Once all our repairs in Pohnpei were completed it was time to move on. We made the decision to head straight for Yap proper, 1200 nautical miles away, in the hopes that we could make it in time for Yap Day. We had heard it was a wonderful, colorful, delicious celebration of Yap traditions.
Plans and reality are not always compatable. At 400 nm’s out we had another boat crisis. Our main sail halyard (the line that raises and lowers our main sail) got jammed with our main sail half way up. Doug to the rescue. We waited until the seas were somewhat calm and up the mast goes Doug in the bosin’s chair. A precarious situation. He managed to get half way up on the wildly gyrating mast, enough to undo the jammed main sail and let it drop. Later we figured out to use our gennaker halyard to at least raise our sail to the first reef, about half way up. On we sailed.
One day later the crux was reached. Our wind steering rudder was falling off! Between Doug and I we were able to get it aboard. This meant the final 800 nm’s was hand steering…. or we divert. Lamotrek Atoll, here we come.
A visit from anyone at an outer atoll, hundreds of miles from the closest neighbor, is an event. Lamotrek was quite suprised, and excited, to get three cruising yachts at once.
Anywhere you go, world wide, it is the children who are most curious and are ready to greet you.
The first order of business when you visit an outer atoll is to pay your respects to the local chief. A small gift is appropriate. In our case we took him a can of spam, a can of fruit and a new deck of playing cards.
One of the traditions that the Yappese, at least on the outer islands, has held on to is the way they dress… or in this case, undress. They are practical and have not bowed to missionaries or pressure from the modest outside world. Nobody, male or female, wears a top garment. It is just not practical, what with the consistent warm weather, lack of water (for washing), and tradition.
Lamotrek is one of the Central Pacific atolls famous for its traditional navigators. They still make their outrigger canoes on the island and use them for transportation and fishing. It is truly amazing to see all the resources they make use of on such a small piece of real estate.
Our first full day there we, naturally, wanted to see as much of the island as possible. And, I was very excited about being able to photograph something so rare… a pretty primitive, by our standards, culture. Our guides just naturally fell in as we began our explorations. Notice how natural they look… still lots of innocence there!
The Lamotrekians may be backwater, but, they do have a hospital on island. More like a clinic. It does have a slightly abandoned look. I guess they are a healthy lot.
In our world of fast food I doubt we can imagine having to start food preparation in the morning, every day, day after day. For these women, it is just part and parcel. Seemed every household we passed by the women were in some stage of preparing the day’s food. Here they are preparing taro. First they mash it. Then they place it with coconut milk, which also needs to be prepared, in various leaf layers. Then they bury it for 3 hours to solidify into a cake.
Notice the colorful wraps the women use for skirts. These are called lava lavas and they are woven by the ladies on the atoll.
Another staple for their meal, besides fish, is breadfruit.
On our walk about the island we found that there was a swampy area in the interior which was totally dedicated to growing the taro.
Another Yappese tradition is the building of stone paths. In this case one was built directly through the taro patch.
As with all the Central Pacific islands, there is a lot of WWII history. On Lamotrek, as small as it is, there are actually three planes still laying about in various states of disintegration.
Our little troop continued to expand as we rounded the island. Notice the all boy make-up of the group. I think the girls are probably off learning how to make taro cake!
And they definatly got into the swing of things with the photography. It finally switched from me asking to do a photo to them striking poses. If you can call it that. They just seemed to have a natural poise.
On our trip around the island we worked up quite a thirst. Again, our tour guides were more than willing to oblige us with fresh coconut milk.
The Lamotrekeans still use an open fire to do their cooking. And they use coconut husks as fuel.
Another tradition, going along with the segragation of the sexes, are the the men’s houses. They are where the men hang out and drink the local coconut toddy. They are also where the unmarried men sleep and they store the canoes. Women are strictly vorboten!
I have to admit, though, the last day we were on island, I, as a foreign woman, was invited to sit with a group of men in the men’s house. Their curiosity of information beyond their small, insulated island overcame the strict tradition. I felt honored.
On our way back into the village from our trip around the island we stopped and paid our respects to the other chief! I wonder why such a small island has two chiefs? … both obviously on the other side of 50! Chief Joe had been napping on our first stop. More spam and more canned fruit.
That pretty much concluded our first outing on the island. The next couple days took up boat repairs. While we were there the monthly supply ship came in. It brings in staples like rice, flour, sugar and canned milk, as well as medicines, school supplies etc. etc.
The arrival is an “event” on island. The kids especially love to come visit the ship.
We asked permission to go aboard the ship and tour it. Not only was it interesting, but it made a great, high platform for more picture taking!
This atoll was much different from Majuro, which is studded with islets the whole way around the lagoon. This atoll only has three islands. It is roughly triangular shaped and there is an island in each corner. The only one with people on it is the biggest one, the one we visited. As you can see, this atoll is mostly reef.
The night before we sailed for Yap proper we went ashore to say our goodbyes and snap a few more pictures. Doug had visited the local church without me and insisted I needed to take pictures of its very unusual pulpit.
After visiting the church we noticed that the island’s large canoe was coming back from some errand down lagoon. I wish I had caught it with its sail up.
We decided to walk down to where they store it, another men’s house.
After our goodbyes it was time to head back to Suka and finish our preparations for tomorrow’s departure. It was a wonderful visit. I don’t think tropical islands will ever pale for me.
Here are a few more pictures of Lamotrek…. enjoy!