Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy Holidays from Kwajalein!

Santa found us in this big ocean.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone.  We hope you all were able to spend time with your loved ones and enjoy some time off.  Once again I failed to get Christmas cards out so my apologies...between being unemployed and living in the tropics, I just couldn't find the time. :)

We’ve continued on our social marathon here in Kwajalein with holiday parties, cocktail hours and we even fit in a few boating trips.  The first was on the ferry here to Ebeye, a neighboring Marshalese Island.  This is where most of the local workers on Kwajalein live.  They take the ferry daily back and forth from Ebeye to Kwajalein.  We took the ferry with our sponsors on Christmas day to see the town and listen to some of the church singing.  It was a nice day getting out and about.  Ebeye is crowded, but appears to be a bit cleaner than Majuro and the people also seemed a bit friendlier.  Of course my opinion might be skewed given the high praise I have for Majuro (wink, wink)…

The ferry ride to Ebeye.

Yesterday we took our friends out on the boat to another island, Bigee (pronounced Bee-gee).  It was so beautiful - crystal clear, blue water with white sandy beaches – we decided it would be a great place to hang out for a week or two.  Ron and Christina brought their paddle boards a long with them for us to try.  I’ve been wanting one and it was nice to get to try one out first.  Although I think I might have been more successful if I didn’t wait until there was a small squall coming.  For a while there I thought Andy was going to have to get in the dinghy and come get me.  The kids played under the boat all day either swimming back and forth from the bow to stern or just making up games on the paddle boards.
The sailing was great as well.  We made a consistent 8 knots going out to Bigee which pleased Captain Ron to no end.

Captain Ron
The kids...a bit tired.
Playing under the boat.
Ron on the paddle board.
Not a bad place to be, huh?

We’re still enjoying ourselves and are even considering trying to find work here for a year or so (some of you will be picking yourself up off the floor right now).  We’ve had a lot of unexpected expenses since Tarawa and it would be nice to replenish the cruising kitty a bit while resting in a little slice of the US out here in the middle of the pacific.  But nothing is guaranteed here so we’re not getting our hopes up too high…it’s a win win either way – if we get jobs, we stay.  If we don’t get jobs, we leave and go to Tonga next year and keep on cruising.  There’s no bad option there.

In the meantime, we’re just soaking up the sun and enjoying this friendly, relaxing atmosphere.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Well we’re here and we hit the ground running.  It’s the holidays so there are more things to do than time to do them.  Given that we’ve been pretty lazy for the past two years, Andy and I are trying to keep up.  Jake has actually been playing so much that he slept until 10:00 the other day – a first in his short 6 year life (he’s normally a 6:30 kind of person).

We’ve gone to several parties, met tons of people, taken a tour of the island, gone on a lighted boat parade and Jake has gone on his first sleep over.
Jake, Miles and Jacob showing their silly faces.
This is a funny little place.  We’re thoroughly enjoying our selves but there are some things worth mentioning to help you get a picture for it here.  There are very few cars/trucks.  They’re all government vehicles.  The people here travel on bikes and the occasional golf cart.  There are all sorts of bikes too – “Island bikes” – meaning the handlebars might wiggle, the chain might slip, but no worries, because it gets you from point A to point B.  There are all kinds of trailers for these bikes too.  As a matter of fact, I happen to be carrying Prince Jake around on a trailer fit with a lawn chair tied down by a bungee.  The grocery store here even gets in on the action….since trailers can only carry so much, they deliver!
It’s nice because you can just sort of let your kids do what they want without worrying about someone snatching them up or them getting hit by a car.  It’s kind of refreshing knowing there’s still a place around that’s safe.

Everyone is really friendly and it’s such a small community that everyone knows everyone.  That could be good or bad, I suppose, but so far for us, it’s nice.

They have pretty much everything you need here – swimming pools, movie theaters, sports, water sports, beaches, even a food court complete with Burger King and Subway (Something I bet Andy they had…
I’ve never been to a military base that didn’t have at least one Subway).

Some of our favorite things have been the turtle pond and a little beach spot that our sponsors showed us with a rope swing.  Jake spent a few hours there the other day swinging and jumping off into the water.

MY favorite thing so far has been watching Jake learn to ride his bike!  He’s been on the boat since he was 3 ½ and cruising isn’t always conducive to learning the basics that most kids do.  So, we bought him a bike in Majuro and when we got here, we found a nice grassy spot for falling over.  Surprisingly, he caught on right away and he’s almost ready for the big time.  He just needs to learn to get started on his own and be a little more aware of his surroundings…but he’s doing great!

We’re off in a few minutes to pick Jake up from his sleep over.  I called and found out that our kid fits in fine even if he is a little different….his stuff smells like boat, he puts his toilet paper in the trash can and he politely asked Christina if she could turn off the air condition. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sailing is overrated.

Before I begin to describe our passage from Majuro to Kwajalein, I'll take the time to reassure everyone - my mother - that we weren't in any danger what so ever. With that said and out of the way...

We saw 12 foot seas, squalls with 40 knot winds, and at one point we had a hull speed of 12 knots. Some catamaran crews dig 12 knots. I do not. The 12 foot seas I'm talking about were "confused" and coming mainly on our beam. For a catamaran, this is the most uncomfortable position. We hit the waves twice, once for each hull, which likes to make this figure 8 or washing machine type movement. I prepared for this though...I knew it was going to be rough. I abstained from any alcohol or caffeine several days before we left. I got a good night sleep and I took my seasick pill. What I didn't count on is this stupid stomach bug. Not being one to gross you out or give too much information, I'll spare you with the details, but trust me when I say this was not your regular seasickness. I don't want to be the one to bring a nasty Majuro bug (and yes, that's exactly what it is) to our new friends, so I started on a nice, friendly round of antibiotics. I'm doing better now, but things still aren't quite right.

The good news of the passage came to Jake when he found out I was too sick to do school and he was free to watch his Looney Toon marathon. I totally forgot how violent those things are...but my goodness they make him laugh.

So, a big thank you goes out to my understanding husband. He too, had a tiny bit of the bug, but managed to keep the big portion of it at bay. He made lunches, dinners and even let me take extra naps...all without even the slightest bit of irritation. Thanks, babe.

We pulled in nice and early yesterday morning and our sponsors met us on the dock. We had a fun filled day of which I'll write another post about, but the important thing is that we made it! We're thrilled so far...more to come.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Marshallese Canoes

On Tuesday, Andy, Jake and I set out on a few errands and ended up visiting a place where they make canoes here in the Marshall Islands.  It’s called the Waan Aelon In Majel.  I have no idea what that means, but it’s basically a place where kids can go (usually the 20 something crowd of kids that have dropped out of school) and learn how to build the traditional Marshall Island canoes as well as learn some additional skills to help them in real life, like building furniture, laying concrete, roofing, and even office skills  - whatever needs to be done around the compound.  One of the yachties here is the director so he gave us a quick tour and we watched a little video about the history.  It really was fascinating.

The outrigger canoe, at one time, was the only form of transport for both people and food between the islands here in the Marshalls.  The canoe itself is known as the fastest known indigenous watercraft in the Pacific.  It’s been fine tuned to sail closer to the wind than any other modern sail craft in the world.  The video we saw showed how they actually made the canoes and the names they gave to the different parts.  The canoe was designed with a man and woman in mind.  Every part of the canoe has both a man and woman part, meant to symbolize the family unit and how it’s important to work together for a common goal.  This concept is demonstrated throughout the construction of the canoe. 

Ken on s/v Moonbird giving Andy the lowdown on how
the canoes are built.

The two light blue canoes are the original Marshallese design.

There are too many features to mention about the canoe itself and why it’s so fast, etc., (I’ll let you look those up), but it’s the stories that I enjoyed.  There is a story about 12 brothers going out to race.  They all made their own canoes and the mother showed up with a little bundle and wanted to go with the older son.  He told her it would make the canoe too heavy, she should go ask another brother.  She proceeded down the line with the same answer from each until she got to the youngest son.  He said of course she could go with him.  She carefully unwrapped her bundle and pulled out a sail.  They took the time to rig it up (missing the start of the race), but as they caught the wind, they passed all the other brothers and won the race - another example of family working together.

Another skill the Marshallese are known for is their navigation.  They made stick charts to not just chart the islands, but to chart the currents and wave patterns.  These charts were used to pinpoint their canoe’s whereabouts as well as their teaching tool for future mariners.

One of the sad parts about all of this is that it’s a dying art.  There are very few people who know how to make the traditional canoe anymore and there is no one who can weave the original sails, made out of panderas leaves.  The folks here are apparently very artistic and catch on quick but don’t see the value of this, given the western influence already apparent here.  This is why the program does more than just make canoes….they’re trying to provide these kids with some other skills as well.

With so little to do here for the young folks, I think it’s a great program and enjoyed watching the kids get into their work.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The latest update

This is one of the nicer hotels where we go to use the internet.

This particular blog post has gone through quite a few iterations.  Some of them too negative, some of them too positive…so I’m trying to walk the middle line here.  Partly because of the way we got here – we were robbed, we weren’t allowed to go to many of the islands we planned (in Kirabati), we motored the whole way, I got sick the first few weeks were here (by a darn bug no less), the constant rain, and now I’ve got a cold – you can see how I might be a little grumpy.  As a matter of fact, this is the grumpiest I’ve been since leaving San Diego almost two years ago (did I mention I’ve gotten fat too and have really bad hair?  That never helps the old mood).  The other reasons for the discrepancy in the various versions of posts is because we haven’t seen the outer islands yet and I really do like being the glass half full girl, so I’m holding out my honest opinion.  And lastly, as every cruiser with a blog knows, you have other cruisers reading your blog and what you say might affect when and where they go.  I would hate to think that someone nixed an entire part of the world because I was having a bad hair day.
So, with all that said, I’ll start with the logistics…

I guess I jinxed us a bit in the last post. The Japanese job fell through.  It turns out there were only two people flying in and they new nothing about diving.  They were under the impression that they would be able to just put on a scuba tank and off they go (to 150 ft).  The dive master and captain of the boat they were taking put a nix on that, so…we’re off to Kwajalein.  We’re to arrive on the 17th, so as soon as we fill up with diesel, get the rest of our packages, and buy a few groceries, we’re out of here.  It’s only a 2-3 day trip so we have some time.

We’re also waiting to get our permits for the outer atolls.  You’re required to get a permit to visit any other atoll outside of Majuro.  All that really involves is filling out a form for each island and getting it approved from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.  Sounds easy, but in reality, it’s election time and all of the folks in the Internal Affairs office have been busy counting votes so they haven’t been there to hand out the forms.  We got them late last week and Andy returned them in on Monday.  They said it would be a few days…we’ll see. We have a lot of requests.  It seems you need to request permission to visit any atoll you’re even thinking about going to (there are something like 29 here?), otherwise you won’t be able to stop.  There are lots of other details around it (fees, other permissions, etc.), but getting those papers in our hand is all we need to actually leave here.

This is where I do my laundry once a week or so.
On to some thoughts on Majuro…  The biggest positive that I can say and I honestly mean this, is that the people are very nice.  We’ve made friends with the ladies at the various restaurants we go to.  The grocery store clerks know us.  We’ve even gotten the same taxi driver a few times.  The guy at the hotel with the bathroom key knows Jake well… While they’re not extremely chatty (in reality, I don’t think the older folks speak a lot of English), there is usually a smile on their faces and a sense of being at least mildly welcome. 

This morning I realized I had taken very little pictures here - not really seeing any reason to in my negative hole filled with darkness - so today I snapped away.  I decided to let the pictures speak for themselves.   We visited the place where they make the traditional canoes today… I’ll do a post on that all by itself.  It was quite interesting.

Enjoy (and be nice, I took these, not Andy)!
The largest supermarket here.  Not too far off from something at
home, other than the expiration dates.

The local theater...notice the marquee
This is another little restaurant where we get wifi.

Andy and Jake stuck in their electronic world

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Is that sunshine I see?

OK… my pity party is slowly coming to an end.  There’s a new and improved Monica with a positive attitude!  Why, you ask?  Well, because things are looking up, of course! 

First, we received some really surprising, yet fantastic news from the investigator in Tarawa.  Not only did they arrest three people for the break in of our boat, but wait….hold your breath… they actually found our two computers and iPad.  No joking.  The bad news is that it may take forever to get it back to us (they need it for trial), but with a few whiny emails about how we need it for navigation and communications and weather (all true) hopefully we’ll cut the time down by a few months.  You could have knocked us over with a feather when we got this news.

Secondly, It looks like Andy may have gotten his first paid freelance job!  Some Japanese folks are coming here and have chartered a boat to Bikini Atoll and are looking for an underwater photographer.  It appears that Andy fits the bill.  There are other photographers but none with the equipment and experience he has.  So, he may be taking a little 10 day excursion to Bikini in the next week or so.  (I tried to convince him it was my fabulous resume writing skills that tipped him over, but we all know I’m wrong).

And finally, and I do mean “finally,” we were able to get sponsorship to Kwajalein.  When we set out 6 months ago trying to find a sponsor, we had no idea the red tape and regulations it actually required (why, I don’t know.  I mean we’ve spent a lot of time in the military…it should have been a given).  But apparently, the people that step up to sponsor you are required to vouch for pretty much everything about you.  By that I mean, medical, food, housing, toilet paper…well, maybe not toilet paper, but you get the idea.  It’s no wonder a bunch of strangers were hesitant to give up their days allowed for visitors (they only get 90 a year) for a few vagabonds strolling in on a yacht.  But, much to our appreciation, it appears there is a really nice couple (fellow boaters) that we have a lot of common with (at least on the surface) and they are willing to host us for a few weeks.  More on that later…I don’t want to jinx it.  But the icing on the cake is that they have kids!  We can’t wait to meet them.  We’re hoping we can head up there right after Andy gets back from Bikini, weather permitting.

So there you have it….yes, it’s still raining here in Majuro, but my outlook has more sunshine in the forecast than thunderstorms and I can assure you the captain is very grateful for that!

Apologies for the lack of pictures but I just haven't taken very many...will try harder.