Back to Sea
01 July 2010 | Hilo
We are about to head to sea again. A skant 2 weeks in Hilo is just enough. We've toured the island a bit and the last few days we spent time with my host sister, Marcianna, from Tagailap, Woleia (outer islands Yap State, Micronesia.) It is very easy to arrive in a port; it is very difficult to leave again. Once the anchor was down, we started getting out the things that had been stowed away while we are underway. All these things have to be put back in their places, along with the new provisions we just bought (canned food, fresh food.) We still have a couple more repairs to make, we need to wash the decks and set up the rig for sailing again. At some point we just have to call it good and get out of town. We plan to do that in a day or two.
Our next stop most likely will be Palmyra Atoll, an island about 1000 miles southwest of Hawaii, owned by the Nature Conservancy and jointly maintained by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It is uninhabited except for the researcher/care taker and they only allow 2 boats at a time and we can only stay for a week at most. (Sailing legend Alvah Simon may be there already on his boat "Roger Henry"; he left Hilo just a few days ago and we may overlap with him again.) Then again, we may not stop there at all - it'll depend upon the weather. We have to transit the ITCZ (formerly known as the doldrums) and at present it is 8 degrees thick (that's about 4 days sailing time.) Currently the ITCZ is hovering over Palmyra and is characterized by frequent squalls with lightning and thunder, sudden downdrafts of high winds and then periods of no wind at all. (These island visits are certainly hard-won!) Our next major port will be Samoa (another 1200 miles or so) and hope to be safely tucked away in Apia Harbor by end of July.
Visiting with my host sister has been wonderful. Besides getting to know her husband, daughter and step-sons, we've been dining like North Pacific royalty. Micronesian hospitality revolves around food. Living on a small island in an atoll with no running water or electricity can be tough at times. People from neighboring islands sometimes rely upon other islands to help supplement their food supply if a typhoon has come through and swamped the taro patches or felled too many coconut trees. Food is gathered and fished for, cooked over an open fire and served up to 15-20 people in a family daily. This means that the bulk of the work day is spent on food alone. Therefore, when Micronesians get together to party, food is a central component and it comes from the heart. They feed their guests with abandon and they make sure that when their guest leaves the party, they leave with buckets of leftovers. For the past few days my host sister and family have been feeding us as if we were at a perpetual banquet: tuna sashimi, rice, taro, salad, bbq chicken, grilled steak, grilled sausage, banana cream pie, grilled fish. They even fed us pizza one afternoon while we waited for the grilling to start! They have truly nourished us with food and love. We are now ready to survive the lean times at sea when it is just too rough to cook or eat.