Stepping into a ship's tender (also known as a "lifeboat" in less pleasant circumstances) can be a major challenge. The smaller craft rises and falls and bangs into the open tender platform on the side of the virtually stationary Serenity. But boarding is not exactly a "leap of faith", since four able-bodied sailors assist each guest to time that crucial step.
All safely aboard, we were ferried to Tabuaeran Atoll, or Fanning Island, nine by six nautical miles long and a part of the island republic of Kiribati.
We are 1000 miles south of Hawaii on this far-flung nation and their own capital is 2000 miles away! Our arrival was greatly anticipated by the residents, and as we approached the shore my first impression was that we would be attending a church craft fair fund-raiser. Just like home!
Our welcoming singers stayed comfy in the shade for the afternoon of guest's comings and goings.
Mary, the primary school teacher, gave me her address. Island dancers and drummers entertained and "warriors" posed with guests.
Beneath the tables filled with crafts handmade from shells, coconuts, and palm fronds, giggling children sheltered from the sun, and eventually the rain.
This island paradise averages only two to three feet above sea level, making the future uncertain as sea levels rise.
No sandy beach on this side of the coral atoll. Mounds of smooth sea and wave-tumbled coral make tricky footing.
The Greig Memorial, erected in 1957, subscribed by Fanning Island Plantations Ltd. The Island's history revolves around trade and harvesting of the bountiful natural resources.
Possibly first settled by people from Tonga more than 6 centuries ago, the island appeared on Western maps in 1798, when Capt. Edmund Fanning arrived with his crew onboard the "Betsey" from America. He was a New England boy, born in Stonington, Connecticut.
Our visit to the unspoiled, undeveloped bit of land is a vibrant reminder of the bounty of Creation,
The wonders of Nature,
And just how little people truly "need", to be happy. (Yeah, I know, easy to say when we're being spoiled on a six-star cruise ship!). I pray for the future of these wonderful people and their island nation. They are raising money for their new church - hoping for the generosity of today's visitors.