Category Archives: Kiribati

Tarawa and Abaiang in Kiribati and in the north to Majuro, Marshall Inslands

And once again we have this exiting feeling of discovering a new country, we are fascinated by the appearance and language of the people and try to grasp what is known and what is new to us.
Boarding Party Kiribati
The “Boarding Party” at the check-in in Tarawa, Kiribati
Betio Harbour
The wrecks in Betio, Tarawa…
Betio Harbour
…create a certain atmosphere
Bairiki harbour
Bairiki Harbour, a good dinghy landing at low water
Ministery of justice Kiribati
The ministery of justice of Kiribati 😉
Bairiki Sunset
Bairiki Sunset – almost like in holidays
Betio WW2 Battlefield
Betio was once a bloddy battlefield between Americans and Japanese…
Betio WW2 Battlefield
…today it is rather a battlefield of westernized consumption and no education and solutions for garbage..
Betio WW2 Battlefield
and one or the other canon is still present.
Tane not only washes our clothes but also helps us to catch the right minibus to the east of the atoll
Children Bairiki
…and while we are gone a whole bunch of children takes care of our dinghy
Fish drying
Air-dryed Wahoo and Thuna – thinly sliced a delicious treat

After having arrived the evening before and announced to Betio Port Control that we are there we have to wait until 11 am before being advised that we should pick up “the boarding party” in the harbour.

In our case the boarding party consists of the customs officer and 3 lady officers from Quarantine, Biosecurity and Police.

They are all very friendly and immediately take each a copy of our papers, that I have left on the table “to be prepared”. Especially the colour copies of our passports are appreciated, and I regret having put the stuff on the table in the first place…

The customs officer teaches us “Mauri” (Hello), our first word in Kiribati (spoken Kiribas as “ti” stands for an “s”).

After a short look through the boat Reto brings them back to shore. Our next step is to write a letter for asking permission to visit the outer atolls and go to the immigration office on the neighbor island Bairiki in order to get our passports stamped.

The curious thing about this check-in into the country is that every yacht arriving experiences a completely different procedure. We deduct that there are no standard processes existing and it depends on the officer in place.

As the last chore of the day we get our internet running and communication going.

In Wikipedia we read that throughout the year the average temperature in Kiribati is 30.9 degrees Celsius with a min of 30.9 and a max of 31.3. That explains why we are drenched in sweat the whole night through and even more when the sun comes out.

We spend a few days filling up diesel, looking for fresh food which is practically not existing, washing the laundry, writing blog and take a few walks through Betio and Bairiki.
Also we hop on a bus to the end of South Tarawa and back to see a bit of the island.

After weekend and holiday we manage to get our permissions and sail to Abaiang, the next atoll to the north. In the strait between the atolls a heavy squall goes over us, but once reefed we are happy to have good sailing wind. Once in the pass we see that it is a good idea to have a good light –
Squall in the lagoon of Abaiang
Thatched houses Abaiang
We are completely fascinated by the tradditional thatched roofs and houses of the I-Kiribati…
Thatched houses Abaiang
…that are completely build with natural components (Pandanus and Coconut)…
Thatched houses Abaiang
…and some are well kept with flowers and fences…
Garden Abaiang
…and we find one of the few existing vegetable gardens!

the shades of grey and green indicate that the ground is not far from our hulls…Inside of the lagoon the boomies are easily spotted with the light blue and a nice sail brings us to the other side.

We throw our anchor in front of the main village where we have to hand over our permit to the local police man.

On our first walk trough the village we are overwhelmed by the beautiful houses, all of them constructed entirely with natural resources from Pandanus and Coconut trees.

The family where we attach our dinghy at the beach is very friendly, we have to sit down in their huts and are invited for tea.

But the idyllic beach in front of their house is full with rubbish. Broken glass and corroded cans stick dangerously in the sand and a well identifiable odor lies in the air. We move She San further south in the lagoon.

On our next land visit we are again warmly welcomed by the family on shore. We have to sit with them and the boy climbs up the palm tree to get dinking nuts for us.
Family Abaiang
A lovely family on the beach spoils us with coconuts

I have some tobacco for the father and some cremes and soaps for the mother, who immediately hugs me with great joy and sends the boy for another 6 coconuts. We agree to come back for next doors dancing event in the evening but unfortunately it starts to pour and the event is canceled.

Kaboua and Tinaii's Terau Beach Bungalows
Kaboua and Tinaii’s Terau Beach Bungalows are a pleasent spot also for sailors!
Terau Beach bungalows
Tinaii (spoken Sinaii) with her 3 kids

On the second day we explore the island and meet Tinaii from the Terau Beach Bungalow Resort.
She also welcomes us with a coconut and tells us about Nick, a Swiss guy living a few minutes down the road with his wife Lisa who was born in Kiribati.

Of course we have to check that out immediately. Lisa welcomes us “Come on in, come on in. Nick’s not here but in 2 hours he will be back with visitors from Switzerland, you have to come back then.” “But then we only disturb” we are protesting. “No, no, it’s perfect, you really have to come again”.

Lisa and Nick’s house on the protected side of the lagoon…
…has a wonderful view onto the beach

Two hours later we approach the house on the water front with the Kiribati and the Swiss flag and Nick waves at us from the balcony – “come on in, it is well heated” and we sit down right in the middle of unpacking suitcases. His 84 year!!! old mother Anni and her husband Pete have just arrived all the way from Switzerland! What a voyage around the globe!

In the next few days we often sit with them on their balcony, having coffee, cold water or wheat beer and enjoy their hospitality.

Lisa shows me how to collect the clams on the beach and how to prepare them. I show her how to cultivate the Kefir and how to make fresh soft cheese from it.

One afternoon we speak about what we are all used to eat at Christmas and we are raving about our last years Cheese Raclettes and Fondues during our visit in Switzerland.

Spontaneously Nick invites us for a Fondue the next day.
Nick spoils us with his sensational Fondue

What a feast! It turns out to be the best Fondue I have ever had in my life, awesome consistency, spicy and accompanied by some well cooled bottles of white wine and a loaf of my crispy bread baked at last moment.

But also in the resort from Tinaii and Kaboua we eat very well, and for USD 3.50 per person this is not even a luxury.

Since the island is too big to explore everything on foot we rent 2 push bikes from Tinaii.
abandoned village of Tebunginako
The abandoned village of Tebunginako, a consequnence of the climat change??
abandoned village of Tebunginako
We ride through the abandoned village and meet a bunch of curious children
Koinawa Christmas
The catholic christmas festivities in Koinawa attract hunderets of people,,,
Koinawa Christmas
…today there is soccer on the agenda..
Koinawa Christmas
,,,and the youth on the roof is cheering when I take a picture of them 😉

My target is to see the abandoned village of Tebunginako, that (at least it is claimed) is a victim of climate change.

We continue a bit further north but after 20 km, we decide to head back, the backpadel brake bikes are not what we are used to after all.

On the way back we stop at the Christmas festivities in Koinawa. Here the whole catholic community of the atoll is camping for 2-3 weeks in the “Maneabas”, the big community houses of each village. Today is big soccer champion ship, everybody is there to play or watch.

Then we discover a weather window for the further sail up north, we are not happy to leave already but we see that it is the best slot in the next few weeks.
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Outer atolls in Kiribati - beautiful Abaiang
Outer atolls in Kiribati – beautiful Abaiang

Back in Betio we do the check out run together with Greg from the Oceanna, again it takes a few hours to get our passports stamped and the customs documents done. On Friday, the 21st of Dec at noon we go anchor up, we don’t have much time to loose to cover the 390 miles in 3 days.

Target is to arrive in Majuro on the 24th of Dec, otherwise we’d have to pay an overtime fee of USD 270….
Our new self made “teaser”…
…wakes the attention of the fish underneath us

The first 24 hours are clam conditions, we have ok speed and not too much wind and behind Abaiang and Butaritari the seas is rather calm and comfortable. Afterwards it gets a bit more choppy, but still ok.

The following morning though we get hit by a first Mega Squall, a white wall takes us in and within a short time the winds pick up almost forty knots. We reef and reef and when only a tiny bit of genoa still looks out, then of course the wind is over and we almost stand still. So we take the reefs out again, and in again, and out again – uncountable times the next 24 hours.

On the 23rd a few miles east of Mili just as the winds become stronger but more steady, the small fishing rod runs out and Reto cannot just reel it in.
Yellowfin tuna
And again a record in our fishing – with 14 kg the biggest Yellow fin we have ever caught…
Yellowfin tuna
…and the provisioning responsible is smiling 🙂

Little by little he takes in the line manually while I turn the reel, it takes us more than half an hour to get the 14 kg Yellow fin on board. Because of the rough seas Reto doesn’t want me to filet it on the steps, so it ends up in the cockpit.

What a mess – the wind blows the blood and the dark scales to the other side of the cockpit and onto me of course. Frenetically I work to get the filets into the freezer, afterwards we both happily skip dinner…

At 2 am in the morning we round the atoll of Majuro and furl in the Genua because of a crack in the sails seam.
Majuro Fishing vessels
The fish fleet in Majuro 🙁
Majuro Fishing vessels
…makes us sad once more.
Our cosy spot right next to the wrecks

Still we make enough speed to roll through the pass at 5 am and slowly sail back to the mooring field.

We pick up the last available mooring which is bit close to two large corroding wrecks, water the dinghy and hop into a taxi heading straight to Customs as we are told by the local yacht club.

“You are not supposed to be here. What are you doing on land without permission?” the customs lady barks at us, so we go back to our dinghy to take the customs official out to our boat. After a quick search though our cupboards we are done and he says “Now you just have to pay USD 75 as a fine for going on shore”. I stare at him and say in panic “ But no, we have tried to do everything as we were told – it’s not our fault when we have the wrong information” “You don’t want to pay, ok then it is ok.” I look at him relieved with tears in my eyes.

Next step, back with the taxi to immigration, then we are free to be here.
Majuro traffic jam
Traffic jam in Majuro is a frequent sight…
Empty supermarket
…and also it happens that the veggie section in the Supermarket is rather empty
The women probing for a dance contest.

We walk back, find some veggies and make the next priority stop at the NTH, the local telecommunications office. Christmas eve is approaching, we really would like to communicate with family and friends.

It takes us another two hours until the I Pad is connecting with the WIFI, we are hungry and thirsty and fall into the next store to drown a beer and a cassava pudding.

Until we are back at She San it is almost 5 pm, we are completely exhausted. “Now let’s finally sit down for a welcome beer” suggests Reto. “ I just finish washing the greens that I have gotten from Don, so we have a salad later on” I reply. Don is a sailor who is volunteering in a local garden and he supplies greens and veggies, which is a cool thing.

I am almost finished when I bite into a leaf and my mouth and throat start to burn like hell, I spit out the stuff and take a sip of Kefir (thinking it would help like with chili). Then Reto makes me drink a liter of water and a cup of vinegar as he googles my symptoms to be rather like a chemical burn.
Now it not only still hurts like hell but I also feel quite sick. Then he gives me a few doses of homeopathic Apis globules, I slowly start to feel better.

After two hours I start with taking a shower, and little by little cool my throat with some cool beer.
Christmas Eve dinner
Christmas Eve dinner…
Christmas Eve dinner
and dessert 🙂

What a Christmas Eve! At least a while later we have our Christmas dinner finally tasting the tuna we caught the day before…

Christmas dinner
On the 25th we celebrate with 40 other sailors, the table is loaded with good food

On the 25th the Mieco beach yacht club organises a wonderful Christmas Potluck, there is plenty of great food and of course even a turkey is not missing.

sail repair
The first day in the harbour Reto repairs and improves the genoa with our tuned Bernina

Our first to do is the repairing of the genoa, the broken seam has to be fixed and since it is already down Reto also improves and repairs many other parts of the sail.

On New Year’s Eve the Majurans make a block party, the street is closed in the afternoon, tribunes for bands and stands for food and drinks are installed everywhere.

A bunch of sailors meet in front of the Formosa supermarket, the time flies and a lot of alcohol runs down the throats. After 12 most are drunken enough, since there is no countdown we don’t even realize the the new year has started…

Many times we walk up and down the road, looking for our permits, some hardware for projects and some good deals on food and drinks to stock up for the islands.

Tropical depression TW 01
Tropical depression TW 01 shows the track straight over Majuro…
Tropical depression TW 01
develops southeast of us..
Tropical depression TW 01
…but luckily getting closer sort of dissipates again…

On the weekend of the 5th and 6th of January a depression south of Majuro makes to sailing community become alert, it is called tropical depression TW 01 and at a certain moment up to 60 knots and 18 hours westerly winds are prognosed.

We check our mooring and put some extra lines out just in case, but luckily the center of the depression stays south of us and instead of becoming a hurricane it starts to dissolve again after a few days.

When this system is through and most of the chores are done we start to snorkel and dive the wrecks in the Majuro anchorage as well as close to Anemonet.

DC3 Anemonet Majuro
First checks on the DC3 while freediving in Anemonet …
DC3 Anemonet Majuro
…the following day with the scuba equipment at a bit more relaxed pace
Helicopter Anemonet Majuro
…the main target is not to break any of the coral

There are all sorts of planes, helicopters and dozens of ship wrecks of all kinds in the water and the visibility is surprisingly clear for the inside of an atoll.

Chill out bar
Chilling out at the bar after diving
Homebrewed Beer
The Foxy Lady Crew are enjoying my homebrewed Bavarian Wheat Beer

In the meantime we are three weeks here and we still don’t have all the permits for the visits on the outer atolls (while another yacht who arrived two weeks later has already gotten the one we still miss).

We find that this is not yet really encouraging tourism after all, but for us it is an experience by itself 😉 and  what shall we do, we try to take it easy and enjoy life 😉

Heading north via Savusavu to Tuvalu and Kiribati

After 4 weeks of visitors on board our She San seems empty and lonely. But there is not much time to be sad, we spend two days of washing, cleaning and filling everything up and head out northeast direction Savusavu.

Port Denerau Marina
She San-li is happy to receive a hand wash on the outside
A new guest on board

In 3 small hops sailing upwind we plane through the channels of the reefs on the North coast of Viti Levu. The water is totally flat, we just have to pay attention not to hit any of the numerous surrounding reefs on the way.

Since the forecast shows a serious depression approaching over Fiji we chose to take the passage over to Savusavu even though we expect 25 knots.

At 6 am the anchor is up, we engine against the wind to the east of Navolau passage and then sail in a bit better angle over and out through the Vatu-i-ra channel. Once outside the sailing against the waves is quite rough but we are fast!

At 1 am we take the sails down to safely engine through the Nasonisoni passage. Like in all passes I take my place in the look out standing on the lower steps of the mast. But right in the middle of the pass a white wall from a squall hits us.

And as in June it is pouring as we arrive in Savusavu…
Copra Shed Marina
“Welcome” Sunday BBQ in the Copra Shed Marina

I am happy to wear my foul weather gear and sunglasses protecting my eyes from the rain and just manage to peer out from below my glasses to the edge of the reef…

After 10 hours and 72 miles we most happily attach to a mooring in Savusavu, now almost anything can come…

Savusavu market and bus station, here it is always busy…
View from above to the few remaining yachts
Chicken Curry
One of our favorite indian restaurants, the chicken curry for 4.25 US$ is sensational ll!!

In the next few days it accordingly rains quite often but where we are we are not affected by any strong winds. We use the time in the nice small city to get our last shopping done and enjoy the nice little Indian restaurants once again.

The only sad thing is that the nice Waitui restaurant has moved to town and the new one doesn’t have Indian food, is a lot more expensive and closes down at 5 pm, at least in low season…

Market Savusavu
Pineapple season, the best we have ever had anywhere so far!!
Pawpaw tree
On one of our hikes we find a nice pawpaw tree…
and harvest a bit on our way
but the nets and baskets I fill up by going two times to the market..
Sundried fruits
…and of course the stuff becomes ripe faster then we can eat it
Sunset Waitui Marina
Last evening in Fiji – we enjoy the sunset in the Waitui Marina

The last 4 days there is not so much more to prepare so we can enjoy the mountains behind Savusavu to hike up and down every possible road or path we can find. We are aware that heading north we will not find any more hills in the atolls…

Also of course the provisioning in the market we do in the last moment. We do two runs each of us carrying heavily as we know provisioning fresh stuff will not get easy in the islands north.

On Tuesday the 20th of November we release the lines after 5 1/2 months in Fiji, it was absolutely amazing for us!! But it is time to go, the cyclone season is approaching rapidly… First target is the atoll of Funafuti in Tuvalu.

And there we go, and except for the one or the other squall we enjoy a great sailing…
We pass Niulakita, but are not allowed to stop..
Tuvalu flag
…because we have to check in first…
Wharf Funafuti
… in Funafuti.
Fishing vessels
The lagoon is full with fishing vessels, even equipped with their own helicopters for discovering the schools of fish..
Funafuti anchorage
Arriving in front of the anchorage

We have a perfect weather window to head up north, the first day we have light southerly winds so we can easily sail over to the east to Taveuni, then we engine a few hours through a flat Somosomo strait and pick up the Southeasterly winds on the other side of Taveuni in order to head up north.

The wind is coming from the right direction, the waves are not very high, the moon is almost full and gives us light the whole night through, it is just absolutely beautiful.

After 4.5 days and 557 miles we arrive in Funafuti on Saturday afternoon relaxed and happy, with only half a day of running the engine.

Foxy Lady and Moki are already there, we immediately celebrate the welcome on board of Foxy Lady.

Typical street view in Funafuti, the street is loaded with scooters and motor bikes
Parlament Funafuti
During the day the Parlament of Tuvalu has been meeting here
WW2 tank Funafuti
Our first tank from WW II, I am impressed!
Grave Funafuti
The graves are often protected by their own little house, it reminds me a bit of Niue and Tonga
Pre-school Funafuti
In Pre-school the children wre well dressed up 😉
Fuel station Funafuti
Fuel station in Funafuti
Site safety Funafuti
The “Site safety” is at least claimed on the board outside 😉
Fermentation in Coconut tree
For the first time we see these bottles hanging on the Coconut trees – I am curious to taste the stuff

On Monday morning we start the run to the officials which is literally a run through the whole town of Fongafale, the capital of Tuvalu. Actually it is more a lively village with some government offices, but about half of Tuvalu’s 12000 inhabitants live here. We immediately like the place, it is clean, well kept, the people are very friendly and everybody has a nice “Hello” or “ Talofa” for us.

After the first stop at immigration and then Biosecurity in the Government building we continue to visit Health in the Hospital some 15 min up the road, then further 20 min we find customs close to the wharf at the northern end of town and on the way back we step into the town council who would like to let us know that we have to buy a permission if we want to anchor somewhere else in the atoll.

Two things we have heard already about Funafuti – it is supposed to be a rubbish dump and it has an interesting airstrip right through the town.

Rubbish truck
The driver of the rubbish truck is greating friendly 😉
…and also here someone has thought about safety and recycling of cans
ICDF poster
I like the poster and it seems that the Taiwanese garden is a good source for vegetables here in Funafuti (we leave too early so I cannot try myself)

The first point we feel is pretty under control nowadays, we feel it looks quite clean everywhere around town at least. A local tells us that there are also still repeadetly clean up days where everybody participates instead of going to work 😉

Airfield Funafuti
The control car is chasing the dogs off the airfield…
Airfield Funafuti
…and shortly after the machine of Air Kiribati is landing
Airfield Funafuti
In the afternoon it is time to play football
Airfield Funafuti
In the evening we use the airstrip to sit on and watch the show…
Trade fair
…while the best “dress made from rubbish” is selected…
Trade fair
…although I doubt that any of it had been used before…

The other point with the air strip is really a curiosity. In the afternoon the airstrip is used a football field, in the evening for picknicks, in the night people bring their mat and sleep on it under the stars. Reto finds it especially interesting that many people sit on the white stripes in the middle as if it were softer there or something like that…

We get to know Neta and Wini and come with them and their mother and sister to look at the evening show of the “Tuvalu Trade Fair”.

Neta’s mother is carrying a mat, and once there we all sit on the mat on the air strip (instead of the comfortable chairs in front of the tribune…).
I find it really special but after a few hours my back and butt and everything hurts from sitting on the asphalt, of course the thin mat doesn’t help me much in this…

The highlight of the trade fair this evening is competition about the best dress from rubbish, full with expectation I wait to see what comes.
Unfortunately the dresses are rather producing another heap of plastic rubbish, but maybe I do not get the point because I do not understand what they say in Tuvalu?

Meteo station
In the meteo station we get support and confirmation to chose a good weather window
Saying goodbye to Neta, so sad that we are already leaving again!!

On Wednesday we see a weather window coming up for our way up north, so we decide to check out (this time only immigration and customs) and leave on Thursday morning. Next target is the atoll of Tarawa in Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas).

This is quite sad, since a lot of atolls of Tuvalu and of Kiribati are in between, but we are not allowed to stop in any of them without having cleared in to Kiribati in Tarawa…

Our weather window promises a few days wind coming from a little low going through from east to west, then lighter winds for the following days.

The first morning we put up the parasailor and glide over the water. Just before noon a huge school of dolphins discovers us, they come and accompany us excitedly. After one hour another delegation of dolphins comes up from the north, they jump all the way until reaching us, it seams like a big party with everyone going wild. It goes on for another hour, then they are gone all of a sudden.

Have a look at this little video and enjoy together with us and the dolphins 😉

#Dolphins on our way to #Kiribati #shorts

The next two days the sky turns dark, it is raining and full with lightening but we mostly have some wind to be able to sail.

On the fourth night the wind is gone, and just as I want to take over my watch Reto takes the sails down and sends us both to bed. We have an excellent sleep until the morning when the wind slightly picks up again and we move (not fast but nevertheless).

But the weather forecast changes daily and not to our favor… In addition we get a current that takes us up to 2.5 knots to the east, whereas we should go to the northwest…

After 6 days and nights on Wednesday morning we have to take a decision.
mirror like sea on equator
Just before the equator, the sea really is like a mirror !!!
…but attention, we would’t want to end up in a water hose like back there

Either we drift in direction east and wait for the wind which isn’t yet in sight for the next 5 days or we turn the engines on and engine the rest of the 250 miles all the way up to Tarawa.

Since the first option isn’t really smart either we opt for the engine one…

But we cannot complain, the sea is calm, we have time to relax and enjoy. While I do my daily exercises, read a few books and clean a few corners Reto finds time to immerse in a few technical problems and finally builds a wooden teaser to catch more fish. Therefore we catch two small big eye tuna and start eating the finest sushi.

Directly on the equator…
… and shortly after in the northern hemisphere!

On Wednesday evening we approach the equator for a second time (first time last year from Panama to Marquesas).

While Reto makes a movie I am supposed to make a screenshot of the I Pad and in order to get it right I even do a few test runs… In the important moment though I push the main button a bit too early and instead of the screen shot I get “switching off”…

We celebrate the event by pouring a nice shot of Tequila for Neptune and another one for Reto.

The following afternoon we are within a few 100 meters of the atoll of Tarawa, I am just about to take my position in the mast as out look as one of the fishing rod rushes out. Reto hurries to the rod, I gather the gaff, knife and bucket.

“Oh no, not again a Barrakuda” Reto complains disappointedly. I hurry to get the gloves as well because the barracuda teeth are super dangerous and have a look at the course so we don’t hit the reef in the meantime…

Our first big Wahoo ever should better not escape…
…well done, now I just have to get it into the fridge …
Kiribati flag
Welcome to Kiribati!!

“Oh yes, it is a Wahoo!! How cool, our first big Wahoo”. A few seconds later the poor guy has a cut throat on our platform and a few minutes later I start to filet the fish.

The sun is burning hot, I want to get it as fast as possible into the fridge.

In the meantime Reto steers our She San the last mile to Betio (spoken Beso) on Tarawa, Funafuti, we arrive an hour before dawn 😉

The Free Spirit and the Foxy Lady are already here. Together with Rick, Remco and Jeniffer we enjoy the evening with BBQed Wahoo, beer and wine and afterwards fall into a deep sleep, how good that feels every time after a passage!!!