Tag Archives: Christmas in Paradise

Southwest Thailand – Phuket, Phang Nga, Ko Mook, Ko Phi Phi and back

Sailing in paradise or haunted by mass tourism? – From Yacht Haven we sail clock wise to the tourist attractions of the Phang Nga Bay like Ko Hong and James Bond Island, on to Ko Ha, Ko Lanta and quiet Ko Mook and finish the lap via super noisy Ko Phi Phi to busy Nai Harn Beach in Phuket

Continue reading Southwest Thailand – Phuket, Phang Nga, Ko Mook, Ko Phi Phi and back

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 😉

Panama – San Blas – beautiful weeks with family visit from Flavia, Heide and Pete

Enjoying Banedup, San Blas

Then my little sister Flavia arrives with the water taxi an comes on board in Banedup.
And even though she is tired with the jet lag and a sleepless night in the hostel in Panama city, the first day on board is full with activities. Continue reading Panama – San Blas – beautiful weeks with family visit from Flavia, Heide and Pete