Fanning Island is a coral atoll and is part of the Line Islands in Kiribati. There is one entrance in to the atoll for boats which is through a channel between two breaking reefs.
Entrance to Fanning Island (from inside the atoll)
Note the waves breaking on the reef just outside.
We had read that the winds are a steady 10 knots with one or 2 days a year where it blows up to 40 knots. No points for guessing what we had… Approaching the island we considered whether the entrance would be too dangerous in the wind, particularly as our electronic charts lacked detail. In the US our charts provided very detailed information on water depth, current, tides, lights, landmarks, etc however the chart for Fanning Island had no such luxuries. We did have a paper chart however which told us that the water was deep enough, but we also had a Pilot guide which told us that the current could run at 7 knots. The other option was to continue onto Samoa – another 8 to 10 days away – so we made the call to try for Fanning. As it turned out the channel was easy to see because it was the dark blue strip of water between the amazingly brilliant aquamarine of the shallow water on either side.
We were surprised to see about 6 other boats anchored in the bay - in such an out of the way place we had wondered whether we might be the only boat. We anchored in 16 feet of beautiful teal water and were immediately greeted by a couple from New Zealand who have been cruising for 3 years. Their cruising life probably took an interesting turn about a year ago when their little boy – Ocean – was born. I know a lot of people do it, but I can’t imagine doing this trip with a baby. Kirsten did mention that dealing with nappies was a bit of a challenge. It seems to be part of cruising life to put up with a higher odour level than normal, but that’s just asking for trouble…
We waited for a few hours for Customs to come over and clear us in before realizing that things are a bit more relaxed here so we headed over to the village to check in. The ‘Government Offices’ looked like school rooms, each with a hand written sign on the outside and a desk and chair inside. We’re not sure how accurate the signs are as when the Customs office was closed we went to the Police office to ask about it and were greeted by a lovely lady who seemed to manage the touristy side of things, showing us the new stamps and postcards which had just arrived on the supply boat.
It really is quite untouched by Western civilization here – no electricity, no communication apart from an old Coden SSB radio (in questionable working order…) and VHF (which is only good for 100 miles at most, if it's a powerful one), no radios, no phones – nothing. On the other hand, there are hints of ‘tainting’ by Western society (which is inevitable) particularly in the amount of rubbish around the place, mostly plastic which they apparently throw in to the lagoon because it’s ‘good for the lagoon’. Everyone is really friendly and we’ve chatted to a few people. English is taught at the school but I don’t know that a lot of the residents speak it very well apart from the officials.