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Detailed Report of Micronesia

By Val Ellis last modified Jan 27, 2010 01:25 PM

Published: 2010-01-27 13:25:05
Countries: Federated States of Micronesia , Marshall Islands

Marshall Islands - Kwajalein

There are two ports of entry. Majuro and Ebeye on Kwajalein which is a US military base and for purposes other than emergencies should be avoided as they are very, very strict.

In Majuro you will find a great cruising community whom many are either permanent or semi-permanent. Cary and Karen Everts, on the Yacht "Seal" have been there the longest and can give you a hand with anything needed, including shipping parts in. Email them at yachtseal@hotmail.com. Check in and check out is easy.

To visit any of the outer atolls you have to first get written permission and carry a permit. To get these you have to track down the appropriate chief of that island/atoll. Luckily most of them live in Majuro and while a bit time consuming is also an easy affair. Some are cheap, others like Arno, which is the closest atoll lying 30 miles to the east is rather expensive at $150 USD. When you check in you will get a briefing pamphlet put together by the local cruising community that has all the pertinent information and much I have not included here.

Majuro is the only atoll with provisions, other than Ebeye island in Kwajalein. Ebeye is the most densely crowded island in the world, suffers extreme poverty and is a horrible, sad and squalid place. Of the 14,000 inhabitants 1400 are employed to work for the US military base at shockingly low wages. The rest are unemployed. There is a supermarket, but fresh goods are in very short supply, depending on when last the once monthly supply boat has delivered goods en route from Guam, which takes two weeks, so by the time the goods have reached Ebeye they are in sorry shape. Cockroaches are in everything. 2 miles away on Kwajalein military personnel have every accoutrement. Kwajalein is totally off-limits and highly guarded. The workers on Ebeye are shuttled daily to work on the base and make on average (we were told) 20% of the white workers. Quite a sad place.

Majuro however has good supplies of mostly everything, but fresh goods are likewise in short supply. Diesel, unleaded and propane are easy to procure.

The outer islands of the Marshalls are simply incredible. Surf abounds, as do spectacular beaches, fish populations and coral. Some of the best reefs we've seen in 12 years of sailing the world. Fishing on some atolls is ridiculously good, on others, namely the ones who have sold their fishing rights to outsiders like the Taiwanese in return for solar panels so they can watch TV you won't find much at all.

The dry season, which corresponds with the trade season between December and April you can expect very strong winds most of the time. They tend to turn on in mid December and crank day and night for 4 months. For this reason, most yachts that explore the outer atolls go north or south from Majuro on a beam reach and return the same way. Sailing downwind to the western atolls means a long and difficult trip back. However if you do go this way you will very likely see no other boats (we saw none in 5 weeks of sailing the outer atolls). We experience heavy almost daily rain and squalls. The locals say these are common on the latitude of Majuro south. From Majuro north apparently it gets drier, and windier.

Federated States of Micronesia - Kosrae (visited Jan/Feb 09)

This isolated, jungle clad island is gorgeous and wet. Pohnpei, it's neighbor 300 miles to the WNW is supposedly the 2nd wettest place on earth, but in our experience Kosrae is the wetter of the two. Very friendly locals, which have diminished in number greatly in the last decades as there is nearly no industry or jobs on the island. Provisioning is very challenging. There are no markets of any kind other than a dozen or so very small shops where you can find things like toilet paper or a box of milk, depending on the day. There is a wonderful couple on the island who run "the Village", a small bungalow style diving resort (the diving is reputed to be very good) who can source local veggies through their cook if you do it in advance. Otherwise you have to be resourceful. Propane is not available on island as everyone cooks with kerosene. Diesel and unleaded can be found at any number of the "gas stations", which are little more than someone's house with drums and a ladel.

Kosrae is quiet and mesmerizing. There are mooring buoys surrounding the island which were installed so fishermen and cruising boats don't anchor on the coral. There is a strong sense of environmental stewardship on the island. Surfers will enjoy world-class waves and almost no one else in the water, although there were a couple guys trying to put up surf resorts when we visited.

The main anchorage, Lelu Harbour on the NE side is the preferred point to use for checking in. Immigration, Customs and Port Authority are 10 minutes by car and conveniently located in the same building. Check in immediately upon arrival as they do not like nor tolerate tardiness. IF YOU ARE PLANNING ON SAILING TO POHNPEI, send off your application for a permit immediately by fax from the immigration office in Kosrae. This takes 1-2 weeks to process and you will not be allowed into Pohnpei without it.

The holding in Lelu harbor is miserable. We have very heavy tackle and dragged every time. Once you are cleared the better place to settle in is Okat harbor out by the airport on the NW side of the island. You are more isolated here and it is tougher to get a ride into town, but anchoring is easy right off the large dock, which only gets used once every couple weeks (you cannot use the dock). Continental is the only carrier if you plan to change crew. A nice amenity; you can receive wireless internet from the airport in Okat harbor.

We rate Kosrae a must visit. You will likely have it to yourself and if you surf, it is a must.

Federated States of Micronesia - Pohnpei (visited Feb/Mar 09)

This is another major island in Micronesia that you will likely have to yourself. Our month in Pohnpei was a highlight (as were the Marshalls and Kosrae) of our circumnavigation. Everything can be obtained much more easily in Pohnpei than elsewhere in Micronesia. Propane, diesel, unleaded and provisions are all readily available. The main anchorage that most cruisers use and indeed the one you will use for check in/check out is Kolonia (Sokehs passage). GREAT care should be used on entrance both through the outer reef and navigating into Kolonia Harbor. The lights and market sticks are confusing and passageway is convoluted and confusing. Do not attempt this at night.

Anchorage can be taken at the end of the bay where an abandoned yacht club and dock are rapidly falling apart. This anchorage has still air and is muggy and buggy. Surprisingly, we saw more than one foreign cruising boat anchor here for weeks at a time. This is hard to understand as the outer areas of Pohnpei are spectacular, clean and protected.

We found the best scenery and anchorage to be inside the reef on the east side of the island. While totally exposed to the trades the reef provides adequate protection. Unfortunately no mooring balls have been installed in Pohnpei as they have in Kosrae so great care must be used to find sand for anchoring as the coral is wonderful and easily damaged by carelessly placed groundtackle. With a bit of research you can swim with feeding Manta Rays in "Manta Ray Alley". We did this maybe two dozen times in our month in Pohnpei and will never forget it. There are guided tours, but it's easy enough to figure out on your own; a simple matter of timing with the tide. To see a video and read more about the manta rays, please visit videos

Nearby Ant atoll is a must visit, and only 21 miles from Kolonia. On the way if you are a surfer or even if you aren't you have to visit P-Pass (Palikir Pass), one of the greatest right handers in the world. You have to get permission to visit Ant atoll on Pohnpei and pay a small fee. But it is worth it. The pass into the atoll is one of the best we've been through. Beautiful. The bottom is lined with amazing coral and at certain times of year mating grouper, an incredible sight. Inside there are dozens of great anchorages, wonderful beaches and great diving. Dive before setting down your anchor though as there is lots of unexploded WWII ordinance lying about!

For more details of our visit, please visit our website:
www.offshoreodysseys.com
Click on the "Captain's Logs" for specific trip write ups.

With thanks to Gavin McClurg for this most interesting report.

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