The Micro-Spirit is the field trip ship that travels monthly between Yap and the Outer Islands, taking people, goods and services between the Outer Islands and Yap. It's the lifeline to the many islands and atolls that make up Yap State.
The ship can travel for emergencies too – one man at the Department of Education I was to meet had a critically ill father on Elato, and the ship took him home to be with his father. I know how important that is, having lost my own father more than a year ago.
All sorts of cargo travel – the corpses of Outer Islanders who die on Yap are often taken back for burial. OIs are permitted to be buried here, but many families want the bodies brought back home for internment.
It used to be that people on Satawal were 'buried' in the ocean. To me, a much more logical arrangement than the Catholic church's requirement that they be buried in the ground on land. When there's only .9 of a square mile of land, and 600 living people living on it, you are correct in thinking that the availability for the land to support a large cemetery is rapidly diminishing – in other words, no more room. The cemetery is reaching that point now, according to my sources, and families are now burying their dead near their houses instead.
A number of people have told me about Satawal, both natives and visitors, and with each new story, my vision of it changes. Yesterday I heard that walkie talkies and field radios are a hot item there, as their range is sometimes greater than 60 miles, meaning that the Satawalese can speak to the Lamotrekese some 40 miles away. Much more technology is available there now.
Joe told me that the Micro Spirit is “the highway to my home.” In a diagram of his island, he showed me that only two approaches are possible, and that the geography is such that the ship can only come within several hundred yards of shore, so people and goods must wade or be floated to the beach.
Passage on the ship is inexpensive, and billed according to the mile (about .05 per mile) Satawal is 600 miles away, so the fare is about $30.
Perhaps one day you will see me on the bow of the Micro Spirit, as I voyage to Satawal to see for myself only what I can imagine at the moment.