March 27, 2013

Re: What up Bob?

We have been doing quite a lot of island hopping! We spent some time in Woleai and it was one of the best so far! We left with no fewer than 50 leis and flower head bands! They were very generous with the tuba also! whewww got a lots drunk with them a few times... if you can imagine that happening....???
We are now in Ulithi (Asor) atoll and hooked up with a few guys who took us to their island 7 miles away to catch for Daria coconut crabs. SD made the bash 7 miles across the atoll to the small islands on the west side and the hunt was on and they found for us 7 crabs! Afterwards we went back to Downtime and they downed a bottle of Bounty Rum and were just a little drunk when they left the boat!
If you are heading this way... epoxy and cloth will get you traded for anything you want! 4 of the last 5 islands asked for some to repair boat bottoms that had cracks...They also like books, news papers to roll tobacco in, coffee, spices, soy sauce, rice, and C & D size batteries.
Sadly the women are back to wearing tops and the boobie show is over.....When we get to Palau I am going set up a shell selling store to lighten up Downtime with all the shells we have been given! WE FINALLY HAD TO SAY NO MORE SHELLS!
We will spent the rest of the week here and then head to Yap. I think when you clear out you need to tell them what islands you plan to stop at and avoid any trouble clearing in at Yap like we are anticipating.... We have spent way more time than planned but still have time left on the cruising permit...that is if it is 90 days...ours had a typo and only gave us 60?
We caught our tuna close to outer reefs in deep and yellow seem to get em biting! Some guys say all red is good also...We had our first quadruple mahi hookup with a shark chaser!! He didn't get much and we got them all aboard! We also caught our first Wahoo since New cal on the pink/purple squid the marlin also like.
When you get to Lamotrek get ready to be asked to fix a few hand held CB radios....I have no clue how or where to start on such a task but i told them Bob is an electrical engineer and is heading your way! Good luck!
Other than that Downtime has been staying together and I am at the point where I am almost afraid...It has been the longest streak with out something major breaking in the last 5 years!

Daria says hello and I look forward to seeing you at that Micro Brewery in Palau!

Captain Pedro

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March 24, 2013

#Woleai atoll #Micronesia #FSM

                                                                                                                         16 - 23th of March, 2013

We set sail around 3pm for the short 120 mile sail west to Woleai Atoll from Olimarao island.  The forecasted  were showing winds to ease to 15 knots out of the east so we set the screecher sail and expected a slow 20 hour passage.  Instead of easing the winds did the opposite and increased to over 25 knots!  With a breeze like this Downtime was really moving and surfing down the swells at over 11 knots at times! Needless to say we were going way to fast to fish and just sat back and enjoyed the smooth downwind ride.
Around 10 pm with the winds still blowing strong we decided to change sail and slow the boat down so we would not pass up our destination during the early morning hours.  Furling this huge sail can be quite a challenge in high winds like we were experiencing and I was not looking forward to going on deck and wrestling with it while the boat going 10 knots and sliding down waves in the dark.  We were lucky tonight and everything rolled up like it was supposed to and the dreaded job was done in 15 minutes and Downtime was now cruising along at a comfortable 7 knots.  Having cover nearly 80 miles in the first 8 hours of the trip we had just 40 to go and were due to arrive a 7 am at the south pass into the atoll.

As we approached the island we were hailed on the radio 4 miles out by a watchful eye on shore who asked us our vessel name and intention.  This was a first in a long time that we had been spotted so far out and we were impressed that they were watching their waters so closely.   After entering the lagoon we were handed over to a guy name Tommy who would be our go to guy for the week and he gave us directions into the anchorage.  After we got settled we were contacted by him again and he welcomed us ashore to meet the chief.  We lowered SD and went ashore after breakfast and were greeted with a beautiful lei and a warm handshake.  There are several villages on Woleai and Chief Francis lives on the south end of the island.  We met in a circle under a men’s canoe house with the 78 year old blind Chief and few other village leaders.  Everyone we meet gets the condensed version of our travels and most are amazed by all the places we have been.   We gave the Chief a zip lock full of tuna filets and a hat and he welcomed us to stay on the island as long as we like.

After all the formalities were done we set off to do our favorite thing on a new island, find the kids and hand out gifts and candy.  Soon after we arrived at the elementary school our bags were empty and we were surrounded by smiling faces.  Most the kids spoke English and it was fun to throw a Frisbee and blow bubbles with them. The elementary school has about 120 kids and  there is also a separate high school with another 200 students from here and also a few surrounding islands like Likiep and Elato.  The dress code is loin cloth for the boys and lava lava for the girls and everyone is topless including the teachers.

Five 8th grade girls from the elementary school showed us the way to the high school, down a path that took us through the jungle and across the island.  I was thinking as I walked among them that if I was 15 again and walking through the jungle with 5 top less girls that I would be the luckiest man alive…..

We met with the principle’s at both schools and gave some supplies to the grade school and accepted an offer do a presentation of our travels to the high school.   I have to say that it looks like they are doing a good job teaching and they have enough resources to do their jobs.  The kids are very well mannered and are attentive in class.

We made it to church on  Sunday and caught the end of the service.  It is kind of hard to get motivated to get to church and sit there for hours listening to a language you do not understand….. So we just show up late and meet with the people afterwards.

The night before I had asked permission from the chief to be able to teach some of the boys how to wake board and he said it would be fine after church to go have some fun.  I met the kids on the beach at 10 and the fun began in the rain.  I had 40  5th and 6th grader boys ready to go!  I started the first load of 5 kids on  the wakeboard.  The second kid who tried got up after 2 tried and went a few hundred feet!  I thought great now I have a teacher who can help me explain to the other kids…..WRONG!!  I was only able to get 1 out 15 kids up so I switched to the much easier surfboard, where they could just lay on it and be pulled across the water behind SD.  I kept encouraging them to try and stand and only one brave soul hung ten for a few hundred feet before he wiped out.  I tried telling them all that  it is OK to let go of the rope when they crashed, but most held on for dear life and became human torpedoes!

There were big things going on at the high school with the arrival of 24 new computers filled with tons of information.  John Bush a computer tech from Hawaii and longtime island volunteer was just finishing up the installation.  The mainframe was state of the art and will supply limited information to these students who most of have never operated  a computer.   They are still a long way from having internet but that is not all that bad considering what a waste of time it can be…..instead the mainframe is loaded with all the national geographic issues, the latest world book encyclopedia’s and lots of other useful information that can broaden these kids view of the world.

A few days later we returned and John set up a projector and Daria and I showed the high school kids where we were from.  Daria had lots of great picture from St. Petersburg and I dug up a few of the cows back in Kansas.  Next we showed them a few places like Maccu Pichu, the Mayan ruins in Belize and then shots from the Panama Canal and  New Zealand.  I think they had the most fun with shots we took on their own  islands since they rarely see pictures of themselves let alone projected life size on the wall.  It was good times sharing with all these kids and we were loudly applauded after each presentation.

The winds had been calm for a few days so we  contacted Tommy to see if he could find us a dive guide.  We were in luck, Morgan had recently returned from Yap and is a professional dive guide with over 2000 dives in his log.  We set it up for Monday after we had our presentations at the school and hoped for sunshine.  The weather cooperated and we did two good dives along the pass.  We spotted lots of things with the help of Morgan who could find a needle in a haystack!  We saw several moray eels,  octopus, starfish, a flounder that I thought was sand until it moved, nudibranch, sea stars and even a few pieces of discarded artillery from WW2.   It was strange to see a 5 inch shell laying on the ocean floor knowing it was most likely fired at some unlucky ship so many years ago.

Wolbai Atoll has 8 islands surrounding a beautiful lagoon.  Inside the shallow lagoon  are two small island that might have been candidates for the Corona Beer commercial with a few swaying palm and white sand beaches.  The main island is Woleai which was occupied by over 7000 Japanese troops during the war.  Chief Francis remembers the war vividly and told me that when the troops were here there was not a tree left on the island and you could see from one end to the other.  Like many other islands in the pacific it has a runway built on and has many concrete bunkers doting the landscape.  All the locals were evacuated to Yap during the war and he told me he went to school there until one day when bombs fell on the island and blew up the schools and that was it for school for a while.  Very few locals were killed during the war itself and the only casualties were from people playing with hand grenades they found afterwards.  The Japanese were not as fortunate….he told me only 3000 of the 7000 walked on the ship after the war the rest remain buried on the island.

 Every afternoon the men gather around at 5 to drink tuba (palm wine) and discuss what went on that day and they all seem to want the new visitors at their villages circle for the night. There are 5 circles on main island.  I have learned on thing and that is to bring your own cup and drink slowly!

The men were sitting around one night and discussing fishing and turtle hunting, neither of which they were having much success at lately.  It seems turtles are harder to find and there are not many large fish left on the reef.  I had seen the boat come in and there were 7 or 8 guys with spear guns and maybe 50- 4-6 inch long fish on the ground that they were dividing…not much meat for all that work…..Things used to much much better….

Being a farmer I asked the question of what they were doing to sustain their resources?  Their answer was that they closed certain parts of the reef to fishing certain times of the year.  I asked them to explain how they thought this was helping when obviously a few months was not really helping the catch size…..I took the floor and presented the idea of closing certain parts of the reef for years not months so that fish could mature and actually become old enough to reproduce.  Then they would spread to other parts of the reef and replenish it.  The idea was well received and they said it made sense….but implementing it will be a whole other mater in itself….The next idea I had was how they could harvest more and larger turtles….The practice now is to catch and kill everything you see no matter what size or time of the year it is.  It is even fair game to track the females onto the shore and kill them when they are nesting and laying eggs!  Sadly the eggs are a bonus and they dig them up and eat them too!  What chance does a turtle have when only 2 or 3 eggs will develop into a mature turtle undisturbed in the wild….now with hunting [practices like these it is ZERO!` A turtle lays 70 to 80 eggs and most baby turtles are picked off on their way to the ocean or are eaten by sharks or fish before they are 3 months old.
I suggested to the chief that it would be in everyone’s best interest to stop digging up the nests and taking the eggs and to also stop  killing the females during nesting season.  Another idea was instead of eating the eggs they should gather them and move them to one of their uninhabited islands and protect them.  They also need to build a pen to keep them safe for the first 6 months of their life and feed them.  When they are big enough to survive turn them loose and in 2-3 years these same turtles will return weighing hundreds of pounds.  Only then after a female lays its eggs can they harvest them for meat having created a sustainable farming program.  Again the idea made sense to them…but time will tell if future generations will even know what a turtle looks like……

It seemed every time we went ashore we were given fresh flowers by some one… Wednesday was Raymond’s birthday one of the teachers at the high school and he invited us ashore for a small party. Daria made some chocolate cupcakes and I put together some fishing gear for a present.  Both were very much appreciated and soon  Daria was covered in flowers again.  There was no shortage of tuba either….but I was still in pain from the night before when I almost drowned in the stuff at another party!  We made a short night of it and went back to Downtime early.

The next day we met Tommy and he took us around to see the war ruins.  We saw a few planes in the jungle and some old equipment rusting away.  Most the building were bombed to smithereens and only foundations remained .  Walking through the jungle we saw many craters where bombs had dropped which now were taro gardens where the plants like to grow in standing water.

Our week here was quickly coming to an end and we told Tommy we planed to leave on Saturday.  Next thing we knew a going away party was being planned at the main village.  There was one other boat leaving on Friday so, Thursday night it was.

The culture here is much different than back in the states and only the men showed up to the party!  The women obviously spent many hours preparing the food and flowers but the men served it to us.  The younger guys had been out fishing all morning and our meals had one small fried fish and boiled taro in coconut sauce and had enough food for two people!

The tuba flowed freely and the guys from the other boat brought a few cases of beer so there was plenty to drink. We brought some yellow fin tuna which the men sliced and ate raw, a favorite of theirs.
It seemed that everyone that showed up brought flowers and soon we had 2 or 3 lei’s and 4 or 5 head bands stacked up on our heads.  I had never seen so many flowers!
The next night we asked John to bring down the projector so we could do a slide show at the church for the village.  There had to be 70 or 80 people sitting around as Daria and I showed them pictures of our travels.  We were glad we could share our world with them since they were so generous with sharing theirs.
Our last night on the island Raymond invited us over again and had another bunch of fresh flowers for us to wear.  Wow what an amazing experience!  The generosity and love these people showed us will be treasured for a life time!

In our next adventure we will be stopping Ulithie Atoll the 4th  LARGEST atoll in the world!

Until then, Peace!
Pete and Daria

March 20, 2013

#Olimarao atolls, life update on #Downtime!

On 12th of March we sailed to Olimarao, which is just 20 miles North-West of Elato. On our way we caught 3 Yellow fin Tuna, 40 pound each and one Rainbow Runner!

Olimarao is a deserted bounty island, the most beautiful in FSM in my opinion, where turtles lay the eggs, but right now 16 guys and 2 women from Lamotrek are building a fishing shelter. The island is a remote fishing/hunting ground for Lamotrek and also has giant coconut crabs.
We brought them a heavy box full of nails and some other materials for their construction project. They were also out of water and we delivered four big canisters of fresh water. Also we gave them one of the Yellow fin Tuna and they traded us for a few huge coconut crabs.

Late this afternoon Pete was kiting for an hour until the wind died. The island has a gorgeous lagoon perfect for kiting.

Next morning we checked out other end of the island, did few pics and when we back I suddenly felt fever coming on... I had a cold shower and saw that the sore on my leg, which I was scratching had become infected and it looked very bad... So rest of the day I was very-very weak and just had to rest and put antibiotic on my leg and Pete was sitting around watching recorded TV shows and was happy to have a day-off. Around 4 pm the guys came to the boat and brought us basket with 2 more crabs and few chunks of turtle meat and invited us for Tuba circle. I was still very sick, so Pete went along for few hours to share stories and see how they built construction!

Next day I felt much better and we took SD to Falifi island with thousands and thousands of birds. After a walk around the island we did an awesome snorkel on our way back. The first spot was very shallow just 3-4 feet deep with beautiful coral heads and coves, which were full of very big squirrel fish and groupers, also we saw big school of parrot fish but color was black and grey.... And on the second spot, it was a very big rock inside the atoll, covered with corals and hundreds and hundreds huge fish, the wall started from few feet and go down to 30 feet. I even saw white tip sharks!! (Pete was waiting in SD.) It was simply amazing! I wish we did a dive there.

Before we left we went to the island to say goodbye to everyone and gave them our rain catcher, some batteries and cava from Fiji, in return we received 8 coconuts, which I started to be addicted to (there is not many other fruit here) and another huge coconut crab!

We have very little fresh fruits and vegetables on Downtime, just few apples, oranges and limes left, one pumpkin, a few stalks of celery, green peppers, 2 cabbages and few potatoes & few onions left. Debbie Myers Green bags can make a miracle in keeping produce fresh but it has been 5 weeks since I visited fresh market in Pohnpei and our provision getting low. But our protein resources are huge: fresh turtle meat, lobsters, crab-meat, roasted turkey breast, yellow fin tuna and last pieces of octopus in the fridge and even some ice-cream in the freezer!! Life is gooood!

I badly wanted to stay a few more days on this paradise island, but we saw the new grib-file and it seems it was our last option to sail for next 8 days... Looks like in Woleai we will have perfect conditions for diving, no wind at all! Stories about Lamotrek and Woleai are coming... Stay in touch!
(12-15th of March 2013)

PS: Thanks Pete and Iridium that we still can talk to our families, but from 1st of April we will have unlimited Internet, Skype and I will posted some very cool pics!

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