February 19, 2005

We’ve had several false alarms for leaving Pohnpei. First, when we were ready, our laptop computer died on us, at least it was in its death throes. We ordered a new one from the US and waited 5 days for it to arrive. Then we were ready to leave again. We had tried to contact the local representatives of the island we are sailing to next, Nukuoro. We tired both the Chief Magistrate and a State Senator from the island and neither were easy to track down. The idea was to make sure we would be welcome, and to alert them in advance – often the local islanders are very suspicious when outsiders appear without warning. As we suspected has asked us to carry food and supplies to the people there. We agreed to carry a modest amount and it took 3 days to get in touch with him again to arrange delivery of the cargo, which finally came yesterday afternoon. We have on board nine 50lb sacks of rice, 20 or 30lb of sugar, several boxes of ramen noodles and two or three large boxes with who knows what in them. We also have several manila envelopes with flat mail.

So we planned to leave this morning, but when we awoke we knew everything was aligned against us. For one thing it was downright pouring rain and we are definitely fair weather sailors. Secondly, the wind was from the North, which is not good for going South. Finally, we hoped the container ship would arrive today carrying imported vegetables. The ship only comes once a month and in 3 days all the veggies are snatched up, much of them by Taiwanese and Korean fisherman who stop here to re-supply.

At around Noon the “Kiribati Chief” (out of Australia) did finally arrive so we will be able to get veggies tomorrow at the market. Today is Saturday and we cannot leave on Sunday because Mobil doesn’t pump on Sunday and we are need over 175 gallons of fuel. So we will leave on Monday, fully stocked with broccoli, green and red peppers, string beans, perhaps some zucchini and some lettuce even. We already have plenty of eggplant and cucumbers (the only things grown on the island in any quantity) which would have been a challenge to live on since we only have enough for about a week.

Nukuoro is a coral atoll about 275 miles South-Southwest of Pohnpei. It is home to about 400 Polynesian people. As one of the furthest settlements of Polynesians, well outside of the boundaries of the Polynesian region (most of which is South of the equator) Nukuoro and its Southern neighbor Kapingamarangi (also Polynesian) are testimony to the incredible drive and ability of those people. As Capt. Cook noted in the 1700s by observing the commonality of the language spoken by peoples he encountered in Tahiti, Tonga, New Zealand and Hawaii he was the first to observe that these people are all of one race and one culture (although variations between different islands exist).

The Polynesian people, wherever they are found, are always friendly and practice a custom of tending to and welcoming visitors (though in the old days this custom sometimes included consuming the visitors after welcoming them, those days are long past and only in fact, only some Polynesians islands practiced cannibalism. For example, Hawaiians are reported to have held cannibalism abhorrent and – though the story has been confused by many - after killing Capt. Cook the Hawaiians did not eat Cook, they respectfully distributed his bones to various chiefs to hold as sacred relics. Similarly, while it is believed cannibalism was rife among the Marques an Polynesians in the 1800s it was not practiced in Tahiti and the Society Islands. Contrast this with Melanesia (Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia and Eastern New Guinea) where cannibalism was common even up to the mid 1900s in some places. Incidents of cannibalism on Malekula in Vanuatu were reported up until the early 1960s as these islanders inhabit the impenetrable interior mountain valleys of that very large island and did not come in contact with civilizing influences until then.

Considering we will arrive bearing supplies and mail we should be very well received indeed. A boat we know did the same thing last year (except at Kapingamarangi) and they were feted with fish, crabs and bananas the whole time they were there.