[160726, 0035 UTC, Leaving Palau,07°20.4'N / 134°27.1'E]
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We apologize for the dearth of updates, but events from afar have often challenged our good cheer and made it hard to send upbeat messages of our escapades in the small but booming Republic of Palau.
Our stay in Palau will end as soon as wind begins to whistle, even sotto voce, in Carina's rig. When we leave, we will set sail for Ninigo Islands in Papua New Guinea, 800 nautical miles due southeast. We still have last minute supplies and formalities to complete, but our overwhelming lists have shrunk considerably over the last weeks. As we wait for weather, we remind ourselves we will be a tiny sailboat on a big sea with almost 2000 nautical miles to travel before our next opportunity to buy fuel at Pohnpei, so we must have wind. We also need to remind ourselves, that there is no such thing as a window for the entire passage, only that for departure, as weather changes rapidly here. Clear of land, we'll sail to the wind that is given us. Our path should take us well south of any cyclone danger, into areas of light wind and occasional squally weather, and, we hope, a bit of a push by a favorable current (wouldn't that be unusual?).
One reality of departure is saying goodbye to friends - new and old - who we will leave behind with a hug and a promise to stay in touch. It's very much a part of the cruising life that you make fast and strong bonds with people from everywhere on earth you can possibly imagine who will soon leave you as they continue on their journey or who you will have to leave behind as you continue on yours. Still knowing this and having dealt with it dozens of times before, it doesn't get any easier.
As we write, the rising sun is shining brightly on the islands to our west, though we are still shaded and cool and are savoring the dawn before the temperature and humidity soar, and the storm clouds to begin their rapid rise up into the sky. Soon we will peddle off to town on our bicycles, lists in hand, making our last purchases of commodities for the islanders - flour, sugar, salt, rice - and fresh supplies for our galley. We've been very very busy of late, working on important maintenance on Carina while checking our lists thrice and making sure we have everything we need for up to three months of independent travel in some of the most out-of-the-way places you can find in the Pacific. Over the years of cruising, we have developed multi-page checklists of things to evaluate before we commit ourselves to an offshore passage - two weeks before, one week before, the day before - you get the idea. In checking the function of our navigation lights, we discovered the starboard light to be functioning only marginally; the LED appeared to be failing. Not a biggie but something that needed to be fixed. This is a good example of how things fail in the marine environment. Navigation lights function normally until...they don't anymore.
Between working on Carina and our Ninigo project (and Leslie's enrollment in free glass-blowing lessons at the recycling center at the local dump), we have stolen away for short but glorious excursions out of town exploring the caves, coves and underwater glories of Palau, sometimes with good friends, but more often alone. We've tried to capture these adventures in photo journals, which you can access from our new timeline on our website at: http://sv-carina.org/OurJourney.htm
While the Rock Islands are bliss, even the yacht basin is still a lovely place to reside, so we aren't suffering when we are stuck in town. The RBYC and Sam's Tours, our host and landing place, is filled each day with interesting outdoor adventure tourists. The yachting community has shrunk with the wet season, but those of us still here, including Sam himself, stay close and try to socialize. Our regular bike excursions into town afford us encounters with good friends and the friendly working people at our regular haunts. Our mooring, a conglomeration consisting of a large concrete block, substantial chain, a HUGE anchor and a coral boulder wrapped in 2" lines, sits next to a World War II Japanese depth charge canister in crystal clear water amongst colorful lettuce and stag coral. We were told by the pros at Cleared Ground (clearedground.org) that the depth charge has been de-fused - thank you Steve & Cass! We certainly hope so as it would be a bit disconcerting to disappear in a flaming undersea explosion.
Carina is a stout girl, but as our departure nears, she is loaded low in the water with hundreds and hundreds of pounds of supplies for the Ninigo Island people - food, clothing, footwear, medical supplies, tools, books, personal letters, electrical supplies, navigation gear, boat building supplies, sailing gear - donated and purchased with the help of almost 60 good people representing 15 countries and 18 sailboats. These donations will be warmly received by the worthy people there who see only a few visiting yachts each year and who are nearly cut off from "civilization". The outpouring of generosity and compassion has helped to make us smile as we have struggled through the loss of Jake, the tragedies of our friends' murders at the hands of Philippine barbarians, our worry of our third friend's fate, and the distressing news emanating from many corners of the earth - including home.
One thing pushing us to sail soon is our desire to arrive well ahead of this year's canoe racing regatta to be held in late August. Ninety sailing canoes, normally used for inter-island travel and fishing, will race over five days. These small canoes have been used for centuries and are documented in the book "We, the Navigators" by David Lewis. In this modern day they are powered by sails made of poly tarps rather than woven pandanus and can fly along at 10 knots! Aboard Carina, we have the remnants of a genoa donated by the yacht, Changing Spots, and six new tarps (donated by the good folks aboard SV Tenaya) as well as two we have salvaged from a dumpster. The annual regatta should bring together many of the residents of the scattered small islands of the group that are governed, not by chiefs, but by wardens who are elected by the people. We will work with the council of wardens to effect equitable distribution of the goods we will be bringing, aside from those specifically designated for particular individuals.
Our plans are to spend a month or so in Ninigo and then head NE stopping along the way at a tiny flyspeck of an island atoll in the middle of nowhere, Kapingamarangi, along the way. From there we'll head to Pohnpei where we'll spend a number of months before pushing off for the long trip from Pohnpei to Alaska. But that is another adventure for another day.
We will not be able to update our website after we depart until we reach internet again. But we WILL be updating our positions and our blog by email both of which you can access by visiting our website: http://sv-carina.org
To see our position reports click: WHERE ARE WE NOW? Or to see our blog - click on OUR OCEAN LOGS. Until we see you again, hugs to all.
Your friends of the yacht Carina,
Philip, Leslie and the spirit of the fat cat, Jake