Friday, 31 January 2014

Episode 22 Pohnpei, Micronesia

Lorelei’s Sailing Adventures

At the end of Episode 21 we had arrived safe and sound after a 2 day/3night sail from Kosrae, also a state of Micronesia.

Even though we were in the same country, we still had to do a complete clear out at Kosrae and a full clear in at Pohnpei with 5 different groups needing to clear us in. It was however quick & easy and the officials were all nice people & very welcoming.

Transiting from the clearance wharf to the yacht basin was a crazy experience with the channel being close to the mangroves.

The one thing we noticed were stacks of large wrecks scattered along the shoreline around the entire bay. Some were little longliners, tugs or dredges and others were huge freighters. 

Within a day we were straight into the activities.

Pohnpei (Pronounced “pohn-a-pay” and not to be confused with the ancient city of Pompeii) is a small remote Island situated 7 degrees north of the equator and lying between the other 2 FSM  states of Kosrae and Chuuk (Truk Lagoon). Yap the 4th state is over 1000nm further west.

Pohnpei is approx. 10nm wide & long and unlike Kosrae, it has a fringing reef that extends about 1nm out past the mainland creating an inner lagoon that runs most of the way around the island.

The central area and coastal fringe are very mountainous and it is regarded as the wettest place on earth with a huge annual rainfall.

The area has lots to offer both on land and water with everything from waterfall hikes, WW2 relics, the ancient Nan Madol ruins, diving, surfing, game fishing, etc….

Compared to Kosrae, this is a busy place with a large main township of Kolonia and many shops, cars and infrastructure.
Sadly though the culture of the place seems to be lost as they have a very large US influence and call USA “The Mainland”.
The people however are mostly smiling friendly people and we felt quite comfortable and safe here.

Surfing P-Pass

On the first full day (we hadn’t even set foot on the island yet….) Harry and Hayley off the Aussie boat “Jack The Toad” came over and told us they were leaving to go surfing at 12 noon and they would show us how to get there if we wanted. We agreed but though
“can’t be too hard can it??....” Well weren’t we wrong!
We certainly were glad to have them as a guide. 

Paul was admittedly a little nervous. P-Pass or Palikar Pass is a world famous surf spot and is rated the world’s 2nd best right-hander in the top 100 list. It can be fun when it’s small but from 6ft and up it is a seriously powerful and hollow barrel for experienced surfers only.
Additionally we knew a big swell was coming. We had been monitoring it from about 10 days out and that also influenced the decision to leave Kosrae when we did and get to Pohnpei before it hit.
Paul loaded the RIB with a full quiver of boards, spare fins, leg ropes, helmet, cameras, etc… and off we went.

Within 2 minutes we had gone under a very low bridge and were transiting though and mangrove forest with a shallow and sometimes very narrow channel. It was an awesome experience and we never grew tired off transiting it every time we went surfing.
Once through the mangroves we then had to cross the lagoon past 5 white markers which was fine on the way out but into the wind on the way home making it a very rough ride home sometimes.

The run was about 30 minutes each way.

When we got out there we were a little disappointed to find the surf only 2-3 feet with a cross shore wind. Luckily Paul had brought his smaller 6’3” fish and was able to surf on that. At least he got to scope the place out before it got bigger.
The one amazing thing was the underwater viz. You could duck dive under the waves and see forever – and that was without a mask!!!
Lisa had her freedive gear and said it was fantastic.
The side of the break also had 5 moorings for the boats to tie off to which made life very easy and gave a close and fantastic vantage point
At least we were the only ones out…

1 Hour after we returned to Lorelei, Sharkface motored in. Thor had got in that morning too so all 3 boats and crew were safe and sound.

Every afternoon we would have paddlers on their 4 person outriggers paddling up and down the bay. Their paddles were traditional wooden shapes with straight shafts.

The next day we went out to P-Pass again but this time with John and Jenny and showed them the way through.

When we got out to the break it was only 3ft again. What was happening??? This time however the surf camp boats were there and there were about 10 guys in the water.
Paul took his 6’3” out again and was having fun.

90 minutes into the session it started to build. The odd 4 footer was coming, then it was solid 4ft with 5ft sets and then really started to fire with solid 6ft+ waves. Paul came in for a board swap and jumped straight up to a 6’9” pin tail and went back out.
The waves that arvo were excellent.

Above and Below x 2 – if you look closely this guy has
a Go Pro camera in his mouth…..crazy!!!

The next day it was on again but we knew overnight it was going to really build but we had no idea what to expect.
We decided to take Christine and Christian from Thor along for the ride and for them to watch the spectacle.
When we got out it was hard to describe. It was 10ft+ and pumping with the sets being much bigger than that.

The Hawaiian pro’s had flown in, so had the boys from Aussie Metal Band “Parkway Drive” along with the reigning women’s world surfing champion Carissa Moore. The pro photographers were also there, in the water, on jet skis and on the photo tower of the big boat.
It was a full blown circus and we were both a part of it and here to watch.
We sat in the RIB on a mooring right on the edge of the reef and were so close to the breaking waves that we could hear and see everything just meters away.
The noise of the waves and the power is just impossible to describe and in 35 years of surfing we have never seen anything like this.
We could feel the wind and the spray from the blowouts of the barrels at the end of the waves. The max speed at which the pros were surfing was just incredible.

The photos barely even do it justice but we are sure you get the idea.

Broken boards and some heavy wipeouts were all part of the day

Paul managed to get onto one of the big boats and stood on the bow in between Carissa’s boards taking these photos. Interestingly nearly all the boards on the boat (and there were scores of them…) were all quad fins.

Paul took 1200 photos in a 2 hour session!

We have had some amazing experiences on our travels but this was definitely up there in the top 5.
Christian and Christine (who are European and have basically never seen any surfing) were just blown away.

Speaking of which the trip home into the wind and swell was a mission and we nearly all ended up blown away.
Coming back through the mangroves was beautiful with no wind and some amazing reflection photo opportunities.
Paul only had his large telephoto lens so Christine kindly gave us some of her reflection photos.

Exploring Kolonia

The next day it peaked in the morning and reports were that the surf was even bigger. We felt right on the edge of safety in the pass in our 4m RIB the day before and thought it would be foolish to attempt another outing in bigger conditions so we had a surf lay day and finally set foot on the island for the first time.

The view over the yacht basin with Lorelei in the middle

Walking into the main town of Kolonia was fun and we stopped at heaps of places on the way. The supermarkets by comparison to what we have seen in the last 12 months were huge and we treated ourselves to some yummy treats we haven’t seen in ages.

It was great to see some decent fresh F& V stalls again.

Fresh Yellowfin Tuna is $1.75 per lb.

We met Daniel cooking meat at a roadside stall.
“What sort of meat is it?” Lisa asked.
“I don’t know” he said…..

A Jap WW2 Tank in the main street

In town we had lunch and the headline TV news on American CNN –
The Aussie’s had won the Ashes!
All day the locals were saying, are you Aussies? You won the cricket…

We found this amazing painted wall outside the fisheries building.

Left: Paul being a little silly – or creative???...
Right: The German Bell tower from the 1890’s

We also picked up the local paper and the front page had this picture…

We had seen this boat high and dry as we sailed in. Apparently it had run aground only 24 hours before we had seen it and the crew were still frantically trying to get off safe. Funnily enough its AIS transmitter was still working and we picked it up on Lorelei and it stated “At anchor”.

That’s an understatement!!!

The sad thing is its right next to the best dive sites, the surf breaks and close to the main harbour. It has over 100 tonnes of crude onboard and even worse, it is a Tuna refrigeration ship and carrying very large quantities on Ammonia. Ammonia mixed with saltwater is a very lethal mix.

The problem at the time of writing is because it is just outside the port the Port Control legally cannot do anything. It is a Chinese ship and China have basically no care, responsibility or liability. The US Coast Guard was called but rightly will not help a commercial vessel. The Pohnpei tug is too small and the stacks of other massive Tuna ships and Refrig ships will not help because the owners will not risk their ship and have their valuable ships not making money for a few days.

The insurance company will not do a thing until a “specialist team” arrives to evaluate the situation and make recommendations.
All the while the massive seas drive the thing further onto the reef and threaten to smash it to pieces. The ramifications are just huge for such a small island.
Out of shear frustration a local team went out in the tug to try to save it.
For 10 hours they pulled and only went 4 inches. They even flipped one boat in the process.
All the while the Chinese Captain refused to leave his ship but in the end was forced to and is now in Prison.

At night we would sometimes go to Kumar’s Bar which had just opened right on the water’s edge near our yachts. Kumar is a great local guy who is developing the whole area of “Mangrove Bay” and it will be fantastic when finished.  He has also built a small boat harbour and a great dingy wharf & amenities for yachties to use any time FOC.

Drinks were so cheap. Lisa likes the Long Island Ice Tea’s for $7.
They are big, strong and she’s tipsy after only 1…

Surfing Antics…

The next morning Paul, John, Harry & Hailey decided to brave it again and go surfing at P-Pass. The peak of the swell had gone through but it was still a very solid 6-8ft.
When we got there it was still a circus with the pro’s and photographers.

The stories of the last 36 hours was a crazy topic and lots of surfers had copped a pounding. Broken bones, many stitches (9 on a leg in one case, 4 on a forehead for another, one guys shoulder, etc....), dislocations, bumps and bruises were all part of it.
Broken boards were also high on the list and Pauls’ 6’9” epoxy was no exception. It was snapped clean in half after he fell on a big take-off and the barrelling lip hit it. He also put a big indent on another board after pulling off at the end of the wave at high speed and being launched about 10ft into the air then landing back onto the bottom of it.

Out with the old – 2 hours later in with the new……

For replacement boards Paul simply asked around the surfers that looked around his weight & build and asked if they wanted to sell a board. As most of them were flying home that arvo or the next day for Chrissy, a few were happy to sell boards.

Paul jumped in a cab and linked up with a great Newcastle guy named Bernie at the airport just as he was leaving and swapped a near new 6’5” for cash and all were happy.

Bernie if you read this – thanks heaps mate!!!!

The next day Paul linked up with another Aussie, Steve and brought another 2 – a 6’6” and a 6’10”.
Those combined with a brand new 6”6’ epoxy barrel board on order from Hawaii, that puts the quiver up to 7 boards which hopefully should be enough to get us through to Indo.
With those, a few of Junior’s surfboards & 3 kiteboards in the board rack, Lorelei’s “toy room” is overflowing!
The locals do break about 6-12 boards each per season here so one never knows just how long they will last….

SUP around the wrecks

In the mornings Paul would go for a paddle on the new SUP.
His favourite thing was to check out the wrecks around the shoreline.

Pauls’ initials “PAH”

No wonder this boat sunk – look how many holes are in the hull!

Taking a shortcut home….

Young Josh off the boat next to us wanted a SUP as his dad has one, so he built one himself out of bamboo. He paddles all around the bay on it.

MTB Sokeh Island

3 Days before Christmas all our food shopping was done and the fridge and freezer were stacked with yummy treats. We had started to cook and bake some of them already and were well ahead in planning.

On the 23rd the weather was beaut but very windy so we decided to have a surf and food prep lay day, assemble our bikes and ride around Sokeh’s Island which is connected to the main island by a bridge. The island is quite mountainous and is packed with lots of fun things to do and visit.

The first thing was to ride to the peak & have a look at the view and the WW2 guns.

The view from ½ way up.

At the ½ way point was a car park and from then on it is a steep 32 degree climb to the top. The locals all said we are the only ones crazy enough to have ever taken bikes to the top. We had to push/carry them the whole 2nd half.

The first stop at the top was to have a look at the 15cm coastal gun mounted in a bunker on one side of the ridge.

The 2 guns on the other side of the ridge were anti-aircraft guns and there was a command post as well.

The last stop on the peak was the lookout on the point.
It was an amazing view over the town of Kolonia, Sokeh’s Rock and the Reef.
We think it’s one of the best views we have seen and definitely up there with Mount Gower at Lord Howe Is. & Cook’s Look at Lizard Is.

We could even see the stranded ship in the distance

Looking down over the yachts in the anchoring basin

The ride back down was steep, fast and adrenaline packed!!
We were off the back of the seat most of the top half.

We then rode right around the island stopping at a few spots like the waterfalls. All the people live in very modest homes around the foreshore of the island. They were all out waving and singing out “Merry Christmas”.
We spoke to a few and said that Christmas Eve was their big day of family and celebration.

Sokeh’s Rock in the background

One of the waterfalls

Christmas Day

WOW! We just can’t believe it’s our 3rd Christmas while traveling onboard Lorelei.
The 1st was at the Palm Islands in FNQ and the 2nd at Tarawa in The Kiribati’s.
For our Micronesian Christmas Day 2013, we decided to host Christmas for the 3 sets of Aussies in the bay – us, John & Jenny and Harry & Hayley.
We all chipped in with the cooking and food prep and we ate like kings.
We did Chicken, Ham, Potato Bake, Shortbread, Rocky Road and Pavlova. J&J did salad and all the Seafood while H&H did salads, nibbles and Cheesecake.
It was a great lunch and fun arvo drinking and relaxing.

Whipping up the cream for the Pavlova

The girls with their yummy creations

Some funny afternoon antics

At about 6pm we went in for drinks to the bar and to say hi to the other yachties who had had Christmas lunch and a fun arvo there.

One of the long term yachts in the small boat harbour all lit up

Boxing Day

At 6am we got up to go surfing and Paul was pumped to try 2 of the new boards but the wind was really strong so we reluctantly aborted.
Instead we went up to the Oceanview Motel on the hill overlooking the yacht basin and watched the start of the Wild Oats 11/ Loyal Match Race on their big screen. We think they call it the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race but all you see on the TV is the 2 leading Maxi’s battling it out. What about the other 100 odd boats in the fleet??? The completely bias TV coverage is getting worse and worse each year…..pity!!

On the 28th the wind finally dropped a little and swung from NE to E so Paul and John were gone at 6am to surf P-Pass.
It was just epic with 4-6 foot clean barrelling waves and they were the only ones out for the first 90 minutes before H&H and the Surf Club boat pulled up. Paul and John came home after a marathon 4+ hour surf grinning like Cheshire Cats.
They both said it’s the most amount of waves they have ever had in one session and the best surf since leaving Australia.

When they got back to the boats the locals were having their annual outrigger canoe race day and the course was set up right past the stern of the yachts. They had 4 teams in their respective colours and a huge set up of tents, banners and cheering fans along the canoe club’s beach.

The spectator & support fleet

The surf was on again for the next 2 days as well, just a little windier, a bit bumpier and larger rogue waves on the 2nd day and only 3-4 foot on the 3rd day.

By New Year’s Eve the swell had all but gone.

New Years Eve – 6 Waterfall Walk

On New Year’s Eve a few of the yachties had organised to do a full day 6 waterfall walk at the southern end of the island.
With no surf John & Jenny and the 2 of us decided to book on as well.
We all managed to fit into Kumar’s borrowed RV for the day and set off.
Travelling in the rear tray was great fun until we hit the rough & wet dirt road for the last 1klm. We nearly got bogged a few times…

We picked up two local guides on the way who were great.
The first stop was a bat cave followed by the first of the 3 lower waterfalls.

The 3rd waterfall was awesome with a cave behind it that you can swim up into and stand behind the cascading curtain.

From there it was a 1hour hike up the water course to the 3 top waterfalls.
It was very slippery for a lot of the way particularly when crossing from side to side and most people used a walking stick to help with balance.

The top 3 waterfalls were great with swimming holes at each one.

The last one required us to carry our backpack overhead and wade to a small rock island. From there we had to swim under a ledge up to the biggest and best waterfall and swimming hole.

Walton our guide was nice enough to offer to carry Paul’s camera backpack and tripod up a steep incline and over to the last waterfall while we all swam there.

On the trip back down we took a “Shortcut” which proved to be a series of steep and slippery climbs up and down on a muddy track rather than following the meandering water course back down.
We were all pretty happy to make it back to the car unharmed except a few minor cuts & scratches and some very muddy shoes.

The 8 yachties and our 2 local guides.
Phillip (3rd from left in the back row) did the walk on his 69th Birthday.

By the time we returned to the yachts it was 6pm so we showered, changed and we went with John and Jenny up to Oceanview for dinner before joining up with the other yachties and a few of the holidaying surfers for cocktails at Kumar’s bar on the waterfront.
We stayed there partying until 12am celebrating the New Year before bailing at 12:30am completely stuffed – and a little tipsy….

New Years Day – Let the Drums Begin….

All the way home in the car from the waterfall walk we saw loads of local parties just starting up. There were pigs on spits, Sakau (Kava) being prepared and lots of music.
Well they certainly know how to party and when we went to bed at 1am they were in full swing at the parties around the harbour’s edge. At 9am we awoke and they were still going strong but now the drumming had begun.
We found out that for 7 days after New Year’s each village starts drumming with many people joining in to make a huge noise. When they stop the next one starts and they all compete to be the best and loudest.
It went on all of New Year’s Day and by 11pm when we went to bed they were still partying hard in large groups and the drumming hadn’t let up.
Fortunately Lorelei is very well insulated and we couldn’t hear it from inside.

Start the Circumnavigation…

First Stop - Nan Madol

On the 2nd we decided to get out of there and make a run in Lorelei down to Matalanim Harbour and the ancient ruins of Nan Madol on the SE corner of the Island.
The problem was the 25 knots of NE trade wind and very choppy seas.
We had to exit the pass and punch for 7nm straight into it and had big torrents of green water coming straight over the boat. After 30 minutes we actually turned around but knew the tides where perfect for the ruins so we turned back and continued the punch.
Once we rounded the top of the island and the stranded freighter (which was still there...) we were able to set sail and run parallel with the reef edge for 14nm down to the pass entrance.
It was very rough and we still had green water going everywhere.

Half way down the island we were hit with a large rouge wave that gave us a near knockdown.

For non yachties a knock down is when the boat is hit with a large wave or strong wind gust forcing the boat over 90 degrees causing the mast to hit the water or worse, do a full 360 spin and come back up.

With Lorelei’s XL size and 7.5 tonnes of lead in the keel we doubted this would ever happen in the Pacific.  Whilst we didn’t get a complete knock down and the mast didn’t touch the water it was closest we have ever come. Lisa was standing on the normally vertical sides of the cockpit seats listening to the noises of things downstairs being tossed around.
Fortunately nothing was broken except for a few squashed bananas and we only had a ½ hour tidy up once we anchored.
The anchorage was much calmer than we expected and the view around Lorelei was stunning with the amazing mountainous formations.

The next day on the afternoon spring high tide we loaded up the RIB and went to explore the Nan Madol ancient ruins.
Nan Madol which translates to “Places in Between” consists of 92 individual man made islets that cover over 200 acres.
Built as an administrative area and town for the priests, construction started in 500AD and was still being built as late as 1500AD.
It was designed by 2 brothers who had sailed from outer islands.
Each islet is constructed of huge basalt pillars that were floated in and the internal areas filled with crushed coral.
The area was ruled by the Sawdeleurs for over 1000 years.

In 1628 a man called Isoh Kelekel arrived with a war fleet of 333 warriors and overthrew the last Sawdeleur.
Since that time and up until present day the area is under the rule of the Nahnmwarki.
The first detailed archaeological expedition to the area was conducted from 1908 to 1910 and the Smithsonian Institute conducted a major one in 1963. Projects are still ongoing today.

On the high tide you are able to kayak or take a small boat into the area to explore. Most of the islets are now overgrown with mangroves but the most impressive area around Nan Dowas (built in 1200AD) is still easily accessible.

The cost to visit the ruins is $3 per person per visit.

24 hours later we swapped the land camera for the underwater one and managed to get some fun under/over shots as we snorkelled around the ruins.

At dusk when we got home we had a visit from a local fisherman who sold us a freshly caught Mahi Mahi.
Wow, we feel like we are in the Solomon’s again – you have to pay to see things and the friendly locals bring you fresh seafood…!!!

Kepirohi Waterfalls

For our last day at Matalanim Harbour we decided to kayak across the bay to have a look at the Kepirohi Waterfalls.
As we paddled across we could see a large waterfall high up on the rock face and assumed that was it. So we paddled up to a small bridge (just as the guide book said) and walked across the road and enquired at the nearby house.
The local man was quite happy to take us on the small hike to the falls.
The way up was right though other people’s property & through dense foliage and there was no real track which we thought was a little odd for such a well-documented tourist destination. The water was racing as we crossed the steam numerous times.

The waterfall was amazing and flowing quite heavily.
We asked the man if many tourists visit these falls and he said no. Weird…

On our return we paid the man the $3 each (that it says in the guide book) and thanked him heaps.

As we were sitting on the bridge just about to leave to paddle home our friendly Mahi Mahi fisherman drove past and stopped for a chat.
We told him we had just visited the falls and pointed up the hill.
He looked at us weird and pointed back down the road saying the falls were that way.
Ahhhh – now that explains a lot of things!

So we jumped in the kayaks and paddled 500m further into the bay and up a small creek to another bridge. This one had a church next to it so we knew we were now in the right place.

The path up to these falls were manicured and beautifully presented.

At the top there was a concrete viewing platform and a fantastic swimming hole with steps in.

Note Lisa at the bottom giving you an idea of the waterfalls large size.

On the way home we kayaked around the bay, under some bridges and through the mangroves.

As we paddled home we were buzzing – we had seen a fantastic second waterfall that is not in the guide book and is rarely visited. Stoked!!

Ronkiti Harbour

After 5 fabulous days at Matalanim Harbour, we set sail and went down to the area of Ronkiti on the southern side of Pohnpei. The sail would have been directly downwind in the NE wind (a difficult point of sail), so instead we elected to go south for 10nm before gybing and heading west for 10nm arriving at the pass around noon.
The path through the pass and into the protected bay was tricky but we took our time and fortunately got it right.

The following morning we loaded up the RIB with all the dive gear and went out to dive the pass.
On the way we stopped to chat with a local family who we had seen working on the reef most of the day. They collect the shells for food and sell them in Kolonia.

Even on the flood tide in the pass, the water was green, the viz poor and the coral average. We spent ages snorkelling trying to find a good scuba spot and in the end gave up and decided it just wasn’t worth it.
On the way home we found a groovy fisherman’s hut on the reef edge and also had a look at the old derelict fishing boat sitting in the middle of the bay.

That arvo we got a visit from a local named John who said the viz was always bad because of the runoff from the large river systems in the area.
The upside was the kayaking up the rivers and creeks was supposedly fantastic.
After a bit of a chat we also found out that we were only the 4th yacht to have anchored in his bay since as long as he can remember.
We were just amazed at this. It seems most yachts that come to Pohnpei just stay in the yacht basin in Kolonia before moving on again. Sad!!

The next morning we got up early and went for a paddle up the mangrove lined rivers to explore the areas John had described to us.
Some channels were very narrow and the high hills meant glassy water with beautiful reflections. There were lots of birds too.

Ant Atoll

Within ½ an hour of returning we were packed and ready to head over to Ant Atoll in the hope to find clearer water.  Ant is an uninhabited atoll that lies 10nm to the west of Pohnpei. It offers a picturesque & safe anchorage inside the lagoon as well as great kiting and supposedly world class scuba diving & blue water spearfishing.

On the way past the southern end of Pohnpei’’s reef system we passed yet another shipwreck.

The entry into the pass looked great! Paul climbed up into the crow’s nest more for the photo ops rather than assist Lisa to navigate in.
The pass is clearly marked, very deep and easy to navigate.

An aerial view of the pass into Ant Atoll.
It offers the best diving in the area.

The anchorage in the shallows nears the easternmost island was very protected with crystal clear water.

Just one of the many nice sunsets we had in Ant

Scuba Diving Ant Atoll

About 15 years ago we managed to pick up a few Lonely Planet guide books based on scuba diving and we have one for the area of Micronesia.
It’s a pity as they do not publish them anymore.
In the book there is one page dedicated to diving the pass at Ant Atoll.
It talks about incredible viz, amazing coral and some wild experiences with large schooling Tuna, many species of Billfish and some seriously large Oceanic Sharks.
We must have re-read this page over 100 times in the past 15 years and it is one of the main reasons we came to this area.
We just had to dive this pass!!!

Sadly though we were a little disappointed…
We did 6 dives on the inner and outer walls of the pass with 2 of them being screaming drift dives through the pass with the current.

We found the current nearly always running out of the pass even mid flood tide. The walls and floor of the pass were barren with mostly unexciting hard coral and only a sprinkling of small soft corals. The fish life was also average.

We did however see some unusual small critters in the pass and some great Nudibranchs. There was also the odd Dog Tooth Tuna and Reef Shark.

An unusual “Splendid Notodoris” Nudibranch

The best dives by far were static dives on the outer eastern point.
We dropped down the wall to 40m and swam out into the blue where there were large schools of Barracuda, Trevally, Jacks, Scad and Rainbow Runners offset by cruising Sharks and Tuna. The Rainbow Runners were very curious and followed us back up the wall and into the shallows at the end of the dives.

Drift diving worked out to be quite easy. We simply anchored a kayak at the finishing end of the pass and anchored the RIB at the start.
We then drift dived down to the kayak and on arrival, Paul loaded it up with his pack & camera and paddled back up to retrieve the RIB while Lisa waited at the Kayak anchor for him to return. Simple!!

Towing one of the kayaks over to the pass.

In between dives on the only double-dive-day, we found a little picnic spot along the pass and had lunch out of the wind and sun.

Kiteboarding Ant Atoll

The kiting in Ant was awesome and very reminiscent of kiting Maloelap Atoll in The Marshall Islands.
Lisa would take Paul up to the top of the next island and he could launch off a nice sandy beach on the point and do a down-winder back to Lorelei. On the way he could kite the shallow pass between the 2 islands and even go out into the open ocean but kiting out past the 500m+ vertical outer wall was a little daunting, especially if something went wrong.

Pumping up and launching in paradise!

On the night of the full moon at Ant Atoll, it was overcast giving this amazing looking halo around the moon. It was very calm enabling Paul to take this photo at around 11pm using a 25 second exposure.

After 7 days at Ant, our friends Christian and Christine (C&C) off Thor sailed in.
It was great to catch up and share some meals, drinks and diving.

Fresh Sushi with the fish we speared that day.
(Well, actually Lisa shot most of them….Paul got one…small one...)

The first dive with C&C was out on the point with all the fish. The weather had turned beaut and the seas were flat with amazing u/w viz in excess of 40m.

Whilst at 30m we watched 3 large Coral Trout attack a bait school. They managed to wound 2 large bait fish which then took off to flee. The Red Bass turned up and fought with the Trout to get the fish and within seconds 15 Grey Reef Sharks had joined in along with many large Dog Tooth Tuna and some big GT’s. It was amazing to watch some very aggressive hunting & feeding taking place.

During the dive Paul realised he had left the Manual/Auto focus switch on the camera lens on manual from when he took the lens off and put it on the other Nikon body the night before to shoot the full moon pics and so all the U/W shots were out of focus. Damn!!!
Oh well – the joys of learning with a new camera…

For C&C the big highlight was seeing their first Manta Ray on Scuba.

The next morning we decided to treat ourselves to Bacon and Eggs as C&C had kindly brought some eggs for us from Pohnpei.
When Paul tried to light one of the burners it wouldn’t light but on the second attempt it flared up and a few small plastic containers nearby caught alight with one of them having flammable liquid in it.  In an attempt to get them into the stainless sink and stop anything else catching alight, Pauls hand also caught on fire.
The end result was a nasty series of burns on his thumb and ring finger.

Christian is a doctor and had a look but there’s not much he could do except stat the obvious – no going in the salt water for risk of infection for about 1 week. Bummer!!!
That day is was very painful but it rained and rained (and it did the next 2 days as well) so he didn’t feel so bad…

That arvo/evening we went over to Thor and had a great Pizza night and lots of drinks to numb the pain.

Pauls Thumb 12 hours after it happened

Returning to Kolonia –
Circumnavigation Completed

The last leg of the round island trip was to be from Ant Atoll, up the west coast of Pohnpei and back through the main pass at the top to complete our circumnavigation.
We were dreading this 30nm leg as it is primarily into the NE trades and swell. You can imagine our surprise on the day we went to leave when the swell dropped and the wind backed to slightly South of East resulting in a very pleasant sail up the coast and a calm motor around the top, past P-Pass and back into Kolonia.
Gotta have a win sometimes….

The next 2 days we hit the shops for a major reprovision. Since The Solomon’s we have been lightly stocked and it was to be the one of the biggest stock-ups leaving Australia.

At the end of Day 1 – and that’s about ½ of it!!

We had no wind at Kolonia for the first few days.
At 11pm one night Paul was just about to turn in when he went upstairs to find the bay completely glassed out, so out came the camera and tripod…

A 13 second, 11:30pm self portrait

Looking to the commercial wharf where a freighter was still unloading.

On Jan 22nd the next pulse of swell hit the island.
We were all ready for it and were off to P-Pass at 7am to beat the rush from the surf camp. We were a little early and it was only 2ft at best.
Lisa also came for a snorkel and we brought a great guy named Kamil with us. He is from Azerbaijan and his mum lives here and is the World Health Organisation ambassador for the country.

On the way home we stopped at 3 spots on the way to have a snorkel.
The last spot was a wreck in the shallows that was scattered over a large area.

The wreck with Sokeh’s Rock in the background

The next morning the swell was definitely up but it was howling with wind so we reluctantly aborted the morning surf session.
By noon the wind was dropping and at 2pm it was all but still so John and Paul loaded up 2 boards each and headed to P-Pass.
It was amazing with 6ft consistent and pumping fast barrels with a wild inside section. Hayley rocked up an hour later with a friend James in his boat.
By 4pm the 2 surf camp boats had left leaving the 4 of us surfing these amazing waves.
For the last waves, Hayley got the first of the big sets and took a vertical drop before going sideways and getting hammered.
John took the next wave and got smashed inside the barrel with his leg rope wrapping around his wrist causing a bad skin burn and ripping off his wedding ring. Paul took the third and went straight over the falls on the take-off and also got smashed up.
We all took the next 2 or 3 on the head and all ended up being wash inside close to the reef.
Battered, we all paddled back to the boats.
Hayley and James left and John and Paul sat in the RIB watching these amazing 6ft bombs just barrelling right through.

John had his little Olympus camera and managed to get a few shots.

Above and Below – Note the white water to the right giving you an idea of the waves power

We were so stuffed but looked at each other and said “what are we doing sitting in the boat? What about 3 more each?”
So we jumped back in a surfed for another ½ hour as the sun set – the only two people out.
Within 2 minutes Paul had caught his best wave of the year and 10 minutes later, his worst wipeout….
John beat Paul back to the boat by 5 minutes and managed to snap this quick shot of Paul on the inside section of the last wave of the day.

Kapingamaranghi Village

With the arvos looking to be the better time for the waves, we decided to visit the Kapingamaranghi Village in the morning. Kapingamaranghi Atoll lies about 300nm SW of Pohnpei and is a heavily occupied atoll.  Many people have relocated to Pohnpei and had families here that are brought up following the local Kapinga traditions.
Some of them are wood carving for the men and weaving & jewellery for the women.

While we were there we met up with a local elder, Johnson, who took us around the area and showed us his village and the carving workshop/shed.

Lisa with Johnny and his half-finished Blue Marlin Carving.
It was already sold as is going to be a trophy for the local game fish club.

Lisa with Barry polishing his finished Hammerhead Shark

This is the first whale carving we have seen.  It was a Humpback,
very well made and a lot larger than it looks in the photo.

Australia Day
January 26th is Australia Day and in true Aussie fashion we wanted to celebrate. Paul was up early and dressing Lorelei with the Aussie flags.
Whilst he was up on deck he noticed it was clear skies, light winds and no swell so he was straight down to get Lisa out of bed and load up the RIB with dive gear and off to dive P-Pass.
We tied to the surfing buoys in the pass and swam down the wall. At 35m we found a bridge (well that’s what the locals call it…) which is a coral ridge linking both sides of the pass. On the inner side of the bridge was a sand patch at 55m and the outer side just dropped into the abyss.
Along the bridge were schools of Barracuda and Trevally whilst down deep on the sand was a school of about 50 Grey Reef Sharks. There were also some huge Maori Wrasse and large Eagle Rays cruising around.
It was just an awesome dive with loads of fish and great viz.

 Lisa’s camera is not really set up for wide angle but she was
very happy with this shot she took of the Barracuda.
That evening we went into Kummar’s Cocktail Bar, hung some Aussie flags up and took the Ipad loaded with a cocktail app. Tony the barman made us all “Bushwacker” cocktails which we thought sounded totally Australian.
Sadly also we sad farewell to Harry and Hayley who were leaving to head south the next morning as their Visa had nearly expired.
 All in all it was a great day but no where near as fun as last years antics at Wallaby Downs in the Marshalls!
Gary, Simone, B&B, Pete and Jen we missed you......
Whilst at Kolonia we had our 30hp Mercury outboard serviced by Kumar's Mercury mechanic, June.
June & Paul took it to the workshop and did a major service and replaced a lot of bushes & other parts too.
The cost with genuine Mercury parts was less than 1/6 of a standard service in Australia.

Epic Surf
For a week we had been watching the surf reports on the net and paying particular notice to the ginormous waves north of us in Hawaii. It was the biggest swell to hit the islands in over a decade with waves well over 50ft.
They even called off the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Memorial Contest!
We had also been listening on the HF morning sked and had reports of yachts south and west of us in huge seas with a few boats even hoved-to and riding out the rough conditions.
Kosrae to the East was also copping bad weather.

All the while we sat in Pohnpei with sunny days, no wind and a building swell. The net surf forecast for the 27th was to have P Pass at a 3 star ranking and the best conditions for us so far.
That arvo as the tide went higher, Paul and John hit the surf.
They got there to find 6-8ft consistent barrelling bombs crashing through the line up with only 2 other guys out. Amazing!!
There is a big difference between 4-6ft and 6-8ft at P Pass.
On the 4-6ft day Paul sits out waiting for the sets. This day both Paul and John were a little intimidated by the size and power and were letting the sets go though and catching the smaller ones.

At noon the plane from Guam landed with 4 more Aussie surfers including Luke from Parkway Drive who we already knew and by 3pm they were out surfing with us in an all Aussie line-up. The vibe was excellent and we all had a ballistic afternoon of sick barrels.
For a mid-arvo break, Paul went in and got the camera out and snapped a few pics – 980 to be exact….

How is this for heavy!  Check James on a 4 shot sequence below.
Note the thickness of the lip in the last photo..... crazy!!!

5 very stoked Aussies!!!
Many of the boys travel extensively around the globe in search of waves and they all called it as one of the top 3 sessions of their life.
By 5pm everybody was stuffed, drinking beers and watching from the boats except for Ben, Paul and Luke who were still out.
 With everyone watching, Paul just went for broke on his last wave and paddled deep, caught a bomb, lined it up and got a deep barrel going right through and coming clean out of it right in front of the boats and a screaming hoard of stoked surfers with both hands raised. 
It was by far the best barrel of his life!!!!!

Paul on "that wave" 

The next morning we were back out before 7am and its hard to say it, but it was even better than the previous arvo. The main reason was it had dropped a little back to 5-7ft with the sets being a lot less scary.
Paul and John both agreed it was the best surf of their life with Paul getting 3 amazing barrels in his first 4 waves.  The third one was a double and got barrelled right though the larger first section, coming out onto the face, lining up and screaming though a 2nd faster barrel on the inside section exiting right next to the boats for a about a combined 10 seconds of tube time in one wave. Incredible!!!!

Paul paddling back out with our RIB hanging on a mooring

Paul getting barrelled

By midday the pulse had gone through and the waves were 3 ft and still falling….
By the next morning it was all over.
Lenger Island Day Trip

For a day trip we linked up with Sydney couple Brent and Sara off the yacht “Aurora Star” and went out to Lenger Island for the day.
When we arrived we met a local family who agreed to let their son Leon guide us around the island for the day for just $4 each.
It proved to be a good choice as we wouldn’t have seen half the things without his knowledge. 
The Island was a Japanese Sea Plane Base during WW2 and the place is littered with war relics.
It must have coped a hammering from the US as the island is covered with large bomb craters and destroyed facilities.
The first stop was an underground fuel storage and pumping system that was huge.

Right: Note Brent towards the top of the ladder
We then had a look at some large tanks that were above the ground.

They call this the Banyan Wheel as the Banyan Tree has completely grown over the motor and the roots have grown through the wheels spokes.

We hiked over to the other side of the island to the old sea plane base. The hangers are a huge mass of twisted metal overgrown with mangroves. We did manage to find some carriages, engines, floats and bits of plane wreckage.

From there we hiked into the hills to a man-made cutting than was lined with small bunkers and tunnels. We had lunch at a gun emplacement and enjoyed the view across the bay back to Kolonia.

Just as we were leaving we stopped at Leon’s family pig pen and got some funny photos of a friendly pig who seemed to like Paul’s camera.
On the way home we stopped at one of the outer passes for a snorkel before heading home at 5pm, happy but tired.
For our last 4 days in Pohnpei we spent the time doing final provisions, servicing and getting Lorelei and ourselves ready for the next big passage.
On the 30th Jan friends Steve and Selina off the Aussie yacht Westward 2 sailed into Pohnpei from Kosrae.
They had kindly delivered Pauls new epoxy barrel board which had made a long trip though many hands to get from Hawaii to us.
Paul was very excited. It is a Byrne 6’6” tuflite epoxy and has 6 deep channels making it very fast and suited to long hollow walls and barrels.
It’s a little late for Pohnpei but will be perfect for Cloud 9 in Philippines and the Sumatran coastline of Indonesia.
On our last Friday night we had farewell drinks with friends onboard Lorelei.
L to R:
Kate – Toyatte, Steve & Selina – Westward 2,
Brent & Sara – Aurora Star, Lisa - Lorelei
On Monday 3rd Feb we are booked to clear out at 9am.
It may take a while as the US Superbowl live coverage starts at 9am (Pohnpei time) that same day…..
So that’s it for our time in Pohnpei.
Overall it has been a super jam packed 6 weeks and an amazing experience on many levels.
Great diving, paddling, good walks, lots of diversity and nice people –
both locals and new yachties that we have meet.
But above all else it was the surf for Paul that was the highlight with the best waves of his life.
It gave him a fantastic opportunity to improve his barrel riding skills and he has left Pohnpei feeling much more confident riding fast, hollow barrels over shallow coral reef.
From here we are heading West and downwind with the E-NE trades.
There is an Annual Cultural Festival in Yap starting on the 1st March.
We applied for a Visa and Cruising Permit extension and we managed to get an additional 30 days for Yap so we are very excited.
It’s a long sail of about 1150nm straight line from Pohnpei to Yap but fortunately there are many atolls on the way where we may stop at if we need a break.
Its all weather dependant, but we are considering stopping at Puluwat and Woleai Atolls. This will break the trip into 3 legs of roughly 550nm, 360nm and 320nm.
If we stop then we should arrive at Yap somewhere in mid to late February. 
Its soooo disappointing that we are sailing right past Chuuk (Truk Lagoon) which is regarding as the world’s best wreck diving with over 50 sunken WW2 Japanese wrecks within the atoll.
Sadly the Chuukese people have a very bad reputation and it’s just not safe for cruising yachts to visit the area at this point in time.
Many, many people from Kosrae, Pohnpei, locals, officials, taxi drivers, yachties, internet sites, etc, etc have all said “DO NOT go to Chuuk!”
Fortunately we did fly there in 2010 for a dive trip and stayed in a safe compound which is a lot more than some of the other yachts that also wanted to visit but have never been there.
We are still on track for Palau after Yap. It’s only a 2 or 3 day sail from Yap so we should be there early/mid March and stay until early/mid May.
So that is it for Episode 22 of The Hog Blog and Lorelei’s Sailing Adventures.
Stay tuned for Episode 23 – “Yap and the remote Atolls of Micronesia.”
Paul Hogger
Lisa Hogger
Yacht Lorelei
PS.   Paul’s burn on his thumb, hand and finger are looking just fine and pretty much all healed. Lisa is very happy about how quickly they have mended. There was no infection and there appears to be no evidence of any permanent scaring.

PPS – The Stranded Freighter……well it’s still there and at this stage no one except for the local government wants to do anything about it.
It seems any rescue/containment/salvage attempt will have to be conducted and funded by the local government and they will then have to try to sue and fight it out in the courts to recover the costs.
All the while the scores of massive Asian fishing vessels continue to rape the local waters of tonnes of Tuna per day, rapidly depleting the world’s Tuna population.

Lastly - apologies for any incorrect text/sentence spacing, picture sizes, etc…
A combination of very fickle Internet Reception and the first upload using
&%$*#@^ Windows 8 made it a very slow and frustrating upload….

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