Posted by: catamarantwooceans | November 1, 2011

FSM – Chuuk and west

18.10.11 – Tuesday – This was my diving day.

I was the fifth diver on a panga with two Australian guys and too Finns. It had two 40 H.P Yamaha outboards and was gunned to the dive-sites by Stenson, the boat driver.

driver

David, the dive-master briefed us about our dive on the "Shinkoku Maru", a big Japanese tanker sunk in 45 meters. One could enter the interior of the ship, into an operating room where some bones were left for the benefit of the paying customers to see.

The ship is now a habitat for soft and hard corals as well as for a big variety of fish. David said we would be able to see the torpedo hole that sank her at 42 meters depth but somehow this was forgotten during the actual dive.

Contrary to what I’ve seen in other clubs, this one takes you back to the resort for a two hours rest before the second dive. On the way there we passed the Dublon island, which housed the Japanese headquarters in WW2. Korry the Finn took my picture with its Fuji-like mountain ( no snow, off course)  in the background. 

fuji

This was at a site of a cargo ship called Sikizen Maru, where we could see a cargo of airplane engines and ammunition, suspiciously arranged for the divers to see. Both dives were very nice and reaffirmed my previous feeling that what I really wanted to see while diving is the marine life, not wrecks and other man made (or destroyed) stuff.

While I was having fun, Israel took care of filling our water tanks and arranged for fuel to be delivered to the port tomorrow morning. Good job!

19.10.11 – Wednesday – We went back to the port to check out of the country and take fuel. The company which supplied the fuel was Bruton Enterprises and they gave real good service. (phone 3302318).

fuel man

The officials did their job in a satisfactory manner. The only aggravation was the cost. Here’s a breakdown of the fees we had to pay: On arrival: immigration – 40$, quarantine – 25$. On departure: immigration – 40$, port – 75$; 180$ for being there three days… The government also billed me 30$ for a diving permit.

We knew Chuuk would be expensive. The Kiwi guys we met in Kosrae told us about it and also about local people trying to steal things off their boat. They suggested we simply give it a miss, but we needed provisions, fuel and I wanted the dives so we decided to go.

In Oroluk atoll, one of the four guys there told us that the Chuukese were "bad people".  Israel, while on a local taxi, met a local woman, Diane, who was married to the Chuuk chief of Police. She had some bad things to say about her countrymen. She said that they grew marijuana on the islands and that many people were either stoned or drunk. We knew that there was a big alcoholism problems in Chuuk. Anyway,apart from the theft of my mask and snorkel in Losap, we saw nothing alarming in Chuuk. We still had a day to spend there…

At 1045 we were free to leave. Our next destination was Puluwat atoll, to which I erroneously measured a distance of 168 n.m; in actuality it was 10 miles less, which can make a difference of reaching in good light or not. With light winds expected, and thinking we will not be ready to leave before noon, I made up my mind to find an anchorage on the west side of Chuuk lagoon and start a shorter leg tomorrow morning.

Problem was I could not get any local to recommend a place in the area I wanted. They said:" Just anchor anywhere out off the reef, you’ll be fine"; and so we started to go west, looking for a suitable bay on Pata, one of the islands in the lagoon. Rain hampered one trial of a possible bay but then it cleared and we saw a spot, past a village, that seemed O.K. We hailed a panga with four lads on their way to underwater fishing and asked about them about it. "Follow us" they said, motored closer to shore and pointed at a location we understood was good.

We anchored and I jumped in to check the anchor; immediately I saw we were too close to the reef and turned back to the boat to re-anchor at a better spot. As I was swimming back I saw a panga on our stern. As I came on board I saw that they were three men in it. One of them, who later said his name was Manson, started by asking whether we had permission to anchor there.

manson

                                                                                                      Pic by I. Perlov

I told him about the FSM cruising permit that I had. "Yes, but this island has its own ordinance" he said "We own the water 12 miles from our shores". His aims were not altogether clear. I hinted that we regularly gave villages food stuff but that was not his goal.

"You must speak to the Mayor" he said. I had enough of the charade and said that if they did not want us to stay, we can leave right then and there. But the man was adamant, pointing at an approaching panga:"Here comes the Mayor".

The man who came said his name Teslov Sipu. He gave me a similar speech, stressing the fact that they did not automatically accept the central or even the chuukese government power over their territory but then said it was O.K for us to stay and motored away. Manson, however, stayed holding our stern. "Please move away, we need to re-anchor" I told him. "Maybe I can come on board your boat and play with you?" was his answer. Strange talk from someone named Manson (remember Charles?). Israel had the right idea:"Let’s get the hell out of here, I don’t like those guys, let’s go to Puluwat right now!"

By that time I have already discovered the real distance to it so I raised the anchor and  turned west. For a moment I feared that they will give chase but no, they simply went on to there village like nothing ever happened.

We were motoring with both engines and in a little over an hour were out of the lagoon.

20.10.11 – Thursday – During the night we had two squalls, one with heavy rain and the other with both rain and 28 knot wind. Unpleasant, but at least we could shut the engines down. Progress was good and when morning came with the forecasted light easterlies, we could use just one engine and still arrive at Puluwat pass around 1400.

Puluwat turned out to be the Ultimate Atoll. It measures 2.5 miles between the two most distanced points, has two big islands and three small ones, all of them thickly wooded, giving great protection from the SSW anticlockwise to the NW, the "open" spaces well protected by the reef. The biggest island has the same name as the atoll and all the villages are located on it.

We went ashore and asked the first man we saw to take us to the chief. Quintin Jones told us that the Mayor (that’s the modern title here, it seems) is not on the island so we will meet the deputy.

Quintin

Quintin spoke very good English and the reason became obvious when he said he went to college in the U.S, studying marine biology. He was a school-teacher on the island. On the way to the deputy we saw a basketball game in progress, young kids playing with great enthusiasm and skill.

basket

The deputy, whose name was Ernest, received us in his home, dressed in traditional  clothes.

ernest

He took our modest present, said it was O.K for us to anchor there and then said something in the local language to Quintin who translated:"It is customary that every yacht coming here pays a fee." This turned to be 25$. As much as I prefer free anchoring, I recognize the right of the locals to take some money for it. After all, we enjoy something that is theirs. You pay to go into a park, don’t you?

In the early evening we took the dinghy to look around the lagoon. In the big bay on the northeast we saw a fishing vessel on the beach. I was told later that it was deposited there by a typhoon some years ago.

typhoon

Puluwat is famous for the high quality canoes built there as well as for the navigation skills of the local people. We saw many examples, many of them protected by a special boat-house that was sometimes was also the family house. People practically lived "in the same room" with the boat.

Pulcanoe

Near the beached boat we found a boat-yard where several canoes were being built or repaired. I saw a few big ones and one of the builders, Martin, told me they could go to Guam and even Saipan in them, that’s 450 and 515 miles respectively. Those had no engine and were built in the "stitch and glue" method using thick fishing line and some extract from the breadfruit tree as adhesive.

stitchglue

The main tool they use was the adze and they also had manual drill, knives and sandstone. No electrical tools, no metal fasteners!

Martin asked me to take a look at his fiberglass motorboat that had a crack on the bottom, asking whether I had something to fix it. I told him to come over, thinking I could give him some epoxy putty that will help him out.

After we got back to our boat a visitor came, a man named Thomas, who said he had a crack in his canoe and could we possibly spare some sealant. I promised to come to his house at 10 am the next day. Then came Martin from the boat-yard.

martin

By then I decided I could do a good repair with West system epoxy and fiberglass mat, so I promised to come around 1030 the next day…

21.10.11 – Friday – Before turning to help the Puluwats I needed to do some work on "Two Oceans", changing engine oil and filters.  At one point a young man on a canoe came by. "Do you want a lobster? Maybe coconut crabs?" You bet I did! We agreed on a price. He went fishing while I started fantasizing about the special dinner we’ll have.

At 10 am we approached Thomas’s house, a big, mortar build home complete with two columns at the entrance. Thomas said the boat was taken by a relative who knew nothing of the planned repair. So we just walked around, chatting with him. He told us the house had six rooms but some members of the family who live there died at an early age . Israel noticed that we saw no old men or women in the village.

On we went to the boat yard and Martin. We worked for about 45 minutes and I think I did a fair job repairing his boat, filling the crack with epoxy/micro balloons putty, then closing it all with fiberglass mat.

repair

                                                                                                    Pic by I. Perlov

When we finished another guy came by with a similar request. I seems they were not too careful negotiating the reefs! I went to take a look and then took out the West system and a put a patch on a hole in the bow of his boat. It seems the rumor went quickly around the village and pretty soon another guy came by asking me to look at HIS boat… This one was badly damaged and was beyond my resources, but I  did give him some ideas for a possible solution.

In the afternoon I came again and found that the epoxy cured nicely. Gave Martin something to stick on the inside of his crack and gave boat number two another layer of fiberglass – epoxy.

The lobster guy did not show up! Big disappointment! We decided to have pasta for dinner. "Wait just a little while" I told Israel, took out some bait and in half an hour we had some fish that he cooked in the oven.

22.10.11 – Saturday – At 6 am we exited Puluwat atoll. I could stay some more but our time is short and there are other atolls waiting. First is Lamotrek, which is 170 n.m away, making it necessary to keep at least 5 knots of speed over ground. The forecast was for light winds so, again, we had to use a lot of engine time. Squalls with rain hit us a few times and the wind went berserk, coming from all around the compass.

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Responses

  1. What’s the name of the stranded fishing vessel? Is it perhaps Toku? I once had a horrible trip from Ulul to Weno on the stormy ocean as passenger on the MV Toku. Unforgettable. Greetings from Germany to Polowat. W. Schmitz


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