"Arctracer" Letters

Pohnpei, FSM toward Santa Cruz, Solomons, July 2004

Monday, June 28th we had our anchor up in Pohnpei, FSM at about 9:30. Moving to the commercial dock, paying our $45 port fees and getting Immigration officials to stamp our passports was fast, but the customs official did not arrive until 1:30 pm. Apparently most of the customs officials were at a convention and the remaining ones didn't show up at the office until late. Unlike most countries, the customs people want yachts to leave the harbor immediately after they get their clearance to their next port, so they watch the yachts leave before driving away from the dock. By 2 pm we were 3 miles from the dock and out the pass. Three fishing boats were tied up to the dock in front of us. One was from Bali, Indonesia, one from China, and one owned by a Japanese with a Japanese Captain and an Indonesian crew. A few of the guys spoke English and told us they go out from Pohnpei for two weeks at a time to longline. They put out a line miles long held up by buoys, with shorter lines with sinkers, hooks and bait tied to the long line. They leave the whole rig floating for half a day, then go back to pick it all up, take off the fish, and rebait to do it again. We think we saw them two afternoons later, looking for their buoys, which had moved with the currents. We sailed past several of them and Jerry pointed to a buoy as one of the boats came quite close to us. They have no flags or electronic devices on these buoys to find them, so have men standing on the bow looking as they motor back through the right area.

We had to motor to get away from the island of Pohnpei in the dark with wind and currents pushing us west instead of east towards the Santa Cruz Islands in the Solomons where we want to go. Since then we've only motored 3 times to charge our batteries. Generally the sun has been out all day and there has been no need to run our engines. Two nights ago we started an engine and soon smelled burning rubber. The fan belt was slipping and had to be replaced. Good thing we have some spares.

During this trip we've seen 2 green flashes, many shooting stars, two ships, a pod of porpoises jumping in the distance, a single porpoise jumping near the boat, a mahi mahi swimming along with the boat (3' from it and about 1' below the surface for a while!), and many Brown Noddys trying to land on our boat. Two noddies spent the night aboard and one died (of old age?) on deck, so we don't allow any more to stay. Jerry also heard porpoises breathing near us during one of his night watches. We've been eating extremely well. We had no problem getting our sea legs since the seas have been very smooth.

We repaired the top of the spinnaker sock, changed the port engine oil, mended two broken oars and will paint them soon, read guide books and other reference material, and made new fishing lures. We haven't had any bites on our trolling line, probably because we are going too slowly. We've been getting weather faxes every day and there never seems to be much wind (no isobars) in our area, but we found the counter current at 4 degrees 50' N and it is pushing us along at 1.5 - 2 knots when there is no wind. We still have some of this current at 2 degrees N and hope it continues to help us get east. It was five days before the wind got up to 10 knots, and that didn't last too long. We have seen many towering clouds with rain underneath. We sailed under a few, and they produced some brief periods of stronger winds. The strongest blew over twenty knots for nearly an hour so we had to roll up some sail for a while and were reminded that we have to always be on the lookout for squalls. The wind is mostly from 1.5 to 7 knots from easterly directions, though we have had winds from every angle. We've had the spinnaker up only once due to winds being from the wrong direction. This trip is mostly beating into the wind. After 9 days at sea we've been 768 nautical miles and are nearly down to just one degree North of the equator and 168 degrees E. We are east of the Santa Cruz Islands already, but if there is no wind south of the equator (very likely) the current will take us west so we are doing some extra easting before hitting the SE trade winds.