• The Revised Route – Sailing 2014

    After a few hold ups, as well as a desire to explore the outer atolls of the Marshalls we decided to stay here for the South Pacific cyclone season instead of sailing across Micronesia to the Philippines. This has changed our plans for 2014 – although talking to other yachts such route changes are relatively common practice. In fact they are really what it’s all about – with no flights to book and the sense of freedom that this life brings such a flexible itinerary becomes possible.

    So with this in mind our plan for 2014-
    * Confederate will stay in the Marshalls until June (while we travel to the Philippines and New Zealand for our wedding celebrations in April and May)
    * When we arrive back to the boat we will provision and head back to the South Pacific – direct to either Vanuatu or the Solomon Islands.
    * Here we’d like to link up to a group called Oceanswatch who do work to protect the coral reefs in the area, as well as a few other community projects.
    * From the Solomons we’ll either head through PNG or Aus/Indo to the Philippines. Although given the timing the former is more likely.

    Of course as always the above plan is subject to changes but this is the best we can come up with at the moment. We’re excited about the prospect of more time on the water and new experiences in the countries mentioned. Ever day we can’t believe how lucky we are to be living like this. Each morning swim invigorates not only body but soul. When what was once a dream, turns into a reality, life is sweet, and we are savouring every minute of this sweetness.

    Update – June 2014

    Looks like we’re sticking with the plan – in July we’ll meet with Oceans watch in the Tetemotu province, Solomon Islands. After 1-2 months volunteering with Oceanswatch we’ll head to the Louisiade archipelago in PNG, popular with Australian boats, and rumoured to be an amazing place to kite surf. Very much excited.

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  • A turtle, sharks, a cake and some WWII history

    A week in Maloelap has brought an odd assortment of experiences from snorkeling with a white tip reef shark on the Japanese munitions wreck, to receiving a cake from a local lady conveniently timed for Valentines day.

    We’ve trooped through the Taroa island greenery to find abandoned planes (there are 41 in total on the island), as well as cannons, bunkers and the Japanese HQ. If you look closely, as Robin did, it is also possible to come across the bullet shells that were fired between the Japanese and the Americans during the war. It is hard to imagine such events unfolding on this seemingly eternally peaceful slice of paradise.

    This week has also pulled in three mackerals who have fallen prey to our new super lure. We can’t seem to eat the fish we are catching fast enough and as I write this the fridge houses our next two fish meals. Luckily there is always someone from the village happy to share the load.

    We have walked to the windward side of a couple of the uninhabited islands, and similar to the other atolls we have stumbled upon a plethora of floatsam and jetsam. There’s literally thousands of plastic buoys and bottles, not to mention the pairless jandals, rope and other miscellaneous items. It is interesting to conjure up histories for these random articles, all of which have obviously traveled over vast lengths of ocean before finally finding a resting spot in the Marshalls. Unlike their Mexican counterpart – Jose Ivan, a fisherman who allegedly drifted all the way from Mexico to the Marshalls, who has recently flown home -
    these items will never return home. It is both amazing and scary how such remote places can be infiltrated with such items. In comparison on the lagoon side of these islands there is minimal litter, and we’ve seen baby black tip sharks and fish playing in the shallows from the beach as we walk. On both sides the coral is abundant.

    It is 6pm and the sun is slowly slinking towards the horizon, indicating another week has passed aboard Confederate. We are fresh out of the salt with wet hair and happy bodies. Our evening snorkel rustled up an unashamed turtle who cruised by to say hello before disappearing behind a coral head. Life is good.

  • Anchored safely in Maloelap atoll, fridge full of fusssshhh.

    Superb day on the water for the 30 mile passage between Aur and Maloelap. We had two lines out for the short passage and managed to get 6 strikes on one of the lines. Early morning leaving Tabal we caught a good-sized rainbow runner. Next was a 1.5m barracuda that is probably leaping around the lagoon with new vigour after it’s near death experience. We couldn’t quite fathom battling with the teeth, nor eating such a big, not so nice tasting, fish. In fact Robin looked quite disgusted as he hauled it out of the water.

    After that came a tuna, and another rainbow runner. Then there were the two that got away. Finally we pulled in our second line finding some huge chomper had chomped through the steel trace. The fridge and our stomachs are groaning – but then again there’s nothing like from ocean to stomach in sub 2 hours. We’ll take the second rainbow runner ashore tomorrow and try to trade it for some fruit and vegies.

    We are now anchored in Taroa island, next to the remains of a sunken Japanese freighter ship that was bombed by the Americans in WWII. The ship came to grief firstly by a US submarine, and then finally by an air attack in the early 1940s. The two masts of the ship protrude approximately 15m in the air – an interesting sight, and apparently a great place to snorkel. We’ll check out the 100m long ship tomorrow.

    Picture of the sun setting over our fish dinner avec new dingy in the foreground!

  • Natural Endowments of the Marshall Islands

    We’ve been back in the outer islands for about two weeks now and despite the fact we’re far from any supermarket or shop it still feels like we’re accumulating vast food supplies. Since returning to Aur we’ve been given pumpkin, copious amounts of coconuts (I guess it’s not like there’s a shortage), breadfruit, pandanas (pictured), banana, banana cooked in coconut, banana chips. We’ve caught fish in the lagoon and been given fish by friends. We just went for a kitesurf and somehow managed to come back with two fish for dinner, forced on us by some friendly locals. The nature of the people is eternally giving.

    When first arriving in these atoll extremities one might wonder, as we did, why were they settled? What brought people to these islands and why did they stay? With limited space for agriculture it seemed like life would be a constant battle for survival. And I’m sure at times it was. However when you look closer the natural endowments of these small atolls are immense. Outer islands are stockpiles for coconut crabs and lobster. Coconut juice is perhaps in greater supply than water. Coconut meat is used for cooking, eating and making oil. The pandanas is a huge fruit that runs wild on all atolls. Sucking on a pandanas seed is like a great big natural lollipop. The pandanas also plays a crucial role in weaving, and provides materials for canoes. Breadfruit is cooked in a variety of ways, and was traditionally preserved and used in times of scarcity. Not to mention.. fish, fish and more fish.

    Recently imported products have supplemented this island diet. Perhaps people are less susceptible to shortages and natural events. They also get to enjoy a greater variety of products, namely rice, spam, and various other tins. But the fact is that the Marshalls have been settled for thousands of years, and for thousands of years people survived on these natural endowments. It is hard to imagine such a simple diet, but it obviously worked as people are still here.
    Even today most people in these islands take very little part in a cash economy. They lean on their natural endowments. Men spend a few hours a day fishing to feed their families. Everyone owns land and on it coconuts, breadfruit, pandanas, pumpkin and a few other crops grow. No one pays rent. Food is free.