Friday, 20 December 2013

Episode 21 Kosrae, Micronesia

LORELEI'S SAILING ADVENTURES
Happy 21st to THE HOG BLOG.

Welcome to Episode 21

KOSRAE, Micronesia

At the end of Episode 20 we had just sailed for 12 days on our worst long haul passage to date. It was a terrible trip battling currents, tides, light variable winds, incorrect forecasts, stacks of storms and to top it all off – very low fuel levels.
We had 8 hours sleep in the last 4 days and it took a few days to fully recover once we had arrived.
A combination of that trip and the Solomons lifestyle meant we have lost so much weight. We are both the lightest we have been since we were in our early 20’s.

One of the fun parts of the passage

However, we did make it safe and sound and a little wiser for the experience. Once again we learnt a lot from trying new sail configurations particularly with the Mizzen sail. It sure got a workout this trip.
Seems we never stop learning on board Lorelei.

For those that are regular readers of our blog, you will know that this is not our first time to Kosrae. We came here earlier in the year (March/April) and had a fantastic time. For more info have a look at Episode 16 of our Blog.
We did however arrive right at the end of the surf season and while we were lucky enough to get a few good sessions, it was inconsistent. So this time around we are here right at the start of the season and were ready for when the swell kicked in.
It also put us in a good position to take advantage of the NE trades when they arrive and get a great off-the-wind sail to Pohnpei for Christmas and then to Palau until the end of the Northern Hemisphere cruising season in May.


Okat Harbour

Okat Harbour is the port on the West Side of the Island and is the Islands main commercial area. We would have much preferred to enter Lelu Harbour on the East Side but we were so low on fuel and Okat was offshore in the East winds if the worst case scenario happened and we ran out and were forced to drift.

The upside is the close location to the clearance officials, many of whom are based around the airport which is very close by. There are also 3 massive commercial moorings that are rarely used so we were free to use one of them. It’s also glassy flat and offshore in the NE trade winds and very close to the main dive spots and surf breaks.

The downside is our friend Matt “Junior” Simpson, the hardware store, the supermarket and the 2 resorts are all close to Lelu on the other side of the Island making us a long way from most conveniences.

Okat is an amazing place though and the mountains behind Lorelei’s mooring are stunning and the sunsets over the water are amazing.


On our first full day we hitched a lift over to the other side and completed the balance of the clearing formalities, caught up with Junior and went shopping. We were like kids in a candy store in the Supermarket.
Just the most basic things that we have not seen in 7 months like dairy, pastries, sushi ingredients, taco shells and above all else CHOCOLATE!!!!!
The next day felt like Easter Sunday on board Lorelei.
So much for all the weight we lost…


After a few days recovery we started to get active again.
One arvo we had Junior, partner Glenice and World Teach volunteer Hish on board Lorelei for a fun arvo.
First we took the SUP’s and the kayaks up a small river at the end of the harbour. It’s a beautiful place with lots of palms and overhanging trees into the water. The further up the river we went, the fresher the water became making it great for a refreshing swim.




When we got back to Lorelei we feasted on Paul’s fresh Yellowfin Sushi.


The next morning we went for a long SUP around the harbour. Lisa went really well and didn’t fall off once.


Later in the day the swell kicked in and we were able to have our first surf. It was a new spot for us called Fingers and it was a longboard wave.
Again Lisa did very well. Her balance has improved a heap since last season and she rode every wave she managed to get onto.

On our first Saturday we did our first spear and went to our favourite place, Shark Island. We burlyed for hours but didn’t do so well. Off the coast we could see large schools of working fish so we packed up and took off to chase them. We jumped in over 2000m of water and drifted down the current line. It was Hish and Miguel’s first time blue water spearing and they learnt a heap. We saw Small Yellowfin Tuna and lots of Rainbow Runners and managed to get a few with Junior scoring the biggest one.

That arvo a large cat came in for overnight only and anchored next to us. Stupidly they only put 30m of chain out in over 15m of water.
That night we coped the storm from hell at 3:30am. It hit with a vengeance and blew over 50 knots (100klm per hour). The cat dragged right across the harbour and nearly hit the reef at the end of the airport.
They also lost their wind generator overboard.
We did OK and just sat watch for 90 minutes until it passed.
The next day there were a heap of trees down all over the island and some damage to property. Matt snr lost the whirly vents on his roof.
Long term ex pats on the Island said it was the second most powerful storm in the last 20 years.
It’s our third 50+ knot storm since leaving Brisbane and it seems we get one a year. The first was at North West Island in Aust on the GBR with Heartbeat 2 and the second was at Abaiang Atoll in The Kiribati’s 11 months ago.

Sailing To Lelu Harbour

The Kosrae people are very religious and Sunday is strictly a day of rest. Fishing, kiting, etc… are illegal and most other sports and activities are frowned upon.
So on our first Sunday we decided to take Lorelei around to Lelu harbour.
We loaded up the boat with a stack of the expat teachers and made a day trip out of it. The wind direction and strength was perfect and we sailed 12nm north of the island before tacking and sailing back down the east coast into Lelu.
We had dolphins in the bow wave and Hish caught his biggest fish ever.
(The fish was hooked well off the coast so nobody could see….)


  


Coming into Lelu Harbour with “The Sleeping Lady” in the background.

The Sleeping Lady has nice boobs with big nipples.
The sun even shines out of them….


Veteran’s Day Rock Hopper Race


The next day was Monday the 11/11. In Australia it is Remembrance Day but in the USA and territories it is Veterans Day and is a public holiday.
Early that morning Kosrae held its annual Rock Hopper Adventure Race which is 10km long with the start/finish line at Nautilus Resort.
United Airlines sponsors the race and offers cheap flights for those wanting to fly from other FSM states, The Marshall Islands, Guam and Palau to compete.
To the organisers delight it was a much bigger turnout than expected with nearly 50% of the runners flying in.

The race is a mixture of tared road and running through the dirt tracks in the hills. It had rained that morning (it rained nearly everyday…) and the track was quite muddy.
We decided to register and compete also.
Considering our lack of training and knowledge of the course we did OK.
Paul completed the race in 58 minutes and was very happy to come in 13th place.
Lisa chose to hang with the girls and came in mid field at 1h 37m.
Matt Senior smashed it and won outright in 42 minutes, 3 minutes ahead of the nearest competitor (which happened to be the ladies winner).

Brandi, Miguel and Lisa getting ready

Paul running solo in the hills section

The finish line

Brandi and Miguel finishing – note the mud on their legs.
Miguel is a machine – he worked all week, speared with us on Sat, sailed with us on Sunday, ran the race Monday (barefoot) followed by a 3 hour surf only to back it up and run the marathon on Tuesday (and won – also barefoot) and had his best surf ever with Paul & the Matt’s that arvo….
Talk about a packed long weekend!!

Lisa and Danielle Finishing

Girl Power – Danielle, Lisa and April, a fellow Aussie who lives in Pohnpei

Matt Snr collecting first place.
It was funny watching him run. He slept in, rocked up about 3 minutes before the start still half asleep, no shirt, no socks, old shoes, boardies and little warm up. All the while the other serious contenders where in all the branded gear, warming up, etc…
It didn’t matter - he won by a long way.

One hour after we get back on Lorelei we get a text from Junior saying Main Dish is on, so we loaded the boards into his new longboat and headed out for what turned out to be a very fun surf in glassy 3 foot waves.

4 blokes, 8 boards, an amazing backdrop and a lot of fun….

The next day we rolled out of bed and could hardly move we were both so stiff and sore. We put that aside when Junior texted the surf was on again at Side Dish so out we went….

Kevin’s Farewell
A few days later we had Kevin’s farewell. He lives at Nautilus Resort and is a private tutor/teacher on the island.
We had a fun night in the Kabana drinking shots, partying and fire twirling.
Paul got some fun photos of the fire twirlers in action.


Kevin giving the fire twirling a go for the first time…

Josh getting crazy….





Yay – it’s Sharkface!!!!

Friday morning Lisa looked out to the entrance of the harbour and sailing in much to our excitement (and theirs) was John & Jenny off the Aussie (Lake Macquarie, NSW) yacht Sharkface.
We were sooo happy to see them again. The last time was in Santo, Vanuatu over 1 year ago.
Actually it was their original planned route that we have followed that lead us last year to The Kiribati, The Marshalls and onto here.
Sadly due to unforeseen circumstances they couldn’t continue on that leg and we went on without them.
So it was extra special that we could be reunited now!

The next day we caught up and shared stories and photos of our travels – theirs of Fiji & Tuvalu and ours from The Solomon’s.


That night we had an awesome sunset with The Sleeping Lady in the background.




Over the next few days the boys surfed the fast sucky surf breaks while Lisa and Jenny explored the Harbour and Mangroves on their kayaks.

Refueling Lorelei

When the tides were right and the weather looked OK, we decided to refuel Lorelei. It was a mission manually loading 5 x 44 gallon drums (1000 litres total) onto Junior’s small truck and hand pumping the diesel into Lorelei’s tank. Fortunately it was a team effort with John and Jenny helping too. We also managed to refuel Sharkface as well although she only needed a top up with jerry cans.



Kayaking/SUP Utwe Harbour

One hour later we had re-anchored Lorelei, dropped back the empty drums and were loading up the Kayaks for a fun afternoon paddling through the mangroves down at Utwe Harbour at the bottom of the island.

Loading 3 kayaks, 2 sups, 5 paddles and 5 people into the little truck!

Riding in the back of the truck. You can’t do this back at home anymore….


Paddling out of the harbour and up into the river system


We had to go under some low bridges with the high tide.




We went so far up the river that we ended up in the fresh water and had a great swim. By the time we got 1/2 way back the sun had well and truly set and it was getting quite dark. Then for 20 minutes it poured with rain and the viz was only a few meters. Thank goodness Junior knew the way!

We did the last 30 minutes under the full moonlight and got back to the yachts at 8pm.

Lisa’s Birthday –20th Nov

November 20th is Lisa’s Birthday and we had a few great things planed but unfortunately it turned out to be terrible weather with rain and wind all day so we postponed it 24 hours.
In the morning John and Jenny came over and they gave her presents and a fun hand-made card.


Taunsak Gorge Hike

That arvo we hiked up Tafunsak Gorge at Lisa’s request.
We did the walk last time we were here and thought it was the best land based thing we did here. So we simply had to do it again – this time with John & Jenny and Junior as our guide.
The gorge actually supplies the fresh water for the Tafunsak province so hiking up the gorge is prohibited unless prior approval has been given from the Mayor. Fortunately Junior had sorted this out for us the day before.


The first part of the walk involves following the water pipe up to the small dam. If you have good balance and it’s not too slippery you can walk along the pipe.


Oppps…..

Once passed the dam, the hike up the gorge is stunning with crystal clear flowing water, high sides and amazing scenery.





It’s a bit of a worry leaving a Nikon DSLR balancing on a tripod in
2 feet of rushing water while we took this 11 second exposure.

Lisa at the top under the waterfalls.

The nights were so busy for us. It seemed like a different activity each night for about 2 weeks straight.
Sometimes we would go over to Sharkface for drinks, dinner and to listen to guitar. Hish and John regularly got together for a jam. John is good and Hish is just amazing. The two of them had the boat rocking.

The girls preparing a feast while the guys played music and Paul took photos!


Tuesday nights are Pizza and Movie night at Bully’s Restaurant at Tree Lodge Resort. The movie is free and large pizzas with a garlic bread are just $10 making it very popular with the ex-pats and yachties. Bully’s is situated right on the water and if the tide was high we could take our tender instead of bikes or walking.


Note the white sail in the background which is lowered to make the big screen.
Next to Lisa are Christine and Christian, a fun Austrian/German couple off the yacht Thor. We like them a lot.

A few days later the next swell hit. Once again it was only small but super clean and we all headed to Fingers in the arvos for some fun sessions.
Jenny brought a body board off Junior and took it on its maiden surf.


Paddling across the lagoon & the shallow coral reef to get to the break.

Nautilus Dive Boat Canopy

When we were here last time, Doug at Nautilus Resort found out about Paul’s upholstery skills and asked if he could make a new canopy for the big dive boat. Unfortunately we just didn’t have time so this time around Paul and Doug set aside some time and spent 2.5 days making it.
They set up a temporary sewing bench at the Resort and set to work.
The end result turned out great.



The finished product.

Paul’s new U/W camera

Towards the end of our Solomon’s Adventure, Paul started to have a few problems with his underwater camera housing. At first he was able to modify or repair it but it got harder and harder to keep it water tight. After all, the unit has been going strong since Paul’s time on Spirit of Freedom in Cairns and it has done 1000’s of dives and taken over ¼ million photos.
We had tried to draw out its life as long as possible but considering we are heading into “The Coral Triangle”, the world’s best diving, we thought we really needed to upgrade (and get some much better photos for the blog).
After much research and searching we managed to find a fantastic body and housing that was second hand but rarely used and virtually new through Chris at Digital Diver in Cairns. We then added a series of new ports, strobe, arms, sync cord, lenses, etc.. to complete the set-up.
It was delivered to Kosrae safe and sound.
The set-up is a Nikon DSLR in an Ikelite Housing with twin strobes.
We have 3 lens and port options, an 8” Dome, a 4” Dome and a Macro flat port.


When Doug had some space on the dive boats we jumped on for a few days of diving.
It was a good opportunity for Paul to take the camera on its maiden voyage.

Diving with Japanese guests Mimiko & Hiro was a lot of fun.


Paul’s first photos with the new set-up using the wide angle lens and port.
There’s still a long way to go with colour, white balance and depth of field, but he’s off to an OK start.




At lunch time on the second day we bought the dive boat “Gecko” in and swapped all the gear onto a shallow drafted cat and went into the mangroves to do an unusual dive trying to get some reflection shots.
It wasn’t the best conditions for reflection photos with rain, overcast skies and no sun but we made the best with what we had.






Mimiko taking reflection photos



Lisa at the end of the Mangrove drift dive.

A Half Decent Surf – At Last……!!!

Finally on the 1st Dec the first half decent swell hit the island.
We went out to Maindish and surf for 4 hours on a dropping tide with the best waves right on sunset.



The sunset with Junior in the background on his last wave

The next day it was on again only this time we went out at 9am to take advantage of the low tide to try to get Corner Dish sucking over the shallow reef and make some small barrels.
As the tide rose we paddled over to Main Dish for some fast down-the-line waves.
Matt Snr had been surfing this crazy small foam board called a “Beater”. It is 4’6” long and he rides it with no fins.
The waves he can make on it are amazing not to mention the 360’s, slides and crazy tube riding.

Note the 2 chequered Beater boards in the bottom of the boat.




Exploring the WW2 Tunnels & Lelu Ruins

When the swell dropped and the sun finally came out (if only for a short period of time), we decided to hike up to the Japanese WW2 tunnels on the hill overlooking Lelu Harbour. We hiked up to them last time we were here but we did not have a torch so this time we went prepared.
We went with John and Jenny and Christian and Christine.

The view of “The Blue Hole” from half way up the walking trail.

There are 2 small bunkers right on the peak.




On the way back we decided to stop and visit the Lelu Ruins.
They are the oldest ruins in Kosrae which date back to before the 1400’s.
At one time this ancient city covered Lelu Island with its complex and extensive feudal system.
Today most of the outer lying structures are gone but what’s left is the entire centre section which still encompasses a massive area and over half the island.




Diving the 2 US PBM Flying Boats
After a week of terrible weather and a lot of rain, we decided to finally try to do a dive on the 2 large US PBM Flying boats in Lelu Harbour.
The viz didn’t look too good on the surface but we had the biggest tides of the year and did the dives towards the top of the tide hoping for better viz.
Paul elected to try the 60mm macro lens for the first time due to the poor viz. As we descended the viz was only 2m until about 7m depth then it just opened up and we had over 20m viz on the bottom and could see the entire plane as we descended. Paul was kicking himself that he didn’t have wide angle. Oh well – who would have guessed….


The 1st planes side scan sonar image

We dive both dives on 1 tank and did 50 minutes on the 1st plane & 45 on the 2nd one.

Paul didn’t feel so bad about shooting macro when he found a
White Leafy Scorpion Fish sitting on top of the fuselage.


Coming up from the 2nd plane we found a big Mantis Shrimp hiding in the rubble. Paul had to wait ages for it to come up to the entrance of it’s hole to get the photo.
He ran out of air and took the shot breathing off Lisa’s occy……


Above and below are Lisa’s 2 best macro shots from the plane.


So Long Junior – Okat here we come…

In the 1st week of Dec Junior flew off the Island to spend Christmas with family abroad. We were sad to see him go but we have made plans for him to join us in Pohnpei in the New Year for some surf and spearing.

 
Junior’s plane taxiing and taking off 


With Junior gone we could see no point in staying at Lelu so we sailed around to Okat on the other side to join Sharkface and to do some surfing, diving and kayaking/paddle boarding.

Kayaking/SUP Okat Harbour inlets

Before Junior left we managed to buy a paddleboard off him as he imports them onto the island. The new board is a Poi Pounder 10’3” and a hybrid allrounder for flatwater and small surf.
Lisa has nicknamed the board “POI” which she says stands for
“Paul’s Over Indulgence” !!
As with all things on board Lorelei, Paul had the sewing machine out and had made a cover for it within 48 hours.


With one extra kayak now available, it allowed the 4 of us (the 2 of us and John and Jenny) to go on paddle missions.

On the afternoon high tides we would go up the mangrove creeks and inlets.





The 2nd paddle was an awesome one up a small inlet that came out at the other end of the runway and near a small coral reef break which we all had fun on (and nosedived, rolled, fell off, tipped, etc….)






The last section (above and below) was an absolute no fall spot as the entire area was a dense field of vertical mangrove spikes sitting just inches below the surface. With the super high tide we were able to just glide over them.


Diving Okat’s Western Walls

Mid-week the sun came out and we were able to do a full days diving on the walls on the west side of the island. We took John and Jenny too for their first dives in Micronesia.
We both elected to shoot Macro and found some fun subjects.


Pauls best pic of the endemic (& damn hard to shoot) “Flame Angelfish”





A Tassled Scorpionfish that Lisa found




That evening we had John and Jenny over for a fun Sushi making and eating session.



For our last night in Kosrae we sat on the rear deck and watched the sunset over Sharkface while we had drinks.


Bye Bye Kosrae

Overall we spent just over 5 weeks In Kosrae and had a fun time.
Sadly though the 2 main things we wanted to really do were hampered by the weather.
First and foremost we were here for the surf. Unfortunately it was the worst November for swell in many years and we only got a few days of small waves at best. A far cry from the days of epic 4-8 foot barrels that we had so hoped for.

The many walks/hikes that we had also wanted to do we cancelled because of the constant daily rain squalls and generally unfavourable conditions. Hiking wet and slippery paths is just not safe….

For many of the activities we left the cameras behind fearing they would get soaked at some stage.

A huge thanks goes out to many people who made us most welcome.
To Doug and Super Sally, the owners of Nautilus Resort and Dive - they are the nicest people you could ever hope to meet and great hosts.
To their family and staff, Josh, Jess, Cameron, Salik, etc…. many thanks for an awesome time. Salik is the best local Divemaster we have met.

To Matt senior for all the fun surfs and endless knowledge of the local weather systems.
The Mark and Maria at Tree Lodge – the best yachtie ambassadors on the island and very helpful in getting us the fuel.
To all the ex-pats, world teach crew and volunteers (Particularly Hish, Brandi and Miguel) – thanks guys – it was fun!!!!!

Finally – to our very good friend Matt “Junior” and partner Glenice. Matt spent time with us almost daily showing us around his beautiful island home. His hospitality is endless and we can’t thank him enough.
We are looking forward to having him visit us next year – twice…




The Crossing – Kosrae to Pohnpei

We are not really superstitious but the departure date – Friday the 13th!!
Oh well it was also Paul’s brother Rod’s birthday so it couldn’t be too bad.
The day we went to leave the wind was honking. A stark contrast to leaving The Solomons 2 months ago!!
We had to sail 280 degrees and the wind was 60 degrees so we were in for a fast off-the-wind/downwind run of around 300nm.
It could have been worse – we just thought about Westfield’s Christmas car park rage that weekend and our passage didn’t seem quite so bad after all.

We left at 4pm and Thor had also left at 10am that morning. Sharkface delayed a bit and left on Sunday am.
The first night was OK with a great full moon and no storms.
The second night was more full on with larger seas, higher winds and storms but we were making good time and were right on the rhumb line.
It was however pretty uncomfortable and we both felt a little sick and didn’t sleep much.


By 2pm the next day we realised we would arrive at the reef pass at about 8pm so we decided to err on the side of caution and sit off until daybreak.
We headed north for a 60nm leg before gybing at midnight and sailing back south for a 9am ETA.
Just after we gybed we were hit with a big storm and some serious wind, rain & waves. We were surfing at high speed in the double figures towards Pohnpei and at that rate would reach the pass before 5am.
So in the pouring rain Paul managed to get a second reef in the main and reduced headsail to slow the boat down for our 9am arrival.

We call the shot all the 2’s
2am, 2-up, 22+ knots, 2.2 seas, 2 reefs in the main and too damn tired….

Land Ho! 5:45am & only 7nm to go. Pohnpei just in view under the clouds.

We were very happy though that we managed to sail pass to pass for zero fuel usage.

Coming around the main point we saw a huge Chinese freighter that had run onto the reef the day before. It was high and dry and was being pounded by big waves. The aftermath of the incident was huge and you will need to wait until Episode 22 of the Lorelei’s Blog to get the full story – If you don’t see it on the TV first…..

Coming thru the pass was great and into the inner lagoon and out of the swell. The waves on the point of main pass looked awesome and Paul was jumping around like a jack rabbit getting hyped up and taking photos – when he should have been on the bow on lookout….


Sadly inside the lagoon, the Asian Tuna vessels were out in full force.


We finally docked at 10am and completed our clearance with the 5 official parties that boarded Lorelei. (Yep 5 – EPA, Quarantine, Customs, Immigration and Port Control)
They were all great people and very helpful and welcoming. The boat was spotlessly clean above and below (which is very unusual coming in from a passage) and that helped a lot.


We finally anchored in the yacht basin at noon but not before a quick motor past and chat to Aussie friends Harry and Hailey off the boat
“Jack the Toad”


So that’s it for Episode 21 of The Hog Blog and Lorelei’s Sailing Adventures.

Episode 22 will be around the 30th of January 2014 which is when our FSM Visa expires.

Have a fantastic Christmas and Happy New Year Everyone.
Make it a safe one too….

Cheers!
Paul Hogger
Lisa Hogger
Yacht Lorelei
From the Federated States of Micronesia.


PS…
The swell – it finally hit !
19th December, P Pass (Voted the world’s 2nd best right-hander)
Pohnpei, Micronesia
More about it in Episode 22….










































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