We safely departed Palau three days ago, again traversing a narrow channel cut through coral. As with the West Channel, the East Channel coral reef is marked with “sticks” that outline a convoluted dog leg departure. Jenny and I sit on the fly bridge with our walkie talkies (thank you, Ken) communicating with Brian on charts and John on steering. Despite paying a considerable amount for the Raymarine maps as well as the Navionics maps, neither is properly charting Palau; we believe they are off as much as a half of a mile. At one point, the maps actually show Laysan on land, parked like an RV. A letter to Raymarine will be my second official complaining missive when I return (the first is to the Philippine government about those dratted FADs). I would like to know why a large corporation can legitimately sell navigation charts that cannot be used for navigation.
While I could write about life at sea, since I have at least 7-8 days left to go for that particular topic, I shall return to life on Palau. Sam’s Tours aka Port Belau Yacht Club provides a mooring ball nestled in with 10 other sail boats and the Fana One, a derelict ship straight out of Peter Jackson’s King Kong. The water below is crystal clear and we can easily see coral and reef fish swimming around below the boat. The green topped mushroom islands are all around and we can see giant fruit bats and hear intriguing jungle crickets through the night. A short dinghy ride in to Sam’s pier places us in the middle of dive life central; a rental ski resort scene but with dive equipment. Off to the side is the Bottom Time Bar and Grill which serves 16 oz. schooners of Red Rooster Beer, brewed in Palau, outstanding hamburgers, crunchy French fries, and on some lucky nights, yellow fin tuna (for $9, Minda delivers a huge plate of blackened sashimi). At sea, I along with the rest of the crew lost our appetites and as a result, lost weight. However, on land, my appetite returned with a vengeance and I downed pizza, Indian food, entire chicken burgers, salads, and of course, the fried specialties of Sam’s. All I can say is “yummy, give me more”.
While several of our Palau days are filled with the steering repair, we all manage to enjoy the land side of Palau. For a tourist destination, there are precious few tourist accouterments. The town of Koror is composed of ramshackle buildings made of concrete and rusted corrugated roof strung along a central road with way too much car traffic. The more substantial strip shopping has the architectural design of the 1960’s. Nothing is new; time or money stopped 50 years ago. In my vigilant search for island art, that will suffice as Christmas presents, I hit every so called gift shop on the main drag, a total of 4. The shop keepers do not have the excitement of San Jacinto. In fact, it is hard to tell if their shop is even open; the lights are off, no one is inside, no cars are parked in front. When I tentatively walk inside, inevitably, someone appears from the back, turns on all the lights, and is pleasantly open for business.
Brian and Jenny rent an old car for the day (a bargain $45) and head out to see the sights. Jenny purchases an island map that highlights traditional bai houses, waterfalls, and carved stone faces. They report an excellent trip, however, no bai houses, no waterfalls; in fact, no tourists, no gift shops, hardly any people on the road. A day of lots of jungle, nice roads paved with American dollars, and great ocean views.
November 9, 2011
Palauan Time 14: 16
08 12.37 N 138 36.04 E