A note from Dick and Gail Barnes:
Dick and Gail Barnes are off on another excellent adventure on their Nordhavn 57, Ice Dancer II. They departed Honolulu on May 4, 2009 for an expected one-year cruise of the deep South Pacific. On Ice Dancer (I), a Nordhavn 50, they completed trips to Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii and French Polynesia for a total of 23,545 nm. Ice Dancer II has been to Mexico, Alaska, Galapagos Islands, Cape Horn to Hawaii for a total of 28,708 nm. At their first stop for this trip, Palmyra Atoll, they had completed 52,253 nm on their two Nordhavns. You are invited to share their observations, here.
May 21, 2009 Thursday
Fanning Atoll 03-51.6N 159-21.5W
Arrived 11:30 a.m. Monday on Fanning Island, about 1,000 miles south of Honolulu and four degrees above the equator. Two large yellow-fin tuna slowed us down on our way here, hooked at the same time between Palmyra and Washington atolls. Our boating strategy is to idle downwind on autopilot when fighting fish and this time it was the opposite direction to our intended destination. It took one and a half hours to get the two fish aboard--probably well over 200 pounds between them. We were thrilled for the chance to fill every last corner of our freezer space with these premium fish. Now, we either have to eat faster or catch slower. The sushi and tuna steaks have been great.
Fanning is a traditional polynesian society. Houses are mostly made from indiginous plants and trees. People sleep on platforms with thatched roofs and open sides. Pigs and chickens wander about, but are only used for food on special occasions. Their diet consists primarily of fish, coconut products and imported rice and wheat. Extended families play a large role in everyday life. The only products exported are dried seaweed for the Hawaii market and copra for coconut oil production.
The islanders were very kind and warm hearted. A teacher showed us her school: simple buildings with dirt floors and benches. We donated some school materials and a little money to help in a small way. We also brought surplus supplies from Palmyra for the village clinic, donated by The Nature Conservancy. This was the primary village of fourteen on this atoll and one atoll of 33 spread across hundreds of miles of the Pacific Ocean, organized as the nation of Kiribati. Their needs are remarkable.
Norweigan Cruise Line used Fanning to avoid Jones Act prohibitions of foreign vessels boarding and discharging passengers in U.S. ports, in this case Hawaii, without first landing in another country. Periodic ship arrivals brought some new jobs to Fanning, but when the company changed its business plan, it was gone. Now, the lightering vessels used to move passengers sit idle and occupy over half the dock space, including most of the fabled sunken barge, for many years used as a base for visiting cruisers.
A positive outcome of the cruiseship departure is letting villagers use the Hobie sailing catamarans brought for passengers. The cats are in use by young men from early in the morning to well past darkness. The brilliantly colored sails are visible moving throughout the protected waters inside the atoll.
We met Tony and Suzanne, a sailboat couple cruising full time for twenty years. For the past five, they have sailed alone in separate boats, sharing time together after arriving in new anchorages, but not on the high seas. Interesting.
Thursday afternoon, we departed for Pago Pago, American Samoa. Arrival should be in about seven days. We considered spending more time by getting fuel at Christmas Island, but the procedure there was such a hassle on our return trip from French Polynesia, in June 2005, that we decided to move on. We plan to have a replacement single side band radio sent to Pago Pago, so that we will have another communication option besides the satellite phone. The transmitting side of our Icom M802 is not working, after trusting its repair to the Icom service representative in Honolulu. Oh well, in the end we will have a spare.
Dick and Gail Barnes
Aboard Ice Dancer II
Palmyra Atoll 05-53.2N 162-05.3W
Sunday morning, we will head 200 nm to Fanning Island on a one-day trip. Our week-long stay here has been fabulous. We anchored just off the Nature Conservancy research station in a spot protected by a point just east of the runway, so we were spared even the small chop from the fetch across the lagoon. Palmyra is a typical atoll. It is a ring of coral with an elevation no more than ten feet above the water. It is covered with palms and other typical vegetation, plus cyprus-like trees that were planted at some time. Nearly a century ago, coconut palms were planted on all of the islets with the idea of harvesting nuts for copra production. This scheme never happened, but the shore is thick with the trees. The military dredged a channel through the southwestern side of the reef and built a base here in 1939, in anticipation of WWII. Concrete bunkers and rusted iron of various types are still visible. There is no commercial activity near the islands, leaving perfectly clear water on the outside of the reefs. Scientists fly in on special chartered aircraft to study the marine and avian enironment. Snorkeling views are spectacular. We have made good use of our double Hobie kayak and rubber dinghy to see it all.
Nesting birds have provided ample photo opportunities. Red foot, masked and brown boobies are abundant. Sooty terns have recently returned. Fairy terns, frigates and other species supply good reason for protecting this wildlife refuge. Fish, sharks and rays are plentiful.
We are the second boat in the lagoon this year. Permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife are required. In March, a replica sailing catamaran crewed by native Hawaiians navigated here and back to Hawaii without modern instruments. We took advantage of current technology.
Weather has ranged from cobalt-blue skies to 3-1/2 inches of rain in one day. Stars are on a carpet of black with no ambient artificial light and no condensation trails from aircraft. From here, we could see a huge arc of sky, from polaris, the northern star, and beyond the southern cross.
Dick and Gail Barnes
Aboard Ice Dance II