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...

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