Friday, April 11, 2014

Exploring Uliga

We remain in the Ailuk Atoll near the island of Uliga, about five islands north of the main village island. We are the only "yacht" left in the atoll as Mariposa and Off Tempo have moved on to other atolls north of here. It is a very special place and we've enjoyed our secluded time here. Everyday, several of the traditional canoes sail by carrying people, cargo or copra or a combination. They really use these boats here and they usually sail quite close to us to check things out.

Michael is back up to speed – so we've done some island exploring. On the first day out, we rowed in to shore and walked around part of the island towards the windward side where the waves were crashing making a thunderous roar. Along the way, Michael was collecting floats – these are the large fiberglass, plastic or styrofoam balls that the fishing boats use to keep their nets afloat. There were at least 40 on the island in various states of repair. Some were near perfect and others had big holes in them. Watching the waves crash on the rocky shore, its amazing that anything would be in the sand that survived at all. He managed quite a collection and then had to decide which ones he wanted to keep. We use these floats to keep our anchor chain off coral "bommies" to keep the corals unharmed and our chain from getting caught. We lost a few in a storm in Tonga's Ha'aipai group two seasons ago, so we needed a few more and it was like "Floats 'R Us" ashore.

We also discovered an unbroken bottle with a message inside. When we got back to the boat, Michael plotted where the message was sent from (it had a latitude and longitude). It was dropped off a group of islands off the Mexican coast on February 13, 2013 and managed to float and land in Uliga. It didn't look like it was ashore very long as the bottle was still sitting close to the water and not buried in the sand. We pried the cork out, read the note and took a few photos to send along to the person who sent the message. It is interesting because not long ago, the Marshall Islands was in the news internationally. A fisherman from off the coast of Mexico ended up ashore on Ebon, one of the Marshall Islands after drifting at sea for 13-months in his open fiberglass boat. That's about the same amount of time it took this bottle to get here...interesting!

The next day, we actually walked around the entire island. There are several beautiful and fragrant trees ashore – the frangipani and another that had the flowers that were used in our head wreaths at the celebration. There is a small house ashore as well. We enjoyed looking in the tide pools and ashore for more treasures. There was the remnants of what looked like some carbon fiber material – perhaps from a helicopter or plane – big pieces of the stuff. There was a compressor unit still attached to one end of a refrigerated container and so many shoes and flip flops you could open a store. The world is going to be buried in plastic!

The snorkeling around the boat is also quite wonderful – but we don't have an underwater camera anymore – so sorry – no pictures. Of course, because we have no water camera – this is the clearest water we've had to date. And there are lots of new and interesting fish and critters. Oh well!

We wrote an article for the Marshall Islands Journal, the Majuro newspaper and it got published. It was about the Liberation Day festivities here in Ailuk – so that was fun. Michael even sent a photo via the hf radio and winlink, so we'll have to see how that came out because it had to be sent very low resolution. Will also probably write another one when we get back about the bottle discovered because of the connection with the fisherman.

Today, we'll probably head back to the village and anchor. We want to have "Pumpkin" (Aneous) and Emily to the boat for dinner before we run out of food! Plus, we have traded some led light bulbs they wanted from Majuro, for some handicrafts and we'll see what progress has been made on those. We have been asked by the mayor to bring some stuff back to Majuro – as well as for Tempo (one of the island elders) and Aneous and Emily – so it sounds like we'll go back as loaded with cargo as when we arrived!

For now, we are enjoying the peace and tranquility of this lovely place. We hear on the net that Majuro has had nothing but rain and squally weather for weeks- so we feel that we picked a great time to get out of there. Now though, we are starting to look for a good weather window to head back to the city. We have food for at least another few weeks at least. We are still hoping to also score some lobsters from the locals – but they say we have to wait until the full moon at that is still awhile away!

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