Posted by: powellpjc | April 10, 2011

Sliding Down the Carolines.

I hung around Majuro, Marshall Islands, a bit too long. Was waiting for a pair of binoculars to arrive from USA. USPost said 6-10 days. They never did arrive in the month that I waited. Left forwarding instructions. $&%^^^%%$##.

Away from town the Majuro atoll can be very pretty. And not too crowded.

A reefer in the Majuro lagoon, waiting for his next load of big tuna.

 

Had a lovely 2 day sail to the next atoll in the Marshalls, Jaluit. Small, sleepy place with about 800 folk not doing much. I arrived on a Sunday morning. There is a residential high school there with kids from many of the outlying atolls and most of them were sitting under the banyan trees and remained there for the day. No sports, no fishing, no swimming. No stimulation for these poor kids.

I took the dink exploring. A lot of WWII wreckage along the coast, very clear water inside the lagoon and not a soul about.

In the Jaluit lagoon. Was not hard to find a parking space.

If you can see from the grave, this would be a nice place to rest.

 

I was the only visiting yacht. They still use the Marshallese sailing canoe on Jaluit to get around. Light and tidy outrigger canoes with a simple sail system. Takes 2 guys to operate one and they move quite smartly in the smooth waters and steady trade winds of the lagoon.

The Marshallese sailing canoe. Deep, narrow and good for transporting a few folk and a few fish.

 

No need for a keel when your hull is like a knife.

And underway.

Left Jaluit after a couple of lazy days, thereby saying adios to the Marshall Islands. It was a very slow passage (7 days) for the next 400 miles to Kosrae, the first of the Federated States of Micronesia in the island group known as the Carolines. I found myself in the equatorial countercurrent and I knew this because one day, with no wind, I motored due west, then reversed course. 6 knots east, 3 knots west. So, there you have a 1.5 knot adverse current. I took a chance and headed north to get out of it and 75 miles later I was clear. A nice mahi mahi took some of the sting out of the slow trip.

When you see the white-headed black terns doing this you throw your line. There are fishes here feeding. The terns are scooping up the leftover bits.

 

Here is the white head resting on my bimini for the night.

This guy just wanted to stick his tongue out at me. Like Bart Simpson.

 

I’d heard great things about Kosrae, but it was no hell. The harbour was dirty water, filled with detritus. They built a causeway connecting a couple of islands and shut off the natural flushing of the harbour. No place to swim. I did meet Mark, hotelier and owner of a dive and sport fishing operation and we went for a scuba dive with the Attorney General outside the reef at the south end of Kosrae. The AG got seasick so it was just Mark and me and the coral was spectacular, as well as the 200’ visibility.

The trees of Kosrae. Where there's a will, there's a way.

You gots to be quick when a tuna strikes. This skipjack was on the line for less than a minute and his buddies ate him. Or some shark. Giant squid?

 

Kosrae to Pohnpei was an easy 400 mile haul. The anchorage there was well-protected and no bugs.

The guardian rock of Pohnpei.

Pohnpei harbour from Cupid's restaurant. I was sitting here when news of the Japan earthquake/tsunami events took place. Raced down to the boat and sat up most of the night, but no trouble. Whew.

 

There were 4 boats there for the first week and then just one besides me. We banged off some chess games (mixed success), had some nice dining and I did what I do best—waited for mail. My binoculars showed up, finally, but of my new 135 watt solar panel there was no sign. #$%^&*. Feeling that way, I went to a cock fight. First one of my life. There are quite a few Filipinos working in Pohnpei and it was their show. Feathers, knives and death in the afternoon. I lost $10 and don’t need to see another rooster-beatdown.

Young dancers. Nothing to do with the cock fights.

You gots to find small coconuts.

 

No beaches to speak of on Pohnpei, but some lovely mangrove swamps, if you like mangroves. I hooked up with the helicopter pilot I’d met in Majuro (he’d just been fired) and we kayaked one afternoon through something like a Louisiana bayou. No mosquitos, no bugs of any kind which was surprising for me, a muskeg kind of guy. No turtles, no snakes, no monkeys and no birds. Beautifully quiet and cool, though, in the mangrove bayou. Really enjoyed it.

Pohnpei bayou.

Rico Steger. Out of work and in the swamp.

 

The next Caroline group of islands is Chuuk (formerly Truk) but I’d heard nothing good about the place except for the wreck diving. I am not a wreck diver and was not interested in the violence and petty crime reputation Chuuk has so I set sail for Palau (now named Belau), 1400 miles west.

It was 13 days of perfect sailing. Light winds, smooth seas and cotton ball skies. Lost one lure when I got caught between a longliner and his lines and another when I hooked into a 4’ marlin. The idiot (ok, he is a fish after all) broke my line but I could still see my expensive lure in his mouth as he leaped (lept?) and tail-walked behind the boat for 2 minutes, thinking he was still caught. As soon as I went below to get the camera he took off. Of course. Lost two other lures to unknown giants of the deep.

Thirteen days brought me to 70 miles off the Palauan east coast where the wind took an evil turn. Right on the nose and 25 knots+. I zigged and zagged for 3 days fighting a vicious current and miserable (in direction) wind. Ripped my mainsail in half one night and spent 8 tough hours struggling on a heaving deck to sew it back together.

When I finally made it inside the reef, using motor and sail, I was so relieved and exhausted that I neglected to consult the tide tables. Arrived at the only entrance channel at maximum outflow and standing waves. I was not turning back and rode my way in like one rides a rodeo bull. I might add that I have never ridden a rodeo bull or any other kind of bull and have no intentions to do so. A few anxious moments and then all quiet on eastern front.

When I was checking in with all known officials (customs, immigration, dock authority, sanitation, health etc.) I met an Aussie who had just limped in from an attempt to sail to Philippines. He also ripped his mainsail in half and worse, broke his cable steering. He clocked winds at 38 knots in the same blow I had, but his were stronger on the west side of the island. He was able to steer the boat with his autopilot, which does not need any cables to confuse things.

So, now I am finished with the Pacific Ocean. It has been 10,000 miles from Chile (straight line) and there is no longer ocean crossing on earth. Alaska to South Pole does not come close. So what? From here on it is the Philippine Sea.

This is Palau and this is why I came.

Haven’t seen too much of Palau yet, but what I’ve seen beats anything I’ve visited since Tahiti. I spent a fortune on new fishing lures and stainless steel line. I’m not giving up without a fight. More on Palau after I get my mainsail properly sewn.

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Responses

  1. pedro,
    updates & picies much appreciated but the continuing success of mahi mahi catches
    fosters envy———as it should
    tw

  2. Pink

    Good update. Hope you are safe and sound in the Phillipines.
    Watching the royal wedding and looking out at snow..

    It has been a very long winter in Calgary. Your Island pics are fantastic.

    PK


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