Exploring the Marshall Islands – Awesome Ailuk Lagoon.

Ailuk is Awesome! We have spent our time meeting the villagers, hanging out in anchorages, snorkelling and diving. The lagoon is beautiful. There are 50 islands spread out from North to South over about 12 miles. The atoll is known for its outrigger sailing canoes. These travel up the eastern atolls and collect copra, breadfruit and pandanus. They are pretty amazing craft and easily do over 10 knots. We have been taking lots of pictures of them, so they now come really close for a smile and a wave before continuing on their journey. It is lovely watching how well they sail them. They load the freight in the middle and the outrigger is rigged like a shock absorber, so it is just skimming the waves to reduce drag. The sails are tarpaulins they get from the hardware shop in Majuro. The prevailing wind means they have a pretty sweet beam reach for the whole trip. 

One of the reasons we got permission to travel up here was to deliver essential suppliers on behalf of the mayor. One of the  supply ships damaged its propeller, meaning some regular shipments were being delayed, so we were able to supplement that for them. There were two other catamarans travelling with us so we loaded up with a generator, a bed, as well as lots of flour, rice, sugar, coffee and spices such as cinnamon.

We have dived and snorkelled the coral bommies dotted around the lagoon. We’ve fossicked on the beaches and hung out with the locals. We’ve had fires and picnics on the beach and have of course been editing some new videos ready to upload to  YouTube upon our return to the land of the internet. 

We were there with 4 other yachts and we spent our days snorkelling, diving and kayaking, as well as celebrating various birthdays with beach picnics and sundowners.

We arrived on 1st June and our first job was to hand over the supplies we had brought with us to the mayor, Mr Typhoon. We also met up with Pumpkin and Emily who live in a lovely house on the waterfront in the main village. After a few nights in the villages anchorage it was time to explore.

We dropped the hook at several spots up the eastern side of the atoll over the next few weeks, never moving more than a few miles at a time. The trade winds were still quite blustery, but we had a couple of glass out days. Calm conditions and clear skies made for one of our most perfect days on the water so far. The morning started with a paddle board over a bommie 50 metres behind DT. Jo was followed by a couple of inquisitive black tip sharks and was rewarded with a lazy flyby from a family of three spotted eagle rays. In the afternoon we were able to take the tender across to the western side of the lagoon and over the reef to dive the wall out on the ocean side . It was a pleasant dive with 40 metres of crystal clear visibility . We were hoping for some decent corals and more abundant fish, but apart from the fabulous visibility and a large school of parrot fish, there was not much else to see. Speaking to fellow cruisers, it seems there have been a few bleaching events over the last few years – the soft corals have pretty much gone and the hard corals are suffering from algae blooms. A great shame.

We were regularly buzzed by the local outrigger canoes, who were collecting copra from the various islets and returning to the main village each night. We even went out to rescue one of the canoes that had overturned. It turns out the young boat crew were seeing how high they could lift a hull and went just a little too far! The Marshall Islands equivalent of boy racers! It turned into a fun afternoon mission with four boat crews all towing the broken canoe into the shallows and getting it turned back over. We left the 4 crew on a local island for the night while they repaired the boat and waved at them the following day as they sailed back towards the main village in a much more sedately manner.

Andrew ( AKA ‘Captain Ron’) from Offshore Haven very kindly offered up his services as windsurfing instructor. We had several sessions in the gin-clear, bath-water warm shallows with him and the family. Take our word for it, it’s harder than it looks, but we had great fun and all managed to get upright and sail, although Daniel ( aged 11 ) proved to be much better than us oldies..

Emily celebrated a birthday a few days before we left and all the cruisers were invited to her party. We had the most wonderful evening with great local food, dancing and laughter.8 weeks flew by and we had to start looking for a weather window to get back to Majuro . Having had a very rough passage on our return from Maloelap atoll, we purposefully picked a fairly light weather window for the two day trip back.

We made a final trip into the village to say farewell to Emily and Pumpkin. Petrol is very expensive up here, so they were delighted to buy our spare 40 litres from us at Majuro prices. As a parting gift, Jo got a wonderful woven turtle hand made by Emily, using dried pandanus leaves and cowrie shell (this local craft of weaving is known as amimono).

We weighed anchor and waved goodbye to this beautiful atoll. Once out of the pass , we pointed DT back towards Majuro. The first day we had good wind, but it died out gradually and we ended up motoring the last day in glass out conditions. No matter , it was a beautiful time on the water, with no squalls and a sky full of stars both nights; absolutely wonderful.

So here we are, back in Majuro, back online, catching up on emails and a little bit of admin. We have had the joy of completing our tax returns and renewing passports. We have caught up on World news and Covid-19 and are looking into what cruising destinations are opening up for us as part of our longer term plans, so watch this space…

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