Posted by: catamarantwooceans | October 10, 2011

Micronesia–Pohnpei

5.10.11 – Wednesday – It rained through the night and even heavier in the morning. The good news were that we collected a lot of water and had our tanks almost full. The bad news – sun hiding behind clouds, bad visibility, soggy clothes and hands looking like something from the morgue.

Foolishly we did not return the car yesterday and now lost almost three hours by waiting for the rental place, which is mainly a DVD shop, to open. At 0830 we exited the pass, motored to the north of Kosrae and turned west- northwest (way-point bearing 289) to Pohnpei. As we passed the island the wind came, not from the east as forecasted but from the south!

I was determined to get a fish; I let a lure out and stood for two hours at the wheel to be able to jump at it when a fish bites. At 1100 I went to my cabin to rest a bit. five minutes later I heard Israel shout:”Fish!”. I was there in a jiffy just to see an empty reel, fish, lure, leader, swivel and line gone again! Gonna keep on trying!

As evening came the wind got lighter and we had to resort to motor-sailing.

6.10.11 – Thursday – When I came on at midnight the wind was still light and we were motoring. The overcharged batteries emit gas and the gas detector is beeping. I close the gas control and let the unseen, odorless fumes disperse.

The wind is light from the SE, not enough for sails only so we keep one engine running at 2700 RPM to give us the 5.5-6 knots we need to reach Pohnpei in daylight.

Close to noon we can spot Pingelap atoll rising from beneath the horizon as the distance is closed. Pingelap is flat and covered with coconut palms. It has become known for the prevalence of color-blindness in the small, secluded community.

The route from Kosrae to Pohnpei takes us close, perhaps too close to the reef on the south of the atoll. We can see a fisherman waving a spear in greeting and a few people and motor boats on the beach inside the lagoon.

pingelap

The fishing reel gives a short screech, I take the line in and see that the lure has simply disappeared. Some witch or wizard put a curse on our fishing efforts!

Looking to our north I can see some big clouds gathering. Will they bring the wind? At 1500 we can see it is a squall line and reef in anticipation of strong wind. It does not take long and we have to reef the jib too as it gusts up to 27 knots, getting wet in the process. It rains…

squall

Photo by I. Perlov

For a while the wind stabilizes on our beam at 15-17 knots and the going is good. “Stay!” I say inwardly, as if to a dog, but nature is not impressed and the wind goes to our stern making it necessary to rig the pole for the jib. We can barely catch our breath before it goes back again and the pole has to be taken off.

7.10.11 – Friday – 0230. Half an hour before I go on my watch I am awakened by the flapping jib. The wind is again at the stern. With Zvi I rig the jib pole once again. Although the wind is O.K for sailing it does not give us enough speed to reach Pohnpei with good light, so as much as I hate it we have to keep a motor running at full cruising power.

We actually saw the island’s high peaks 45 miles away. As we got closer, Zvi asked in his quiet, understated way:”Aren’t we giving it too wide a berth?” “Look at the chart” I said, “See this wide green belt around the island? It’s a reef” Sure enough as we got closer we saw what happened to those who did not respect the chart. A fishing vessel was aground, abandoned to slow destruction.

wreck

We were surprised by the big number of ships anchoring in the lagoon but then remembered that Pohnpei is the capital of the FSM and perhaps the hub for goods distribution for the other islands.

ships

We sailed up to Sokehs entrance with an escort of a pod of dolphins, took the sails down and motored in, passing the impressive rock guarding the channel.

rock

We were instructed to tie up at the commercial dock in front of a big, modern tuna fishing vessel. We later learned that the quantity of tuna being taken in this area of the Pacific is 1.1 million tons each year!

The authorities were with us very quickly and check-in accomplished pleasantly and efficiently.

Here, for the first time since Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu I had internet and could start publishing again.

This is the evening of the Jewish holy Day of Atonement and Israel will be fasting until tomorrow evening.

8.10.11 – Saturday – In the morning a port authority man guided us to the yachts anchorage where a few yachts were moored or anchored. You may remember I have a special affinity to Wharram cats, this one in a nice example.

glen's

I was told the owner, a man called Glen, is already two years here, which is perhaps not so good an example.

Zvi and I went ashore, someone offered us a ride to town where we found a place to rent a car as well as all the other services we needed. There are good supermarkets here (a Wall-Mart) and an excellent Ace hardware where I plan to replenish my dwindling fishing equipment.

When night fell and three stars appeared in the sky, Israel finished his fast and we all went to the “Rusty Anchor” for a meal.

9.10.11 – Sunday – We took the car for a tour around the island starting with some waterfalls, where the local family took their dues. Then a place boasting Petrogliphs, where the local family took THEIR dues although all there was to see was a huge rocky outcrop with no sign of human (or any other being) art on it.

petro

We then drove to the biggest tourist attraction of Pohnpei – the ancient city of Nan Madol.

This is what Wikipedia says about it: Nan Madol is a ruined city that lies off the eastern shore of the island of Pohnpei that was the capital of the Saudeleur dynasty until about AD 1500.[3] It is in the present day Madolenihmw district of Pohnpei state, in the Federated States of Micronesia in the western Pacific Ocean. The city consists of a series of small artificial islands linked by a network of canals. The site core with its stone walls encloses an area approximately 1.5 km long by 0.5 km wide and it contains nearly 100 artificial islets—stone and coral fill platforms—bordered by tidal canals.

Before going to the actual site we went to see a place of WW2 Japanese relics. All we saw was a concrete water tank out of which suspicious stainless steel bolts protruded. A local man came over in his car and offered to take us to Nan Madol in his boat. We thought he was just trying to delve in our pockets and went with the car.

The first impression of the Nan Madol was that of a money squeezing operation. At the entrance to the site an old lady collected a dollar from each of us. Further on another lady took three dollars more. We walked through a tidal marsh, walking over small wooden bridges arriving at the site itself.

bridge

Here a younger woman stood blocking the pass and demanded three dollars more! Israel just walked on, Zvi was fed up and decided he was not going along with the local greed. As for me, although I felt just like Zvi, I did not come all this way to turn back. As I said elsewhere, I know my role in the local economy!

I then came upon the main structure of Nan Madol which lies behind a waist deep canal. The man we saw by the WW2 relic place was there on his boat. Like Charon he wanted his coin to transport the touring souls over to the other side. The “coin” he wanted was three dollars! This was really the limit and I gave him a piece of my mind. A guide of one of the groups that was there rushed over and cautioned me:”This is the big chief, the most important man on the island”. I was “On the Go” and finished my little speech and the “Big Chief” after saying:”I own this place” relented and took me over.

I then used the magic words: Israel and Jerusalem and the atmosphere became friendlier. When I told the chief that I will publish his picture on the internet he said that according to their custom it is forbidden to do so. I gave my word…

Anyway here are some photos of the place. Impressive structures made out of very big stones brought over from some quarry in the mountains.

nan1

nan2

nan3

A word about the money thing; I wouldn’t have cared paying the full amount on condition that there was a proper entrance with signs giving the price information. It’s the “surprise stations” along the way that give a bad feeling of being improperly extorted!

The day ended a bit sadly for me as Zvi was leaving to fly home. Zvi, whose official name is Herman, is a great friend, the perfect gentleman and sailor and I was happy to have him on board.  He knows he has a place on “Two Oceans” whenever he wants it! Have a safe and pleasant trip home, Zvi and give my regards to Ziona. (She may be reading this before he ever arrives…)

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