January 19, 2005

It has been an interesting and challenging start to the year. Our parts (mainsail and watermaker pump) arrived. Our new mainsail was delayed in shipping after the usual snafu. We gave the expiration date on the card but they follow the European standard (Day, month, year) and the card didnít go thru and they didnít mail it before Christmas.

But who care because it arrived and it was cut to short. We called. They ascertained they had mismeasured. They said they would make us a new one and send to Palau.

The watermaker pump was installed with much knuckle scrapping on the part of the captain and it did not solve our problem. This meant it was the membrane that was dead and we needed a new one. Another chunk of change ($500) and they would send us a new one. This meant a delay in leaving. We felt uncomfortable leaving without a watermaker as we were headed to atolls with an iffy amount of rainfall.

We set up a decent water catching system while waiting for all this stuff and had enough water for drinking. We hauled water in buckets from the dock for dishes and took bucket showers on the dock at night. It was kind of fun and there was much giggling and throwing of buckets of water.

Jonah loves the town since there are ice cream stores and DVD rental places. He is in heaven. Indeed, even though Kolonia is really just a dusty town with the usual funny collection of stores selling canned everything, the people are nice and it is green and lush.

Jonah manages to read heaps of books. Thank god children enjoy reading books repeatedly. His reading skills have increased to the point where the reading material in the third grade course is really easy for him. His writing skills are improving although the complaining is constant about assignments. History is still his favorite subject and he can discuss it endlessly with some expertise. God that kid can talk.

Jonah enjoyed playing with the boy from ďMagicĒ, an Australian boat. They have four kids!(although one has fled back to Australia) and live on a small atoll called Kapingamarangi which is 400 miles away to the south. Really interesting people and lovely children.

We have finally heard from friends in Thailand and yachts seemed to have faired ok. Our friends in Phuket said the water swirled and boiled and they could hear screaming from the beach but their anchor held. She said she had being about to go for a swim but her child distracted her with something. Her husband was inland at the town and I can only imagine his terrifying return thru the carnage on the beach. Dead bodies scattered on the beach. Yachts tend to carry very good anchors and heavy chain. Local boats do not have the money for a good anchoring system and tended to end up on the beach. Elsewhere in marinas, boats crashed against each other till many sunk. Marinas where we had planned to leave the boat for inland tours in June are all GONE.

A little local tidbit: The locals chew betel nut here. It turns the lips red and everyone seems to have huge bulges in their cheeks OR is spitting huge gobs of red spit. It is a narcotic high similar to cocaine. Also, they drink Kava (called Sakau) which is made of the roots of a pepper plant. It is a fairly mild but intoxicating drug. In addition, there is homegrown marijuana. It seems that many of the people use all three. Itís a pretty slow town with not a lot happening.

On the atoll where the Australians live, the locals banned betel nut! I am not sure what they do to pass the time. I think mostly try to gather enough food to eat. Unfortunately it is difficult and the locals down there suffer from a variety of malnourishment issues from Beriberi , leprosy, infections and other stuff. Here on Pohnpei, the general problem is animal feces, human sewage and clean water. They have a water treatment plant but the pipes bring it places are full of holes and the constant rain drives the crap down and into the water.

They get aid money from the US but so often it ends up not improving anything. For example, Kapingamarangi received 50 thousand dollars of aid in the form of white rice which caused the locals to promptly stop growing taro (the local starch) and develop Beriberi due to lack of vitamin B. Of course, they should have been given brown rice but rich countries so often donít understand the issues in third world countries. The water treatment plants are aid provided but of course they probably didnít get money to maintain the pipe system. Other issues include child malnourishment since in a subsistence culture the healthy adults eat first and the most and the children get a handful of rice or scavenge for whatever. We see less of that here since Kolonia is the capital of the FSM and is fairly well off and is where government officials and educated people live.

The one thing I learned while cruising is that there is no Rousseau like paradise. It doesnít exist. I have met other cruisers who are disappointed in the lack of picturesque simplicity in some of the Pacific Islands. There is much natural beauty here (waterfalls, mist shrouded mountains) and even the people themselves are wonderful but they are poor and poverty is tough both to live with and sometimes to be the rich tourist looking at it.

We left Pohnpei on Saturday, January 15 headed for Lukunor. It was a series of bad events. We didnít leave with all our fuel tanks filled up, there was no wind, there was a brutal counter current and then we had a west wind (we were headed west). We turned off the engine but the seas were so huge and sloppy and were being slammed back and forth and being carried back east at 1.5 knots. We might have tried to push for Chuuk (formerly 'Truck) to the north but we decided to turn around after a 36 hours and head back to Pohnpei. We made for the little atoll just a couple miles southwest of Pohnpei called Ant Atoll. It is uninhabited and a good place to fix our generator. Our generator had a sucked something up in it and due to the plumping had to be taken apart after plugging the hole. We didnít want to do that in the Pohnpei harbor as it was too dirty.

We are a bit freaked after a three day journey to nowhere. Jonah got very seasick and seemed immune to the meds. It really adds to the exhaustion when you are caring for a sick kid and trying to deal with the rigors of sailing a big boat. In fluky winds, it is a back breaking routine of resetting sails constantly to try to get something workable. Jordan does most although I must assist in most things like reefing the main or unreefing the main or re-reefing the main etc etc. Jordan has problems sleeping on trips with bad weather and it is totally destructive by day 3 when he is trying to do all this physical labor with no sleep. I was okay in terms of seasickness although I would turn green emptying Jonahís puke bucket. I am not sure we want to do this anymore. We are all miserable. We need to regroup and think.

The weather this year is weird and there are constant tropical storms brewing which turn into cyclones. When we hit a monsoon trough on our trip we just freaked thinking we were going to be caught in another tropical storm. I donít think we can continue north to Palau and Indonesia. We are going to go south to PNG and then Australia. If we are still miserable about sailing Ė we have options. If things improve we can push on via Darwin.