Words and Photos by Jim Stringfellow. Check out movies from the trip at: http://www.jimstringfellow.com, or on our videos page.

Marshall Islands Kitesurfing
Joaquin make the most of the new Best HP in the Marshalls

This past fall, Joaquin asked if I would be interested in joining him on the Best Odyssey.

Marshall Islands Kitesurfing
Joaquin settles into his role as skipper for a month

Joaquin is the relief Captain for Discovery and he needed a crewmember to help him sail her from Tonga to The Marshall Islands. I had just returned from a week of kiting in Cape Hatteras, ready to go under the knife for a bum knee and all I could think about was how do I make this happen? So Joaquin, Darren, and myself all left Seattle on the same flight and arrived in Kingdom of Tonga, where we met up with captain Gavin McClurg. We spent the first week in the harbour making repairs and preparing the 60′ catamaran for sailing north 2,000 miles.

Tonga Pineapples
Yummy yummy yummy

On November 24, Gavin left for his pre-Christmas holiday and Bjorn, one of The Best Odyssey share-owners joined our crew. The very next day, we left Vava’u, Tonga to begin the journey north to The Marshall Islands. With a northwest heading, we would stop at whatever islands lie in our path.

Of those islands, we were able to stop at Wallis (France), Tuvalu and Onatoa (Kiribati) and then Milli and Aur (Marshalls). The first three days were on the open ocean with no hint of land to be seen. Beautiful blue waters surrounded the boat. Never have I experienced the ocean in such a vibrant blue. To pass the time between watches, we amused ourselves by fishing and looking for ocean birds. Basically trolling until something would “bite”. The birds would try to get the lure. We hoped they would be unsuccessful because the lures could do some major harm to them. It seemed every day that we would catch a tuna. So fun to watch the guys reel them in. The anticipation of the big one being caught. And the energy it created for everyone on deck who would participate in the process. Seriously, we would eat sashimi every day. When we weren’t eating raw fish, we were dining on gourmet meals Hannah and Lars had left for us in the freezer.

Marshall Islands Kitesurfing
Great places to discover

There were four of us that made up the crew. We would alternate watches on deck, as well as the other chores, like cooking. My favourite watches were probably the 3:00 am to 6:00 am watch. This was where one could experience the stars and moon, but watch the sun rise up over the water. It seemed every minute that would go by, a shooting star would streak across the sky. I would look forward to this shift just so I could see the sunrise.

Marshall Islands Kiteboarding
Bjorn on watch

Did I mention the Phosphorescence in the water? This was like nothing else I had ever witnessed. Joaquin told me that if you go to the side of the boat, you could see these large spots glowing below the surface of the water. It was huge fish that were sleeping just below the surface. When the boat would pass by, they would become startled and move. This created the glow below.

Marshall Islands

Day four brought us to Wallis. We stopped here to snorkel. Not going ashore as we didn’t want to spend any more time than we could afford. We opted for a snorkel excursion off one of the three coral heads that protruded to just below the surface of the water. Finding anchorage seemed a challenge, but once we could secure the boat we jumped in to check out the underwater life. Some of us opted for just wearing boardshorts in the water. It was not until the next day that we realized that was a bad idea. Even in the water, the sun would prove to be too harsh on the bare skin, even with adequate sun protection. Snorkeling should be done with a rashie on.

Marshall Islands Kitesurfing
Lone Island, one of hundreds in the Marshalls

Our next stop took us to Tuvalu. We arrived on a Sunday, which meant that customs agents were at church. This equated to a no weekend liberties off the boat. We would have to wait until Monday before we could go ashore. Joaquin decided that we would have just one go on land and look for provisions and fuel for the boat. After a half a day of working things out, we would be on our way to Kiribati. Our next Island would turn out to be Onotoa, in the South Gilbert islands. When we came into the bay, we realized that the wind was good and this would be our first attempt at Kiteboarding. Launching from the boat seemed a challenge as most of us had no experience with this. Gavin had explained it to us, but once we tried it, it proved to be harder than I thought. I had always wondered how those little Turbo Launchers had worked. They are actually a nice little part to have on the boat. At one time the three of us would kite and Bjorn would have the runabout in the water waiting to help us when needed. By sunset we were off to the open seas again to continue our journey.

Marshall Islands Kitesurfing
Joaquin enjoys the calm, warm waters- bit different than home in Seattle!

By the end of the sailing, we were doing good on our schedule, so we decided to change our heading and visit Milli. Milli is an uninhabited atoll in The Marshall Islands, where the surf photos were taken. Being limited on time for this excursion, we decided that we would not attempt to Surf the breaks. There were many reasons, but for now I’ll say that it wasn’t in the cards. I am sure Gavin will be coming back here for a future adventure. We snorkelled here and checked out the island. The scenery was breathtaking, watching the waves break, literally at your feet. The razor sharp rocks would have torn me apart from getting closed out and pitted!

Marshall Islands surfing
Tantalizing..and for a future trip

By the next day we were in Majuro. Bjorn was to fly out in another day and we were to pick up another guest for a couple of days. Kindra would come aboard the boat for the remainder of the sailing. Once anchored in Majuro Harbour, we would meet many nice locals and the “yachties”. The yachties were the ones who lived in the harbour aboard their boats. Our first trip ashore here was to the local restaurant where all we wanted was a cheeseburger. Funny after many weeks at sea dining on fresh sashimi and gourmet dinners, we all wanted to eat cheeseburgers!

Marshall Islands Kitesurfing
The locals know how to get around

Our final sailing took place in the small inhabited island on Aur. We spent two days here being able to kite the whole time. Darren proved to be useful by helping the local islanders with a broken generator. He had fixed it in about an hour! What followed was even more surprising. A broken karaoke machine was the next item for him to fix. This took more time but in the morning, we went ashore and delivered it to the community. It was nice to go into the village and be welcomed by the families and children.

Marshall Islands Kitesurfing
The famous canoe sailors of the Marshall Islands

We only kited for three days, but these will be three days I will never forget.

Sailing on Discovery is like no other.

My lifelong dream feels fulfilled as I have always wanted to sail the world.

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Check out the movie “South Pacific Odyssey”, by Jim Stringfellow.

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