The Voyage of the Swan
The Voyages: Marshall Islands
On August 12th, 2009, we sailed to Momi Bay near the Navula pass (Viti Levu) to anchor for the night. During the night a gale blew up and blew hard from the NE for two days. When it quit, the wind went around to the SE and we made sail for Majuro in the Marshall Islands, 1783 nautical miles north. We sailed NNE to near Funafuti then changed course to NNW to stay away from all the atolls in Kiribati. Once across the equator, we sailed direct for Majuro.
On the whole, the passage was one of the best we’ve ever had. We were able to carry full sail most of the time. The days were usually clear and we enjoyed warm starry nights with a waxing moon that became full as we neared our destination. Dolphins visited nearly every day and spent hours playing around the boat. We watched a pod of about 20 pilot whales pass us north of Funafuti.
But, no passage this long is ever perfect. We had to cross the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ), which is an awful place. For six days we endured violent squalls, hours of drenching downpours, seemingly endless calms and dark, gloomy skies. We made sail changes 24 hours a day to capture every capful of wind we could in order to escape the place. Finally, we were rewarded with a beautiful clear northeaster that carried us all the way to Majuro. There was some squally weather the two days before landfall, but at least there was steady wind.
After 21 days at sea, we spotted our destination, entered the pass (in a rain squall) and tacked the 12 miles up the Majuro lagoon to Uliga, the main town. We don’t like to use the engine if we can avoid it, and in this case we were able to sail the entire distance, from Momi anchorage to the mooring in Majuro, without the engine (thanks to Larry & Spike for helping us that last distance). So it was particularly fulfilling to finally furl our sails and hit the bunk in the calm water of the lagoon.
So far we have met some really wonderful, helpful people on other boats and among the local Marshallese.
Dolphins, usually in families of about 30, played by our boat nearly every day. We were sure their squeaks meant “come play.”
We sighted a water spout in the SPCZ. Spooky to say the least. The weather in this area was terrible.
Moored in the lagoon at Uliga, Majuro Atoll, in the Marshall Islands.
Big ships and tuna boats in the lagoon. Anchoring is dicy because the bottom is thin sand over coral so we picked up a mooring for $90/month.
A US Navy ship stopped in Majuro and provided construction, medical and other aid. Here, they are playing at the Coop School.
Sailing the Majuro way. This basic design has been used for craft up to 100 feet by the Marshallese for hundreds of years.
Swan at the island of Enemanit. This is what we came for: clear water, calm seas and quiet anchorages.
Swan at rest in coral waters. We went ashore at Enemanit and found lots of remarkable things.
Sunrise across the Majuro lagoon. There was only a whisper of wind at this peaceful hour of the tropical morning.
We have three geckos aboard. They are great for keeping insects under control. Here two of them cavort.
We had an invasion of beautiful pink jelly fish. They did not sting and we swan among them, careful not to hurt them.
Johnathon, a Marshallese living on Enemanit, climbed a palm and opened drinking nuts for us. They were sweet and delicious.
Three happy residents of Enemanit. We met them on a hike through the island and they made our day.
Other residents of Enemanit, momma and piglets. These semi wild pigs are everywhere.
Collecting seashells on the ocean side of the atoll. Broken coral is everywhere, thrown up by the surf.
Marshallese school girls, like kids will everywhere, posed for our camera.
We dived on this plane in 20 feet of water only 100 yards from our anchor. Photo courtesy Debby Burnsworth on S/V Suka.
A spotted eagle ray swimming off Enemanit These are the most graceful creatures. Photo courtesy Debby Burnsworth on S/V Suka.
Sailing off our mooring at Majuro, heading for Enemanit. Photo courtesy Denny Morgan (S/V Jubilant).
Denny lent us SCUBA gear so we could dive the deeper parts of the lagoon. He even has a compressor aboard.
We acquired a small whisker pole so we can pole out the staysail. It greatly increases sail carrying options downwind.
Surfacing from a dive at Enemanit on a sunken cargo ship lying on the bottom between 70 and 80 feet. Very cool!
Swan and Jubilant at Enemanit. We spent many days lazing here. It’s waters were some of the most beautiful we have seen.
One of the breeders of giant tridacna clams at the farm on Majuro. They ship seed clams all over the world.
A hut on the island of Eneko. They make them small here. But, let’s face it, how much do you really need when the beach is your front yard?
We did not swim with these. They really sting, unlike the harmless pink ones (above).
Sailing s/v Hanoah’s dinghy on the lagoon at Majuro. Thanks Judy & Roger!
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