February 23, 2013

Hello from #Lukunor Atoll!

We will set sail today for the next island to the west. Lukunor was very friendly and there are about 1000 people living on this little piece of land! Who knows what they all do all day? May be that is why there so many kids!

Any who, the fishing has been amazing and Mahi are biting on Yellow, yellow/green squid baits 4-6 inch long. We had a wildcard out there a pink bubble head feather jig and a 200 plus pound marlin took hold of it and did a amazing dance for us flying back and forth behind the boat trying to shake the bait. About the time we furled the sail and I was tightening the drag he did one more tail dance and the hook popped out of his mouth and he got away. I am glad he got off because I sure did not want to deal with another fish that big and feisty on Downtime! A while later another much smaller marlin took a yellow/white bait and was on for about 5 minutes before he threw the hook. Then the grand finale, three poles got hit at the same time with Mahi on them. Two of the three made it aboard to make 5 Mahi landed for the day. One Mahi, 2 Marlin and a Wahoo got away! Sharpen those hooks and get ready for some amazing fishing!

Yesterday afternoon the locals started showing up in their outrigger canoes and at one point we had 4 tied up to the back of Downtime with 12 people aboard. Mostly kids, but one brave adult came out and he hit the jackpot! He had brought out his broken portable DVD player to see if I could fix it. He was in luck! I might not be the electrical engineer you are but I dug out a old player we have not used for years and gave it to him and made his day. He wound up trading us several shells and other hand made items for our treasure chest. The kids ate candy like they never seen it before and the older ones all sported a new pair of sunglasses when they left Downtime.

The pass between the islands reminded me of Likiep Atoll and the winds were just right for two days of kite surfing!

This morning Joe the guy I gave the DVD player to shows up with the biggest stalk of bananas we have ever seen and asks Daria if she would like him and his cousins to go catch some coconut crabs for her? Silly question!! Daria offered to give them all a ride to the next island over in SD and gave them a radio to call her when they had a sack full. They caught the crabs while I kited and the local kids sat on the boat eating candy and watching me. Now we have 50 pounds of bananas, 50 or so coconuts to drink, a sack full oranges and crabs and some handmaid gifts and a whole bunch of new sea shells to add to the pile we already have.

We have to get out of here before they eat all our candy!! The kids on the next island will appreciate that! We are heading NW about 280 miles and will keep you posted.
Pete and Daria

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February 16, 2013

#Pohnpei #FSM

We arrived in Pohnpei after a 300 mile 2 day sail from Kosrae. We did not have much luck fishing on the way over but the winds blew us along nicely the whole way. Pohnpei is one of the biggest islands we had been to since New Caledonia, nearly 130 sq. miles and is surrounded by a huge reef system that lies one half to up to 2 miles off shore. On passage during the night I usually get up every hour to look around for traffic and to check our position. Since we are only going 7 or 8 miles an hour things change slowly on the charts and thankfully traffic is far and few between in this part of the world. I was up around 1 am and everything was looking fine and we were 35 miles from the island, but the next time I woke up I looked at the chart plotter the clock said 4:30 and showed we were just 9 miles off the reef! Talk about oversleeping will kill ya! But in reality we were still well over an hour away from land….but this is exactly how boats get onto reefs, just ask the guys who were driving the wrecks smashed up on them!

Jokaj Pass is on the NW side of the island and had waves breaking on either side from an 8 foot swell and things were not lining up on the plotter again, but we made our way through the pass and proceeded to the customs dock to clear in without any problems. The clearing process was all organized by the port captain and within an hour the paper work was all finished. The channel to the anchorage was littered with at least 5 sunken boats that thankfully had markers on them this week but a week or so earlier a cruiser hit one that the mark had fallen off of! The commercial harbor looks like a place where the fishing fleet comes to die with at least 40 boats laying in rusted heaps sunk along the shoreline. A few years back a Ausi came in and offered to clean it all up for only the scrap metal as payment, but you guessed it the government wanted a cut and now the boats will be eye sores for eternity.

The water in the anchorage is forest green from all the run off and raw sewage that gets pumped into the bay. The island is apparently working on fixing the non-existent treatment plant but it could be years before anything happens?

Pohnpei is one of the wettest places on earth and receives over 300 inches of rain a year! February is the "DRY" season and during the 2 weeks we were there we only got an inch of rain! It was so dry in fact that all the hotels and businesses had run out of water during the last few days since rain is their only source of water they were all hoping for rain.

Several of the boats here have had the anchor down for months or even years….I think these boats were some peoples a one way ticket to paradise and they find they just can not go back to the craziness of life back in the states again. Two other boats were owned by local business men that have a weekend retreat floating nearby. One such boat was being taken care of by a guy named Robinson who was our connection in finding most anything we needed. We had the gas cans filled, ,the boat polished, Island souvenirs brought to us, along with locally grown produce. He would come by most days and just ask us what we needed. This was nice to have and the first time in forever that we had this kind of service come to us. Thanks Robinson!

The first day we arrived in Pohnpei (Friday, first of Feb) there was a Rotary Club party at Cupids Restaurant to raise money for the local kids. It was a lot of fun to meet the locals and by the end of the night we had won a raffle prize and organized a poker game for later in the week on Downtime.

Sunday was Daria's birthday and we had free internet (pirated via our booster) so she could talk to all her friends and family back home. Later that afternoon we went out for a nice dinner with Paolo and his new crew on Supermario on the far side of the island at the Village Hotel Restaurant. Sadly the place faced east and the sunsets to the west(yep even here)was not that great but the food made up for it. It is probably the fanciest place in all Micronesia but had a nice local feel to it.
Next day we enjoyed local Cinema with new movie and we were only ones in the theater. Very romantic.

We took a trip to the Ruins of Nan Madol one day which are some of the largest and oldest sites in the Pacific covering almost 200 acres and over 2000 years old. Some say it took over 100 years to build and like in Kosrae the basalt stones they used in the construction of the twenty foot high walls weighed thousands of pounds each. Just a few of the ruins on the 90 some small islands they build out on the reef remain and are recognizable, others are overgrown with jungle or have been torn down in the last 200 years.

Like many of the islands in the Pacific the populations was nearly wiped out but the visiting Spanish and English ships who brought the Small Pox and other diseases over to this part of the world. Some say over 80% of the Pacific population died from these virus's back in the 1800's!

Strangely this island has very few beaches to enjoy and the coastline is covered in mangroves. Inside the reef the navigation is tricky and there are literally thousands of coral heads to dodge when you are driving inside it.

One other day we took Downtime out to the reef to kite surf. Paolo had met a couple from Sweden who was there on a 2 month vacation and Sasha came along and the three of us went out to ride the waves which were huge that day!

Like I said before kite surfing is one of those sports where everything has to be just right…..I had repaired my bar/lines after breaking a line the last time out when it got tangled launching it off the back of Downtime. I thought I had it all repaired correctly….Well, all except that the new line I put on must have been a few inches longer than the one I replaced! These few extra inches on one side made the kite turn left really good but turning right was almost impossible! After all that work I decided to just "ride it out" which was not that great of an idea considering I was going to go play in 8 foot waves! Going out of the pass I was pulling hard to keep the kite right and at the top of the first big wave I turned left just a little and the kite took off and went strait up pulling me 20 feet up in the air with it! Wow it really turned left fast! Meanwhile Paolo was having a hard time since his kite was too small and he was fighting to get back to Downtime for a bigger one. I did not want a repeat of flying uncontrolled into the sky so I also made my way back to fix my lines. Sasha on the other hand had it all going his way with the right kite and board for riding the waves and was having a blast out there!

With all the free internet time we spent the next few days planning and buying tickets for a trip back to the states this summer. This will be my first time back to Kansas in almost 3 years! Strange how fast time goes….Also we bought ticket for Daria to Russia for May and part of June to see her family in the spring time.

Between our busy time with the Internet we went couple of times to Rusty Anchor to be social. 

And Sasha invited us and Paolo with Nadin for dinner, which was very nice and sweet of him and his family! They served dinner on tables outside and the kids decorated it with fresh flowers and shells, very beautiful. We had a great time! Thanks Sasha!

On Poker Night we played for hours on Downtime and Daria finally won! It was a lot of fun and laughs....and beers!

Our 5 day stay quickly turned into 2 weeks and it was back to Cupids for Valentine's day which I thought was quite an appropriate place to have dinner on valentines. The tables were set in nice white table cloths and the silk roses were in the vases. I guess they want to have red roses, but no fresh roses in paradise so silk had to do. The 32 ounce T-bone looked more on the 16 ounce side and the first 4 brands of beers I ordered were out of stock and the only wine came out of a box I think? Oh the things you have to put up with in paradise, I guess we are spoiled on Downtime with beef and lamb from New Zealand.
The last few days Daria spent searching the markets for anything fresh and green. The local vegetable stand had pretty slim pickings but between the 3 or 4 major grocery stores she found enough to get by on. Our new mission is to try and eat all the food stored on the boat before July, so no more dry goods or cans can come aboard. But she did find 13 pints of Haagen-Dazs ice-cream that fit nicely in the freezer!

Finally we had enough of this dirty anchorage and cleared out the next day which was as easy as clearing in. The port Captain met us at the dock and took me to town to pay the port fees of $100 and the other officials met us at the boat during the next hour.

While we waited we watched one of the 20 or so Chinese tuna boats unloading its catch on the wharf next to us. A small truck with a portable hydraulic lift pulled up next to the boat and began lifting 40 tons of rock hard frozen 2 to 3 hundred pound tunas off the boat and into metal shuttle boxes that a fork lift would haul away to the freezer. It is hard to imagine how many fish are pulled out of the sea each day……there has to be millions and millions of fish in the sea!

Having cleared out we set sail for Ant Atoll just 20 miles to the south. Everyone said it was not to be missed and had beautiful beaches and great snorkeling. Well we might be getting hard to please after New Caledonia and all the other places we have been so lucky to see… I thought it was just OK….

Daria took the paddle board out to the reef and took some great pictures while I spent the morning scrubbing the bottom of the boat knocking off everything that started growing in the dirty harbor.

Next afternoon we sailed off into the sunset to our next destination Lukunor island 270 miles to the west.
Peace until then,
Pete and Daria

PS: the best part of Pohnpei was free Internet, but if you don't need it, you can skip Pohnpei and spend more days in Kosrae... You always have to choose, can't have it all! Right now we are having wonderful time in very traditional and friendly Lamotrek Island. And story about Puluwat coming... Daria

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February 13, 2013

#Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia

We set sail from Alinginae Atoll just before noon and headed south for a 400 mile sail to Kosrae.  The winds looked favorable and we thought it would be no problem averaging 8 knots on a beam reach.  We set the double reefed main and full jib and the winds were moving us along nicely.  Since the fishing was so good the day before I put the lines out for one more try.  I had 2 poles set and was putting out the third with a new yellow/gold popper head squid and about 10 seconds after I set the pole down BAM! A fish took the bait!  A nice size mahi  had taken the bait and was jumping wildly shaking his head trying to throw the bait.  

We furled the jib and had the fish aboard 20 minutes later.  The freezer was about full now so I put the poles away and re set the sails.

We made good miles for a first day, but about noon the next day the wind speed dropped, so we had to motor sailed the rest of the afternoon.  This is not the first time this had happened….it seems that when the most critical passes are to be made we are always fighting for a few more minutes of daylight.

The entrance into Lelu harbor, which is on the east side of Kosrae, had a pass even Popeye wouldn’t dare go into at night!  The charts were anywhere from 150 feet to 300 yards off depending witch charts you are using!  The channel markers consist of a single 12 inch red buoy that is really hard to see in the swell and a few stakes that are pounded into the reef itself.  The pass is about 300 feet wide with reef and breaking waves on either side.

It was worth burning a few gallons of diesel to be able to anchor in the fading daylight.  There were just two other boats in the whole harbor and we anchored in 30 feet of water in front of the small town.
We had received a few e mails from other cruisers saying that the port captain was a real piece of work and had been trying to get the cruisers to pay large fees to clear out.  We met the customs, quarantine, immigration, and the dreaded port captain and they all treated us nicely and welcomed us to their island with minimal paperwork and then we were officially cleared in.

I guess the problem was that the previous port captain was pocketing the fees and now the system was broke and scrambling for resources and charging unrealistic fees to cruisers instead of collecting fees from the cargo ships like they should. Typical government  games…..

The town around Lelu harbor sits on a ancient set of ruins that were built over 2000 years ago.  There are still 20 foot high rock walls built with thousands of stones some of which weigh several tons!  Walking around it hard to imagine what it all must have looked like since the jungle relentlessly reclaims it’s place and covers everything in site.   Little is known of this lost civilization and only old legends remain.

 Only 6000 people live on this island paradise and Kosrae is one of the few places in the world where the population is actually decreasing.  Being a US territory the citizens have all the same rights as US citizens and many leave to join the military or get jobs in the states. We saw little or no local industry and only 5 resorts on the whole island to draw tourist trade.  Just like in the states half the population works for the government and who knows what the rest of the people do for work?
We checked three resorts during our week long stay and the Pacific Treelodge Resort by far had the nicest restaurant setting.  The restaurant was built on a pier and sat on the edge of the river.  A 500 foot long path was built over the mangrove swamp to access the pier.  It was truly magical to walk through the  mangrove backwaters  and wind up at a nice restaurant.   Mark and Maria were great hosts and we enjoyed several meals there during our stay.  Saturday was lobster night for $10 I got a meal I couldn’t touch for $70 in the states I enjoyed this while Daria spent the next hour cracking mangrove crab.   

We spent the evening sharing stories with Mark and his brother watching the tide go down in the river.  I had asked mark several times when low tide was and how far down the river could go before we would have trouble driving SD back home.  He assured me that as long as his boat which was parked next to SD was still floating I could make it back safely.  I took his word for it and ordered another beer….then another…
By 11 it was time to go home and his boat was still floating so we hopped in SD and made our way down the river in the dim moonlight.  It was 2 miles downstream to where we anchored Downtime and we slowly motored in that direction.  Mark had told us stay right after the bridge which looked about 3 feet higher than when we had went under it 5 hours earlier…..He also said it gets really shallow after the bridge…..Oh really?  Our first clue was the clunk we heard when the motor hit a rock! Then another and another…… we made it another 200 yard and then it got REALLY shallow and SD was stuck!  By my guess we were exactly at low tide and would have to wait a few hours….. Try to tell Daria that…..Within minute we were both knee deep in the middle of the river pulling SD back upriver looking for a channel to float down.  SD weighs about 800 pounds and is like pulling a sack of bowling balls up river.  30 minutes of that and I was wore out and hopped back into the dink, but Daria was still convinced we somehow could get out of this ….
I finally convince her that it was pointless and she hopped back in and we both took a nap for a hour under the stars waiting for the tide to come back in.  An hour land a half later we could feel the boat rocking which meant we were floating again.  We fired up the Yamaha and within 10 minutes we safely aboard Downtime,  What an adventure!

Other day we rented a car from Kosrae Nautilus Resort for just $40 for the whole day to drive the 30 miles of paved road around the island. Unfortunately we deleted all pics from rest of the adventure in Kosrae, have to back to retake them, I guess! 

 We heard there was an American dentist on the island and stopped by the hospital to see if we could get an appointment to have our teeth looked at.  We went into the office and he was just finishing up on a patient and had us take a seat and open our mouths.  Try doing that in the states or anywhere else for that matter!  I had a cracked filling and Daria got a gold star.  Dr Greg told me to come back in the morning at 8 and he would replaced the filling.  Amazingly he showed up on time a first for any island appointment!  I gave my name and had to pay the fee upfront a whopping $6, seriously why cant’t we have this kind of service in the states?  A double dose of nova cane and 30 minutes later I had a new filling! Greg was the best dentist I have ever been to, very professional and the filling feels great! Thanks Greg!

On our way around the island we stopped at most of the fresh vegetable stands to see what they had to offer and by the end of the day had a car load.  Further around the island we stopped for lunch at  the Kosrae Eco  lodge.  This resort was where you could go native and sleep in thatched huts and enjoy a minimalist experience for full price of course!  `We asked where we could find the WW2 Japanese caves and they recommended we contact Philip the tour guide.  They said we should ask around since his phone no longer worked but someone would know where he was.  After a nice lunch Daria had a few bowls of ice-cream and then we headed down the road to find Phillip.  A few miles down the road we entered a small village and I saw his sign hidden behind some bushes out of the corner of my eye.  We pulled over and started asking people where we could find Phillip?  We had sever different answers and were ready to head to the next town when who pulls up behind us?  Phillip himself!  What luck!

We asked him when we could take the tour and he answered any time would be fine…Well how about now? Sure why not. We followed him up to his house since the trail started in his back yard and an hour later we were hiking up the 1500 foot high mountain through the jungle towards the caves.  It is about an hours hike to the top of the mountain to where the tunnels are and along the way Phillip explained many things about the jungle to us.  He is 52 so he missed the war but his dad and grandfather told him many stories about it.

There was no combat in Kosrae but the Americans dropped tons of bombs on it anyways.  Over 7000 Japanese used the miles of tunnels for protection during the raids and probably spent years digging them out of solid rock.

We went into a few of the tunnels and I found myself crouching down since they are only 5 feet high.  We walked hundreds of feet though the mountain and at one point turned off our lights and experienced complete darkness!  Pitch dark and the only sound was our breathing and the water dripping trough the ceiling.
We spent 20 minutes in the tunnels and I was ready for some fresh air. I can only imagine what it would have been like when they were crammed with men feeling the earth shaking beneath  them while listening to the sound of bombs blasting overhead…..

Further across the ridge we came across a stream that led down the back side of the mountain. We followed the stream and it got bigger and bigger and  at one point dropped off in a series of waterfalls.  The last waterfall had a nice pool to go swimming in at the bottom of it and I jumped in.  The water felt great crashing over my head as I stood under the falls cooling off.   

Daria and I both were wearing Teva  trekking sandals and they were falling apart before our eyes the straps on mine were ripping out like a $3 pair of flip flops and the soles of Daria’s fell completely off,  Something that just should not happen with $70 brand name pair of shoes!  So beware buying TEVA sandals apparently they are only good for walking on flat surfaces.

Phillip used his jungle resources to fix our shoes by cutting the hem off his tee shirt for a cord and punching holes with his machete and had our shoes back on our feet in a few minutes. 

An hour later we were sitting in the shade behind his house enjoying a fresh coconut  with sliced oranges, tangerines and bananas.  Phillip did a excellent job guiding the tour and charged a fair price for his time.  We were also able to buy a sack of oranges and a stalk of green bananas to add to the rest of the vegetable we found that day.  If you need to call him, Call his brother at 3876 and he will get the message.

That afternoon we covered the miles of paved road we missed that morning  and handed out our bag of toys and candy along the way to the island kids.   

Early Monday morning I dropped Daria off at immigration to clear out while I was at the dentist.  The men are always flustered when a pretty girl comes in and they gladly stamped the passports and gave her clearance papers for no charge.  Well in my experience that is all you need to leave port..  We finished our last minute shopping and  left port to do some diving before we sailed to Pohnpei.  When the Port Captain gets the  news of this I am sure he will not be very happy….. but hey it is my message to him  to be nicer to the other cruisers next time.

We sailed to the south side of the island that is protected from the swells and tied to a mooring ball, one of 30 that are provided for diving around the island.  It is nice to dive right off the back of the boat because you do not have to haul all you gear around.  The dive was amazing!  The reef was covered in spectacular corals with a multitude of colors.  One coral had hundreds of small fan like creatures that would suck into a hole when they sensed you near.. Their fans were red, blue, orange, purple and a rainbow of colors and it looked like someone spilled a variety bag of jelly beans on the coral.

Another coral was as big as a small house at least 30 feet across and one of the biggest corals I had ever seen!  There were lots of small reef fish but the bigger ones along with the sharks were nowhere to be found?  

We spent the night on the mooring ball and aground 5pm the kids from the village lined up on shore and were waving flags, sticks and their arms shouting hello.  We should have put SD down and brought them some candy but the shore was rugged and there was no place to land so I took Downtimes American flag to the front deck and waved it and shouted hello back to the amusement of them all.  This went back and forth for the next 20 minutes and it was nice to feel so welcome.

The last day we sailed to the west side and did one more dive.  Not quite as good as the south side but there was still lots to see.  The coral everywhere is healthy and alive. The mooring balls prevent damage that we have seen elsewhere because it give you an option instead of anchoring on them.

Looking back at Kosrae we have to say we enjoyed ALL of it. The people are warm and welcoming.  We did not feel like strangers and felt safe everywhere we went.  The markets had a good selection of goods on the shelf and things were inexpensive.  Fresh vegetables and fruits could be found if you looked around. The restaurants had good food at a great price.  The anchorages are safe and most of the officials are doing a good job. Thanks to every one there for an amazing week!

Our next adventure will be sailing to Pohnpei

Until then Peace and get out there and live your dream!

Pete and Daria

February 1, 2013

Rongelap and Ailinginae Atolls #Marshalls

Rongelap lies 11 degrees North and 167 degrees East and would be a 160 mile sail from Likiep on a NW course.  We said our farewells to Joe and our other friends on the island and set sail after spending a amazing week on Likiep Atoll.

We decided to exit on the west side of the atoll and sailed 13 miles across the lagoon and crossed the reef over a shallow 20 foot deep pass and set our course for Rongelap Atoll.
The winds were blowing out of the east at 15-20 knots and we set our freshly patched jib and crossed our fingers that it would stay together. The patch did its job and the sail pulled us through the night and by morning we had Rongelap in site.  The weather on the other hand was not a cooperative and had been storming all through the night with 30 knot squalls and rain showers.

The squalls continued through the early hours of the morning and by 11 am we had covered 160 miles and had the North Pass in site although it did not line up on our charts worth the darn!  I was correcting the offset which by my guess we was off 3-4 hundred feet!  About that time a serious squall hit with 30-35 knot winds and a driving rain along with it taking viability down to a few hundred feet! Daria  punched the menu button to set the offset and the screen went blank and the plotter powered off and would not restart!  Then at the same time one of the poles gets hit and had a big reef shark on the line! So here we are with a fish on, no navigation, being blown at 6 knots through a poorly charted pass by a 35 knot winds soaking wet in the rain!  Daria grabbed the Motorola Zoom with our spare charts and drove the boat while I dealt with getting rid of the shark.  We some how missed all the bombas as we motored a few miles up the atoll to a small island and set the anchor.  And wouldn't you know it as soon as the hook was down and set the skies cleared and the sun popped out just like any other day.... Needless to say I thought this was a great time to pop open a beer and shortly after a few more!  These islands still show the effects of the bomb from over 60 years ago  and have very few coconut trees and are mostly are covered in radioactive mangroves!  No two headed birds or fish seen yet, but we are still looking…..
We anchored in the lee of Labaredj Island and spent the next few days beach combing the windward shores. All but the main island of this atoll is inhabited and we had not seen another boat in almost a week. Walking along the beach  we encountered tons of trash mostly from fishing boats in the form of old nets, ropes and fishing floats of all color and sizes.   We also came across hundreds of flip flops that wash ashore along with plastic water bottles, glass whiskey bottles and even fluorescent light tubes!  The list of man made trash is long and it sad to realize plastic is only been around 50 or so years and will last for centuries!  In the back of my mind I wonder what will this place look like in another 50 years?

Further down the beach was a shipwreck, a big fish transport that broke in half when it hit the reef.  The back half with the engines must be at the bottom of the sea and the upside down front half  had a huge hole ripped in the bottom exposing the refrigerated holds that once carried tons of fish to far away ports.  Just another reminder how cruel the sea can be when you make a mistake…..

The next day we sailed a few miles south to Eniaetok Island and anchored for the night.  On our sail down we hooked a fish, the exact same kind that got us both sick with ciguatera back in the Marquesas!  Needless to say we will not be eating that one!

At the south end of the atoll is the main island of Rongelap and we anchored next to a small resort with 6 bungalows on the beach.  The resort was just a year old and sat empty….most like due to the same fate as Joe’s place on Likiep…no air service!

Rongelap was devastated when the winds changed direction during the bomb test and the radiation killed everything growing on them.  Most of the people living on them were exposed and died also and hundreds lost their land and homes for the last 60 years.  Just recently have these islands been declared safe to return to but little of the island paradise is left, only stunted brush and coco nut trees with fruit that is still unsafe to harvest

Like many of the places we have been to we really do not know the clearance procedure until it is over with… An hour after anchoring a boat came pulling up with three guys in it and one of the guys, Edmond had a police tee shirt on and asked to come aboard and to see our documents.  I said sure and went to get the papers and all three jumped on board and began checking out the boat.. mostly just curious to see a boat like Downtime and kept repeating nice boat, nice boat….I handed them the clearance form and they looked at the top of the form for the island name and were good with that.  Apparently no one told them to collect the $50 fee….Oh well!

The next day was Sunday and after lunch we went ashore to meet the locals, all 50 of them!  We approached the newly constructed  concrete wharf that most like cost more than the whole island and tied up SD.

We walked ashore into what looked like a ghost town! No less than 50 new homes with shiny tin roofs and gleaming white block walls stood all around us with only 3 people in site sitting under a big fruitless mango tree next to the generator station.  In the middle of the area were other living structures, converted containers where I would imagine the workers who built all these new homes were living.  They all had a wall unit pumping cold air into the small trailer like structures and were sitting the hottest part of the day out in refrigerated comfort.  As we walked around wondering who was going to live in all these houses we saw a 30 foot wide freshly paved road heading south into the jungle towards the beach.  As we walked down the middle of the road we had no fear of traffic because there were only 4 cars that we counted in the entire settlement.  The road continued on along the shore and then turned right to a newly built airport terminal that was surrounded with thousands of square feet of asphalt paving.  Was I missing something?  There are all of 50 people on the island and they have to pave a road to and from the airport that is 500 yards away from town center?   Will the homes be given to people that were relocated  60 years ago?  Will the country buy a new plane so the airport will be of any use?  Who knows??

The generators chugged on 24 hours a day consuming more diesel per person per day than the average person would use in a year if he had to buy it….You have to wonder where it will all end… People will move back out here after having lost all their skills as islanders from the hustle and bustle of Majuro and then what?  Learn how to fish?  How to farm radioactive soil?  I just don’t know…. It sadly reminded me of what we did to the Indians back in the states….

The upside of the anchorage was that it was right next to a ¾ mile long reef and the wind was blowing perfectly to break out a kite!  I spent the rest of the day enjoying the breeze and enjoying my 9th kite session of the new year!

In the morning we set sail for Ailinginae Atoll just 25 miles to the west, a small uninhabited is atoll that would be tricky to anchor at.  We had the lines trolling out the back as we cleared the pass and got a hit as the depth dropped off into oblivion.   On pole got a hit with something huge on it!  I reeled in the other poles and set to fighting whatever was on the end of the third line.  The fight did not last long,  The brand new bait I rigged ripped the connection eye out of the bait and now some fish is swimming around with a $20 black and red slant nose hard bait in his mouth for the next few months!   Oh well….cant catch them all.I rigged a another green  mahi colored slant nose that had been on Downtime for the last 4 years without getting a single bite just for fun.  We drove the boat a few hundred feet off the reef as we approached the island and just as we crossed over a small hump on the SW reef two poles hooked up!  One small Mahi and one Rainbow Runner on a yellow and white squid and purple/pink squid.   We had 8 more miles of reef to troll before the pass and the green slant nose was still batting a lifetime average of zero….This would soon change though….

The next fish to hit was a three foot Barracuda on the green slant nose bait which I let go with the extra long set of needle nose pliers.  We are still scared of ciguatera poisoning in reef fish and let them all go…..  Less than an hour later greenie (not so green anymore) gets hit again!  I could tell right away that this fish was a monster by the way the line was singing off the reel!  We quickly rolled up the sail and turned away from the reef and the fight was on!

We had the fish gaffed after 30 minutes and to our amazement had landed a 80 pound Yellow Fin Tuna!   It had been a long time since we had seen a fish of this size on Downtime and who would of thunk greenie would have pulled out a fish this big after 4 years of laying low?

We were just a mile or so from the pass and had blood dripping off the back of Downtime as we entered the channel that we would anchor in.  Daria kept telling me to look at all big fish in the water and when I did I said: “ silly them ain’t fish them are sharks!” We set the anchor and I began cleaning the fish and we had no less than 20 sharks waiting behind the boat, something we had not seen since the Tuamutos.
After the fish was cleaned the fun began! I had a bucket full of fish parts and we started feeding the sharks!  This was scary at times since the back steps on Downtime go right to water level and we thought a shark was going to swim up on the step at any moment and take a bite out of our ankles!  We took some great pictures and will remember this spot forever.

We had a 2 day sail ahead of us and done what any sailor would do in his last day at anchor…broke out the beer and wine and celebrated life!

We spent just two short months in the Marshals but will remember all our new friends for a lifetime.  James Bond and his family on Tubal, Joe on likiep and many others that we so welcoming and made our stay so enjoyable.  The people here have a tough life living on small isolated islands in an ever changing world where the price of a gallon of gas directly affects the amount of fish they will be able to catch and the transportation cost of their only marketable crop, copra.

In our next adventure we sail back towards the equator and the island of Kosrae in Micronesia!

Until then, Peace!

Pete and Daria