Marshall Islands 2016


May…Passage Making back to Fiji

We arrived back to True Blue V in Majuro Harbour and quickly got supplies, fuel, water and prepared for our return passage south to Fiji. The new chain that we had ordered had arrived from the US and we needed to get that from the hardware store and into our chain locker before we could depart. Our concern was that the winds in the North Pacific were from the NE and were getting lighter and would soon disappear altogether with the change of season. We wanted to use the NE winds to get us to the Equator. As we moved further south into the South Pacific the winds were lights so we thought we would be doing alot of motoring. (Which is what happened). Or bashing into the SE trade winds. (Which is also what happened) Or meeting troughs and convergence zones (Yes, we got all of that too). Well with 1700nm (3500km) to travel and an Equator crossing you could expect a bit of everything.

This is our first night at sea on our way back to Fiji. All good and we are glad to be underway.

Some days are always better than others on passages.

We stop taking photos when we get too tired or passage weary. But obviously this was a good day.

These squalls seem to be super sized. Crossing the equator from North to South always brings unpleasant weather. You just have to keep on going and get through it. The quicker the better.


We stopped for 3nights at Tuvalu to get more diesel, rest and eat before continuing on to Fiji. The whole passage took us 18 days. So May was all about passage making. Either getting ready for a passage, enduring a passage or arriving at the destination and getting over a passage. The good thing about Fiji and arriving back in Savusavu is that because we now know people, both locals and other cruisers, it now feels a little like coming home. Bula! Bula!


April…an unexpected trip to Australia

April disappeared quickly as Craig and I arrived back from Maloelap Atoll and secured the boat in Majuro Harbour. Health and family issues were taking us unexpectedly back to Australia. Perhapt this might explain why there have been very few photos and Blog updates lately. Sorry.


This close is too close.

We had just gotten back from Australia when Craig had a nasty incident in the dinghy. This photograph shows where our Tohatsu 9.8hp outboard propeller hit his arm 3 times at high speed. Everyone thinks it won't happen to them so they don't wear their safety cord.

Craig was in the dinghy and approaching the dinghy dock at slow speed. A power boat was tied to the dock and had a line trailing out with a kayak attached. Craig was about to go over the line so he put the engine in idle and lifted the motor (like he has done 1000 times before). However this time something different happened. The engine did not lock in, fell sideways, engaged at full revs and threw Craig out the back whilst it spun on its stern at high speed before flipping. Craig was in about 9 feet of water and trying to stay submerged as the outboard and dinghy spun out of control. His arm came in contact with the propeller. This photo shows how close Craig came to losing his right arm. After that, he promised to always wear his safety cord/red curly cord. Or turning off the engine which I think is what Tohatsu recommend.

If he had been wearing it the outboard engine would have cut out as soon as he was thrown out of the dinghy. Actually come to think of it our outboard would not have flipped the dinghy and ended up in saltwater either! All good reasons to wear safety cords.


March…Maloelap Atoll, Marshall Islands

Hanging out in Maloelap Atoll. Our arrival on the beach bought some of the local kids running down to meet us. Of course the camera came out. Lori from Free Spirit was trying to take a photo of the kids. The idea was that they would wave but the kids have got their own poses they like to use. I thought this was funny.

See our Maloelap Atoll Movie below...


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Meet the local kids. 20 seconds, unedited.

The local kids will happily follow us around all day. We were entertaining them and they were entertaining us.

The local kids love to see their photo on the camera and will pose all day and are fun to have around.

Posing…is American style.

Cool poses but can you just move your hands down a little so I can see your face.

Their huts are well made out of local materials and allow for plenty of air flow. It is very important that they remember and practice traditional skills and not become too dependent on outside help. Being self sufficient is how they have survived for so long. Of course modern life has bought solar panels, lighting, transport, RO water makers and other comforts to make life easier.

Check out Craigs coconuts as we walk along the beach.

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Push Play and Craig will show you his coconuts. 15seconds


World War 2….Taroa Island, Maloelap Atoll

In 1939 the Japanese built a seaplane and land plane base at Taroa Airfield with 2 runways and support buildings and facilities including a radar station.

During WW2 a garrison of 2940 navy men and 389 army men was commanded by Rear Admiral Shoichi Kamada. The perimeter of the island was heavily fortified by 12 heavy coastal artillery and 10 heavy anti aircraft guns.

The US Navy began attacking Taroa Island in February 1942 with carrier based aircraft and shelling by warships. The attacks grew in frequency after Majuro and Kwajalein had fallen to the US.

Today, Taroa Island is like an outdoor museum and although some things are rusting away with salt and time, other things such as unscathed bunkers look like they would have back in 1942.


This island was heavily fortified by the Japanese in World War 2.

Rusting guns showing the effects of time, salt and wind.

Our young tour guides are always on duty

Pill boxes blown up by American air raids

Japanese bunkers… this one avoided the bombs and looks in good condition


WW2 in Maloelap Atoll - Here is the movie and pics. It is about 4 minutes long. The music is Forgotten Years by Midnight Oil.

Push Play for the movie which includes our dive on a sunken WW2 wreck just off the beach. The mast of the sunken Japanese wreck can be still be seen sticking out of the water. The wreck is Tarushima Maru, a Japanese supply freighter which was scuttled in 30 feet of water to prevent capture.




February 26th… Vessel Underway to Maloelap Atoll. It was just an overnight passage but it was windward and we were hard into the wind all night. Waves and swell were forward of the beam and it was a rough, wet passage with winds 30+knots and occasional squalls. We were glad to drop anchor at Airuk Island where we spent a couple of days before moving 25km north inside the atoll to Taroa Island where the Japanese fortified themselves in preparation for WWII. I asked the Mayor what happened to the local people when the Japanese arrived. He said they were killed. Some of them managed to escape by walking across the reef at low tide to another island where the Americans rescued them.

Meet Randal who is the newly elected Mayor of Maloelap. He came out to our yacht to welcome us. We had a laugh at his T-Shirt which says "I'm just like you, only smarter and better looking."


February

Farewell to Exodus as they sail off into the sunset…We have shared many fantastic times and it is sad to part company with long term cruising friends that we first met in Mexico. They are at the end of their journey and will head south to Tonga where they plan to sell their Lagoon 400 fully equipped and cruise ready for the next owner. We wish you the very best for the future.

late January….There is more than 1 way to catch tuna around here.

Our friend Tim from Catamaran Exodus loves to go spearfishing every chance he gets and his favourite fish is Dog Tooth Tuna. This is his best Dog Tooth Tuna to date which he speared in the pass at Majuro. We are excited about some fresh tuna coming our way. Mmmm…delicious.


January 26th….is Australia Day wherever you are in the world. We were fortunate to meet Aussies Luitenant Commander George McKenzie and his wife Angi just in time to be invited to 'Wallaby Downs' which is the accommodation compound for the Royal Australian Navy. Thanks for a great day which was enjoyed by all with drinks, BBQ and pool volleyball games.

LCDR George McKenzie and I say "Cheers to Aussies on Australia Day"

Happy Australia Day! from 'Wallaby Downs' in Majuro, Marshall Islands.

Just like home…the men fired up the BBQ for an Aussie feast. Big smiles and cold beers not too far away.

Australia vs USA in pool volleyball. I think this may be the only swimming pool in Majuro.

Keeping hydrated between volleyball games. Beer, pool, BBQ…..yep, that does look like Australia Day.

Angi and the girls enjoying the Australia Day celebrations at 'Wallaby Downs'



TUNA FISHING IN THE PACIFIC is big business.

Nothing could have prepared us for the huge fishing fleet of 40-50 vessels sitting here in Majuro harbour. Why are they all sitting in harbour? Shouldn't they be out fishing? How can they make money?

The problem as I know it is….The US fleet requested 2000 fishing days for 2016 during an August negotiation session. However several companies said they could not or would not pay their portion of the $17m quarterly payment due 1st Jan 2016. On the 15th of January the owners of the tuna companies and the countries of the fishing rights are meeting here in Majuro to renegotiate contracts.

So right now 37 US flagged Purse Seiners have all halted fishing because the industry defaulted on its US Treaty agreement to pay its first quarter fishing day fee of $17m on Jan 1st and the Forum Fisheries Agency has not issued licenses to the US fleet for 2016. Meanwhile 2 domestic companies which operate a tuna loining plant on Majuro have yet to reach agreement on a price for fishing days with Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority MIMRA. So they account for 12 fishing vessels sitting in harbour with no licence to fish. Market price for for tuna is low at around $900 per metric ton. It seems the bottom line is there is no point fishing if you are not making money and you can't fish without a licence. The countries with the fishing rights want their money. It's a crisis!

Craig and I are heading out to F/V Pacific Ranger to check out what a tuna fishing vessel is like on board.

Opportunity…some of us yachties got to thinking that now would be a perfect time to visit a fishing vessel. Preferably one with a helicopter and an english speaking captain. Eric from S/V Ariel IV met with a Captain and 5 of us yachties were granted permission from the owners to tour the fishing vessel with access restricted to certain areas.

Push Play for our 2min movie and pics on board Pacific Ranger.

The real value was in learning about Tuna Fishing and their operations.

Some of what we learnt is:

* The boats were Taiwanese and the Americans bought in and reflagged them. They are now jointly owned.

* The Captain is American usually on 2 x 4month contracts per year. He uses a translator to communicate to crew.

* Everyone else on board is from China, Taiwan, Phillipines, Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, PNG and other Pacific Islands. Crew sign on for 2 year+ contracts. The most common language on board is Mandarin. Fighting is not tolerated although whilst we were in harbour there was a huge fight where 1 crew was murdered and the other stabbed.

* They can carry 1 million kilogram of tuna on board which is frozen whole in brine. The ship will come back to Port when full and the fish is then transferred to a mother ship. The target fish is Yellowfin and Pacific Skipjack tuna.

* They don't fish at night. It is too dangerous. They use nets, not long lines. The fishing net alone is worth $750.000 usd. His advice to yachties is to steer clear of fishing boats. Use AIS and your radar at night.

* The Helicopter is used for spotting up to 50 miles from the ship. It is also used for herding the school once the nets have been deployed.

* A FAD (fish attracting device) can be made up of anything to create a structure below the surface of the water. i.e. palm fronds and scrap bits on board the boat. The little fish are attracted to the structure and they in turn attract larger fish. It can take up to a month before lots of fish are attracted to the floating eco system. The longer it is left the more fish it attracts. A GPS with a strobe is attached. In the meantime the fishing vessel may have left the area so it is quite acceptable for another tuna fishing boat to steal the FAD and benefit from the fish if they come across them.

This movie below is awesome and was put together recently by Chief Officer Dani Idris of the Pacific Ranger, an employee living and working on board a tuna fishing boat. You will learn a lot just by watching the movie below. Press Play and get on board.

Push play for a wonderful insight into the excitement and team work that happens when you are Tuna Fishing in the Pacific. It is 12 minutes long and you will want to watch it more than once. Well done guys! As Dani says "Keep Spirit Brothers, the Ocean Awaits You".



7th January The Marshall Islands are located just north of the Equator between 4degrees and 19degrees North latitude and 160degrees and 175degrees East longitude (about half way between Northern Australia and Hawaii). The country of 29 atolls and 5 islands covers just under 1 million square miles of the Central Pacific and is made up of 2 island chains (Ratak (Sunrise) and Ralik (Sunset) with a total land area of about 70 square miles. The Marshallese population is just over 60,000. The capital and main port of entry is Majuro.


Majuro….07.06N 171.22E We are so glad to be here. It has been quite a journey since leaving Fiji 9th November 2015. We can now settle in and make ourselves at home. There are American hardware stores which will assist us with getting small maintenance and repair jobs done. American style supermarkets are a treat with products we have not seen since the USA. Fresh fruit and vegetable are available with a limited variety.

Looking out over Majuro lagoon. Behind the yachts there are alot of fishing vessels at anchor. The locals are letting balloons fly at the end of a Memorial Day Fishing Competition for a local girl who died 3 years ago.

True Blue V 2016