Thursday 19 January 2017

First Days in Majuro

Greetings -

I am sure you are shocked to see another email from us already - hopefully this one won't take so long to read as my last two epistles!

We arrived in Majuro just before sunset on Sunday evening, and Max went ashore to clear us in on Monday while the kids and I did a "Saloon Blitz" to restore the main living spaces to some semblance of order after the passage. By the time Max came back, the kids had cleared the benches, swept the floors, polished the table and were working on their Life of Fred Math at either end of the (almost never) folded-open table. [Aside - I have to say that this is what I thought Homeschooling would be like every day, and after 4 1/2 years, I can count on one hand the number of days like this that I have experienced! It was lovely! I have slowly learned that learning takes place in many shapes and forms, and it doesn't always require a swept floor or a big table.]

With the big table opened, Victoria was able to lay out all the squares of her afghan, which she had spent some time that morning taking apart. She has decided that a diamond pattern will be much more satisfactory than stripes, so now she has stacks of squares and she is beginning again to stitch them together. She is pretty cheerful about re-working her project, and even made a crocheted plastic basket in which to keep her long yarn that she will use to sew her blocks together!

The big table again proved useful a couple of days later when the 13-year-old boy from the one other kid boat came over to visit. With more open space than normal in the saloon, it was easy to suggest playing a board game. He played Risk with Victoria and Johnathan for a couple of hours, and they made plans for him to come back and finish the game sometime soon. Johnathan actually thanked me after the boy went home that I had encouraged them to play board games :)

The main reason many people gravitate towards Majuro is to take advantage of USPS service and use the internet to deal with the backlog of administration and logistics that builds up while cruising more remote locations. I was shocked to discover when Max came back from clearing in that those people have been out of luck for the last month! Majuro experienced an internet outage in late December, and it is still not rectified. High on our to-do list was submitting a couple of passport applications, so we ended up doing a 'remote Google search' for the contact info for our Canadian High Commission (ie we asked my brother to send it to us via email!) He also gallantly sent the forms to our Iridium GO! email address, but the file was so big that it would have taken over three hours to download, and our connection never lasts more than a few minutes! After walking all over Majuro the next day and finding that no one had a working fax machine, I discovered that the local health clinic (where I was thrilled to practice yoga) had working email, and the Director was kind enough to let the Canadian High Commission send the forms to her for printing. Such is the exotic life we lead!

The most unusual thing I have done this week is to try out my skill as a barber/hair dresser. We have had a kit aboard since last April, but this was the first time I had been brave enough to use it. We started out on the side deck, but with wind and blasting sun, we soon moved into the cockpit, using an upside down 5 Gallon bucket as a chair. Victoria had me cut of 8" to donate, Johnathan got a trim (although he was tempted by my clippers to get a buzz cut), and Max got "#3 on the sides and scissors on the top". Benjamin is in the 'before' picture, but he changed his mind and had a nap instead. He is still sporting the 'curly tangles' look, but hopefully, the sun will come out and I will get him into an 'after' picture before too long... I had a lot of fun trying out a new skill (slightly less scary than kite boarding!) and was pleased that no one looked too terrible when we were finished. Even a few days later, I keep smiling when I look at them, because I am so happy that they are pleased with their result, and because they look so good!

Tuesday nights in Majuro are Cruiser Dinner nights: the local yachties go to one of four restaurants for a meal together. After being on the ground for only 48 hrs, I had a sense of culture shock when I saw the size of the group. We haven't seen that many cruisers in one place in months! It was a nice introduction to the wider community, and we are now card-carrying members of the Meico Beach (Marshall Islands) Yacht Club.

Even without Internet, Majuro is a place where we will be able to do a good deal of re-provisioning. Walking into one of the grocery or hardware stores is like walking into a little piece of North America. The brands are the same as at home (Triscuits! Ziplocs! Doritos! Chocolate chips!) and many of the staff even have American accents :) Without the credit card machines working, it has taken great restraint to spend only the money in my purse as I see familiar items for the first time. I have taken to marking down the things I am drooling over in my notebook so that I can go back later in the week if they really do turn out to be 'needs' vice 'wants' :)

Now that we have been here a few days, we are getting the hang of travelling in Majuro: there is one main road, and dozens of taxies spend all day making their slow way from one end to the other and back again, waiting for someone to flag them down. Much like the I-Kiribati bus system, for 75 cents/person, riders will be taken where they need to go (or close - Max asked for Customs, and he got delivered to the Parliament next door!) If their destination is beyond the main town, the fare rises to $2 for a trip that could take upwards of a half hour. After our yoga yesterday (followed by green smoothies and stirfry in the Wellness Center cafeteria) Victoria and I spent the rest of the day driving and walking up and down the town doing errands. Johnathan and I did the same today to fill our propane tanks (taxi to the Energy office, pay your money, take another taxi to the "gas field", fill your tanks, then flag a third taxi to go home!)

While I have been gallivanting around town, Max has been working flat out, checking items off on his maintenance list. Sometimes he has to add them so he can check them off, as happened this morning: he turned on the 'network' switch at the chart table so we could see wind speed during a squall, and just as quickly, it flipped itself back off again. Troubleshooting wiring that snaked from the saloon to the aft cabin to the galley hadn't been on his to-do list for the morning, but it immediately became his top item. Thankfully, the main network seems fine, and the fish finder wiring (which had already been blowing fuses, and for which we have a new plug coming) can now wait for another day.

We have been eating well in Majuro - we enjoyed the last of the mahi mahi last night (soaked in limes from the Plantation in Taveuni, then cooked in coconut milk, ginger, garlic, tomatoes and onions and served with rice) and a pork loin tonight. The pork loin was originally destined for our freezer rather than our fridge, but after I bought it, I remembered the ex-pat advice from Tuvalu not to buy square chickens. I figured that the same advice applied to pork, and given the rather rectilinear shape of the narrow loin roast, and its nearly thawed state when I got home from the grocery store, I decided that it had better be eaten immediately. We haven't had roast meat and mashed potatoes on board for months, so it was a very popular meal!!

We have a squally/rainy/windy system sitting on top of us at the moment (ICTZ - once we got the network back, I saw winds up to 27 kts this afternoon). I understand it is going to stay put for a couple of weeks, so I am not sure when we will be able to head for the outer islands and the sunshine... in the meantime, at least it is not snow that we have to shovel!

Love to all,

At 2016-12-26 1:54 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 07°06.15'N 171°22.41'E
At 2016-12-26 8:20 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 07°06.16'N 171°22.41'E

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