"Arctracer" Letters

Butaritari, Kiribati to Majuro, Marshall Islands, Feb 2004

We picked up a mooring in Majuro today, February 4, about noon. We left Butaritari about noon on Sunday, February 1, in a relatively bright time between showers. We needed good visibility to see the unmarked and isolated little coral reefs scattered in the lagoon. We had to pause halfway down the lagoon to wait for one passing shower, but continued out the pass with no further problems. We were delighted to see several Manta Rays on the surface at the pass through the main Butaritari reef. It was good sailing to the northwest with the wind slightly north of east, so we moved rapidly through the afternoon. Just as the atoll disappeared behind us we caught a meter-long Wahoo, and put meat for four two-person dinners into the freezer.

The second day was miserable. It rained most of the day, and the wind was strong and gusty. There seemed to be a squall every hour. We couldn't put up much sail, and were forced to roll up sail and simply wait for the strong squalls to pass. We had winds in the 25 to 30 knot range for several hours, and the strongest gust was recorded at 46 knots true by our anemometer. We tried to keep moving, and finally passed north of the problem area.

The third day started in pitch darkness as we approached Milli, the southernmost atoll of the Marshalls. We were using GPS, of course, so we knew exactly where we were, but the charts of these atolls are old and not too accurate so we were not exactly sure where Milli was. We tried our radar too, but did not get a good return from the very low island farther than six miles away. It was a bit scary, and gave us a little glimpse of the nervous state sailors must have been in before our technological gadgets were invented, when they were never really sure of their own position in the sea. It was good sailing from Milli towards Majuro, and we caught a nice Mahi-Mahi a meter long at sunset. Actually we had a second one hooked at the same time, but while we were getting the first on board the second disappeared with our biggest lure and leader - probably taken by a hungry shark. We enjoyed incredibly fresh fish for dinner. Because of the slow second day we were unable to get into Majuro before sunset on this third day. It is a bit dangerous to enter these lagoons at night, even with lighted buoys showing the way, so we simply slowed down to wait for morning.

As the sky brightened on the fourth day of this passage we were just outside the entrance to Majuro Atoll. We used our engines, plus a reefed mainsail, to get through the pass about 9:00. Three big fishing boats passed us on their way out to sea, but not while we were in the narrows. It is a dozen miles from the entrance to the anchorage at the far eastern corner of the lagoon, and the wind was still blowing 20 knots, so it took us until noon, motoring into the wind. The anchoring area was deep with coral patches so we took an available mooring for $1 per day. The Immigration Officer came to our boat immediately and stamped our passports. The Customs Officer met me on the dock and didn't even require a form to be filled out. There were no fees and Americans are allowed to stay here without any restrictions. I did have to go to the government building so they could make a copy of our boat Documentation Certificate, but that was painless too. So we're here, officially, after our 310 mile passage, at 7 degrees 8 minutes North, 171 degrees 11 minutes East.

We checked the Post Office, but there is no mail for us yet. We'll take care of some business while waiting for mail and some boat parts to arrive, then we'll be off to explore some other atolls.