[130123, 0640 UTC, Kolonia, Pohnpei, Fed.States of micronesia
06º58' N / 158º 12' E]
We last wrote when we were sailing north on the fringes of a tropical depression in the South Pacific. 2012 was an eventful year for us as many of you know; we sailed about 4,000 miles and experienced many sailing, health and cultural challenges.
Now in Pohnpei in the Caroline Islands, we will slow our pace a bit and enjoy this lovely and safe haven. Meanwhile, Leslie will fill in as a part time instructor at the College of Micronesia in its Science and Math division and Carina will get a wee bit of TLC. Philip will exercise his cardiovascular system by walking briskly everywhere, up and down hills, and hauling supplies.
Our trip from the Solomons was amazingly blessed by monsoon winds from the west that propelled us east northeast almost to the equator when suddenly—within a 5 minutes or less—winds turned south easterly. Thankfully, the following day, winds went northerly and we beat hard-to-weather due east during daylight hours to reach our goal of 164 west. This allowed us to tack NNE and make Kosrae (KOHS rye) without another tack. On this last leg, we encountered repeated vicious and capricious squalls one of which we misjudged, in spite of tracking squalls using our Furuno radar, and came almost to a knockdown. The end result was we threw a batten from our mainsail and then ripped it from flogging the poor old tired thing- a reasonable outcome for a nasty encounter. We'll probably patch it again but have already begun budgeting for the replacement.
Kosrae is a lush, deep green jungle-covered island and was a glorious sight to our passage-weary eyes. Reminiscent of Oa Poa in the Marquasas, though not quite as spectacular, the peaks of its range, the so called Sleeping Lady, reach to the sky. Lelu Harbor on the windward side of the island, 0.25 mile mis-charted, is otherwise easily entered and we anchored in the small bay near Tomboy, Alcidae II, Maia and an unoccupied boat owned by CLODS (cruisers living on dirt) from Australia.
It felt so glorious to be finally at stopped and at rest and we slept like babies while strong tradewinds made the rigging hum, and the march of small swell wrapping into the bay made Carina rock gently. Monday morning dawned and we called the port authority who directed us to go alongside of the remains of a concrete commercial pier. And though it was somewhat sheltered from the tradwinds by Lelu Island, strong currents made docking a feat. Thankfully we had the able assistance of Tom and Janis of Tomboy and after a typical comedy, we secured our lines and waited. And waited. On island time, officials came to Carina, though only one came aboard, the affable Derek of FSM Quarantine. All other officials looked down at the gap between Carina and the pier, the drop to our deck, the rusted chains and crumbling concrete, and politely declined our invitation to board, asking instead of we hand papers up to them.
When we finally got ashore, we quickly learned that Kosrae is a rural place where everyone knows you have arrived. Passing cars stop, unbidden, and offer you a ride, if only so they can find out which boat you own, where you are from and how long you will stay. There is reportedly a taxi on the island but those who have called it say a call and an actual ride are never guaranteed to be associated. So we walked across the causeway which connects Lelu Island and Kosrae Island and walked north on the windward side coastal road, paved on a narrow barrier island between mangroves and the sea, seeking the best outlets for provisions. We were low on almost everything, including cat food, and you-know-who insists upon eating regularly. Our windswept walk was disheartening; the grocery listed as having the "best selection" reminded us of a garage sale a couple hours after opening...where the only items left for sale are pretty sketchy. We did score a bit of locally grown pork at a bargain rate in a store a bit further up the highway, but since the following morning found us freezer-less and fridge-less, life just got more interesting instead of easier.
Yes, our trusty 'fridge was acting up, so the wee bit of food we had remaining in the box quickly began to warm to tropical temperatures. Scrambling to fix it, we added refrigerant, consulted our neighbor Greg on Alcidae III (a skilled technician of such systems) and finally a local man. We found the local by walking past the strip-mall-sized church under construction (more on this later), and around the corner until we found the house with a refrigeration junk yard for a lawn. A few days and much data collection and tweaking later, our compressor was declared moribund and we had to pull out the VISA and order a new one. Ca-ching, another unbudgeted investment.
Also on our minds was our propane supply since the last time we were able to refill our tanks was in Honiara and we left there in September. Jake likes to eat but Philip is a foodie and running out of propane was not an option unless we, Jake and I, wanted to live with a cranky captain. And, as we were to learn, there is no propane on Kosrae. Crazy, huh? Thinking ourselves clever, we found bottles of torch propane in Ace Hardware and were actually able to find fittings in our spares which would allow us to plumb them in. Oh boy; as it turns out the pressure in those little tanks—not the Coleman sized ones, mind you, the skinnier torch sized ones—is much too high for the house system and when we hooked up the hose and broke the seal on the tiny tank, we began to shoot propane out of every seal up to, and including, the solenoid. Thinking this was a good recipe for making a boat bomb, we accepted the fact we could only use the little tanks only for the BBQ.
All of these little concerns compounded until we came to the realization that our stop at Kosrae would be short. This year was the once-every-four-year festival that finds the diaspora of Kosrae arriving from Guam, Hawaii, Majuro, Philippines, Seattle, etc., for an island-wide Christmas celebration for which, a new church is built. Lelu was hosting the celebration this year—thus the massive church under construction just ashore—so we would have had a front row seat to view the costumes and singing and marching.
Lelu Island, which forms Lelu Harbor, was the ancient home of the royalty of Kosrae. Ruins of their compound and their system of canals remain (immediately behind the chain link fence of the Ace Commercial store), though the site is crumbling and neglected. Thirty year old signs installed by archaeologists are illegible and the jungle is slowly razing the immense stone structures and erasing the evidence of the city. Sad.
Resigned to leaving, Philip dinghy and car-pooled with Mark, Fran and Matthew (their four year old little blond pirate) from the charter motor-sailer, Maia. Gracious Mark and Maria Stephens of the lovely Tree Lodge Resort lent them a car so they could visit the newly appointed Port Authority manager, an irascible character who had already created waves. The short story is that Reedson, the PA manager, had begun attempting to charge yachts $25 per day for each day they anchored at Kosrae. And, though Philip and company were armed with a letter from the Kosrae State attorney general stating that the statute read $25 per visit, the two hour long meeting was unpleasant at best. Apparently the intention of the PA manager is to discourage yacht visitors, who he believes are destroying Kosraen culture, so that "his people" can return to traditional ways; dugouts and taro.
We won't bore you with the gory details or subsequent negative experiences by other yachts seeking departure clearance (who have been over-charged), but we do want to discourage yachts from visiting Kosrae until such time that the State Government changes its practices and once again welcomes our visits, our boost to the economy and our international good will.
Papers finally in hand, we hoisted our staysail and trysail (our mainsail was still ripped), and slowly motored out into rolling seas and brisk tradewinds, rolled out the genoa and sailed around the NE cape and off towards Pohnpei, 325 nm away. Our expectation had been for a stable weather pattern - as promised by the NWS and computer generated GFS GRIBS - but instead we got two days of calms with only brief, screeching interruptions by squalls which sometimes (and always at night) shifted and accelerated our winds and soaked us before stalling or turning back and coming at us from another point of the compass. Grrr. Day three we finally got sun and tradewinds and Carina was once again blazing along putting on miles. Our last night at sea was as perfect a sailing night as can be expected; 15-20 knots abeam, 2 meter seas, a waxing nearly-full moon and only puffy clouds drifting by to change the scene in the immense sky above.
Your friends of the yacht Carina,
Philip, Leslie and fat cat, Jake