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Kosrae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our passage from Funafuti to Kosrae in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) we crossed the equator into the northern hemisphere for the first time since 2004. Apart from the odd squall it was a pleasant if somewhat slow passage. We witnessed tuna in a feeding frenzy – unfortunately not on the end of our hook and friendly pods of dolphins frolicking in the pressure wave under our bow. The vagaries of the various equatorial currents were intriguing, especially when we found the core of the current was actually a good deal cooler than its edges.. It was also fascinating to note the way that island groups and even quite deep ocean ridges modified the currents in huge eddies.

 

 

 

After the extremely low lying atolls of Tuvalu, Kosrae was a marked contrast. The pass through its fringing reef into Lelu Harbour was well marked. We anchored in the most usual spot to the southeast of the big church, though there is a more sheltered and less tide-swept anchorage on the south side of the harbour. The officials who cleared us ashore in the village were efficient, but friendly and polite. Technically boats entering FSM must have a cruising permit prior to enter. We had applied some months before by fax and kept our receipt, having heard nothing in response. This proved adequate to satisfy the officers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kosrae is not a big place. Estimates of the population varied between 6000 and 8000, though the former seems more likely as many younger people have been leaving for the USA, with which FSM has had close ties since WWII. At the same time China has been trying to establish links as well, building the island’s new high school.  There seems to be a competition to win the allegiance of the island nations of the Pacific between China and Taiwan. The latter was heavily represented in Funafuti. We were most impressed by the Kosraen people’s dedication to paddling. During our stay they practiced morning and evening to prepare for a big Inter-Island competition later in the year.

 

 

 

Given Kosrae’s small size, we soon had out our bikes to explore the roads on the flat coastal plain. However, it was necessary to go ‘armed’ with sticks and stones to ward off the local dogs, which seemed intent on attacking anything on two wheels. Despite this menace we managed to cover most of the islands roads, including that to the ‘International Airport’ on the west side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had heard from our new friends Mark and Maria, that they ran a recycling operation in a shed near the airport. We were fascinated to see the size of this, given the relatively tiny population. From the huge collection of aluminium cans it seemed that the people of Kosrae must put away two or three cans a day each. But at least they clean them and turn them in for recycling. The cans are then compressed for shipment for reprocessing in Taiwan. It was a most impressive operation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food shopping on Kosrae was pretty limited, though perhaps better than Funafuti. However, we realised quickly that we were making the transition from British/Australian/New Zealand brands and types of food to American. Unfortunately this meant Budweiser beer, but there were compensations in Chef Boyardee ravioli and a few other delights. What was really surprising was the astonishing Ace hardware store, run by the Sigrah family. This was a huge store stocking a wider range of items than most hardware stores in the USA. We toured its shelves open-mouthed and occasionally drooling. Tom had to be dragged away. In addition to running this remarkable Aladdin’s Cave, the family are also extremely hospitable and helpful to visiting cruisers. We were very grateful for their help and friendship.

 

 

 

 

 

We made other friends here as well. Mark and Maria with little son Oceano, run the Pacific Tree Lodge Dive Resort, with its associated restaurant. Fellow cruiser Roger Wilson on ‘Hanoah’ was waiting for the return of his wife Judy, then in the USA. ‘Hanoah’ was beautifully kept and several long conversation with Roger revealed him as a kindred cruising spirit.

 

Our biking excursions also took us to the south side of the island to visit the much touted, but actually rather meagre waterfall. The only remarkable sight being that of freshwater crayfish swimming about in the pool below the fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our daily excursions to the Sigrah family’s dinghy landing gave us access to Lelu village and the larger capital village of Tofol beyond. Though the island is generally high, we did note that much if not most of the housing was on the low coastal plain and as such was probably just as vulnerable to rising sea levels as Tuvalu. Even the high spring tides during our stay threatened to flood some of the houses in the village. We had explored the interesting ruins north of the Lelu village as a fore-taste of those at Nan Madol on Pohnpei. As usual, however, Vicky was determined to find a challenge to prevent incipient vegitation and so it was decided that we would make the ascent of Mount Finkol, at 2,064’ the highest point on the island. Since the route is by no means obvious, Salik agreed to guide us and Maria joined in the party.

 

 

 

 

Kosrae is less prone to rain than Pohnpei, but not much, so we were lucky to hit on a dry day, with only some showers the day before. Nevertheless, particularly the lower portions of the track were pretty squelchy and there were several streams to cross and re-cross on the way to higher drier ground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The down-side of drier footing was the radically increased angle of the slopes. Steady climbing for a couple of hours got us to the summit, from which even Tom had to admit that the view was pretty spectacular, exposing virtually the whole coast of the island as well as the lush green lower hill tops. Of course there was the small matter of getting down again, which we managed mostly on foot, but occasionally with bottom-slide assist, even on the roped sections of the slope. Close inspection of the left leg of Tom’s shorts in the photo below will reveal some of the cost of the ascent. It was a relief to reach the stream at the bottom in which sat a canoe carved out by Salik’s father. By the time we got back to Maria’s car, 8 hours after we started, we all felt we’d had a little exercise. Looking back up at the steep slopes Mt. Finkol the next day made us realise why we felt so tired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only a couple of days before we left, Mark and Maria launched off the yacht on which Mark had been working for some months. He had picked up the abandoned and partially derelict boat for a song and set about refitting and refurbishing her for local sailing. Looking very smart, she was lowered into the water by a local crane. Mark and Maria’s Thursday evening sunset cruise was made all the more pleasant by the sight of the newly refurbished yacht bobbing on its mooring in the harbour.

 

 

 

 

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