What to expect

Rants, missives and occcasional updates about where Masquerade is located and what we are up to.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Smells like Christmas

The weather is definitely not Christmas like. Even in Mexico the weather was significantly colder in winter (at least in the places we were at for Christmas time). Here there is no seasonal temperature change. A week ago there was a tree lighting ceremony in the “downtown” area. It was a community event and was interesting, but the tree was a palm tree! Not quite traditional or what I was expecting!  Things are a bit different here.


However to make is seem more like the holidays we have a Christmas tree. A real Christmas tree! We have not had a Christmas tree since around 2000 when we moved from our house onto the boat. It is nice to have the pine smell that always makes the house seem more like Christmas. It was nice to decorate the tree and make the place look festive. Of course we had to buy some new decorations, the space allotment in the boat for decorations was a large shoebox. Large enough for the boat, but too sparse for a tree and our rooms.


Tonight we are going to participate in the Christmas boat parade! The boat was decorated this morning and has more lights on it than it ever has before! It should be fun, we have some friends coming and we will do a few laps up and down the beach, and maybe all the way up to Ebeye (The closest Marshallese island). The last Christmas light parade we did was in Seattle, and it was really, really cold. This should be a bit more comfortable!  I will try and get some pictures to post later.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Naval battle

A few weeks ago the yacht club (that sounds much more pretentious than it is) decided to forgo the race for a naval battle. The battle was to be waged between the sailboats using water balloons (yes, eco-friendly bio-degradable balloons).  The original plan was to track hits to the hull and sails, and hits to crew to determine some type of winner.  The actual battle was a bit more chaotic and scoring was pretty much left behind. Unfortunately Jon and I were a bit late to the battle. Filling the balloons was slow, then we went out to the first marina rental boat, and realized that the boom/gooseneck was broken.  We decided to try another rental boat.  This one looked better till we looked inside. There was water over the floor! We bailed and had the marina staff bring out a pump. The pump was very small and slow.  We eventually had the water down to a reasonable level, and started to head out. Then we found that we had the small storm jib onboard made for high winds, which we did not have today. So we slowly sailed out to join the battle in progress.  By the time we got there the battle was mostly over. The other boats saw us and headed for us, not recognizing us in the rental boat they thought they would surprise whoever was sailing it with a few balloons.  What they did not realize was that we were better armed than they were, as we still had all our balloons and they were nearly out.  Once we closed upon each other the mistake was quickly realized as a lopsided battle occurred. The next several minutes were spent making passes at the other boats with balloons flying.  We noticed that some of the balloons were getting filled with salt water, and they noticed that some of our balloons had been stored in the ice chest with the ice and cold drinks.

The event was declared a big success and will certainly occur again. A lot of fun for everyone.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Aerial photos of Kwajalein

I was looking at the Kwaj Scuba club website and saw that there were some good aerial photos of the island. I thought that some people might like to see what it looks like here. Some of these photos are pretty old. There are some buildings that no longer exist and some new ones that have been built. The trailers that you see in some photos were temporary housing, (temporary being 20 years!), but they are all gone now. Check it out.


The 3 story building near the water, on the right side in photo 17, and the far left side in 18, is where our rooms are.

There are also pictures of Ebeye, which is where most of the Marshallese that live on the atoll are located.
I also uploaded a few photos that I have taken over the last few weeks to the website.
Living on Kwaj

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Blowing bubbles...

Cindy and I are finally enrolled in a SCUBA class. Getting certified has been something that we have talked about for a long time. We just never found the idea of diving in the cold,cold water of the northwest too appealing. Up there you need to have a dry suit. Here in Kwaj, even a wetsuit is optional. We have been doing the classroom work and have completed two pool dives. This weekend will be our first ocean dive, which will be off the swimming beach. It should be fun. There has been a lot of studying to do, but we have a great teacher.

There is a lot of SCUBA activity here on the island (what else is there to do here?). The SCUBA club (http://www.kwajaleinscubaclub.com)(which you have to join to dive here), is very active, and diving is actually pretty inexpensive to do (once you have the gear). We are looking forward to exploring the waters around the atoll and maybe even checking out some of the wrecks, many from WWII.

One more hobby to take up our time and disposable income! (as if the boat wasn’t enough!).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rain... rain... RAIN... Rain... rain...

It is definitely the rainy season here at Kwaj. It has been quite a bit wetter than before. The rain squalls are a daily occurance now. There is a weather channel that shows radar, forecasts, summaries and such. When leaving the room to head for work or to the chow hall we always take a look to see what to expect. We often are hurrying off before something arrives or waiting till it passes through.

We can’t always wait it out though. We had one day where we had over 5” of rain !! We have had several days with over 3.5”.  The island gets covered with puddles and small ponds, but most of it drains off pretty quickly. The rain is not really cold, but you can get soaked pretty quick and with strong winds it can get kind of chilly. When you get cold is after you go back inside an air-conditioned building! 

I was encouraged to keep a change of clothes at my office, so that when you get soaked on your bike you can change to something dry. It would be miserable sitting in wet clothes for hours. I have used my spare clothes a few times.


Of course after the rain, the sun comes back out and then it gets really hot and humid.  Always interesting weather out here.




Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lagoon sailing

It is a bit amazing that you can sail 40 miles here and not leave the lagoon.

We took a long weekend and sailed with some other boats up to the island of Roi-Namur a few weeks ago. The Small Boat Marina needed to move one of the Capri 20’ sailboats from Kwajalein to Roi. Since these are small boats and it does not have a motor, an escort was set up. There was also happened to be an Octoberfest celebration going on that weekend. Eventually 4 additional boats decided to make the trip.


We left on Saturday afternoon, and sailed north up the atoll in light winds up to the island of Meck. It was a slow spinnaker run, but a good sail. We needed to start the motor eventually as the wind died and we wanted to get anchored before dark. Meck is part of the missile range, and permission is needed to go ashore, so everyone stayed out at the anchorage.


We woke the next morning and soon had a squall blow in. We were protected by the island but it raining very hard.  We waited for the rain to taper off a bit and headed off with reefed sails. The wind brought some chop, but since we were in the lagoon the seas did not grow big.  As the day went by the winds dropped again and we shook the reefs out first, then put the spinnaker up, then a mile short we had to start the engine again. Roi has a pretty nice sandy beach area to anchor off. We spent the afternoon swimming around and visiting.


Roi looked prettier than Kwaj, more trees and more sandy beaches. This island in closer to it’s natural state as it was not enlarged as much and not built up as heavily. We did not have much time too look around, but you cannot miss the huge radars and some of the WWII artifacts. A pleasant evening was had by all.


The next day we got an early start for the 40mile sail home. It is still the rainy/doldrums season and very light winds have been common. We were concerned that we might have to motor all the way home, but we were once again lucky to have good wind. Forward of the beam, but a good tack all the way back.  In fact the entire trip up was on one tack, and the way back was all the way on the opposite tack. Not a whole lot of sail adjusting to do. At least not till we were hit by another squall a few miles out from Kwaj. High winds and heavy rain for about 30 minutes, then it was past and it took all the wind with it.


It was a nice trip. Lots of good sailing. Sailing in the lagoon means calmer seas, but require a watch for shallow coral heads. Some of these are marked, and some are charted, but a lookout is required. You can see them by a change in water color, but that all depends on the angle of the sun, or if there is any sun, and distance away. The lagoon is huge and the islands are intermittent on the reef, this means that often you can only see a few specs of land at a time.



Friday, September 17, 2010

Island sail

Apologies for the long time between updates.

We are still alive and doing well. We were actually acting like cruisers again, at least for a weekend. We took a short little cruise up to the island of Bigej  (pronounced Beegee). It is a small island on the east side of the Kwajalein atoll. It was a short trip but it was very nice to be back out on the water. The anchorage was nice, with clear warm water and a nice sandy spot between coral heads. A bonus was that we made the trip without any further breakages! We did not get the stove working yet, so we had no coffee in the morning. However it was a small price to pay for a nice weekend. Sailing was great as there was decent but light wind, and no waves as we were in the lagoon the whole time.


For some reason my entries to the old blog were not getting updated on the website. This meant that I needed to re-create the Blog. I will be working on adding all the old entries to the new blog.


And I still need to put up some new photos.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Brief update

Working on getting a new blog up and running. The old one is no longer accepting updates.

On a more blog worthy note; The boat is up and running again, Yah!!

We plan on doing an overnight to Bigej next weekend. I just need to see if I can get the stove and the BBQ working or we may be eating cold food for the cruise.

We have also started playing a bit of golf here on Kwaj. There is a 9 hole course, that has two sets of tees so that it makes an 18 hole course. It has been fun but our game is pretty bad after not touching a golf club in years.

More later.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Settling in...

A few changes for us here on Kwaj. Cindy is now working as an Emergency / Fire Dispatcher for the Fire Department. This is great as it means that she is no longer on a visitor badge, and does not need to leave after 90 days. You need to have an employee badge to go shopping at the island stores, so now Cindy can go shopping without me.

Another good thing is that we now get two rooms. We managed to get assigned a “married suite”, which is two rooms with a door joining them. This gives us much more living area, one room as a bedroom and one as a living room/kitchen area. Having two rooms means that we can have two cats. Blue gets to come home with us after having been living with our friends the Golly’s since we arrived. The suite rooms also get a full size fridge instead of a dorm fridge which is very nice.

We lost our great view as our new rooms are in the other wing of the building. We can still see the water, but not the ocean view we used to have. Since we should be in this room a while we are working to make it homier. We knew that we were going to move out of our first room so we never decorated or worried too much about the furniture. The couple across the hall from our old room are leaving the island, so we picked up quite a few things from them. Less stuff for them to ship home and new goodies for us.

Masquerade is still tired from the trip. I first had a problem with the exhaust system. I was lucky to be able to find a new exhaust elbow on island, and was able to scrounge up the other parts that I needed. Unfortunately on the way out to the mooring the engine stalled and would not re-start. Rather than trying to sail to the mooring we called the marina to help tow Masquerade to it’s home. I have not figured out the issue yet, but I think it is a problem related to wear and tear from the trip out here.

Last week there was a mission going on late one night. A missile was launched from California and we were able to watch the re-entry vehicle come down. It was pretty interesting to see what looked like a large shooting star come down and land near the island. It was funny to think that the missile took around half an hour to make the trip that took us 44 days!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Out on the water

We have completed the required steps and are now allowed to use the boats at Kwajalein! The classes and tests are mainly geared towards safety and the local conditions and rules, so it was not a big deal for us to go through. I went out last Thursday to take the practical class in one of the marina boats. You need to show that you can handle one of their rental boats properly. This was actually a new thing for us as these are twin engine powerboats (Twin V, and Boston Whalers). We have never spent much time in powerboats (other than our dinghy). Maneuvering with two engines can give you a lot of control but it also gets more complicated. Our thanks to Mike Herrington for taking us out on the police boat for our orientation and his sailboat for the sailing test!


The marina here is a very popular spot especially on the weekends. There are several power boats that can be rented out for fishing and diving (or whatever), also a ski boat and several small sailboats. One of the entertaining parts of this occurs when the fishing boats return. There is a cleaning station set up for the fishermen to process their catch at the top of the dock. The carcasses and waste parts are tossed into the water to the eagerly waiting sharks. The sharks know where the cleaning takes place and even know the sound of the fishing boats. When the boats are returning to the marina you can expect several sharks to come out to meet you and follow the boat back to the dock. At first it is a little disconcerting, but they are not aggressive sharks. It starts to remind you of feeding time with a couple of hungry puppies running around.


On Sunday we went out with John, a friend of ours for the Mother’s Day race. The Kwajalein Yacht Club puts on monthly races, but this one is different as there is a requirement for a Helmswoman. A woman must be steering the boat for the entire course. If a male touches the helm, the boat is required to perform a penalty 360 degree turn. So Cindy had the tiller while John and I manned the sheets of one of the marina’s Capri 22 sailboats. There were 7 boats in the race, ranging from 22’ feet to 40 ft. We had good wind, everybody had a reef in the mainsail, and nice flat water as we were in the lagoon. We started out a bit slow but we got faster as we learned the boat and the course. It was a good race and everyone had a lot of fun. Once the handicapped times were calculated out, we found ourselves in 2nd place! The race took about 2 hours, but the next 2 boats were only 50 seconds behind us! It was fun to sail the smaller and more responsive marina boats, but we might get Masquerade out for a race once in a while.


My camera is currently out of commission so not much for photos. There are a few on the website; I will put up more once I get the camera fixed.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bike to work day

Here on Kwaj everyday is bike to work day.

There are no private cars on the island so if you want to get somewhere you walk or you ride your bike. There are two problems with riding your bike on Kwaj, both weather related.


The first is the wind: the strong tradewinds make it easy for me to get to work, but difficult to get back. The winds makes it feel like you are riding up or down hills.


The second is the corrosion. The exposure to the salt air does terrible things to our bikes. Rust and corrosion will destroy a bike quickly. We soon found out that after just 3 weeks the brake and gear cables can become so rusted that they no longer work! We have heard stories about bikes where the handle bars or seat posts have corroded so bad that they broke off while being ridden. We will need to set aside time to keep up on our maintenance.


There is a wide variety of bikes here. Many people decide to go with a single speed beach cruiser style bike so that the maintenance is less. The fancy bikes don’t last. There is a also a common Marshallese variant where the gooseneck is very long, this brings the handle bars up to about shoulder level. The other thing you will see here is the bike trailers. Even your large or heavy items need to be transported via bike power. There are trailers varying in size from carrying a bag of groceries to holding large ice chests. We will need pick up one of these ourselves.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Tale of the tape

Masquerade is now off the dock and out on a mooring. We are currently borrowing a mooring from couple while they are not using it. It is a good place to keep the boat, but it will not be quite as handy as on the dock. In fact Cindy and I need to take a class and take a test to be able to use a boat in the Kwajalein atoll, we also have to get a sailing endorsement. It seems a little silly to have to prove that we are safe boaters and know how to sail after a 5000 mile passage, but the rules are the rules. So until we pass the test we cannot even use our dinghy here!


Looking at our log book, I did some calculations. We came up with the following numbers:

Days underway:                        44

Shortest day’s mileage:             102      

Longest day’s mileage:              155

Average miles noon to noon:     124

Johnston to Kwaj avg                137     We made better time the last 12 days.

Total miles made good              5405

Total miles traveled                   5504

Total miles as the crow flies       4698    


As shown above there are many ways to measure the distance traveled. We did not travel in a straight line due to leaving the Sea of Cortez first, and because we headed more southward initially to find better wind. As a sailboat we often sailed in a direction other than directly towards our goal so that the wind/waves were more favorable. It in interesting to see the difference in mileage.


All distances above are in nautical miles. 100 nautical miles is equal to 115 statute miles.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Island Life

Thank you to everyone who has been following our adventure and have been leaving comments or sending email to us. We appreciate hearing from everyone and we will be working on catching up on our emails over the next few days.


We worked to get our boat speed up the last day so that we could make it to Kwaj before dark. As I said earlier the weather was cooperating, and when we sailed into the lee of the atoll, it was nice and flat for the first time in a long while. However, we had a bit more sailing to do. Because tradewinds always blow from the NE the pass (on the southwest) always has current coming out. We motored slowly into the pass against the wind and tide, looking for the buoys that mark the channel. We ended up bashing to weather almost all the way to the dock, the atoll is so large that the wind waves build up inside the lagoon. We arrived wet and salty, instead of the planned showered with clean clothes. We were met at the dock by our sponsors and the Harbor Control and Kwaj Police. They did a quick check with the K9 unit (while the kitties were hiding in the head), then took us to Security Control to get checked into the island. After that we did a quick tour of the island, and had dinner. We then were shown our room, and headed back to the boat to grab some clean clothes so that we could shower and pass out.


Oh, and I was expected to meet my sponsor for breakfast at 7am the next morning!

The last few days have been hectic. I have been getting set up for my new job, and running around to the various departments filling out forms. Cindy has been back on the job hunt and trying to get the boat cleaned up a bit and keep the cats happy. We are looking forward to the weekend so that we have a chance to catch our breath.


So far we are liking Kwajalein. This is a pretty small community and everyone has been very friendly. We have a great view of the ocean from our room. The view is to windward shore, of course the winds have been blowing salt spray on the window making the view a bit obscured! The weather has been pretty warm but the constant wind makes it pleasant. More later…

Monday, January 4, 2010

Feliz Ano Nuevo!!

The crew of Masquerade all want to wish all our friends and family a very Happy New Year!!!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The salvage of Melody

The morning of the day before Thanksgiving we received a call on the VHF from one of the other boats on the dock saying that a fellow boater needed help. We learned that Melody had run aground the previous evening in the high winds.  After a night of strong winds and waves the hull had been holed. David the owner/captain was OK, but needed help to salvage his personal belongings and items of worth from the wreck.  The sailboat melody was on a point a few miles south of Santa Rosalia, near a small estuary.

The crews of Topaz, Sea Change, Little Fawn, Episode II, Tequila Mockingbird, Pear D, Amaranth, and Masquerade gathered at the marina and we drove down in a couple of trucks to the bluff overlooking the boat. We had two choices to recover the items; either a long walk down the cobble beach and then up a steep hill, or ferry across the estuary to a location the trucks could get to. Unfortunately the strong Norther was still blowing and the estuary had breaking waves across it. We decided that the long walk was the only viable option. The Mexican navy was very helpful and had sent out a few soldiers to guard the boat since early that morning to insure that the wreck was not looted. They stayed on site and even helped move some of the items from the boat onto the beach.  We all quickly got to work, some packing up and removing items from the boat, a few people carrying the items down the beach, and a few of us carting the stuff up the hill to the trucks. We spent the next 4-5 hours collecting and moving any items that could be salvaged. Once we were done we told the navy thank you and that they no longer needed to guard the boat. We brought David and all his gear back to Marina Santa Rosalia, and moved the gear into the palapa/office. Dodie offered David her boat Topaz as a place to stay while he was in Santa Rosalia, getting himself organized and going through the salvaged gear.  Everyone helped David set up an impromptu yard sale to sell the gear that he no longer needed and to help recover at least a bit from the financial loss.

When all of us were together the next day for a Thanksgiving dinner, David told us that he was touched by all the help he received. While it was very sad to see David lose his boat, it was heartening to see the boating community come together to help someone in need.