Sailing has been around for a while. Like 7000-ish years. Given its historical perseverance one would think it would be more commonplace, or at least more understood. But with the advent of planes and cars and boats with big powerful engines it seems to have fallen into a sort of niche category reserved today, perhaps, for those in less of a hurry. While I’ve developed my own collection of adjectives for describing the art of sailing, most tend to see it as a romantic venture; consulting the stars, quietly disappearing over the horizon, always with the possibility of never returning… Handheld electronic navigation units, satellite phones, engines and autopilot can mar that dreamy description pretty quickly, but fortunately we know where the elemental magic of yesteryear can still be found, and that is precisely why we’ve come to Ailuk.
Escape Mission! Some very altruistic friends loaned us their spare outboard so we could get the heck out of Majuro. We had ten days with the foster kicker, so we kept our jaunt semi-local and made for Maloelap Atoll just 100 miles to the north. We took care of formalities in the southern corner of the atoll, but a fellow kiter had shared some waypoints with us back in Fiji and conditions were lining up for his all-time favourite spot, so we upped the anchor after a few days and moved to the other end of the lagoon. The spot was as good as promised, but it would be out of sorts for us to go too long without breaking something, and after a number of purely epic kiting days our trusty 12 meter kite bit the dust, essentially halting our fun and leaving us to seek out alternate activities.
I’ve been feeling generally uninspired by Majuro. Engaging with the locals is difficult; taxi rides are awkward at best, and despite dressing to blend in we still get stared at everywhere we go. We’d been warned directly that the locals were unfriendly, and while I wouldn’t necessarily use that word nor apply it to everyone, there is an underlying dissonance. Though I’m sure it’s exaggerated by the fact that we’ve come from Fiji where everyone treats you like family, even in the city. The city itself isn’t attractive. It’s pretty fucking filthy, a feature highlighted by the recent hepatitis outbreak and my refusal to get in the water.
To think we almost didn’t come here. To think they almost didn’t let us come here! After sitting down with customs and immigration in Fiji and having a carefully worded conversation, they granted us a visit for the sole purpose of refuelling before continuing north. Our “special permission” came on a very official-looking sticky note and was accompanied by intimidating eye contact and the stipulation that we were neither on vacation nor to go surfing. Though the weather window we were looking at was less than ideal it was the best we’d seen in weeks and we were impatient to go, so we backed out of the office while still in their good graces and prepared Cavalo for passage.
Up until a few weeks ago, if you’d asked us where we were headed next the answer was Vanuatu, New Caledonia and then Australia. It’s more or less the usual route everyone takes around here, and this is likely one of the reasons we’ve opted for the alternative. There are a number of reasons, really, and the more you try to unpack it the more complex the decision becomes. In the end, though, we realized an opportunity that probably wouldn’t present itself again, and I have a strong personal aversion to predictability.
Resort guests stroll up and down the dock, pointing to the boats that excite them the most. Penthouse-style motor yachts, carbon catamarans, classic monohulls. The motor yachts are usually a favourite. Exclamations of admiration and desire make their way out of mouths not privy to the fact that most of these boats are broken.
Immediate agendas are generally not discussed much amongst sailors. The bigger picture, sure, but the short term is better left to circumstance. It’s pretty much a guarantee that any attempt to stick to a schedule will leave you feeling like things didn’t go ‘according to plan’, so we tend to make a general outline and then take it day by day.