[130627, 2225 UTC, Kolonia, Pohnpei, Fed. States of Micronesia
06º57.7' N / 158º 12.1' E]
A few nights back, the super (and solstice) moon rose slowly and made the cumulus clouds suddenly three dimensional. We sat on deck to savor the dry, cool evening and the spectacle of the moon. The brightness of the moon made it almost like dawn all night and the fauna around us responded accordingly as we could hear the sounds of pigs, chickens, seabirds and fishes throughout the night as temperatures plummeted (okay, probably to 75 F) and a cool breeze enveloped us. Such a beautiful moon has been absent in the lives of all of Pohnpei's creatures for awhile as it is summer, the cloudy, rainy season.
The summer season brings a fickle convergence zone that wanders north and south and brings humidity, dampness and mold. To give you an idea of how damp it is, we fired up the radar one day to warm it up and put it through its paces and were confounded by the poor distinction in targets - the seas all around us looked like a big black blob. Leslie, font of panic, quickly began tweaking the settings and after about 10 minutes of fiddling, activated the rain gain - the setting we employ to try to see real targets when it is raining and, voila, targets began to appear. A setting we use during squalls cleaned the screen up nicely - but IT WASN'T raining.
When it IS raining here, it is intense. The drops are usually big and closely packed. A rainstorm of 5 minutes can drop a tremendous amount of water. A longer shower a few days back filled and almost sunk the dinghy in less than an hour. Rain doesn't sneak up though; you can hear it coming like a river through the lush jungle over Kolonia and Kapingamarangi to our east and then hear it going as it envelopes the slopes of Sokehs' ridge to our west.
Since Leslie finished up teaching for the summer, life has been a hectic combination of chores, sail repair, planning for Les' trip west (to visit family in CT), executing projects and "investing" in the voyage of the good ship Carina! We've enjoyed just getting up late (that is 6 am instead of 5 am) and settling into a schedule firmly rooted in no schedules and in company of each other.
We took the plunge and bought a Profurl roller furler (on Ebay) for our staysail and will modify our existing sail once the rigging arrives by ocean cargo and we get it installed. We also replaced our GPS because the LCD screen was beginning to blacken and climbed the mast to replace the apparent wind indicator which had been crushed by a boobie during our last passage. Next we began seriously pricing mainsails and concluded it was best if we built our own from a kit. We'll start that project as soon as it arrives. Throw in varnishing (a never ending job), keeping ahead of the green slime and cleaning in corners that have been over-looked for awhile (while we were having fun) and life is busy.
The folks in the Post Office know us well. In fact, tall stately Kapacena with her enigmatic Mona Lisa eyes and smile is usually ready for Philip before he opens the second glass door bringing him to her station. Tuesday, as soon as he entered and before he could speak, she smiled and handed him a long yellow card and directed him around back to visit Customs. She knew, but we did not yet know, that this was our errant package containing a netbook computer that had gone missing two months earlier. Apparently the USPS in Honolulu decided our airmail package might enjoy a cruise to Pohnpei so they shipped it by freighter.
Most of our cruising friends have sailed west - and we miss them and the camaraderie of our lively visits - but a few new boats have actually arrived despite our entre into the season when typhoons are a risk. A Danish boat with seven aboard, many of them lovely young women, graced the anchorage for a few weeks. They didn't leave though without entertaining the local populace by dragging anchor during a nighttime rambunctious squall and spending 18 hours hard aground on a reef. Late to arrive was an Aussie boat we like to call the "boatbillies". An old wooden fishing boat of pleasing lines, the boat (it's NOT a yacht if you ask the captain, "it's a ship!"), has been modified and modified to carry a precariously high house and an overhanging back deck shaded by an wide plastic tarpaulin tarp. A full sized carving of a naked woman is lashed to the bowsprit. Many local punts scream up, cut their motors and slowly circle our neighbor's vessel.
We particularly enjoyed the visit of the MV Shearwater. This, a posh Diesel Duck trawler-type vessel, equipped with sails for additional power downwind, came through eastbound from Asia and are now on their way (eventually) to Seattle. We enjoyed an outing to Nan Madol and to "Manta Road" with them.
The trip to Manta Road (an isolated spot on the reef on the northeast side of Pohnpei) was our third or forth; we've lost count. Until this trip our leviathan friends eluded us. This day however, mantas were immediately spotted 30-50' below and we were thrilled. For perhaps an hour we watched them and those with underwater equipment took video and photos. Eventually we all swam back to the boat owned by Anter ("ANT- chur", a local who takes out many dive expeditions) and climbed aboard sharing the moment.
As we chatted, Anter continued to snorkel and watch the mantas. We were happy to sit in the sun, enjoy the breeze and share our experiences of snorkeling with these amazing creatures. Finally, Anter came aboard, released the mooring and we drifted across the pass in the reef. Just about the time Anter pulled the cord to start his engine, a white flash near the surface appeared. Then another, then a large black flash. Anter idled his engine and we drifted with the wind and more and more flashes appeared that brought a huge gap toothed smile on Anter's face. Suddenly there was a scramble in the boat, "If we stay here any longer, I'm going in" said Mike. "I'll go with you", replied Roger. And, in we went, into schools of thousands of fish and perhaps ten or twelve massive mantas swimming sometimes within inches of us. They seemed to come from everywhere, pirouetting around each other and us! It was a feeding frenzy and as it unfolded, we could look down into the very bowels of the mantas' bodies as they came up from 50' towards the surface (and us!) with their enormous mouths opened widely, swooping away gracefully at just the last second. It's a good thing that the largest thing they eat is plankton.
Pohnpei continues to be a great experience for us, though the mozzarella cheese supply is running low and (as ever, Kristy) the tonic water ship seems to pass us by. As you know, tonic water has medicinal properties which helps to keep malaria at bay as long as the bitter taste is tempered with a bit of gin.
Your friends of the yacht Carina,
Philip, Leslie and fat cat, Jake