Thursday, September 26, 2013

Passage from Majuro to Jaluit Atoll

Sep 18-19, 2013

Jaluit is only 120 miles SW of Majuro, but the fact that Majuro's only channel faces east, and Majuro town is at the far SE end of the atoll adds about 20-30 miles to the trip. But it was still only a single overnight to get there. As has been the case for the last 2 months, there was virtually no wind, so we motorsailed pretty much the whole way. When there was wind, it was 5-10 knots out of the NE, dead behind us, so not much good. We had a full moon, and without those pesky sails to mess with, it was a very easy passage in calm weather.

Though we had a lot of success fishing in Fiji, we have been almost completely skunked here in the Marshall Islands. It's not that there aren't fish here, because we know the sportfish boats in Majuro catch a lot of fish. I think Dave has just made one too many adjustments in his fishing tackle. We've also had a pretty full freezer, and so have not been as motivated as we could be to fish. I think I still have a Fiji "Walu" in the bottom of the freezer from February, and nice sashimi-grade tuna is pretty cheap in Majuro. Plus, of course, the light winds mean we've been motoring at around 5 knots most of the time--too slow for the fish we like to catch.

We arrived at the Southeast Pass at Jaluit (the pass nearest Jabor) around 2pm. Though we had a high overcast, we had good enough Google Earth charts and decent light, so it was an easy entry in calm weather. The current rips in an out of this pass. It was behind us coming in and we had about 2 knots of current at the peak. Since this pass faces NE, I would be a little leery of coming in this pass with a strong northeasterly and a falling tide. It would definitely be ugly. There is a SW pass that might be better in a strong NE wind. The midpoint of the SE pass is 05-55.62N / 169-38.40E

Charting: Like the rest of the Marshall Islands our Garmin (old) charts have no detail and are pretty useless. The CMAP CM93 charts from 2009/2010 are pretty detailed, but off a bit. I have been carefully using the Google Earth charts and OpenCPN and re-reference the CMAP charts (keeping a list which will go in the Marshalls Compendium). Once I get a detailed chart nudged a bit to line up with the Google Earth, then they are pretty damned good for navigating with. But I have found that sometimes when you get the GE/CMAP lined up in one place, it's out in another (on the same chart). So you have to be pretty careful. And of course, always use your "Mark I Eyeballs". But it's nice to know where we should be paying extra attention.

Most of the time, the Marshall Islands atolls are deep deep deep in the middle. But there are always scattered "bommies" that shoot up out of 150 feet to 2 feet, and then back down. The 2-footers are easy to spot. It's spotting the 5-7 footers that are sometimes the problem. But more of a problem is finding a shallow spot to anchor. The Google Earth charts are really invaluable here, as they can help you find those sand spots that look coral-free and not too deep and not to shallow.

Anyway, we came in the pass, made a left hook around to the Jabor anchorage, and dropped anchor off the big Jabor pier in about 45 feet mixed sand and coral. Our Anchor Spot: 05-55.15N / 169-38.48E If you go any further south than this, the water gets shallower, but there are tons of coral heads. You want to stay south of the pier, however, as there is a sunken tug directly off and slightly north of the pier, at 05-55.18N / 169.38.45E

It took us 2 tries ashore to find the mayor, to show our paperwork and pay our fee. But that was a pleasurable experience, as the major, Billa, a 50-ish woman, spoke excellent English and was very savvy. I think this is the very first time we actually met the mayor of an atoll--everywhere else we've been, the mayor has been in Majuro, and we dealt with an "acting mayor" who is usually not as good at English and not very "plugged in" to visiting yachties.

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