@Chuck_Owl It is Sailaway. It is far from being complete, as yet, but is quite usable. The main thing, at the moment, is that it has a persistent world, which has made this journey possible. Perhaps not everyone´s choice of a sim, granted, but I like it. I do hope its development will continue, as it has potential. However, as a one man project (I have since found out) this could be slow, if at all.
@TheAlmightySnark Good to see you joining this again! It is that’a way, for you!
Having spent the earlier part of the morning inflating the rubber dinghy with a foot pump, a laborious task, I rowed ashore at 18:35 UTC. Looking at Kanton Atoll on the chart, I was wondering if I would need a tightrope walker’s pole. It seemed so narrow, just a ring of coral enclosing a lagoon.
There was a runway, close to where I was planning to beach. Canton Island Airport (PCIS). Very original, I thought briefly to entertain myself as I rowed. It was about as much information as I could obtain on the place. The spelling had been changed from “C” to “K” to the liking of, what I was noticing, the letter “K” by the Republic of Kiribati. A little used letter, in English, and conspicuous by its absence in written Spanish, here was the Kindgom of K, its hiding place on the face of the planet. Where it had escaped to, dared to be an individual, broken with the convention of its stereotyped neighbors “J” and “L”, thumbed its nose at conformity…
“Stop that!” I said to myself sharply. Boy! I was in poor shape mentally, as a result of this voyage.
I looked over my shoulder at the beach occasionally, while I rowed. I was getting closer, covering the half mile with no problems, except a slight drift to the west. The current. This was a good thing, the northern shore I had chosen was paralell to the current and consequently didn’t have any large surf or breakers to contend with, as the outer eastern shore of the rim probably would. There was a solitary coconut palm on the beach that I could see. I used it as a reference to correct my drift. I was soon there, and while I stood on the beach under the tree looking towards the catamaran, I noticed a coconut that had fallen onto the sand. While looking down at it, I heard sound of a muffled footstep in front of me. I snapped my head up so quickly in surprise that I startled the source of the sound. It turned out to be this guy…
“Good grief, don’t do that to me!” I said. “I nearly jumped out of my skin.”
“Welcome to Kanton, our friendly atoll,” he said jovially. “You will be very happy here.”
“Oh, thank you. But I’m not staying. I’m just a curious traveler who chanced upon you homeland,” I cleared my throat.
“You are here at the moment. You will be happy,” my contradiction hadn’t phased him at all. “When you go, perhaps you will not be so happy anymore.”
Indeed, Kanton had a population, of less than 50 people. And even that was dwindling, now. I had figured that much out about it, too. This man was one of them, no doubt. The welcome committee.
He told me a bit about the atoll’s history, but first asked me to close my eyes and “see his home with his telepathic mind’s eye”. This didn’t seem strange to me, for some reason. I did as he said. This is what he transmitted to me…
(it is actually a very cool video!)
Kanton had been named after a whaling ship, circa 1855, which had indeed been spelt with a “C”. Canton. In fact, the whole group of eight atolls in the area had also been named for another whaling ship, the Phoenix, 30 years earlier. Both would most probably have been the functional barque rigs, very typical of whalers, and to boot aesthetically pleasing square riggers to look at, similar to this one…
I hadn’t done anything new, therefore, by running into Kanton. It was just an atoll that was conveniently placed along what would be a logical trans-Pacific route. And it would subsequently be used for the purpose, by Pan Am, as a stop for their clippers. A great deal of on site work was carried out by the company, preparing the island and even deepening the lagoon, so that it could act as a stop. There is even a memorial site erected on island for the Pan Am Samoan Clipper, a Sikorsky S-42, which crashed on its return flight from its pioneering, first airmail run between New Zealand and Hawaii.
During World War II, it was beyond the extent of the Japanese advance in the Pacific, but did not escape its attention on several occasions, as it was used by the allies as a staging post in the supply line between the U.S. West Coast and Australia. During this period, the runway was completed. As a reminder of the conflagration, the decaying hulk of the troop ship SS President Taylor still blocks part of the entrance canal to the lagoon.
As a last point of historical interest, Kanton was also used by NASA, as tracking station during the development of the “go to the Moon” program, starting with the Mercury Program. The derelict tracking station now forms part of the surprising quantity of abandoned “trash” that litters the island, and among which its few inhabitants live. Notwithstanding this, however, today the Phoenix Islands collectively constitute the world’s largest marine protected area, as from 2008, known as the Phoenix Islands Protected Area. Commercial fishing is banned in the area.
“So, my island!” The man said proudly. “I wish you to stay, but if you must go, then I will help you.”
He pointed over my shoulder, up towards the airfield. This is what I saw…
“The heck? How did that get there?” I was astounded.
“I understand that you like that? On this lost pilgrimage of yours through the world, would that bring you joy?”
Once more, that this total stranger knew something about me, or was able to do magical mind transference tricks, did not seem odd to me. My reality on Kanton seemed to follow a sort of “dream logic”, if such a thing exists, of pre-determination and transformation. The only problem was, I was definitely not dreaming. You wake up, when you know you are dreaming.
“Sir, who ever you are. I was going to fly one of them on my present trip. Why is that here?” I was baffled. It was a Pan Am DC-6, like the ones that actually flew into Kanton after World War II, on their way to destinations in Australia.
“Why is that here? Because you had to come here. Are you going to take it, now?”
It seemed a fine offer. With those doldrums waiting for me east of the Solomons, this would make my life a lot easier. I thought about it for exactly 5 seconds.
“I am not taking it,” I said. This was not about making things easier.
“Good!” the man said. And cupped his hands behind his ears, as if he was listening to a distant, ethereal voice. “You have heard the Spirit of the Coconut, which alone can keep the Man Alive. You’re voyage will be good!”
Then this happened…
…and I was looking at the coconut on the sand. Tentacles of creeping ice emanated out from between each and every one of my vertebrae. I had either seen an apparition from another time, or just had the most spontaneous, interactive hallucination in history. I looked back up at the airfield, where I had seen the DC-6…
Gone. Vanished. But there I could make out another human figure, walking down towards me from the airfield, about 1,000 yards away. He was waving at me.
I most certainly had had enough of Kanton Atoll, however. I ran down to the shoreline, dragged the dinghy into the surf, climbed aboard, and rowed back towards Bella Donacela as fast as I could. I was halfway there by the time the man reached the shore. Facing backwards in the rubber boat while I rowed, as I was, I could see him standing there, just watching me leave, with his hands on his hips and his head cocked over to the side in wonder.
Spirit of the Coconut, indeed. By goodness! What Mumbo-Jumbo, but; where have I heard of that before? Something to do with John Steinback, I think.
No. No, no, no!
I have really lost it, this time…