Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay – Bill’s Update #11
Initially my plan was to write a blog every three-to-four-weeks, but scrolling through the Facebook posts, I realized it has been eight weeks or so since the last time you heard from me. Is there nothing to share with you? On the contrary, lots of developments are in progress, but none of them give us the answer to the question: “When?”.
Over 50% of the population on Yap-proper has received its COVID19 vaccine. That is awesome, but we are also blessed with several beautiful outer islands whose people, culture and history are such an important part of our State. None of the almost 2,000 people living there have been vaccinated. I do not have to go into the details for you to understand that getting our brothers and sisters on the outer islands vaccinated is an incredibly complex task. Because of this nightmare, only 37% of Yap Sate has been vaccinated. A vaccination rate many other countries and states would be very happy with, but still far from the 70% threshold that the President of the FSM has set.
The 70% vaccination target will allow the country to repatriate the FSM citizens stranded in Palau, Guam, the Marshall Islands and the US Mainland. Some of these people have been away from their homes and families for over a year now. My opinion, and it is just that, is that until the citizens in Guam are repatriated, nothing will happen in terms of lifting the FSM travel ban. In fact, I believe that the government will wait several months after repatriating citizens from Guam. It will have an observation period before it decides how to proceed with the travel ban. Also, keep in mind that the original travel ban, which was extended at least three times, states that residents from any country with active Covid-19 cases are not permitted to enter the FSM. This ban also includes transiting countries with active cases. Should a ban like this be reinstated, that leaves out visitors from most countries worldwide. This is going to be interesting, and I will do my best to keep you updated as to the answer to the big question: “When?”.
A graphic of where Yap stands in terms of the vaccine program
A new era of transportation is coming to Yap. The first of two Pacific Mission Aviation (PMA) Beechcraft King Air 200 aircraft is on its way to Yap. Having these aircraft here will not only help the important missionary work PMA does daily but will also improve the medical evacuations for those who need to be airlifted to Palau or Manila. These pressurized turbo prop planes will also allow easier access for our divers to either fly in via Palau or combine Yap and Palau. There is also a plan for a Guam-Yap route. As you can imagine, this multi-leg journey to bring the planes from the mainland US, Alaska, over the Bering Sea and many more stops, is quite an adventure. We at the Manta Ray Bay Resort and Yap Divers look forward to working with the fine people of PMA to arrange for needed air service for our divers. This will make it much easier to add Yap to your next dive vacation. Big plans are in the discussion stage. Stay tuned for more as our plans and news progress. All in all, this is an impressive achievement by the employees of the Public Health Department and our friends at Pacific Mission Aviation but unfortunately, still no answer to the question: “When?”.
Won’t she look great landing in Yap with 9 divers and all of their gear?
In the week of April 11th to the 18th we saw a tropical depression developing East/South-East of us. The initial forecast models didn’t look good. We were forced to mobilize all the staff, stop current hotel projects and start securing several parts of our operation, buildings and inventory. The two boats that were still moored were moved to the workshop in Gitam. We also moved room inventory from the 1st floor rooms, secured the Mnuw for a possible direct hit, moved the dive dock to the dive boat moorings and secured the solar panels. I am very proud of our team acting so quickly to ensure everything was secured as much as it could be before the depression hit Yap. Luckily for us, what eventually turned into Super Typhoon Surigae, changed its course enough for us to experience heavy rains and strong winds but no real damage.
Hope I am not giving you the impression that we’re all in misery here and feeling depressed. Not at all, I just miss you all. I miss the diving with those who take the long journey to Yap to dive with us, I miss meeting old friends and making new ones, I miss sipping a Two-Step at the Stammtisch area on the Mnuw, but at the same time I realize how fortunate we are.
The other day I was spending a bit of time with my family and for some reason the late great Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay” came to my mind. Here I am having fun with the little people, as I call OP’s kids, my other two grandkids who are here with us in Yap and my family all the while still sipping a frothy Two-Step. As my late Filipino “brother” Bro Vic would say: “life’s good”.
Enjoying quality time with my family while sipping a two step on the dock of the bay
Although I do not have the answer to the question: “When?”, I am still hopeful that we will be allowed to open again before the end of this year. Whether it will be October, or December I truly do not know. Vaccination rates are promising, building the quarantine facilities that will allow us to bring stranded citizens home will start soon and Caroline Islands Air is flying between the different (COVID19-free) FSM states. These are all positive signs. Whether they are positive enough to allow the government leaders to open our borders is the question and I don’t think anyone has the answer to that now.
Until we know the answer to the question: “When?” let’s give you another reason “not to come to Yap”, but first a recap of the first 6 reasons.
“Reason #1 Not to come to Yap”
If you like crowded dive sites, don’t come to Yap. … with barely 1,000 divers a year visiting Yap, all dive sites are exclusively for you and your dive buddies.
“Reason #2 Not to come to Yap”
If you are looking for long boat rides to get to the dive sites, don’t come to Yap.
“Reason #3 Not to come to Yap”
If you don’t like to discover and encounter a wide range of marine life during your dives, don’t come to Yap.
“Reason #4 Not to come to Yap”
If you don’t like that your room, the dive shop, the dive boat dock, the bar/restaurant, and all other facilities are within a maximum of 2 minutes “walk”, don’t come to Yap.
“Reason #5 Not to come to Yap”
If you want to limit the type of dives you like to do, don’t come to Yap.
“Reason #6 Not to come to Yap”
If you want to be on an island full of nightlife, casinos, discos, and high-traffic tourism areas, don’t come to Yap.
“Reason #7 Not to come to Yap”
If you don’t like mantas, don’t come to Yap.
We are blessed with a permanent population of mantas that live in the waters of Yap year ‘round, as they are reef mantas and do not travel far off the coast. From late December through April, they are mating. During that period, they are on the West side of the island and their behavior is different. In mating season, you are more likely to see mantas in larger groups chasing each other and “dancing” as part of their mating behavior. After the mating season, they migrate to the East side of the island. On both West and East sides of the island, we dive at cleaning stations which are coral formations home to various types of cleaner wrasse who wait for the mantas to arrive. For mantas, it’s all about eating and cleaning and we get to see them do this activity on a regular basis.
Until next time, stay safe, take care of yourselves and your families and do not hesitate to contact me if there is any way I can be of assistance with your Micronesian travel plans. My e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org and I would appreciate hearing from you.