Hi from the Marshal Islands,                                                         October 2011

Having returned to the boat last month from a 1 ½ month visit to Seattle friends and
family I am finishing up some boat projects and eager to begin sailing west through
Micronesia to the Philippines. Majuro has been a good place to receive shipments of
parts and boat supplies from the US, so most of the time has been spent on
batteries, charging systems including solar Panels, refrigeration repairs, new water
maker membrane and parts, engine work, some sail repairs, new stainless ports in
the hull and many minor projects. The town here is not much and pretty dirty. Two of
the motus on the reef provide nice snorkeling and quiet. The local yacht club has
installed good moorings at Anamwenut and Enego so those are our nearby
playgrounds.

The out islands are the Marshals treat for yachts. Most of the islands live a small
village life needing cash only for a few things like rice, sugar and sometimes,
gasoline. They rarely get visitors except for teachers, notably rare visits from
cruising yachts. They are a shy but welcoming people and we are very entertaining.
There is no regular tourism and the Marshal Island Airline (2 aircraft) is toounreliable
for tourism. So, the diving, socializing and sailing are great.

I decided to sail up to Aur atoll March 30 (80 miles to the north) for Easter and stay
through the Liberation Day celebration  on April 15 when a few other yachts planned
to visit. Friend Spike Jackson told me that Aur had no food products shipments in
the last 6 months and asked if I might take a few things before Easter. I agreed and
ended up with over ¾ ton of freight in plastic garbage bags filling the floors of most
of both cabins. The single handed trip ended up a very rough overnight one to
weather resulting in shifting freight loads and wet cockpit all night. I cleared the
unmarked SE pass at Aur and made my way to Tobal by midday very tired. I was met
by a number of local men coordinated by James, the basic medical first aid clinic
man, who had the boat unloaded in a few minutes. I refused to go ashore until the
next day, needing rest. Refreshed in the morning James took me on a tour of the
lovely village trailing most of the beautiful children. Batwin the wife of the Eroje
(chief) asked me to come to her house in the afternoon at 1400. I arrived to meet 40
women dressed in Sunday best who were there to thank me.  I was seated in a chair
while the women each stood before me and thanked me individually for bringing
food and each presented me with one or more craft items. It was all very moving.
One white haired lady got a cheek kiss from me that brought the house down. I did
very little cooking the next few days through the Easter feast and met everyone from
the newest baby to Bitong the Eroje. I was honored by kids and adults each time I
was in the village and had lots of coffee visitors aboard.

A week later 4 yachts arrived from Majuro for the Liberation Day events coming up
on the 15th .   The celebration far exceeded a small town US July 4. The day started  
with speeches and prayers, then huge quantities of food prepared in fire pits were
served first to the visitors on decorated tables. More gift giving of crafts in
abundance followed the meal. The rest of the day was taken up with foot races, men’
s baseball and aggressive ladies baseball. The next two evenings were music and
dancing fun. The Eroje plays a mean guitar. After some promises to return 3 boats
headed out for Maloalap Atoll,Taroa Village and some lively sailing. Taroa is a very
small village of about 100, but it and Wotje 45 miles north were large Japanese
military bases with two cement airstrips, a military office building, storage buildings,
hangars, many bunkers, antiaircraft guns and machine gun emplacements. The Japs
expected invasion and were well prepared, but the American strategy was to destroy
from the air and cut the supply lines rather than attempt landing.  It worked out well
and cost few American lives. The wreckage is a treasure for war historians. There are
many bomb craters, wrecked aircraft, guns, bombs and sunken vessels to explore,
all slowly rusting away in the humid weather. The impression is of a hell of a fight
with just a few people living in the quiet remains.

Next stop Wotje atoll, Wotje Village is the location of the high school for this group of
islands so it is a sizeable village built on Jap runways and using some Jap WW II
buildings as part of the campus. We had a birthday party in the small café for one of
the American World Teach Volunteers and her colleges. The waitress and cook
actually played ukuleles and sang, though not well, for the entertainment. The
American strategy here was the same as Maloelap and the results similar. Much of
the harbor area was not destroyed so the seaplane ramps and some of the old
cement docks and breakwater are still in use. I was able to bring away some large
and small ordinance given to me by the Mayor.

Two of the boats continued on to Likeup, home of the descendents of the Capellis
and Debruns. In the middle of the 1800s this atoll was purchased by these traders
from the Eroje con Laplap (big chief or head chief) as a private island to be
developed as a copra plantation. They also had a shipyard that built and sold
interisland trading schooners. Now the descendents look Marshalese and wield a lot
of the political power in the country. The snorkeling and diving are superb, but the
real big treat here is 80-year-old Joe Debrun. Joe was the long-term manager of the
Majuro airport who “came home” to Likeup about 15 years ago. He is a great talker
and charming guy who agrees with me that BS is a big part of the meaning of life.
Joe lived under the Japanese military. He was in high school on Jaluit when the
bombing was going on there. I found him a historic treasure.

I sailed the 250 miles back to Majuro to do more boat work and hanging around the
Majuro motus. After the 1 ½ month Seattle trip I went back to Tobal Aur. It is said that
you can never really go back because you and the place change. Tobal made the lie
to that idea. In my first walk through the village Batwin, the Eroje’s wife, came out
combing her hair to say “hello honey, welcome back”. What a nice feeling.

Love, Denny

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