February 20

It's Friday morning here in Majuro. I haven't written in the journal for many days. We have been having fun in Majuro since we arrived a week ago and getting lots of work done. The weather has been erratic with rain one day and sun the next then back to rain. Today looks like a nice day as was yesterday, so that's two in a row! We've been getting a lot done in terms of boat repairs.

Unfortunately the water maker broke again 2 days ago. I fixed it yesterday. Apparently when I repaired it 2 weeks ago in Maloelap I replaced a part (which was NOT broken) with a part I borrowed from another boat that was the wrong size for my machine. The company seems to have made two slightly different sized parts and I have one of the odd-ball slightly larger ones (I am talking so slight that the eye could not see the difference, literally 8/1000 of an inch larger). I put the old part back (which as I said above, was not broken) So why did I replace it, it looked worn and while I had the machine removed from its mounting and open it "seemed like a good idea at the time".

Last Sunday we participated in the Meico Beach Yacht Club's third "Fun Race for Cruisers" which as its name implies is a race which is for fun and is (relatively) non-serious and is for cruisers which means (mostly) slow, heavy boats which are really people's homes. Well, it was raining cats and dogs the whole time. Literally a major downpour and we and our crew (Louis and Marlee from "Green Nomad") were soaked to the skin after the first five minutes. By the end of the race (about 2 hours later) we were shriveled and like prunes. The good news is that we didn't come in last! In fact, we finished 7th out of 9 boats and actually kept our 7th place position after times were corrected for handicaps (boat's race under handicaps to even out the differences between designs).

Unfortunately I made 2 serious errors which prevented us from doing better. Sailboats races start with all the boats "milling about" behind the starting line, each boat with sails raised and primed to cross the line. Boats jockey for position so that they will be the first across the line either at or after the starting gun (which in the case was a countdown on the radio by the race coordinator ashore). Well, the wind was only 4-7k and we were really depressed that this would mean the race would take us about 9 hours to finish since we barely move in that little wind. In fact, we didn't hear the 10 or 5 minute warning calls on the radio and found ourselves very far from the line when we heard the 2 minute warning, then we tried to tack to position ourselves better and lost the wind completely and watched as all the other boats sailed over the starting line to begin the race as we inched our way toward the line about 200 yds away. By the time we got to the starting line there was only one boat behind us, and that was because they had discovered a torn sail! 

Fortunately after the first 10 minutes the wind began to build and by the time we rounded the first mark we had 15-18k of wind and we were approaching 8k of speed. We managed to pass one other boat before the second mark and were quickly gaining on 3 other boats which were ahead of us. This was possible because many of the other boats are smaller then us and in strong winds we are faster (in light wind, say, below 15k, we couldn't catch up to a row boat). Unfortunately when we approached the second mark (a tower on a shoal in the middle of the lagoon) I made a major error and turned too soon. This cause us to end up on the wrong side of the tower and unable to sail around it. We had to turn 270 degrees back onto our original course and sail another 100yds before we could tack again onto the new heading and clear the mark (if you don't go on the correct side of a race mark it doesn't count and you might as well just go home right then).

By the time we had rounded the mark, not only had the three boats ahead of us pulled way ahead, the boat we had passed had now passed us! We did manage to pass that boat again on the final leg but never came close to approaching the other boats ahead of us. Thus a possible 4th place turned into a 7th place. Next time we will do better. 

Now for the good news. Prizes in the "Fun Race" are not awarded to the first place, second place and third place boats as in a competitive race, they are drawn from a hat randomly by all finishers. We drew 7th of course so we expected all the good prizes to be pulled already. In fact, each boat draws two prizes from the hat and when it came to our turn I sent Jonah up to do the honors and he pulled out a folding beach chair, of which we already had two. On the second go around, however, I drew from the hat and got the best prize in the race, a night's stay at the Outrigger Resort Hotel which was also the venue and sponsor of the race (the pre-race party and post-race festivities are held at the bar of the hotel).

So, tonight Kate and I will be spending the night at the Outrigger. Our plan is basically to watch TV all night take a bath or three. We may have time for other activities as well, we shall see. Jonah, on the other hand, will be having his second sleep-over date with his new friend Alan who's father Roger owns a local business called "Micronesian Homes" which provides all manner of equipment, building supplies, solar power systems and a wide variety of other items you would not expect to see under the same roof. Roger is from Boston and is married to a woman from Kiribati (the country to our South). They have been living here many years and Jonah spent the night with them on Monday as well and had a blast. The two boys have a lot in common, have all the same toys, love all the same videos, etc., etc. Jonah will also be spending the whole day tomorrow with Alan and his family, needless to say he is very excited. 

Meanwhile, we have been receiving many many packages from the US lately and have been busy stashing away all manner of odds and ends in various nooks and crannies aboard. We've got a bunch of new videos, specialty food items, clothing, etc., etc., etc. Also lots of new boat parts which we are always in need of to fix one thing or another.

We are planning to leave here on Monday to visit Aur Atoll which is close by, about 80 miles to the North where we will hang out for about 3 weeks before returning for the event of the year, the Coconut Cup Race. This race is a tradition in Majuro for the last 8 years or so and is the only race in the world which pits racing yachts against outrigger sailing canoes. It should be big fun and I expect there will be at least 10 yachts racing as well as an equal number of outriggers. After that we will go back out to another atoll for another month or so before we return to Majuro for the final time to fill the larder with provisions and then head South and East, most likely to the Kingdom of Tonga (which we have never visited) in the South Pacific. After that we will stop again briefly in Fiji to visit a few places we missed on our last visit 2 years ago then on the New Caledonia again where we hope to find the weather warmer then last time we were there. After that our destination will most likely be Sydney, Australia where we will stay for a month or two before beginning to work our way North along the Eastern coast of Australia and eventually over the top to Darwin and then on to Indonesia.