December 26, 2012

Aur Atoll

We spent a week in Majuro catching up on internet and restocking Downtime with what we could find in the supermarkets in town. To Daria's dismay the produce selection was as poor of quality as we had seen in a long time. The "fresh" produce looked pretty rough after it's 3 week trip across the sea but we found out that if you went to the market every day you could eventually find what you were looking for. Also during the week we spent there I went out on a dive with a few other cruisers out to the pass with Cary a local dive charter captain and fellow sailor. The dive was 12 miles from town in the main pass and the pass had an amazing amount of fish life in it along with several large sharks!

We spent one morning at the ministry of internal affairs to received permission to visit the outer atolls and saw the rest of this small town.

On our way out of the lagoon the next day we stopped for a snorkel just before the pass and found much of the coral to be flourishing and lots of fish too see. Half way through the snorkel Daria became frantic and told me one of here caps fell of her tooth as she was swimming back to Downtime. I thought this can't be good and how would we find a cap in all that white sand? She got back to the boat and was carefully going through her snorkel looking for the cap with out any luck. We were considering our options and while I was putting away the gear I shook the sand out her dive booties and could you believe it that her cap fell out and landed on the deck! (the cap floating in the ocean current and fell directly into one of her boots!) Whew!! What a relief! We had a emergency dental repair kit aboard and an hour later her tooth looked like new! And they say there are no miracles?

We set sail at 9:00 pm for the 80 mile trip to Aur Atoll. The winds were fresh and blowing 20 to 25 knots and we just set only the jib sail for the overnight passage. We thought the seas would calm down when we were a few miles from land but they never did? If anything they got bumpier! It felt like we were back in the North Atlantic with waves smacking us from all directions? There must be some strange currents around here causing all this wave action?

At daybreak I set the fishing lines as we approached the atoll hoping to catch a fish to give the village when we arrived. The wind had lightened but the waves were still crashing on the reef we would have to cross. Our charts showed several passes to the north and we hoped the skies would clear so we could clearly see the pass as we went through. Daria went forward to watch for bombas (rocks) as we slowly went through the reef going through a pass just over 100 feet wide and 35 feet deep with jagged coral reef on either side with waves crashing.

Having safely cleared the pass and made our way across the lagoon and anchored in front of Tubal Island. We were greeted on the radio by James Bond 007! James is the local medical practiciononer and as it turns out would become our good friend and connection to the village for the week. The village only had 150 people so every one naturally knew everyone. James greeted us when we came ashore with a big bunch of bananas, giant cooking bananas, and drinking coconuts.

We had been hearing that the islanders could be a little standoffish and rude to visitors but our experience has been totally the opposite and we were warmly welcomed by everyone we met.

Meeting James and his family was the link to making the whole week an amazing adventure. As we sat down and shared stories with a fresh coconut in our hands James began telling us a little about the island and what was going on that week. First of all it was Gospel Week and the 7th of December was Liberation day from Japan and the day they celebrated the arrival of the first Missionary. Sunday would be a huge celebration, one of which where a sister island Aur would come over and they would all celebrate together a the arrival of the first missionary bringing the gospel.

In one our conversations with James he told us that his wife owned Mummet Island the small island we could see 9 miles across the lagoon. Unfortunately they have not been able to get out to the island for almost two years since his father in law had passed away. Daria asked if they had coconut crabs on the island and when he explained there were probably more crabs than we could catch in a week the decision was made to take he and his family to the island the next day.

I went ashore early the following morning to give the family a ride out to Downtime in SD with all their gear that they would need to spend the night camping on the island. We had James, his wife ,two daughters, two sons and nephew aboard Downtime as we set sail for the island. While sailing I changed to some baits James recommended and soon after we landed a few nice Rainbow Runners while crossing the lagoon!

James's wife is an expert weaver and she gave us small woven hearts, dolphins ,and fish to put on our small Christmas tree. She also made a beautiful basket and other woven decorations for us while we were there. Special gifts that we will treasure, a small token for us taking her and the family to her island. Thank you so much for all the gifts!
With the winds still blowing out of the NE we found we would have to anchor in the lee on the SW outer side of the island outside the reef with the open ocean behind us. We found a place along the outer reef with a small shelf and 40 feet of water to drop the hook on and luckily it wrapped around a big rock and held fast. We let out another 150 feet of chain and backed down over the outer edge of the reef and were now sitting in 200 feet of water! Wow what a drop off along this reef! This definitely would be one of those night I would be sleeping with one eye open and have the anchor alarm on hoping the winds did not shift from the west!

We left Downtime anchored on the reef and lowered SD to bring the Family ashore in a bumpy sea. Safely across the reef and onshore James assessed the remains of the shelter that had been last used 2 years ago. The shelter had the tattered remains of a blue tarp and a few pieces of rusted tin for a roof another small structure nearby covered the copra (coconut) drying oven. In the past they came out for a month or two at a time and harvested copra while living primitively on the island that covers roughly 25 acres.

The older boys went out to set traps for the coconut crabs which involves splitting a copra (when coconuts are dry they call them copra) and wedging them between a few low branches just above the ground outside the holes where the crabs live, wedging them tightly so the crab does not carry away the bait. Later they go back with bright light and sneak up and blind them with the light and grab them being careful not to loose a finger in the process.

Back at the shelter the women were cooking fresh fish (rainbow runner and travelly) and rice for dinner, along with the fish and rice they served baked breadfruit and cooked bananas. The fire was made from coconut husks and when they cook fish over a fire they use the coconut shell for fuel which burns hotter and cleaner. They cleverly serve the meal in a woven palm leaf which takes them all of 20 seconds each to make. (The first true "GREEN" paper plate)

By morning they had caught two sacks full of two different types of crab, one a small land crab about the size of your hand and the other the famous coconut crab we had been hearing about that grows to over a foot round and can pinch your fingers off with their huge claws that they use to open coconuts.
 In the morning, when Daria and I arrived back on the island, there was a fresh batch of steamed crab laid out on palm leaves and we sat down for a crab breakfast. James showed us how to crack open the crab by cleverly cracking them between two coconuts, using a full one as a hammer. To me eating crab is a like slowly starving to death since it requires much more work to open and eat them than the energy you are consuming, but Daria loves the little critters and can eat them for hours.

Later we walked around the island which was a sanctuary and nesting ground for many sea bids and green sea turtles. Daria and I were walking back to the shelter and we saw James and the older boys digging in the sand under some tress near the shore line. To our dismay we saw that they were digging up a turtle nest! This kicked Daria's "save the turtles" action in gear and she began giving them the save the turtles speech. The sea turtle is in danger of being over harvested in all these atolls and is endangered to the point of soon becoming extinct if things do not change. All the islanders know this but nobody is following the ban on eating them! Daria told them she refused to let turtle eggs on Downtime and I agreed with her. It was just a awkward moment being on another persons island in their country trying to enforce what is right. Reluctantly the men put the eggs back in the nest and re-buried them, hopefully several of the 80 plus eggs that were buried would hatch and a few turtles will survive to live and return and lay eggs of their own on these shores one day?

Later that morning with everyone back aboard Downtime we set sail for the return trip to Tubal Island. We re-set the fishing lines and were sailing along the reef towards the pass and found ourselves sailing directly into a flock of feeding birds and landed a nice 35 pound yellow fin tuna. This one fish would surely make up for the protein loss of the turtle eggs and we gladly gave the fish to the family. Later while gong through the pass we landed another fish, a nice barracuda to add to the bounty we had been given by the sea.

During the passage Daria cooked banana bread and fish for all crowd, girls really liked it and was asking new recipes, but simple sweets and chips disappearing fast too!

Back at the village the work of processing the crabs began and Daria spent hours picking meat out of the steamed crab legs. She worked her hands raw in the process but did use a ball peen hammer instead of coconuts to break open the tough shells. In the process of getting one of the larger crabs into the pot one grabbed onto her finger but she luckily was able to shake it loose before it took off her finger! One night she cooked delicious pasta for me with crabs, cream and fennel from her sister recipe.

Over the next several days we would bring fish ashore for the family that we had stored in our fridge on Downtime since they do not have any way to keep it cool on shore. Just try to imagine living without a refrigerator or ice!

On Thursday James asked if would like them to catch us some lobsters? Well, after my last lobster experience in Kiribati I was a little leery about going lobster fishing but I said sure lets go. I would just need to bring masks, snorkel's and flashlight batteries. The two boys that caught the crabs on the island would be doing the catching and we would hold the bag for what they caught. I said I was not going in over my waist this time since I almost drowned last time! They promised this would be much safer than my last experience and rarely did they go in water over 4 feet deep to catch lobster. We would have to wait for low tide which was at 2 am. I met them on the beach in SD and we drove 3 miles down the lagoon on a calm moonlit night to a deserted island known to have what we were looking for, lobsters! The moon was in its last quarter providing plenty of light to see on this clear starry night and we anchored SD of the lee shore and walked to the island with high hopes. I had one thing to do before I went out and that was to call my Dad on his 70th birthday. It will be a call I will not soon forget, standing on a moonlit beach talking on the satellite phone to my Dad 8000 miles away. After the call I flip flopped my way out to the shallow reef where the boys were wading in the water with their dive lights searching for lobster. They had caught two by the time I arrived and within an hour we had 10 in the bag! This was definitely going much better than my last time out! The boys waded across the reef that connected the two islands while James and I made our way back to SD taking a shortcut across the island. It was darker in the jungle and soon our faces were covered in spider webs and our legs were being scratched by the underbrush and we made out way across the island. We made it back to where we left SD to find that she had drug her anchor and was now sitting on the reef in about a foot of water! Dang! I did it again, stranded myself! James said he would be right back and brought some fishing floats that he had seen washed up on shore. We put them under SD and rolled the dink into deeper water. Whew! Good idea James! The boys had made their way to the next island walking across the reef and catching a few more "bugs" along the way. It was not a great lobster night according to James but we had enough for a few nice meals! Thanks James and the boys!

There was a big celebration this weekend to celebrate Gospel Day, the day the missionary brought the Gospel to the islands back in the 1800's The whole village had been practicing their dancing and singing and we had be hearing it aboard Downtime all week. We were told church started at 10 and finally somewhere around 11 the bell rang (a old oxygen cylinder with the bottom cut out being struck with a claw hammer). The celebration started with the pastor giving praise and then different age groups doing a crazy dance to a beat played on a electric keyboard being led by a guy blowing a athletic starter whistle. After this was a donation in which I put one of two bills I had in my pocket. The guy holding the basket asked if I wanted change? I said that's alright, the church can keep it. Then there was another dance with younger kids and another offering…..and so it went…I should have got change and a few smaller bills to put in all of the 8 different dance offerings.

Four hours later the service was finally stopped for a break and we were welcomed to stay for lunch as honored guests, which you guessed it would require another offering (people usually give 50 cents) . We were invited to sit at the Mayors table and enjoyed a lunch of steamed coconut crab, whole lobsters, pork, baked bananas, rice, and breadfruit. Our beverage choice was Mountain Dew, Pepsi of green coconuts, we drank coconuts! Naturally sitting next to the Mayor we had all you can eat lobster and left the table unable to eat another bite.

The kids on the island would swarm around us and we so friendly, asking questions like where you from? And what's your name? Can we come see the boat? The bags full of candy would disappear and smiles were shared.

We met the World Teach volunteer Julia from New York earlier in the week and today another volunteer, Chuck also from NY was up from the southern village of Aur for the celebration. They were part of a team of almost 30 teachers who volunteer to teach English on the islands for a year to gain experience after graduation. They are paid a whopping $100 a month but have host families that give them food and lodging while they are here. We invited them both aboard Downtime later that afternoon for an "American style" meal and cranked up the Air Cond for them and grilled a few steaks which they both enjoyed. It had been 4 month since they started teaching here and we were the first Americans they had seen since. We loaned Julia the sat phone to call her family as our Christmas present and she was able to talk to her family for the first time in months back in the states.

Monday was another holiday and school was out and I met the kids on the beach with SD and a surfboard. The kids had no idea what I had in mind and it took a little coaxing to get the first kid on the board but soon they were all lined up want to try and surf behind SD. Thirty something kids tried and 6 were able to stand up which was amazing since this was everyone's first time! We all had so much fun watching the crashes and the success of those that were able to hang ten!
 The kids here are so courteous and respectful to their elders and if one achieves something the whole group celebrates! We had the first kid riding the board and the whole group was clapping and giving him praise on shore. It is like they all want everyone to enjoy success and share the glory and are so un selfish. We spent two days dink surfing and then had a big party with 20 kids drinking pop and eating Oreo's on Downtime! This is one Island I will never forget!

The next day we headed south to Aur Island in hopes of doing some kite surfing along the reef there. Again we were greeted with coconuts and bananas and were able to give three rainbow runners in trade that we caught along our way. This is the Island the Chuck taught at and we went to the school to say hello to he and his kids. The village was a little bigger than the one on Tubal and was very clean and well kept. Without James it was just not quite the same though and we did not feel as welcome here.

Daria enjoyed snorkeling and feeding the huge silver groupers from the back of the boat. It reminded us Tuamuto's in French Polynesia.

I waited two days for the wind increase to kite surfing strength and finally on the third day the winds filled in and I was kite surfing for hours, which is not always the smartest thing to do if it has been two months since the last time you did it! I was pretty sore the next day!

On Saturday we had Chuck out for another dinner, one he had been craving since he been on the island.., Pizza and beer! Just after dinner I got a call from James which was strange because I knew his radio did not reach all the way from Tubal? It turned out he was Aur and that his uncle had passed away that day and they needed some tools to cut wood for the coffin! I said I had a tape measure and saw and soon we were ripping 2x4's on the back of Downtime! The funeral was to be Sunday at 10 am and when we arrived just before he told us they had to burry him that morning because of the terrible smell. So we missed the ceremony…..
One more day of kite surfing on Monday and the weather started changing for the worse….We were trying to return to Majuro for Christmas and it looked like the winds would be blowing our way for just a few more days so the next morning we set sail at 4 pm with dark skies and squalls on the horizon.

The winds had been NE for days and only decided to change out of the SE the day we set sail! We would be close reached with bumpy seas all the way back to Majuro. I gave fishing a shot going through the pass and landed a nice yellow fin tuna and put the poles away for the rest of the trip.

The sun set and the fun began with one squall after another slammed into us every hour just like clockwork. The winds would be blowing 15 knots and then all of a sudden jump to 30 plus along with a driving rain. They only lasted 10 to 15 minutes or so but it finally came to a point where I left the jib triple reefed and started the engine to keep us heading in the right direction and got some sleep.

Morning came with the pass into Majuro a few miles off. We cleared the pass and spent the next two hours motoring into 20 knots winds towards the anchorage.

Our friend Bob on Braveheart had arrived from Fiji several days before and we looked forward to spending the holidays in Majuro…not really but this is where we find ourselves….

In out next adventure we will be heading to several more atolls to the north including Bikini the island where they tested The H bomb!

Until then Peace! And get out there and live your dreams YOLO! (you only live once)

Pete and Daria

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December 22, 2012

Abemama, Kiribati Atoll

Abemama Atoll, Kiribati

On the second atoll we stopped at illegally at we had quite an exciting time! We always ask ourselves when we hop into SD what kind of adventure will this turn into today? We brought our bag full of gifts and had Downtime safely anchored just inside the pass into the atoll as we headed to shore with our tool bag intentionally left out and a few parts laying around to claim engine trouble if the authorities were to show up again and ask what we were doing here. After all there is always "something" that needs to be worked on and fixed when you live on a boat right?

Off to shore we went and made our landfall at the first small village on the left of this remote island . We pulled up to the beach and the people kind of just stared at us and did not know what to expect from these strange visitors Later we found out there had been only 4 boats that had visited here in the last 12 months! We went ashore and were greeted by the chief who's name was Daryl, he was a young man in in his mid 40's and spoke good English . I gave him a Downtime hat as he started talking to us and became friendlier and he welcomed us into his village. We sat down in the shade of a small palm thatched hut and had the customary fresh coconut which he had a boy climb a tree and then open for us. We sat there and shared stories while drinking our coconuts and passed out our gifts to the villagers which always lightens the mood of the whole village. After talking a while he offered to show us around the atoll and down the road we went to the main part of the town. Well, town was just a church, a meeting hall and a small store and that was it. Along the way to town we met other families who lived along the shore, on the whole Atoll Daryl guessed that a total of 2000 people lived on this small piece of land in the middle of the Pacific. For those of you that do not know an Atoll is the remains of a reef system that once surrounded an island which has long ago sank. Most are circular shaped and rarely more than 3 to 4 feet above sea level and several miles across with an lagoon inside with water depth of 20 to 200 feet. The circular shaped piece of land is anywhere from 20 feet to a half mile wide and made up entirely of limestone (seashells and coral) and thickly populated with coconut trees which is the life blood of these island.

Without the coconut tree there would be no way to survive here on these remote atolls. The tree provides a variety of necessities starting with shelter in the form of shade and then there are the leaves can be woven into very durable shelters. Then there is the coconuts, the green (young) coconut offers a very refreshing and nourishing drink and then there is the meat of the mature nut that can be grated and cooked or pressed to make coconut milk to be used as a sauce. Then when the nut matures fully it can be dried and sold as copra which is made into oil products. This is a labor intense process which involves first finding all the nuts that have fallen to the ground in the last few months and hauling them (by hand) to a central point where they use a spike set in the ground to pry the husk off the nut. Then they split the nut with a machete and lay it in the sun for a few days to dry. This is made difficult with the frequent rain squalls that pass over the islands and they have to be always ready to put a tarp over them to prevent them form getting wet. When the shell and meat are completely dry they pry the meat from the shells and put them in a large gunny sack that when stuffed to capacity weighs about 120 pounds. For all this work they are paid 25 cents a pound which is about $30 for a sack which contains a little over 300 coconuts or roughly 10 cents a piece!
Dried coconuts are used to feed the village pigs and dogs and even the chickens!

Some of the questions we asked along the way were about drinking water and getting supplies delivered to the atoll. We found out that the drinking water comes from shallow wells that had been dug by the Peace corps and military years ago and have a small hand pump to lift the water which is only 10 feet below the surface and a supply ship comes once a month to bring food and fuel and to haul back the copra crop to Tarawa and was late as usual and everyone was out of fuel for their generators.

While we walked along I was thinking, what do these people do all day? Is there ever any excitement and what do they do for entertainment being so far away from it all? The answer to that would come all too soon……

No sooner had that thought crossed my mind when Daria said, "I think I left a banana bread baking in the oven on Downtime" Oh Snap! We have been gone 2 hours with the oven on and no one aboard the boat! We made our way back to where we left SD to find her sitting high and dry on the sand with the tide all the way out! There was no way possible we could drag the 900 pound dink 400 yards to get her back in the water and we found ourselves stranded! To add to our frustration we found out all the village boats were out fishing and Downtime was anchored 3 miles away so the option of swimming back was out of the question…. Here was just the beginning of our island excitement!

The Chief told us that since we were stuck here we might as well stay for lunch while I gazed at the horizon looking for signs of smoke from where Downtime was anchored.. He invited us sit down on some nice woven mats that he had brought out to the middle of the village under another thatched roof area while the women prepared lunch in the cooking hut. While we were sitting there I asked Daryl if they ever went lobster fishing? He answered that they usually went at night with flashlights to catch them then and then he asked if we would like to come back for dinner and they would go out and catch some for us if we provided the flashlight. We thought this was a great idea and accepted the offer thinking they must do this all the time right? He told us they would cook us a fresh chicken dinner and had three young men set off to catch the "fresh chicken". More excitement began as three young men picked up their chicken catching sticks and rounded up the village dogs. I have to tell you watching the next events unfold was hilarious!!! Three grown men and a pack of dogs went chasing the fastest chickens you ever saw! Sticks and chickens were flying everywhere with dogs barking and chasing after but the action lasted only a brief time and then Daryl regretfully told us we would be having fish for dinner since the chickens were just to hard to catch.

Lunch was served and we dined on clams and rice with coconut sauce. They also served dried fish (salt fish) which Daria likes a lot. All this was washed down with a few more fresh coconuts. After lunch they brought out a few pillow and told us we might as well take a nap since the tide would not be back in for a few hours. I tried to sleep but the thought of the oven being on and who knows what happening to the banana bread that had been in there for 4 hours at this point kept me from dreamland. While I was resting (actually thinking we might be stranded here) Daria was recruited to learn how to weave palm leaves that would later be used for a new thatched roof panels by the women of the village. She picked it up amazingly fast to the astonishment of all and was weaving palm leaves like she had been doing it her whole life. That was good since I was thinking we might need this skill later to build a house if the boat burned down!

Finally after a few more agonizing hours the tide came back up and we drug SD out to deeper water and raced back to Downtime to see what kind of damage there was. To our amazement there was not even any smoke in the salon, just a burn banana smell that left a stench for a few days and the charcoal black remains of what would have been desert that night. What a relief!

That afternoon we moved Downtime closer to the village bouncing off a few uncharted sandbars along the way and anchored a few thousand feet from shore. We decided to row the kayak ashore and leave SD home for the night so we would not find ourselves stranded for a second time that day. Daryl had asked for a few gallons of gas for the generator and to also bring a dive flashlight to catch lobster with and any DVD's we could give the village.

We loaded up the supplies and paddled to shore which now at high tide came right to the edge of the village. This was a totally different view than we had leaving earlier when there was a few hundred feed of beach in front of the village and we wondered if we were at the right place as we paddled up in the setting sunlight.

The lights came on with the generator running in the background and dinner was served. Roasted fish with rice and coconut sauce. You have to wonder if they ever get tired of fish and rice? After dinner he hauled out the TV and DVD player and set it up in the main gathering area and popped in Batman Returns while the men gathered around the kava bowl and the rest of the village gathered around for movie night. Daryl was one of the few people in the village that spoke English and you have to wonder what everyone was thinking of this movie without understanding a single word of it.

At around 10 pm Daryl told me it was time to go catch lobster and I asked if I could come along. Having no idea what this would involve I asked if they would take me out with them thinking I could learn a new skill and Downtime would be forever more with lobster in her freezer.

Well, this was the beginning of what would be one of the craziest adventures of my life! It all started with the transportation to the beach. The village had a Honda trail 110 with more miles on it than any one on the island could count. Towed behind this scooter was a trailer that two of the guys that were trying to catch chickens earlier that day hopped on to. Daryl would drive and I would sit backwards behind him with my feet on the trailer. Down the road we went leaving a cloud of blue oily smoke behind us with me sitting on the back backwards gasping for fresh air. The guys on the trailer must have been immune to carbon monoxide and were breathing the smoky exhaust like it was nothing new? After several miles of dirt road we turned off and drove strait down the middle of the airport runway all the way to the end and then made a turn towards the beach through the jungle. I was getting the feeling that they did not do this all the time when Daryl kept asking one of the guys on the trailer which trail to turn on? The guys who could not catch a chicken earlier that day would be the same guys who were going to catch lobsters tonight! Oh well maybe lobster catching was their gift to the world?

We finally arrived at the end of the trail and unloaded the gear which was 2 old masks, my one small flashlight, a pole spear I brought along and a old gunny sack. I thought this must be easy if that's all the gear you need to catch lobsters. Luckily I was smart enough to wear my dive booties but the two other guys just had flip flops on. Daryl said he would be staying on shore to watch the scooter and the two guys would go out and catch a few lobsters while we waited. I asked him if it would be alright if I went along with them because I would like to learn how it was done, he gave me a strange look and said sure why not. This turned out to be a REALLY bad idea on my part……..

I eagerly followed the two guys out onto the reef on this moonless pitch darks night with only the light of the stars in the sky. Looking back towards shore we saw Daryl standing there with a small LED flashlight which was our only reference back to shore. Foolishly I gave one guy the only other flashlight we had, but I did keep one of the two dive masks, the pole spear and thankfully I was wearing good boots to walk over the rocky coral bottom with. In the distance we could hear waves crashing on the outer reef as we continued walking out into deeper and deeper water. Soon we were chest high and a half mile from shore with Daryl's light just a pinpoint of light on the horizon. Soon the waves were breaking on us and we dove under each of them as we continued to go farther out onto the reef. We were at the edge where the waves were breaking and barely able to touch bottom when we finally turned the light on and looking down we could see the bottom change from a flat rocky surface to a series of jagged valleys and drop offs along the outer edge of the reef. We were swimming at this point scanning the bottom for lobsters, coming up for air and getting smacked in the face by waves while trying to breath and unknowingly being swept out to sea by the outgoing tide. The next time we looked down it was 20 feet deep and the reef had disappeared beneath us. We could see the faint light on shore and I began swimming desperately towards it. In my mind I was thinking that "this could be it" I would be found washed up on a beach somewhere or eaten by a shark! I swam hard for what seemed like forever and finally I saw my guide standing on the reef in front of me. I swam up to him and told him that I was done lobster fishing and was heading back to shore. If he understood a word of what I said I do not know but thankfully my feet were finally back on the jagged reef. I fell into many holes on my way as I stumbled in the darkness back to shore. The poor guys behind me had lost their shoes and had been tumbled on the reef by several waves. The one guy who had the only light the last time I looked to have been swept way out by the current and I thought for sure he was lost to the sea. I made it back to shore shaken and exhausted by the experience and curiously asked Dayrl when the last time he went out there at night was? He said it had been a long, long time…And I understand why!

We waited on shore for what seemed like forever for the two guys to return. Finally one guy stumbled ashore beat up and shoe less and he plopped down on the ground next to us exhausted. We yelled out for the second guy and after several tries finally heard a faint reply. The guy who had the light was in the worst shape and had a near miss being swept out to sea finally came stumbling out of the ocean. He had abandoned the flashlight, dive mask, and his shoes while he was swimming back against the current while saving his own life.

The ride back to the village was quiet and un eventful and the whole way I was thinking we were probably all happy just to be alive as the scooter chugged down the dusty road back to the village.

When we finally arrived back to the village, sadly we did not even have one lobster in the sack, heck we did not even have the sack! But no body seemed surprised by this and I bet it has been a long time since any one there had even tasted a lobster!

The generator was still running in the background along with one of the movies we bought ashore playing on the TV. The same group of people were staring at the screen, Daria was sleeping  and the men of the village were still gathered around the kava bowl with that far away kava look on their face…to them it was just another day on the atoll……

Peace from Captain Pedro and Daria

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December 16, 2012

From Vanuatu to Marshall's via Kiribati

We left Vanuatu at 5pm on 8th of November.

From Pete's mail to Bob, 10th of Nov : "300 miles under the keel so far and we are STILL close reached heading our way N-E. Who knows where the end of this road is? we will most likely continue to see the winds shift to north and not have to touch a sail for the next few hundred miles to the equator. The good news is the winds are strong and we are making decent time for a BASH!
We should be in Kiribati in 5 days about the 15th unless the winds say NO, then we will continue on to the Marshall's direct (hope not). Been going to fast to fish so no good stories other than passing Anuta Island (Cherry Is) at about 5pm last night. There was a proa cat on the beach and about 10 people that we saw on this remote island. It looked like 150 years ago except they had clothes on. The cat was drug up to the tree line and it looks like they live there 200 mile from anywhere?"

2 days later:
"Bob! make sure you get fuel before you leave, your going to need it! We have been motoring for two days and the only wind to be had is on the nose! 3-4 knts. Any who.....we have seen two tuna killer helicopters fly by in search of fish. We have drowned several lures in our attempt to land one ourselves and new recruits are lined up to replace drowned comrades. The freezer is near fish less so it is about time we catch something. We will be stopping at a few islands along the way since we have developed (engine troubles) and will need a few days at each atoll to sort the issues out. I am sure it is just a loose connection or the key is in the wrong position? who knows? hehehe!
We will arrive at our first port to repair in the morning"

From 15th of November:
"Still no wind or not much any ways!
We crossed the Equator last night! who-who!! We were about 100 miles out from Eanikai Atoll and were hailed by the coast guard and after 7 tries they understood "Downtime" was the name of the vessel! We were going to stop for the "day" and work on the engine but who was right on our ass first thing in the morning? The coast guard! We had the main down and took out a reef, like we always do it that way....and re-set main let out the jib and the fishing lines and turned north.
We were trolling through several schools of feeding fish with hundreds of birds and caught a few small tuna. We switched to small 4" baits and had better luck than the bigger baits. Then a few miles up we hit a big school of tuna!! all 4 lines had a fish!!! And then...the Mako's (shark) came and ate ALL our fish and took two lour's! fuckers! But one 5 foot shark gave Pete a work out and we got him to the boat before the line snapped with a cedar plug in his lip! so no use fishing there!
We went 40 miles up the road and anchored at Rotuma and took SD to shore a few miles to the north next to the church and spent an hour with the locals who were all very welcoming and gave us coconuts to drink and showed us their village. Very cool! Very remote place!"

From my mail to Kate 18th of November:
"We are anchored in Abemama, we spent some time at the village for the last two days. They are very nice here and present me 2 home-made dresses, fed us lunch and gave us dry salty fish, which is really testy with cold beers! :)
First day SD was high and dry for 5 hours while we had a banana bread still in the oven! IT WAS BLACK WHEN WE FINALLY GOT BACK!"

We arrived in Tarawa early morning on 19th of November.
From mail to Bob:
"Well all the stories from last year are BULLSHIT and we had a nice time in Betio. We anchored at 1'21.915n 172'55.791e next to two other boats in 25 feet of water. Contact Tarawa Radio on channel 16 on arrival and they will organize a boarding party of 5 people to come out and clear you in. We did not have this info and went to town and did 2 hours of running around to the dismay of all officials. Any who we got cleared in. You can have fuel delivered to the boat for $5 a gallon! Although it is a have to go to the fuel office on the left side of road by big fuel tanks and pay first. They brought ours in a tanker un-metered? but I think the amount was right? The 8-10 am delivery was actually at 1:30 and the hose was a 2 inch reduced to 1 inch with no valve on the end! let her rip and cross your fingers it will all fit!
We met Kaure, who has a cab and is a retired school teacher and knows every one the island. He might be a good tour guide. He gave us a ride two days for 6-7 hours all over town and charged $30. You can park the dink at he head of the harbor next to concrete steps and there is an ANZ Bank if you take the first right and walk half a mile. Across from the bank is a (All local) shop that has fresh produce in a refrigerator, onions by the bag full and tons of frozen meat, and canned and paper goods. Best shop i saw in town."

 This tim clearing out was on me. Early morning I went with Kauri started my run around with paper work and visiting local markets... Prices for veggies: salad - Australian $10, 1 avocado -$8, 1 apple - $2, 12 eggs - $8, huge flying fish at local market $2 per pound and coconut $0,5. Internet - $1,8 per hour but very-very slow...
Around 1pm I went back to the boat, I got all papers for next port, but did not pay tax yet... Truck with diesel just arrived... Pete was so pissed of after waiting diesel for 5 hours, that we left without paying tax.. he-he.. no idea how much it was!

We sail from Tarawa around 2 pm and stoped outside Butaritari for a day! We did not go to village, were just waiting better direction of the wind.
The next night we anchored outside Milli Atoll and even snorkeled there! It was cool:) a lot of different fish and coral canyons!

We arrived in Majuro on Friday night and and finally caught Mahi and 2 rainbow runners and dogtooth tuna as we made our way inside the pass to the Atoll!

living our dream,
Daria and Pete

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