Friday, February 24, 2012


It's been awhile since I updated everyone on the job, moral, and plans for here goes.

Andy was offered two jobs, both of which we turned down. The first job was a diver job on Kwajalein. It was a great job, but didn't include Jake and I. It was unaccompanied and they couldn't come up with housing or any way for us to come. I applied for accompanied jobs (after being told they desperately needed project managers) of which I was totally qualified for, but never got so much as an email.
The second job he was offered was for a dive master/chamber operator position on the Windward, the dive boat that goes back and forth to Bikini. At first this seemed wonderful, but in the end, Jake and I would have been living alone on the boat on a radioactive island with 6 dudes (or worse yet, back in dengue invested Majuro living in our rain coats), while Andy traveled back and forth to Majuro between trips. It just didn't feel right.

Well, not so good right now. Mine is in the dumps, Andy's is much lower than usual and Jake...well, Jake's always happy. He just got some new legos from Gigi so he's very agreeable right now. A few things account for our bad attitudes...You know what I think of Majuro so I won't revisit that. Ebeye, here in Kwajalein is chasing us down every few days trying to get us to pay fees that have been on the books for years but NEVER, not ever, been charged to cruising boats. We don't mind paying fees, if they're legitimate. But we're the fourth boat to come through here and they've all of a sudden changed their mind. And we were told in Majuro when we picked up our permit that there were no fees. All has turned out fine and we won't be paying the fees, but rest assured, any boat after us, will be asked for it as well. Finally, we put too many eggs in our Kwaj basket. We've made some good friends here but overall, the base isn't very welcoming to cruisers. There are a few people (or a lot?) that believe we're more of a burden than anything else, so the doors have been closed. Since we did put our eggs in this basket, it makes getting $$ hard (the only ATM north of Majuro), groceries hard (everything in Ebeye is expired - by at least 6 months - not to mention 3 times the cost), and everything else hard. The base is mainly run by contractors so I understand their ability to make up their own rules, but the threat of taking away well earned benefits of a retired military person is too much for me (people are even questioning our right to shop in the AFES store). No hard feelings for our friends...but had we known how it was all going to turn out, this is not the path we would have taken. Finally, finally (I forgot I had one more...), the Marshall Islands should be explored in the summer, not the winter. It blows like stink here, 24/7. It's uncomfortable no matter which direction you go. We have had our tails handed to us on every passage and I for one, am completely exhausted. In light of that...

Future Plans
The reason most boats come this way is because it's a jumping off point for Micronesia. We've decided if we don't go to Micronesia now, we never will. And it will be a MUCH EASIER sail from here. So, Kosrea, Pohnepei, Yap (maybe even Guam?) we come! We hope to be in Palau by July and spend six months or so there diving and exploring the Rock Islands. That's as far as our plans have gotten. From there it will either be the Solomons or Phillipines. This is the only thing that's gotten me energized in a long time!

So, that's it for now. We're sitting in Bigee waiting on our mail to come to the base. After that, we'll explore a few more atolls, head to Majuro to pick up our computers and provision, and then we're out.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

A few more pics from Bikini

I went back to the boat yesterday and found I had missed a few pictures...

Our MahiMahi we caught leaving Rongelap.

Looking a little rough, but enjoying the trip from Rongelap to Bikini.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Back in civilization

I know I sound like a broken record after our passages lately and this is no different...what a crappy ride!  We bashed for two and a half days into the waves, straight into the wind 25-30 knot winds, against a 2-3 knot current.  We rode 3.5 knots for 180 miles.  Jake actually lost his breakfast on this trip.  Oh, this is not the time of year to be sailing around the Marshalls.  They say it's lovely in the summer time...

We're back in Ebeye to stock up.  We had hoped to be back on the base, but we're still trying to work that out.  So, in the meantime, here we are...  Not much to tell, so I'll just post the pictures from Bikini...enjoy!

One of the islands in Bikini Atoll was covered in birds.
Lots of little chicks hatching.

This is where the cameras were filming the nuclear tests.

Jake, doing some exploring.

Sally Lightfoots EVERYWHERE.

Jake, taking a break...his dogs were barking!

Taken from my little happysnap, but maybe you can get an idea of all the birds.

Jake's latest pose with the driftwood.

Jake, taking yet another break, hiding from the rain under the pandanas tree.

Missing tooth!

Finally, the elusive glass ball.

Not bad for one day's catch...4 glass balls, 7 lobsters!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The value of $1

I hadn't intended on updating the blog so quickly but we had a conversation with Jake last night that I really wanted to share. We had put his tooth in the tooth fairy pillow I made him out of an old pair of shorts and were just about to put it under his bed when he asked if he had to give it away. The conversation went like this.

"Do I have to give my tooth to the tooth fairy?"
"Well, not if you don't want any money."
"hmmm...I need to think about it."
"Her house is probably big enough with all of the other little kids teeth" (I should point out here that someone has told him the tooth fairy makes houses out of all the teeth. This is news to me. Since I can't disprove it, I just go along with it."
"Yeah, probably. You don't have to put it under your pillow tonight...just think about it."
"OK. I don't need the money. I like my tooth. I think I just want to keep it."
"What are you going to do with it?"
"I don't know. Just keep it."

And so sits the tooth in his little box where he keeps his shark teeth that Zada gave him last year. You really can't blame him. $1 isn't worth much on an atoll in the middle of nowhere with no store and nothing to buy. He might change his mind the next time he sees a Walmart, but in the meantime, I think we just started a new collection and the tooth fairy might have to deal with one less "brick" for her house.

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Jake lost another tooth!

News on the home front...Jake lost his third tooth while eating his pizza today! It's one of the top front teeth, so he's soon to look like a beaver!

Since we're writing about Jake I thought I would give a little update on his school progress. I know the family is wondering so the rest who don't care...tune in next week. School is going good. We finished his first grade phonics book, but I don't think that means he's finished first grade reading. He still needs some work so we're practicing on all of his fun books he has...he reads a page, I read a page, and so on. We're only about 2 weeks away from finishing his Math book as well. That will get him through basic addition and subtraction, then we move on to double digits. He's really good at math so I don't mind moving ahead with that part. Handwriting...well, not his best subject, but it's readable. His absolute favorite thing is History. We're studying the Ancient times and he wants to read a chapter everyday. They come with maps related to the lesson and he LOVES working on the maps. Our table has a map on it too so we can compare the two and see what things were called back then as compared to now (i.e. Persia vs. Iran). I, too am learning a GREAT DEAL...history never was my thing. When we first started, we got through about 10 chapters and realized neither one of us remembered we went back and built us a rather extravagant timeline and now it's part of our lessons every few weeks to review and add to the timeline. Other less fun subjects include language and spelling. We do have a science book we use - focusing on anatomy right now - but most of his science comes from every day stuff like observing squids hanging in the shade of the boat to identifying the various cowries/seashells we find on the beach. He got a microscope for Christmas so he's been up close and personal with everything from his boogers to his toenails.

As for socializing with kids and human related activities...well, they've been less than normal lately, but he doesn't seem to care. He's taking in the Bikini history and socializing just fine with the six guys here. Family activities are at an all time high.

Updates on the job front soon...

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Quest for Glass Balls

I think I briefly mentioned in an earlier post that we were looking for the elusive glass Japanese fishing ball. Well, I may have understated our quest. These were used to float fishing nets by the Japanese and possibly the Koreans. In theory, they float up onto the shore at the high water mark. So we've spent day after day searching the high tide areas, traipsing through trash, buoys, glass bottles, what have you... We've found numerous pieces of the balls - from the tiny to the huge buttons. It's amazing to me how many fragile light bulbs make it so far up, unharmed while these relatively thick balls get smashed to pieces on the rocks that line the shore. We walked around no less than 4 islands in Rongelap looking for these balls. Like salt in a wound, we would walk around the villages and see balls stacked up on porches and used as decorations around town...laughing at us..."We're here! We're here! You just can't find us!" Our intel told us that they were just "rolling up on the beaches." He left off the last part..."and bashing into the rocks before you can find them!"
We searched the main island in Bikini and found nothing, but it's rather picked over as some of the guys have a daily ritual of walking the beach. By the looks of their unmatched flip flops, I'm guessing they pick up anything remotely interesting. Today, we moved over to a different island. It's north in the atoll and is the island where the button was pushed to detonate "Bravo" so long ago, so you know Jake was eager to go as he loves anything that goes boom. In fact, Edward told us that there were cameras on the old buildings here taking continuous pictures as it exploded. Paradise for Jake... So as Jake and Andy made their way into the old stinky, dark, damp, dilapidated old building (can you tell I wasn't interested), I walked around it. And found...a ball :) A bit anti-climatic after seeing all the giant ones on people's porches, but mine nonetheless. The quest isn't over...we still have half an island to cover...but it's less urgent now.
We finished up the afternoon with Andy gathering wood for our bonfire tonight, Jake playing in the water, and me on shark watch. They're tiny little sharks but they find Jake interesting so every 5 minutes or so I would have to say "get out of the water, shark" and Jake would come out, wait a few minutes and I would say "ok, clear" and he would go back in. I know we've swam with sharks before, but there's something different about having just your feet in the water and not be able to watch their eyes...a bit creepy. But no worries...the water is as clear as the sky so they're easy to spot!
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Monday, February 6, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

My 38th birthday was spent wearing a bikini in Bikini! Cool, huh? I had a seriously good day (I'm having another good day today as I celebrate my birthday according to the state's calendar...gotta love the date line). This place is wonderful. We met all six people on the island and they took us snorkeling yesterday. Afterwards, we just hung out under a tree and chatted with them, getting to know a few of the guys. Edward, the dive master here, seems to be the guy in charge. He's from Bikini atoll originally, but his family is now in Hawaii (he has 5 kids). Ben is from the Phillipines and has 6 kids at home! He's the mechanic here and seems to be pretty good at it. He took a Kuboto tractor engine (the same kind we have on Savannah) out of the junk yard and fixed it, then put it in a Ford pickup truck. The thing runs great! We're still getting to know the other guys, but they're all extremely friendly. We brought a package from Rongelap containing their smokes, sugar, and milk for them and I think that made us pretty popular.

You all reading this probably have access to more information than I do, so I'm just going to hit the highlights here about Bikini...
The "bikini" was actually named after the island in 1946. The two piece swimsuit was introduced weeks after the one piece "Atome" was widely was said that the bikini "split the atome" HA!!! I love that.
23 nuclear devices were detonated here in Bikini. Operation Crossroads was the first and I think - the battery is dead on the other computer for me to confirm - it was used to sink a bunch of ships that now serve as wrecks for diving. This place is THE premier place for wreck diving with the only diveable US aircraft carrier in the world...the U.S.S. Saratoga.
March 1,1954 "Castle Bravo" was detonated. It was the largest nuclear explosion ever set off by the US.

There are lots of opinions on whether the atoll is safe for people to live on long term. The scientists and Marshallese government are bickering over the best way to clean it up so it looks as if people won't be moved back on for quite some time. All of the fish are safe to eat, but it's said to be a good idea to avoid the fruit (coconuts, pandanus, etc)...anything grown out of the ground. One or two won't harm you but over a period of time, it's unknown. Ben says he's planted things and eaten them and is just fine, but well, who knows what Ben was like three years ago, right?

More to come on Bikini...

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Act of Valor - opening Feb 24

We've been waiting a long time to post this. There is a movie coming out on Feb 24 in the states called Act of Valor. We care for two reasons. One, it's about a bunch of Navy seals (played by Navy seals) and in general is a kudos for the Navy...we, being retired Navy and Andy having worked extensively with the seals, like that very much. Two, and much more personally, Andy's last gig in the Navy was shooting the underwater footage for this movie. From what we understand, quite a bit of it made it to the final cut.

We've been googling for the past two years trying to figure out if it was ever going to be released and now it is. Some of you maybe have already seen the trailers. If not, I heard they bought a few spots on the Superbowl (pregame, 4th qtr, and post game) so watch out for it. We can't vouch for whether the movie is any good or not, but the trailers look awesome and Bandito Brothers films tend to be pretty exciting so, I'm guessing it is. Either way, we're excited and since we won't see it for quite some time, would love for those of you who do see it to email us and tell us what you think.

On a more immediate note...we made it to Bikini Atoll this morning. On our way, we caught our first Mahi mahi in a LONG time. It was beautiful too...about 2 1/2 feet long and very tasty! Seas were fairly calm, albeit a little rocky. The wind was 20-25 knots but coming from behind so it moved us right along. We left Rongelap a little too early so we only had a hankerchief of our jib out to keep us from getting there before sunrise. Will post more about Bikini after we've had a bit of time to explore.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rongelap pictures

Sorry for the long wait on pictures.  We're sitting in a tiny little room next to a big dish using the only computer on the island with bugs crawling on me...all for you :).  Here are some pictures we've taken over the last week here on Rongelap.  Enjoy!

The Giant clams are EVERYWHERE...all different beautiful colors.

It's amazing how much trash comes onto the beach from the

The Rongelap Airport

The church has been here since the 70's...notice our boat in the background?

These are the houses being built for the folks coming back to the island.

Andy surprised a pig...

Bungalows for visitors.

The only other kid on the island...I wonder who his stylist is?

View from our front porch

We found the left over of a rocket on the beach.  Andy thinks it might
be the Pegasus Booster rocket.  Anyone with some time?  Look it up?

More pieces of the rocket.

Jake still loves a good bonfire.

We'll leave here in a few days after this wind blows over and head to Bikini Atoll.  I'm not sure about the communication there so we'll be pictureless for a while...hopefully this will hold you all for a bit.