• In and Out Of Trouble In Kiribati

    April 4, 2019 – Tarawa, Kiribati
    New month, new country! S/V QUIVER arrived in Kiribati two days ago after a picture-perfect 400+ mile solo crossing from Majuro, making the trip in a bit under four days, almost entirely under sail. From here, i’ll jump on the first good weather window that I can find and get further south – across the equator – towards Fiji.

    QUIVER sailing towards Tarawa Atoll on Tuesday morning at sunrise. Sorry to be so light on photos and media, but my internet access is quite minimal at the moment. Follow @svquiver on Instagram to see more video and photo content about the journey. The blog is oftentimes hard to update.

    After a 7-day stop in Majuro turned into nearly two months, it abruptly became time for me to leave. I had made many new friends, had many good laughs and memories, I had built a dinghy, I had two visits from Kristen, I had sailed 24 hours around Majuro with a friend, I had journeyed to Arno Atoll on a sketchy Boston Whaler, I had surfed several different breaks in Majuro, I cut my right foot and got stitches… So many experiences and so many memories, almost all of which are very fond. Majuro and the Marshall Islands now hold a very special place in my heart, and I truly hope and plan to return.

    Majuro to Tarawa

    One things about the Marshall Islands is that it was WINDY the entire time I was there. When I entered Majuro Atoll on February 2, it was blowing up to 26 knots true wind speed, and when I left on March 28, I saw a maximum gust of 38 knots true wind speed; some of the windiest conditions i’ve ever seen on this boat. After taking on 10 gallons of diesel fuel – my first in about 3,000 miles and close to 4 months – I hoisted my small #4 jib and began made good progress towards Calalin Pass in 18-25 knots of wind, with plenty of wet stuff coming from the sky. Once I reached the pass, I hardened up to a reach and made my way northwest to the open Pacific. Just like 5 days earlier with my friend Travis, I hooked into a solid fish right in the pass. And just like 5 days earlier, the grey-suited tax man came to collect his fee. While fighting quite a big and strong fish (i’m guessing 40-50 pounds or more), the line very suddenly went slack. Not only did I lose the fish to the shark, but I lost my lure as well, and it was a fine lure at that, one which had caught a ton of fish.

    As soon as I was out of the pass, again headed downwind, a front passed that had a line of dark clouds and only a bit of rain. The wind began climbing and just kept climbing until it was blowing 25-35 knots with a max puff of 38. With just a #4 jib, QUIVER was screaming towards the north west corner of the island before gybing and then running down the west side of Majuro Atoll. The wind settled down into the mid-20’s as QUIVER again came up to a reach and began rocketing south. The stayed up, as did the seas, and while I had planned to possibly stop at Mili Atoll and surf the next day, that was not in the cards. Sailing south was a good angle, southeast… not so much. I chose the comfy route and pointed the bow towards Kiribati.

    As the wind gradually backed off, I continually added sail area. First, it was a deep reefed main, then a single-reefed main. Then a full main. Then the big jib. By the time that I arrived in Kiribati, I had maximum upwind sail area set for about a day and a half. As the wind backed off, so did the seas and the sailing turned downright pleasant. On the first evening I didn’t fish as i was keen on cleaning a fish in 25 knots of wind and big seas, I just wanted to sleep. On Day 2, I lost another lure, likely to a wahoo as the plastic leader was all chewed up where it snapped. On Day 3, my bad luck with fishing turned right and I landed two 6-8 lb yellowfin ahi tunas in the evening. After a proper meal and plenty of fish in the fridge, the fourth and final evening offered up a real treat when the rod went off and I reeled in a 20 lb ono (wahoo)! In the Hawaiian language, the word ‘ono’ means delicious, and it also refers to wahoo. Like the native Hawaiians, I find wahoo to be delicious. It is my favorite fish, and any time that I catch one is cause for celebration. Needless to say, i’ve been eating a lot of fresh fish lately, which is good, because there isn’t much other fresh stuff here!

    Welcome to Kiribati

    After one of the nicest nights of sailing imaginable, my fortunes changed almost as soon as I got to Tarawa and anchored. I called Tarawa radio and was told to go ashore and meet the “boarding party”. I knew I would be boarded and inspected to some degree, but I had no idea how thorough they would be. Unfortunately for me, they were VERY thorough and found my stash of naturally-occurring plant-based medication. Two hours later, i’m sitting down in a police station having to describe to the police chief what the five different strains were for, what the differences were, how to use the pipe and grinder. In hindsight, it was quite comical, because I was literally having to describe the difference between sativas and indicas and different strains of weed and what their impact is, and then give them a tutorial of how to use my simple pipe and grinder. Apparently i’m not in legal trouble and my only penalty is that my weed became their weed. I consider myself very fortunate to not be in further trouble. Getting popped with illegal drugs in a foreign country is absolutely terrifying. At the end of the day though, it’s just a fucking plant. Just legalize it already.

    This is what QUIVER looked like after being completely ransacked by 5 customs officials from Kiribati. After a picture-perfect 400 mile passage from the Marshalls that was done entirely under sail and included 2 small ahi tunas and a wahoo... i get my boat ripped apart upon arrival, and wouldn't you know it, they found my stash. Couple hours later, and i'm having to break down to the police chief what the differences were among the 5 or so strains i had on board, and how marijuana gives me great medicinal benefit. I assured him the indoor grown, really smelly, sticky weed with crystals all over it was the best one. Seeing as how it is legal to possess small amounts of weed in most US states now, i pleaded ignorance and was then informed of the fact that marijuana is in fact illegal in Kiribati, and in the words of the law "your weed becomes my weed", and i'm not in any more trouble. I also lost a very well used glass pipe and a Rick 'n Morty grinding device that i'm particularly gutted about. Fuck me, what a gnarly experience and energy shift after coming in on just the most picture perfect night and morning you've ever seen in your life. Welcome to Kiribati. Getting popped for weed kinda messed up the whole vibe, i'll be looking for proper weather and looking to make my escape. #legalizeit #itsjustafuckingplant #kiribati #cops #idontwannagotojail

    Kiribati first impressions

    Situated at 1 North latitude, the weather is characteristically “equatorial”; lots of rain and not much wind. One or two good rain squalls just came through and with the cockpit shade rigged as a rain catcher, I just filled up 18 gallons in water jugs this morning while writing this blog. The people seem quite friendly, though this place is very dirty and very poor. I suspect things change quite drastically when one leaves Tarawa, as this is the population center and has a very high percentage of the population stacked into small ghettos by the sea. Getting in trouble with the cops have almost certainly tainted my impartiality and given me a somewhat negative perception.

    Kiribati, Fiji and then…. ?

    Needless to say, my original plan of heading west didn’t happen. Basically as soon as I decided that I would head towards Guam before summer, a major, very-much-out-of-season typhoon developed right over our heads in the Marshall Islands and then tracked west under Micronesia and then went to Guam. As I continued watching the weather, I became less and less enthused about going west. During the daily radio net in Majuro, there was constant chatter about how this “was one of the worst years i’ve ever seen to head west”, and “I have never, in 25 years, seen this much cyclonic activity in this part of the world, in winter.” Things like that. I really didn’t feel like heading west, and I was too late to really cruise Micronesia anyways. So i’m headed south. Marshalls – Kiribati – likely Tuvalu – Fjij is the current plan, and some time around November i’ll have to decide to stay put, head south to New Zealand or head back north to the Marshalls and Micronesia. Decisions, decisions…. People always joke about cruisers constantly changing their minds, and of that, I am guilty as charged. Pretty much as soon as I arrived in Majuro in early February, I 86’ed my plan of going on a fast circumnavigation. And now, honestly, I want to “back track” and head east, and then do it all over again and spend a few years in the Pacific. The more I sail, the more places I see, and the more I am alone with my thoughts, the more that I dream of Tahiti, New Zealand, Hawaii and Mexico. But as of right now, I am only dreaming of Fiji! I have been there before, for 3 months on MONGO and LOVED it. Stoked to head back!

    This could likely be my only blog entry from Kiribati.


    Ronnie Simpson

    This article was originally published in forum thread: Ronnie's Most Excellent Adventures: The Quiver Files started by Photoboy View original post