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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