not allowed there with out a permit from Hawaii, a mere 1,000 miles to the north. It was a disappointment, getting there in these conditions only to be turned away. Looked like a nice place to visit also. Anyway we just had to head south and came down to Fanning Island, 200 miles further south.
Arrived at midday the following day. Very tricky little entrance through the reef with a 6kt current flowing out and a curve in it. Get the bow too far off centre in the current and you're in more trouble than the early settlers. But we made it through with out any trouble and I’m sure as usual, it was only the skipper who was at all concerned about the manoeuvre.
Haganes in the lagoon at Fanning Atoll.
The morning after or arrival, a small alloy landing barge craft came out with the official party. 6 of them. A policeman, 2 village wardens, a couple of hangers on and one guy with “Official” hand written on an old white polo shirt. They parked in the galley and asked for lunch. Carol had been cooking up a few meals from the freezer contents (which has thrown in the towel) and before they finished lunch they’d gone through a large bowl of pasta and another one of pork bolognese sauce, a big bowl of mixed veg, 4 fried chickens, 5 kg pacs of franks, 2 loaves of bread and 8 x 1.5ltr bottles of coke and 7up. If that wasn’t enough they each took a large plastic bag of goodies with them. More packets of franks, more bottles of 7up, about 10 each pacs of instant noodles etc. etc. but they didn’t forget to charge us $50 for anchoring fee and $30 for having to bring their own boat out. No change either so lets call it $50 for the boat. Oh, and just before they left they said they were short on petrol and did we have any spare. I said “Not spare, but you can have 10 litres for coming out to pick us up and bring us back tomorrow” – deal done.
The official boarding party. Guess which one ate most of the tucker. They only put their uniforms on 10 times a year when a boat comes in.
John with the local constabulary. (Jeremy).
So John and I went ashore yesterday. We took 10 kg bags of flour of which we have surplus, in the hope of trading for some vegetables. We had a good walk around but couldn’t generate a lot of energy amongst the locals in terms of trading. We’ve left word, and a couple of bags of flour, with a couple of people to the effect that is anyone has anything to sell and wants some rice or flour in payment, come out to the boat and we’ll be happy to trade.
When they brought us back out, another 6 came for the ride and I think in the expectation of revisiting the lunch show – a couple got out of the boat, with out a word marched to the galley and sat down waiting. They got a shorter shift this time though. If you give stuff away you compromise your trading position (is that the Jewish side of my ancestry?) and I get the impression these guys are too used to getting everything for nothing.
Some of the more active guys here spend most of their day out fishing in the lagoon in these craft.
The only shop on Fanning – ‘J.J’s Store’ – Closed due lack of supplies, demand, money and interest. All a bit hard really.
There used to be a bar on Fanning and this was it – The Sand Bar – open in the heady days when a cruise ship used to come by every 3 months in the season. Their liberty boats would bring throngs of punters ashore, both of whom would buy hand craft and have a refreshing drink of whatever they hadn’t run out of. The cruise ship stopped coming a couple of years ago though and I imagine it would have severely affected the island’s G.D.P.
The mayor driving the school bus.
Friendly folk the locals. These people were repatriated here in the late 70’s when Kiribati (pronounced Kiribass) came into being and the islands (Christmas and Fanning) were given to the federation by Britain (who had previously been using Christmas for nuclear testing). Parts of Kiribati proper, 1800 miles to the west, were over populated so they sent a bunch of folk over here to live. Would have been an interesting selection process. There are about 2000 people in 7 villages here and it seems the government supports them with a supply of rice, flour, milk powder etc per person, and for the rest they’re on their own. A small supply ship comes once every few months but very now and then (like now) it is a couple of months late and they have all run out of dry stores. Apparently when we came through the passage the village got very excited because they thought we were the supply ship – sad to disappoint them
A positive affirmation from a local delegation.
Raining here on Fanning Atoll today – first rain they’ve had for 3 months apparently. We haven’t seen much of the sun since we’ve been here and it’s been windy, but this is the first rain. The villagers all have wells for their water so don’t need the rain but the island is so thin, a couple of hundred meters, (and in a big circle of course being an atoll,) that you would imagine well water would have to be fairly brackish.
Rush hour, Fanning.
There’s so much traffic, they all have to go one way in the morning and the other in the afternoon.
Interesting to note that the Island is 1 day 35 minutes out in it’s time. The only guy with a watch was the one with “Official” written in felt tip on his shirt. I noticed his watch was 35 minutes fast and then when we were discussing arrival and departure dates, it was clear we were on a different page. They all convinced me I was a day out and I thought I must have messed up some how with the dateline. They wouldn’t hear any argument to the contrary. Having checked on the net, (and speaking to Robbie last night) I’m right – they’re wrong, and the whole island is operating on a time and date quite separate from the rest of the world. Why not I guess.
Each family has it’s own compound like this one. Well used sleeping platform in the middle under a thatch roof.
One of the more enterprising family compounds, this one with a fence up which to grow vegetables of some sort.
Anyway repairs have moved along. The cooling system will shortly be operating without hosing down the engine room, the fo’csle sump is empty of water and the ship floating a foot higher in the water. The sump pump’s working and the genset exhaust is not pumping as much black smoke and soot into the forepeak. The forward bilge pump still has a wiring issue that McIvor (John) is working on as we speak. In fact he was diving earlier to clear a blocked ‘head’ outlet. (Lousy job being an engineer). He was complaining that the water was so salty here he couldn’t get down with the weight he had. Leaning on the rail with my coffee, I suggested if he let some of the air out of his BC he might find it easier. (Nobody likes a smart arse skipper).
We have also discovered a leak in the fresh water supply hose so that’s another thing to be sorted, but we’re getting there.
Unfortunately the second freezer is not repairable so we have lost all our frozen stores which is a sad waste of food. Some of it we were able to give the locals but the rest is toast.
I’m hoping we’ll be in a position to head off tomorrow for Panama. I intend heading off on a course of 70 degrees for the first 700 miles to take us up to 7deg North where I hope we’ll find some favourable current (The North Equatorial Counter Current). From there its just a 4,000 mile hop to Panama. I don’t expect the weather to be all that pleasant as we will be in the vicinity of the ITCZ but so long as the wind isn’t too severe and we have a favourable current it’ll be worth not seeing too much of the sun. As we move east the wind should come more on the beam and then the quarter. If we have to keep boxing into that seaway and current at 7.5kts, not only does it make it a long and uncomfortable passage, but I would start to get a bit concerned about fuel. As it is we should have about a 6,000 ltr reserve.