Majuro in the Marshall Islands is a major industrial commercial fishing hub of the Pacific. Hundreds of gigantic tuna clippers and transport ships line the harbor and the atmosphere is anything but a tropical paradise. The unrelenting heat and the incessant supply ships filling the
harbor with the groan of their large diesels makes Majuro a less than desirable stop among the many other tropical islands in the Pacific. The reason why most sailboat do stop here is because it is an excellent location to resupply in order to venture out into the outer islands or boats are migrating here from the Southern Hemisphere to wait out their cyclone season.
Fortunately, just an hour sail out of Majuro to one of the many unpopulated islands of the atoll offers relief from its industrial center. It’s on these islands where you will find empty white sandy beaches and pristine coral reefs, that make time spent on the atoll worthwhile. Nevertheless, I still spent more time than I would have liked in the Marshall’s as I waited three weeks for a package the ultimately was lost, and so it was time to move on, to keep heading west to another, hopefully more tranquil island in Micronesia. I had planned to visit the outer atolls of the Marshall Islands, but the recent fee increase to visit these atolls made it cost prohibitive, and therefore I decided to sail to a new country entirely.
I departed the Marshall Islands and pointed Cascadia southwest towards Kosrae in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). This would be my shortest passage to date, but it was also my hardest. The island lies only a mere 500 miles to the southwest of Majuro, but because I would be sailing primarily in Inter Tropical Convergent Zone, the weather would be unpredictable and this was certainly the case. I experienced wind from every angle and a wide range of different velocities. For two days I was completely becalmed, making the heat and humidity absolutely unbearable, and making everything on the boat sticky especially my bunk as it quickly become saturated in my own sweat and stayed that way for the remainder of the trip. When I finally received a reprieve from these conditions, I was met with a local tropical disturbance that provided strong winds on every point and thunder and lightning that seemed to shake the ocean. Being the only man made object with a 50’ aluminum rod of a mast creates a certain uneasiness in the middle of these storms, and these conditions were not only fatiguing for me, but also for Cascadia. It was 2 a.m. when I stepped into the cockpit to check my course and rigging when I saw my radar and GPS dangling off of the backstay. The violent rolling of Cascadia had finally weakened the mount of this equipment and snapped a solid 2” piece of stainless tubing in half. The radar and mount was now swinging back and forth chafing against the backstay, which meant I would have to dismantle all the equipment immediately in order to prevent catastrophic failure to the backstay. It is moments like these that most do not think about when they imagine sailing through the tropics, but these are the very real events that commonly transpire, and test not only your patience but also your sanity as I precariously balanced on a bucket in the middle of the night blindly trying to find the correct wrench that would fit the bolts after haven severely shocked myself via the electrical wiring that had severed when the mount broke. Nevertheless, like most things in life, the storms finally passed, the sun came out, the winds filled in from astern and I soon found myself on the most beautiful islands I had ever seen. I landed on Kosrae on the morning of November 29th and was greeted with the lushest and rugged geographical backdrops I have ever seen.
The island is known as the sleeping lady, as the mountain looks stunningly like a women sleeping on her back. The view alone had made my previous tumultuous passage worth it, but this island truly is a hidden gem of the Pacific. Kosrae is a relatively unknown island and being only 7 miles wide, rightfully so. However, what it lacks in size, it makes up for culture and sheer beauty. So few people ever visit here, that I was shortly talk of the town and most had already heard of me before I even met them. Hitchhiking was my main mode of transportation as all were happy to give me a ride to wherever I was going. I believe they were just as inquisitive of me as I was of them. Nevertheless, as I hitchhiked across the island, I would hear “Andy” shouted by the locals everywhere I went as a group of locals would all be smiling and waving in my direction as I passed by them. I definitely felt the warmth and kind hearts of these people and enjoyed every day I was lucky enough to spend with them. I spent my days here swimming through waterfalls, surfing empty breaks, walking through ancient ruins and sampling the delectable local fruits such as pandanus and their indigenous tangerine that epitomizes what a citrus fruit should taste like. I don’t know if I was on the brink of developing scurvy or that these tangerines were just that good but I ravishingly devoured 3 pounds in a day. I can safely say that Kosrae is truly an unknown tropical paradise. There is little information on the internet on this island, and as such, I expect it will continue to be a little secret tucked away in the vast Pacific. Incredibly generous and loving people, breathtaking waterfalls, and empty surf breaks made my time spent there one of the greatest weeks of my life and my departure bittersweet. If I am ever to return to one place in the Pacific, Kosrae is the island where I will go.
I am writing this today from the small island of Pohnpei in the FSM. Another one of the many islands that I have never heard of until of recent. I have been here less than 24 hours, but I can already tell that I will enjoy my stay here. It another mountainous island blanketed in dark green tropical flora and home to what is arguably one of the best surf breaks on earth. “P-pass” is a fast barreling right hander that I’m anxious to get out to. I will be here for about three weeks, re-provisioning and repairing the long list of deferred maintenance.
Author: Andrew Stephens
A Pacific Northwest native and recent graduate from Seattle University, Andy is currently sailing his 30′ Cape Dory sailboat around the world. You can find more information him by visiting his website SailingWithAndy.com or on his YouTube channel.