19 February 2009 | Namonuito Atoll
We had a wonderful afternoon at Namonuito yesterday after our nap. No one asked us for our cruising permit or called in to Pohnpei to check up on us, though it would have been fine if they did. It was nice to be in a real out of the way atoll with people more concerned about day to day life than the bureaucracy and handouts from the mother ship. In fact, though it is only 130 miles from Moen, this place seems far more remote than Kapingamarangi.
The people here were also badly hit by the large tides. Their school, church and other structures are far worse off than the southern most atoll of FSM. People seemed in need of food staples but were self sufficient when need be. They receive a small boat from Moen perhaps twice a year. There is no other regular way to get back and forth between here and civilization. Angelique gave them 10 kilos of rice and we pitched in with what we had as well.
At and Dia from Angelique took us ashore in the afternoon to visit the village. Eric from Whistler was playing volleyball as usual. Jeff, his new crew was just enjoying the surroundings. It is pretty amazing the first time you visit a village where people are totally self reliant and without much in the way of modern invention. We brought some supplies for the school which were warmly accepted and apparently in dire need.
After a bit of mixing with the folks in the center of the village we asked the kids to take us on a tour of the island. The mayor apologized for the mess indicating that they clean up the island every Friday. The island was pretty clean, though there was some trash on the ground here and there.
The kids walked us down the main path and put on lots of antics to entertain us. An 8th grade girl played ukulele for us as we walked and often the entire group of 20 or so kids would join in singing songs. We had flower petals raining from above as some of the younger kids picked them and threw them in the air, laughing and running about. All of the buildings in the village are either leaf huts or old and fairly delapitated cinder block affairs. They had PVC plumbing for fresh water that ran the length of the island. The island was well developed with houses, the village, coconut palms and pandanas, as well as banana trees, taro patches and other things I'm sure we missed. It didn't seem crowded though.
After walking almost the length of the island we went down to the beach and came back by way of the lagoon. The fore shore is shallow and reefy with lots of coral bits on the sandy beaches. There were many lovely overhanging trees on this, the west side (which is the leeward side about 90% of the time).
After our wonderful tour we said goodbye to Jesse (mayor) and Max (Chief) who both invited us to the island for traditional dancing the next day. The day was not over though. At 9PM a crew of six guys plus Eric stopped by to take us out spear fishing. Talk about local knowledge, we motored (with fuel AT and Dia had given the people) out to the reef at the south end of the island and anchored (large cinder block) just inside of the break in the pitch dark. Then off we went with underwater flash lights and spears (many of which we supplied). Batteries are a real prized item here.
After two hours in the water we turned up five lobsters and a bunch of reef fish. We also found a sleeping sea turtle (which thankfully no one shot), and a huge Eagle Ray drifting along. I only saw one lobster and the guys we were fishing with live and die by the hunt, so neither Eric nor I had a prayer. They bagged that one and four more, two were unfortunately females with eggs. I found a big doctor fish in a hole but the opening was smaller than the fish and I didn't have a barb lock on my spear to drag him out with (expecting to go for lobster I was using a three point tip). I later brought up a good sized hog fish which one of the guys generously traded me for a lobster.
I have noticed that these people are very hardy. When it rained yesterday during our first visit with them in the anchorage, they ignored it. Hey a fresh water rinse, what's not to like? They also spent over 2 hours in the water last night in swim trunks and I saw not a shiver. I was pretty chilly in my 1/2 shortie.
It was a long day. We were wanting to leave early from a weather point of view but having a hard time saying goodbye to these wonderful folks so soon. We also wanted to see the dancing display. In the end we decided to leave in the early afternoon and packed it in for the night.
In the morning today it was squally. What a surprise. This has been our weather since we left Kapingamarangi. The GRIBs show it clearing, particularly between here and Guam but we'll just have to see. Winds are projected to be 15-25 over the next week, so we're targeting the days with the lower end of the scale. The forecast just won't give us a break in February it seems.
We went into the village at around 1PM today to say goodbye and to watch a dance show that the folks in the village had arranged for us. It was amazing. We really felt like honored guests. The chief had asked his family to make us hats from coconut leaves, very stylish and great for keeping the sun off with a 360 brow. He also gave us some copra candy. I don't know how else to describe it, it is coconut bits but made into a ball and infused with what they call honey, which is really distilled coconut milk that tastes like honey. Very tasty.
We joined what must have been close to the entire village in the public house, which is a big leaf hut with only walls on the weather side. The little kids performed songs and dances and then the women came out and did more. They had the mayor, the priest and the chief give speeches and we gave introductions. It was a mix of some English and mostly Chuukese but it worked just fine. We were so sad to leave.
But leave we did. It was leave now or stay for at least a week. So we picked up the anchor and sailed across the short seas in the 100 feet deep lagoon. The wind is bouncing around between 18 and 22 with some lulls to 15 here and there. We made about 8.5 average across the lagoon with a double reefed jib and main. We are shooting for a Saturday evening arrival in Guam.
The charts are not bad here but the exit in the reef I picked 2 miles south of the northern most island didn't match up perfectly. I adjusted the chart to match the radar of the two islands to starboard as we approached the drop off. The soundings showed 120 as the shallowest on our track but we saw 50. There were no breakers in the neighborhood, and with the seas we had it would certainly have been breaking if it was shallow. Once outside I turned off the chart offset and we headed for Guam.
We will be heading for Guam for two days (probably two more logs as well). It will be nice to be in the USA!
407 miles to Guam