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For years divers enjoyed S.S. Thorfinn -- living
large on the world's largest live-aboard diving yacht.
Photo courtesy of Dive World Travel Productions.
© Copyright U.S. Dive
TRUK LAGOON in MICRONESIA:
WRECK DIVING MECCA
The S.S. THORFINN
HERE'S ANOTHER ONE YOU'VE HEARD ABOUT --
The PAN-MICRONESIA FANTASY EXPEDITION CRUISES:
CHECK the NEW TRAVELOG on this INSPIRING DIVE TRIP (See below) !
For experienced divers only, these trips are beyond adventure.
[ Call us for info on these twice-a-year-only Yap to Truk cruises, which require an additional boarding fee. ]
FOR ALL REGULAR WEEKLY CRUISE PACKAGES: yes, the ship can be boarded by clients at each departing port after noon on the day before departure. However, onboard service for your vacation package actually kicks off with a good hot breakfast on departure days.
The S.S. Thorfinn's Pan-Micronesia live-aboard package price includes all meals + unlimited diving (within safe tables) + soft drinks, beer & supper wine + airport transfers + island cultural & photo tours. This world-class itinerary on the S.S. Thorfinn tours remote, virgin coral atolls of the outer Truk & Yap island groups. It is unique on the planet; & is pretty sure to delight even dive travelers who think they've seen it all.
THORFINN, TRUK LAGOON, † Package Prices set through December; call to verify. (May be subject to small changes, season after season, due to flux in fuel prices & local government taxes.)
U.S. DIVE TRAVELíS Truk Lagoon Sunrise Special
Maximum diving for the best value at Truk Lagoon.
∑ 7 days / nights fine accommodations in double-occupancy stateroom including room tax
∑ 7 full dive days during each week's visit with pro-rated extensions
∑ Daily extensions before or after Sunday-to-Sunday visits are available at same daily costs of weekly specials, whenever space permits
∑ Airport / hotel greetings & transfers with full arrival orientation & dive safety briefings
∑ 5 different dives / day with tanks, weights, belts & up to 33 dives / week (per safe PADI tables)
∑ Maximum 6-person dive groups to separate uncrowded sites, each led by expert dive guides & boatmen for max safety of wreck navigation
∑ Valet system for personal dive gear storage & pre-dive preps
∑ Saturday Night BBQ Party with authentic island dancing by local crew
U.S. DIVE TRAVELís Truk Lagoon Nitrox Divers' Special
Diving the famous 'Ghost Fleet' with FREE NITROX & other technical services. Up to 5 daily dives, with free EAN 32 included for properly certified Nitrox divers
∑ 7 days / nights fine accommodations -- double-occupancy -- including room tax
∑ 7 full days diving during each week's visit with pro-rated extensions
∑ Daily extensions before or after Sunday-to-Sunday visits are available at same daily costs of weekly specials, as space permits
∑ 5 different uncrowded 6 person dives/day, with expert dive guides ensuring safe wreck navigation & technical assistance (tanks, weights & belts included)
∑ Free 32% Nitrox fills, with optional blends upon special request (per proper tables)
∑ Custom schedules for extended deep dives with double rigs & staged bottles available
∑ Valet system for personal dive gear storage & pre-dive prep
∑ All meals & snacks between dives
∑ Complimentary soft drinks, coffee, tea & cocoa.
∑ All applicable room & meal taxes
∑ Airport / Hotel greetings & transfers with full onboard arrival orientation & dive safety briefings
∑ Saturday night BBQ party with authentic island dancing by local crew
THORFINN Pan-Micronesia Voyages of Discovery (Truk-to-Yap, & Yap-to-Truk)
The Pan-Micro Schedule
The big seaworthy dive cruiser
'Thorfinn' departs on another set of 'Oceanic Dreams' cruises through the
Pacific's most traditional & culturally intact islands. Two 14 day cruises
between Truk &
∑ 14 days / nights fine accommodations in double-occupancy staterooms
∑ Unlimited (safe table) diving at each island location
∑ All meals & snacks between dives
∑ Complimentary soft drinks, beer, dinner wine, coffee, tea & cocoa
∑ Airport / hotel greetings & transfers
∑ All applicable room & meal taxes
∑ Uncrowded 6 person dives with expert dive guide & boat man
∑ Tanks, weights & belts included
∑ Island visits at each island location
∑ Social & cultural blending with friendly Micronesians
*$800 Boarding Fee (for Pan-Micro Cruises only) to be paid at boarding time, is for port charges, Island Council fees, government surcharges, island visitor fees, dive permits & additional operating expenses.
Regular 7-night package includes:† All meals + up to 5 different wreck dives each day + superior cabins with A/C.† This adventure is geared for divers eager to experience the world's finest wreck diving.† At 170 feet long, this is the largest live-aboard dive vessel in the Pacific.† With 18 crew for only 24 guests, the Thorfinn pampers you with one of the best crew-to-passenger ratios in the world.† Thorfinn also offers dual 110 / 220-volt electricity, full bar, roomy aft deck & hot tub, gourmet meals with complimentary wine, on-board E-6 slide processing, full library of videos & books, free windsurfing & guided island tours.
NOTES on Truk Lagoon Wreck Diving Special Trips:
trip schedules on Sunday-to-Sunday basis, with alternate
schedules (e.g. Monday-to-Monday or Saturday-to-Saturday) as available.
$35 per person Chuuk State Dive Permit Fee & related costs will
be assessed onboard or can be added to package cost.
∑ Sunday-to-Sunday boarding time at 4:00 PM from local hotel or evening arrival from airport (Continental Airlines flight) or Monday 10:00 AM.
∑ Departure time from ship is Sunday at 2:00 PM.
∑ Off-weekly trips, extensions & /or non Sunday-to-Sunday boarding times & ship departures, at guest arrival / departure schedules.
∑ Nitrox at 32% Mix is also available on 'Sunrise Special' rates at $16 per 80 cu. ft. tanks & $8 per pony tanks.
∑ Each day's diving is conducted as conditions, equipment, & a diver's personal health & deportment safely permit under full authority of ship's crew & skipper.
∑ Seaward employs best efforts to perform daily diving schedules as written each morning, but these dives may occasionally vary due to weather, ship's position, & other operational circumstances.
∑ Daily dive options are provided on our best intended basis, without warranty to numbers actually conducted on a non-cumulative basis during a dive tour.
∑ We strongly encourage PADI safe-table depth limitations within lagoon, and we expect divers to retain sufficient air for safe ascents from depth to make a minimum of 3 protracted ascent stops. EAN staged bottles will be optionally provided on request.
∑ Due to liquor lounge taxes, we'll pre-purchase beer & wine for guests as requested before arrival, or deliver requests during a supply run each week.
This live-aboard adventure is geared for scuba divers eager to experience the world's finest wreck diving. At 170 feet long, this is the largest live-aboard dive vessel in the world. With 18 crew for only 24 guests, the Thorfinn pampers you with one of the best crew-to-passenger ratios in the world. Thorfinn also offers dual 110 / 220-volt electricity, full bar, roomy aft deck & hot tub, gourmet meals with complimentary wine, on-board E-6 slide processing, full library of videos & books, free windsurfing & guided island tours.
The capable crew of the S.S. Thorfinn will show you dozens of wrecked warships from the ill-fated Japanese Imperial Navy's 4th Fleet, sunk by U.S. Navy bombers. Their guns, tanks, planes, torpedoes & huge engine rooms are still remarkably intact, enveloped in beautiful soft corals. The visibility in Truk Lagoon (Chuuk) normally runs from 80-200 feet on the average day, barring storms. Adventure-travel professionals & underwater photographers agree that Truk Lagoon is the world's premier Mecca for serious aficionados of undersea wreck diving. Truk Lagoon will give you wrecks to the 10th power -- & then some!
Within an hour of landing on Moen Island, the social nerve center of Chuuk (Truk), the Thorfinn vessel staff will have whisked you through customs & transported you to the air-conditioned comfort of this lovely ship -- one of the world's largest live-aboard dive vessels. Among the scores of exciting wrecks you'll be privileged to see during your week here are Truk diving classics such as Shinkoku, Fujikawa, Sankisan, Heian, Rio de Janeiro, Kiyosumi, Dai Na Hino, Gosei, Yamagiri, Suzuki, Wreck X & Betty Bomber.
What makes S.S. Thorfinn different from its worthy competition in Truk Lagoon is the fact that you dive off speedy little skiffs that depart several time a day from the mother ship, anchored in a central location near the major dive sites. The Thorfinn seldom weighs anchor, except on some special side trips when it makes a day-or-two foray into the outer reef sectors for exploratory adventure diving. These side trips are weather dependant. Each of the Thorfinn's launches carries only 5 or 6 divers at a time, so there's no worries about crowding any wreck site with fin-flapping frenzied & frenetic funseekers. Truk diving is a mellow, deep experience, literally & figuratively. The Thorfinn is not a super-fancy 4-star vessel, but she has a good soul, great crew & a skipper who knows these waters as well or better than any Truk live-aboards ever did.
As a matter of policy, the Thorfinn tries never to place more than six divers at one time on a single wreck, which helps photographers a great deal by lowering the potential for kicking up sediment. Most of Truk Lagoon's wrecks are covered with a fine patina of silt that settles down from the reef perimeters. The more divers you have on a wreck at one time, the more their fins & bubbles stir up the silt & fuzzy up the generally excellent "viz." With strict quality control of their dive sites, the Thorfinn's expert staff limits this visibility challenge & allows you excellent views of these historic sunken Japanese warships.
Among many things you'll love about Truk Lagoon is the weather, which hovers around 82-85 degrees F. most of the year. Inside Truk Lagoon's huge perimeter of beautiful motus (little atoll isles), the visibility varies from 50 to 100 feet, while on the lagoon perimeter the viz can reach up to 200 feet on a great day!
After your diving thirsts are slaked each day, there are many fun side activities to pass the time on the Thorfinn, such as windsurfing, fishing, a spa, great deck lounging, video-movie-slide projector entertainment center, & a decent library as well. If any non-divers want to accompany their diving buddies to Truk Lagoon, the Thorfinn crew makes regular trips back to the neighbor islands for dancing, parties, beachcombing & canoe trips.
Thorfinn offers a "pampering factor" unmatched by Pacific live-aboards: 18 crew serving only 24 clients!
S.S. THORFINN in
TRUK LAGOON --
T R I P P R E P A R A T I O N B U L L E T I N:
( Text & photos are courtesy of Thorfinn office, & edited by U.S. DIVE TRAVEL. )
WELCOME TO MICRONESIA & the
The full enjoyment of your Truk diving vacation is our total objective, & the
following information has been gathered to assist in this goal.
Read carefully, & please contact us for any clarifications needed.
Please keep us informed with current addresses, phone numbers &
e-mail to enable our contacting you on any items of last minute information.
SCUBA DIVING CONDITIONS:
Micronesia began developing as a dive destination about fifteen years ago
with the fame of Truk Lagoon's sunken war fleet. The Thorfinn introduced a
new approach to diving Truk & bridged the gap to remote & beautiful
outer island atolls of Truk & Pohnpei States. These undived virgin
atolls provided a kaleidoscope of seldom seen species of fish, sharks, &
coral in incredibly clear, warm waters. At Truk Lagoon, this live-aboard introduced
the ability to dive continuously on wrecks located close to various
anchorages. Small dive launches depart the mother ship regularly from
8:00 AM to 5:00 PM & conduct night dives about 8:30 PM. The S.S. Thorfinn
provides the comforts of a large hotel at the wreck sites with many on-board
diversions of interest during surface intervals.
Visibility on Truk Lagoon's wrecks can vary from 40 to 100 feet depending
on location & prevailing conditions. It must be strongly emphasized that all
wrecks in Truk Lagoon are designated as historic monuments within a park area.
Trukese law forbids the disturbance or removal of artifacts from these magnificent
relics of war. Since many Japanese tourists visit Truk, almost in the same quiet
& reverent manner that Americans visit Pearl Harbor, it would be near sacrilege
to disturb the ocean graves of their fallen countrymen.
FACILITIES & COMFORTS ABOARD the THORFINN:
The Thorfinn provides the finest live-aboard dive accommodations, & the
entire ship's crew strive to maintain these standards. This remote Micronesian
location occasionally strains some supply items due to shipping delays & other
unforeseeable events. We have developed a good advance ordering system
from outside the FSM for supplies such as meats, & other dry goods, & local
growers are meeting many of our produce requirements. Thorfinn patrons should
realize that some popular food items may not be available.
The Thorfinn's facilities, diving gear, boats, & compressors are well maintained &
designed to suit the demanding conditions of this remote location. The live-aboard
crew is well-trained in maintaining this equipment safely & efficiently.
The Thorfinn's twelve guest quarters each have queen size bed & a single bed with
eight private facility rooms, & four others on a semi-private basis. A
large lounge on 'C' deck, separate dining rooms seating everyone, spa deck,
big sundeck, giant aquarium, & the most stable ship in the live-aboard world
add to guest comforts & convenience. You will have more space per guest than
any comparable kive-aboard afloat. Over four hundred video selections at a main lounge
library are available, many focusing on local history with fascinating details. Slide
projectors & screen, lighted photo table, photo lab (with E-6 processor) & a
CD/audio photo player are augmented by a multi-system TV & VCR in main lounge.
All guest rooms have TV & VCR's for instant playback & viewing pleasures.
Citizens of other countries (Non-U.S.) will require
a valid passport for legal entry.
Visitor visa forms are issued by the airline & are turned in at Immigration Clearance at no charge. Your copy of this visa must be retained & is usually stapled to your identification for relinquishing on departure.
CAPTAINíS CHECKLIST / BE SURE to BRING:
Light clothing only is required for comfort in this tropical environment.
Shipboard informality dispenses with the need for fashionable or formal
items. Just use common sense, but bring respectful attire for village visits.
Our female guests are advised to include a mid length
skirt in their
clothing. A skirt will provide the most comfort for shore visits,
especially on the traditional outer islands (see Customs & Conduct).
These waters will provide the best underwater photography in the world.
Bring all the film, strobes, & cameras needed along with back-ups.
A shipboard photo lab with E-6 processor, light table & slide monitoring
equipment is available to process your films. A big multi-system TV
monitor with VHS video player is in the lounge for instant playback of your
video footage. Each Truk live-aboard guest room is also fitted with a multi-system TV/VCR
for personal use. Sony TR 910 rental video cameras in 'Sting Ray' housings
are available with underwater lighting. Custom videos can be obtained on
request, but there will be an extra fee, to be discussed on board.
* Pacific islanders by nature are soft-spoken &
reserved in their personal manner
& it is recommended that a like conduct be displayed in their presence.
* Do not appear unexpectedly in a village or gathering. Have a local person
introduce you to the ranking chief & other prominent villagers.
* Exposing the thighs is considered improper for females, therefore, skirts
are recommended for shore visits.
* During shore excursions, the Captain will arrange the formalities of
introductions. In keeping with traditions of the island group, visitors
may be asked not to walk 'in a particular part of the island or dive &
fish in a particular area adjacent to the island, which we ask all guests
* Visitors will delight in the warmth of the people & the gentle displays
of friendship exhibited by offerings of coconuts & fruits & offers of a
walking tour of their island. Please do not pick your own fruits
unsolicited, as you may be trespassing.
* When encountering village scenes, ask for permission before taking
pictures. The people will be most cooperative but it could be found
offensive to shoot without first asking. On the other hand, don't be
surprised by people, especially the children, offering to be photographed
& it is expected that pictures will be taken during performances by the
islanders for their visitors.
* Polaroid pictures left as souvenirs with the people are a big hit as with
any small token such as soap, needles, combs, candies, fishing tackle, etc.
are very much appreciated. Enterprising islanders will display handicrafts
& shell for exchange or sale.
* You will be delighted by young children whose natural curiosity will
overtake their shyness to exchange stories & questions, often punctuated
with fits of giggles.
* Micronesians will not show open disapproval if you violate their social
codes so we ask our guests to keep in mind this simple guide for the mutual
benefit of a cultural exchange.
On island, telephone service is by Comsat (Hawaiian Telephone) to entire world.
On Thorfinn radio telephone communications during good propagation times
through Australia or the U.S.
Electric current throughout Micronesia as well as on board the Thorfinn is
110V-60 cycle with American type outlets. 220V-60 cycle power is
additionally provided in five rooms as well as at a central 220V charging
point via Australian type outlets.
AIRPORT TRANSFERS TO SHIP:
You are met at the airport & transported to the Thorfinn's launch by bus for
final transfer to the anchored ship. This is repeated in reverse at the end.
ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES in TRUK:
Truk, Weno Island & some other Trukese islands are considered "dry"
islands. It is perfectly legal to possess alcoholic beverages on the
island but not to consume them in public. (This law appears to be easing.)
Courtesy soft drinks (& beer after daily dive schedules) are available at
main lounge bar. Spirits & wine are available at reasonable charge.
All foods served on board Thorfinn are of wide variety in generous quantity. Our
two cooks conduct all baking, & produce a well-received fare. Special dietary
requests will be handled to our best ability within the range of some supply limitations.
Domestic water aboard is a product of shipboard desalination equipment. It
is both safe & good tasting. We do ask that guests do not waste water
aboard as it is a valuable commodity.
Limited automatic facilities are available, with a careful eye on water
consumption & availability.
THE THORFINNís CREW:
The Thorfinn has a full crew complement of twenty-one, most of which are
Micronesian. Some Micronesians may have a slight difficulty with English
but usually comprehend quickly if spoken to in a measured manner.
They may appear to be quietly reserved, but this is the way of the Pacific Island
people, to not be obtrusive & forward speaking. Our 21 crew to 24 guest ratio is
high in order to maintain the most attentive standard of service possible. Soon
after boarding the ship, & the crew have placed luggage in your respective rooms
& dive gear in your lockers, we gather at the lounge or spa to introduce each crew
member & their functions on board, & then proceed with a full orientation on
shipboard routines & dive procedures.
Tipping is not required aboard Thorfinn, but if you would like to reward
the crew at trip end for a job well done, it will be graciously accepted.
On board policy is for guests to give any contribution to two or three
different departments together to avoid any chance of it not being divided
evenly as the crew have set up between themselves.
7 Paid Divers provide - 1 complimentary vessel berth.
10 Paid Divers provide - 2 complimentary vessel berths.
14 Paid Divers provide - 3 complimentary vessel berths.
18 Paid Divers provide - 4 complimentary vessel berths.
Sparkling islands, inhabited by gentle people who retain the most traditional & ancient cultures of any Pacific dwellers, welcomed us to their shores & homes to share food & drink & local stories. One or two locations have banned power-boat ownership, therefore they rely totally upon big hand-hewn ocean sailing canoes or smaller paddling canoes for water transport. Hand-rolled sennet rope made from coconut fibers are the principle source of canoe rigging. Several stops provided sailing-canoe rides that transported our appreciative guests into a wonderful world beyond modern concepts.
Strongly constructed, high-peaked thatched canoe houses dotted the shorelines at many sites. These serve as social centers & canoe shelters. It was interesting to our clients that among local people, who joined in casual "tuba drinking" sessions at some houses, many island natives spoke clear English. ("Tuba" is the local hootch, & a nicely potent beverage !) These islanders had been well-educated in a variety of foreign locales such as Hawaii, Guam, or even the mainland U.S.
After sampling the intricacies & complications of a fast-paced society bent on success, a success that's measured by personal gain or power politics, these island people returned to spend most of their time removed from modern encroachments. Traditional customs center on a total respect for leading chiefs. Also, segregated men's & women's houses are still the norm on some islands. The male is prominently in the lead, with women content to serve as homemakers & child bearers. The islander's love for dancing & song was amply demonstrated at most stops by both men's & women's groups, whom we saw going through their chants & routines to everyone's entertainment & occasional involvement.
The ship was complimented with the presence of two leading teachers from Dr. Dirk Ballendorf's University of Guam classes on Micronesian Cultural History. One of these two interesting & personable teachers accompanied each cruise, providing many insights for guests, & assisting with arrangements during island visits. Helping to add to a mellow on-board spirit, most of the S.S. Thorfinn's 21-person Micronesian crew members were relatives of my Trukese wife Narinta, with several members born & raised on islands we were visiting.
Weather conditions throughout the month reflected unseasonable effects of 'El Nino'. A previous six-month dry period that browned out most island terrain was now followed by a much sought-after wet spell. Rain did not hinder these voyages, but was accompanied with a steady & unseasonable Easterly wind, resulting from air circulation around the big stationary central Pacific high pressure center located south of its usual position. We were receiving a clockwise flow around its south side instead of the usual mid-year calm for these latitudes. The S.S. Thorfinn's rugged & seaworthy designs prevented discomfort to most on board & generally avoided weather delays during overnight passages between island stops.
We again thank everyone that joined us & made it possible to run these fascinating dive cruises to a Paradise beyond. Many points for future cruise interests were noted, & current planning involves another tour to Yap for June 1999, where we'll be working in more islands & select reefs that we'd left unvisited this year.
Welcome to the following synopses, which provide some day-by-day colorful details of our two 1998 voyages.
Yours in finest diving,
Capt. Lance Higgs, his wife Narinta,
& the friendly crew of the S.S. Thorfinn
Friendly hosts, pleased with our visit, promised to have a good-sized dance group prepared for action after lunch June 3. Divers were off in two launches for a dive along the outer west reef. Diving continued the next morning in choppy waters on the NE weather side in hopes of improved fauna & more big life. After two dives that morning &lunch aboard, everyone boarded boats for shore & our first taste of island dancing.
The complete populace of about 800 Pulapese gathered at their field & meeting house, & shortly afterwards a big group of male dancers led off with traditional chanting & dancing, dressed in various attires of coconut fronds & the male 'thu' or loin cloth. The dancing soon picked up tempo & got everyone stirred into cheering & applause. The men were followed by a large group of approximately 30 women. This group continued the entertainment for another 1 Ĺ hours dressed in hand-made lava-lava's around their hips & many types of mwar-mwars on their heads & over their bare breasts. A beautiful afternoon concluded with our throwing handfuls of candy in the air for everyone.
Hundreds of children raced down to the beach & big sand spit waving fond farewells as our boats wound their way out through the reefs back to the ship. Three long blasts on the steam whistle signaled our departure towards a setting sun & the next visit to Satawal, the beginning of Yap State. Satawal was close at hand by breakfast time & small traditional sailing canoes were seen fishing closeby. This island of approximately 1 mile length & half a mile width is without a lagoon or much surrounding reef, but supports a population of almost 1,200 inhabitants.
Satawal has gained fame in recent time as home of the traditional navigator Mau Piaalug, who starred in a film seen by hundreds of thousands on the Education Channel a few years ago, titled "The Navigator". This film was focused on the large Polynesian catamaran, Hokalea, which was carefully built to ancient specifications at Hawaii to retrace the routes of the Polynesian navigators that discovered Hawaii. Unfortunately, a living Polynesian navigator could not be found, & a Micronesian equivalent was finally sought to do the film. Much of the film features the story of Satawal, its isolation & the people that navigate far out to sea in unique hand-carved canoes.
After being talked in by radio to an anchorage on a reef shelf close by the main village, a party went ashore to meet the chiefs, pass a few gifts & make arrangements for a day's activities. Dive parties were quickly dispatched & they came back with happy tales of good life on the SW side reef. Sharks, some rays, & turtles led the attractions reported. The reef was resplendent with good life down its sheer faces. Our night divers ecstatically reported the best night dive of their lives with untold scores of little fish & hundreds of bug eyes (lobsters) peering out from their grottoes, reflecting back our dive lights as though they were a city of lit-up skyscrapers.
A mid-afternoon ride on the island's largest sailing canoe created a thrill for 10 guests, especially as a passing squall shot them up to exhilarating speeds while passing close astern of the anchored S.S. Thorfinn.
We enjoyed a late-afternoon dancing party on the beach in front of giant canoe houses, hosted by two groups of women. These dancers put everyone into festive moods, perhaps assisted in some cases with a wee dram of coconut highballs (called tuba in these islands). The dancers got more & more enthused as many of our guests got caught up in the mood, to the point where two clients actually joined their rhythmic beat & only needed a switch to local dress to fit totally in. At sundown another toss of candies to everyone completed the picture as happy guests & crew exchanged farewells with all ashore before boarding launches back to the ship.
An 11 p.m. departure saw the ship heading off to the next stop at Lamotrek Atoll. An early morning June 5 entrance into Lamotrek's big lagoon was followed with a cautious final approach to position directly in front of the most beautiful beach & village of the entire tour. This anchorage put the ship within a few scant yards of magnificently sloping sand, that dropped down to a comfortable 6 fathoms just a few yards from the waters' edge. This site would provide sought after pictures of our ship framed by overhanging palm trees, duplicating its corporate logo, along with many scenes of attractive people engaged in a relaxed & easygoing lifestyle. The people & pace at Lamotrek were most enjoyable & hospitable as experienced by several guests & the captain at a late afternoon canoe house sojourn interspersed with rounds of tuba & tall tales.
Diving at some close-by passes on the weather reef brought mild response with medium enthusiasm, but an early following morning foray to the lee or SW side created big smiles with a kaleidoscope of colors & life on what is locally named '"The Flower Garden".
Following the morning dive, anchors were lifted & a departure for nearby Elato Atoll was made by 10 a.m., arriving at Elato's anchorage by noon. A short visit to shore was made to clear formalities & divers were then away to dive the weather corner of this series of reefs & small lagoons. A departure at 5 p.m. was made for an easy overnight crossing to Yap's most traditional location of Ifalik Atoll.
An early morning arrival by our westbound ship & Yap States' eastbound field trip ship, called the "Micro Spirit," saw both vessels anchored outside Ifalik's shallow pass by 7 a.m. Launches from both ships began runs to the inner lagoon village where formalities were exchanged along with a few gifts to the formal chief who was related to our Woleai relative & crewmember. Diving commenced soon after with two boats circling the reefs around the nearly round atoll. Mid-afternoon saw both launches loaded with guests & crew heading into the main village for an afternoon of dancing & sightseeing.
Guests & crew were amused with the carved male appendages marking the men's house, where there was no mistaking the purpose of that revered structure. Ifalik has maintained its traditions to one of the highest degrees of any island in this locale, & this isle rules out ownership of power boats by any resident. Big canoe houses are lined along various lagoon island shores & canoes of all sizes are in constant use inside & out of the lagoon. Guest cameras were in heavy use at this pristine location.
Dancing began with three or four groups of separate women & men performing vigorously to our guest applause & that of the many residents surrounding the dance area. The male groups wound up leaping high & putting on a good impression of very fierce warriors. Flying candies at end of dancing had everyone in good spirits.
A later stroll along village paths revealed a well-arranged settlement, & guests were frequently offered a taste of local food by women & children in front of their homes. Women were seen at work on hand-looms making beautifully colored lava-lavas, a number of which were purchased by our clients. We visited a tiny Catholic church & inside we found an interesting altar that was created by a tiny carved canoe with a crucifix looking down & over. Farewells were given by many as we departed back to our ship in near darkness. A 4 a.m. ship departure was effected to arrive at Woleai Atoll for daylight entrance.
The ship anchored at Woleai's main island by 8 a.m. on the morning of June 8, & shortly after our launch was transporting the captain & several others to a meeting with the local chiefs for arrangements to follow. Upon completion, the divers were off to several sites marked out on a former survey supplied by Yap's Visitors Bureau. Woleai is a slightly updated location with a powerhouse, electricity, & a central high school for many of the closeby island students to attend. Vehicles were even seen on some coral roads.
Traditional canoe houses were still in evidence, but were situated alongside modern cement structures that definitely stole some of their majestic appearance. Diving on the outer reef was fair to good with everyone ready to move along the following morning. Anchors were lifted for a short steam across the lagoon to the western side where our Woleai crewmember Santos owned several small pristine reef islands, & was related to many people on a neighboring larger pair of islands.
Divers were off earliest to the outer reef, & arrangements were concluded for a short visit ashore. A late afternoon visit was complimented with a small dance group demonstrating their version of island rock & roll.
A 6 p.m. departure from Woleai was followed with a course set for distant Sorol Atoll. Sorol was reached by late afternoon the following day, June 11, & after securing permission from a small number of caretakers living there, dive boats set out to squeeze in a dive on the eastern reef promontory. Sorol is a long narrow atoll & a good lagoon, but a shallow entrance prevents secure anchorage. Its long reef extensions at both east & west ends were teeming with sharks, pelagic fish, & many turtles. A healthy reef backed up diving interests & this was duly noted for a future visit on the next voyage. The ship was underway by 8 p.m. for Ulithi Atoll, our last stop before Yap.
An early morning entrance led us up to the High Chiefs' island of Mog Mog where formal approval of our visit was approved, after which a further visit to Falalop island to meet the administrators of the outer reefs we wished to dive, were located. A very big atoll, Ulithi was the location employed by the U.S. Navy during World War II to gather their fleet in readiness for a major assault on Okinawa. Falalop Island was adapted in later years as a site for the Outer Islands High School by utilizing abandoned military facilities.
After completing formalities, we were off for the hour long run to offshore Losiep Reef to dive while the ship stood off. These dives brought high praise of very abundant life & healthy reefs. By 8 p.m., the ship was anchored over a submerged reef of a large sunken atoll for the night with engines secured until morning. Anchors were up by 7 a.m. & we moved to the lee of Gielop Island to drift & dive between two terminal islands at each end of a half mile long reef being the only raised section of the sunken atoll.
The diving continued at the top of the scale with giant turtles in evidence everywhere. Deep turtle furrows in steeply sloping sand beaches were proof of the hundreds of turtles crawling up to lay their eggs each night. Stories of occasional fishermen's visits to these islands for a night's sleep were recounted of people being driven off the land by waves of approaching giant turtles. These stories were totally credible judging by the furrowed highways they had formed in the sand.
Diving consumed the entire day with each boat recounting seemingly bigger & better sightings of everything from tiger sharks to rays, wrasses, turtles, & endless reef critters. Upon completion of four dives by sundown, the boats came back aboard, were secured, & we were underway for Yap. Everyone was high on their day's activities, which wrote a satisfying positive to the complete tour.
An early morning arrival to Yap's historic Tamil Harbor was followed with a 9 a.m. clearance to berth alongside the commercial pier & formally enter in with port officials. In almost lightning time, many guests had disappeared on a definite mission to discover all they could about the very historic island we had landed alongside. During this day & part of the next, people dispersed with farewells & most were on their way to the airport on Sunday, June 14, to return back to the life they had each left behind for the last two weeks. Several guests booked into local hotels such as the Manta Ray Bay Hotel or the Pathways, staying on island to take in some of the famous manta ray diving Yap is so highly credited for.
Early morning dawned with the ship standing off Falalop waiting for a boat to pick up the several loads of stores & receive our payment to again dive the offshore reef of Gielap Island.
Heavy rain squalls let up as the last boatload went off & our bows were directed toward Gielap. By 8:30 a.m. both dive boats were away with divers anxious to see the wonders of Paradise below. The sun was blazing brightly as the ship maneuvered behind the reef & anchored on the floor of the sunken atoll. Diving continued on a classic site called "Turtle Heaven" until late afternoon, with the boats being lifted aboard, lashed down, & the big steam engines settling into driving rhythm towards our next destination of Sorol Atoll.
The west tip of Sorol was reached by 6 a.m. on June 17. Divers were away in two boats by 8 a.m. to begin exploring both sides of the long reef promontory extending well to the west from the lagoon. Reports were soon coming in of a beautiful oceanic reef abounding with most every species of pelagic & reef life imaginable. Diving continued through the morning, while arrangements were made by radio with the island people for a shore visit after lunch time. By 2 p.m. the ship had moved down abreast of the main island & both boats loaded with guests & off-duty crew proceeded in over the reef to shore.
An afternoon of beach combing & dancing entertainment from a small but very enthusiastic group of about 15 women, children, & young boys was most enjoyable, especially when the senior leader leaped in to perform some wild steps of his own. A later pass around of sweets was popular with the children while we prepared to depart. The crew picked up a load of drinking coconuts while the leader & his family were given approval to travel with the ship back to their home at Ifalik. There had been requests for up to 15 people to travel with us, but it was necessary to limit them to seven immediate members of the leader's family to avoid overloading the crew quarters aboard the S.S. Thorfinn. The island's total population of about 25 souls had been hard pressed during the previous 6 month drought with few if any supplies from outside during that time.
The ship was full away by 5 p.m. in the direction of Eauripik Atoll to explore the reportedly great reefs of that distant location to the southeast. The night crossing to Eauripik was slightly discomforting to some persons due to unusually high wind & seas from a northeasterly quadrant. Eauripik was reached by midday on June 18, but proved unsuitable to explore with prevailing wind & sea conditions & dark storm clouds overhead. After expressing our disappointment by radio to the island leaders, we proceeded on towards Ifalik, our next stop of interest.
An easy night crossing to Ifalik was completed with the ship anchoring at 2 a.m. outside the pass to await daylight. At first light, our passengers from Sorol loaded our launch with their possessions & were taken in to their home island. Permission to dive was given by radio, & dive parties were away to take in the sights of the good reefs at this location. By mid afternoon the captain & Santos were in to look after formalities at the main island, & set up a shore visit for ship's guests the following day. Good diving continued through the afternoon, & an evening dive below the ship on an obvious bright reef brought great reports of fish, sharks &corals from two night divers.
Diving began early next morning June 20, & continued through until 1:30 p.m. after when guests & off duty-crew boarded the launches & proceeded in for an afternoon of strolling & sightseeing on shore. Guests were soon dispersing to all corners of this intriguing island & it took a fair time to recover everyone so the dancers could start their performances.
The women started off on the main pathway in front of the Catholic church & cameras were busy capturing their every move. The group consisted of about 30 ladies from middle age down to perhaps 5 years old. Locally made, colorful lava-lavas were worn around their waists along with a few palm strands around their necks. Many onlookers from island & ship cheered them on, & the cheering & laughing reached high levels later with the men doing their virile, proud stomping & dancing to the point where some of their costumes were falling to the ground.
After completion of dancing festivities & distribution of the now customary candies, most crew & guests strolled through the village while some others returned to the ship. Very good bargains on lava-lavas led to some considerable number of purchases, many for a church benefit to help fund a beautification project on the building. By 5:30 p.m. everyone was back to the ship along with an enterprising church official that was able to sell a few more of his bargain lava-lavas to the earlier returned guests. He was soon away in his paddling canoe, ship's anchor was lifted & we were underway once more, this time for Lamotrek Atoll, another magical destination in this string of island pearls.
Lamotrek Atoll was entered at daylight through a small SW side pass, & anchorage was completed by 7:30 p.m. close in front of the beach & village. After an exchange with the chiefs on shore, divers were off to explore the areas of interest found behind the lee of the main island on last voyage. Skies were heavy overcast, & showers were frequent, but the weather cleared to a perfect sunset. After completing four dives, some people went ashore to kick sand & meander on a magnificent beach & meet fine people of this friendly island. The late afternoon tuba-drinking session in an adjacent canoe house again had stories & other items in discussion.
The next day dawned bright & clear with preparations underway to send the dive teams out with two tanks each to adequately explore the outer extremities at the northwest end of the atoll. Snacks for a picnic surface break on the NW islands were included.
Returning for lunch, the tales of each group differed with one boat having extremely fine dives, while the other just didn't seem to score as well but enjoyed them nevertheless. After a third dive in the afternoon, many guests came ashore while a few dedicated divers stayed with diving in one boat. At 4 p.m., a big sailing canoe was slid into the sea, & four guests boarded for a fascinating ride out into the lagoon, braving a short rain squall & thoroughly enjoying the tales & traditions related to them by a very communicative son of the leading chief.
One of the finest sunsets of our journeys settled behind the ship giving many great photo opportunities from the beach. Village folk were constantly in the water & bathing from this picture perfect beach. A departure at midnight with some careful navigation out through the reefs was set up for an early morning arrival at Satawal.
A bright & cheerful morning sun was rising from the sea as we closed in on Satawal, resplendent with its big canoe houses standing out in the early light. At least 12 sails were counted out fishing as we came in close to anchor once again on the narrow reef ledge in front of the westernmost canoe house. By 8 a.m. two boatloads of divers picked up courtesy dive guides from the beach & were off to dive fine surrounding reefs. Satisfied divers continued their activities non stop all day, & the same exclamations as last trip came from our solo night diver when he encountered pelagics & a beautiful site called "Lobster Wall."
The following day of June 24, we saw similar beginnings as previous day with divers intent to see all possible sights along the extremities of the eastern weather reef.
A visiting cadre of island chiefs came aboard at midday & were guests of the captain for lunch & a tour of S.S. Thorfinn. Arrangements were concluded for guest & crew visits ashore after lunch & some dancing by two women's groups from two different villages. Dancing began by 3 p.m. & featured at least 40 women in each group, dressed colorfully in lava-lavas & bands of flowers around their necks. Guests were seated in the shade under an adjacent canoe house & applauded the big groups through their various routines. Cameras were very busy capturing the splendor of canoe houses, dancers, canoes, & the ship in the background. By end of dancing close to 4:30 p.m., everyone from the villages was excited & jumping for the handfuls of candies flying to them.
A short visit by the captain to enjoy some vintage tuba with the village chiefs at their canoe house was followed with fond farewells to hundreds of islanders flocking to the water & shaking hands as we departed back to S.S. Thorfinn to make our departure for Puluwat Atoll. Three long blasts on the big steam whistle signaled our respectful departure as we gained way, & left promise of our return the following year.
Puluwat was in sight by 8:30 the next morning after a night of gusty head winds & fairly high seas. By 10 a.m. the ship was close in off the west side lee reef & after receiving radio clearance, dive boats were down to start exploring along the adjacent reef while the ship stood off. Immediate response after the first dive was muted with reports of sharks but poor reef. The second dive was directed closer to the northwest island & broader reef in that direction. While the divers were down, the ship ran down to check out an uncharted 6 fathom shelf lying out from the big abandoned Japanese lighthouse on the northwest corner of the atoll & a good anchorage was found, enabling a shutdown of propulsion boilers.
Subsequent dives, conducted from under the ship out onto a mile long reef extension to the west, provided incredible satisfaction. Sharks, giant wrasses, tuna, turtles, barracudas, rays, were just a part of the excited reports. Super clear waters & a healthy reef -- with undulating valleys loaded with a myriad of tiny fish -- completed what everyone described as an absolute "diving heaven." Our single night diver was equally ecstatic on a dive under the ship.
High-test diving continued early next morning of June 26, & continued with such interest that several divers were not enticed to break for an afternoon shore visit. Six guests & various off duty-crew traveled in to Puluwat's beautiful & sheltered lagoon. An island stroll preceded a dancing performance by approximately 20 high school girls home on a summer break from Pohnpei. These ladies appeared to have absorbed outer world inhibitions as they were our first dancing group covered above the waist. After aerial candies, everyone returned to the ship waiting with steam up & main engines warming through. On raising anchor, course was directed for our last leg to Truk Lagoon.
Truk's South Pass was entered at 1 p.m., & after a brief run between islands & reefs, a dive party was launched at the sunken vessel called "Fujikawa Maru" to experience one of "Wreck City's" finest offerings. The ship went on to berth at Moen Island's commercial pier & await port authorities to enter the vessel officially into Truk. Upon clearing, a family of three were off to the airport to catch a hastily arranged flight home. Divers were off again to another great wreck of the "Shinkoku Maru". The S.S. Thorfinn moved down for its final Pan-Micro maneuver to anchor at the west side of the Truk Continental Hotel. After their final supper aboard, guests were reflective about the last two weeks & the many fascinating experiences of a world almost removed from the life they were returning to, back in their home countries.
Farewells & final departures were conducted the following day, & it will likely be several weeks after developing photos & studying videos, before the magnitude of this cruise into yesteryear is fully realized.
Capt. Lance Higgs,
FOR MORE INFORMATION or RESERVATIONS
on this Truk scuba diving yacht:
Please feel free to contact:
John Hessburg, General Manager
Susan Hessburg, Operations Manager
U.S. DIVE TRAVEL Network
PMB 307 -- Suite # 116
15050 Cedar Avenue S.
St. Paul, MN, USA 55124-7046
Voice Mail: 952-953-4124
IMPORTANT REMINDER about PRICES & TARIFFS:
All Truk Lagoon diving package prices listed here are subject to possible change in this steadily evolving travel market. Lodging, side tour & diving prices are traditionally stable, as are live-aboard package prices; however air prices can fluctuate daily. Until air tickets are issued, all airlines reserve the right to change airfares without notice -- an industry standard per FAA rules. We at U.S. Dive Travel will price-protect you to the utmost of our professional ability; & that has been our pledge for one decade now. Our Truk scuba diving vacation experts normally secure excellent wholesale discount air tickets for our clients who book early enough to secure limited seats in the best price categories. Remember please, the federal government has deregulated all U.S.-based airlines, so only they control their pricing -- not any travel professionals. Early is good when seeking the best air ticket rates for your Truk scuba diving vacation.
Unless specifically noted, these above Truk scuba diving packages are prices for only the live-aboard portion of your dive trip, in most cases reflecting double-occupancy rooms. On most live-aboards, there will be no triple-occupancy staterooms offered. International air tickets & commuter "island-hopper" seats are always extra above these land costs. Nominal service fees are also extra for air tickets & the dive vessel + side tour components. The baseline tariffs for all clients start at $45 per person for any island lodging portion + $35 pp for the air tickets. Late-booking Truk diving clients may receive slightly higher tariffs on the lodging + diving at many of our dive resorts. Solo clients on this Truk live-aboard will always pay a single supplement to secure a private stateroom -- normally 50% - 100% more -- unless you are willing to twin-share a stateroom with another diver.
The preferred payment mode for this Truk live-aboard, plus any Truk dive resorts, side tours & air ticket specials is by cashier's check or wire transfer in U.S. dollars. All Truk scuba diving clients living outside the USA or Canada will need to pay for their dive vacations via direct wire transfer only. No personal checks will be accepted for the live-aboard, air ticketing or land portion of any reservation. Thank you for your gracious understanding. Our service level is the highest & our prices the lowest in this industry, & thus we need to preserve a reasonable margin. For published-fare air ticket bookings, USDT always accepts Visa & Mastercard. For ultra-discount wholesale air tickets, USDT accepts only cashier's checks or wire transfers, please.
Remember, all Truk scuba diving package clients to all foreign destinations will be asked by local officials overseas, upon departing the airport on your final day, to pay a nominal government departure tax, usually between USD $35 - $40 per client. USDT cannot collect this tax beforehand, so you simply pay it down there, in your host country. Be sure to stash away a little cash for this final moment at the airport, so you'll get your exit visa stamped quickly with no fuss; & away you go. Best of luck with your Truk scuba diving plans. We hope your scuba diving vacation is a safe & satisfying adventure. Blessings & best wishes with ALL your Truk diving vacations.
Best fishes too!
John Hessburg & Susan Hessburg, Mgrs.
U.S. Dive Travel Network.
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