Saturday, March 31, 2012

Marshall Islands in Review

We're day two into our four day trip to Kosrae and I thought maybe I would do a little "Marshall Islands in Review" (you knew it was coming). I'll start with the positives…

Majuro, the capital, is a good place to re-provision regardless of where you're going. The prices are similar to American Samoa and the selection is large. If you can look past the roaches in the grocery stores and the expired dates on just about everything cold, you'll find it suits your needs adequately. Ok, not everything cold, but you do need to pay attention. Beer, wine and liquor is not cheap, but they do have a wide variety - mostly from the US and Australia.

The US Post office is here…that's a cruiser's dream as you can get anything you want shipped in at a fairly reasonable rate and in a reasonably good time frame (that's also the reason most cruisers get "stuck" in Majuro). There are also some folks who can help with freight shipping if your needs are a bit larger.

Americans can stay as long as we like and even work if we're so inclined.

The outer islands are beautiful and the people in them are too. That's probably the number one reason to visit the Marshalls.

There is a big cruising community here with the Mieco Yacht Club. Some see this as a positive, some as a negative…I find them mildly entertaining, a bit nosey and only slightly annoying…most of the time, very helpful, if not a bit grumpy. I mean that in the nicest of ways…

Now, for the not so great…
Majuro is dirty, as is Ebeye. The preferred method of garbage disposal is to throw trash in their back yards and have it taken away at high tide, if they can be bothered to bag it at all, making for a very disgusting, if not interesting, anchorage (it's the first time we saw an adult diaper floating by).
The people in Majuro aren't as friendly as the outer islands. It could be they're shy or their English isn't very good, but I equate it to any "big" city where the people are a bit more jaded than those in the rural areas and tend to not be as welcoming.
It rains a lot in Majuro. A lot.

We were fortunate enough to sample a number of intestinal bugs and the dengue while in Majuro. The cleaning habits of the restaurants would make anyone cringe. If you can't keep the critters out of the dining room, can you imagine what the kitchen looks like? A few cruisers swear they've never been healthier here but we can make a direct correlation between Majuro and how much toilet paper we need, if you know what I mean.

There is an easy way to avoid the above negatives…stay out of Majuro.

The only negative I can think of for the outer islands is the "gimme" attitude I spoke of earlier. But that's to be expected when you see the isolation they live in. How else can you get Tylenol if you don't ask? Oh yeah, and they poop on the reef…but this was actually entertaining to us as we usually only saw little kids do it and it was quite the social hour for them.

So, to anyone planning on visiting the Marshalls in the upcoming season…here's my advise: Check into Majuro, provision up, get all of your island permits and get the hell out. Visit the Ratak chain first (it's a lot easier to get back to Majuro if you need to), then if you want to go to Bikini, have an escape plan from there (i.e. check out of Majuro, go to Bikini, then head west to FSM) or plan on a great big bash back. All in all, we're glad we came though. Would we come back? Probably not, but it's a nice alternative to the other options of avoiding hurricane season and "following the pack." If we hadn't of come here, we wouldn't have met some really great friends and we wouldn't be heading to FSM right now…something we're all excited about.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Jake, shooting target practice at a bunch of cans with
Morgan's BB Gun.
We run into kids just about everywhere we go, but usually they have different interests than Jake and/or have other friends and don't necessarily "need" him as much as he needs them.  So Jake just makes the best of it and we move on.  Here, it's going to be hard to move on...Wyatt and Morgan on s/v LoveSong and Jake are three peas in a pod.  The have the EXACT same interests and they're all in the same age range...5,6,7.  Jake has had an absolute blast here and for the first time in a while, I actually feel bad about leaving.  They've played nonstop since we got here.

But all good things must come to an end (or at least lead to other good things, right?).  We're checking out of the country today and heading out in the morning.  We should be in Kosrae early next week (500 miles) and we are super excited.  I'm trying to prepare myself for all the rain, but other than that, it should be a huge change of scenery.  Kosrae is one of the less visited islands in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), but we hear the people are extremely friendly and that it's a beautiful place complete with hiking trails, waterfalls and mangroves.  Even better, we should be going downwind so Jake and I might actually be able to keep our lunch down!
He paid more attention to Alan and his instructions than
he ever has in school!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pictures from Aur

And here are the rest of the pictures from our last few weeks...these are from Aur atoll, both the island of Tobal and Aur.

The "Girl's Club"

Jake enjoying his new friends.  He doesn't look the least bit shy, huh?

This picture reminds me of the bachelor...I think he's about ready to give out a rose.

All good things must come to an end.

These little girls helped me pick seashells.

These Horned Helmets covered the bottom under the boat.
Very beautiful.  Did I mention they were tasty too?

I think this was actually in Maleolap...the school teacher's home.

Kendra's class.

Jake playing frisbee with the local kids on Tobal.

Jake, attending school in Tobal.

This was just the first round of coconuts we received.  We ended up with
over two dozen!

Last, but certainly not least.....the Mayor of Aur.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

More pictures...

Here are some of the underwater pictures from the diving on Maleolap.

John, posing with some unexploded ordinances (you can't see his hammer in this picture) 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Back in Majuro (and it's not raining!)

Big gun on the beach at the edge of the island.
We made it back to Majuro (with the mayor and his 47 packages) and now we're busy provisioning up getting ready to go.  Jake has reunited with the kids on Love Song and is happy as a lark.  Not much else to tell.  Below are some pictures from Moleolap on shore visiting the WWII relics with John and Naomi.  I'll post some more tomorrow!

This was an old generator station.

Jake posing with our local "guides"

Japanese Zero

My ridiculous husband :)

An old bunker

We think this might have been an old ammunition storage building.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

More Aur

I sit in my room typing this secretly drinking a beer in my short shorts and tank top. More on that in a minute...

We arrived on the main island of Aur yesterday and went ashore to meet the Mayor and gain permission to stay (and pay our $25). We drank more coconuts (that's the way people welcome you around here...we have drank A LOT of coconuts lately) and were given some bananas. Jake and I picked out some baskets to buy from the locals and then we set off to meet the American teacher here, Kellyn (from NC, another southerner!!). Jake joined her class this morning...two days in school so far! I met the third grade teacher, a very nice lady named Kosco and we chatted while class was in session.

We're starting to get a feel for the "give me" attitude the Marshallese are so famous for among cruisers. To be fair, it's their culture. They do it to each other all the time. It's not considered rude at all, just practical. And when you think of how little contact they have with the other islands, it makes sense that they take advantage when they can. So here's our experience... We started off offering school supplies and old clothes. When asked for medicine, we gave what we had. By the time we got here to Aur, we're running pretty low on everything...medicine, fuel, food, etc. Here, we gave the rest of our medicine and sold the last of fuel. The mayor asked us if we would mind taking packages back to Majuro. Of course not, we said... Only two boxes, he said. Soon a boat came out and greeted us and told us they would bring the boxes out to us...5 boxes and 5 bags. No problem, ok. Can we take a passenger?, we don't have the room, sorry. OK, no problem. We'll come back with the boxes and the Mayor. OK.
So, about 10 minutes later, they come out with 6 boxes (one of which I'm pretty sure has some fish in it) and 2-3 bags of handicrafts....and the Mayor. We sit around and look at each other for a while. Offer up thank you. Look some more.
OK, we told them we needed to go ashore to give the medicine and fuel to the doctor. OK.
Everyone got up....but the Mayor. See where this is going?

So why am I sneaking a beer in my room dressed in short shorts? Because it's rude to do it in front of the Mayor. We're told not to give alcohol to the locals and women always dress very modestly (skirt below the knees, shoulders covered). But my gosh, it's an overnight trip to Majuro and I just can't see me wearing my skirt the whole time?? Jake and the Mayor are watching Pirates of the Carribean, Andy is doing...well, I don't know what Andy is doing, and I'm talking to you. Should be an interesting trip!

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Aur, Marshall Islands

We're now firmly settled into Aur having one of our best experiences yet on the island of Tobal. But before I get into that, I have to retract my statement about the Moeleolap doctor with a "lack of common sense." I have learned the rest of the story and it seems the doctor was swept out to sea when he was trying to save (and succeeded) three young boys playing on the reef. It really is seems he died a hero.

On a brighter note, the people here are extremely friendly, and it will come as no surprise that the kids are the friendliest. We first met "James Bond" (a local guy we hear on the morning net) and his family. They gave us some drinking coconuts and welcomed us with a beautiful handicraft made by his wife. Next, we set off to find the school. We had some books to drop off as well as an ulterior motive to meet the local English Teacher...a volunteer for World Teach, from Virginia! Her name is Kendra. We've had the pleasure of getting to know her a little bit and through her have come to understand the local culture a bit more. On Saturday, she holds a "girl's club" and after their meeting they swam out to the boat. We invited them aboard...all 12 or so of them! Pretty soon, the boys were jealous and 4 of them swam out as well. Jake came out of his shell and had a blast. The girls were quite taken with him! I can't wait to post the pictures. Kendra is teaching them all manners (please, thank you, excuse me) so it gave them a chance to not only play a bit on the boat, but practice their English with someone besides their teacher.

Today is Sunday, traditionally quiet on the island, so we took a little swim, relaxed a bit and now Jake is playing outside with three little boys that decided to swim out again while Andy and I watch a little TV. Tomorrow, Jake will sit in on the first grade English class for an hour or so and then we'll say our goodbyes and head to the main island here, Aur. It's going to be sad to leave here as we've grown quite attached in a short period of time. A very nice way to remember the Marshall Islands.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Back with friends

We've spent a few fun filled days (a little wet, but fun) here in Maleolap with our friends on s/v Renova. John gave us a tour on the main island, Taroa, of all the WWII stuff...bunkers, airplanes, generator stations. You can't walk 10 yards without running into something. Much of it has been grown over with vines and bush but that's part of the fun of feel like you're walking through the jungle. They get a lot of rain here so the place is very lush with more than the usual coconut tree and pandanus tree. They have breadfruit, bananas, and many flowering plants as well.

We decided we wanted to dive a few ships so we went up to another island in the atoll called Ollit. We spent the first day diving two Japanese ships and visiting with each other. The next day, John, Naomi, Jake and I went ashore to explore a bit and meet the people. After walking around a bit and getting our bearings, we walked by the school and met one of the local teachers, Louror. He invited us into his class and after school was out, over to his house. After having some lunch, Naomi and I went back in to visit with Louror and his family. We were greeted on the beach by the usual gaggle of kids and they walked us to his house. His wife makes the beautiful handicrafts that you see all around the Marshall Islands so we took a look at those while drinking the coconuts Louror provided for us. The crafts get sent to Majuro when there is a plane but when there isn't a plane, she has no way to sell them. We had some interesting conversations and after sitting out a few rain storms we made our way back to the boat. Just as the kids helped us get our dinghy back in the water, a lady we later met as Sally, ran out to us with her son and a basket of drinking coconuts for us to take back with us. We've found the women to be unusually friendly here...not our experience on other islands. They're usually shy and standoffish, but here, they smile, wave and make numerous efforts to show their hospitality.

There was a terrible accident here with the doctor concerning currents, tides and a lack of common sense (those are my words, not the locals) and the island is left without medical care at the moment. Louror's wife, Helpina was in desperate need of some pain killers for an infected tooth. We took her some antibiotics and Ibuprofen as well as some school supplies and finally headed back to the boat for good.

We're off to the atoll of Aur now. Our first day sail since leaving Mexico! From there, we'll head to Majuro next week and begin our preparations for Micronesia. I'll be able to post pictures in Majuro so you can see what fun we're having! This is definitely the way to see the Marshall Islands. I can't for the life of me figure out why we stayed in Majuro so long (well, I know it was for parts and stuff, but that seems silly now). The outer islands are so much prettier and friendlier and definitely worth the effort.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Maleolap, Marshall Islands

We finally made it out of Kwajalein. I won't go into details about our passage because I'm sure you can guess it wasn't good. This time it was our fault. We chose to go 180 miles directly into the wind to meet our friends Naomi and John on s/v Renova at another atoll. We arrived late yesterday afternoon and were greeted with cold beers and a warm supper! It's been a while since we've seen them and I think we all were looking forward to our reunion!

This morning Naomi, Jake and I decided to go to the local church while Andy and John went diving on one of the many WWII wrecks here in the atoll (everyone has their style of worship, right?). When we pulled the dinghy up to the quay we were greeted by no less than 15 kids. I might even be understating that a bit. The kids here are extremely friendly and find us white people quite intriguing. Jake was a bit overwhelmed with all the staring but began to soften a bit as the morning went on.

Naomi had figured out how the church bell system worked so we heard the first bell (time to get up), then the second (time to head towards the church), then the third (time to start). The only problem is, there are two churches and we weren't distinguishing between the two so we ended up arriving a little early. But no worries, we had a gaggle of kids to keep us entertained. Some of they are trying to learn English and Naomi is getting quite good at Marshallese so Jake and I tried to catch up on our numbers...we made a weak attempt anyway.

We were welcomed into the church by smiling faces all around (quite unique from my experiences in Majuro and Ebeye). The men sit on the left side and the women sit on the right side. The service itself was pretty normal for a protestant service. It was in Marshallese so we didn't understand most of it, but I think I could distinguish the sing song way the Lord's Prayer was said. About half way through the service, the pastor broke out some English and welcomed us to his church and his community. He threw a little English in here and there throughout the rest of the service as well. There was a fair amount of singing. The Marshallese aren't really known for their voices like the Samoans or Marquesans, but what they lacked in beauty they more than made up for in volume! The collection plate was passed, prayers said, then congregation dismissed. At least we think they looked like Sunday school might have been to follow but we thanked the pastor and took our chance to leave. We walked back to the dinghy in the rain accompanied by our little escorts and off we went. All in all, it was very nice morning. I asked Jake to tell me some of the differences he saw between church at home and here. His perspective was very much that of a child...."They don't have a TV [Papa and Gigi's church has a monitor as well as Uncle Cary and Aunt Caroline's church], they don't have those pretty windows, and it's smaller." The different language thing totally escaped him I guess!

Andy and John had a nice dive on a Japanese war ship (with unexploded ordinances!) but I'll save that for a little later when I can post pictures. He was able to get some good ones of the propeller and various other aspects of the ship. It looks like there are at least seven other wrecks to explore while we're here so there will be lots to show.

It looks like we're going to practice the local tradition of doing nothing on the sabbath as it's raining and dreary outside. Tomorrow we'll head in and meet the Mayor and do our official check in. Lots to explore here...

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The not so elusive Octopus

We've been waiting out our time here in Kwajalein anchored in front of the island Bigee.  It has some really nice snorkeling and after being here for a week (our third time being here for a week), we've gotten to know the coral heads pretty well.  Given that, I was surprised the other day when I snorkeled over the same old coral head and found a good sized octopus!  He wasn't even all that skittish...just sort of looked at me and moved around a bit.  I came back the next day and there he sat.  Yesterday, Andy was bored and I told him he should take his camera and go get some pictures of the little guy.

"Octopus is hard...I'll probably just get one picture and then he'll run off."  Not one to shy away from something "hard," I sensed a little lack of motivation.
"Consider it a challenge then oh masterful one of the underwater camera..."
That helped.  He got off his tail and went for a dive.

About 10 minutes later I heard him hollering for me....the octopus was out in the open sand by the boat.  I grabbed my mask and fins and swam out to him.  Using his spare regulator I went down and watched him work the little guy.  I've seen this in videos but never in person....the crazy little 8 legged thing RAN across the sand trying to get away from us.  He (or she?) literally RAN and RAN and RAN.  It was so cool!  After a few minutes of watching him, I went back to the boat and Andy continued the photo shoot for another hour.  Evidently, the octopus got used to him and eventually ignored him altogether. He came back with an enormous amount of pictures with the octopus in all sorts of contortions, shapes, colors and textures.  I asked him to narrow it down to a few for me so I could post them here.

The icing on the cake....this morning I went out for one last snorkel before heading back to Ebeye and after seeing a sea turtle swim away from me, I saw TWO octopi out and about, hunting around in a totally different area.  We looked these up and it turns out to be a Day Octopus...presumably because it hunts and wanders around in the daytime, unlike most of it's cousins who are nocturnal.  Pretty common in the Pacific, but not common for us.  I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I did.  Keep in mind, this is all the same octopus.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

It was only a year ago?

About a year ago we were frantically getting ready to cross the pacific and I was reading everything I could to find out the secret to happiness on the crossing and once we got to the Marquesas. I'm sure there are boats doing the same thing this year. I was trying to think of some helpful tips for those guys that maybe they hadn't already read somewhere else and I found that to be's all out there. But I did come up with a few things that might be of some use and might be new...

If you're coming from Mexico after being in the Baha all summer, this may be a little retraining of the mind. ALWAYS, ALWAYS close your hatches when leaving your boat. You can bet as soon as you get far enough away from your boat to where it would be a pain to go back, it's going to rain. It rained on us everywhere we went and after not seeing rain for a full year in Mexico, it took us a while to get the hang of it (duh). Which leads me to my next item...

You'll have plenty of opportunities to catch rain for water so if you don't already have a method to do that, it might be a good time to think about it. We're lucky enough to have a pretty good system built in, but other methods like buckets and tarps work well enough just have to come up with something and be ready.

If you're leaving from La Cruz, take advantage of the nighttime veggie place I talked about last year...they are by far the best veggies you will see for a long time. And if you don't already know how to cook with cheyotes, it's worth your while to figure it out. They last forever. You'll be throwing them out because you're tired of them, not because they went bad. Some ideas...take your favorite banana bread recipe and substitute shredded cheyote for the bananas...chop it up and put it in salads or coleslaw...cook it in stir frys or any other veggies you cook.

Lastly, if you're a meat eater, stock up in Mexico (everything we got from Carnes del Mundo was well worth the price). Ciguatera (fish poisoning) is rampant throughout the pacific and while you may be lucky with your fishing on your crossing, once you get in the various lagoons, you have to be careful. We know of AT LEAST five boats who caught ciguatera in the Marquesas and Tuamotos. Sure, you can ask the locals, but you get answers like "you can eat the fish to the left of that coral head, but not to the right." Hmmm....don't they swim back and forth? One of our conversations went like this... "Do you have ciguatera in this lagoon?" "Yes, we do" "Which fish can we eat?" "Well, you have to know which ones they are." "Yes, we understand that. Can you tell us?" "You shouldn't eat the ones with ciguatera." "Yes, we know you know which ones they are?" "You can eat some of the parrot fish, but not all of them" "OK, thanks" and we went home and had a hamburger. Just be careful and unless you want to eat a lot of spam and canned corn beef, bring what you like from Mexico because meat is rather pricey once you get to the Marquesas. If you're a vegetarian (and even if you're not), bring lots of recipes for bok choy, cabbage and egg plant. You can get those just about everywhere.

I hope that was something new and at least mildly helpful for anyone still reading from Mexico...The passage from La Cruz to Hiva Oa is still our favorite passage to this day. I hope the winds are as good to the group this year as they were to us. Have fun, have lots of celebrations and if you're heading to Hiva Oa, don't be surprised if it looks like an island from Mexico when you first spot it...go around the corner and you'll see green, I promise. And when you see LOTS and LOTS of boats in the tiny little harbor, don't worry, you're still unique and congratulations are in order.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: