Aloha Oahu, Passage to Fanning
It was June 18 and we were ready to leave already! Thanks to all our dear friends old and new for the multiple send offs and parting provisions. We will miss Kailua Beach, wine tastings at Kalapawai, the best udon at Marukame, karaoke nights at the Kailua Palace, mai tais at the Royal Hawaiian, the HOPS crew, Nico’s loco moco (a must with fried rice if you can get there early enough), happy hour at the pub, Lanikai plays in the Park, poke at Hibachi and much much more. Aloha Oahu!
We head out in a light south easterly breeze with beautiful blue skies! If it would only stay this good. It’s been 4 years since our last cruising and we are not in cruising shape. We’ve been working so hard on getting the boat ready there was little time for sailing. We manage to get a little sunburned on this first day- a bit excited and forgot to reapply the much needed sunscreen.
Second day in and we settle into a beam reach. The waves crashing into the hull and sometimes over into the cockpit. They are stronger than a slap but not quite a bashing. I seriously wasn’t ready to get thrown around so much. It’s much different than the wind and waves we had behind us on our crossing from Mexico to Hawaii. Despite the crew having difficulties adjusting, the boat is moving fast. Very fast and straight at the island of Fanning for the first 600 miles or so. All the work we did rebedding hardware was an utter fail. We are wet inside and outside, but it is very warm as we head south closer and closer to the equator.
At about 400 miles to go (day 7 of our journey) the wind essentially stops. Is this the ITCZ - the doldrums? Seems pretty far north but we do know it moves and it seems to be moving with us. We have no way to know for sure. We run into very light wind and confused waves. Light enough the wind vane can’t really steer us and we do a lot of self steering, including a little motoring and some floating. Dark sections of sky move across the horizon bringing rain and gusts of wind. During the day we can steer around the majority of these mini storms. At night the stargazing is otherworldly. With the light winds we arrange the pillows with our heads on either side of the tiller and lay on each side of the cockpit staring up into the sails and beyond to the sky. The stereo works well and we blast music into the night sky, with no one nearby except the dolphins to complain. The Milky Way is quite prominent the later it gets. Our constant companion the southern cross leads us onward in the right direction. This constellation is easy to spot early in the night sky and very easy to lose as more and more stars fill in. Some nights the moon is so very bright it’s best to wait for it to set. After Two days of frustratingly low miles we were rewarded with dolphins two nights in a row. They didn’t seem to mind our small wake. Finally we get moving again Day 11 but only for a few hours. We have a problem with the wind pilot, we’ve fondly named PacMAn. (It’s a Pacific Light wind pilot and it eats up the miles.)It loses a bolt but fortunately Dave has a replacement.
Day 12 and we are still moving very slowly. 156 miles to go and the night brings the darkest sky we have ever experienced. No moon, no stars, cannot even see a hand in front of you. This doesn’t bring any wind or waves and we are experiencing a pretty strong eastern current. The next day we see a whale. A very large whale... best guess is a pilot whale - amazing! Day 14 lots of rain and finally toward the end of the day PAC Man is able to take over full time through the night. Now the trades have picked up with only 55 miles left to go. We head west by pole-ing out the jib. There is a bit of excitement when we hit a storm, tangle the pole, sheet and halyard in the genoa as we try to get it down -fortunately boat and crew come out unscathed. It’s Day 15 and we get about 10 miles out from the island and heave to in order to delay our arrival until morning. At 3 am it’s pretty uncomfortable and a small squall hits us so we move on with jib alone.
Land Ho, 7 am Day 16. And a huge pod of dolphins greet us.
We know we should enter the lagoon of the atoll at slack tide. The million dollar question is: what time is it on Fanning Island, Kiribati? We come prepared with the tide chart but if we don’t know the time it won’t do us much good. We know they are a day ahead and after much debate and review of the chart and world clock on the iPhone we guess it’s HI time plus one day. Turns out we were right. Noon is the time to enter so we sail back and forth outside the entrance until we can pull the sail in and motor through the windy channel. Crazy Love seems to be barely moving - it’s taking a lot of RPMs to power through the wind in the pass. The anchorage though windy and on a Lee shore seems to be good holding for Bruce (our anchor) and we set down the hook with a temporary sigh of relief. We anchored 50 yards south of the sunken wreck (marked on the charts) at 3° 51.42'N 159° 21.48'W
But now we must launch the dinghy and get through check-in. It’s windy, very windy but we manage to launch the dinghy and fly the quarantine flag. It doesn’t look like we’ll be able to row ashore in this wind. We’re hailed on the VHF by the "Fanning Boarding Party" and it sounds like they are coming to board us for check in. That sounds great...except I failed to understand that we were to pick them up at the wharf...oops. Looks like Dave is going for a dinghy ride but how are we to transport all four officials?? And in this wind?? Dave is amazing, hops in the dinghy gets to shore no worries; however, rowing back one official at a time is just not going to happen. In the meantime the weather picks up and I am happy to keep a good watch on our anchor. On shore they manage to hire a boat to take everyone out and tow our dinghy in. Four public officials come aboard and when you add Dave and I the cockpit drains are under the waterline so we're slowly sinking. We manage to get the paperwork filled out. They searched the boat best they could and we were all set. Ultimately we spent $20 for the hired boat - each way as the boarded us at checkout too and a $20 anchorage fee. All the officials were friendly and professional. The horror stories we heard from other cruisers turn out to be unfounded.
There are no supplies on Fanning. They catch rain water and a barge comes every 4 months with supplies for the islanders. And don’t think of taking a coconut... you’ll find yourself in jail for a few weeks!! We only went ashore once as the windy conditions held steady except for one day. It’s a beautiful island with friendly people. The majority live in traditional huts in family compounds. They collect coconuts for copra and Sunday is a day of rest. We headed out just before their Independence Day. It was time to head on to American Samoa. We have plenty of provisions and about half our water supply left.