Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Elusive Waterfall....and other stuff

Another hodge-podge of events…  we’ve gone diving, had some friends over, and gone exploring the mangroves.  We’re going to be leaving here in the next week or so, so we’ve been trying to fit everything in….and we finally found that elusive waterfall…
While we waited on the ship to come in, we managed to live off of mangrove crabs and cucumbers!  Not bad...

A Japanese boat came through.  They were on their way back to Japan
with NO stops....good luck s/v Dolce!
 Rodney and Luke kayaked out to the boat one afternoon and the boys played and played...We took them back in the Mangroves at high tide and the boys had a blast.  The adults managed to have a good time too :).

They had their adventure to the "other side."

Drinking the "gift" from the Japanese folks...
 Before we left California, we met a guy from mom and dad's church who was volunteering as a teacher in Pohnpei.  Jake and I promised to meet up with him when we got back.  Well, here we are with Cole and 3 of his friends, enjoying an afternoon on Savannah.  I'm afraid the parents won't be too happy about it.  One of the kids is now thinking about the military and the other three are trying to figure out how to crew on sailboats....  sorry...

Sunday, we decided to go on a dive/snorkel on the other side of the island.  Jake and Luke played in the water ALL DAY LONG....

Our driver, Incher...

The boat ride back, after a VERY long day.
 There is a US Post office here.... our first purchase, a brand new grill...

And we finally found the elusive waterfall... You might remember that we tried to find this waterfall when we first got here with Lee and Richard on s/v Before.  Well, today we found it.  We had to cut the engine at least 6 times and duck under numerous trees, but alas, we found it... well worth the effort...

A bit of trash on the way...

Our own personal Gondalier (sp?)...
 On our way back, we all had to take our "Mangrove" pictures.

Sokehs Rock

Stay tuned for the next post....Halloween....and a very scary Ceratasorous  (a big dinosaur for you guys not in the know!).....

Friday, October 26, 2012

The ship has arrived!

After living on mangrove crabs and cucumbers for a few weeks (not a bad existence when you get right down to it), we finally have veggies again!  The ship came in and we have veggies, cheeses, good bread and semi-fresh meat!  We stocked up as is everyone else on the island.  You never know the schedule of these things and it could be another month before we see it again.

I'm not extremely organized in my thoughts lately so this is another hodgepodge post.  We've been spending a lot of time with other kids and due to one of the parents being ever so generous in his babysitting offers, Andy and I actually got to dive together the other day!

It looks like we'll be here a few more weeks.  We want to wait until after halloween as Jake has his costume all ready and since there are other kids, he's overly excited about trick or treating.  Then we'll wait for the wind to die completely and sail, motor on out of here.  Yes, we know we're leaving a tad early for the winds, but we're about Pohnpei'd out.  We're looking forward to visiting some of the outer atolls and making our way to Yap.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Eat what the locals eat...or not.

When starting out cruising, one of the first things you worry about is food.  You always try to stock up on everything and there’s a  balance between wanting to try new food and not wanting to go hungry.  Everyone always tells you, “eat what the locals eat and you won’t have to worry about it.”

I’m here to dispute that thought process.  I’m going way against the cruising grain here, but in our case, I think I’m right.  “Eat what the locals eat” is easy to say and follow in Mexico.  I mean really, who doesn’t love Mexican food?  Fish tacos, enchiladas, home made pico de gallo (although that’s a lot harder to find than you would think).  But who thinks about going out to dinner and says, “Honey, lets have some Micronesian food tonight!”  No one.  Do you know why?  Because canned corn beef, potato chips and mechanically separated turkey doesn’t sound good does it?  I know, I know…”they eat fish and rice and breadfruit and taro and oh, Monica, you just haven’t gotten into the culture!”  Wrong again.  They USED to eat that stuff and on the outer islands, you MAY find a few that still do, but I assure you, canned corn beef IS local food and has been for the last 2,000 miles of our adventure.  I saw a 1 year old kid at the laundry mat and in the few hours is took me to finish my laundry, I saw this kid drink 2 full size sodas and eat a rice crispy treat, bag of chips and a lolly pop.  No joke.  This area of the world has the largest diabetic population known and I am not shocked in the least.

Why am I writing about this now?  Well, I just spent a few months in California (5 months total in the States) and I am having some serious vegetable withdrawls.  To make matters worse, my parents are vegetarians so I ate an abnormal amount of veggies for me and well, my body liked it.  Here, in Pohnpei, it’s feast or famine.  “Feast” means a ship just came in….from the US.  Meaning it stopped in HI, Majuro, Kosrae and then here.  By the time it got here, the broccoli is growing extra things and the red peppers have fur on their caps.  “What about local produce Monica?”….I can hear you asking that.  Well, yes…there are bananas and coconuts.  There are cucumbers (by the way, that’s the highlight of Pohnpei for me….cucumbers…I love them and they are always around).  You can get fish but more often than not, it’s very small reef fish that you just took pictures of on your last snorkeling trip.  I have bought local lettuce (available once), eggplant (I’m just making myself like eggplant) and tonight, I bought green beans (I happen to be the only one on board who likes these).  The fact is, they don’t eat veggies.  They just don’t.  Kosrae had local gardens.  Pohnpei has these, but they are REALLY hard to find.

OK…I got off track.  “Famine” means just that.  Today we went to a restaurant and the choice with my chicken sandwich was fries or green salad.  I ordered green salad.  “We don’t have salad.”  I asked the grocery store when they were expecting the next container of veggies.  She screwed her face up really funny and said “ooooooo….November 2!”  It’s October 16.  But even that varies.  You can ask 10 different people and get 10 different answers.  But today…the entire island is out of veggies.  We drove around the island today and I looked in every small roadside stand and all I saw was beetle nut (think ‘skoal” and cigarette butts and rotten teeth) and donuts. 

After all that ranting, though…..we were on our way back to the boat tonight and we ran into a local ex-pat who had been fishing on his kayak all day and he gave us a tiny little barracuda.  Andy cooked it up and I cut up some cold cucumbers and blanched green beans (with dip) and we feasted on a relatively healthy dinner.  It’s all in your perspective, I guess.  We have some friends here who are Seventh Day Adventists, traditionally vegetarian.  I’m dying to know what they’re eating.  Canned corn and spinach, I’m guessing.

Food is always going to be one of the ways we rate our adventures.  For those of you that share our love for cuisine (and cruising), just think about that, while you prepare for your next major crossing or adventure.  “Eat what the locals eat,” sounds good, but isn’t always the best plan of attack.  Unless you don’t mind carrying an extra supply of insulin and cholesterol pills on board with you…  I’m just sayin’…..

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bikinis, Palm Trees, Cocktails and Coconuts...All that is Ant Atoll

Seven glorious nights at Ant Atoll!  For those coming this way, it’s  a must see.   After spending so much time in muddy waters and a “city” like atmosphere in Pohnpei, it’s a nice reprieve.  But there are a few logistics you have to take care of first to do it legally.  The atoll is owned by some locals in Pohnpei so you have to ask permission first.  We talked to a guy named Wilson who works at Port Control and he wrote us a letter in case anyone gave us a hard time.  He also asked for $25/person (Jake was free).  We’ve heard of others going there after talking to customs and/or just people around town and most never have any problems.  But if you want to do it legitimately, then getting family permission is the way to go.  We were never asked for our letter, but I’m pretty sure word got around that we were “ok” to be there.

Day 1
We motored 25 miles into fairly light winds (10 knots or so) but the waves were coming in all different directions making our first voyage out after a while kind of rough.  The pass into the atoll looks pretty tricky but when you get up to it, you see that it’s actually marked pretty well.  There is one bommie (coral reef sticking up out of nowhere) at the end of the channel that’s not marked so you have to keep a good eye out for that.  We didn’t have very good light (lots of cloud cover, imagine that) but saw a flat spot in the water and sure enough, that was the reef.

After dropping our hook, the clouds just unloaded on us.  It rained for a good hour or so and then appeared to clear up.  So we took our opportunity and went to shore to explore.  No sooner than we had gotten down the beach, it started to pour again.  We waited 15 minutes or so and ended up making a run for it back to the dinghy….jogging down the beach in flip flops and a bikini while holding a beer in the pouring rain wasn’t the way I had pictured ending out my day.

Day 2
There are a few outfits in Pohnpei that charter small boats to bring tourists out to Ant.  We got wind of one coming our way on Monday that MIGHT have some kids on it.  Jake and I started school early so we could finish up in time for the boat to arrive.  Around 10:30, sure enough, two kids come bouncing off a panga from The Surf Club.  Jackson and Indy are two little Australian kids that we met briefly before leaving for the states.  We thought they had left by now, so it was a nice surprise having them roll up on the beach.  They played all day exploring the jungle and catching hermit crabs, while Andy and I enjoyed the grown ups on the beach.

Day 3
We woke up to beautiful weather.  I mean the best we’ve seen yet.  So nice that I actually swam to the beach, jogged a little and swam back…inspired!  We decided to not chance missing our weather window and put school off until later in the day.  We jumped in the dinghy and went snorkeling.  We managed to fit in some exploring, playing on the beach and coconut gathering as well.  After supper, Andy and Jake decided they were going to go coconut crab hunting.  And that’s when the fun started….

They got all geared up and were gone about an hour.  Evidently, Jake was quite the help chasing the big ones out of their holes and holding the light yelling encouragement to Andy(“get em daddy! Get em!).  There were a lot of little ones running around so they made a rule to only get the big ones so as to leave the little ones to grow up (and most likely be eaten by someone else).  When they got back to the boat, we kept them in the mesh dive bag and put it in a five gallon bucket.  Everyone high fived each other, planned for the feast the next night and went to bed.  If this were a movie, this is where the camera would zoom into the bucket and eerie music would play in the background.  You see, the weather was so good that Andy decided to sleep in the net, therefore we left the cabin door open (it locks from the inside so we left it open in case it rained and he needed to get in).  About 3:30 in the morning, I hear a bump/small crash in the galley.  I thought it was Andy but when he didn’t come in the room, I got up and turned on our little red light.  No dishes on the floor, nothing out of place….wait, I see the toothpaste and Jake’s electric tooth brush knocked off of the counter.  How did that happen?  What’s that on the galley stairs?  It’s black and big….oh crap.  It’s a coconut crab!  That critter was coming to get me!  It had me cornered.  I kid you not, this thing had evil written all over it.  I contemplated how to get around it.  I don’t know what I thought it was going to do, but eventually I gathered enough courage to jump over it and went out to get Andy.  He came in and looked in the bucket and all four crabs were gone.  We spent the next 30 minutes with flashlights looking for those little hoodinis.  We found one in our shoe locker and two behind the propane tanks.  It took me an hour to even think about going back to sleep.

The next morning when Andy went to put them in the pot, two had been mangled so bad, it was hard to tell if they were still alive.  When he went to put the big one in the sink to wash, the darned thing clamped down on our faucet and punctured a hole in it!  I’m not kidding…  If you question how strong those things are, think about that.

That night we had coconut crab and it never tasted so good (nothing like a little revenge).  It may be our last.  Our learning curve is pretty steep on this one.  The next time (if there is one), they go straight in the pot.

After that, we had a grand ole time.  We snorkled the pass and saw two sea turtles and a few gray sharks.  We found a huge tree to hang out under (i.e. float around and drink beer), and basically made ourselves at home.  I will say, for an uninhabited island, there’s a lot of firelights and flashlights around this atoll….  We just ignored them.   Apparently, there are some folks who stay here (we saw their cabin by the pass), but we haven’t met them.  In fact, it’s so uninhabited that we had a giant naked party off the back of the boat and as far as we know, there were no witnesses.

We left with light winds this morning and made it out the pass fairly easily.  No matter how many times you do something like this though (and even though you have your trail on the GPS), it still makes the rear-end pucker a little as you navigate through the reefs.  As we got out of the pass, we were met with about 40 or 50 spinner dolphins.  Always a good sign…

We made our way into the wind (always…around here you have no idea which way the wind is going to come from, but you can pretty much guess it’s going to be on your nose) and are now safe and sound back in the harbor.  We had a little hiccup getting past the commercial dock as about 6 japanese fishing boats decided to all move at the same time.  Aside from being annoying and slightly amusing, it was not much of a problem. 

Now it’s time to shower and get ready to have dinner at the Rusty Anchor.  We need some internet to post all this stuff and we’re pretty much out of food anyway. 

It was hard to come back after such a nice week (I did get my palm tree and cocktail), but as we keep telling Jake, that’s what makes it special.  It’s not something you actually do every day.

Here are some teasers for the grandparents...stay tuned for instructions on how to get the much awaited "Jake" pictures...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Nan Madol, Pohnpei

Nan Madol is the premier tourist activity on Pohnpei.  We decided to fork over the $150+ and see what the hubbub was about.  After a lot of advice, we took the tour out of the Village Resort, which consist of a snorkel with manta rays (allegedly), a small hike up to a waterfall, and a kayaking tour around the ancient ruins of Nan Madol.  We left our boat round 8:30 as we had to hike up a big ass hill, catch a cab, stop at an ATM and then make our way though traffic to the other side of town to the Village Resort to catch our boat.  Since it’s been raining here non-stop for days, we weren’t very optimistic, but when we arrived, the weather gods were with us and we set forth on what seemed to be a promising day. 

We loaded up the giant panga (I still don’t know what we call it here, so we’ll go with “panga”) with four kayaks, all of our snorkeling gear and us (including a really nice lady from CA that signed up as well).  We spent the first hour or so dodging bomies and waiting on high tide.  We did stop and try to swim with Mantas, but the visibility was so bad, there could have been a hundred of them and we wouldn’t have seen them.  So we traveled on and had our lunch on a little bitty island in 35-knot winds while we waited out more tide. 

Bernard, our tour guide/boat driver.  The coordination
it must take to drive two engines, two throttle, weaving through
reefs....nice to be sitting in the passenger seat.

I know its not Jaques Couestou but I tried...

I know my sarcasm makes this out to be a bad day so far, but we were having a great time.  I really just have no other tools in my brain to tell this… so sarcasm rules…. Sorry….

After leaving the tiny [trashy] island, we arrived at a makeshift dock with a few concrete stairs where we climbed up and walked a short path to the road.  From there we crossed the road and while our guide paid our small fee (I’m guessing a few bucks each), we hiked a short 10 min or so walk up to a beautiful waterfall.  I venture to say that the waterfall is not nearly as beautiful when it hasn’t rained nonstop for 100+ days.  The rain is good for something. 

I got in and it was COLD....

After a short stay and a very cold swim at the waterfall, we walked back to the boat and made our way to yet another small island to wait for the tide.  Here we saw a poor little bird that had fallen out of its nest before learning to fly.  We also became acquainted with the ivory nut that they use to carve much of the jewelry bought here.

This the is the "giant panga" I was speaking of...four kayaks and five people...

An hour or so later, we finally made our way to Nan Madol.  I tried to school up on it before I wrote this blog, but I swear everything I read contradicts itself and the tour guide we had tried as hard as he could to tell us what he knew, but when English isn’t your first language, you’re bound to screw things up.  So here is what I got out of it all….

Nan Madol is an Ancient City (or according to some, built in the sixth century, or was it the 16th?) built on the reef in what is now Southeast Pohnpei.  It consisted of 88 man made islands (or was it 93?  Depends on what you read I guess).  The first island we came to was the main island, which was used mainly for worship.  They had three tombs there, on the left were for men, on the right were for women, and in the middle were for kings.  We kayaked our way through much of the city (through the mangroves, very cool).   The most impressive part about this city is how they built it.  It is made from these massive rocks made of basalt, said to be moved from various parts of Micronesia – two sites from Pohnpei, itself, and one from west of Yap (which sounds crazy to me).  It’s built log cabin style with some of these rocks weighing “tons”.  Keep in mind, this was way before machinery so they had come up with some funky style of moving stuff without breaking backs.  It’s said that given the population (30,000 people) compared with the amount of work, that the effort is comparable to the Egyptian Pyramids.  It took them a whole century to build the place.  If you listen to local folks talk, it was all built on magic, levitation, and a little bit of voodoo....

Anywhoo…we kayaked our way through and had a grand ole time.  We finished the day with a few beers and an appetizer at The Village.  We called our cab driver “Cilis” and he picked us up and took us back to the boat where we all promptly crashed.

Today we spent the day getting our chain off the bottom (I was going to take a picture but I thought a big picture of mud and silt and Andy cussing into a regulator wouldn’t make much sense or be even visible), fixing our jib (minor repair) and stocking up so that we can go to Ant Atoll tomorrow.  We got permission from the local owner (Willie) and should make it there shortly after lunch tomorrow.

As a side note, we were at the Rusty Anchor tonight and met a guy with a 6-year-old kid.  He’s heard about us and we’ve heard about him….so glad to see Jake might have a friend.  They might make it to Ant this week, but if not, we’ve promised to make our way up to their house next week and become best friends (the boys even pick their noses with the same fingers J ).

Stay tuned…