Funny thing about weather forecasting – sometimes it’s wrong. And funny thing about tradewinds – sometimes they disappear. We have absolutely no idea why, but around 5:00 on the last night of our passage the wind completely died and the skies became covered with a low level, lumpy looking cloud deck. Becoming nervous that we were in for an awful last night, I grabbed my meteorology book and started looking for a picture to match up the clouds and see what we had (not that we could have done anything about it – it’s just nice have some clue about what’s going on weather-wise). Happily I learned that the clouds were stratocumulus, which meant they weren’t packing big rain or wind. So we turned on the engine and motored the last 17 hours into Pohnpei.
Since we had two independent reports of difficult officials here, we accepted that it might be painful and adopted the best possible attitudes. When we called Port Control on the VHF radio they advised us to tie to the large concrete wall of the commercial dock between two of the huge Asian fishing boats. As we approached, a panga zoomed ahead of us and dropped two men off at the dock who were waiting to take our lines and help us tie off (which was handy because the bollards on the dock were about 7′ above our deck). This didn’t seem difficult so far – actually it seemed downright friendly. So we put on our biggest smiles and thanked them as they welcomed us to Pohnpei.
We had a total of 10 people come to the boat to check us in. The first two officials were from the EPA, and were on the boat within 10 minutes. Right behind them were two officials from Customs. By the time they were done, the officers from Quarantine arrived, and while they were filling out more paperwork the officials from the Port Captain’s office arrived. So far so good. Then it was time for Immigration. So we waited. And the port security officer called them and we waited some more. And he called again and we continued to wait. Three hours later one of the least personable people on the entire planed arrived at our boat with his helpers. At one point he actually scolded us for not filling out our forms fast enough and keeping him waiting!
In the end it took 3.5 hours and there were 10 people filling out paperwork to allow us to stay in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Of all the officials we met, based on a scale of 1 to 5 we would rate nine of them a 5 and one of them a 0. During the three hour wait for Mr. Personality we managed to get the boat all cleaned up and switched from passage making mode to anchoring mode. All in all it has cost us $25 so far for Quarantine. We need to go back to Immigration today and pick up our cruising permit, which I think will cost another $75, but it covers us for all of the islands in the FSM.
What we’ve seen of Pohnpei so far is absolutely lovely. The people are exceedingly friendly and gracious (except that one). The town is much cleaner than most Pacific islands, and the lush jungle vegetation and abundant tropical flowers produce an exceptionally pleasant odor. It’s so funny how one’s cup can be so half full and another’s so half empty at the same spot. The SSCA Port Guide says “Pohnpei has nothing to offer, so don’t stop unless it’s an emergency”. We couldn’t disagree more. We just had one quick spin around town yesterday and are fussing around on the boat today. Rob’s gone back into town now to pick up our cruising permit while I catch up on internet chores. Tomorrow we plan to go on a hike around the island you see on the left side of the picture of the harbor. It’s about 6 level miles around, which should be a nice hike.
Today on Yohelah we’re enjoying the beautiful Federated States of Micronesia…..