Thursday, January 26, 2012

Where are we now?

We left Bigee Sunday morning and arrived in Rongelap early Monday afternoon. Rongelap is one of the atolls in the Marshall Islands that got most of the fall out of the hydrogen bomb testing the US did in the 50's on Bikini atoll. As a result, the residents have all been moved to other atolls while they clean up and rebuild Rongelap. They're on their last phase of that rebuilding and we've had the luxury of seeing it before everyone moves back. Right now there are about 50 people on the main island working mostly in construction, with a few looking after the facilities. We have found the people here to be the friendliest we've met so far in the Marshalls...maybe that's because they never see anyone new?

The first full day at the main island, we went ashore and started our looky loo around. Fred, the island guy in charge (for all we know), met us about half way through our tour on the back of a flat bed truck ready to drive us around and complete the tour. He showed us the bungalows that have been built for tourists, the brand new airport complete with over 4000 ft of runway (big enough to land a small jetliner), as well as the place where American doctors and scientists used to stay while the tests were going on in Bikini. After spending a couple of nights here, we asked Fred if it was alright if we went north to explore a few more islands and wait out some high winds that were in the forecast. After getting his ok, we headed off.

So we've spent the last few days exploring a little island north in the atoll, mainly looking for glass Japanese fishing floats and giant clams. We've had good luck on the clams, not so good luck on the fishing balls. We've found bits and pieces of them, and even some evidence of some very large balls that washed ashore at some point...but none of them seem to be able to withstand the huge rocks and reefs they hit on the way to the beach. Surprisingly, light bulbs and wine bottles, don't seem to be phased by the sharp pointy rocks. Speaking of things washing up...there is more crap on this beach than I could ever imagine. Some of it is kind of neat...buoys, floats, pretty bottles...but most of it is just sad. Plastic bottles, flip flops (do you have any idea how many people are out there walking around with just one shoe?), toys, light bulbs, tvs, fishing nets, soccer balls, dolphin bones (Nancy, I totally thought of you...Andy wouldn't let Jake keep the skull), lobster traps, life rings...I could go on and on... In the end, we probably averaged 3 miles a day just looking for floats and rummaging through trash. I thought of my friend Terry with all the pretty seashells...Nancy with all the bones...and Kelly with all the "treasures," her and her husband have always been good salvagers.

We'll stay here another day or so, then head back to the main island. They actually have internet there that they said we were more than welcome to use so I may be able to post some pictures within the week.

My final thought this afternoon as I was contemplating what shape the clouds were making...My degree sure did help us get here...after all, I had a decent job and the knowledge of what planning and saving was necessary...but now that we're here, I sure do wish I took that basket weaving elective...I tried with the palm trees today and couldn't make anything useful at all.

We'll stick around here a few more days and depending on what news we get or don't get about the job in Kwajalein, we'll decide whether or not to head to Bikini. In the meantime, Andy's in the water taking pictures, as usual, and Jake and I are finishing up the first grade.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Back on the hook

We finally had to say goodbye and leave Kwajalein. We didn't go far. We're back up in Bigee enjoying ourselves as we get back into the swing of things (literally, the swinging of the hook). We've snorkeled, gone scuba diving, expored the beach and just hung out under the boat. I was having trouble thinking of something interesting to write (since I know you guys probably get tired of hearing about the blue water and cute fish) when we got a call on the radio this morning. Our friends on s/v Before were trying to get a hold of us to relay a message. Remember our computers in Tarawa? They have finally been returned to another sailboat that's down there right now, heading our way. Seriously, they not only found our stuff, but it is actually on it's way to the Marshall Islands. The even better news is that they found everyone else's stuff as well. We were the only ones who put in a police report so sorting through the stuff may be a bit difficult, but we know they found our friend's snorkeling equipment, along with Andy's favorite mask that we assumed was long gone. So all is right in our world today.

I'm tempted to go on a little about how we already replaced the computers so in reality we don't need them, but that's not true. We never have figured out how to reload our charts, so those are still needed. All of our pictures from Tahiti to Tarawa that I thought were lost (along with the photo albums I made for them), will be recovered. I will get back a little bit of writing I had been working on, and as Jake pointed out, all of our high scores on our video games will be saved (very important). AND...I will get back the numerous email addresses and phone numbers that I had moved to the computer in order to get rid of my paper address book.

It will still be a few weeks before we can coordinate getting everything back, but it has given me a renewed trust that most people in the world are good and have good intentions.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

The Boob Tube

I realize it’s been awhile since I posted a blog and there are two reasons for that… 1) I’m trying not to write too much about Kwajalein since it’s such a small place and somehow there are quite a few people here reading the blog.  I don’t want to offend, irritate or embarrass anyone without intending to,  2) After three weeks here, we finally discovered that we can get the 8 Armed Forces Network (AFN) channels here on our boat.  That’s right…we have TV.

Now this may not sound like a big deal, and maybe it’s not to most people, but remember…we haven’t had TV in almost two years.  Sure we get to watch movies, but they’re all pre 2009 and there is no access to news, commercials, or the latest prime time (outside of the occasional info we get on the internet).  So, I haven’t had time to write…I’ve only got a few days left to get all my TV in. 

What have we been watching??  Well, we’re fairly up to date on the Republican Primaries, I saw the latest episode of Desperate Housewives (I have missed A LOT), Jake has discovered the Power Rangers, and Andy has been re-inspired by the Iron Chef.  We’ve seen a few post 2009 movies, gotten up to date on the news, and discovered that Fear Factor has gotten totally out of control (cow hearts in a vat of blood?).  We watched House last night and tonight we get to see the latest episode of Bones. 

I totally forgot how much time we used to spend watching TV.  I’m shocked that I wasn’t 300 lbs before we gave it all up.  Prior to our stop here, we would either watch a nice family movie after dinner or we would play UNO or Go Fish.  Monopoly was a family favorite or we might just sit outside while Jake played on the bow and watch the sunset.  And we would RARELY watch a movie in the middle of the day.
We did take time off of the tv to watch Cpt. Ron pull his
boat into the dry dock area for some repairs.
Now don’t get me wrong…we’re not a totally electronic free family (since replacing our computers and possibly getting the old ones back, we have the potential of having 5 computers and 2 iPads on board).  Jake loves his video games and Andy and I love our movies.  But when it’s harder to get the latest and greatest, you find yourself thinking of other things to do – like swimming, coloring, cooking, reading a book, etc.  I think that’s probably a good thing.  
But I’m not giving in just yet…we have three more days here and I am determined to see everything that might remotely interest me…

There’s a commercial that American Idol starts next week…I wonder if our antennae will reach from Bigee?

Other things we’ll miss when leaving Kwaj…
Frozen pizza, Edamame, Burger King, Subway, Baskin Robins, fresh strawberries (I know – everything revolves around food for us), bike riding, speaking English all the time, cleanliness…but most of all, the great people we’ve met and our sponsors who have become good friends that we’ll keep in touch with for a very long time (and maybe share an anchorage one day soon).

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Looking Back...2011

I’m not an extremely nostalgic person but since it’s the beginning of a new year and all, I thought I would take some time and reflect on our last year.  We’ve done so much and packed so many things into it.  At times it seems like the year just flew by and at other times it seems like we’ve been out here for five years already.

This past year we visited 8 countries, 9 islands and 9 atolls.  We tried to at least learn to say Hello in Spanish, French, Tahitian, Samoan, Kirabati and Marshallese.  We managed to eek out a few extra sentences in Spanish and French.  We became intimate with black tip sharks, lemon sharks, giant mantas and tiny clown fish.  We only caught about 6 fish, but we let at least 10 get away – and we even gave some of them our rigs, being the generous people we are.

Lack of great record keeping and my laziness forces me to estimate our milage to date.  A conservative guess is that we’ve sailed/motored about 7000 miles since we left Mexico.  Our longest passage was obviously from Mexico to the Marquesas, taking 21 ½ days.   Our best passage was from the Marquesas to the Tuamotos where we caught a nice big Tuna and had a great, fast downwind run (or was it to Tuvalu where we had wonderful spinnaker weather?).  Our worst passage is a toss up between Suwarrow/American Samoa and Majuro/Kwajalein, but I’m going to hand it to the latter with 12 foot seas, 40 knot gusts and a bad stomach bug.

Our illnesses have been minimal, but the two that stick in my mind for me is the stomach flu in Mexico, moving our departure date for the puddle jump and the dengue in Majuro – not because it was so bad but because it was strange and something I would never get at home.  Andy and Jake have come out fairly well in as much as they got milder cases of things and/or stayed pretty healthy the whole time.  Not sure what that says about me…

We’ve met too many people to count and said goodbye to just about all of them as well.  We’re keeping in touch with many and hope to meet back up one day.  We only made one visit home before we left and I managed to sneak out on a solo visit from American Samoa.  We had two guests before we left Mexico, but none to date out here, a world away (or two days, depending on how dramatic you want to be).

We’ve made significant contributions to Coca-Cola, Heiniken, Corona, Mount Gay, Jiffy (peanut butter), Anchor (canned butter), and Hunts, Aunt Jemima and too many others to count.  When we go home, I can only imagine what kind of horders we’re going to be.  In the absence of fresh veggies and meat, our hording enabled me to make some very creative, yet tasty meals – a necessity to keep crew morale up on those long stretches without stores.

In the past year, Jake has learned to read, write, add and subtract and can tell time if you give him a half hour to figure it out.  He knows more about sharks and underwater creatures than the average adult at home.  His favorite subject is History where he’s learned about early civilization, Egyptians and the Ancient Greeks and Romans.  He, too, learned how to say hello in all of those languages and got to practice as he made new friends in each port.  He’s no genius, but I would say the home schooling thing is working out just fine, both academically and socially.  He’s learned how to ride a bike, paddle a surf board, play kickball (sort of…the last time he played he ran straight from third place to the dugout), hit a baseball (never mind it gave him a black eye.  He made contact, right?) and kick a soccer ball.  He may get his terminology mixed up a bit (“Mommy, can we go kick my basketball?”), but he’s had proper introduction to several sports considering we live on a boat in the middle of the pacific ocean (my brother and father are taking their antacids right now, but I promise, it will be ok – if it’s any consolation, he loves watching football on TV).

Now we sit here contemplating our next move and what 2012 holds for us… to quote a song I can’t think of the artist for…”Do [we] stay or do [we] go now?”