Kiritimati (‘ti’ is pronounced as an ‘s’ so it sounds like Christmas) is one of the largest atolls in the world and has a population of about 4000. It’s part of the Line Islands in the country of Kiribati. Fishing and very limited tourism, mostly from sports-fishermen, are the main sources of income. We anchored in 35′ of water just off the village of London, on the north-west side of Kiritimati. The entrance to the lagoon is too shallow for Apropos to safely transit, but the anchorage has been calm for the past 7 days. A nice breeze and frequent dips in the water helps with the intense heat at 2 degrees north of the equator. A 15 minute dinghy ride takes us to a central location in London that’s within walking distance to a few small stores, a bank with an ATM, a gas station with diesel, and the customs & immigration offices. The stores have limited groceries such as rice, canned goods (vegetables, soup, spam), limited snacks, beer, soda, and produce such as potatoes, oranges, apples, onions, and garlic. We hitchhiked most of the time to get to where we were going. Several times we jumped in the back of a big flatbed truck that was transporting kids home from school. The kids seemed amused at 3 white men hanging on for the bumpy ride along the partially paved roads. There are no restaurants in London, but a hotel about 4 miles north has a limited menu with cheap and tasty fish and chicken dishes. We hitchhiked there several times.
We made 6 trips over the course of 3 days to the gas station to re-fuel the boat (65 gallons). An option was to have a 200 liter barrel delivered to the commercial pier, but organizing the barrel delivery, transferring it to jerry cans, lowering it down 40 feet into the dinghy, then ferrying it to the boat seemed like too much trouble. Both tanks are now full with an additional 10 gallons in jerry cans, so that should be more than enough to get us through the windless days between here and Hawaii.
I found most of the adults on the island to be polite but not overly-friendly like they were in Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji. Only a few sailboats stop here each year so they are probably not accustomed to yachties. Most are very limited with English, so communicating is difficult. We radioed customs the morning after our arrival and were told to stand by for boarding instructions, then they didn’t respond until the following day. I was then instructed to pick up 7 officials in my dinghy and transport them back to the boat. In the end, only 3 officials returned with me to the boat, and nobody even went below deck to inspect before clearing us in! I think some decided not to come because of the long dinghy ride in the rain! The only other boat here has been anchored for 3 months and is in trouble for bringing pot into Kiritimati (the Portugeese owners are in Hawaii preparing for their legal case).
Getting anything done here has been difficult. I wanted to top off the propane tank and after asking several people, we were told that the KOIL (Kiribati Oil Co) could do it. We ferried the propane tank in the dinghy to shore, then tried to hitch a ride since it was a couple of miles away and the tank was heavy. A motorcycle offered to take me and the tank, so I hopped on the back and held on for dear life. When we got there, it was 1pm and they were closed for lunch until 1:30. By then, Doug and Adam arrived and soon the workers returned. Actually, they were there all the time but closed the door to the office. When they opened, there were 10 people sitting on the floor playing something that looked like bingo but there seemed to be betting involved. They didn’t move when they saw me and had me wait until the end of the round, then told me they only exchange tanks, no refills! I then decided we would have enough propane to get to Hawaii since we have a reserve tank that lasts a few weeks.
Doug and Adam checked into the only hotel in London for their final night since their flight leaves early in the morning, and the airport is on the north side of the atoll. The hotel hosts mostly fishermen and transports them to the airport on Wednesdays, the only day flights arrive and depart from Kiritimati. We found out they have a big farewell dinner and party for the fishermen on Tuesday nights, so I joined Doug and Adam at the hotel. We enjoyed a leisurely day at the hotel/beach overlooking Captain Cook’s Island. The sports-fishermen arrived in the late afternoon with stories of their catch of Wahoo, Grouper, Tuna, Bonefish, Travalli, etc. The dinner was quite the feast–salad, potatoes, fresh Wahoo, lobster, ceviche, and dessert. Entertainment included a girl dancing and a group of about 20 men and women singing. They placed a flowered headband on everyone’s head prior to the meal as a way of welcoming us to their feast. Afterwards I said goodbye to my Samoa to Kiritimati crew and dinghy’d back to the boat in the dark. Getting the engine and dinghy on deck is normally a 2-person job, but I had prepared a 4:1 block & tackle to hoist the engine, and a halyard to raise the dinghy, so all went well.
Tomorrow my new crew flies in from Hawaii and lands at 3:15pm. They’ll be on the same airplane that my old crew takes to Hawaii, so maybe they will see each other at the airport.