Monday, May 20, 2013

Majuro Arrival

(Note, this post is 10 days late... I'm catching up!)

We arrived at the East end of Majuro conveniently at about 6:30am on Friday, May 10 (the exact day we targeted when we left Fiji in mid-April).

From the east end of the atoll, it's 12 miles WNW to the pass, and then another 12 miles back ESE to the town and anchorage area. We managed to pick up the morning VHF net on Channel 68 (at 0730 am) and introduce ourselves to the cruisers.

The wind had picked up to the 15-20 knot range overnight, out of the ENE, so the trip from the pass to the town was a motor-sail into a fairly brisk wind. But it was in nice calm conditions. We stayed close to the northern side of the atoll and short tacked our way into the anchorage. Our friends on Westward II had picked out a good mooring for us in the South Mooring Field, and met us in their dinghy to help us pick up the mooring.

The check-in was easy. Majuro has an SSCA Cruising Station, Karin and Cary on the sailboat Seal. We had emailed them a few weeks ago to introduce ourselves, and talked to them at least once on the HF net on our way up from Fiji. They answered our call on the VHF (CH 68) and used their phone to call Customs and Immigration, and arrange for the officials to come meet us at the dinghy dock (aka Shoreline) at 2pm. Karin warned us that they may not show, so if we hadn't found them after about 20 minutes, we should set out in a taxi to find their offices. Westward II took the time to describe the process in detail, and pointed out the buildings we needed to go to. They said that the taxi drivers knew where everything was, so just to tell them (however, we did find a bit of a communications problem--we got mis-delivered twice in that first day). It is helpful to know which building you are actually looking for.

The Customs guy was waiting for us at the appointed time. He took our Tarawa clearance papers, and then said we were done. We didn't have to fill anything out, or pay any money. He called the Immigration guy when we were finished with him, and told us that he (the Immig guy) wasn't coming. We should take a taxi downtown to the Immigration building. So we walked out onto the main road, hailed a shared taxi, and told them to take us to Immigration.

The transportation situation in Majuro is yet another variation from the scooters in Funafuti, and the mini buses in Tarawa. Here, there is no bus system (with one exception, mentioned later). Everyone gets around using either their private cars, or via shared taxis. We were gratified to find that most taxis are well air conditioned. The trip from the dinghy dock to the Immigration building is a flat 75 cents per person. And you may be sharing the taxi with up to 2 other people at any given time. The cars are mostly medium-to-small American or Asian cars (Japanese, Korean, etc). It's fun to be squished into the back seat with two large Marshalese ladies!!

The taxi driver delivered us to the "Capitol Building", which is the wrong place. Customs is in the Capitol Building, but Immigration is in a different building. So we had to fork over another $.75 each to get down to Immigration. This was also reasonably quick--we had to fill out a short form, and hand over our crew list and passports. A couple of minutes later, they handed us back our stamped passports.

That was it. We were complete with our formalities by 3pm. So then Dave and I went our separate ways--Dave to the "Ministry of Internal Affairs", to start the paperwork required to visit the outer atolls, and me to the NTA (telecommunications) building, to try to get a cell phone sim and internet.

It was Friday afternoon and I REALLY wanted to get my internet and cell phone set up. The NTA lobby was full (turned out to be 'last day to pay your bill on time') and it was very confusing as to which clerk could help me and who was in what line. There was a 'Take a Number' machine with no numbers in it. But eventually I got to the right person around 4:30, and filled out the paperwork and got a telephone sim card ($15), and an NTA internet account ($5). I bought $20 worth of cell phone time, and tried to pay for the monthly internet fee, but the lady told me I'd be billed and pay next month (she was wrong, it turned out).

Meanwhile, Dave found the Internal Affairs building and submitted the paperwork to get approvals to visit 17 atolls (pretty much every atoll in the Marshall Islands that could be visited by a private yacht), including Bikini. There is no cost to get approvals to go, but when you do actually go, most atolls charge a fee to visit. The fees range from $25 to $250 (Ailingalaplap). The people at Ailingalaplap are crazy--no yacht is going to pay $250 to visit their atoll. We heard a rumour they were revising their fee, but couldn't get confirmation of this from anyone official.

We met back at the dinghy dock at 5pm--just in time to zoom back out to the boat, take a quick shower, and head ashore for dinner with Westward II.

Just before we left to go eat, Ants (a guy) from s/v Breakfee rowed over and handed us a nice welcome package from the Mieco Beach Yacht Club. This included a number of tourist brochures, a map of the town, a Yachties Yellow Pages, and an application to join the MBYC ($30 a couple). Plus a nice canvas bag (like the Jacklines bags given out at the SSCA Gams) with a Majuro logo on it. A very nice welcome indeed!
Sherry & Dave
On our way to the Marshall Islands

At 05/10/2013 1:21 AM (utc) our position was 07°06.22'N 171°22.34'E

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