June 23, 2004

Today is Tuesday the 23rd of June and we have been at Likiep almost a month - we arrived on the 28th of May. The last few weeks I have been negligent in writing my journal, partly because Kate has been doing such a good job of keeping hers. But, we are starting to think seriously of leaving here so I thought it was time I chimed in.

Our plan right now is to leave next Tuesday or Wednesday, the 29th or 30th. The trip to Majuro is about 210nm or 35 hours (based on an average speed of 6k which is 6nm/hr). With an early morning departure of 7am we should arrive at the pass into the lagoon at Majuro at about 6pm on the second day. In that case we will probably anchor at Anemwanot, a small island about 5 miles from the town.

We've had a wonderful time at Likiep. The scuba diving has been fabulous, though there have been enough rainy and windy days that we have not dove as much as we would have liked. In total we did only about 7 dives. Not very many considering how long we were here. But the weather has been uncooperative. To be fair, there were many days which were marginal when we could have dove. There were many days where it was sunny and beautiful but just a bit windy and rough outside the reef. Then there were many days where it was sunny and beautiful during most of the day, but rainy and squally when the tide was right for taking the dinghy over the pass. We could have dove on the overcast and rainy but calm days, but we are just not that obsessive about it. And the many days which were beautiful all or most of the day, but too windy or the tide was wrong, we had a great time snorkeling in the lagoon or walking around in the village, or sitting and chatting with Joe or Allen (two leading citizens of the village here).

Jonah has had a great time here. He did a lot of snorkeling with us, in the lagoon. He played on the beach many times with the local kids. He played with the local kids swinging on ropes hung from big trees and we went to the airstrip on Saturdays to watch the plane land and take-off with the rest of the village. He also enjoyed playing with the baby turtles being raised by a man who lives on the beach. So it has been a great place for all of us and we would seriously consider returning before we leave the Marshall Islands.

This morning we did an early dive and just returned. It is now about 10:30am and Kate is doing school as I write this. We went out at about 7:30am and were back here at 9:30am. The ride over the reef this morning was especially hairy for some reason. The tide was just two or three days past 'spring' tide (which is the highest tide of the month). The wind was very calm so the sea was also calm, but a large swell was coming in from the SE and the SW at the same time. The SW swell being the largest.

As we approached the reef we hit a fairly steep wave, caught air and landed with the prop cavitating (or is it ventilating?). We stopped dead and when I started again a huge wave was breaking right in front of us! We took it head on as fast as we could - which was not very fast as we need a lot of space and calm seas or a following swell to get up on a plane with a full load of diving gear - and we climbed right up the face of this huge breaking wave and clipped the top right off it which then landed right on top of us, soaking us complete. After that we were passed the breaking zone and the rest of the ride was easy and relaxed. Coming back was equally mellow with long swells and calm seas.

The dive itself was great. The visibility was not as good as it has been, mostly due to some particulate matter in the water making it a bit cloudy and also because the sun was so low in the sky. Making the reef even darker was the fact that the reef drop-off we were diving put us down below a cliff of coral (a small wall) with the sun to the East well behind the wall. At the end of the dive the sun had come up just enough to poke over the wall and the reef brightened a bit. But, when I say the visibility was reduced, I mean it was 80-100ft instead of the normal 150ft we usually experience here. So by any rational metric it was still excellent. We saw quite a few very large fish on this dive.

The huge grouper which live in this area were out and we saw one really big one (3-4ft) and a couple of medium sized ones (2ft). We also saw a really nice Napoleon Wrasse of almost 3ft in length and many other fish of various types and sizes. We also saw the largest giant clam (tridacna) we have ever seen. It was so big that its mantle (the lips and flesh which flow over the edges of the open shell) covered such a huge area you couldn't see any of the shell itself. Kate swam right over it about 4 ft away and didn't notice what it was (she is a huge fan of these things and always spots them). I got her attention and when I pointed it out she almost fainted (very difficult to do underwater). It was at least 4ft long and open as wide as 2 1/2ft easy. The siphon (its mouth-like opening through which it inhales and exhales water which it filters for food) was about 5 or 6 inches wide. Kate, who has a habit of poking clams with a stick she carries (to watch them close) gave this one a few jabs and it didn't even flinch.

We are going to stay here at the main village for another day or two then move the boat over to one of the secluded, unpopulated motus (islets) about 2.5 miles from here and spend a couple of days there cleaning up and getting the boat ready. I have to dive on the chain with a wire brush to clean it up - there is an especially large amount of growth in this anchorage and the chain is quite foul with hairy slime. The prop needs a similar treatment as there is a small coral reef growing on it (the prop, unlike the hull itself, is not painted with anti-fouling). .