Logs of S/V Bravo Charlie III


11/02/01 We arrived at Fanning Island (Tabuaeran Atoll) 03 deg 51 min North, 159 deg 22 min West on Friday Oct 26. Even though Fanning is east of the international date line is was officially Saturday Oct 27 there because Fanning is part of the Republic of Kiribati (pronounced Kir-i-bas) and the capital of Kiribati, Tarawa, is west of the international date line. Kiribati is one of the poorest countries in the world and the contrasts with the atolls of French Polynesisia are quite striking. Kiribati used to be called the Gilbert Islands and was under British jurisdiction until 1979 when it became independent. The people of Fanning are Melanesians, not Polynesians, and were resettled from Tarawa. Tarawa has a population problem and you can emigrate to Fanning and get 1 acre of land and a small amount of money.

The customs and immigration guys came out on a boat to meet us. (Actually its "the" boat since the whole island of 1600 people only owns one 25 foot aluminum equipment transport boat, a few outboard powered canoes and a bunch of sailing canoes). We had to fill out quite a lot of paperwork but the folks were very friendly and spoke reasonable English. The immigration guy, Tabuya, who was also the police chief, invited us to a picnic with his family the next day on the other side of the atoll. The biggest news to happen to Fanning in many years is the "NCL project" which stands for Norwegian Cruise Lines. One of their cruise ships comes once every week and there are some of their American and Australian employees here supervising the construction of several buildings so that the passengers can be served during a day long stop. Its only a few huts serving as kitchen and bar and a bunch of picnic tables but it's a very big deal for a place where the only source of economic income is seaweed farming. Talking to the Australian running the operation, Rick, gives you an idea of the frustration involved in constructing something in a place where the only source of supply is a broken down ship that comes every month or so, if that.

There is also an American, Leif, who lives on a boat Mystic with his wife and 4 kids. He, along with another American Nate, have a small business ashore that employs half a dozen locals making coconut wood lamps for export. He has a nice woodworking facility but also is suffering from the lack of supplies and spare parts. He has just finished getting the permits for a shrimp aquaculture facility that he hopes to startup soon. He is planning on expanding to other islands. After being fully operational, he estimates his company's profits at ~$12m US a year. Which brings up the interesting situation for him of taxes. His plan is to not pay any, including US. While we wish him luck on the tax scheme, we don't think he'll manage to escape. He used to have a small company that did software for the business re-engineering trade and is quite familiar with the all of the trials and tribulations that we went through at Epiphany. But he likes low-tech better now.

All of the westerners (about 8) on the island showed up at the police chief's picnic on Saturday. Also in attendance was the headmaster of the local secondary school and his wife, a teacher there, and their kids. We ate traditional Kiribati food such as fried breadfruit and fish and drank coconut juice from nuts right off of the tree The musical entertainment was boom box with a mixture of local music along with a lot of disco tunes.

The next day we went into the village and ran into the mayor who invited us to a town gathering that night. We baked up a bunch of chocolate chip cookies and brought 1000 yds of 100-lb fishing line for gifts. We were served a simply enormous amount of local food including shrimp that looked like something out of Alien. I had to make a speech about where we were from and presented the fishing line to the village. Ruth was also asked to speak about the war in Afghanistan and fielded questions for 15 minutes. Even though English is spoken we did this through an interpreter because a lot of the older folks don't speak English very well. There was about a 40 minute dance and singing exhibition that was quite different than Polynesian dance. The dancing has a much slower rhythm and the singing is very high pitched and nasal, a little like the Austral Islands. It was very cool. Then they turned on the disco, and several of the locals asked us to dance. It was a lot of fun and very interesting.

The next few days we did a bunch of scuba diving outside of the atoll pass. The abundance of marine life was striking. We were engulfed by huge schools of bright blue and yellow fish. There were half a dozen large sea turtles in evidence. And there were a lot of larger fish, such as 5-foot long Hump head Morai Wrasses (Napoleon fish). Interestingly enough there were no sharks in evidence although there are certainly sharks around. Ruth lost a large tuna to a shark while fishing. (She just got the head). The coral was quite nice and included a bunch of pink coral, a color of coral not seen in French Polynesia. The water was a little cloudy, maybe 30-40 foot visibility, but, overall, the diving rates very highly.

On Thursday the 2nd we took a dinghy trip to the north-west side of the atoll where there is an old transpacific submarine cable station and an overgrown, abandoned airstrip. We beached the dinghy in front of the village hall/church of the village near the cable station and were greeted by the minister. He directed us to the cable station that was about a mile walk north. We walked through the village and ended up getting invited by a family for drinks (coconuts). Their house was one of the nicer family "compounds" built on their acre and included a taro pit for raising the large starchy plant that forms an important part of the diet. There were several huts for the 3 generations that formed the family - father and mother, daughter and her three brothers and threee sisters, and the daughter's husband and son. No electricity, refrigeration or running water. But quite a nice shady setting with no significant bugs and a nice cool breeze. They opened coconuts for us and the daughter, who spoke English well, asked us lots of questions about where we lived, where we were going etc.. She also had her kids sing us some songs and we reciprocated by singing Puff the Magic Dragon. We coincidentally had a nice metal soup ladle in our backpack and gave it to them as a gift. They offered us some pumpkins but it was obvious that this was a significant part of their food supply and we declined. One of the attached pictures shows the mother preparing taro. Another shows the grandkid and his uncles and aunts.

Afterwards, we walked on to the old cable station. It has been abandoned for a long time but part of it has been converted to the only highschool on the island. The concrete buildings with tile roofs are a contrast with the thatched huts on the rest of the island.

Near the beach by the cable station, above the old pier where the cable used to go out to sea I buried the Epiphany time capsule that I have been carrying on our entire trip. There is a web site dedicated to "geo-caches" which contains a database of items and their GPS coordinates and we will add this location to the site. Our friend Boris at Epiphany buried a similar Epiphany time capsule in Croatia this summer. The capsule contains a CD with the original software release as well as some other Epiphany memorabilia. The coordinates of the geo-cache are 03 54.541 N 159 23.442 W which is under some scrub bushes about 10 feet above the storm high tide level.

Our friends Chris and Marcus from Pez Vela are underway from Christmas Island, about 160 nm away and will be here on Friday, just after dawn. We are looking forward to meeting up with them again and doing some diving. I'm sure that Chris, who did her master's thesis on abalone aquaculture will be interested in talking with the folks here who are planning the shrimp farm.

The final attachment is a view of the atoll pass from Bravo Charlie at sunset. We are planning on leaving out this pass on Monday for Hawaii. It should take us 7 days to get there. Hopefully there won't be any more late season hurricanes to contend with. Currently there is Hurricane Octave, halfway between Mexico and Hawaii which formed, quite unusually, at the very end of October.

11/02/01 We're 720 nms out of Hawaii. It's been pretty rough sailing, but at least we have a 'go fast and comfy' big boat ;-)

Fanning (our last anchorage) is a story unto itself. We have lots of pictures and video, so if you're in Tahoe, drop by to see it some time. I'll be writing a 'travel journal' book, as well, 3 books total. One for the Marquesaes, one for the Tuomotos and one for French Polynesia, where I'll (probably) put Fanning.

BCIII is probably tied with 2 other boats for # of fish caught. We've lost several along the way (probably at least a dozen) from too light tackle. The fish out here are big. Since most of my lines are hand lines, when a really big fish hits anything can break. Next time I'll know better and have monster stuff. Our last boat was much slower than BCIII, so we didn't lose many lures at all..

We have some wahoo in the freezer from the last leg, but were tolling for some fresh stuff for tonight. One of the things I do to pass time on a passage, is to mess around with new lure ideas and check the lines routinely. At 9 degrees 25 minutes north, all of our fishing lines hit at the same time! I had 6! out there. We brought in 2 wahoo and let them go, kept a Mahi Mahi, and the other 3 fish broke the wire leader (probably at least 1 more wahoo which has sharp, strong teeth). I only had a few lines with the 495 lb test wire, and since I had run out, the other lines had ~110 lb test wire. Anyway, we have lots of fish just keeping the Mahi Mahi. We had it in the frying pan within 20 minutes of catching...would havve been sooner except we're in 25-30 knots of wind, with 8-10 foot swells, so the fillet job was slow.

We've caught so many fish that we still have beef and chicken in the freezer from the butcher shop in Palo Alto. In Hawaii, they will confiscate all meat (including frozen), fruit (we have a brand new stalk from a family in Fanning) and seeds/grains.

We're really looking forward to winter and ski season in Tahoe this year. We've not settled on next year. We are working with some friends on starting a company in Incline, but we haven't done the prelim. research yet. We've always wanted to do a family business, but it never worked out. If we can't get a good business idea together, we'll probably do another trip around the South Pacific. We have no desire to go outside of the area; it's so beautiful, fishing and diving are great, and it's very safe (for cruisers and Americans!)

Hope all is well with everyone.