A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Peter Fogg
Date: 2010 May 29, 13:16 +1000
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Four go wild on Mogmog
ELLIE HARVEYMay 29, 2010
Learning to be part of a new world ... Diana, left; a community effort on the catamaran, top; and Diana, Jenny, Shannon and Andrew Barrie on the boat.
Life on Mogmog is unusual by most standards. But for one Australian family, stranded on the pin-prick island in the vastness of the Pacific, the experience is likely to redefine their lives. The Barries are learning to be part of a world with no currency, no police and no running water - and how to deal with the politics of such a small community.
The family of four - Andrew, Jenny, and their daughters, Diana, 11, and Shannon, 9 - have been stranded since late March when their catamaran, Windrider, was pummelled during a tropical storm. Their much-anticipated two-year sailing trip around Australia and the Pacific, five years in the planning, was halted as they drifted for 12 hours through a shallow reef break, before washing up on the Micronesian islet.
Part of the Ulithi Atoll , about 0.3 square kilometres in area, Mogmog has a population of about 200. Children play ukuleles, men and women are segregated in some areas, and the law is enforced by the island chief. There is one basic generator, limited toilets and no running water. Turtle is part of the diet but the Barries eat mainly fish, chicken and pork. Money is a foreign concept.
But rather than abandon their catamaran, which is believed to be uninsured, the family expects to spend six months on the island to rebuild the boat.
With the help of the islanders, it took two weeks to get the vessel above the high-water mark. One man's hand was crushed when the boat slipped while being jacked up. The Barries administered morphine and took advice from the Royal Flying Doctor Service by phone. He has almost recovered.
The family provides first aid to the islanders, and other domestic help. Mr Barrie has helped repair the generator, fixed water tanks, replaced hinges, and is making the first ham smoker.
Ms Barrie helps with the island children's schoolwork and says that when she orders supplies from a nearby island, she orders extra to share with the locals. ''We are very isolated … and if the locals don't like us … we could be in trouble,'' she tells the Herald in an email. From their boat they have text email through radio and a satellite phone with poor reception.
The girls learn through the Schools of Isolated and Distance Education, based in their home city of Perth. They have made friends with children on the island and introduced them to RipStiks (similar to a two-wheeled skateboard).
Mr Barrie, a cabinet maker, spends his days repairing the boat. He is almost halfway.
The repairs are possible only because of intricate support networks that co-ordinate supplies from Australia, Palau, Japan, Guam and the US. Yanmar Diesel Engines, for example, has sent almost $8000 worth of replacement parts from Melbourne.
But the family has been frustrated by islanders taking their supplies. Ms Barrie says she receives only about half of what she orders from Yap, the nearest main island.
Obtaining fresh fruit and vegetables is especially difficult, so multivitamins are needed.
Friends at home, such as Paul Walker, have helped organise boat supplies and other essentials. Others have sent care packages with treats such as chocolate.
''In some ways I envy [the Barries]. They're living a once-in-a-lifetime experience,'' said a sailing friend, Brendon Sayers. ''In some ways it would be good to go and experience it for short time, knowing you could leave after a couple of days.'' But the Barries are in for the long haul.
Ms Barrie washes clothes in the town well and cooks on a single gas burner. She says they have ''turned into the village one-stop shop'' with people constantly asking for food, hardware, soap and other essentials.
She has adopted the topless style of the island women and wears a hand-woven skirt.
''I don't like it … but it would be churlish of me to be a prude,'' she writes, admitting she usually covers up when cooking - ''hot splatters are just not good''.
Mr Barrie still favours his boardshorts over the cloth covering most island men wear. In the island's culture it is offensive to expose the thighs.
Mr Barrie has become close to the chief, Juanito, and his wife, Ellie. ''He is the benevolent leader bedecked with flowers. He has been fantastic to us, and we have become very fond of him and Ellie,'' Ms Barrie says.
They have invited the chief and his wife to visit them in Australia when they return. The Barries also hope to set up an arrangement between their daughters' school in Perth and the Mogmog elementary school.
Ms Barrie has begun scribbling notes for a book and has already been offered book launches in Britain and Korea by a passing yachtsman who works in publishing.
When all is done, and the boat is sea ready again, it will have to make it back across the 100-metre-wide reef which sits only about 30 centimetres below water level.
Ms Barrie says the plan is to rig up a slipway and launch the boat over the top. Another option is to get assistance from the US Navy, which has a fleet in the surrounding waters.
But the first hurdle is finishing the boat.