Thursday, 24 January 2013

Episode 14 - The Kiribati's


Mauri!! (Hello in Kiribati)
Welcome to Episode 14 of the Hog Blog.

At the end of Episode 13 we were at Luganville, Santo in Northern Vanuatu after 2 fantastic weeks scuba diving the local wrecks.

Luganville, Santo

The last few weeks at Luganville were difficult times with terrible weather. It rained for 12 days out of 14 and there was little wind. With the boat hatches closed and 90% humidity it was stifling inside and with the fans, fridge and freezer running hard to keep cool, it was a big power drain on the batteries. With no sun and no wind, charging was difficult and we found ourselves alternating between generator and main engine each evening to keep up the charge to the batteries.

With 3 days before we were due to set off we noticed the new alternator had stopped working. It had lasted only 6 weeks since being installed in Port Vila. We still had one spare but were reluctant to put it in. After 2 days of skype calls & emails back to Brisbane and triple checking the engine room wiring, Paul decided to pack both alternators and the regulator into a backpack and jump on a flight to Brisbane to hopefully sort it out once and for all.

The day the alternator packed it in we also noticed Sharkface had pulled up next to us on one of the moorings. They had left 2 weeks before to sail to The Kiribati’s but ran into trouble half way across and had to turn around and limp back. It took them 10 days to return and John and Jenny were very happy to see us still there. We were so upset for them and spent 4 days with them before Paul took off and they headed south to Vila for repairs.
During that time Paul took Jenny for her first Scuba Dive to get our minds off both boat’s issues. She was a natural and they did a long 95 minute dive and even found a wreck. That night we had dinner together and enjoyed a fantastic sunset.

The issue of a return visa for Paul was a challenge and immigration only came thru with the correct paperwork with 2 hours to spare before boarding the international flight from Port Vila. Nothing happens real fast over here….

After 5 jam packed days in Brisbane, Paul returned with 2 complete working and tested alternators, regulator and 2 bags totaling 45 kgs of other bits and pieces that were bonus pick-ups while being back in Aus.
One of the new bits of equipment is an electric winch handle that can be fitted to any of Lorelei’s 12 sheet winches. It has become a valuable tool particularly when single handing or when we get a big fish and have to get the sails in fast.

A huge thanks goes out to The Baddiley’s, The DiBetta’s and Rowan & Kirsty who put Paul up (more like “put up with”) during his time there. Rod (Paul’s brother) flew up from the Central Coast for 2 days at the end which was great.

Rowan, Rod & Kirsty on their Balcony.

48 hours after Paul returned to Vanuatu, we had the engine charging fine and had cleared customs and were on our way north for the 1100nm sail over the equator to The Kiribati’s. It probably wasn’t the best weather window with light winds forecast but there were 2 lows over the Solomons and Fiji that were a possibility of becoming cyclone’s so we got out as fast as we could.
As it turned out the low over Fiji became Tropical Cyclone Evan which as most of you will know decimated Samoa and Fiji and headed for Vanuatu.

Some stats for Vanuatu:
We stayed in Vanuatu for 11 weeks.
We sailed/motored 453nm between clearing in at Aneityum and out at Santo.
We ran the motor for 62.5 hours (a chunk of that was charging batteries…) and used 171 liters of diesel.

The Crossing – Vanuatu to The Kiribati’s

The crossing started OK with the first 24 hours giving us light sailing conditions. We saw un-seasonal Whales and free jumping Marlin.
From there the winds got lighter so we had 2 days of sailing/motoring.
It was a surreal start. Usually we eat grab food but with the glassy conditions, Lisa was able to cook up a storm in the galley during her 3 hour watches. See made Cookies, Fudge Slice, Foccacia, Quiche, Pumpkin Soup and stir fry’s.
We have never eaten so well on passage!

Lisa eating Pumpkin Soup at Sunset

The nights were weird as we sailed solo in the cockpit with all the hatches wide open, the cockpit clears removed and in nothing but swimmers.
Gotta love tropical sailing!
At sunrise on day 3 we sailed past the southern most island of The Solomon Islands – Tikopia which is a collapsed volcanic island.

Tikopia at Sunrise

By day 4 we had hit latitude 10 degrees south and felt we were out of the cyclone paths. The wind died to nothing and we had 36 hours of floating around the glassy flat ocean, polishing stainless, cooking and watching movies.

Duty-free Baileys at Sunset – 300 miles from anywhere…!!

At night we flicked on the transom lights and went squiding! There’s something a little crazy about throwing squid jigs around off the back of Lorelei at 10pm in 4500m water depth and over 500klm from the nearest piece of land. Lorelei even caught a few as we woke the next morning to find squid on the foredeck.
That morning at day break we also had about 50 small dolphins swimming around the boat.

The golden rule for this passage is to head east for as long as possible before turning north. That way when the winds do turn from the E and NE in the second half of the trip, you have a better sailing angle rather than punching into it.
You can imagine our surprise when we had the next 4 days on a port tack with light-moderate SW-W-NW winds. We didn’t know what to do so we just sailed as close to the rhumb line as possible and hoped for the best.

Lisa sailing along nicely before we hit the storms

By day 8 we had started to hit some wild storms. They were small intense systems with lightening and looking out around the horizon you could see 3 or 4 storms at any one time. The dense black clouds seemed so low that they would hit the mast top. We spent all our time negotiating them. Each time we went through or next to one the conditions would change. We had wind angle shifts of up to 90 degrees and either winds increased up to 25 knots or just completely dropped out to nothing. We could never tell what was going to happen. The wind never stayed constant for more than about 1 hour before it would change.
It drove Paul nuts but Lisa was a little more tolerant and patient.
Her favourite saying to Paul was “It could be worse – you could be Christmas shopping at Westfields!”

Sunset on day 9 and just one of the many storms to the right.

The night of day 10 was a real low point. At 8pm we were only 120nm from Tarawa, in storms but sailing well and it looked like we could be in the next day if we had consistent favourable winds. At 10pm the conditions went from average to ugly with torrential rain, lightning, steep choppy seas and strong winds. Both of us were up all night in damage control mode keeping the boat safe. We had all sails reefed heavily and coped a flogging.
By daybreak we were both lying knackered on the cockpit floor, soaked and wallowing along at 3 knots in sloppy seas. Paul had cut his foot in 3 places and Lisa had some good bruises and an egg on her forehead.
Lorelei came through it completely unscathed.
Sadly we had sailed in circles all night and had only made 20nm north.

At 1:45pm on the last day we crossed the equator. We were so stoked as this was a huge milestone for us. We had all these plans of traditional sailors initiations and swimming across the equator but we were stuffed and the conditions didn’t allow it so we took this GPS photo instead…

At 7am on Saturday the 22nd Dec we motored into the channel of Tarawa Atoll and to the town of Betio, the capitol of The Kiribati Islands.

The passage had taken us 11 days. We are happy with the decisions we made during the trip as far as angles to sail on.
The weather forecast was wrong every day we did not get one day of SE-E-NE winds which are normally so predominant on this passage.

The stats for the passage are.

We motored/sailed for 1196nm.
The passage took 11 days and 3 hours. (including the 36 hours becalmed)
We ran the motor for 86 hours and used 397 litres of diesel.
We both lost about 4kgs each….

Tarawa Atoll - The Kiribati Islands

By pure fluke there was another boat from Brisbane called Irish Melody that had sailed from the Solomons arriving at the outside of the atoll at exactly the same time as us so we motored in together and anchored up in the quarantine area next to the main wharf. The place was not what we expected with dirty green water and scores of freighters moored in the lagoon. Many were in terrible condition and there were more than a dozen sunk on their moorings and just left there. We could also see lots more wreckage along the shore line of WW2 ships and tanks, longliners and other debris.

Clearing in turned out to be a long winded joke as it was the most disorganized (and corrupt) group of officials we have ever dealt with. The yacht next to us “Azimuth” was trying to clear out as we were clearing in.
At 9am on Saturday we called Tarawa Radio and they said standby for more info.  We tried again at 3pm and were told to pick the officials up from the wharf. They never turned up…
Monday (Christmas Eve) we tried again and got a huge run around. By 4pm we had finally secured the 4 officials in our tender and brought them out to Lorelei. The process could not be completed because 2 of them forgot to bring any paperwork and we had to go in the day after boxing day to fill out the correct forms. It was a circus! Azimuth had even more dramas than us and Irish Melody had to pay fees that don’t exist.

That night we all let our hair down and had a great Chrissy Eve party till midnight on Azimuth.

The party goers  – Lisa, Dillon, Sherri Lynn, Brian and Neve.

We had a relaxing Christmas day and stuffed ourselves with lots of yummy things we made including a few traditionals like homemade coconut ice and shortbread. We said goodbye to Azimuth at 11am and will catch up with them in Majuro in the Marshall Islands next month.

On Boxing Day we had Brisbane couple Tony and Andi over off Irish Melody. We had a great arvo and evening with them sharing stories.

Andi, Lisa and Tony on Boxing Day.

Betio and Bariki

Betio is the main town of the Tarawa atoll system and the capitol of the country. It has two claims to fame:
1. It is officially the densest populated area in the world with over 40,000 people crammed onto a small atoll island measuring a few miles long and only 1/2 a mile wide at its’ widest point. The water surrounding the island is heavily polluted from poor sanitation and westerners are advised not to swim in the area.
2. It was the site of “Operation Galvanic”, one of the bloodiest battles of World War 2 and there are a lot of remnants from both the Yanks and the Japs all around the island.

The local currency is Australian Dollars.

Thursday the 27th we finally made it to shore to have a look around and clear in with immigration. We caught the bus from Betio to Bairiki and had to go over a long spit and causeway that joins the land masses around the atoll. At one point it was only a road with coral on both sides and the blue abyss only a 100m past that. Bairiki was similar to Betio with a mixture of shops, offices, small business and residential all mixed into one. It’s a weird combination and one street back from the business centre and people are living in a shanty style area (complete with pigs roaming freely) which would seem more suited to isolated village lifestyle and not in the capital of the country.

We found a DVD shop with all the latest releases for sale at only $1.50, did a small stock up of food and had a huge lunch at the local Chinese for $6.
We also watched the fisherman return to the beaches with their catch ready for the markets.

“Punjas” the local supermarket. Not exactly Coles or Woolies…

By 3pm we had our outer atoll cruising permit from Immigration and were ready to go.

Abaiang Atoll

The sail 30nm north to Abaiang Atoll was fantastic sailing and trolling with great easterly trade winds and yummy fish. The pass was very shallow and studded with coral heads giving us less than 1.5m under the keel.

Sails down and Paul in the crows nest calling directions

Once inside we put the sails back up and enjoyed fantastic downwind lagoon sailing for 12nm in clear shallow water with only the occasional shallow patch to negotiate.

We had a local outrigger canoe sail with us down the lagoon with their outrigger hull flying high. It was actually pretty fast for its size.

We had planned to anchor on the eastern coast but when we got to the top we saw 2 boats over on the western side. One rig we knew all too well and a quick call on the VHF confirmed it was Ben and Wendy on Just Magic and another cat Azizah. We did a detour and anchored up near them overnight and enjoyed a great sunset.

When the wind picked up the next day we all moved over to the protected eastern side to a fantastic anchorage next to a long thin island that runs most of the length of the atoll. We had planned to spend about 4 days in the anchorage and ended up staying for 9. We did a stack of activities like kiteboarding, spearfishing, kayaking, bike riding, trips to the village & the outer beach and socializing including a New Years Eve party.

The locals were completely amazed at the sight of Paul kiting in the lagoon. It was pretty obvious they had never seen anything like it before and for days the villagers were talking about this guy with a parachute.
The second day when we went into the beach, the local kids and adults came from all around to watch Paul blow up and launch the kite. They sat on the beach watching fascinated the whole time he was kiting.

Paul’s local helpers.

Kiting in Paradise!!

Inverted Airtime…

The kayaking was great as one of the local villages is built around a small but well protected shallow lagoon. The locals were a little shy as they speak very little English but we did befriend 2 young girls who followed as around the shoreline on foot before building up the courage to accept our offer of a ride.

The beach on the outer edge of the atoll was clean and very nice for both and swim and a stroll. We had to walk thru the village to get there.

There are loads of pigs and chickens just roaming freely

Ocean side of the Atoll

Both New Years Eve and the previous night turned into great evenings.
The first night we went to Just Magic and had shooters and spirits to get into the swing before Ricard (French) and Semea (Brazilian) of Azizah and Jean-Pierre (Swiss) turned up for drinks as well. They are long term round-the-world cruisers and had great info and stories to share. Richard & Semea are avid wreck divers as well.

CSK’s & B-52’s down the hatch….

Ricard, Semea and Wendy

Jean Pierre (JP) and Lisa at sunset

Looking back to Lorelei from Just Magic

New Years Eve was a great time. The 4 of us started early on Just Magic and made cocktails and lazed on the front tramps with Ben playing blues music on his guitar.

From there we went over to Azizah for dinner and drinks.

After dinner Richard pulled out a book to show us which is a French book on the first 100 years of diving. It has sections on famous Euro divers like Cousteau, Falco, George Beuchat, etc… The wildest thing was it was all hand written in and signed by those people who as it turned out are Richard’s long term friends that he spent over 30 years diving with. We were amazed!!

At 11pm Paul, Ben and Semea went into shore and set up a fireworks display with the 1.5m long Roman Candles that Ben brought in northern New Cal many months ago. The rest watched it from the bow of the cat.

Two days later when the wind and our blood alcohol levels dropped we loaded up the RIB and went a few miles north to the top end of the lagoon for the day to explore and do some spearfishing. The area was postcard perfect.

The drop-off we first speared along.

Can you spot Lisa’s red spearfishing float?

We had 2 fantastic spearfishing sessions in the gin clear water and were rewarded with Golden Trevally, Spangled Emperors, and a few Crayfish.

Lisa’s Crayfish vol-au-vonts (like the new tablecloth…)

One arvo we went over to the beach for a swim and saw the 2 girls that had the kayak ride playing with some other kids. They followed us over to the beach and their mum came too. We gave them lolly pops and clip on Koalas and mum invited us back to their place.

The kids thought this photo was hilarious

We tried Toti for the first time which is fermented sap from the coconut tree and we were given a stack of drinking coconuts. They speak very little English and we speak none of the local language which is very difficult to pick up.
Additionally there is a stack of customs which one must adhere to when amongst the I-Kiribati people. One is to sit cross legged at all times when sitting down on a mat. It made for a great cultural experience.

Note the shells on the ground which they eat and then use as a layer over the sand around their home.

Just before we left we loaded the kids into the RIB for a blast around the bay which they loved. Ortaygo the only boy even had a drive.

On one of the last days at the anchorage we assembled our mountain bikes and did a ride on the island which goes around the outside of the atoll. It wasn’t really mountain biking as the island’s highest elevation is about 2m so it was dead flat. It is only a few 100 meters wide but over 25klm long and with only one potholed dirt road right down its length it was impossible to get lost. A few of the villages have old bicycles and there are a few postie bikes but no cars.

We had a load of people wave and say hello and everyone was very friendly. Whenever we would stop in the villages the kids would flock around us.

By far the biggest building on the island – The Catholic Church

There was something a little loopy about riding 35klm in the middle of the day in 34 degrees tropical heat and we quickly used the 2 water bottles we took each and had to buy some more to drink on the way.

This large boar had dug a hole on the path and was asleep in it when Paul nearly ran over him. Not sure who got the biggest fright!!

We met a few people who spoke English. They had told us that not many yachties come to the Kiribatis. Even less make the effort to go to Abaiang Atoll and most that do stay in the southern anchorage. They only get about 10 boats a year at the north end and only about ½ come ashore and interact so they were very happy to see us.
The elders had never seen any imitang’s (foreigners) riding around the island and no one had seen a kiteboarder before so we may have been one of the first to do both here.

We stopped to watch some ladies making new roofs for their huts

We returned back to our friendly host family where we swapped the rest of our lolly snakes for coconuts and Paul played Frisbee with the kids.

The next day was Sunday and the village day for church so we respectfully stayed on the boat and did chores – well that was until just after lunch when we were downstairs and could hear voices that sounded close. We went upstairs to find 14 young boys that had swum out from the shore to Lorelei (which was at least 250m). They were so excited when we let down the duckboard and Paul dived in with them.

Note the 2 coconut trunks they used as floats for the smaller kids.

At first they just hung out on the duckboard but once Paul started throwing them in and jumping off the duckboard then things got a bit more raucous and fun.

They were very respectful and the older kids definitely kept the young ones in check. We let them onto the back of Lorelei, cranked up the Aussie music and gave them some lollies which they all shared.

After 9 days at the northern anchorage the wind swung to the East so we decided to leave and sail the 12nm to the southern end of the Atoll. Just as we neared the bottom Village of Tenbontibike we crossed paths with a local fisherman sailing back to shore. We stopped for a chat and after we anchored up he sailed over to say hello. His name is Tienabo and we had him on Lorelei for morning tea and asked him about the best spearfishing spots outside the atoll and what species to target. In return we gave him some much needed hooks and a soft plastic lure.

The day before, Lisa had downloaded the synoptic chart and she noticed the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone) had moved south and was nearly over the top of us. This is a band around the equator where the weather systems from both the northern and southern hemisphere meet and is known for its intense but short lived storms. Lisa commented that we may get a storm or two in the next few days.
Well sure enough at 4pm we copped a beauty that blasted us with torrential rain and guest up to 45 knots. The issue was it was from the NE and we had big waves rolling right though the anchorage.

Hobby-horsing in the waves

Lisa on watch to make sure all is ok and we don’t drag

Fortunately at about 9pm the wind swung offshore to the ESE and gave us some respite from the swell. It blew 20 knots and rained all night.
We were the only yacht left in Abaiang Atoll and were relatively safe but were most concerned for the other yachts that left for Tarawa a few days before as the anchorage there is very exposed to those conditions.

As a note to that we spoke to Ben and Wendy a few days later and there were some wild stories from the yachts at Tarawa. A few of the freighters dragged and nearly hit the yachts. Ben had to move twice to avoid broken loose freighters drifting through the anchorage. Azizah had to put fenders down to fend of one that drifted onto them sideways. All in 45 knots of wind and 1.5m waves at night. Not fun!!  One freighter is still high and dry stuck on a sandbar and one sunk.

A day later it was another world with light winds, flat seas and blue skies.

Lisa was up early one morning and woke Paul up saying “will you take me spearfishing on the outer edge of the atoll – pleeease???”
The outer reef was healthy with fantastic coral and a huge diversity of fish life. It was the best we have seen since leaving Australia.
We had a few great sessions during our time at the southern end of the atoll and came home with coral trout, footballers, job fish and emperors.

A Green Jobfish

Our befriended fisherman Tienabo and his son Luimar turned up one afternoon with gifts of coconuts and stories about his new lure.
He tried it that morning and to his delight got a swag of fish.
Included in the haul was a fish that got Lisa’s ears twitching. After a bit more quizzing and a positive ID in the fish book, we discovered he caught a Bonefish on the soft plastic.
For those that are not into fly fishing, Bonefish are the ultimate in saltwater fly fishing. With their torpedo shaded body, high burst speeds and shallow water habitat over sand, they make for the best sport on fly.
Keen fly fisherman travel from all over the world to experience Bonefish at Christmas Island which is actually part of the Kiribati Group but is over 1000nm east of Abaiang Atoll so we where not sure if they are here too.
The lagoon is apparently full of them but with no airstrip or access for tourism nobody really knows about them.
The locals eat them but we wouldn’t because if the poor quality flesh and the amount of bones – hence their name.
When the wind dropped we broke out the fly gear and had a blast chasing them on fly. What was nearly as much fun was the action packed excitement of casting over the bommies on the edge of the reef and watching the trevally come up to chase and smash the fly on the surface. It was visual fishing at its best! We had them worked up into a frenzy until a few big GT’s showed up that we knew we could not turn so we stopped fearful of losing our flylines which are expensive and near impossible to replace in this part of the world. 

Lisa with her first bonefish, which the villagers ate…

After fly fishing for a few hours we stopped and had a swim on the sand flats at low tide.

We saw a few kids snorkeling around with rice bags that seemed to have something in them so we just assumed they were collecting shells. We went over and asked for a look. We got a huge surprise to find the kids had been collecting Mantis Shrimps to eat.
We had seen them on a menu in Betio and had heard of them being pulled from their holes on sandy lagoon floors but had no idea where or how.
The amazing thing was the size of them. They were massive and size of a crayfish.

We noticed the kids had a welding rod with a small dead fish impaled about ½ way along and they simply find a hole and jam the rod in next to it and wait for the Mantis Shrimp to come up to eat the fish and the kids just pick them up. 
We tried once without much success in the lagoon as the bottom was hard packed and we found no holes so we bailed up some kids a few days later to show us how it’s done.
We went over to the inner reef edge with metal stakes, fish frames and contour camera on our newly made “Mantis Mount” ready for the action. We couldn’t find any big ones and most we saw were only about 15cm long. We could get them up out of their holes and they were fun to watch but just couldn’t bring ourselves to kill them so we fed them the fish.

In the afternoon we were invited to Tienabo’s house to meet the family.
Their place was much better presented than the families of the northern lagoon as he had manicured gardens, a great eating and cooking area and separate living and sleeping huts.

The family portrait Paul took and printed and laminated for them

Their “back yard”

The Copra shed which was well locked up

Copra packed and ready for collection
They get 80c a kilo which is over double what they get in Vanuatu

The next day the family came out to Lorelei for lunch and Lisa taught Teinabo’s wife Teeruru how to bake a birthday cake complete with icing and sprinkles.

After 8 days in the southern area the wind turn to the north so we headed back up to the top of the lagoon this time going further north up to the spot where we first explored and speared in the RIB. We found a picturesque spot right near the top island with a shallow pass to the ocean.

The church from the Lagoon as we sailed north

It was paradise and the best anchorage yet as far as scenery.

Anchored in Paradise!! One of the only yachts to ever visit this village

That arvo we dropped the kayaks in for a paddle to the village to say hello and to go through the pass to the ocean side.
As usual we were warmly welcomed with fresh drinking coconuts and the usual bombardment of smiling happy kids on school holidays.

The kids have a rope swing tied to the top of a coconut tree. They climb to the top of the next tree and launch off. They swing so high!!!

Mobbed by Kids!!

After we finally broke free from the kids we paddled through the shallow pass to the small waves on the bar and had fun in the surf.

The view from the pass

Playing in the surf

On the 17th Jan we received a good forecast to return to Tarawa, explore the WW2 relics and clear out before sailing the passage to The Marshall Islands.

The sail back to Tarawa was fantastic.
We raised the sails as we raised the anchor, sailed down the lagoon, through the pass, down to Tarawa and the 6nm run up the channel finally dropping the sails as we dropped the anchor. No motoring! Lisa was quite chuffed with her navigation…
On the way we caught Yellowfin Tuna and Mahi Mahi.

These are the inter island/atoll ferries that run from Tarawa to the outer Atolls. They travel up to 100nm in open ocean!!
It’s $10 for a one way fare – if you can find a seat – or a rooftop…

WW2 Tour – Tarawa – “Operation Galvanic”

On the 9th Dec 1941, two days after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, the Japanese invaded and took The Kiribati Islands.
They set up a seaplane base and garrison on Butaritari Atoll, occupied Abemama Atoll and set up a heavily fortified command centre on Tarawa.
They rounded up all the ex-pats including 22 British and beheaded them.

In August 1942 the Yanks launched “The Makin Raid” from 2 subs and attacked but did not reclaim Butaritari and Abemama Atolls. The mission was the first successful raid from US subs by a seal team and it also diverted attention away from Allied raids in the Solomons. 160 Japanese and 21 American forces were killed. 9 marines were left behind and they were later beheaded. The sea plane base was destroyed but the Japanese eventually rebuilt the base and garrison on both Atolls.

In Nov 1943 the US forces launched “Operation Galvanic” to take Tarawa and the 2 Atolls.
However, with over 4500 Japanese forces, 500 pill boxes, over 40 artillery placements, 14 x 8” gun emplacements and the entire area heavily stockaded and linked by miles of tunnels, Tarawa was well defended. Rear-Admiral Keiji Shibazaki, who commanded the garrison, had boasted that "it would take one million men a hundred years" to conquer Tarawa. He gave orders to “defend to the last man” all vital areas and destroy the US enemy at the waters edge.
The American invasion force to Tarawa was the largest yet put together for a single operation, consisting of 17 aircraft carriers, 12 battleships, 8 heavy and 4 light cruisers, 66 destroyers, and 36 transports. There were over 35,000 soldiers and Marines.
The battle raged for 5 days with the US forces receiving heavy resistance with 100’s of men being cut down in their Amtrak landing vehicles before they even reached the beach.
At Tarawa the Marines lost 1677 men and 2296 were wounded.
4731 Japanese soldiers and Korean labourers were killed.
At Butaritari 218 US troops and 445 Japanese died. An additional 763 Americans died when the Jap Sub I-173 torpedoed and sunk the carrier USS Luscombe Bay and a turret explosion on the USS Mississippi killed 43.

There was a huge outcry back in the USA where many people argued about the need to take such a small place at such a huge cost of lives and resources.

To this day there is a large amount of War Relics strewn all over the Islands and waters of The Kiribati’s.

On our first day back at Tarawa we took a self guided tour of the relics.
It was pretty sobering as we walked around them realising what the men from both sides must have gone through.

Just one of the 8” guns and another in the background

A pillbox

The resourceful locals use the bunkers and tunnels as part of their homes.
This one is a pig pen and chicken coup.

We also had a look around Betio harbour at all the sunken shipwrecks.
Some are from the war and others just broke moorings and drifted onto the sandbar or were no longer sea worthy and were just left to rust where they sank.

A Japanese Longliner which is right on the beach in front of homes.

This is the freighter that broke free during the storm and nearly hit Just Magic.

This Amtrak Landing Barge has a sad story to tell.
It ran onto a sand bar fully loaded with over 60 Marines. The only option was to unload the Marines and for them to make the 200m dash to shore. Further in the water went deeper again to 1.5m and the Japanese shot most of them as they slowly waded through the deeper water.

On Monday 21st Jan we cleared out of The Kiribati’s.
We had spent 4 great weeks in the country.
Betio is a take it or leave it spot. Interesting war history but the anchorage is rough and very exposed and there are reports of theft from yachts while the owners are on shore. Fresh food is non existent and the rest is limited and expensive. Unfortunately it is the country’s only clearance port in this area.
We spent 3 weeks in Abaiang Atoll. We just loved the place so much and it was some of the best times we have had cruising. The people were the friendliest we have met even with the language barrier and the area was postcard perfect. There is so much you could do there too.
If it had a wreck to dive, a little more consistent surf and better soil to grow veggies – you’d never leave!
We will definitely return one day and explore the other Atolls.

The crossing – The Kiribati’s to The Marshall Islands.

The passage from Tarawa to Majuro Atoll the capital of The Marshall Islands is just under 400nm at a bearing of 345 degrees.
We had been watching the wind angles in Abaiang the whole time waiting for the wind to switch from the NE trades to ENE or E to get a better angle so we weren’t tight on and punching into it the whole way.
We left at 1pm on Monday and had a fantastic start as we reached up the protected west side of Tarawa and Abaiang. We had made 45nm and cleared the top of Abaiang before dark.
We hit the swell once clear of the Atolls but it was wide and comfortable and we had a great first night under a bright moon. We had made 190nm in the first 30 hours and were half way and very happy.
At dusk on the second night conditions started to worsen and we had a terrible 24 hours. By 2am we were under storm sails in large confused seas, strong winds and very heavy torrential rain. The rain was pouring into the main lazy jack sail bag and the reefed parts of the mainsail and it couldn’t exit as fast as it filled up. We were worried we would snap the boom. Even the deck was filling faster than the scuppers could let the water out. We were drenched and it was the heaviest rain we have ever experienced.
By daybreak the rain had eased to squally showers but the wind and seas didn’t.

At dusk on night 3 we rounded the eastern tip of Milli Atoll (the southern most Atoll in The Marshalls) and we were able to bear away and ease the sails for the last 90nm to Majuro. We dropped the Mizzen sail to slow us down to 5 knots which would get us to the pass at day break.
All went well and we managed to sail though the pass and the final 15nm inside the Atoll to the mooring fields in the NE corner. We dropped the sails only 100m from our mooring. The upside of the whole trip was we sailed door to door and used only 2 litres of diesel.
As per usual the crew was a little battered and weary but Lorelei came though once again completely unscathed. We love our boat!!!
Talking to other sailors later we found out that most had experienced as bad or worse conditions than us.

On the way in we radioed customs and got no answer but did get replies from loads of friends on other boats already here. We were stoked and are looking forward to catching up with them in this very social cruising hub.
There are about 40 international yachts here – of which we already know about 10.

So now we are cleared in and on a mooring at Majuro. The Atoll lagoon is 40m deep so moorings are the only option. The moorings are not attached to mooring blocks on the bottom but are just chained to the wreckage on the lagoon floor. We will stay in the country at least 60 days and explore the local and outer Atolls and hopefully get some awesome wreck diving, spearing and surfing.

Tomorrow’s Australia Day and there are some big plans for the 80 odd Aussie cruisers and ex-pats at “Wallaby Downs” – but that’s another story for the next exciting episode of The Hog Blog.

So that’s it for episode 14!
Another jam packed episode that we hope has kept you entertained for a while.

Look out for episode 15 from here in around 4 week’s time….

Errors, Omissions and Warnings

We apologize about the minor incorrect information about the final moments of the sinking of the USS President Coolidge in Episode 13.
It was brought to our attention from a few readers who are avid divers.
We had published the info after being told of the story by our dive guides.

We will endeavor to cross check any info passed onto us from now on, as we have done in this episode with Operation Galvanic.

This blog was created on laptop that sits on a table that is also used for the consumption of products including tree nuts, gluten, soy, wheat and milk products.

Alcohol was consumed during the making of this blog. Enjoy alcohol in moderation – except during the festive season when it’s socially acceptable to let your hair down – as we did!

No animals were harmed during the creation of this blog – except for the Fish, Crayfish and Shrimps which did not die in vain – they tasted great!!

WARNING!!!  The reading of blog can be additive and by doing so may just tempt you to throw in your job, buy a yacht and go cruising....
Please consider this before reading any further episodes.


Paul Hogger  - Master of SY Lorelei (According to the paperwork…)

Lisa Hogger –  Crew (According to the paperwork)  but in reality -
Master, Navigator, Weather Forecaster, Chef, Purser, and No.1 Fish Gaffer….

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