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41 Days of Hurricanes and Dead Calms

A seven day passage turned into 41 days.

December 31, 1991

Lotu mwo (Hello) from Kosrae:

The Hunky-Dory didn’t travel to as many places from Christmas 1998 to Christmas 1990. The weather ran the gamut from dead calm to hurricane, we met a lot of people, learned a lot of things. In all it was a memorable year. Here are some quick notes about the places we stayed and the things we did there:

Christmas 1989 - June 18, 1990, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Christmas potluck and activities at the yacht club with about 15 other yachts. Joan learned basket weaving; Bob began learning "C" computer language. In February, Hurricane Ofa hit Samoa, devastating the island but leaving the yachts in the harbor virtually untouched. Bob designed a rain catcher guttering around the cabin top to assure a safe water supply. Joan’s 7th graders performed a melodrama that she wrote. Two ships were visited: A Russian research ship and a ship from Greenpeace, the new Rainbow Warrior.

June 25 - August 25, Vava’u, Tonga

A wonderland of safe anchorage's, scenic reefs and natural caves, fantastic shelling for collecting and foraging for meals. Several boats got together for a picnic an a beach complete with bonfire. At the Tongan feast we tried local foods cooked in underground ovens and watched native dances. A Tongan family took us to an uninhabited island and prepared a special feast for us. Dengue fever knocked us both out of commission for about two weeks. We were invited to a kava party yo sample the Polynesian drink firsthand.

August 31 - November 15, Fiji

Repair stop. We left with a new mizzen mast, a main boom, awnings, another solar panel, and repaired dinghy. We visited Fijians, learned how to formally present kava to local chiefs when visiting islands, swam in natural pools beside waterfalls at a lovely park, and took advantage of fresh produce and seafood at the huge Suva market. We sailed to another island in the group and took part in a pig roast at one of the resorts that almost caters to yachties.

November 24, Funafuti, Tuvalu -- landing aborted

Fought our way against strong head seas and winds and squalls with sails and engine to within five miles of entrance to lagoon and then aborted landing due to unsettled weather. As soon as we tacked away, a strong storm system hit us with gale-force winds. Not a good time to be in a low atoll. The storm blew us almost 200 miles east of the island before it blew itself out -- a Northwest Monsoon. Decided to head for Tarawa, our next planned stop. (We later learned that this storm was a hurricane that sank every yacht in the harbor that we left from a week earlier. We don’t listen to weather reports because the Hunky-Dory does not have the speed to take precautionary action. Also, understanding them is an art.)

December 16, Tarawa, Kiribati -- landing aborted

Passed endless schools of jumping fish, but none bit our hooks (EVER, on the entire passage). Helicopters from fishing boats just over the horizon buzzed us while searching for fish. Squalls and calms, head seas, head winds and a one know counter current thwarted our progress. Landing was again aborted, within sight of the atoll after tacking and motoring and beating our way against growing seas and increasing winds. Then we were hit by another gale, another monsoon. Again we made the right choice. We decided our next planned stop was the best yet -- Kosrae, a nice, high island with a protected anchorage. No more atolls for a while. (We later learned that this storm was a hurricane that did severe damage in Guam.)

December 26, Lela Harbor, Kosrae, FSM

After 41 days at sea, our second longest passage since the 45-day voyage from Panama to the Marquesses last year.

Tarawa to Kosrae, trade winds almost all the time putting us on a reach or downwind with following seas. Some squalls with gentle winds and a lot of rain. Porpoises paced us almost every day and seabirds spent the nights on our cabin top or mizzen boom. This is what sailing is all about!

Although we missed Christmas by one day, we’;; do our celebrating on New Year’s Day instead. We also got here after all the Christmas cards on the island had been sold. Sorry about that folks!

Kosrae (pronounced like "kosher RYE", but forget the "er" -- is this any kind of name for an island that is 100% Christian?!) is small and lush, located five degrees north of the equator and with peaks rising to 200 feet. The people more Oriental in features and language that the Polynesians, are helpful and friendly and speak English. The stores have little to offer but we over provisioned in Pago and Suva so we won’t starve. Kosrae gets 200 inches of rain a year so we can collect rain and won’t have to worry about using island water, which usually suspect in small places like this. Just beyond the town is an archaeological site, the Lela ruins of the royal city that operated until the 14th century A.D. There are old Japanese tunnels and fortifications all over the island, a natural pool in the reef, water falls and a cave filled with birds. The harbor is protected, clean, and uncrowded (only one other yacht here, the Swedish yacht Utopie, and Lard said only five or six yachts have come in during the six weeks he’s been at anchor).

We can finally relax. We plan to stay about a month before sailing the 300 miles to Pohnpei (pronounced "Pawn-a-pay"), the administrative center of the Federated States of Micronesia, then on to Truk (which we always pronounced "truck" but should be "trook"), and finally Guam where we’d like to stay a while and work.

We’ll close on a happy note, actually an etymology lesson into the origin of the Kosraean word "ahset." It comes from the whalers who, during the last century, used the island for provisioning and other "pleasures," and expressed their dissatisfaction with such classics as "Ah, shit!" The islanders have since used "shset" to mean "foreigner."

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