Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mauri from Kiribati

That is hello in the language of the island nation of Kiribati. Kiribati is actually pronounced "kiri-BAHS." It's alphabet only contains 13 letters and a "t" followed by an "i" has an "s" sound. It was a very long passage for us for 743 miles. We had every type of weather possible and we covered many, many more hundred miles than 743. We did many miles over and over again – either because the wind was right on the nose and we had to tack and make little headway – or we simply had to drift – and sometimes that was backwards. We did try to sail most of the way and the last few days were good. We also had to play "ping pong" with some big squalls that had a lot of lightning, avoiding them when we could. But we did make it safely – still married and the boat held together.

We are now anchored in Tarawa – for your WWII history buffs – the scene of a very costly battle – off the port of Betio (pronounced Bay-sho). It is a lively port with lots and lots of cargo and fishing boats around as well as many derelict sunk or half sunk rusting vessels. It is a pretty shallow port – we are anchored in only 25 feet of water. We came in on Wednesday morning just after sunrise to some rainy, squally weather. It is a well-marked port though, and pretty wide open – not the narrow atoll passages that really get you nervous.

Soon after we dropped anchor, we had arranged with Tarawa Radio for a "boarding party" of customs and immigration. But there was enough of a communication issue that we misunderstood that we had to go pick them up. Once that got sorted, we had to unroll and inflate our dinghy and get the motor on to go get the boarding party. Michael was met on shore by four women – that was the boarding party. We had a representative from customs, health, immigration and police that came out to the boat. It was a crowded little dinghy. Once aboard, the formalities of lots of paperwork was completed and then we enjoyed some time with these lovely women. We ended up doing lots of laughing, picture taking and exchanging of e-mail addresses. It was quite a nice welcome to the island.

The customs woman, Buaua, offered to take us to quarantine if we came to shore latter that afternoon. That would be the last piece of our clearance process. We decided that instead of going to sleep, we would do that and went ashore after lunch. Not certain where to leave our dinghy, we talked to the very large police boat and ended up tying to their stern ladder. Guess it would be pretty safe there! There was a high wall and ladder to scale to get up the dock. Barbara finds that a bit challenging in a skirt! People here are very warm and we were able to locate (sometimes being walked over to areas by strangers) our friendly customs woman Buaua. Luckily quarantine was in the nearby port office so Michael went there and Barbara stayed in Buaua's office and learned some Kiribati words and more about the island. After a bit, Buaua offered to take us for a brief tour to show us where we could buy some Kiribati handicrafts. It ended up being quite a tour of the Betio area of Tarawa. We saw some WWII rusting guns and tanks, a WWII memorial and cemetery, two large catholic churches, lots of local maneaba's (community meeting houses), residents (traditional thatched roofs) and many, many stores and shops.

After our car tour, we got out and went into a few shops and scoped out fuel prices, cooking gas options and what was in the stores. We picked up a fresh baked bread and headed back to the dinghy. Being right on the equator, it is hot here. We did get entertained by some kids on the way back – they were riding their bike into the lagoon down a ramp. Michael asked if he could take a picture and then they put on a show! Saluting as he rode down the ramp. Then of course, one young boy on the bike caught up with us to see his picture. Kids are the same everywhere we go. We love to see them laugh and smile.

Back aboard, the wind picked up a bit and this anchorage isn't the calmest. We still enjoyed a nice meal, bottle of wine and a good night's sleep.
Next entry – a bit more on Kiribati – your history lesson!

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