Thursday 30 May 2019

Garbage in Paradise - A Trip to the Windward Side

Some things are cool to find on the beach.

Most of the photos we have posted from the Marshall Islands have fit the stereotype of the idyllic tropical beach.  Unfortunately, this is only half the picture - literally.  The lagoon side of any of the atolls we visited was generally pristine and offered vistas of miles of white sand and green water.  A walk to the windy side, however, offered an entirely different experience.  The constant roar of the surf on the outer atoll also announces its ongoing deposit of plastic on these remote islands, and the high tide line was marked not only by the row of scrubby plants, but also by a line of debris.  Shampoo and soap bottles, fishing floats, shoes, and other random pieces converge from all over the Pacific on these tiny atolls.  The story was the same at every atoll we visited.

This is the scene on almost any windward shore we have visited in the Pacific.

This is the scene on almost any windward shore we have visited in the Pacific.

Always, lots and lots of flip flops but never a pair.

Rest assured this did not come from Ailuk.  No coffee shops here. Or shops even.

It appears this boats - four of them - drifted all the way from Ecuador.

It appears these boats - four of them - drifted all the way from Ecuador.

At least in this case the old sea kayak was repurposed.

Monday 27 May 2019

Ailuk Handicrafts and "Handicraft School"

Some of the handicrafts we traded for.
The Marshall Islands is known for its handicrafts and, in our opinion, the Ailuk baskets and hangings are the most intricate.   The ladies are able to take their local natural resources (coconut, pandanus) and make items that have an agreed value at their local store so they can trade for goods.  In Majuro, these handicrafts are sold on in shops on the main street, and we were told that some are sent overseas. 

One of our goals for our time in Ailuk was for Victoria to have the opportunity to learn more about the making of these handicrafts as it fit well into the Fiber Arts 10 course she was taking. Emily spent some time on our last visit teaching Victoria but this time Victoria spent time in both villages improving her understanding of how to make the baskets.

The supply ship had not visited Ailuk for a long time so they were happy to trade for supplies from Majuro

In addition to basic supplies (sugar, coffee, milk powder, rice), one of the ladies' favourite trading items was nailpolish - Liz then offered 'manicures' to anyone who wanted.  The ladies were all too busy making handicrafts (for us) to sit still and paint their nails, but the girls were excited by the possibility.

Benjamin showing off one our new wall hangings with Linne and her family.  The Canada T-shirt came from our trading bag.

Darlene working on a handicraft for us.

and more ...

and more ... (in the bottle is coconut oil they made for us - interesting as it smelt and tasted of the wood fire.)

Linne's husband seems less than impressed though.  Liz went around the village and took pictures of many of the family groups so that we could leave our own 'handicrafts' (printed and laminated photo collages) with them. 

Victoria with Ruthi who made this basket and spent time teaching Victoria.

and then back to Ailuk village where Emily presides over the trading

while Victoria works on her basket much to the local children's amazement.

Liz and Victoria with Emily.  Emily made us this massive basket and Victoria is showing her basket lid in progress.

Baskets in progress in Enejelar.  Boiling specific parts of the  coconut fronds that become one of the main construction materials.  The skills are passed from mother to daughter, but we also heard that many of today's girls would 'rather play volleyball' than learn to make baskets. 

Drying the materials and combing them so they will curl tightly to be used as thread

more handicraft school.

and a chance for Darlene to teach her daughter.

Learning can go both ways.  Victoria showing Darlene different patterns.  Darlene thought she might be able to use the crochet patterns to give her ideas for her wall hangings and basket lids.

Victoria showing Darlene the toque she knitted me for the Alaska passage.

meanwhile the kids are enjoying the log cabin construction set we gave them.

back to handicraft school ... Victoria taking notes.

and more learning

starting with some basics - folding pandanus. (I realized that the method they use is very similar to the knotting I use to make string zipper and snap shackle pulls, Victoria)

Finished product.

and then the basket project begins. (notice the pretty bracelet Ruthi made me, Victoria)

the frame for the lid of the basket takes shape

working on the basket while sailing back to Ailuk village

a bit more time to work on the basket after church. (I am making the beginning of the bowl of the basket, Victoria)

working with Emily who is generously sharing some of her shells. (Notice the chair Emily is sitting on, the ladies cut the legs off the chairs so that they can work as I am doing, with my leg out and the strap tied to my toe, Victoria)

the finished product !

Details of the basket Victoria made

Details of the basket Victoria made

Friday 17 May 2019

Ailuk - Sailing Canoes, Beaches, Spearfishing and more

The view of the southern anchorage by Ailuk village from SV Sweet Dream's drone.  Thank you Colton for the use of the imagery.

While the focus of our recreation time was the kiteboarding, and considerable "non-fun" time was spent on maintenance, we had no lack of other activities to keep us busy.

Camping with the SV Sweet Dreams "kids".  At this point they are 17 and 20 so not really "kids" but we met them in 2012 on the way to Mexico so we still consider then "kids".

Fun at the campfire while camping

No lack of good drinks.  Johnathan is our coconut gatherer and processor.

Cracking a drinking coconut once back at Fluenta.

Johnathan and I spearfishing. (Colton Nie photo)

Bang.  Johnathan shooting the speargun (Colton Nie photo)

Not a great photo but we swam briefly with a pod of noisy dolphins while were out spearfishing

Lunch !  Filleting fish.
Bonfire time with Fluenta in the background

Victoria baking bread with her little helper.

And watering the plants

and knitting me a hat for Alaska.  Benjamin is using the needle sizer from Grammy Brown to check the size of Victoria's needles.

Where ever we anchored we were on the main route for the sailing canoes so nice to see them zoom by.  We wrote about the sailing canoes from our visit in 2017:

This is one of the smaller canoes.

and a bigger one carrying copra.  Note that to tack they move the rudder and mast base to the other side of the hull.

Sailing canoe details in Enejelar.

Nice areas for hikes ashore but not much elevation gain

Plenty of pounding surf on the windward side.

On a scuba expedition on SV Sweet Dreams to one of the leeward passes.  They are much more adventurous than we are when it comes to anchoring!

Johnathan made Benjamin a climbing harness and swing.

Time even to sit for a bit

or do yoga.

While we spent about two months the same lagoon we shifted anchorages many times.  Here Liz and Victoria are guiding us in closer to the reef in a new anchorage and deploying the anchor.
Not a bad beach view.  The lagoon was the busiest it got that day with three boats: Fluenta, Sweet Dreams and Free Spirit.

More beach views.  Not too crowded.
and lots of sunsets.