"Arctracer" Letters

Majuro, Marshall Islands to Kosrae, FSM, April 2004

We're in a new country, FSM, the Federated States of Micronesia. We're at the island of Kosrae, the easternmost large island of the country. It's a small island with about 7000 people, and is not a flat atoll but has sharp peaks up to 2000 feet remaining from ancient volcanos. They do not get cyclones here, but do get about 200 inches of rain per year. The soil around the edges of the island is very fertile, and it is called the garden island of Micronesia. The people are very friendly. We just arrived, so will have to tell you about Kosrae in our next letter.

We finally got our last bits from West Marine via the Majuro Post Office, and installed them so we could stop our starboard engine from the helm. We got a friend on another boat to help with this installation and check some of Jerry's rewiring, so we feel confident that it has been done properly. We filled up our fuel tanks and installed new alternator belts. We did some final shopping, stocking up on "good deals" and items that will be impossible to find in more isolated places. We checked our charts and bought a new guidebook from another boat. We returned books we had borrowed, and collected some we had loaned to other cruisers. We sent baskets from Ailuk back to Norwich with a CD-ROM of photos. We scraped most of the shells and sponges from the bottom of the boat. We said goodbye to friends on other boats. We had a farewell dinner by ourselves at the Marshall Islands Resort, eating a bit too much but enjoying it. Nina read all about FSM, and put much information into the computer.

We checked out of Majuro on Friday, April 23. The checkout process took almost all day, with several offices to visit and officials not always in their offices. A few boat projects took half of Saturday, so we decided to see the final performance of "Dracula" that night. It was fun, even though the show was interrupted several times by rain in the open-air theatre. We talked with several cast members at the party afterwards, and didn't get home until after midnight. It was almost noon on Sunday when we finally dropped our mooring to leave. The other yachts were having another afternoon race in the lagoon and a party afterwards, but we had done enough of that for a while and were happy to sail away.

We experimented with a water-powered generator as we sailed across the lagoon towards the pass. This generator was purchased secondhand from another boat. It has a propeller which is pulled through the water behind the boat. The water makes the propeller spin, and that twists a rope to turn the generator mounted on the back of the boat. Our hope is to have it generate electricity at night on passages so we do not have to use our main engines to recharge our batteries. We have solar panels which are great during the day but cannot keep up with the demands of our autopilot, refrigeration and instruments at night on passages. Testing was successful, and we put the generator away before going out the pass.

We were outside Majuro lagoon by 2:00, encountering lumpy seas. We sailed slowly around the north end of the atoll, then almost straight downwind past the south end of Ailinglaplap Atoll in the Marshall Islands. It was a bumpy ride in 20 knot winds from ENE, but our catamaran does not roll side-to-side, so our ride was more pleasant than it would have been in a rolly monohull. Nina made bread and pumpkin soup underway, so we had plenty of food for those first couple of days when we normally feel a bit woozy with the motion. A big fish took a new lure and half our fishing line. Oh well, we were on our way from the Marshall Islands.

We tried the water-powered generator that night. It worked well for a few hours, and then stopped entirely. When its case was opened the next day, we found a lot of rust and loose magnets. Seawater must have leaked inside long ago and caused the problems. Jerry spent many hours getting rid of the rust, then used eoxy to glue the magnets back in place and recoat the rotor. We have not reassembled and retested this unit, but hope to get it working before our next passage.

The wind stayed mostly behind us for three days, varying from 10 to 25 knots with higher gusts up to 42 knots in rain squalls. The seas gradually got flatter and more regular, and we got used to the motion, so it became a pleasant ride. Nina made a delicious pizza on Tuesday, and then served fish, mashed potatos, carrots, salad with sesame seed dressing, and fresh chocolate-chip cookies on Wednesday. We eat better on passages than most cruisers do at anchor! On Wednesday night the wind shifted to the east, and we got heavy rain for several hours. Nina had a miserable watch from 2-8 am, getting chilled by the rain and a bit frightened by big black squalls with occasional lightning. We only used our roller-furling jib on this passage, winching the sail in and out to adjust our speed as the wind changed. We kept our speed down to 5 to 6 knots most of the time, preferring comfort instead of high speed.

We sighted the island of Kosrae before noon on Thursday, April 29. The rain stopped, and we had no difficulty entering Lelu Harbor, an old whaling port, about 1:00. We anchored next to the only other yacht ("Stardancer II" from Mooloolaba, Australia) in this very quiet and protected place. We tried to call the officials on our VHF radio, but apparently they could not hear us. We learned later that they were very busy with a big ship in the commercial harbor on the other side of the island, plus a plane full of passengers, so they could not come out to see us immediately. No problem. We showered and relaxed. They came this morning, Friday, and we are now all checked in.

Our currrent plan is to spend a couple of weeks in Kosrae, and then go to Pohnpei for a few weeks. We were planning to continue across Micronesia to Yap, and then visit Palau for the Pacific Arts Festival, but that will probably change. Cyclone "Sudal" demolished much of Yap with 125 knot winds a couple weeks ago. Now we doubt that we would be able to enjoy that island's unique culture. We would not enjoy scrutinizing daily weather reports for signs of threatening cyclones. The summer months are more likely to produce cyclones there too. We are now thinking about sailing back to the South Pacific from Pohnpei and spending several months in the Solomon Islands. After that we may see a bit of Papua New Guinea and then go to Australia in November when cyclone season starts down south. Of course we won't really know where we're going until we get there, as you all know, but this is what we're thinking at present.

Pohnpei will be the last good mailing address for us until Australia. It is served by the U.S.Postal Service and has a US zip code. Please make sure you send by "Priority Mail" so it should be there when we arrive in about two weeks. Mail sent by ship could take months. Our address there is: General Delivery Kolonia, Pohnpei FM 96941 USA

We expect to have a relaxed time in Kosrae. There is just one other yacht here. There are few stores or other services, so we won't be reprovisioning or getting local tradesmen to work on our boat. We'll do some low-key sightseeing, visit the ancient ruins, and talk with the locals. We should even have time to play cribbage and backgammon.