Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Episode 15 The Marshall Islands


Yokwe!! (Welcome in Marshallese)
Welcome to Episode 15 of the Hog Blog.

At the end of Episode 14 we had just arrived in Majuro Atoll the Capital of the Marshall Islands after a fantastic month in the Kiribati’s.
We were on a mooring in the northern mooring fields at D-U-D
(Delap, Uliga & Darrit), the central hub of the Atoll.

Our overall route so far and plans until Aug 2013

Our travels through The Marshall Islands
You'd need 3 years to explore all 29 atolls....

Majuro Atoll

The first 72 hours was jam packed after we arrived from our 3 day sail from the Kiribati Group.
We were welcomed by many boats – some we knew, some we didn’t.
Ben & Wendy had arranged a mooring for us and helped to get Lorelei safely tied up. JP (Jean Pierre) off Alya who we spent time with in Abaiang Atoll kindly offered to take us ashore to Immigration & customs, to show us around town and visit the key places that we should know. Within 3 hours we were cleared, fed and had a basic idea of who’s who and what’s where. We were stoked!

The lagoon floor of Majuro is deep and anchoring is impossible for yachts because of the depth and the large amount of scattered wreckage on the bottom. $3 a day for a mooring is an easier and safer option.

Being an American Port, US Postal freight covers this area and is roughly the same cost as what it would be within the USA mainland so many of the boats here are online, crazily ordering away to obtain new toys and vital boat parts.

On the 2nd evening we were invited to Philip and Terri’s cat Blue Bie moored next to us for drinks. We meet 10 other yachties (from 7 different countries) with the realization that most of them are adventurous people our own age.
Of the 20 boats in the mooring fields, there were a large number of surfers, kiteboarders and divers all wanting to get amongst the action.
We were buzzing with excitement.


The day we sailed in we noticed many large ships in the bay and commented it was a lot for the size of the port.
We found out to our horror that they are mother ships anchored to service and unload the Tuna off the equally as large and seriously high tech Tuna catching vessels.
$10 million worth of Tuna a day is brought into Majuro Lagoon from the surrounding waters and stockpiled onto these mother ships until their holds are full and they simply up-anchor and leave the country only to be replaced by another.

Check out the Tuna spotting helicopter and serious binocular setups on the Tuna Tower. There are a dozen of these in the lagoon at any one time.

A Tuna boat unloading to a mother ship.

Just some of the mother ships in the Lagoon.

Australia Day - 26th Jan 2013

We were up early decorating Lorelei with a range of Aussie Flags.
Ex Pats Maurie and Rhondi off the Aussie Boat “Navi-Gator” saw the flags and came over to invite us to a fun afternoon and evening at “Wallaby Downs”.
We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into but gladly accepted and dressed up in Aussie garb and caught a cab there with Ben and Wendy.

Wallaby Downs is a small compound run by the Australian Navy and home to the Naval Commander, his family, staff and their families.
We were welcomed with open arms.

A typical introduction:
“Hi I’m Lisa”
“Hi Lisa I’m Tom”
Hi Tom nice to meet you blah, blah, blah…”
“So Tom what do you do”
“I’m the American Ambassador”
“Oh! Ok…..”

That arvo after we found ourselves playing cricket, basketball and competing in a thong throwing contest with many dignitaries such as Ambassadors from many countries, The Police Commissioner, Ministers for Immigration, etc.., The Naval Commander, many other ex-pats and the list goes on.

After a few formalities, the lamington bake off awards, and a fantastic catered dinner, we found ourselves in the pool at night playing volleyball, drinking and ribbing each other, dunking, wrestling and generally having a really good time with these great people who like us were just out to have a fun day.

Lamington’s galore

Overall we had a fantastic time, met a lot of new people and befriended a few who we will definitely catch up with in the future. For Lisa it was a great chance to network as a few people had similar professional backgrounds.

11pm antics….. Wendy we think that Kangaroo likes you....

A huge thanks goes out to Peter & Jen, Gary and Simone and their family for a fantastic day out with a lot of great people.

For the rest of the week at D-U-D we restocked Lorelei with fuel, food and lots of fresh F&V.
Nearly every night we found ourselves out at either another yacht socializing or in town enjoying one of the many restaurants that are very cheap. We even went to the weekly local yacht club function. Many of the ex pats we met at Wallaby Downs were there which was great.

We saw this in the main street. The Marshalls version of the franchise

We also went to Internal Affairs to apply for our outer Atoll permits.
For any atoll you wish to visit you must have a permit and pay the local Mayor the entry fee which varies from atoll to atoll and ranges from free to $150 US but most were around $25-50.
We obtained permits for Maleolap and Wotje Atolls as they have good diving and a lot of WW2 relics both above and below the water.

Bikini Atoll – so near yet so far.

Whilst at D-U-D we also enquired about Bikini Atoll.
Bikini Atoll is part of the Marshall Islands and is 380nm NW of Majuro.
It is also the place the swimsuit is named after.
Nearly everybody knows about the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests.
If you don’t, google it up and have a look.

Paul has wanted to dive the Bikini Atoll wrecks since the area was opened in 2007.
After many inquiries we found ourselves at the Bikini Atoll Town Hall at Majuro in a meeting with the Bikini Atoll Trustee and Mayor.

After 2 days of extensive enquiries of trying to organizing diving at Bikini, Paul did not have any success.
The only way to dive there is to book with a pre arranged expedition, fly into the Marshall's as a group and board a 10 passenger live aboard that travels to Bikini a few times a year from August to October which is the typhoon season in the Northern Hemisphere.
The yacht cruising season is from November to May and during this time diving is suspended in Bikini.
There was a land based dive operation set up in Bikini in 2007 but it closed a few years later as the local Airline with only 1 plane was too unreliable.

The frustrating thing is it’s free to go there (with the correct permits), we have the GPS coordinates of all the wrecks, they are in a protected lagoon in crystal clear viz, on a white sandy bottom.
It’s not like we couldn’t find them or see their outline from the surface…
To say Paul was disappointed was an understatement!

Baker Nuclear Test – Note the ship going vertically up the water column

The USS Saratoga - Bigger than the Titanic and sitting upright in Bikini Atoll Lagoon in 55m of water on sand.

Wreck Diving D-U-D – Majuro Atoll

People had told us the owner of the southern mooring field simply attaches the moorings to the wreckage on the lagoon floor.
We tied our RIB to our friend’s yacht Azimuth and dived over.
We were amazed at what was below and we found a Naval Patrol Boat, a Freighter and a large long liner fishing boat amongst other things.

Anemwanot Island – Majuro Atoll

After a week at D-U-D we departed and sailed over to Anemwanot Island on the northern side of the atoll. The island has a small resort style day complex which is popular on weekends.
There are 7 free mooring buoys for yachts and a beautiful outlook.

Sunrise from our mooring

One of the many pigs that roam freely on the beach and island.

We also made some new friends Paul (Paul N for the blog so there’s no confusion) and Helena off the cat Looping that was on the mooring next to us. Paul N is a keen free diver & spearo and they both kite which is great.

Drinks on Looping.

The kayaking and snorkeling in the area was fantastic particularly in the passes between the islands.

We took the RIB out with Wendy and Helena to 2 pinnacles in the lagoon that rise from 50m up to 6m for a look and a spear. The area was swarming with bait fish but no edible fish. On the way back we found a pass between 2 islands with a wild incoming run of water from the ocean on the flood tide. We jumped in and drifted through the pass with the most amazing viz. It was blue and endless.

For diving there are 2 helicopters & a DC-3 plane in the shallows and Fiji’s ex Blue Lagoon Cruise ship, The Oleander in 25-30m depth.
We had 4 dives on The Oleander stopping at the planes and copters on the way back up.
The diving was simple as we were able to rig up on Lorelei’s dive platform, slip over and return straight back to her – no RIB required.

The bait fish inside The Oleander were very dense and the most we have ever seen on any wreck. It was impossible to see more than a meter in front of you and you had to keep waving your hand or torch in front of you to clear a hole to see through or take a photo.

In the bridge area.

Bait fish all along the roof…

The Trevally getting an easy feed around the wreck.

The guest rooms in the lower deck.

Richard off Azizah at the rudders with a large Lionfish.

One day when the viz was excellent we free dived the wreck which was pretty cool especially swimming through the aft decks at 25m with all the fish.

When Paul was free diving off the side of the wreck he saw a dark shape on the sand in the distance and after a bit of exploration we found it to be the tail section of the plane in 23m depth. On our next scuba dive we had a better look.

Ben exploring the tail section.

When we sailed over to Anemwanot we noticed we had some stitching that had let go on our storm jib so we asked Semea who has a sewing machine stronger than ours to see if she could repair it. At first we tried in Azizah’s cockpit but realized that we needed more space and ended up on the foredeck.

One lunchtime, 3 helicopters which we assumed were from the Tuna boats came over us and started to do some crazy hot-dogging around us.
They were doing loops, corkscrews, and some insane high speed flat 360 spins only meters above the water. They were also weaving through the boats and trees at speed. It was an amazing display.

Spot the Helicopter…

We didn’t believe it was possible until we saw it – a helicopter doing loops.

That evening we had a party onboard Lorelei for Paul’s 44th birthday that went well into the night.
Everyone chipped in with food and Helena made a great alcoholic fruit punch.

Chocolate Caramel Slice as a birthday cake alternative. Yum!!

At 9am the next morning Paul N is over banging on our hull –
“Get up! The winds pumping I’m going kiting – so are you!!!”

We all rode Cabrinha Switchblades – and all 2012 models!

Paul’s in action!

The lonely planet guide warns of the aggressive dogs in the Marshalls.
This is Leo our kite mascot who will lick you to death if you get too close!

For 3 days straight we kited in the pass until the weekend.
We really wanted to get going north to the outer atolls but it was still 20+ knots of NE wind and a large 4m+ sea and swell to really mess it up.
So with no option to remain in Majuro, we decided to return to D-U-D for some more fruit & veg and to enjoy the Japanese festival that was planned for Saturday night.

Japanese Cultural Festival

Saturday evening we went to the annual Japanese Cultural Festival which was at the Marshall Islands College. Many of the yachties were there so we linked up and had a great night.

All dressed up and ready to party.

Over the weekend we did some more research and talked to a few locals to try and find some more dive sites within Majuro lagoon. The research paid off and Sunday we were ready to dive with 2 more spots to explore.

More Diving at D-U-D

The first was a post WW2 dumping ground where they simply rolled a heap of US war surplus off the side of a large ship. It was a little like Million Dollar Point in Vanuatu but not as congested and a twisted mess as MDP.
There are a lot of Fire Trucks, Semis, Tankers and Flat Bed Lorries as well as large barges and a 44 gallon drum dump.
They were all sitting close but separate from each other on sand in 19-22m of water.
The wrecks had a lot of coral growth and in particular long soft whip corals that made good photo opportunities.

This photo had us laughing for days. Paul was turned around taking the photo below while Lisa was sitting driving the fire truck complete with siren sounds, sharp corners and honking horns. Paul spun around and snapped this photo mid antics….

 A beautiful Bubble Anemone on the Wheel

The next day we dived a large freighter called the Ocean Glory which was lying on its side in 25m of water on sand.
It was easy to find as the local yacht club have tied a large yellow buoy to its stern and use it as one of the start line markers for the weekend sailing races.
As we descended down the line we saw large schools of Rainbow Runners and Spotted Eagle Rays hovering around the top and sides of the ship.
It was a completely intact wreck with lots of deck structure, towers and cranes, etc to explore. The inside was great but very silty and it was one of those wrecks were a reel line would be a must if you wanted to penetrate through multiple levels and find your way back out safely. We didn’t have one with us so we erred on the side of caution.

Later on in the week we found out that this area was known as tiger shark alley. We were bummed that we didn’t see one….the locals thought we were nuts. 

Lisa with a large Flounder we found under the wreck

Looking up from under the wreck

The searchlight bracket on the roof of the bridge

The bow and the anchor winch all covered in fish

After 4 days we left returned to Anemwanot Island for some more kiting and Paul did a great down-winder from Enigu Island down to Robokaere Island with Philip off Blue Bie while Lisa and Terri went down in the RIB’s to have a snorkel and pick us up when we got there.
For 2 days there the weather was terrible with a lot of rain and strong winds. Lisa made use of the time by letting the dingy fill with rain water and had a bath.

Friends Nick and Kathy off Impala also turned up on the first rainy day with son Patrick and fiancée Sae-he on holidays from South Korea.
At dusk the wind on the last night went from NE to SSE with a 30 knot storm that swung both boats around putting us on a lee shore and over the sand and coral bommies close to the beach with only 3m under the keel. If the mooring broke we were gone! We had no option but to sit on watch for a few hours until about 10pm when it fortunately passed and the wind dropped out.

Maleolap Atoll

After 3 weeks of being at Majuro and 2 weeks looking for a weather window to head north we finally had a small break in the conditions. It was just a little respite for only 1 day where the wind went from 45 to 60 degrees and the seas from 4m down to 3.5m. The wind strength was still 25 knots!
We just had to go as once it picked back up again in 36 hours, there appeared to be no let up for another 10 days.
We left at 2pm on the arvo of the 16th Feb with Impala leaving about 1 hour later for the 135nm run to Maleolap Atoll at a bearing of 350 degrees.
We had set the boat up for full storm conditions and we are very glad we did.
As soon as we exited the pass we were sailing tight on at 45-50 degrees crashing into some very steep and ugly seas. There was green water going right over the boat. The best option we found was to slow the boat down to 4.5 knots and ride though it and that’s how we spent the night.
By 7pm it was very uncomfortable and Paul was quite sick – literally!
Just before daybreak we sailed under the lee of Aur Atoll which gave us some respite from the swell. We were able bear away and to increase our speed up to 7 knots sailing up past Aur Atoll and onto Maloelap Atoll arriving at the NW entrance at midday. The last 22nm run across the inside of the lagoon was also pretty wet but we maintained good speed and arrived safely to Taroa Island in the NE corner of Maleolap Atoll at 3pm.

An uninhabited island marking the NW passage

Impala sailing up to Taroa island.

We couldn’t believe how beautiful the area was offset by the piles of WW2 relics we could see on the beach. We anchored right alongside the wreck of the Toroshima Maru which was a large Japanese ship that sunk here when it was bombed by US planes during the war. The masts still stick out about 15m into the air making it very easy to locate.

Finally we had made it!!! The extra bonus was being able to anchor for the first time since leaving Tarawa 5 weeks ago rather than relying on questionable mooring buoys.

For 2 days we went onto the island, first to pay our respects to the mayor and to have a look at the small village, the school and the WW2 relics.

Lisa and Sae-he drinking coconuts

Mobbed by school kids at lunchtime

The destroyed Japanese Wharf.

A US landing barge used during the WW2 attack

These ladies make the beautiful woven baskets. It takes days to harvest and process the raw materials then about 3 days to weave each one. Baskets these size sell for around $15 each.

Maleolap World War 2 Relics and Tour

The Germans occupied Taroa Island prior and post WW1 and developed the copra trade but left in the 1930’s. In WW2 the Japanese took over the island and forced the local Marshallese Villagers to move to other islands. The Japanese built a very extensive fortification consisting of all the normal armaments around the foreshore along with an airfield, large 3 story HQ, light rail system, fuel depots, bunkers, accommodation, ammo storage, radio base, etc…
The Americans came in with great force and destroyed the Japanese base. The Americans did not need to take the island so they just left it. The villages returned in the 1970’s to re-start.

It soon became clear that there were way too many WW2 relics to see in one day and a lot that were hidden within dense undergrowth so we organized a full day tour for the next day with Jack the Mayor’s son to show us around.
Ben and Wendy had sailed up overnight (and also coped a flogging) so that meant 8 of us for the tour.
Some of it was fascinating whilst other parts were quite sobering.

Mobbed by kids again as we tried to put our shoes on before starting the tour.

The Japanese HQ.

The massive double sets of doors that led to the air raid bunker.

This is one of the walls in the bunker. Note the triple weaved metal reo in the thick concrete walls. This room was a mess of bullet holes and blown in doors and walls. It was very sobering as this appeared to be the Japanese officer’s last stand.

Just one of the many aircraft drop fuel tanks strewn around the island.

The steel fuel tanks encased in a huge amount of concrete for protection.

The tanks from inside the concrete housing.

All that concrete didn’t help this one – it was a blown apart.

The airfield was scattered with lots of twisted remains of many zero fighters and larger bombers. There were bullet holes everywhere.

Inside of a bunker we found hidden in the dense undergrowth.

This bomb didn’t explode on impact!!!

Look how thick the concrete is on this gun emplacement

Maleolap Kiteboarding

For many days we kite boarded the pass between Taroa and Pigeeyatto Islands. The launching spot was right on the western point near the gun and a concrete pillbox/bunker that was a little deeper. We had adult villagers turn up every day to watch us kite in the strong 15-25 knot winds.
The pass was only 4-8 feet deep and packed with stunning coral and fish over sand in crystal clear water. The view kiting over it at speed was awesome.

Ben rode Paul’s smaller 8m kite most days…

While Paul used Ben’s 10m. Wendy launched and Lisa took the photos before taking themselves off snorkeling.

The gun was a great feature for the photos but it was only inches deep around it making it fun to kite past but too dangerous to jump over or around it.

The pillbox/bunker was another story! It had about 2-3 feet of water depth around it so Paul could jump over it…..

….or try a rail slide along its edge.

It was an insanely fun place to kite and we were truly kiting in paradise.

A day with the Village Kids

We really wanted to spend some time with the village kids on our first full weekend there so we went in early on the Saturday to fly the Octopus kite and play Frisbee at low tide. The kids played for hours. We also got a better look at the bunker now it was dry.

The bunker at low tide

When the tide came in we decided to go for a kite. The kids were fascinated with them and after a few lessons we had them unrolling and blowing them up for us. They loved it and so did we!

The boys climbed onto the gun and watched us kite with the highlight for them being able to high-five us on the way past.

Lobsters and Coconut Crabs

We were talking to the local adults and discovered that the Island had run out of sugar and the supply boat wasn’t due for many weeks.
Lisa and Wendy decided to help so they gave 1kg bags to select families who we knew would share it around.
What we received in return was staggering. Over the next 2 days we received piles of drinking coconuts, paw paws, limes and woven bags full of fruit and Coconut Crabs. Jack also dropped us out a few Lobsters too.

The girl’s decided to get together and make a big feast with all the fresh food. Lisa made lobster thermadore, thai mahi mahi fishcakes and punch, Wendy did the coconut crabs and bread while Helena did the salads.
We had a fantastic evening feasting and drinking on Looping.

Diving the Toroshima Maru Wreck

After 8 days of being anchored at Toroa Island, we finally found some time to dive the wreck of the Toroshima Maru. We had freedived it 3 or 4 times in between kiting but hadn’t found the time to get the scuba gear out.
With a max depth of only 13m we were able to do 2 long 105 minute dives and explore most of the ship.
The highlight was the 1000’s of baby barracuda schooling around the top & sides and the scores of unexploded depth charges throughout wreck.
It was such a pleasure to just to rig a scuba pack, flop off the duckboard on Lorelei and swim 30m over to the wreck. We didn’t even have to launch the RIB – So Easy!

That’s a depth charge under Lisa.

Note the tracks on the floor to roll the depth charges through this door and out off the back of the ship. They were on both sides.

At the end of the second dive we could see Paul N and Helena snorkeling overhead. Paul got Helena to dive down and pose for some photos

Diving the Ollet Island Wrecks

After 9 days we left Toroa Island to explore some other parts of the Atoll.
Our first stop was Ollet Island only 5nm away.
This is a small island with about 50 villagers.
In the shallows in front of the island were 2 wrecks that could easy be seen from the surface. There were numerous coral heads all around the wrecks which were lying upright one in front of the other and ranging in depth from 6m to 20m.
We saw a load of fish with lots of bait & flashlight fish inside the wreck and reef fish around the coral bommies. There were 2 large jobfish always in view and we even saw Yellowfin Tuna off the back of the deeper wreck which was amazing considering we were in a lagoon.
Despite the crystal clear viz, photography was a real challenge as the sunlight was beaming one minute and clouded over the next.

Cuppa Tea anyone? Paul thinks it’s an oil can, but Lisa is not so sure…

We soon realized that the anchorage was quite rolly with waves coming through the passes on the spring high tide so we decided the next day to leave and seek an island that would offer more shelter and less roll.
We had a drama trying to pull the anchor up in the 22m deep anchorage as we were caught up on a small bommie. What resulted was a stripped gypsy on our anchor winch and 70m of chain exiting the anchor locker at speed only to end up on the lagoon floor – twice!
The gypsy was pretty well worn anyway but now it was really stuffed.
It took us over 2 hours to finally drag the anchor around the bommies and into the shallows where we managed to haul it up 4 links at a time.
With a repair now needed we decided to return to Taroa Island and anchor safely in the shallows in front of the old wharf.
There was only one other boat in the bay, a German cat, Maraposa.

At dusk we were sitting in the cockpit having a drink when we heard a massive explosion. The noise and pressure wave that hit us was immense! We had never heard or felt anything like it. Immediately the both of us and Michael & Birgit off Maraposa were on the foredecks with binoculars trying to work out what it was. All we could see was a large smoke cloud rising up above the trees from the centre of the island.
We could only assume one of the old WW2 bombs had detonated.
It must have been a big one or possibly a few all piled together.
After such a strong pressure wave, we tested all our electronics onboard Lorelei and fortunately everything appeared to work ok.

As a note to that – we caught up with Ben and Wendy 3 days later and they felt the blast from their anchorage which was about 3nm away from Taroa.

The next day Paul managed to fix the gypsy by deepening the 7 slots that grip the chain links. Both Paul and the workshop looked like they were sprayed with gold dust after 4 hours of grinding the bronze metal.

Piggyatto Island

After a test of the winch we found it better than ever so we were off again and this time over to Piggyatto Island to join Just Magic, Looping and Philip and Terri off Blue Bie who had just shown up. At last the 4 boats with the mad keen kiters (and divers…) were all together and looking forward to some serious fun.

At last the kite crew are together! 8 of us from 5 different countries with the 4 Aussies being from 3 different states. What a mix!!!

The view from Lorelei at our anchorage at Piggyatto.
Can you see Lisa snorkeling?

Looking West to our kiting spot.

The kiting spot is off a sandbar that is only exposed 2 hours either side of low tide. At high tide on the first day we went and explored Radio Island which is a tiny island ½ way between Piggyatto and Taroa that the Japs used to house the Radio Base. All that is left is a bit of the antenna, some plane wreckage and a stack of birds circling over the trees.

The kiting at low tide was ballistic! Flat, shallow and crystal clear water in a small U-shaped bay with sand spits at both ends that we could jump over. For a bit of fun over the next 3 days, Paul experimented with mounting one of the contour cameras on both the kite strings and his gath helmet. The helmet photos were so-so but the aerial ones from the kite strings turned out awesome.
Even though it was flat, Paul went for a run on his directional surf board as well as his twin tip for the photos and for a bit of a blast. 

Clear huh??

 Some big air time...

This photo was straight out of the camera - no retouching - Weird!

The snorkeling around the island was amazing with stunning coral formations in perfect condition. We were that impressed that we went and grabbed our scuba gear and went for a dive. Terri and Wendy joined us too.

The coral in front of Piggyatto Island.

We noticed the destroyed wharf in front of the Island and could only assume that there were also WW2 relics on the island so one day we went in for a look. We discovered the Island housed the power generation system for Taroa and we also found the wire cables connecting the 2 islands during our dive.
The damage to the island and the complex from the US attack was more extensive than at Taroa.

The 2 people living on the island produce copra for which they earn 23 cents a pound.

The entire island is littered with bomb craters.

Note the impact marks on the concrete where the bullets hit.

Lisa is in the background up on the mezzanine level.

Inside one of the heavily reinforced rooms. This one was a real mess.

After 18 fantastic days at Maleolap Atoll we decided to move further north to Wotje Atoll.
Overall we just loved our time at Maleolap Atoll and it is one of our top 5 places we have visited so far since leaving Aus.

Wotje Atoll

The sail to Wotje was one of those legs where it was too far to transit during the day but not far enough for an overnight sail. Additionally it was way too dangerous to lift the anchor and negotiate the scores of coral bommies in the lagoon and the pass without decent sunlight overhead.
So we left at 1:30pm for the 22nm crossing of the lagoon and exited the pass at 5pm. Even with shortened sail we arrived at the Wotje pass at 2am so we simply turned around and sailed back out and in for 3 hours each way and safely entered the pass at 8am and had the anchor down at Wotje Island by 10am.
It was an uncomfortable sail with 2-3m seas and 20-25 knots of wind but fortunately nothing like the horrible sail to Maleolap.

Wotje is the furthest north location that we are going to visit this season. It is approx. 570nm or over 1050klms north of the equator.  

On our first full day we paid our dues and explored the island and its many war relics. The island is 3 times the size of Maleolap and has a high school, power plant and people lead a less traditional life.
We found the WW2 relics not nearly as good as Maleolap because they were striped, overgrown and far too spread out. There were no planes on the land which for us is always a highlight.
What was pretty cool were the large guns placed about every 300m along the ocean side of the island.

That afternoon (Friday) we had a visit from the local police chief who informed us that we were forbidden to scuba dive within the atoll unless we paid him a $250 fee. To cut a long story short we objected, and after much discussion with other island officials and talking to other cruisers on the HF we decided to leave 2 days later in disgust. The downside of this story is it’s the ordinary villagers on the island who lose out as we simply notified the rest of the cruisers of what appeared to be a bogus fee and they simply scrubbed Wotje off the list of atolls to visit. Someone will no doubt put it up on the internet cruisers forums. The mayor loses his $50 atoll entry fee and the locals lose the ability to trade, sell fresh produce and interact.
Unfortunately it’s not an isolated incident.

To rub salt into the wound, the mayor invited us to a large dinner banquet on the Friday night as a few dignitaries from other islands were there for meetings. The police chief was suppose to pick us up from the wharf at 7pm but by 8:30pm he still hadn’t shown up so we went home quite angry.

There were 2 highlights of the last two days though.
The first was meeting Glen who ran the MEC power station as he organised some fantastic fresh produce and told us where to find a large 4 engine bomber aeroplane that crashed into the lagoon after it was shot down. As it turned out it was about 30m from where Lorelei was anchored in 10m of water and we were able to freedive it a few times.

All these Bananas for $7 and “Marshall” our new Turtle

The second chance meeting was with Alex who is a young US ex-pat teacher working at the high school. He was down at the wharf looking at Lorelei as we were the first yacht that had arrived at the atoll in the seven months he had been there. We had a good chat and organized to do something the next day with Alex and his room mate Garrett, also a US ex pat teacher.
The next day Elisabeth, who is another primary school teacher at a smaller island about 8nm away, was at Wotje for the day so the 5 of us headed out to Lorelei and then over to freedive the plane. Garrett had been looking for it for months so he was stoked to finally find it.
Unfortunately we only had the contour camera which doesn’t work real well at that depths.

In the afternoon we jumped in the dingy and went a few miles to another island to snorkel a large Japanese Freighter which was half in and half out of the water. The prop and deck winches were all there and we found a way through a hole into the centre on the vessel and the holds.

On the way home we stopped at the villages of London and Germany (yep that’s what there called…) to have a look at a few WW2 relics the boys knew about.

The guns on the lagoon side are in much better condition than those on the ocean side

Unfortunately for Elizabeth she had to go home that arvo and missed a great evening on Lorelei.

We caught up with the boys the next day (Sunday) and Paul & Garrett took the kids for joy rides in the RIB much to the delight of the kids parents looking on from the wharf.

Doughnuts RIB style

We left on Monday morning to sail the 175nm back to Majuro. The sail was relatively uncomfortable and uneventful for the first 22 hours but with only 20nm to go to the pass, the winds changed to on the nose, the seas and wind picked up and we were pelted with torrential rain. Thank goodness the sails were already heavily reefed. In 4 hours we managed to snap the stainless steel loop at the back of the boom that holds the main sheet and blocks, tear the sail bag on the main and somehow get a stream of water through the mast base into the front guest cabin. And it’s a deck stepped mast!! There was so much green water it was hitting the sails with full force, filling the cockpit and running down the stairs into the living area.  It was UGLY!!!

By lunch time we were safely tied up at the mooring field and cleaned up so we treated ourselves to a Katsu Chicken lunch at our favourite little Restaurant.

Overall our 8 weeks in The Marshall Islands have been a fantastic experience and we won’t let the little drama at Wotje detract from the great experiences had everywhere else. With 29 outer atolls in the group, we definitely would like to return to explore some of the others
(and hopefully get to Bikini) when we come back through this way in the northern Hemisphere Winter 2014/15.

Our plans from here are to spend 2 days here at D-U-D completing a major re-provision for food supplies and fuel that will last us all the way through Micronesia and the Solomon Islands – 5 months!

We will hopefully clear from here on Friday or the weekend for the 4 day sail to Kosrae in Micronesia. We will spend approx. 2 weeks there before another 2-3 day sail to Pohnpei for a 1 month stay.
We need to leave the northern hemisphere by the first week in May to escape the impending Typhoon Season and will have to tackle the 1200nm run south to the Solomons at around that time.

So that’s it for Episode 15 of the HOG BLOG!
Hope you enjoyed it!

Look out for Episode 16 from Pohnpei in around 1 months time…

We’re sorry it has been over 6 weeks between episodes and such a long one. 2 smaller ones probably would have been better but the internet is still pretty scarce in this remote part of the world.

Paul Hogger
Lisa Hogger

Team Lorelei.

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