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.
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