Exploring Maloelap Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

We are back in Majuro. It looks like the world has gone CoVid19 crazy while we have been away. Meanwhile we have been enjoying life ‘off the grid’ at Maloelap Atoll .

We left Majuro on the 8th of March and along with Curtis and Julie ,our friends from ‘ Manna ‘ had a somewhat sporty overnight sail 100nm north to Maloelap Atoll. Three reefs in the sails with plenty of squalls to keep us on our toes.

Protocol requires a permit and a local check in at each atoll, so once we arrived at Taroa island we were visited by the local policeman. In true island style, what should have been a 5 minute process took two days. A new mayor had been elected since the issue of our permit, so there was much discussion back and forth with the internal affairs office via our satellite email to get the issue sorted. Once they were convinced we were legal and healthy, we were finally allowed off the boat. Time to explore the island!

Taroa was occupied by Japanese and American forces during WW2 and there are many relics and remnants of this occupation. Plane wrecks, rusted guns emplacements, a washed up landing craft and a shipwreck with live depth charges. Not to mention the old ammunition (some of it live) that uncovers with every low tide. We had great fun bushwhacking across the island and diving the wreck.

It was then a short sail 2 miles north to Piggeyato Island.The island is uninhabited apart from a couple of disused huts which are only used when they come and collect copra. There is a huge old dilapidated generator building on the island that was used to supply power to nearby Taroa.We spent a fair bit of time snorkelling the pass and found an excellent coral garden with octopus, a relaxed leopard shark some skittish black tips and a fast-swimming turtle.

Our next stop was Ollot island where we met ‘James Bond’ a local doctor who looks after the islands health clinic. A traditional sailing canoe dropped supplies off to the shop while we were there. Curtis and I spent time with James and a few of the locals rewiring solar panels, batteries and solar controllers. After a couple of days there were a few more lights working and the local shop had a working freezer. We also helped out the visiting healthcare workers who were on the atoll to administer measles vaccines. As the island fridge was out of order, the ice packs that they use to keep the vaccines cold were rapidly defrosting. Both us and Manna took the packs into our freezers overnight, so that the vaccines wouldn’t spoil. Result? VERY happy healthcare workers!

The anchorage has two Japanese shipwrecks, the Seisho Maru and Kaikou Maru which were both sunk due to American bombing. The Kaikou Maru which translates as ‘Happy Ocean Ship’ was notable for the rescue and transport of Louis Zamperini who’s story was told in the book and film ‘Unforgiven’. We literally jumped in off the back of DT and did a cracking dive on the wrecks. The Southern portion of the island also has the wreckage of a Japanese Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” aircraft which was visible at low tide. Our friends Alex and Andrew and their two boys joined us for the last 8 days and we had fun celebrating Daniel’s 11th birthday. Any excuse for tea and cake…

With visas due to expire and the cupboards running bare, it was time to head back. Our trip back south was a little lively to put in mildly. The 60 mile stretch between the bottom of Aur atoll and Majuro has an East setting current and along with the 28 knot NE winds, this caused quite a good ‘washing machine’ effect to the seas. However the strong wind made for a fast trip, so we just held on and let DT handle it like the champ she is. We are now safely tied up again on a mooring in Majuro and are going through the paperwork we need in order to extend our stay in the Marshall Islands. The South Pacific looks like it is off the cards for us this season. Still, there are worse places we could be stuck and the shops have plenty of toilet paper…

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