Thursday, December 19, 2013

Aur Atoll, Marshall Islands

After getting the boat stocked up for our outer island Christmas trip, we were ready to depart on Tuesday. The weather looked great and it would be a full moon. The amazing thing about heading to the outer islands is that once you tell one person which island is your destination – you suddenly are designated as the delivery boat! We had told "James Bond" and "Rudy," who participate on the HF/SSB "Iakwe" Radio net every morning that we were headed there way. Rudy asked for 10 gallons of gasoline; James asked us to bring his boat parts that had been ordered by and delivered to another boater. Then James also asked of we could bring a passenger. That put us in a bit of an awkward situation as we weren't prepared to take anyone and we have our systems for passages. But we decided it was only an over-nighter and it was Christmas! It ended up being his daughter who is in college in Majuro. Then the daughter asked if she could bring a friend...but we said no to that as we only have one extra passage berth. So arrangements were made to get Kathlyn the next day around 1230. Then, we get a phone call from a woman saying she is the Mayor of Aur's granddaughter and could we bring a package for the mayor. We asked how big and she said (or so we thought) five rolls of floor mats. But, it was Christmas, so we said yes and she would meet us the next morning at 0900 to deliver the goods. We were now afraid to answer the phone.

We also guessed that it was "Marshall Island" time and everyone would be late. On this point we were wrong – Francine, the mayor's granddaughter was early and the floor mats ended up being one bag of fabric. She asked if she could bring one more about the same size as well. We agreed and she'd bring it by around noon. What we thought would be large rolls of woven sleeping mats, was a lot less. Whew! Then, Kathlyn came early as well and we loaded her stuff (she was quite loaded down with bags, packs, plastic containers and food.) We loaded her stuff and she asked if she could still go shopping! We had time and still had a few errands ourselves.

Just as we were about to untie the mooring lines, we got another call and wanted to know if we could bring a package for the Iroiji. This is like the big chief and serves as a senator. Unfortunately, our dinghy was already stored on deck and we needed to get moving so we could get away from Majuro and moor near Enamanet again to check the bottom (prop, shaft, keel etc). So we said if someone could get it to Enamanet by 1530, we'd be happy to take it.
We sailed to Enamanet , tied up, did a quick bottom cleaning job (there were gobs of icky crude oil from Majuro so now the waterline looks terrible!), and we were off around 1530. We tried to sail, but the winds were very light and we wanted to make it out of the atoll, through the reef, in daylight. After a clean exit, we sailed for several hours. Kathlyn, who had never been on a sailboat, was given some seasick meds as we were told that all Marshallese get seasick. We didn't want her to be uncomfortable. It knocked her out and she slept almost the entire way in the cockpit, waking up only when a rain squall would come. The wind which was supposed to be easterly – wasn't. It was right on the nose. If it was just us, we would have tacked and sailed more – but with her aboard and expected the next day, we motor-sailed most of the way. We had a few small rain squalls, but overall it was a calm night with a full moon lighting our way.

At 1800 we had a radio schedule with James and it was fun to see Kathlyn talking to her dad on the radio – you could tell both were excited that they would be seeing each other soon. If we understood correctly, she hadn't been back for about a year.

We entered the very narrow reef cut into the Aur Atoll lagoon after letting a squall pass and the sun get a bit higher. Then we made our way across the lagoon towards the island of Aur. James was on shore (though he is from a different island in the same atoll – he was working at the Aur clinic on this day). We anchored amongst many bommies. We didn't like the spot because we thought we were too close to one bommie, so we would pick up the anchor. As Barbara put her foot on the windlass button – nothing! Michael went below to check the breaker and it was tripped...but wouldn't reset. Uh oh. The electric windlass is a "mission critical" piece of equipment aboard Astarte. It raises the anchor and chain without us having to manually pull it up. We're old and have bad backs! We decided to live with the anchor where it was set and see if the windlass was an easy fix.
But first, we'd get Kathlyn to shore to her dad and we'd take her stuff and us in later when tide was higher and we could get the dinghy to shore more easily.

The windlass was dead but the anchor was well set after Michael dived it to checked, though it was close to a bommie. Oh, one other thing, our guest clogged the toilet – so that was now also unusable and would need some work. When it rains it pours.

Next entry – our first visit to Aur.

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