"Arctracer" Letters

Abaiang Atoll, Kiribati, Dec 2003

We finally left Nonouti after our friends gave us a wonderful farewell feast and presented us with two handwoven pandanus mats. They seemed to think our beds did not have proper coverings, but now we are set. We raised anchor on December 14 with both engines working. We took the two men of the families to Tarawa with us so they could visit other family members during the holidays. We crossed the equator again that evening during a fairly fast and easy sail, caught a yellowfin tuna over a yard long the next morning, and then caught a two foot-long tuna and a couple of mackerel. The fish seem to be in the channels between atolls. We arrived outside Tarawa's pass at noon, and started both engines. The wires to the port side engine started melting their insulation again, so that was shut down and we finished the trip with one engine plus mainsail. It was a passage of 173 miles so we made very good speed most of the way.

In Tarawa we spent three busy days. We fixed up the engine wiring again, removing the voltage regulator since that seemed to be the source of the problem. Now we can run the port engine fine, but it does not charge batteries. We charge all the batteries with the starboard engine or solar panels. We'll get another voltage regulator in Majuro. It's nice to have some redundant systems aboard! We bought diesel fuel, cooking gas, and groceries. Our friends on "Green Nomad" from Brazil and "Piet Heyn" from California arrived back from Abaiang Atoll saying they had a great time and we should not pass it by. We checked out with Immigration and Customs officials, paid our port anchoring fee ($3.90), and left on December 19 with permission to stop at both Abaiang and Butaritari.

It was a quick sail to Abaiang atoll, and we were anchored there in the afternoon. We walked for a couple hours on the island and found it very traditional and quiet. It gets more rain than atolls further south, so there are many breadfruit trees, good babai pits (root crop), other vegetables and some other fruits. We met an ex-Californian who has lived here many years, and he showed us his house and interesting garden. When the other two cruising boats returned from Tarawa we anchored next to them and met their friends ashore. These very nice people are mostly fishermen. They take their small boats out beyond the reef at night to catch tuna and sharks. One of the men works on container ships for a salary of $1500 per month, which you might not think is very much but in Kiribati it supports his family very well. They live quite traditionally, and copra provides some cash.

Our Christmas was with one of the families ashore, together with the three people on the other two boats. Teinabo and his wife Teeruru have seven children, ages 17, 13, 8, 7, 6, 3 and 3 months. As guests we were all given cloth to wrap over the clothes we were wearing, special headpieces of flowers and foliage that took a day to make, and we were annointed with two traditional perfumes. Their feast included salted tuna, boiled baibai, te bekei (baibai mashed with coconut cream), rice, corned beef, and pudding bread. The only drink was thin sweetened powdered milk. The cruisers contributed chocolates, chocolate cake, grated coconut and sugar patties (a Brazilian treat), lollipops and Nina's famous pineapple upside-down cake. The islanders really loved all the sweets! We also gave them gifts, such as the skirts Nina made for the little girls, a frisbee, good t-shirts and shorts from the USA. We also took photos of their family, printed them, mounted them on cardboard, covered them with plastic, and attached strings so they can hang inside the thatched-roof house. The children sang while the adults ate, and Teinabo made a nice thank-you speech in his own language, translated by his daughter Moone (17). We all had a good time, and the next day they all came out for a visit on our boat.

We socialized aboard the cruising boats several evenings too, so we're about ready for some quiet evenings. Last night we got our first real rain since December 9. It only lasted an hour or so, but we collected enough to do laundry today, and some drinking water must have gotten into the tanks. The weather here has been almost too nice! We have been taking baths in the sea instead of showers to conserve what little water is left in one of our tanks. We expect more rain as we move further north, since our friends in Majuro have been getting too much of it.

Yesterday and today the wind was about 15 knots and a bit north of east, so our anchorage in the south of Abaiang was bouncy. We have moved to the eastern side of the lagoon to a quiet anchorage, and plan to explore northern Abaiang for a few days. Both engines are running well, and our wiring is okay for now. Nina is making traditional Kiribati tops for herself, since they are cool and comfortable, but the fancy crocheting around the neck requires much time and effort.

(view Abaiang photos)