by Christine Kling
Okay, stop with the eye roll, okay. Yes, I know, I am living on a sailboat located in the Marshall Islands smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but hey, everything is relative, right?
Writing is difficult enough, but trying to concentrate here on our mooring off the town of Majuro is getting more and more difficult. This place has become crazy crowded compared to what it was like a couple of months ago when we returned from our big trip abroad. The moment when I knew I just had to get away came on Tuesday when I saw an unusual-looking white boat far out in the lagoon. We’re used to all the dozens of the big purse seiners here, but this one looked more like a yacht. I grabbed the binoculars and sure enough, it was a pretty big looking motor yacht. When she pulled in and anchored a few hundred yards off our boat, we could make out her flag (Cayman Islands) but not the name. But soon our friend Philip sailed by her on his Outremer Catamaran on his way back from Eneko, and he emailed Wayne that the yacht (as seen in the photo above) was called Senses and she belonged to none other that Google founder Larry Page.
Since we arrived here we have also seen the arrival of four cruising sailboats. The Marshall Islands are a refuge at this time of year. Many boats love to sail the islands of the South Pacific: French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji, etc. but just like off the tropical coasts of North America, the South Pacific spawns cyclones — or hurricanes as they are called in North America. The South Pacific season is the opposite of the North American season, so while friends of mine are getting ready to leave Trinidad and Grenada, here in Majuro, the place is starting to fill up. Statistically speaking, the areas found ten degrees to the north and south of the equator have few enough cyclonic storms to be considered “safe zones,” so that is why folks head south to Trinidad or north to the Marshall Islands out here. The other choice is to head to higher latitudes like New Zealand, but just like heading north up the east coast, it puts the boats having to cross lots of open water on the shoulder season between cyclones and winter storms.
While the Marshall Islands are part of Micronesia, they are not so far west as to be in the cyclone areas of the Northeast Pacific like some of the other Micronesian islands further west of us. I don’t really understand the various seasons there yet. In the Philippines, for example, there is never a time when it’s not a cyclone season in some part of that huge island country. Two of the boats that arrived here recently came from the west of us in Micronesia. Both boats have families on board, but we don’t see much of them nor so they take part in the morning cruiser’s net on the radio. Apparently, they are Jehovah’s Witnesses and they are missionary boats. We do see lots of different folks out here cruising.
Part of the reason why it is so noisy here is because we are moored directly off the docking areas for all the small shore boats. For the big tuna fleet, Uliga Dock is the place where the fishing officials have their offices and they have to go out to greet and inspect all the boats that come in. The pilot boat is there, too. Then once the tuna boats are cleared, they often anchor before they unload and they use their big net boats with 1200 HP air-cooled engines to ferry crew and provisions back and forth out to the boats. Then there are the dinghies from the yachts and the outboard fishing boats owned by the Marshallese. Sometimes it feels like over a hundred boats zip around us every day and if they get within about 100 feet of Learnativity, they set off the canine alarm system.
This alarm system is usually sleeping on the top of the coaming about 12 inches away from our ears when we are working in the cockpit where it is coolest. This is the most enthusiastic alarm system you have ever seen. The two of them are never happier than when some high-pitched outboard comes screaming into earshot. Sometimes Barney gets so excited he runs to the bow and just keeps running in circles barking in pure canine bliss. I don’t know which is worse, the noise from the boats or the canine alarm system.
So, we are planning to leave this afternoon and make our way back out to Eneko, the lovely little island you can see on the chart above. It’s quiet and the canine security system goes silent, too, barking only when somebody says the word “beach.” Eneko is on the north side where the little hump is and in this view it shows 66.4 and 181 foot depths offshore. The local yacht club put down moorings off the island so we swing between 45 and 100 feet there depending on the wind direction. As you can see from the soundings, most of the lagoon is too deep for yachts like us to anchor. It’s not a problem for the tuna boats or Google, though. On the chart you can also see the well-marked pass into this atoll. That’s another thing that makes this place such a draw for boats of all kinds. It’s easy to enter, provides shelter and there is a lively town ashore with supermarkets, restaurants and hardware stores.
At Eneko, they do have a hot spot for the local Internet, but what they don’t have is power. For a while their generator had broken down. That was what prevented me from posting a blog last week. However, we’ve learned they have bought a solar panel and Wayne has volunteered to donate an old solar controller as well as his labor to mount and connect the panel. If we can get Internet at Eneko all the time, we might not come back to town until the fridge or the wine locker is empty, whichever comes first. We’ll revel in the peace and quiet and hopefully, my writing output will improve.
Just so long as nobody says the word “beach.”
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