Sunday, November 27, 2011

Majuro - Thanksgiving and other stuff...

My apologies for the lack of posts lately.   Due to my laziness and a few technical difficulties (Andy accidentally erased my last post I had ready), we’re a little behind.  So this post is a conglomeration of the past week or so – several unrelated activities.

One of the most exciting things since we’ve been here has been Jake getting to ride on a surfboard behind a boat.  Our friends on Love Song have the use of a fast motorboat (Alan is fixing it for the owner) and they have some wake boards, knee boards, etc.  They pulled Jake behind on their surfboard while he hung onto the rope.  He was so excited – one of the best times he’s had yet.

Thanksgiving was ok.  It was a potluck and most of you know how I feel about potlucks.  Andy was one of four people cooking half a turkey (all our oven will hold) and he also volunteered for scalloped potatoes.  I decided to make dinner roles so we ended up cooking all day like we would on a normal thanksgiving.  But we like cooking for the most part, so that was the highlight.  The potluck itself was typical, but we’ve made a few good friends here so time spent with them was appreciated.
Andy, carving his turkey.

As usual at big potlucks like this, there was tons of food.

Lena, Gabriella, and Anna enjoying their
day out on the boat.
There’s a couple here that we’ve met who is adopting a Marshallese boy.  They have three little girls and their new addition makes four.  They’re from Missouri and this is the first time their kids have ever been to the ocean.  So we decided it might be nice to take them out on the boat.  They were trying to get to Eneko but the hotel charges $50 a person.  We go out there all the time, so we told them to come along with us on Saturday.  The weather held out for us and it proved to be a really good time.  We borrowed some snorkeling gear and life jackets for the girls, while they brought along lunch for us all.  The girls got to drive the boat and they went snorkeling for the first time ever.  It was quite a treat for everyone…even us.  I was telling Laura that it was nice to talk to someone from home who wasn’t a cruiser every now and then.  We get stuck in a rut with our same old boat conversations so it’s nice to be normal for a change.  The ride back wasn’t the greatest – into the wind with 25 knots – but hopefully the rest of the day made up for it.

The initial dinghy ride to the boat...

Jason with little Levi, the newest addition to their

The girls LOVED driving the boat.

They all took turns.

Today, we’re doing boat chores and being a little lazy.  It’s raining again and there’s not much motivation to go ashore just yet.  The rainy season is supposed to be over in November and the winds start to blow more consistently then.  The winds are starting to blow, but the rain hasn’t subsided just yet, but it looks like maybe we’re in the transition phase.

We’re still working on getting to Kwajalein – actually, not making much progress – hopefully we’ll be heading out soon.  They just had elections here so we have to wait until all the officials are finished counting votes before we get our permits for the outer islands (limited manpower). 

On a semi-positive note… the investigator from Tarawa has been writing us and they have arrested three people in conjunction with our robbery in Tarawa.  They haven’t recovered anything yet, but are still looking.  So even if we don’t get anything back, at least we have a little satisfaction knowing that the guys got caught. 

More random pics....

Jake has become quite useful...bailing water out of the dinghy after
a big rain.

Naomi and John on s/v Renova
Leslie and Phillip on s/v Carina

An example of some trash we often come across on the various motus.
It's a shame what washes ashore.

But all you have to do is look up a little and it's really

Thursday, November 17, 2011

More fun in Majuro...

Here’s a test… look at the following symptoms (and lack of symptoms) and tell me what you think it is…
  1. Severe Headache
  2. Red, itchy rash on entire body
  3. Fever
  4. Slight tingling and muscle soreness
  5. Eye balls hurting
  6. Lethargic, complete lack of energy

Yeah, that’s what we think too.  Looks like mama’s got Dengue Fever.

At first we didn’t know what it was.  The rash was only on the parts of my body where my clothes were so I chalked that up to a heat rash (I had just walked two miles in a hundred degrees and sweat any and all liquids I had in my body out) or the new detergent I was using.  The headache was bad but I’m having a TMJ flare up so I assumed that was related.  My muscles were sore, but again, I walked a lot with a backpack on my back and I’ve been swimming a lot more so I assumed that was the cause of that.  Then came the fever…I couldn’t really explain that one away. 

The first night I was extremely cold while Andy was lying in a pool of sweat, so that made him think maybe I had ciguatera (whose symptoms are remarkably close to dengue).  I didn’t feel like any of my bones were breaking or even all that sore so that made sense.  We went with that assumption until a few days ago when my eyes started hurting and the rash covered my entire body (save my head) and I was almost unable to get out of bed.  So yesterday I went to the hospital to get a test and confirm. 

What an experience.  Now I’ll preface this with the fact that at least this hospital resembles a hospital and has all the right pieces, parts and players.  I do realize that there are much worse off countries and strange places to be.  That being said, I was out of my element.   After walking around like an idiot for half an hour, I finally found out I needed to have a chart prepared for me.  I sat amidst stacks and stacks of files while watching a guy punch holes in a manila folder and carefully place some forms in them.  After I filled out the forms, paid my $17 (what a bargain, right?) and got a number, I went to the outpatient area.  I was braced for hours of waiting but surprisingly enough, I got in and out in about 45 minutes.  After taking my symptoms and sending me to the lab for blood work, they indicated I should come back later for the results.   For me, later was today.  But dumb me, I went during lunchtime.  Apparently, the hospital doesn’t like to work during lunchtime.  After much coercing, I convinced a nurse to find me a doctor not eating and that landed me in the emergency room.  This is not where people come to get better…I’m convinced this is where you come to catch something worse than what you came in with.  I was cursing myself for making a stink, when the doctor finally told me that yes, indeed I did have dengue fever.  He gave me a run down of everything to watch for (mostly just bleeding)  and told me to come back in two days and have my blood levels checked again.  “Sure thing, doc.  Right,”  and I ran out as fast as I could go.

So, it’s been 7 days since I first got sick and it’s a fairly mild case.  I never had the “bone break” part of this fever.  As a matter of fact, if it weren’t for the headache, this wouldn’t be a big deal at all.  I think I got extremely lucky.  They say it takes a few weeks for it to completely go away.  It’s been a week now and I think the fever is heading out so hopefully the rest will go soon without infecting anyone else. 

I still have to slather on the repellent as I don’t want to infect the next mosquito that finds me tasty and pass it on to my closest neighbor (or son, or husband).  I also don’t want to get it again as they say the effects are cumulative and it’s much worse the second time around.

On a broader note, we’ve about had all the fun we can handle, what with the rain, continuous spending of money to fix and replace things and now dengue.  But Thanksgiving is coming up and we do have a lot to be thankful for, so don’t worry, we’re not losing sight of all that.  There’s a potluck next week for Thanksgiving and hopefully soon afterwards, we’ll have our parts and be on our way to brighter, sunnier places.  Stay tuned.. my ability to find something interesting to write about is being challenged….I’m going to be digging deep.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dengue Fever

Dengue Fever… we’ve been in places before with dengue fever, mainly Mexico.  And I’ve even known a few cruisers who have contracted Dengue.  I hear it’s not fun.  They also call it the “Bone Break Fever” because it feels like your bones are breaking.

There’s a recent outbreak of it here in Majuro.  It’s carried by mosquitoes and there’s no cure or vaccine for it.  You basically have to tough it out.  I don’t normally get worried about things like this because truth be known, there are worse things around here like TB and HIV.  But the government here is making a big deal about it and the CDC has some folks here as well trying to identify which type of dengue it is.  There have been 154 cases confirmed as of this week, with 41 people hospitalized.  It appears that the numbers are hitting a plateau and the cases are getting milder though. 

Symptoms are high fever, headache, joint aches, skin rash, vomiting and, in severe cases bleeding from the nose or gums.  The stores are all out of Tylenol, mosquito repellant and coils and anything else remotely related to dengue.  Luckily, we stocked up on bug repellant in Mexico (and it’s the industrial strength kind…no FDA there) and we’re covering ourselves head to toe every time we go out.  And I have enough Tylenol on board to probably support a small village outbreak.

It’s always a little unnerving though to go into a country, especially the lower income ones, and see what kind of health problems we have to worry about.  Cruisers are a funny lot too.  You’ll get some that totally ignore all warnings in an effort to appear less like a tourist (despite the fact that the locals are worried too) and then you get some who will change their plans altogether to avoid a place with problems (although I can see how you would end up sailing around in circles out here if you took that approach).  We like to think we’re middle of the road – cautious without panic.  Use your common sense, I always say.

The one good thing that’s coming of this is that Majuro is getting a major clean up (a much needed one too).  Evidently the best method of prevention is cleaning up.  They’re getting rid of all the places where mosquitoes can breed (or at least attempting to get rid of it) and cleaning up all of the trash around town.   Getting rid of standing water may prove to be difficult as it rains here all the time (we’re right in the middle of rainy season).  But they’re giving it their best efforts.  Maybe by the time this is all over, the result will be a nicer place to live and visit.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Having fun in Majuro

After ordering our new computers and a few other things, we thought it might be nice to head out to one of the other islands in the atoll to swim, snorkel, dive, whatever…basically, stay away from places where we can spend money and go ahead and get our minds off all of our latest setbacks.

There are two islands here that have free moorings.  I would love to tell you what they’re called but everyone calls them something different (and nothing near what they are on the charts) and they’re impossible to spell, so I’ll tell you that they’re only about 6-8 miles away from Majuro and they’re very pretty.  Our friends on Renova went with us and the first few days it did nothing but rain.  We managed to explore the beach for 30 minutes or so in between down pours, but other than that, we didn’t get much done.  But once the clouds parted (briefly and intermittently), we got in a few dives, some good snorkels and even managed to throw in some school every now and then.

Seriously though, the snorkeling was really great.  There aren’t many big animals around (well, none actually), but there are hundreds of fish and some of the best coral I’ve seen since we went diving in the Bahamas 5 years ago. 

The downside is that the beaches here are littered with trash.  Presumably, it washes out from the city with the tide and then ends up on the beaches on the outer islands.  As we sit on a mooring tonight, we actually saw a guy just throw a big bag of trash in to the water.  The winds are light right now so you can see everything just floating around.  I have to say, had it been like this when we first pulled in, I might have voted for the fast track to Fiji.  As it stands, I think this place is making us appreciate things we hadn’t really thought about.  On one hand, I’m totally appreciating the Tuamotus, Society Islands, Marquesas, etc…. On the other hand, everything is really inexpensive here (well, not everything, but the basics are way cheaper than anywhere but American Samoa), and we can get our mail sent to us relatively inexpensive – and any other parts we need to order.  So in reality, there’s pluses and minuses just like anywhere else.  And here, we get a lot of good teaching moments for Jake J.

We found this sign on one of the islands...I didn't know Nebraska
had a Navy.

This is what happens on Savannah when you don't listen.

His first time free from the tether.

Jake watching movies with his new friends.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

10/31/2011 - Happy Halloween!

He's the Hammerhead Pirate on
Pirates of the Carribbean 2!

Our first few days here in Majuro have been spent trying to get money (the two ATMs here on the island have been down), groceries (hard to do without money), and internet.  Internet here is even more expensive than in French Polynesia and we can’t get it from the boat.  So when we need it, we pack up our laptop and keyboard and trek up to the internet café and try to hurry through everything in the 50 minutes that our $5 bought us.  Yesterday we decided to bite the bullet and buy a cell phone with wifi.  Since we’re going to be here a while, we figured it was pretty cost effective.  The wifi package on the cell phone is only $15, but we still have to be in a hotspot to use it.  So it doesn’t eliminate the need to pack everything up and go to the café, but it does cut our costs down considerably.  So to family and friends waiting to hear from us in more detail, we’re working on it…

Now, for the best news…two little boys pulled in with their family yesterday on s/v Love Song!  Wyatt and Morgan are 5 and 7 years old.  We were getting in our dinghy to go trick or treating and by the time we got to their boat, both boys had their costumes on and were ready to go with us.  We went around to the few boats in the harbor that had people on it and they picked up their loot.  I had given candy to some of the boats earlier in the day in preparation for us coming around, but for those that weren’t home, I have to say they were very creative.  The boys came away with some fruit, vanilla pudding and even some packs of cool aid.  Afterwards they played on Love Song while Andy and I visited with Renova and when we picked Jake up, we made a date for tomorrow.  Jake said it was his best Halloween ever.

I haven’t had a chance to post about his costume.  He thought it up all by himself this year.  He wanted to be the hammerhead pirate on Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3.  Who is that you ask?  Well, you have to look close or you’ll miss him, but he’s there.  So we did the best we could, but he was happy with it.  We’ll let you be the judge…

I’ll do my best on the blog posts but until we get into some sort of rhythm here with this internet thing, they might be sporadic.  Hang in there with us.  This is a neat place.

10/26/2011 - Passage to Majuro

Sorry for the delay in posting... communications have been very difficult here.  Below is a post from our passage.  I'll follow up soon with our Halloween posts.

It was another windless passage, not entirely surprising to us, as we knew they would be “light.”  This one was different though in that we didn’t have enough diesel to motor the whole way.  We haven’t filled up since American Samoa and we’ve been motoring quite a bit, so this passage we had to save a little.  We flew the spinnaker in some of the lightest winds ever, making about 2.5 knots for a day’s average.  Talk about mundane.  Then we hit a storm that gave us some 25-30 knot winds and were able to make significant ground with just the jib out.  All the while, bucking a 2-3 knot current.  Jimmy Cornell’s passage making book (kind of the bible, if you will, for sailors) talks about a sporadic current, but for us, it has been extremely consistent for the last 500 miles.  Where we would normally make 5 – 6 knots under motor, we were only making 2.5 – 4.0. 

Out of 16 days at sea over the past 3 weeks, we’ve had about 4-5 good days of sailing, 9-10 days of flat calm, and one day of nothing but squalls.  That day was the last day.  After that first storm, and seeing how it moved us along pretty well, we started actually hoping for squalls so we could sail and cut the engines off.  Be careful what you wish for.  We never saw anything over 30 knots but on our last day, they were everywhere.  And the winds were coming from all different directions as well as the waves.  It was the only time I’ve ever actually seen a squall slow a boat down.  We were still motoring but with the current and the waves on our nose, we actually lost a knot or two with ever squall.  Finally, in the last 12 hours, even though we were still getting rain we finally started to move a bit more.  The bad part was the bucking back and forth.  We’ve certainly been in worse weather, but after days and days of no weather, it was a lot to get used to.

Despite the weather, moods were surprisingly high and it turned out to be a pretty good passage.  Cabin fever was kicking in for some of our shorter crew, so we believe we arrived in the nick of time. 

Without giving a day by day blow, here are some highlights of the passage:
  • Stopping to clean the prop.  We gained a complete knot just by knocking of some barnacles, all the while, boosting crew moral with a little swim in this stifling heat.
  • Science experiments.  We made boats from our trash and tested them in a bucket of saltwater.  We watched water evaporate (well not literally “watched) from a bowl of seawater to leave salt.  We made a rainwater measuring device to be used in Majuro to measure rainfall each day.
  • We caught another deep sea fish, this one with sticky goo all over it.  Andy said it was the nastiest stuff he had ever had on his hands and took forever to clean off.
  • Andy and Jake had one very long monopoly game where Jake learned the meaning of bankrupt and tycoon.
  • Trying to think of different ways to cook the same thing.  How many ways can you cook canned corn, canned mushrooms, canned beans, sundried tomatoes, canned tomatoes, onions, garlic?, chayote, and cheese?  If you throw in pasta, rice and the occasional homemade bread, you would be surprised.

Note the little boats we made...he's checking to see which ones float.
His tinfoil raft was the best.

 This last one was truly my job each day.  It’s about all we have left onboard and trying to make at least one interesting, remotely healthy meal a day was a challenge.  Now Jake and I don’t mind a few vegetarian meals, but the Captain, well, he’s a different story.  The first few days we were fine.  We had some pork and some frozen lobster from Tarawa.  But the last few days, the only meat we had to work with was some Chinese sausages, canned hotdogs, and  some other sausage he picked up in Tarawa – none of which were very appetizing to me.  We did have some frozen chicken and bacon, but they were deep under two layers of ice – not happening.  The best results were my pastas with creamy sauces, what’s not to love?  I do have to give another well deserved shout out for the vegetable chayote.  It goes by the name of cho-co in this part of the world.  In other parts I think it’s also called christophene.  This is the heartiest vegetable I have ever seen.  We bought a mess of it in Mexico but it had long been gone when I finally found some more in Samoa.  We bought about 15 of them for 2 tala (about a dollar) and it’s all I have left that’s fresh.  You peel it and it can be used in a number of ways.  You can cut it up and use it in a salad to add a crunch.  It can be added to stir fry or pasta.  It takes on the taste of whatever you’re cooking so it’s a very non intrusive ingredient.  I also have a great quickbread recipe that I make for breakfast sometimes using shredded chayote.  The list goes on and on…au’ gratin, fried chayote cakes, etc.  You can find them in most American grocery stores (at least on the west coast), and they’re fairly inexepensive.  They’re green and kind of prickly, sometimes sticky.  That’s why you have to peel them.  They also come in a white version but I have only seen those in Samoa.  If you’re looking for something new to try…  Ok, I’ve given more than enough time to our eating habits…moving on.

So here we are in Majuro.  We’re optimistic about what it has to offer.  Our guidebooks say there is a restaurant called Monica’s and another one called Savannah’s.  Surely there is something for us here.