Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Tuvalu to Kiribati

Some excellent sailing interspersed by gritty visits to the atol islands of Tuvalu. As we go further west and descent -or ascent (north) more accurately- we are having to get used to the Micronesian way after months of having enjoyed the Polynesian hospitality with welcoming smiles. Instead a raising of the eyebrow is our welcome and a silence awaits our first words. In the end we still find ourselves at the table with enough to eat for a week and the pacific friendly faces of course.

In Vaitupu the local policeman who enquired after our papers subsequently invited us to his home every day of our stay there after and we feasted on the local specialities mostly fish and taro prepared in many different ways mostly with coconut in one way or other.

Nanunia is another paradise island on the way to Kiribati where we had to stay outside an enormous lagoon because the blasted entrance was not deep and wide enough for the Thira. All around the island the coralbarrier dropped straight down to hunderds of meters so we ended up ankered right in front of the lagoon entrance with 2 to 3 knots of current on each tide.

The evening was a little bizar as Andre had received an invitation to dinner for all of us from a 13 year-old girl named June. After having watched a group of man build an outrigger canoa while drinking 'grog' -fermented coconutleave sap- we spent the whole evening being entertained by June without even seeing the adults. A touch of bizar especially as we were fetted with an increcible array of food.

Monday, 8 December 2008


After 6 days of sailing with full night watch Tuvalu is not exactly what I imagined it would be, so far... As we were leaving Fiji rather late in the season and after the weather window that provides save passage... we were on the look out for dead calms followed by sudden squals and rapidly forming gales that may turn into tropical storms or worse. In the end we did get a lot of rain but we had a good passage.

Of course nothing really happens on these night watches... but then there is always the one time.. On the last morning night watch -from 3 to 7am- I was neatly tucked away in my sleeping bag and wearing nothing but my sarong for comfort and using my miners headlamp to read 'sex with cannibals in the Pacific' a sarcastic satire tale by a Maarten Troost on two years of living on an atol in the north pacific, when suddenly the wind increased to the point where I had to take the helm from the autopilot.. while holding up my sarong of course. Now the rain started wipping down as well and Cedric emerged from his cabin to an ever-increasing squall wind. Next I had to get up in front to reef the main sail for which I was not exactly dressed appropriately. To the considerable chagrin of the capitan and my embarrassment I had to go inside to get some shorts on. Oh well... win some loose some..

Going through the reefs to enter the lagoon is a nerve wrecking experience every time and it seems to be getting worse as we progress.. we the GPS map off target by anywhere from 20 to 100 meters.. the GPS positioning of the ship not always accurate with the level of complexity increasing and the number of buoy diminish with each reef passage towards the North Pacific.

Tuvalu is an atoll with too many people and animals and very little atoll -or living space-. Water is everywhere you look but it is not the drinkable kind. Pretty dreary to be honest. The people do not even raise an eyelid when they see us, no welcoming smiles nor shouts of bula. Answering a simple question seems to require an extraordinairy amount of energy resulting in single word and grunt response with minimal armgestures. Sure is different from the Polynesians we have met so far in the South Pacific. Hopefully not indicative for the next and remainder of Melanesian islands to be visited for the next 4 months.