Day #12 END of passage from Vanuatu to Marshall Islands LTY time: 18:35 (Marshall Islands time = UTC +12)
Location: on mooring ball NE end inside of Majuro atoll
Position: 07 06.522 N, 171 22.123 E (you can cut & past this into Google Earth to see on map)
Wind: just a light breeze in the harbour
Weather: scattered clouds in otherwise clear blue sky. Some storm clouds off to the far west as is typical here.
Air temp: 92 F 33C
Sea temp: 96 F 36 C
Barometer: 1017nm BACK on the BALL in MAJURO! This is the final LTY Update for this passage from Vanuatu up to Majuro in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. I’ll start with a quick overview of the last part of the passage itself since the last update and then give you a bit of a synopsis of this new home base for Ruby, Learnativity and I for the next few months. Apologies for any confusion with the names as the atoll is called the Majuro Atoll and the capital city there is also called Majuro. The final night sail and morning ride into the Majuro atoll was a very boisterous one as Mother Nature decided to provide one last round of her many manifestations of her charms. Now that I was within 24 hours of arriving in Majuro I could do a better estimate of my arrival time and it worked out such that as long as I could keep up a fairly high average speed of 6.5 knots or more then I would be able to make it into the mooring field inside the Majuro atoll before the sun was too low in the sky. Otherwise I would have had to really slow down and time it to arrive a day later. Yesterday afternoon the winds had been cooperating direction wise and were back over to coming out of the NE at a reasonable velocity of about 8-15 knots but that was not going to be quite fast enough by sail alone to be sure to make it to Majuro in time so I added the motor to the equation and we motor sailed at a very good clip of 7.5 to 8 knots. That enabled me to put enough nautical miles in the bank that by 10pm I was able to turn off the motor and get back to the much preferred silence of sail alone. This worked out very well and I had a magical night sail with an almost following sea (was off the aft starboard quarter) that added to our speed and smooth ride. Just before dawn, Mother Nature decided it was time to throw one last storm at us and saved up her post powerful one of the trip for this last romp with winds up past 35 at times. Normally I might have spotted these on the Radar as I noted in a previous post but at night I have the Radar on time intervals to save power so it does a sweep every 15 minutes for 30 seconds, sounds the alarm if anything shows up within the alarm perimeter circle I’ve created which goes out about 10nm and then goes back to standby mode until the next cycle 15 minutes later. Of course all-knowing Ma Nature knows this obviously so she waited till the scan stopped and then threw the storm at is from out of the east and it hit before the 15 minute cycle was up and caught me unawares with all my sails up. Thirty five knots isn’t too severe or dangerous it just makes things a bit exciting with the boat heeled over at about 40 degrees such that the deck rails on the port side are running under the water and the rudder is not strong enough to counter the winds force to sail off the wind any further which is a bit of a safety feature in that the force of the wind tries to push the boat “to weather” as it is referred to which is into the wind more and more. This means that after the wind angle get past about 30-40 degrees (zero means coming directly at the bow) the sails start to “luff”, meaning that there isn’t enough wind coming across the inside surface so they start to flap more and more aggressively and the sheets (lines that control the clew or bottom rear corner of the sail) are whipping about like some super skinny snake having a very nasty epileptic seizure. Trust me when I tell you that you do NOT want to be hit by one of these otherwise benign lines as their speed incredible and leaves one heck of a mark on you. Fortunately one of the may modifications I made to Learnativity after I bought her was to redo all the running rigging (lines) such that they go through a series of pulleys on the deck that brings them back into either side of the cockpit such that I never need to leave the cockpit and can control every line from there. So I got a good workout putting the boat into the wind so I could furl in the genoa all the way and reduce the main sail enough to still help with forward speed and reduce the rolling in the building seas and then I added in the motor again so the propeller’s push could bring back better steering control and stability. If I wasn’t awake before I certainly was now as the rising sun slowly illuminated my dark and stormy world with every possible shade of grey. Once out of the storm the winds remained quite high blowing between 15-22 knots and had moved further south to be coming out of the east now which made for a faster point of sail and I was able to go back to sailing. The seas also moved back up to be out of the NE and had been whipped into quite a frenzy themselves with all that wind and what I assume must have been a long line of storms off to the east and so they were now very “square” meaning steep sided, over 3 meters and much shorter frequency of about 3 seconds between crests which resulted in a lot of rocking and rolling as we each one passed under us. These conditions continued all the way up to the NE corner of Majuro atoll where I turned west to sail along the north coast over to the only pass into the atoll which is about 10nm to the west which put me on the lee of the island from the wind and the seas and made for a nice smooth and now sunny last leg of the sail. Just enough time to get showered and shaved on the aft deck so that I would be all clean and presentable for my arrival. If you are a visual type or otherwise have been following these directions you can see that I had to make about a 25nm horizontal U turn to sail around the outside east end of the atoll, along the north coast, south through the pass and then head east to get over back over to the east end of the atoll but this time on the inside where the town of Majuro and the mooring field is located. At the break neck speeds you are starting to understand that I sail at, this means it took about four hours from making my turn at the outer NE corner till I was at the mooring ball in Majuro. As I sailed toward the mooring ball, and really all the time since arriving here, I’ve been aware of how strange it feels to be coming back to a place I recognize and know so well. As you long time readers will know I was her in Majuro the first time back in October 2010 and didn’t leave until May 2011 to head back down to Fiji where I spent most of the time since. This is the first time in the last five years of this grand sailing adventure that I’ve ever gone back to a place I’ve been to before and hence the very comforting and yet very new feelings. I had returned to Fiji as well but I went to all different spots and had a completely different set of experiences the two different seasons I was there. I was tied up to the mooring ball by just before 11am yesterday and spent the rest of the day and most of today doing all the necessary running around involved at the end of a passage to a new country. Checking in takes time as I have to go to four different offices spread out around the long skinny atoll (widest part outer shore to inner shore is less than 300 meters!), then getting a new SIM card and reactivating my cell phone, setting up a new WiFi account, groceries, laundry. I love the whole process it actually as it is all part of making the transition from being at sea and that rhythm of a longer passage I’ve described (ad nauseum no doubt!) and going through the time warp back to a shore based life again. It isn’t at all hectic, just keeps you busy the whole time, lots of walking from place to place which also feels good and in this case seeing all the familiar faces and places as well as noting some of the few changes since I left here back in May 2011. Both to get a well needed breather from all this and mostly to just sit and soak up my new surroundings I set up my “zero gravity” (reclining lounger) chair on the aft deck, fixed up some nummy appetizers of olives, fresh bread, 4 different cheeses, salami and poured myself my first glass of wine in two weeks. It is odd how much I like this place as it seems on the surface to be the opposite of what I usually look for in an anchorage. Majuro is a VERY busy port not only because it is the capital of the Marshall Islands but due to its strategic location in this part of the Pacific and most especially because it has become what is apparently the larges tuna center in the world. From what I’ve heard this has come about in the past few years since Pago Pago in American Samoa has been severely reduced in its tuna fishing activities. This was apparently one of those unintended consequences of US President Obama’s enforcement of the US federal minimum wage laws which American Samoa (the only US soil south of the equator for you data junkies) was required to enforce and put the costs of labour too high for most of the tuna companies apparently. Whatever the reason I am literally surrounded by a very large fleet of both the huge tuna net fishing boats and their even more hugey “mother lode ships” which transport the tuna and other fish from here to the final destinations which are mostly in Asia, though now apparently much also goes to North America and elsewhere. As you can perhaps imagine (I’ll post some pictures in the next few days as I’ve got the bandwidth of higher speed internet as of today) this means there is a lot of traffic with these boats coming and going, sliding up alongside the mother ships to transfer all their catch and regular runs of their extremely high power net setting boats which they use here in port to transport crew back and forth ashore just south of where I’m sitting. Sounds like the antithesis of those deserted islands and bays I’m usually in and where I’m the only boat in the bay, and it is of course the exact opposite with a cacophony of noises, smells, movement. But I LOVE it! I wouldn’t want to have it full time or even much of the time to be sure, but last night as I sat out on the aft deck, with such a serenely still boat under me and my eyes and my ears soaked up all these new sensations I found it to be yet another symphonic experience. I’m really getting quite good at this “being present in the present” and so as I sat there last night, watching the sun go down creating a spectacular inferno behind the clouds off to the west and bathed the whole scene in intense reds and orange light which slowly faded into dark, I went through that transition such that I was not an observer but was part of this whole scene and sudden new world around me. A short digression (gee what a surprise Wayne!), I was reminded of something the brilliant mind of Rudy Rucker dreamed up in his truly magnificent futuristic trilogy book which he called “puddling”. In the book this was a drug that enabled two (or more I guess) lovers to have what I would describe as the ultimate intimate experience where their bodies would essentially melt such that all their individual cells could mix and mingle together for a time and then their bodies would slowly return to their more solid form. I thought it was a truly brilliant idea (typical of Rudy) and quite plausible to me at some point in the future as it really would be about the most intimate loving experience you could have. As I hope (?) you can guess, I thought about this as I “puddled” with this new world of sight, sounds and feelings all around became one with it all. Part of what and why I love this so much is that it is all so very mechanical and purposeful and I find a great beauty in all that. Keep in mind that I’ve been “mechanically minded” since almost birth and have a deep appreciation for almost anything mechanical, things that work, that do something useful, the design and craftsmanship involved in doing this very very well and so on. It led me to follow one of my career paths to become a teacher at high school and university for automotive, metal work, cabinetry and draughting as well as a life full of avocations and pursuit of my curiosity that led me to be a mechanic, hot rodder, motorcycle builder, welder, sculptor and so on. With this context then you can perhaps understand my deep appreciation for all these ships and machines surrounding me and making up this new world I had just melted into. The tuna fishing net boats (sorry not yet sure their proper name) are the most magnificent machines. They remind me of sharks both visually and for their efficiency. I’ll take and post some pictures shortly but try to picture this in your mind for now: A large long sleek steel hull, about 200 to 300 feet long and with a very steep curved slope of the bow out of the water and up to a very severe point where it meets the deck and in profile resembled the nose of a shark. It helps too that they are all painted white or bright blue so more shark like again. Above the water and further aft they remind me of sea urchins as they are bristling with long skinny spines sticking out which are all the many booms and cranes to lift and manoeuver their nets and cargo. Mid ship there is a large thick column that rises over 100 feet straight up with a set of three large cylindrical observation points, the uppermost of which is a closed in “crow’s nest” the roof of which is also bristling with antenna, radar domes and light towers. On the very very end of the stern there is a huge 50-70 foot net setting boat that looks like it has been run at high speed straight onto the main ship sitting at about a 20 degree angle with its large bow up against a mound of black netting that is about 50 feet high. Upon closer inspection you can see lots of movement on the boat of what look like large ants but are in reality the crew, mostly all from countries in the Indo Asia region, who are scurrying about taking on supplies, moving their precious cargo onto the mother ship they are lashed alongside of and all the many other duties required to keep in the care and feeding such a “shark”. And that’s just the visual part. All my other senses are being equally treated to a symphony of new inputs with the intoxicating (to me at least) smells of fish, salt, nets and diesel fumes wafting through the air. Kinetically I can literally feel these boats with the thrumming of their engines and props coming straight through my steel hull, up to the deck and through my chair and feet. It sends the mental movies being created by the powerful simulation software in my brain into overdrive and the net effect is truly like one of “puddling” as I melt into this scene. Well, I shan’t babble on any longer, you get the point I’m sure (like ten minutes ago!) that I was captivated and captured by this whole scene and feeling so much at “home” with it all. As I described in one of my previous updates I am so very much a “journey person” but as usual with me this is very metaphoric and my whole life to date has been a continuum of journeys as I go from one great destination to the next. As I hope my attempt to articulate my experience last night now that I’ve arrived at this latest “destination” demonstrates, I simply start a new “journey” each time I arrive at one of my next destination and thus as I hope you can understand better now I really do feel like I am on a journey that never ends because one simply “melts” into the next. OK, the sun has set some time ago as I was typing this up, in another blaze of fiery I might add and I’ve typed away long enough or more to the point you’ve read quite enough for one sitting I’m sure, so I’ll stop. Suffice it to say that I have arrived at my next great destination and the next great journey has already begun. I am also FINALLY back in some decently hot and humid weather again as this body of mine simply does not like anything colder than 30 degrees (90F) at night and 35 or so during the days which is what I’m back to here in Majuro. This past year was unseasonably “cold” (everything is relative) in Fiji and in Vanuatu so I (and Ruby) will take a few days to acclimate to our new surroundings and climate but this is where we are the most comfortable and are enjoying every moment of the transition into this latest new home base of ours. We will be enjoying life here for almost two weeks until the 26th when Ruby and I fly back to Canada and the US for some other great adventures spending time with dear friends and family in BC, California and Florida for the months of November and December and then return to Learnativity at New Years. Right now I’ve got my flights set up so I actually “miss” New Years due to flights that cross the international date line such that I leave on the 30th of December and arrive on the 2nd of January! How cool is that?! As usual I have no plans just lots of “intentions” as to where we will sail to next but right now some of the places I hear calling my name in the wind include the outlying Marshall Islands to the north including a trip to Bikini Island to experience that huge “blue hole” created by the big US nuclear bomb blast over 50 years ago and then perhaps wandering and wondering my way west through the islands of Micronesia over towards the Philippines and then maybe down into the many spots that make up the eastern ends of Indonesia. Only time will tell and once again you can join us vicariously via the LTY blog updates. I certainly hope you will and truly thank an appreciate you for coming along on this latest on. I’ll post some updates and some pictures during the next two weeks here in Majuro to give you a better sense of this amazing spot on the planet. But for tonight, and for this latest passage, I’m done! Hope you’ve enjoyed it almost as much as I have and thanks again for your part in making it such a great adventure and experience. Wayne & Ruby the Wonderdog