Yap has to qualify as one of the most efficient check ins in our entire Pacific loop. We motored into the harbor early Thursday morning, and just as we finally got the anchor settled we were hailed by Port Control on the VHF. After agreeing to wait until after lunch, we went ashore and all of the officials came to the dock to meet us. For a tiny little island there are an amazing quantity of government officials needing Rob’s signature, but we suspect much of that has to do with requirements imposed by the US as conditions of the payments we make under the Compact Agreement with the FSM. And it also gives a bunch of people pretty easy jobs and a paycheck.
It didn’t take long to discover that absolutely everyone over the age of 18 (and likely some under as well) are complete betel nut addicts here. The streets and sidewalks are stained red everywhere from the spit. But you’ll search a long way to find nicer and friendlier people. Even the teenage girls sitting along the seawall stop to wave at us as we dinghy in to the shore.
Yesterday we went for a dive with four other yachties in the bay, on one of the dive boats operated by the dive shop here in the harbor. We went out to the northwest corner of the island where they had discovered a Manta Ray cleaning station. It’s a spot where a manta sighting is pretty reliable, as they come into the area to meet the remoras, whose job it is to clean the parasites off their skin. The wind has been up a little, and because this site is in a channel inside the reef it was pretty murky, with only about 30′ visibility. As we made our descent a huge manta swam past us, giving Rob a passable opportunity at a photo. Thinking he would have more chances at the cleaning station he didn’t get too close, though. And sadly we got skunked at the cleaning station, as there were no other rays around. Our second dive was outside the reef in crystal clear water, along a wall with 100′ visibility. There were plenty of sharks and fishes and coral to see, and it was a pretty nice dive.
Today we’re boat bound as a tropical depression moves through the area for the next 36 hours or so. We’ve been watching it for a couple of days as it has built into a pretty good little system and heads directly between us and Palau. It has officially become the subject of a tropical cyclone formation alert from the joint typhoon warning center. But as it passes by us it “should” only be packing gusts of up to 35 knots in the squalls and thunderstorms. Normally we wouldn’t worry at all about that level of wind on anchor, but the mud from the mangroves surrounding the bay is very soft, and it took us 3 attempts to get our anchor to bite initially. Now that we’ve sat here for five days we’re feeling confident the anchor has penetrated through the soft mud on top down into a layer with more density and holding power below, but it’s a small harbor with little room to drag if we do start moving. So tonight we’ll be on anchor watch and hopefully get some naps between the squalls as the system passes by.
After the weather settles we’ll rent a car later in the week and tour the island. For $22 we get a car for the entire day, so it’s an easy choice, if only just for the air conditioning! And hopefully we’ll get another chance to get out to the manta cleaning station again and see more of those beautiful creatures close up. We would like to leave for Palau late in the week, but if we don’t leave by Wednesday for a Friday arrival in Koror, we need to wait until Saturday for a Monday arrival. The officials in Palau are reportedly less amenable to weekend check ins, and the seas and wind are going to take through the week to settle back into regular patterns anyway, so we’ll leave here on Saturday.
Today on Yohelah we’re hunkered down waiting for the squalls to start…..