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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Friday 7th May 2010

Mike invited Stu out fishing today so Kirsten, Ocean and I went for a walk on the island with Kandis, another cruiser. She and her husband are here from Hawaii for a few weeks for a surfing holiday, but in the past they circumnavigated with their two sons on their trimaran.

Everyone says hello and waves; especially the kids, some of whom would bellow “hello” and wave until we are out of sight. They are very cute although it’s a bit sad seeing some of them with their severely distended bellies, needing worming or better nutrition or something (probably both!). Apparently the supply ship isn’t highly reliable and staples like rice and flour had run out months ago, so the locals were living on a diet of fish and coconut, with the odd papaya thrown in while they lasted.

Stu and Mike were successful on their fishing trip (although I think Mike stays out there until he catches something). They were back after about an hour having caught a Rainbow Runner and a Giant Trevally. (photo to come)
Stu hadn’t been for a wander around the island yet so we went over to have a look at the remains of the cruise ship days. We had been told in Hilo that a cruise ship went to Fanning Island twice a week so we had been surprised that we hadn’t seen it on our passage. A foreign cruise ship can’t go from a U.S. port to a U.S. port so they would detour to Fanning to avoid a fine. The cruise company had pumped millions of dollars in to Fanning Island, building bars and restaurants, supplying outriggers, bikes and kayaks for hire, helping to fund the school and generally making the place a tourist haven for the cruise ship passengers. Of course this provided jobs for the locals, provided income and also provided some medical assistance and the like. Now that we’re here we’ve found out that the cruise company decided it was cheaper to just pay the fine and they stopped coming about 2 years ago, leaving everything on the island and, after giving the locals a taste of tourism, income and assistance, basically just dumped them. The buildings they left still have names on them – like ‘The Sand Bar’ – and big pizza ovens, cooktops and iceboxes are still there and in good condition but unable to be used because of the power required to use them.


Pizza anyone?

Outrigger canoes
(Pelon in background)

The locals make good use of the bikes and outriggers but maintenance is very minimal (or non-existent) and lots of things are in a state of disrepair. Gunther, who has been living on his boat here for about 6 months, helps a lot with maintenance of the few scooters and flatbed trucks however apparently he is thinking about moving on in the next week or two so who knows how well things will continue to run once he’s gone.

Dinner on Sugar Daddy (the Gun Boat) provided a great night. Amazingly even with 20 people on board it didn’t feel at all crowded! The highlight of the night was definitely Kirsten’s fish curry –absolutely delicious and so good to get such a flavor burst after days of eating the boring stuff we’ve got left. I’m also finding that the spices I bought in the U.S. are very bland. Even a good couple of heaped teaspoons of chilli powder added to a dish can’t be tasted!

We had a great night chatting to everyone, discussing where we’d been and where we were heading next. Unlike us, everyone else has either an indefinite amount of time or months and months to go before they have to get home. We’re starting to count in weeks now and while I initially thought that 6 months would be plenty of time, now that we’ve only got about 11 weeks to go I’m keen to just keep going. Fanning Island in particular has sparked this new enthusiasm as it’s our first ‘real’ cruising experience I guess, where we are in an anchorage with a few other boats, all of whom are so friendly and helpful, and just good fun. It’s also very inspiring to hear other people’s experiences, like Mike and Kirsten who spent a lot of time in the US, Canada and Mexico before starting sailing and who suddenly had to manage cruising with a baby; the Sugar Daddy owners and crew who have travelled 100,000 miles together in three years on a few different boats (that’s more than three circumnavigations!!!); Phillip who retired and decided to cruise indefinitely, doing some legs single-handed and some with crew he finds on the way (currently sailing with Laurence who is taking 12 months leave from work); Michael and Kandis who have circumnavigated with their kids and are now just taking little breaks; and Rob and his wife Louanne who are fulfilling a retirement dream and have been joined by his son and his son’s girlfriend for a few months. Everyone else has rather fluid plans while we’re got a strict deadline and are struggling to create an itinerary that will get us home in time when there’s so much we still want to do and see! A few boats are thinking about coming to Hobart – we’re really hoping that they do.

Initially we thought that two days would be plenty at Fanning Island but now that we’re here we really don’t want to leave, however we have the constant ticking of the countdown clock in our heads almost to the point where even in this tropical paradise we can’t really fully relax.

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