After organizing the boat and wet gear, having a good chicken curry meal followed by a good night's sleep aboard Astarte, we were ready to unload our cargo and check into Ailuk. We had arranged to meet folks at the dock at 0900 to collect the "Mayor's cargo" and also Bond's packages. We had to get the dinghy untied from the deck, re-inflated and launched as well as the outboard and then load up the many boxes,large tubs and broom! After loading the first batch, Michael was met halfway to the dock with a larger boat and offloaded the dinghy's cargo into that boat and then they came to Astarte for the rest. It certainly saved us two trips to shore which was great. They seemed quite grateful for our efforts as supply ship.
After that we got dressed to do the "formal" clearance and paperwork. First, we found our way to "Pumpkin's" house. This is the voice we've heard on radio for months and who pleasantly greeted us since we've arrived with many welcoming radio calls. We walked along a very beautiful white sandy beach greeted with "Iakwe" along the way. The water is crystal clear, the sun was out and the shades of blue of the bay was incredible. It is a very picturesque island. As we got to Pumpkin's house – we finally had a chance to meet Aenius and his lovely wife Emily. She greeted us with beautiful fresh and fragrant frangipani flower leis. They served us freshly cut coconuts to drink and we sat and visited for awhile. They were so welcoming and gracious and speak English quite well. We left him some Majuro newspapers (they don't care how old they are) and four 12-volt LED light bulbs he requested.
Their daughter named Mila walked us to the mayor's house so we got a bit of a tour of the village seeing the school, two churches and lots of homes. The mayor is a woman named Ready Alfred. She also gave us fresh coconuts to drink (you do have to be careful with how many of these you drink in a day!) and we did our paperwork. The fee seemed to have gone from $25 to $50 here – but she let us get away with $25 because we delivered the cargo! We had a nice visit with her – her English was quite good as well. We went back to Aenius and Emily's to pick up a bag of coconuts (the mayor also gave us a few) and then headed back to the boat for lunch.
The place is really quite beautiful and the kids all seem to play in the water using any device around as a float! They love getting their pictures taken (though they all do the"gang" hands when they pose) and were constantly asking Michael to take their picture. Pigs are everywhere (Lorna – you'd love it). Chickens roam freely and one chicken was even taken on a boat ride by some of the boys! The chicken didn't seem all that pleased.
The sailing canoes are used and one came by the boat with an octopus for us as well as another bag of coconuts! We passed on the octopus though Rashida posed with it for a photo along with the two young boys with him. Then he sailed off and we watched him masterfully put the sail back up and fly away. These small outriggers are amazingly fast and agile - beautiful to watch as they glide along the turquoise water.
Later we went back into the village to see Aenius and Emily again. We brought more reading material and had another nice visit. Emily makes beautiful handicrafts and she showed Barbara some of them along with all the natural materials she uses. They only use all plant material – mostly various parts of the coconut palms and pandanus trees and shells. This island is known for its very intricate and high quality work. Barbara will come in later in the week and help prepare the materials for the handicrafts – and watch as Emily makes beautiful things. Before we left, we got a big chunk of fresh tuna.
It's Sunday and the church "bells" (actually old scuba or propane tanks) are ringing. Aenius is actually minister at one of the two churches. We promised to go next Sunday to hear him – but today we had hoped to move to a different island anchorage. Unfortunately, the beautiful sunny day of yesterday is gone and it is very overcast and breezy. We won't move unless it clears as we do have to avoid lots of bommies along the way (we came mighty close to one on the way here). So we'll wait for better visibility – hopefully still at some point today.
Our first impression of Ailuk is wonderful and we are so very glad we left Majuro to experience this place. It was well worth the rough voyage here.
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