so here is his story:
I gently ask Cary Evarts to make an official report to Chief of the Police of the Marshall Islands Republic and to the President of Marshall Islands Republic.
I also ask to all the sailors in BCC to spread the following events in the sailing community.
A great thanks to Ms Liz Rodick for her initial help and especially to Mr Cary Evarts, without his involvement this nightmare would probably be still on his way.
In the last four years and half I sailed in many countries like Morocco, Tunisia, Cabo Verde Islands, Caribbean, Trinidad, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Niue, Kingdom of Tonga, New Zealand, Fiji, Tuvalu and Kiribati.
Despite some things I heard about some of these countries I have never had any kind of problems in any of them, with officials or with normal local people.
Mili (Marshall Islands) is the only place where I had a so dangerous, frustrating, paroxysmal, kafkiana situation. I had the worst feeling in all of my sailing trips so far.
After clearing out we left Majuro, 3 people on board, to sail to Fiji. After 1 day one person (Sonja Schmelter, German) started to get a lot of pain from a health problem, in fact she had a shoulder operation 12 weeks ago and during the way, with the strong movement of the boat, she realized that it was dangerous for her sail to Fiji.
At the moment we were few miles from Mili Atoll so we decided to stop and ask for help there.
As we entered in Mili Atolls throught the Tokawa Passage we anchored in front of Tokawa Island and we went immediatly on shore to report the fact.
Onshore we met the police man of Tokawa Village and the oldest men of the family that owns the island of Tokawa. The police man doesn't speak english but the owner of the island (very nice and helpfull person) does so he translated to the police what we were reporting.
At the time I also gave to the police 50 USD (entry fee) since we needed to stop in Mili water to get Ms Schmelter back to Marshall as soon as possible.
But when I asked for the receipt he told me that he is not able to make the receipt and if we want the receipt we should go to see the Major of Mili Atoll on his island and pay there. So he gave me back the 50 USD and when I asked how I could contact the Major to advise we were going to visit him and pay to him he told me that he was going to call by radio the Major to say that we arrived and wanted to pay for entering the lagoon.
We also asked which was the best way for Ms Schmelter to go back to Majuro and they suggested a motor boat that was coming in the following days to collect the Copra.
So the day after we went by Dinghy to the island that the police man pointed out to us to see and pay for the major. When we arrived there was no one on the island.
So we went back and we met again the policeman and the owner of the island telling that we couldn't find anybody in Burrh-island that we understood to be the Major's island. They said that this was the wrong island so they came on the boat and they showed us on the map of the Gps the right island (Jobenor) that is about 5 miles upwind from Tokawa. So we decided to go there by boat and not by dinghy. But the policeman told us to go onshore in Tokawa Island to wait for the Major who was already on his way to meet us there.
So about 8.30 am we went on shore waiting for the Major.
Since about 12.30 he had not arrived we went back to the boat to have lunch and wait for the Major.
Around 13.30 a boat arrived with 3 policeman, without the Major. All the policeman came on board without asking any permission and without explaining anything.
Once on board the chief of Mili police (he lives in Enajet -islands) told me that we had to pay 10.000 USD because we came inside the Mili Lagoon without reporting it and without permission.
I tryed to explain the health problem that Ms Schmelter had and that as we arrived we went immidiatelly onshore to report it to the policeman and that the police man told us he was calling by radio the Major to advise him and report our arrival and our problem.
The chief of the police said that nobody called the Major and that if I was not going to pay 10.000 USD we had to wait the boat police from Majuro coming the day after to take me to the jail.
The behaviour of the chief of the police was really unpolite and he was not even listening what I was trying to explain.
When I said for the ten times that we came inside Mili lagoon for health reason he answered that it was not his problem and that we had not to enter anyway and that I had to pay 10.000 USD fine or go to the jail. It didn't matter if someone is in pain ore even dying on the boat.
He told me that untill I pay or untill the police boat from Majuro arrives, the 2 crew members have to go onshore and sleep in the village and not on board.
I tried to explain that all this was against international law but he said that he doesn't care, only thing whats important was what the Major and he tells us to do.
Luckily I've got a satellite phone on board so I called a person I met in Majuro, Liz Rodick, General Manager of EZ Price. She had lived there form many years and very gently was able to contact the Mili Major (that at the moment was in Majuro and not in Mili Atoll how the Tokowa policeman told to us) explaining what happened. Finally, thanks to her, I could speak by satellite with the Major that asked me to pay 75 USD (25 USD per person) to be in the Mili water and asked also Ms Shmelter to be visited from a doctor in Mili since he wanted a medical report for the health problem of hers.
So I payed the 75 USd to the chief of the police (that didn't give me any recipt but the 2 crew members were witness of this payment) and Ms Shmelter went ashore to meet the doctor that made a report confirming that she has to go back to Majuro and back to Germany for her health problem.
|Medical report from Mili Doctor|
The day after Ms Schmelter went on the boat that arrived for the Copra and me and the other crew member we sailed from Tokowa to the North East Passage inside Mili Lagoon. In fact at the end of the discussion with the police I asked them if it was safe to use the North East passage to go out from Mili Atoll, since for going to Fiji it's better because is more east and the wind is South East.
When we arrived close the the pass we found that the waves were quite big to go out (the passage is faced to the wind) so we anchored 0,5 miles just South of the Passage in front of the reef and we checked the weather forecast again that reported less waves in the following days.
Since I didn't want to risk, for safety reason I decided to wait one day for smaller waves to go out from the pass.
The day after at 7 am suddenly I heard someone jumping on the deck of the boat.
I was really scared and I went out to see what was happening. There I found 3 policemen already on the deck who started yelling to me us still staying on the atolls.
One of the 3 policemen was the chief of the police who I payed the 75 USD according to the Major.
I could not understand what was happening so I asked them what was the problem.
The chief of Mili Police told me that I was there illegally because I didn't have to stop in the lagoon.
I tryed to explain that we came to the NE passage (like he knew because we talked about that the first time we met) and we stopped just before to go out because the waves were too big and that we were trying that morning to go out of the pass since the waves looked smaller.
He said that we could not go out because we were illegal and we had to pay 10.000 usd fine.
At that time I was really concerned and surpised, so I tried to explain to him that we had already the same discussion, that we payed 75 USD and that we stopped just South of the NE Passage because the waves were too big and for safety reason I could not risk to take the boat out day before. Dangerous for the crew and for the boat.
He answered that I had not to stop and that it didn't matter if it was not safe to go out of the passage, I had to go out anyway.
I tryed to tell him that I cannot risk the life of the other crew member and mine but he answered in a very unpolite way that it was not his problem.
So he told again that I had to pay 10.000 usd to leave. So I tried to call again the major (witch took over 2 hours and about 50$ worth off satellite phone time!) and he told me he wanted to meet me on my boat in Enajet, so I agreed with him that I meet him later on the same afternoon in Enajet-island (his island) as he was supposed to arrive from Majuro by his motorboat.
But I tried to explain that Enajet is not safe for anchoring because is open to the wind and has big waves and its not charted properly. So I could have gone with the police boat and with my dinghy.
He answered that it is safe for the boat and the police will take care of the boat.
So, just to try to make everything easier I decided, even risking to sail in uncharted part of the Atoll, to move the boat to Enajet since finally at 5 pm we were going to meet with the Major and talk and solve the problem.
When we tried to take up the anchor the windlass stopped working. So I told to the chief of the police that it was better to go by dinghy and by police boat. He told me that they could take up the anchor by hand (3 policeman).
I told him that 100 meters of chain and 35 kg of anchor are really heavy and it can be dangerous for the people.
He told me that he decides so they started to take up the anchor manually with 20 knots of wind.
After 1 hour of working one police man hurt himself on the leg with a small cut.
So the chief of the police decided to go toghether to Enajet by dinghy and by the police boat to bring the guy to the doctor and meet the Major at 5 pm.
At that point thechief of the police asked me in a rude way 300USD for the fuel of the police boat.
I asked why and he told me that it is like this because he says that and that I have to pay to him 300SD immidiatly for the fuel and other 300USD for the doctor.
I told to him that we are going to meet the Major and we will talk about that with him because this doesn't sound fair.
We left the boat at 1.30 and finally we arrived in Enajet about 3.30 pm waiting for the Major.
I left the boat in the anchorage close to the passage, in front of the reef (big waves with high water) with the second crew member on board, Ms Maija Kujala from Finland.
She was worrying to be alone on the boat since she is new on boats and she doesn't know how to manage a boat. I told her not to worry because I was coming back before dark since at 5 pm I was meeting the Major so I was going to be back before 7 pm.
It has to be noticed that Ms Kujala has Epilepsy that can produce an attack if under stress.
At 5 pm the chief of the police told me to call the Major by Satellite so I did and the Major told me that he was not coming today and that he will have come the day after. So I told to the Major that I was going back to the boat by Dinghy and I was coming back the day after again to finally meet him. He told me that I had to stay in the island, sleep in the village and wait for him.
I tryed to explain that I could not leave the boat with a person on board that is not able to manage the boat and especially I told him that Ms Kujala suffers of Epilepsy and that from the island there also was no way to be in contact with her and talk. I told him that like captain of the boat I am responsable of the boat and of the crew member.
He told me that Ms Kujala will be fine alone and that I had to stay on the island and wait for him for the day after.
I prayed him and tried to explain that we cannot leave Ms Kujala alone on the boat for the night and that I am responsable for the boat and for Ms Kujala and I told to him that if he wanted one policeman could have come with me to the boat and sleep on the boat and come back the day after to meet him.
He told me that it was ok if two policeman would have come with me to sleep on the boat.
Since I was really worrying about the boat and Ms Kujala I told him that it was ok. So he told me that the chief of the police and Mr Wildt (Minister of Justice) were coming with me to the boat before dark.
So the chief of the police told me that we were leaving with my dinghy to go to the boat about 6 pm.
In the while I called Mr Cary Evarts from the Sailing Yacht of Majuro that is always very helpful with all the sailors.
I tried to explain the situation. Mr Evarts called by phone the Major and the Major told him that we had a problem since we sailed out of the atoll and we went back again. I told to Mr Evarts that this was not true and that the police has even never told me that, since it is very easy to disprove since we have the effective route on the GPS and it is clear that we moved the boat from Tokowa to NE Passage INSIDE the lagoon.
|the route we did inside the Mili Lagoon from the Tokowa anchorage to the north east passe|
But in the while the chief of the police disappeared.
It started to become dark so I started to worry.
Mr Wildt took me around the village to look for the chief of the police (the village is 100 people) and we could not find him.
At his home the son told us he was not there. And we could not find him in the whole village. Of course everybody was speaking Marshallese so I could not really understand what Mr Wildton was asking to the villagers.
I told to Mr Wildt please to find him or to ask another police man to come with us.
We arrived at this stage about 9pm, so 3 hours after the time we were supposed to leave with the chief of the police.
But Mr Wildton told me that we had to wait for the chief of the police to come with us.
So I told to Mr Wildt that I was going to the boat by dinghy because I was very worryed for Ms Kujala on her own on board and not beeing able to contact me as the portable radio VHF didnt have enough power to reach the boat.
I told him that he was welcome to come with me alone or with a police man but that I had to go.
So I went to the dinghy but suddenly 5 people stopped me moving the dinghy and they tried to damage the pipe of the fuel to prevent to use the motor. Two of them tried also to stop me by holding me back.
I told them that they could not do anything of what they were doing and they didnt have to touch me or the dinghy.
I told them that the Major told me that I could go back to my boat and to Ms Kujala with 2 people of the village.
But they sayed that the Major had changed his idea and now he wanted me sleep on the island and it does not matter what is going to happen to Ms Kujala and to the boat. So at that time I figour out that the chief of the police was in his house sleeping from long time.
I started to ask them why nobody told me anything and nobody was answering. They were just laughing of me when I was telling that I was worry about Ms Kujala and please to come with me. Two of them sit down on the dinghy to prevent to me to move it.
So I called back Mr Evart explaiing the absurd and illegal situation.
After a while I called him back and he told me he had another phone call with the Major and that finally everything was sort out I was finally allowed to go away and leave.
So I called the Major and he asked me to talk with one of the policeman. After that they finally let me go.
So I went back to the boat by dinghy in the night (10 PM) for 15 miles in the lagoon upwind (20knots of wind) with big waves.
The waves were very big and I had an injury to my face against the steering wheel of the dinghy since in the night you cannot see the waves coming.
|my face after I arrived on the boat|
I found Ms Kujala worryed. She was very stressed because she didn't have any news from 10 hours and she knew I was supposed to come back to the boat before dark. Also the waves were big since it was high water and strong wind so she was worry about what to do do if the anchor was going not to hold.
After all that I decided not to spend even one minute more in Mili Atol so I worked to fix the windlass and I left the Atoll as soon as possible before the Major changed idea again and sent the police to the boat to stuck it again.
We did the NE Passage in the night, risking the boat and our safety. Luckily the boat is strong and safe so after one hour we were out of the pass.
The behaviour of the police and of the Major is not only unbeliveble but also illegal for at least the following reasons:
- Money extortion
- Putting in danger the life and the safety of the people
- Putting in danger the boat
- Not respecting international laws for boats for safety and medical reason
- Not respecting the foreign territory that is represented from the boat with a foreign flag.
Besides I cannot believe that even the Major didn't respect his words two times and he didn't care that a sick person was risking to have problem.
Besides all the people in the village laughing about my desperation about Ms Kujala alone on the boat in the night without any news and without knowoledge about the boat.
They are proud to consider themselfs Christians.
I do not need to talk about the cost of all the satellite phone calls of the 2 days (around 350 USD) and that the policemen took 2 sunglasses from the boat and that I had to give to one of them some dollars for the cigarettes.
But the worst thing was the feeling that they could do to your person and to your boat what they wanted without you can do nothing to prevent it, it doesnt matter if they do something illegal or if they put you and the boat in danger.
Even you cannot believe that they are enjoying the situation and they are laughing at you.