February 16, 2013
We arrived in Pohnpei after a 300 mile 2 day sail from Kosrae. We did not have much luck fishing on the way over but the winds blew us along nicely the whole way. Pohnpei is one of the biggest islands we had been to since New Caledonia, nearly 130 sq. miles and is surrounded by a huge reef system that lies one half to up to 2 miles off shore. On passage during the night I usually get up every hour to look around for traffic and to check our position. Since we are only going 7 or 8 miles an hour things change slowly on the charts and thankfully traffic is far and few between in this part of the world. I was up around 1 am and everything was looking fine and we were 35 miles from the island, but the next time I woke up I looked at the chart plotter the clock said 4:30 and showed we were just 9 miles off the reef! Talk about oversleeping will kill ya! But in reality we were still well over an hour away from land….but this is exactly how boats get onto reefs, just ask the guys who were driving the wrecks smashed up on them!
Jokaj Pass is on the NW side of the island and had waves breaking on either side from an 8 foot swell and things were not lining up on the plotter again, but we made our way through the pass and proceeded to the customs dock to clear in without any problems. The clearing process was all organized by the port captain and within an hour the paper work was all finished. The channel to the anchorage was littered with at least 5 sunken boats that thankfully had markers on them this week but a week or so earlier a cruiser hit one that the mark had fallen off of! The commercial harbor looks like a place where the fishing fleet comes to die with at least 40 boats laying in rusted heaps sunk along the shoreline. A few years back an Aussie came in and offered to clean it all up for only the scrap metal as payment, but you guessed it the government wanted a cut and now the boats will be eye sores for eternity.
The water in the anchorage is forest green from all the run off and raw sewage that gets pumped into the bay. The island is apparently working on fixing the non-existent treatment plant but it could be years before anything happens?
Pohnpei is one of the wettest places on earth and receives over 300 inches of rain a year! February is the “DRY” season and during the 2 weeks we were there we only got an inch of rain! It was so dry in fact that all the hotels and businesses had run out of water during the last few days since rain is their only source of water they were all hoping for rain.
Several of the boats here have had the anchor down for months or even years….I think these boats were some peoples a one way ticket to paradise and they find they just can not go back to the craziness of life back in the states again. Two other boats were owned by local business men that have a weekend retreat floating nearby. One such boat was being taken care of by a guy named Robinson who was our connection in finding most anything we needed. We had the gas cans filled, ,the boat polished, Island souvenirs brought to us, along with locally grown produce. He would come by most days and just ask us what we needed. This was nice to have and the first time in forever that we had this kind of service come to us. Thanks Robinson!
The first day we arrived in Pohnpei (Friday, first of Feb) there was a Rotary Club party at Cupids Restaurant to raise money for the local kids. It was a lot of fun to meet the locals and by the end of the night we had won a raffle prize and organized a poker game for later in the week on Downtime.
Sunday was Daria’s birthday and we had free internet (pirated via our booster) so she could talk to all her friends and family back home. Later that afternoon we went out for a nice dinner with Paolo and his new crew on Supermario on the far side of the island at the Village Hotel Restaurant. Sadly the place faced east and the sunsets to the west(yep even here)was not that great but the food made up for it. It is probably the fanciest place in all Micronesia but had a nice local feel to it.
Next day we enjoyed local Cinema with new movie and we were only ones in the theater. Very romantic.
We took a trip to the Ruins of Nan Madol one day which are some of the largest and oldest sites in the Pacific covering almost 200 acres and over 2000 years old. Some say it took over 100 years to build and like in Kosrae the basalt stones they used in the construction of the twenty foot high walls weighed thousands of pounds each. Just a few of the ruins on the 90 some small islands they build out on the reef remain and are recognizable, others are overgrown with jungle or have been torn down in the last 200 years.
Like many of the islands in the Pacific the populations was nearly wiped out by the visiting Spanish and English ships who brought the Small Pox and other diseases over to this part of the world. Some say over 80% of the Pacific population died from these virus’s back in the 1800’s!
Strangely this island has very few beaches to enjoy and the coastline is covered in mangroves. Inside the reef the navigation is tricky and there are literally thousands of coral heads to dodge when you are driving inside it.
One other day we took Downtime out to the reef to kite surf. Paolo had met a couple from Sweden who was there on a 2 month vacation and Sasha came along and the three of us went out to ride the waves which were huge that day!
Like I said before kite surfing is one of those sports where everything has to be just right…..I had repaired my bar/lines after breaking a line the last time out when it got tangled launching it off the back of Downtime. I thought I had it all repaired correctly….Well, all except that the new line I put on must have been a few inches longer than the one I replaced! These few extra inches on one side made the kite turn left really good but turning right was almost impossible! After all that work I decided to just “ride it out” which was not that great of an idea considering I was going to go play in 8 foot waves! Going out of the pass I was pulling hard to keep the kite right and at the top of the first big wave I turned left just a little and the kite took off and went strait up pulling me 20 feet up in the air with it! Wow it really turned left fast! Meanwhile Paolo was having a hard time since his kite was too small and he was fighting to get back to Downtime for a bigger one. I did not want a repeat of flying uncontrolled into the sky so I also made my way back to fix my lines. Sasha on the other hand had it all going his way with the right kite and board for riding the waves and was having a blast out there!
With all the free internet time we spent the next few days planning and buying tickets for a trip back to the states this summer. This will be my first time back to Kansas in almost 3 years! Strange how fast time goes….Also we bought ticket for Daria to Russia for May and part of June to see her family in the spring time.
Between our busy time with the Internet we went couple of times to Rusty Anchor to be social.
And Sasha invited us and Paolo with Nadin for dinner, which was very nice and sweet of him and his family! They served dinner on tables outside and the kids decorated it with fresh flowers and shells, very beautiful. We had a great time! Thanks Sasha!
On Poker Night we played for hours on Downtime and Daria finally won! It was a lot of fun and laughs….and beers!
Our 5 day stay quickly turned into 2 weeks and it was back to Cupids for Valentine’s day which I thought was quite an appropriate place to have dinner on valentines. The tables were set in nice white table cloths and the silk roses were in the vases. I guess they want to have red roses, but no fresh roses in paradise so silk had to do. The 32 ounce T-bone looked more on the 16 ounce side and the first 4 brands of beers I ordered were out of stock and the only wine came out of a box I think? Oh the things you have to put up with in paradise, I guess we are spoiled on Downtime with beef and lamb from New Zealand.
The last few days Daria spent searching the markets for anything fresh and green. The local vegetable stand had pretty slim pickings but between the 3 or 4 major grocery stores she found enough to get by on. Our new mission is to try and eat all the food stored on the boat before July, so no more dry goods or cans can come aboard. But she did find 13 pints of Haagen-Dazs ice-cream that fit nicely in the freezer!
Finally we had enough of this dirty anchorage and cleared out the next day which was as easy as clearing in. The port Captain met us at the dock and took me to town to pay the port fees of $100 and the other officials met us at the boat during the next hour.
While we waited we watched one of the 20 or so Chinese tuna boats unloading its catch on the wharf next to us. A small truck with a portable hydraulic lift pulled up next to the boat and began lifting 40 tons of rock hard frozen 2 to 3 hundred pound tunas off the boat and into metal shuttle boxes that a fork lift would haul away to the freezer. It is hard to imagine how many fish are pulled out of the sea each day……there has to be millions and millions of fish in the sea!
Having cleared out we set sail for Ant Atoll just 20 miles to the south. Everyone said it was not to be missed and had beautiful beaches and great snorkeling. Well we might be getting hard to please after New Caledonia and all the other places we have been so lucky to see… I thought it was just OK….
Daria took the paddle board out to the reef and took some great pictures while I spent the morning scrubbing the bottom of the boat knocking off everything that started growing in the dirty harbor.
Next afternoon we sailed off into the sunset to our next destination Lukunor island 270 miles to the west.
Peace until then,
Pete and Daria
PS: the best part of Pohnpei was free Internet, but if you don’t need it, you can skip Pohnpei and spend more days in Kosrae… You always have to choose, can’t have it all! Right now we are having wonderful time in very traditional and friendly Lamotrek Island. And story about Puluwat coming…