Posted by: catamarantwooceans | October 18, 2011

On in Micronesia

10.10.11 – Monday – This was a day of preparations for the next phase of the voyage. We bought food for a month at the local “Wall-Mart” branch, “L.P gas filled our empty cooking gas bottle and new fishing equipment, Rapala and Bomber lures plus some heavy line and fittings were purchased at the big Ace hardware store. We went to a place where wooden handicraft were manufactured. Guys sitting in a shed making whales, dolphins and the like.

Carver

 We also filled three jerry-cans of diesel; a lot of engine work is anticipated. Luckily we had the car until 1300 and could haul everything with ease. We visited the various authorities trying to check out for the next day departure. Immigrations and Customs said they will clear us at the commercial dock next morning. We wanted to go early, thinking of sailing to Oroluk atoll, 170 miles away so we asked them to be there at 0700, forgetting that we’ll have to pay OVERTIME for disturbing them before regular working hours. Here you got to have a clearance from the Port authority too and their dues were quite expensive at 65$!

The question of our next destination was put on the agenda again; I wanted to go to the uninhabited Ant atoll, only 20 miles from our present position. Israel was not sure it was a good idea. We did not have big scale chart for it but I read somewhere that it was possible to enter. The Google-Earth satellite picture looked good too.

Google Ant

We started asking local people. A fisherman who stopped by to chat said he was there on a Lagoon 41 belonging to a local hotel. A guy whose dock we used to go to the “Rusty Anchor” in the evening said it was O.K to go, so the decision was taken. The day was closed with a pizza at the “Rusty Anchor”.

11.10.11 – Tuesday – We woke up to a beautiful, sunny morning. At 0700 we tied to the commercial dock paid 30.14$ overtime to immigrations and felt O.K about waiting to Customs, who came after 0800 and did not charge it. We motored out and around the reef encircling Pohnpei and headed to Ant. we watched a huge black cloud developing over that big, mountainous island enveloping all of it in a curtain of heavy rain. Although it crept in our direction, we were spared the drenching as it passed to our north. Ant entrance was surprisingly easy, the 35-40 meters deep zigzagging channel was clearly marked by stakes and the reef on both sides could be seen clearly below the surface.

Ant entrance

 One problematic shoal at the end of the channel was also visible and easily avoided. We motored a little over a mile to anchor at 5 meters near a sandy beach of a long, thickly wooded motu. Jumped in with snorkeling gear to check the anchor and cool off; the reef was a bit disappointing and water clarity was not what I expected but on the whole it was a nice place to relax at before the next, longer legs. I tried fishing off the stern since trolling the new “Bomber” lure gave no results but the curse has not lifted! No fish…

12.10.11 – Wednesday – Our destination today is Oroluk atoll a bit over 160 miles away plus 15 miles to the anchorage near Oroluk island. Here’s what I found in Wikipedia about it: “Oroluk Atoll stretches from the northwest to the southeast with a length of about 32 km and an average width of 20 km. The more than 25 sandy islets and banks, predominantly on the eastern rim of the atoll, have been washed away by cyclones through the years. Only one island remains, Oroluk Island in the very northwest corner of the atoll. The inhabitants of Oroluk are only between eight and ten in number. They tend to the plantations of bananas and taro. A supply ship generally calls into the lagoon once every 6 weeks.” A visit there should be interesting!

Google Oroluk

 The forecast is for very light winds from the east, so what a surprise! Going out of the entrance it is blowing 20 knots from the SE. I was pretty sure it will not hold but it was fun sailing fast around the atoll’s southern motu before turning west-northwest to Oroluk. Later in the day the wind died and even went to the west making it necessary to motor which did not make me feel so happy…

 Big rain clouds on the north did not hit us except for a short, twenty minutes shower. I replaced the lure and was now trolling the new Rapala X something, guaranteed to dive to 30 feet and catch all the fish you want. The hours were passing, at some instances the reel made the hoped-for noise but it was only due to a momentary increase in boat-speed. I was sitting at the helm when I saw something that looked like a small fishing boat at the distance. I even thought I could see a man in it. This was too far out in the ocean and some fearful scenarios passed through my mind. The binoculars put those away quickly. It was just a floating tree with a strange bird I could not identify perching on it.

Bird

 Around 3 pm the reel sang again and this time it was for real! I jumped to the rod while Israel stopped the boat. I was reeling in, feeling no pressure on the line, thinking:”Oh, no! Not again!” fearing that the fish has gotten away, but no! We had a nice Wahoo on board!

This changed my mood dramatically. Suddenly I did not care that we were still motoring and will have to continue doing so all through the night. We had a fish!

 

Fish!

Night fell with incredibly red sunset. The old seamen’s adage says:”Red at night – sailor’s delight” meaning you can expect good weather ahead. .

 Night is falling, wind is light NW, contrary to all forecasts. I download another by Iridium and it still shows light easterlies. Maybe tomorrow. We have the fish for dinner. Israel does not like the way I prepare it, steamed in Soy sauce and Ginger. Oh well, can’t please all of the people all the time.

13.10.11 – Thursday – Full moon night, calm sea. Morning brings NE wind 5-8 knots. When we are about 20 miles from destination we are surprised to see all sort of plastic rubbish around us, water bottles, shampoo containers and the like. Where did those come from? There aren’t enough people on Oroluk to produce such mess. Coming closer to the atoll a fishing ship is sighted ahead together with three smaller boats. They seem to go between the reef and the ship and as we approach the whole group moves ahead, keeping their distance. I took a photo with a very long lens in which you can see water gushing from the sides of this vessel.

Chinese

I can’t understand what they are doing and frankly a bit wary of an encounter with it. We continued going around the western rim of the atoll, looking for “Pioneer” pass through which we wanted to enter the lagoon. When we were about 3 miles from it the reel screeched. This time it was a strong fish that did not give in so quickly; I brought it to the transom and Israel gaffed it on board. It was a yellow-fin tuna weighing close to 8 kgs.

As we approached the way-point taken from the electronic chart all I could see was solid, impenetrable reef. Scanning the length of it I saw a clear channel a few hundred meters to the south. Turning back we entered, lowest depth reading never below 9 meters. The true coordinates are 07 35.620 N 155 09.460 E, if anybody is interested,  watch out for the reefs on both sides. Inside we saw two small boats. We aimed at the place opposite a structure on shore but the bottom shelved to less than 3 meters quite far from it so we anchored at 3.5 meters. One of the boats was with us in moments, two young men on board. Communication with them was laborious, perhaps they did not speak English for a long time. They told us that there were four of them on the island and that the ship was a Chinese fishing boat, spear-fishing on the reef. They were selling fish to it themselves. They said the ship’s crew were afraid of the patrol boat – maybe that’s the reason for their distance keeping operation.

I had a lot of work ahead of me so I told them we’ll come for a visit later and turned to my chores. First – cleaning, filleting, skinning and dividing the fish into meal size portions. With a fish that big it takes almost an hour. Then checking engine oil and filling the batteries with distilled water. Come 5 pm we dinghied ashore. Larsen, the younger of the two who came to us earlier took us to their abode. On a big hammock sat a Sumo wrestler like figure, much older than the other three. I introduced ourselves and presented him with some goodies we brought, some cooking oil, rice, coffee and a tin of corned beef. He said his name was Julius but other than that was not too communicative. 

 

Julius

Larsen divulged some more information. They were originally from the island of Katinga, they came here , or have already been here for two years. A supply ship comes once a year. They have breadfruit trees, bananas and coconuts, which they produce copra from. We also saw a lot of pigs, big and small. Larsen walked us back to our dinghy, stopping on the way to take down drinking coconuts for us.

Larsen

While the island itself is a beauty, one wonders what kind of life they lead here, far from their families and the outside world. They may have some form of communication; we saw an automatic meteorological station and some other solar panels and antennae.

14.10.11 – Friday – We went out at first light, 0630. Our first intention was to go to Chuuk, formerly known as Truk lagoon, where fierce battles took place in WW2 and where a large number of the Japanese navy ships was sunk. Distance to Chuuk being a bit over 200 miles we would have gotten there on Sunday and would have had to wait on the boat until Monday anyway, so we decided to go to Losap, 153 miles away. We’ll leave Losap Sunday evening and reach Chuuk on Monday morning.

We were mostly motor-sailing using one engine with the occasional cloud bringing stronger wind for just a little while and then flat calm, no wind at all. On one of those calms I was sitting at the wheel when suddenly a loud belching sound made me jump. A big air-bubble erupted just 2 meters off our starboard hull. A whale? We looked around for quite a long time to try and locate it but saw nothing.

Again we had a magnificent red sunset but astern we could see a line of cumulonimbus clouds and put the first reef in the main as a cautionary measure.

15.10.11 – Saturday – Mostly motor-sailing during the night with no big wind or rain. We played a bit with poling the jib and taking it off a few times but other than that – uneventful night. When the atoll popped up behind the horizon we could see that the electronic chart was sending us too much to the north, so we aimed changed to eyeball navigation, sailing along the reef looking for the pass. We found it at 6 51’812 N 152 42’738 E and entered the lagoon.

Channel

We anchored as close to Losap village as depth and reef allowed and very quickly had a group of children swimming towards us from shore and a few canoes with young guys joining them. The canoes were different than those we saw in Vanuatu and also in the other FSM islands we’ve been to by having the outrigger much closer to the hull. The young boys that came by were also different; they were loud and not bashful at all, climbing on the sterns and making a hell of a racket. One of the young guys asked whether we could give him any liquor.

We asked about the chief and were told he went fishing but after a short time a motorboat came bye with a group of men, some of which had T shirts with “Police” printed on them. The chief was there too. They all came on board, chief asking to see our cruising permit and custom clearance. After the inspection we sat and talked a bit. The chief said his name was Atarinu Eram.

Big Chief

I still had some colors, crayons and stuff for kids and when the chief said they ran out of coffee we gave him more than half of what we had. He gave us permission to come ashore and visit the village and departed with all the entourage. We went ashore, greeted by a lot of children who were shrieking with laughter when shown their pictures on our cameras. After seeing some of the village houses it occurred to us that it is possible that they had never before seen their images, having no mirrors!

The village itself had a decrepit appearance, contrary to what we saw in Vanuatu there was no apparent effort to keep it clean and tidy. The island was under Japanese occupation during WW2 and some relics of the era are visible here and there, like this unexploded bomb and a stone with Japanese characters near the church. 

Bomb

 

Japanese sign

At one point rain started and we found refuge in a hut near the chief’s home. In another hut a young man was vigorously pounding cooked breadfruit into mash.

Pounder

Another item prepared for dinner was the sea-cucumber, method of cooking was not clear.

Sea Cucumber

In general we were received with smiles except for this little girl who was frightened by the strange creatures roaming her formerly peaceful village.

 

Cry-baby

During our tour we were escorted by one of the policemen assigned by the chief. As we neared our dinghy to go back to “Two Oceans” he asked:”Do you have any whiskey, maybe?” We were told that alcohol was a problem in Chuuk atoll and state.

16.10.11 – Sunday – During my morning swim I noticed that during the night our anchor chain wrapped itself around a coral clump. We wanted to release it and re-anchor on sand so as not to have difficulties when leaving later in the evening. It took a few tries and then we were O.K. Then the rain came again. This time we were ready with the water-catchment system and collected some precious liters.

As the rain passed and the church services ended we started having visitors. Some brought plantains (that we did not want) and coconuts (that we took) and we also got one big breadfruit. We paid with cooking oil, cookies and candy. As we sat for lunch the crowd became bigger, noisier and more obnoxious, canoes bumping our boat repeatedly. 

 After a few unheeded requests we simply raised the anchor and motored toward the western exit, thinking of identifying it and then anchoring near to wait for our evening departure. Again, the electronic chart was no help and we found the exit by following the reef. We actually transited the passage and then came back and anchored inside the lagoon. I took my fins and was looking for my mask and snorkel discovering that they were stolen… Big disappointment!

The need to leave in the evening came out of the fact that the distance to Chuuk lagoon, and Weno island, where we had to check in, was about 70 nm, so in order to arrive around 8 am a night passage was decided upon. At 1715 we went out, playing with sails and engine to adjust the speed for arrival at the northeast pass of Truk lagoon at first light.

17.10.11 – Monday – Just a little past six o’clock we entered the Chuuk, formerly known as Truk, lagoon. It is a huge lagoon full of islands big and small. This was the background to big scale air and sea battles in WW2, resulting in a large number of underwater wrecks of ships and airplanes that are now the target of a developed diving industry. Chuuk is one of the FSM states and it is the one with the biggest population. The island of Weno has 15000 people on it. We approached the harbor, calling them on VHF, getting no reply. We tied to the commercial dock, which with the low tide was high above our deck, sat and waited, yellow flag signaling that we are waiting for the authorities. Some harbor workers walked by and then we learned that the local time was one hour behind that of Pohnpei. It is U.T.C plus 10, not 11 as some of the sources maintain. Slowly the functionaries started to appear, main problem being getting down from the dock, and with each one we went through the bureaucratic game. Custom was reluctant to show up. We waited for two hours and then I had enough, went to the security by the gate, got their phone number (3304482) and prompted the man to move.After that we were free to go ashore and do some shopping.

The town is not a pretty sight. The roads are not paved and are constantly muddied by the frequent rains. There are many good stores so provisioning is not a problem. John, the harbor master, who promised to arrange a fuel truck at 1230, found us in town and said we had to relinquish our berth to a big ship that was waiting outside. We rush back, took the boat out, tied anew and waited for the fuel to come. 1230 came and went and at 1330 I went looking for John. The port office was open but there was nobody present. We had enough of the noise and filth around us and motored to the south to the “Blue Lagoon” resort anchorage. Peace and quiet – finally. The resort has a big dive-club with which I plan to dive tomorrow.

Blue Lagoon Resort

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Responses

  1. it’s a great journey you are on. we are in Vanuatu not sure whether we will go through Solomons, PNG and then up through Micronesia or maybe follow a similar route to you. So thanks for the postings – it’s some great info.


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