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.
Finally a Manta Ray sighting
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.

Nice shot of the marina areaToday 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…..


Yap is here.

Yap, Land of Stone Money

This has been an exceptionally nice stop. The tropical depression did spin up into our very first tropical storm, but we had some good luck and it took a big zig north in the night before it got to us. We were on track for it to either pass below us or directly over the top, but it took just enough of a jog north to leave us on the downwind side of it with significantly lighter winds than we would have had otherwise. The max windspeed we saw on our anemometer was 38 knots, which only happened in a gusty squall. Rob & I were both awake off and on overnight, and when the wind really piped up at 5:00 in the morning I got up and realized we had moved quite a bit from our original location. The good news was that we were now facing into the harbor, leaving plenty of room behind us to drop out another 100′ of chain, which was enough extra weight and scope to keep us in place throughout the remainder of the storm. Our friend Greg who single hands a Tayana 37 with a manual anchor windlass spent from 4:00 am until about 7:00 am resetting two anchors to keep from dragging, no doubt pondering the notion of a power windlass as a future purchase.

AfStone money at the bank in Kadaiter the storm passed by we did rent a car and toured the island. It’s a lovely place with lots of interesting sights. The Yapese are truly caretakers of their culture and work hard to manage a life of both traditional and modern values. One of the most interesting and certainly unique facets of their culture is the stone money. I don’t know when the tradition began, but they decided that stone from Palau, which in earlier times was very difficult to get, had value based on how difficult the journey was when it arrived. It was carved into circular shapes with a hole or two in the middle, allowing a stick to be inserted for carrying. But it really didn’t move much once it was on the island – it was grouped in “banks” near people’s homes or traditional community centers. While ownership of each piece of money might change, the locations did not. During the Japanese occupation they surveyed the stone money pieces and counted over 25,000. Even today the people of Yap consider the stones valuable. Hollywood produced their version of the story of Yap’s stone money, telling about an Irish seafarer who was shipwrecked in Yap in the late 1800’s and was ingenious enough to help get stone money delivered from Palau. We’re hoping to find a copy on Netflix when we get home.

The Yapese also continue to enjoy traditional dancing. They have contests throughout the season, which ends at their festival in early March named Yap Days. We missed Yap Days by a couple of weeks, but our friends who arrived a week earlier than us got to see one last dance of the season and we’re sorry we missed it. All in all we enjoyed seeing the beautiful sights of Yap and were glad the weather settled for some touring.

Today we finished up the domestic chores and got the boat ready for our passage to Palau. All four boats in the harbor are scheduled to meet the officials at the dock at 9:00 am tomorrow morning, hoping to be out the pass and on our way by 10:00. It’s 255 miles to Palau, so we should arrive Monday while there’s still enough light to get into the harbor and check in there.

Today on Yohelah we’re very glad we got to enjoy the lovely people and island of Yap….