Friday, November 30, 2012

Coconuts, Bananas, and Typhoons

You can't see the lines, but they're there.
Did I say typhoons? Yep. Thank goodness for friends who watch the weather. Our very good friends, Richard and Lee on s/v Before, are in Palau and dropped us a little note (bomb) the other day about a tropical depression (possible typhoon) heading our way. It's original path had it going right over Pulawat. We considered heading south, as typhoons don't typically travel along the equator, but in the end, decided to move the boat to the little lagoon here and hunker down. We waited until high tide, as the water gets deep enough for us to move in (about 8 foot), and we motored into the lagoon to a spot in the SE corner. We put out all four of our anchors and tied a 600 foot line to a coconut tree on shore. We alerted the locals about the coming storm and began to pull our weather twice a day. As Richard kept us informed, we slowly realized we were going to be spared (I know, I'm being dramatic)!!! The storm did a lot of weird things, like slow down, speed up, change directions, etc. but eventually, it decided to go west. It passed us about 120 miles south last night and we only got 25-30 knot winds (no different than an active day in Majuro during the northeasterlies). But the track now shows it moving more northwest and heading straight for Yap and Palau. While we're out of danger, now Richard and Lee have to take cover in the Rock Islands. So we'll be watching our for them and saying a few extra prayers. Thank goodness for friends who watch the weather.

And thank goodness for family that doesn't! We didn't want to keep the information from our family, but knowing no one at home was watching the weather out here...we opted to wait until all was good before informing them. Hopefully they'll forgive us. Both families have had enough to worry about without unnessessary worry for us.

This storm is really strange's late in the season and they rarely come this low in lattitude. Kind of a fluke thing. And really hard to track. We wanted to have a typhoon party, but we were lacking in the ability to go buy a keg and watch the weather channel. So we decided to cook popcorn and watch Surf's Up instead :).

His brother was hiding in the water but it made a cute picture. 

Some kids in their canoes paddling around our boat.
Canoes here are like bikes for the kids at home...everyone has one
and knows how to paddle.

So...Andy didn't go sailing on Wednesday. But we did manage to get in a hike to a Japanese lighthouse that was put up before WWII. We had a great little walk on the beach, eventually found the path to the lighthouse and spent our afternoon exploring the jungle. A perfect day for Jake.

The actual light in the lighthouse.  I believe they
said it was working up until 10 or so years ago.  Looks pretty rusted out
to me...

Going down the stairs in the lighthouse.
We're going to pull up our hooks tomorrow and move back to our original spot, getting us ready to move out early Monday morning (weather permitting of course). Andy was going to cash in a raincheck on the sailing for tomorrow, but one look at the pass this afternoon and the small canoe they'll be going out on and he decided to hold out for Lamotrek.

So, as we sign off, we're going to go eat a few of our (20 lbs) bananas, put a dent in the 2 dozen coconuts in our cockpit (while lacing with a bit of rum) and thank the Lord for giving us another wonderful day.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

The other village

That's Mayor Dale with the machete in
his hand.
Round 2 - The other village

Mayor Dale and his people have been very nice to us and very warm and welcoming. They still ask us to do a lot of stuff, but the attitude is different and therefore ours is different, making us much more eager to help. Apparently, there was a meeting yesterday (with both the Mayor and Joey), and the anchoring fee is not $50 (as quoted by Joey), or $35 (as quoted by the mayor and what we actually paid), but $25. The money should be collected by the Mayor and go towards the municipality, not just one village or chief. Makes no difference to us as we've already paid, but maybe it will be a little clearer for the next yacht that comes in here.

So far, Andy has spent an entire afternoon trying to fix a chain saw, with no success. He thinks it's the timing but we don't have the tools to confirm or fix it. He's patched up a water tank for the local school principle as well as programmed his GPS (it had him somewhere between Montana and Kansas). Andy has fixed a block on one of the outrigger sailing canoes and secured himself a position on Wednesday's sailing crew. He's really stoked about that one! Imagine sailing on one of the traditional built canoes with the locals! (Incidentally, I have asked him to take his hand held epirb - emergency beacon - as there has been more than one tale of an islander floating up on another atoll) The only job left undone so far is fixing the GPS for the "oldest master navigator" on the island(I know, funny right? Which came first the GPS or the Master Navigator?). We think it's probably just batteries.

Not too sure what's with the peace and gang signs, but
all the kids seem to like to use them in their pictures.
Melony is on the left.
George, one of the guys that translates for us with the mayor sometimes, rowed up to the boat last night with his three daughters. He is originally from Lamotrek and wanted us to take some letters to his sisters for him (no names, just ask around he said). He also brought another lava lava for me to buy. I got this one for half the price of the one Joey sold me...hmmmm.... George's 11 year old daughter, Melony, was one of the girls that sat on the boat the other day and stared at me while I made a bracelet. She's very beautiful and spirited but her English is lacking so our communication was pretty basic. She rowed out today to give us some more letters and some papayas George had promised us. This will be a much welcome change as the boat is slowing sinking from bananas and coconuts. She also made me a beautiful little headdress made out of some local flowers...very sweet. I think I might give her one of the beaded bracelets I've been making for people. I usually give them to the "woman" of the house, but she's been so sweet...
Jake climbing a tree to retrieve his very own

While we were talking to the Mayor one day, we were told Jacinta wanted to meet us and we were sent to the kitchen house. There she was with a huge smile on her face and nothing on but a skirt. We had been told that the women in Lamotrek were very traditional and went bare breasted, covering nothing but their thighs...the most provocative part of the body here. But we hadn't expected it here in Pulawat. It seems that everyone over 50 is pretty traditional (i.e. no shirts), but the younger women wear the newer uniform of long skirt and t-shirt. Andy, not surprisingly, seems to think it should be the other way around. We had tried to prepare Jake for this as he's obviously not used to seeing so many boobies but I think we left something out.... When we got back to the dinghy, he said "Mommy? I wasn't surprised by the boobies, but I was surprised by something else."

"What was that?," I asked.

"I thought they would be BIG, not LONG and hanging."

Ha! So, that began a whole different conversation about sizes of boobies and why everyone is different. I bet you wish you were a fly on the wall for that one, huh?

It turns out the reason Jacinta wanted to meet us was to offer us to come back later in the day to give us some taro to try. It was the best taro we've eaten by far. Jake even liked it. It looked like she boiled it and pounded it, as is traditional, but not too much. Then put the coconut milk on it and gave it to us immediately! That last part is key. It goes sour pretty quickly and well, our taste buds (or stomachs) haven't adjusted to that yet.

Preparing Taro

The Master Navigator's hut.  Not many building codes here...

Today we're going to try to secure ourselves a guide for tomorrow to go up to a lighthouse they have here. They say it's through the jungle so it's not really feasible to go by yourself (if you don't want to get lost). We'll see if we can find any takers...

I have a feeling the next major update will be after the big sail on Wednesday. Apparently, there are people from other islands coming in tomorrow (possibly a big feast?), and who knows how many boats going out on Wednesday...we're just going with the flow. Stay tuned.

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

More on Pulawat

Where do I start? I'm on information overload. Ok, I'll start with where I left off and
try not to skip around too much.

It turns out Joey had a change of attitude when we showed up to fix his boat. He was very grateful and well, just a different person. We also gained a little more insight on what appears to be a rivalry here on the island. I'm making some leaps here to fill in some gaps in the story but Joey told us that his family and ancestors own tons of land (relatively speaking) here on the island (he actually gestured to the whole island). Apparently, way back when, there were some "bad guys" here. They would kidnap the women, eat other people's food, and well, just weren't very nice. So Joey's ancestors got a group of men together - "army" - and snuck up on the bad guys and killed them all (as well as their families) so they wouldn't have that gene pool to worry about. And so it is, that he owns the land now. As for the mayor....well, I think it's a case of traditional meets new ways and they don't know yet how to live together. The idea of a mayor is fairly new here and typically, on the islands we've been to, you don't have a mayor and a chief. So they have a bit of figuring out to do. It seems civil enough though...we're spreading the love to both villages and so far, it's working out for us.

Andy putting a fiberglass patch on their boat.  Lots of
Andy has spent a couple of days fixing Joey's boat and I think he's about done. I made them some ahi poke this morning with one of the tuna's we caught and the ladies really liked that (the sauce in particular). We've received 6 coconuts, a stalk of bananas, and two coconut crabs(actually, Andy just pulled up and it turns out they want to sell them to us for $15...I don't think coconut crabs tonight). I also had the opportunity to buy one of the handmade lava lava's here(and I did). They strip the "skin" from the trees and they take part of the leaves and roots and whatever else and pound them to make dye. Then they weave these elaborate fabrics - elaborate in the sense that this is all made out of a tree and done by hand and it turns out to be a bona fide fabric - that they use for skirts or sell for wall hangings or what have you. It's beginning to be a dying art (ha ha, I just reread this and got my own joke), so my guess is they're becoming more scarce. I'm glad to get the opportunity to actually purchase one. I'm hoping I can catch them making one before we leave and get some pictures. Overall, my opinion on the gimme gimme attitude hasn't changed (see the incident on the coconut crabs after spending 2 days of hard work and at least $100 of materials and gifts), but I'm growing to like the individuals.

While Andy was working and I was socializing, Jake was playing with the kids in the water. They had a funny little game(and I'm sorry to say my overprotecting nature didn't really allow Jake to actively participate - he was more of an instigator or spectator). They took a piece of fabric and wet it. Then they would put it over their head and crouch down in the water and float on their backs, making a bubble of sorts over their faces and bodies. It looks like some sort of floating corpse. I could see all kinds of wrongs happening there and I wasn't paying 100%attention, so rather than have my own corpse to take home, I just encouraged Jake to splash around with them :). He seemed fine with that. The other game they were playing was for one kid to hold a big rock and the others try to jump on him to get it from him. A tug of war, hold your head under the water until you give it up type of game. I pretended not to notice whether Jake was playing or not. It's hard to encourage him to play and then to tell him he can't play... He's learning "good judgment" and "common sense."

I did learn something new today...a man's lava lava here in Micronesia is known as a mungca, with the enunciation on the "ca." I learned how to say bye (twice since we've been here) but for some reason it isn't sticking...I'll have to get back to you on that one.

Everyone watching us talk to the principal
when we were giving our supplies.
Joey is a teacher at the local school, so he sent a kid to show us the way and we gave our usual school supplies of paper, pencils, sharpeners, crayons, dictionaries and flash cards. What really needs to happen is for someone to just spend a few hundred bucks and load up on all that stuff for the whole school for a year. We can't carry that much on our boat and I'm not sure our budget could handle it for each island, but when we worked and had jobs, it wouldn't have been a drop in the bucket. I wonder what would happen if everyone did something like that for the local inner-city school (or any needy school) in the U.S.? I'm not turning into a softy here, but it's so amazing how much we have compared to these people. We are considered living "without" by so many of our friends and family. After all, we live in a small confined space, no dishwasher, washing machine, toaster, coffee maker, etc. all the comforts of home. But my gosh, we roll up in here and we might as well be Bill Gates or Oprah for all they know. These kids come on the boat and they just stare. Literally sit and stare at you and your stuff for hours. They live in tin sheds or shantys made out of pandanas leaves. They sleep on woven mats on top of layers of palm leaves. They have no running water and no electricity. Their clothes (if they're wearing any) are old and tattered. Thanksgiving was a good time to roll up in here. It brings things into perspective.
This is the school here in Pulawat...
Jake and I at a little shrine we found.  They
have many of these around here, much like in Mexico.

There is tons more to tell but I think I'm going to spread it out over the next few days. Maybe separate the info between the two villages... There's so much to take in, I just want to share it all. So stay tuned for more on canoes, bare breasted women, and our invitation to eat taro.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Anchored in Pulawat

We had a blissful 3 day/2 night sail to Pulawat. Yes, I said blissful. It started out slow, but just as we thought we would have to spend another night at sea, the winds picked up and we were sailing along at a consistent 7-8 knots. I think we even saw 10 kts at one point.

We traversed a rather tricky pass and quite shallow. It was high tide and the sun was behind us - we couldn't have had better conditions - yet the shallowest point under our rudders still showed 8 feet... woohoo. We anchored in the entrance of the lagoon, as the google earth pictures looked much more shallow than the charts for getting into the actual bay. Andy and Jake went to check it out in the dinghy with a depth sounder. People were waving on the land, so as not to be rude, they checked in with them. The mayor, Dale and his translator Stan, gave Andy a coconut and said we were more than welcome to stay as long as we like....for $35. No sweat, we were expecting they came back to the boat to get me and our little gifts for the mayor.

The old meets the new
On our way in, we were met with two canoes with a man looking none too happy. He said he was the chief's nephew and we were to give him the money. His name was Joey and he wanted to see our permit and if we looked on the computer we would find his name as the person we needed to pay. He told us the fee was no longer $30, but now it was $50. But we could "pay it down" if we had other stuff to trade, like coffee, cigarettes, sugar, etc. He wanted to come to the boat to "see what we had." Um, no. We told him we would go back to the boat and get our permit and would meet him on shore. $35 later, we were down a knife, fishing line, fishing hooks, coffee, and a nice jack we caught on the way in. And we still had to go back to see the mayor.

We went back to the boat and got another knife, fishing hooks and lures and off we went. When we got back to the mayor in the men's meeting house and explained the situation, they said that Joey was wrong and this is a problem with all of the yachts that come in here (funny, that's what Joey said). But they were extremely nice and told us not to worry about it, they would work it out between themselves. Then they gave us some more coconuts and we talked.

I've left out a few things...this place is half way between primitive and half way between the Mortlocks...they still wear their lava lava's (think loin cloths), but they cut their wood with chainsaws. Speaking of chainsaws, Andy has an appointment to fix mayor/chief? Dale's chainsaw in the morning. They all paddle around in their traditional canoes, yet Andy has an appointment to fix Joey's fiberglass boat in the morning. It looks like his day is filling up!

Traditional Sailing Canoes, made here in Pulawat
So, tonight I have mixed emotions. This island has more of the feel of the Marshall's where is was gimme gimme and what can I fix for you, as opposed to the genuine happiness and appreciativeness of the Mortlock's that we just left. Mayor Dale and his crew seemed very welcoming, yet Joey and his klan were not quite as nice (not nice at all actually). The jury is still out. We've only been here a few hours and well, we're tired so maybe my judgment is a little off. We're going to have a nice Thanksgiving dinner of Tuna shashimi (we caught a nice skipjack on the way) and rice and the last of our cucumbers (don't worry, tomorrow I'll have time to make that pumpkin pie!). We'll wash it down with a nice coconut while watching Pirates of the Caribbean. Tomorrow is another day, a new perspective.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Leaving Lekinioch

One of Andy's favorite pictures...Savannah, the supply ship,
and a dog.
First things first...apologies for the long delay in writing. We were having trouble getting out on our SSB and after a bit of trouble shooting, realized it was user error...mine. Oops. We're back up and running now so our updates should be a little more timely. We won't be able to post pictures until Yap, but we have some great patient.
Sunset in Lukenor

As we prepare to leave Lekinioch after almost a week here, I think we'll remember it in our mind by two events or categories, for lack of a better word. The first is that the Bishop of Chuuk came for a visit here to do a Confirmation as well as to celebrate his 25 years of being a Bishop. The villages here all spent time practicing their singing and performances for the Bishop. There were two ceremonies on Saturday, a welcoming ceremony right before lunch and a more formal ceremony that evening. They hooked up a keyboard to accompany their singing (not only was it not necessary, it probably should have been banned). It was powered by a series of car batteries. When one went out, they would keep on singing while they quickly changed the power source and fired up the keyboard again. It was comical, but also a show of how resourceful they can be. Andy and I were surprised when we showed up for the evening ceremony and there were two seats for us up front, facing the audience, like we were part of the ceremony. It was a little embarrassing but made for a great view of the festivities. We were even invited to eat with the Bishop, which was quite an honor. There was taro (which the ladies spent days preparing), breadfruit, octopus, fish, bananas and large glasses of coconut water. I can't say I'll be converting to their ways any time soon, but I will say it was a lot of fun and we were touched by how welcoming everyone was.

Andy went to Mass the next morning and met the priest. I opted out of Mass this was at 7:00 and well, not being Catholic, I wasn't very motivated. I'm sure it was beautiful, but the confirmation was at 6:00 and that's really what I would have wanted to see anyway and that wasn't happening! Despite my not wanting to get up early, I did rise at 5:30. A young girl paddled her canoe out to the boat to give us some fish and taro. She had told me the day before that she would come before church...she sure did. Anywhooo... I still couldn't make it out. I spent the morning making banana bread and cookies and doing laundry.

 The second item that will always be in our memories is the people. I know we say this everywhere we go (well, most places), but the people here were so welcoming and genuine that they really made an impression on us. Between Simon and Mariel (Peace Corp), we were insured an introduction and translation with almost everything we did. Simon supplied us with limes and coconuts (we're sitting with two dozen on our stern right now), and Mariel supplied us with great company and a great insight into the culture. We questioned whether it would be better to come in by ourselves with no other American around to help us out and in the end, we decided we would miss out on so much without it. She opened the doors for us to talk and joke around with people and really get to know their personalities. No doubt if she wasn't there, they would have been much more shy. Between Mariel and Simon, we were able to observe everyday activities like, going into their Cooking houses as well as watch numerous women prepare the taro for the Bishop. This village is a strange little mix of traditional living with a tad of western ways thrown in. For example, the young women can't walk by themselves or it's seen as "inviting" a man to come with them. They must always be accompanied by someone. One of the kids had to ask us what was hanging in our basket, an onion, yet when we turned on our iPods, they danced in the hip hop ways and there's not a girl here who doesn't know who Justin Beber is. Star Wars was the most requested movie.
Sitting in the cooking house...

Mariel and Jake goofing off.

Jake playing basketball with the local kids... don't tell my
brother that he kicked it first :).

Laundry day for the ladies...

Playing bingo...

Cutting taro...

Pounding taro...

We tried to reciprocate as much as possible. We left Simon with some books and movies and we tried to help with Mariel's need for a little bit of "normal." We cooked her some spaghetti on the boat one night and took her out to one of the other islands for some "alone time." She explained to us that the concept of "alone time" is very foreign to the people here (as we've seen on most of the islands we've been to). All property is community property as is all space. We discovered that as I tried to shoo off a gaggle of kids after playing on the boat all day (or staring at us...whatever you want to call it). It took me no less than 20 minutes to get them all gone and not before one of them was able to try out their colorful English skills on me. I'm sure he didn't know the meaning of what he said but he had the pronunciation down great! We also gave the principle some school supplies as well as offloading our 3 grades of Hooked on Phonics to Mariel.

This morning we went in to say our goodbyes and then we motored away. We were going to stage ourselves beside the pass for the day but it was way too deep (98 feet as opposed to the 28 written on the chart). So we motored over to the little island we've been using as a refuge and anchored there. We had some work to do that would have been impossible to do with the kids all around in the village. They swim out to the boat as soon as they can and then there's nothing getting done. So Andy checked all the engines and went to shore to burn our trash. I finished laundry and baked a few loaves of banana bread (we have more bananas than we do coconuts)for our passage. Now we're relaxing and getting ready for one last trip to the beach.

Tomorrow we'll head out for Pulawat, about 280 miles from here. The winds are looking good and coming from the right direction so we have our hopes set high on a nice, comfortable passage. We had hoped to be there by Thanksgiving, but it looks like we may not make it. We've got a "Thankful" tree going so this year we may be giving thanks a little differently than usual. Not the big feast but no doubt more heartfelt. May all of you at home have a wonderful Thanksgiving and remember what it's all really about.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Land ho! Lukanor Atoll - the Lower Morlock Islands

We were about 13 miles out from Lukanor Atoll and Andy came to wake me from my nap. There was something on the horizon to the east of us. He couldn't tell what it was, but it looked like we might want to check it out. It could be a buoy, it could be a raft. After looking through the binoculars and thinking that it could be a raft, I agreed. What if someone was out there floating around? I turned the boat (careful not to tangle our fishing lines...I've done that before) and off we went. It was only about 1/2 mile out of our way. As we got closer, it looked more and more like a buoy. Until finally, we were almost right on it, and sure enough, it was a raft lying ahull. It used to have a roof on it, but no more. There were many 1 gallon jugs tied to it, floating, but no people. We looked around (just to make sure), took a few pictures and then headed on. We spent the next half our speculating. I like to think the folks on that raft were already rescued. Andy decided it just broke free from something and never had anyone on it anyway. Either way, I don't think we could have just drove on by. Can you imagine how we would feel if we pulled up into the atoll only to find out that there were people missing? The detour turned out to be productive. We ended up catching two more Mahi Mahi! One was pretty large, the other was well, not large.

The closer we got to the pass, we decided to shower up and make some last minute navigational plans (where are those bommies, where to anchor, etc.). No amount of planning could have prepared us for our welcome. We crossed the lagoon pretty much unnoticed, I think. But as we pulled up closer to the "town," large crowds of people began to gather. We anchored in front of what we would later find out to be the municipal building and local elementary/junior high school. A perfect place for all of the kids to spot a new sailboat. By the time we got the hook down and let the dinghy out of the davits, there were cheers and whistles and waves all up and down the shoreline. It really was a sight to see and there was no way you couldn't smile about it.

Local courtesy says you need to go in and offer a gift to the chief (mayor in this case) and ask permission to anchor. Despite being tired, we got in the dinghy and started towards shore. As we pulled up we counted no less than 25 people waiting for us. The local police welcomed us and helped us tie our dinghy to the tree. Apparently the mayor was in class (he's a teacher at the school) so we would need to wait. As we waited, the local "yacht greeter" introduced himself as Simon and sent some guys out to find us some drinking coconuts. He was prepared with some paperwork for us to fill out as well as a logbook where all the yachties sign in (all 26 of them since 2002) and a brochure about Chuuk (the Mortlocks are part of the state of Chuuk).

The mayor was going to be awhile (turns out we never saw him, he was sick as well), so we went on a tour with Simon (and about 10 kids). Simon is a 76 year old man who served as a contractor to the US Navy in Chuuk, where he learned excellent english, and eventually became a judge there. He recently retired back to his island of Lukanor (now called Lukinioch) where he has 11 kids and 26 grandchildren! He showed us through the Catholic church as well as some other buildings that used to be churches. He gave us the low down on local crops (bananas, coconuts, taro, tapioca, limes, mangoes, papaya) and the three villages on the island. They're named for their location (North, Middle, South - all in the local language though, of which I couldn't decipher). We stopped to rest at the only remaining traditional men's house. They serve two purposes, 1) For men's gathering (drinking mostly) and 2) for the single men to sleep in. There are lots around the island, this was just the only one made from traditional materials.

Notice the small naked kid with the butcher knife...

While we were waiting we met the only American on the island, Mariel from the Peace Corp. She is a teacher here and seemed pleasantly surprised to find us pull up!

Eventually, it was time to go - word came that the Mayor wouldn't be available today - so we headed back to the dinghy. On our way, I saw that this island has come up with a more discrete way to poop on the reef than their neighbors. They've built outhouses over the water. Pretty neat, huh? (pictures to follow, you can bet!) With no running water - each house has their own rain collection device - and electricity only from solar panels, they have to be creative.

A few hours after getting back to the boat, Simon and a few of his grandkids rowed out in their canoe to give us some coconuts and limes. We shared a cold beer with Simon while the kids waved to their envious friends onshore. They stayed on board until a rain shower started to come our way and then they headed back with our gift of a big mahi mahi fillet. We had canoe after canoe all afternoon coming by to check us out. One group got so bold as to yell "CANDY" as they were paddling by. I've decided that's the only way I'm going to be able to hand out this candy I bought. We bought a box of 100 blowpops ($20 by the way) and there are WAY more kids here than that. The box was supposed to last us until Yap. I don't see that happening.

Andy and Simon

We didn't go to shore today as there is a ton of rain just pouring down (much needed here from what we heard). There's a Confirmation happening here on Saturday with a visiting Bishop so we plan on staying for that...should be interesting. Weather permitting, we'll move on Monday.

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