Ailuk Atoll

Several of our new yachtie friends in Majuro encouraged us to stop at at least one of the outer islands on our way north. We felt pressed for time but decided we’d regret it if we didn’t take their advice. We were told that if we had to pick only one, Ailuk was not to be missed. Ailuk atoll is known as the “island of sails” because the residents still use the traditional sailing canoes in their everyday lives.

So we went through the process of applying at the Department of Internal Affairs for a permit to visit Ailuk, along with a couple other optional atolls. Miraculously it took only a couple of days before we had our permits in hand and we were off, passing north through Majuro’s Calalin channel almost exactly one week after our arrival.

We left with a little more room in our salon, having gifted our poor old dinghy to a Marshallese connection who, we were assured, would be able to obtain the glue needed to keep it in repair.

We arrived at Errapu Channel, one of four passes on the western side of Ailuk atoll, at high tide and found the channel about a third of a mile north of where our electronic chart said it would be. But as usual K was up at the spreaders and we passed easily through. We spent the next couple of hours making our way to the main island in the atoll to meet with the village representatives and pay our permit fee. Along with our $50 we passed along some items we’d bought back in Mexico to give as gifts – fish hooks, line, sandals, etc., as well as some rice and washing powder we’d been told the islanders were especially fond of. These were received graciously but without much comment. Later when we went ashore into the village we were rewarded with gifts of coconuts, breadfruit, limes, and some gorgeous hand-woven baskets.

We spent a couple days anchored off the village and met several villagers, all of whom seemed somehow related to each other. The tidy, quiet little village was a relief after the hustle and clutter of town in Majuro. We were looked after by Amai, the acting mayor. In exchange for lunch aboard our boat, Amai and his young associate, Jonathan, took us out for a wet but fantastic fast ride on his 18 ft outrigger one morning.

That afternoon we said goodbye to the villagers and headed north to anchor off Aliet Island. There we found truly gin-clear water and reefs that rival the best we’ve seen. The sharks were well behaved and we collected quite a few pixels. The pics will be posted on the blog when they arrive by sail in Canada next month. This will make it the slowest blog upload in about the last 150 years.

10°20.77′N 169°58.08′E 27-Jun-11 02:00 UTC

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