Iakwe! That is the native language greeting from the Republic of the Marshall Islands where we are now moored in the Majuro Atoll lagoon. The greeting is actually translated as "you are a rainbow" and serves as hello, goodbye and love. It is pronounced as "Yag -way." The language is an Austronesian based language and is quite hard to learn – so we will do our best over the next few months to at least learn a few words and phrases.
We arrived on Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at the lagoon pass entrance around 1000 (10 am) and made our way through the well-marked channel and across the lagoon. Just before entering the pass, the fishing line went squealing and Michael; hooked a nice wahoo. It wasn't huge but it was pretty and enough for a few meals. We got it on board and would clean it as we crossed the lagoon. A few big squalls hit as we were crossing the lagoon and we slowed to under 3 knots at one point heading into winds of 20 plus knots and short choppy waves. We made it to the "north mooring field" where we had secured a mooring ball. We tied up to one (grabbing it on first attempt (yippee)) and found it had a bad pennant line – so we had to move to another. Luckily we had the same luck catching this mooring ball. After getting the boat secure, we had pre-arranged (thanks to the help of another sailboat "Seal") customs and immigration to meet us at the dock for clearing in at 1500 (3 pm). We made it to shore and waited until 1530 and still no customs. We then made the decision to head to the customs and immigration offices in town so we can get cleared in before incurring any overtime charges (after 5 pm). So we grabbed a cab (.75 per person) and got taken to the Government Building. This is a place where, for once in a long , long time, it was a good thing to carry a USA passport. The clearing in was easy, though two different buildings with a cab ride between the two. We were completed with the process by 1630. The last stop was immigration which was right across the street from MIR (Marshall Islands Resort) where a "cruising boat" event was taking place. So we stopped in to say hello to some friends and have a cold beer.
The Marshall Islands (or RMI) is a young independent country. It gained its independence in 1986. It is technically an independent country with a Compact of Free Association with the United States. They use the US dollar and US Postal Service and are protected by the USA military. The US military still has a large base at Kwajalein. The islands have had a varied colonial history. The first western touch came from Spanish explorers in the 1500s. Two centuries passed after those first encounters and in 1788 British Captains Marshall and Gilbert sailed to the islands. Obviously they had small egos – naming the island chain after themselves! After the Brits, the Germans came and set up a government and trading. Then the First World War broke out 29 years into German rule, and Japan sent naval squadrons to the Marshall Islands and started to take over the control. The islands were handed to the Japanese as part of a Class "C" mandate by the League of Nations. Then Japan dropped out of the League of Nations. Then came World War II and there was heavy fighting in the Pacific including the Marshalls. The Japanese were defeated and the US Navy governed the Marshall Islands in 1945. In 1947, the Marshalls were given to the US by the United Nations as part of a Strategic Trust and governance of the islands soon switched from the Navy to the Department of the Interior. The islands sought more independence and in 1986, they became the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
The Marshall Islands are probably best known as the sight of atomic bomb testing by the US on the atolls of Bikini and Enewetok. The effects on the islanders health has been long term and have displaced many islanders from their native atolls.
More later on the culture, climate and atolls. This is one of four all atoll nations (we've visited three!).
For now we are settling in to the new country where we will sit out cyclone season. There are many islands to visit and we hope to see several.
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