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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
The Japanese are coming
Randy
02/27/2009, MYC

Actually they are already here. If you go to the tourist areas of Guam you will find scads of Japanese (mostly younger folks). The place is virtually tailored for the Japanese tourist. Lots of high fashion outlets and big stores with little knick nacks for the friends back home (buying gifts for friends when you travel is a long standing Japanese tradition).

Many signs in Guam give equal time to English and Japanese. Lots of people speak Japanese as well. Every menu has Japanese on it and even Denny's serves Ramen and other surprising eastern additions. There are some Korean tourists about and a few Chinese but these get by with English.

You really don't see any American tourists, unless you count the US Navy servicemen, 25% of Guam's population. Half the folks on Guam are of Chamoro descent (the native people of the Marianas Islands) and the other 25% are Philippino.

I was waiting in the parking lot at Kmart for Hideko when a guy came up to me wanting to sell his band's CD. It turned out he was from Palau, I got some good cruising tips in exchange for the CD (not my style). Another guy we met was from Saipan. He was surprised no one on Guam spoke the Chamoro language that all of his family on Saipan used daily. So while it seems that the American influence has created a fairly material situation here on Guam with the Japanese Yen and the US dollar running the show, it is one of the cleanest and safest islands, with the best schools, in this part of the pacific. Many islanders from all around come here to work and raise their families. The Marshal Islanders, FSM folks and Palauans can all come and go just like US citizens.

The Japanese we were interested in arrived today. There are normally 7 or more, but this year the economy dictated only two Japanese arriving to take part in the Marianas Yacht Club good will regatta. This weekend the two Japanese guests and a host of locals (plus Eric) will be taking part in a set of Laser races in the harbor. We still have winds 20-25 knots here so it will be an exciting, and likely wet, time for the whole club. The Japanese are reported to take 1st and 2nd every year.

Hideko is a wonderful ambassador for the Japanese folks we meet all over the world. She made short order of introductions and we all enjoyed chatting with the new visitors. We also have a new friend in the anchorage, Masa San. Masa San is a single hander who has sailed all around the Pacific on his Yamaha production sailboat Nuk (who knew Yamaha made a Beneteau like 37 footer?!). We first met Masa San in Tahiti. He is a big HAM and does weather in Japanese on at least one net from his boat.

As Hideko and I cruised the Caribbean we saw few Asians and it was an exciting time if we actually met another Japanese person. Now we are moving into an area where we see few westerners and it will be exciting to see another American. It is a vast and interesting world.

Guam
Shopping Guam
Randy
02/26/2009, Guam

Guam gets our vote for #1 place to restock and buy gear in the Pacific (so far). You have to have a car to get around, but hey, what's new, it's America. Armed with a car (as little as $125 a week), a cell phone ($20 for a GSM sim) and a laptop (free wifi internet is everywhere) you can move mountains.

For food I would visit Cost-u-Less. Two to choose from located just down from the Premiere Outlets and a couple blocks past the Micronesian Mall, Cost-u-Less is like Costco with a great selection of food (boxed, canned, frozen and fresh). It is a perfect place for provisioning a yacht. There are many great US style grocery stores around as well. Payless is a US style grocery store a block behind Premiere Outlets (open 24 hours). California Mart is located next to the Premiere Outlets and has a lot of Asian stuff. Tokyo Mart is a Japanese grocery and is next to the Cost-u-Less, also just down from Premiere Outlets.

Electronics are not the islands strong point compared to a yachty type town in the US but you can get by. There is an ICOM dealer up by the airport with hand held VHFs, fixed mount VHFs and SSBs in stock. They will have or can get anything ICOM in about a week. They are also real radio professionals and can sort out problems and make cables, etceteras (I discovered that they work on island time though). They also do big solar and wind installations and have yacht suitable wind generators and solar panels.

For general chandlery there is the Coral Reef chandler. They are like a small West Marine. You can get most of what you need there and they can order anything you want (most shops lean on West Marine Port Supply pretty heavily). There's also a Mercury repair/dealer on the main drag (Marine Corp Drive) that has a fair stock of boat bits and they fix outboards for cheap ($35 for Eric's 8hp repair).

For general stuff there is a huge Home Depot and a big Kmart. This particular Kmart is also open 24 hours. There are two malls, the Micronesian Mall and the Primiere Outlet Mall, not to mention the huge tourist district shopping area. There are several well stocked Napa stores a big True Value Hardware and a larger Ace Hardware. You can easily get any kind of welding and other types of fabrication done here.

Several dive shops can supply your scuba and related gear needs. I found the perfect 1mm full suit that I had been looking for at Micronesia Divers Association (MDA) on Marine Corps Drive. MDA is a great place to get your gear serviced also.

You can get dinghies, surfer boards, and lots of beach wear in the tourist district. DNA is a great shop for beach cloths and water sports stuff. You can also eat to your heart's content at Tony Romas, various Sushi spots, Outback Steak House, Teppanyaki, Planet Holywood, Vietnamese, Hard Rock Café, Korean Barbeque, Steaks and Shakes, Mickey Ds, BK, California Pizza Kitchen, Taco Bell, or any number of fancy hotel restaurants or Mall food courts.

Tie all of this to the spectacular hospitality of the folks at the Marianas Yacht Club and you have a perfect setting. Guam is the US so you can ship anything that can go air here from the US for cheap, and with no customs! US Mail has been taking us about 2-3 days. You can ship to the yacht club's PO Box and then pick it up at the post office. This kind of cheap shipping means that products from the entire West Marine catalog, Harken catalog, and others, not to mention Amazon, are close at hand.

The down side is that there is no real cruiser friendly marina. There is a marina in Agat but they are pretty much locals only, full up and not interested in big boats (50' or more). There is a beautiful marina in the Navy base but you need a base pass for that one (I considered joining the Coast Guard Reserve for that one...). There is a small derelict marina in the harbor of refuge and a larger commercial marina in town but neither is a place that would welcome a cruising yacht. The Marianas Yacht Club is really the best spot for transient cruisers.

The island at large doesn't know what a sail boat is. This last point means that you will not find a rigger, sail loft or that bit of deck hardware you were looking for. Fiberglass work, engine repair or anything else needed to support the power boat world will be no problem. There is also no real haul out facility. You will read about hiring a crane in the old cruising snippets but this is a project you would need a fair amount of time to arrange and it could be very pricey (not to mention dangerous) unless you have the right contacts.

Guam
The Marianas Yacht Club
Randy
02/25/2009, Guam

The yacht club is a wonderful slice of Guam. It is comprised of Americans from State Side, for the most part, who want to keep in touch with their sailing genes. The Apra harbor is big and very protected. The yacht club is nestled about half way back into the mangrove marine preserve.

It is a very reefy area and it would be a good idea to get a guide or come in with good light your first time. Once oriented you should be able to get around with no problem. There is no dinghy dock but there is a nice beach area for landing with trees to tie to and the tide is generally two feet or less.

The mooring field is not brand new. I dove on our mooring and found as much as 50% of the material missing from the inside cusp of the chain links here and there. It is big chain however and the chain runs from the mooring (which is substantial) to the main float. From the main float you have a rope pendant that is a little thin and under serviced from my perspective (I would prefer splices to knots and a bit of fire hose sewn on to the eyes for chafe protection).

There's enough room to anchor in the mooring field here and there but beware, the bottom is littered with huge chain and rode from prior naval denizens. Unhooking an anchor here could be tough because the visibility ranges from 10 to 0 feet and the depths are 20 to 60 feet.

If you pick up a mooring here I would definitely dive on it and check all of the shackles, the chain, the mooring itself and the rope pendant. I tied a safety line to the chain because I didn't like the condition of our pendant given the perpetual 25 knot winds. Some folks have put out anchors but I would recommend just anchoring if you are that concerned with the mooring.

The yacht club proper is a nice open air building with a bar and grill open on Friday night, as well as Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Everyone at the club knows everyone and the members are welcoming and friendly to the cruiser guests. The phone at the club is free to use for local calls and there is a phone book right there. The club has fast wifi internet access for free (though you can't pick it up in the anchorage with a normal external antenna). Water is available for free and there are clean restrooms and cold water showers behind the club (hot water is available if you pay for the heater's operation). The club room has a TV with DVD player and local cable. The club will receive your mail for you and you can dispose of trash in the dumpster (separate out the card board for recycling please). It is a wonderful place and hard to beat at $25 per week.

Guam
Tumon Bay
Randy
02/24/2009, Tumon Bay

We visited Tumon Bay again today. The main tourist beach is a very lovely spot. Very touristy but very lovely. There are many large hotels along the coast. The outer reef keeps the bay calm and you can swim for 100 meters or so in standing depth water. With free wifi in the lobby, good restaurants and nice beach access, the Outrigger gets our pick for best place to hang out in Tumon. The photo was taken from Two Lovers Point which is one of the best vistas on Guam.

Guam
The Guam Aquarium
Randy
02/23/2009, Guam

We spent the afternoon in the touristy section of Guam today. We had a good (if expensive) burger at the Hard Rock Cafe, checked out surf boards at the hip DNA store and visited the Aquarium. The Aquarium is a neat place that you can spend several hours visiting. It is not huge but it offers a lot if you take your time and listen to all of the audio tour items. I saw a Zebra (aka Leopard) Shark for the first time. Beware though, it is tourist priced at $26 a head.

Guam
The Marianas Yacht Club Mooring Field
Randy
02/22/2009, MYC

The yacht club is a wonderful slice of Guam. It is comprised of Americans from State Side, for the most part, who want to keep in touch with their sailing genes. The Apra harbor is big and very protected. The yacht club is nestled about half way back into the mangrove marine preserve.

It is a very reefy area and it would be a good idea to get a guide or come in with good light your first time. Once oriented you should be able to get around with no problem. There is no dinghy dock but there is a nice beach area for landing with trees to tie to and the tide is generally three feet or less.

The mooring field is not brand new. I dove on our mooring and found as much as 50% of the material missing from the inside cusp of the chain links here and there. It is big chain however and the chain runs from the mooring (which is substantial) to the main float. From the main float you have a rope pendant that is a little thin and under serviced from my perspective (I would prefer splices to knots and a bit of fire hose sewn onto the eyes for chafe protection).

There's enough room to anchor in the mooring field here and there but beware, the bottom is littered with huge chain and rode from prior naval denizens. Unhooking an anchor here could be tough because the visibility ranges from 10 to 0 feet and the depths are 20 to 60 feet.

If you pick up a mooring here I would definitely dive on it and check all of the shackles, the chain, the mooring itself and the rope pendant. I tied a safety line to the chain because I didn't like the condition of our pendant given the perpetual 25 knot winds. Some folks have put out anchors but I would recommend just anchoring if you are that concerned with the mooring.

The yacht club proper is a nice open air building with a bar and grill open on Friday night, as well as Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Everyone at the club knows everyone else and the members are welcoming and super friendly to the cruiser guests. The phone at the club is free to use for local calls and there is a phone book right there. The club has fast wifi internet access for free (though you can't pick it up in the anchorage with a normal external antenna). Water is available for free and there are clean restrooms and cold water showers behind the club (hot water is available if you pay for the heater's operation). The club room has a TV with DVD player and local cable. The club will receive your mail for you and you can dispose of trash in the dumpster (separate out the card board for recycling please). It is a wonderful place and hard to beat at $25 per week (first two weeks free!).

Guam
Marianas Yacht Club
Randy
02/21/2009, Guam

Happily on the hook at the MYC in Guam. More soon...

Guam

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