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Hawaii to Majuro, Marshall Islands

August 21, 2011

Goodbye from Charlie and Sunni

Part 1 – Hawaii to Johnston Atoll

We left Hawaii on July 31st after a slight delay caused by concern over a developing hurricane off the coast of Central America. Once we got clearance that this was not a threat to us we quickly untied the dock lines and bid a bittersweet aloha to Hawaii. Of course, the wind was up, as the trades normally are, and being on the lee side of Oahu they were also gusty. A rollicking ride took us south east as each of us tried to manage the new environment of rolling and pitching. Uncomfortable, yes; energizing, no; exciting, in retrospect!

Three days later saw us adjusted to the new environment and a certain sense of routine and purpose kept us moving. Daily mileage was great varying between 147 and 118 nautical miles. Not much by the land yachties but for us very good going and we were pleased by the way Sage was handling the trade winds. Every hour of the day brought change in wind and sea. One minute smoothly pushing aside the waves and the next being over exuberant by picking up her skirts and doing the do-se-do across the waves. Not exactly, comfortable but we’re moving in the right direction.

If you’ve ever looked at a detailed map of the pacific you’ll notice an atoll somewhere between Hawaii and Majuro called Johnston Atoll; once an American military installation and now a protected area for birdlife. However, prior to this “the United States military converted this former idyllic atoll into one of the most toxic places on the planet, first by nuclear testing then by storing tons of mustard gas, nerve gas, and other chemical warfare weapons”. There was some talk of using this location as a central collection spot for all of America’s nuclear waste but there was enough of an outcry that now the island can almost return to its natural habitat.

Our stop at Johnston was a result of some needed repairs we did to the self steering gear and a few other minor problems not the least of which was no water coming out of the engine exhaust. We managed to repair both these problems and our entrance and exit was accompanied by thousands of sea birds which have begun to re-populate the island since the military departed. It’s a tricky entrance and not exactly the most protected of places. One would not like to be there during a hurricane!

We quickly departed Johnston Atoll seeing as it felt like we had only just begun the trip to Majuro. The next 11 days were fairly routine what with trying to make Sage move as efficiently as possible, keeping up on our watch system (4 on, 4 off during the day and 3 on, 3 off during the night), eating and of course picking out those spots that needed a celebration. Of course, there’s always the halfway point but we also crossed the date line. Crossing the date line meant we jumped ahead a day and thus feel a little ripped off not having August 15th as part of our history. I suppose as we keep going west, if we go far enough, we’ll finally gain back a day – not sure how that works. Anyway, celebrations are always welcome and any excuse to have one was accepted .

Moving further south along the route we encountered a little more unsettled weather. The lower the latitude the closer to the ‘ITCZ’ (inter tropical convergence zone) we got. The ICTZ is notorious for squalls, rain, contrary winds and generally innerving conditions. For us we got the rain, a few squalls but most of all just a greater feeling of uncertainty especially at night. We had timed our trip to coincide with the full moon but there were nights that if felt like someone had turned out the lights as large dark cumulous nimbus thunderheads loomed up behind us and overcame Sage. Luckily this time they weren’t often accompanied by higher winds but just the thought of the possibility made us reduce sail. Yes, lots of sail work and I will say the Dale has finally convinced me that wearing a life harness attached to the boat to go up on the foredeck at night time is a good idea. It took him almost the whole trip to convince me but he finally succeeded and his prudence will hopefully pay off!

halfway across

We’re now at anchor in Majuro. SPOT will be turned off and removed from the website as it belongs to Dale. Majuro is an atoll of some 40,000 resident of which the harbour is covered in tuna mother ships loading up from the smaller foreign owned tuna fishing craft to head back to places like the U.S., China, Japan and Taiwan. How much longer can the seas sustain the removal of the tuna in this quantity?

There are only about 18 cruising boats here out of which 10 are crewed by people working here. It’s much quieter than we expected but we’re not complaining. We’re getting into the slower pace of being at anchor, fighting off the constant rain, finding ways to cool off from the 30+ temperatures and high (80%) humidity. We haven’t determined our next steps yet so stay tuned and am sure we’ll work something out as we snorkel amongst the reef fish and dodge the sharks.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. John Middleton permalink
    August 21, 2011 04:14

    Way to go Tony, Connie and Dale! Wow Johnston Atoll has quite the history. Hopefully the place will recover as other’s like the Bikini Atoll have done (so I’m told by divers who’ve been there recently). Enjoy your well earned anchorage. Finally getting summer here in Shawnigan – 28C.

  2. Barrie permalink
    August 21, 2011 13:58

    Glad you made it safe and sound.

  3. Louise permalink
    August 21, 2011 17:49

    Way to go, Dale! Tony, it’s about time you were wearing that bloody harness.

    I hope you took pictures of Johnston Atoll. Would love to see some bird pics. You should think about taking panoramic shots from up on the mast when you’re at the more remote places. Then people like me can see how the bird populations are doing.

  4. Admiral Wayno happily stuck in the tropics... permalink
    August 22, 2011 00:31

    G’day and congrats! Hey Tony, I’m with Louise on seeing you up the mast. Maybe entreat some locals to do the line hauling so Dale & Constantly don’t risk their backs. Can those older winches handle your cargo…hahahaha. Looking forward to more wonderful sea stories.

  5. Cliff permalink
    August 22, 2011 13:09

    I used to live on Johnston Atoll, did so for almost seven years. I hope you took some photos while there.

    Cliff

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