Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cruising the Marshall Islands- Aur and Maloelap atolls

December 20, 2013 8:11 AM local
Position: 08-42.34N 171-13.38E
Anchored off Taroa Island, Maloelap atoll

After three fun filled weeks in Majuro we need a vacation in the solitude of the outer atolls. Majuro has an incredibly robust social scene that's included 2 yacht races, 1 triathlon, a thanksgiving feast, 2 skippers meetings, 3 Yachtie nights out for dinner, girls card game on Tuesdays, a Saturday swap meet, picnic at the beach, snorkeling many times, 2 kite boarding sessions, a concert at the American Embassy, lots of shopping and even a few boat projects. We've even managed to make the news at least twice and probably three times, but I haven't seen the Marshall Islands Journal this week. Kathy made the front page with her Triathlon win on the second week and the first week we had a photo of the boat to go along with first win in the Yacht race.

It's small town living where you chat with friends at the post office, know your local grocer and hardware store manager. The expat community is very well educated and primarily comprised of teachers, professionals and volunteers. It's both unfortunate and ironic that we've met very few Marshall Islanders. However, now that we're away from the hustle and bustle of Majuro we'll be fully immersed in the local communities and will meet no one else.

Anticipating an early morning start we staged LightSpeed at the Enigu 'free' moorings located about 6.5nm west of town. Our alarm roused us at 5:30AM, but intense rain delayed our departure until 7AM putting us under pressure to sail fast to cover the 72 nautical miles with enough daylight remaining to safely navigate inside Aur lagoon. The wind cooperated for the most part providing many hours of average speeds in the mid-8 knot range. Our worst hourly run was 5.5 miles, but that was due to landing a beautiful HUGE rainbow runner. We arrived at Aur and sailed through the pass on the SW corner with ease, dropped sail and motored the few remaining miles into the anchorage and dropped our hook near s/v Astarte with Mike and Barbara aboard.

The next morning we decided to push on and had a beautiful 12 mile sail across Aur lagoon exiting at the NW pass. Once in open ocean between Aur and Maloelap we made several tacks to lay the south opening in the reef, sailed though and across the lagoon, tacked and sailed about half way toward Taroa island until getting headed. We could have kept tacking, but stiff winds in the lagoon were splashing the deck and since a rain shower had just washed the boat we decided to motor the last 8 nm in the lee of the reef and keep the boat clean, dry and salt free. Now that we're north of the convergence zone and it's dry season we may not see rain again for weeks.

We'll head into town this morning to deliver our permit and pay our $25 visitors fee and then ask for permission to move up the lagoon a bit further to a good kiting spot.

The anchorage here at Taroa is littered with World War II relics. Taroa was a major Japanese base, before US forces obliterated the stronghold. Many sunken ships, Japanese Zero fighter planes, unexploded ordinance and more await our snorkeling adventures. On the NW tip of Taroa stands a lone howitzer mounted on the small concrete base, it sure looks strange sitting on an otherwise pristine sandy beach.

That's it for now.

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