Clearing in day Two!
04 February 2009 | Chuuk
We got up this morning and had eggs for breakfast! Might not seem special to you, but eggs are surprisingly hard to come by in the Solomons and remote islands between there and here. It had been a less than optimal evening on the cargo ship quay but a nice breakfast and easy access to the stores made up for it.
The problem with the quay is that you just can't get tied up in such a way that your boat will be at rest. It is a roadstead and there's a couple feet of tide, a couple feet of slow rolling swell and a lot of small boat wake mixing together, fore and aft, side to side. We were eager to move out into the islands.
We came for the wreck diving. As it turns out there are wrecks everywhere. So many you need to be careful navigating and anchoring. Quite a few are modern era, not WWII. For instance the Chuuk State island freighter that used to make the runs from Moen to the outer islands is now lying on its side next to the quay. I was told that it met its match in the last Typhoon they had, about five years back. It is not alone.
Eleven AM and Mrs. Mori from Immigration never showed up. The diesel guy, who is actually an American, did come by as scheduled though. It was raining so hard and often though that it took three stints to get the tanks filled. We had to keep closing everything up and running inside the boat, while the diesel guy sheltered in his truck.
Health showed up out of the blue in the afternoon. They looked at our immunization cards and our most recent physical exam records and that was that. So the total official visits was now up to five (Health, Immigration, Customs, Port, Quarantine). I was talking to an Australian who is here as a tax adviser to the government and he indicated that the government is largely funded by the USA and that something like 20% of the population in many areas work for the government. If there's one place in the world that needs less government it is here!
We sat on the quay all day waiting for immigration to bring out passports and our cruising permits. We had sent in the cruising permit applications from Gizo over a month ago. The email exchange with Pohnpei was much like consulting with the great Atun of Planet 7. You can make your requests of the oracle but little indication of your disposition will be forthcoming.
Mrs Mori from immigration showed up at 3PM, four hours late, with a story about the air plane creating a slow down in her day. There is one flight a day into Chuuk and it is the same every day. She had nothing. In fact we had to give here new copies of our application for cruising, crew list and ship particulars. It didn't seem to matter that we had already sent all of this in to the capital via email. She left and said she would try to return at 5PM with our permits and passports. No such luck.
Eric on Whistler had started his process a day before us and just got all of his stuff back today. He left the dock for the anchorage south of here off of the Continental Hotel (now the Blue Lagoon) a bit before sunset. We were all envious and hope to join him soon. After all we came here to anchor around the islands and go SCUBA diving (which you can only do with a guide), not to sit in the container port.
This has been by far the most confused circus of officialdom I have ever experienced in any country (and we've been in and out of over 30). There was no way we were staying on the quay another night. Our boat had not been damaged yet, but I wasn't going to wait for it. Our fenders and dock lines were certainly no better for the wear. We left the dock just after sunset. We were certain immigration was not coming at this point, they no showed but did not have the courtesy to tell us they would not be back until tomorrow.
We anchored off of the quay far enough to avoid most of the small boat traffic. The bay next to the quay is the shuttle harbor where all of the boats running about the islands in the lagoon converge. Things pretty much shut down after sunset though. The harbor bottom is pretty scoured and we had to try twice to get a set.
Once settled we dinghied over to Angelique. She was still on the quay, At and Dia had a nice fender board out which allowed them to tolerate the wall and its huge vertical bushings better than we could. The rain throughout the day had made the streets so muddy and flooded that you could not walk to the Truk Stop (the only restaurant in the area) without getting soaked. The dinghy was a far more civilized solution.
We all had another pleasant meal at the Truk Stop and retired to await clearance day three.