Sunday, August 17, 2014

Solomon Islands, Vona Vona Lagoon

Vona Vona Lagoon

We entered Vona Vona Lagoon with a little trepidation.   It is reef strewn and very shallow in places.   We were given some track lines on charts that we used with Open CPN program and it was a big help.    We could anchor just about any place we wanted to, reefs considered, of course.    A very beautiful place.

 Coral snake, resort huts and small black tip reef sharks at Lola Island.   

 Skull Island is a kastom burial place for the local families.  They separate male and female burial sights.
 Upon leaving Vona Vona lagoon, we went up Diamond Narrows and into Bat Harbor.    There were a lot of mangroves here and swimming was not an option due to the high probability of crocs.   You could wander around and see some old WWII relics such as gun emplacements. 
 This man, Freddy, came up to trade.  He gave me some long beans and I gave him a can of meat which I had purchased in Indonesia.   A few minutes later I heard a knock on the hull and he was out there looking at the can and read the expiration date to me.  "This expired in 2011", he said, "it is now 2014."    Most of my canned goods are probably out of date due to our lost year and over stocking to begin with.    I added a package of spaghetti noodles to the deal and he went away happy.

Cruiser Notes:   Bat harbor was easy to get into.  There is supposed to be a large bat cave to see but darned if we could find it.  You would need to hike back into the village a bit and find someone to guide you.   Swimming could be done on the reef before going into the harbor, easy to dinghy to.    There were a lot of flies, eventually drove us out of there.   Anchorage:  08 05.21S; 157 11.26E

Solomon Islands, April and May 2014

Ghizo, Solomon Islands

Checking in to the Solomons at Ghizo was fun.   Not too sure why, just the nature of the place.   We really liked Ghizo.   Usual friendly people and a good market.  Not much for restaurants, though.  The PT 109 was a bit of a let down for us as far as food was concerned, but a friendly place that lets the cruisers tie their dinghies up when coming ashore.    On our way in to Ghizo we picked up a hitchhiker.

The islands around Ghizo are known for their stone carvers.     This man came aboard with his "store".

Many of the little villages around Ghizo are Malaitan.  The story we were told is that Malaita is overcrowded with not enough work for the population so they move off and settle elsewhere to find work.

The town had a movie theater (although we never saw it opened) and a beautiful Catholic church.   Being a lapsed Catholic myself, I decided to go see if anything had changed much in the last 40 or so years.    Just so happened they had a special event going on with a new cardinal for the Solomon Islands and newly ordained priests.    The heart on the picture of the black Christ lights up and pulsates, aka, beating heart.  

Cruiser Notes;   When we arrived there were 7 other boats anchored in a straight line in front of town.
There's an expediter, Ricky, who will help you find an anchor position, take in laundry, do propane runs, etc.   Anchor position....08 05.9S; 156 50.4E.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Rabaul, Papua New Guinea

Rabaul, Papua New Guinea

We  had planned to skip Rabaul due to some bad reports regarding theft and armed robberies, but we thought it might be too interesting to miss.    The entrance to the harbor is beautiful as you pass a string of volcanoes.  There are 4 active volcanoes here with one having blown up in the mid 90's and devastating the town, covering it with ash.    Most of the residents moved down to Kokopo but are now starting to rebuild villages up on the hills above the original Rabaul.
Here an orchid pokes out of the ash.

The area around Rabaul has many WWII sights including Admiral Yamamoto's bunker which had a map on the ceiling of the planned world domination by the Japanese.   We found old barge tunnels where the Japanese pulled their barges out of the water on rails and hid them from their enemy as well as a hospital which was carved out of the limestone hills.

String bags are very popular in PNG with different styles coming from different regions.  Notice the nice red smile ..... betel nut!

Lest you think its all fun and play:   here Jim repairs the cover on our jib and we hunted around for freon for our refrigerator.

Cruiser notes:   Anchored off the yacht club "dock".   We were able to get water there.  If you don't get too much they don't charge you anything.   The club has a small bar and serves food on weekends.   They also let us use the showers and tie our dinghy up at the dock.    There were no charges for this but we bought some sodas in their bar.  We got laundry done at the hotel next door.   The customs officer could be a jerk sometimes.  He sent one cruiser to Kokopo to check out which was completely unnecessary.    We got fuel at the dock with the big yellow pipes.   They were very hospitable and let us fill our water tanks as well.   You can get fuel delivered to the yacht club dock in 200 litre drums, too.   One American yachtie, Billy (can't remember his boat's name) screwed them by giving them a bad credit card and stealing two blue drums.       Anchor position: 04 12.5S; 152 10.6E.  

Kavieng, Papua New Guinea

Kavieng, Papua New Guinea

We anchored just off the Nusa Resort, a beautiful place with lots of birds.    The Australian owners have done a great job of making this a dream sort of place.   I've really admired how these people come in to a place and can envision not only the resort, its decor, but how to make it work under some pretty tough circumstances.

This is a hornbill.

As usual, the market is where we get most of our fresh goods.    Throughout PNG and Solomons, the markets trade heavily in betel nut and tobacco leaves.

Cruiser notes:   Kavieng was pretty dirty.   The people were generally friendly, especially on Sunday when they would stop to chat with us.    Anchorage position:  02 35.13S; 150 46.90E.
Peleliu, Palau

Jim and I got a chance to take a quick trip to Peleliu.   The WWII battle waged here was fierce and cost thousands of lives.   An episode of "Pacific" was dedicated to this battle.   At the end, McArthur decided they didn't need the island anyway.  

We took the ferry down.  It is an old landing craft.  We grabbed a couple of spaces on a bench seat along with all the other passengers and cargo.    It poured rain most of the way down but cleared up when we got there and on Saturday we had a great tour of the island with our guide, Diane.

The ticket taker.

This guy had a few beers and decided he was Jim's best friend.

Our cute and comfy cabin right on the beach.

Jim inspects a Japanese zero in the boneyard just off the WWII airstrip.

A sad memorial to those who fell here.

Dave, an American living on Peleliu has started a very interesting museum, collecting and cataloging WWII objects found around the island.   He has volunteered his time and now the museum is in jeopardy as the very corrupt governor of Peleliu wants control over the donation box.    The museum is housed in an original Japanese building which was hit by rounds from American ships and still survived.   The governor wants a new building basically so he can embezzle much of the funding for himself.    Dave has resigned in protest.     There are a few really good guides, but some guides have sticky fingers and have removed (stolen) some of the artifacts and sold them.   Shame.    They don't know what a treasure they have there and many of the islanders know very little about the war history of Peleliu.

Hermit Island, Papua New Guinea

We overnighted it from Ninigo to Hermit expecting to hit the West end of the atoll in the early morning.   We were too early, in fact, and would have entered right into the rising sun and unable to spot the reefs so we sailed on by to the east side and had the sun high up and behind us.    We anchored off Luf, the main island.    There was actually very little space to anchor as most of the bay was too deep or too shallow.    Ben, who is in charge of visiting yachts, jumped in his canoe and led us to where we could anchor.

Hermit has been much visited by passing yachts so the islanders seemed a little less interested in our presence there.     There is a new chief, so perhaps that has made a difference.   Its a beautiful little place, though.     The whole island is Seventh Day Adventist and on Friday afternoon everything shuts down, no one is supposed to engage in work or play until sundown on Saturday.  

It seemed the whole island was involved in the "new school"; in fact they were calling it a dream school.   They've moved the location to the back side of the island and aways from the central village.   We were approached by a delegation from the school and council members most likely for a donation for their school fund.  I asked them for a detailed analysis of what it was they actually needed and then told them that hitting up yachts for a few hundred kina here and there wasn't really going to make a difference.  

Frida became my best buddy while we were there.   She set me up so I could do some laundry and then gave me a tour of Japan Point, where she lived.   She was pretty sure that it wouldn't get on the regular "tour" itinerary.    She lives there with Nancy and another Nancy and an assortment of kids.

 Paul is stripping spines out of leaves so they are ready for making thatch.

 This little girl was going home with her catch of the day.
 We had an assortment of children come out to the boat to trade.   They brought so many delicious little pineapples, coconuts, Pau Pau and some veggies.   I mostly gave them books, pens and exercise books for school.
Cruiser notes:   Anchored at 1 31.06S; 145 04.8E.   East entrance was off on our charts, we found it at 1 32.32S; 145 08.72E and followed the sticks in.    Not that hard.

Friday, August 15, 2014


Ninigo, Papua New Guinea

We finally departed Palau on March 11, 2014 for the next stage of our circumnavigation.    We hated to leave Palau.  It was so beautiful there and we had so many good friends, but it was time to push on.

We had heard about little Ninigo atoll in Western Papua New Guinea and the remarkable friendliness of the villagers on the island of Mal so we set off for there.  It took us 8 days to sail from Palau to Ninigo and it was a pretty good passage with only a little bit of motoring to get through the doldrums.

We were greeted almost immediately after setting anchor by John and some of his extended family as they sailed in their "kanu" back to their little village.

 Shortly after that came Thomas and his son Richard who have gained some fame for their outstanding welcome to yachts.    They have only started receiving yachts to their village since around 2010.    Word has spread about their friendliness here so every year now a few yachts make the passage to visit Ninigo.    Thomas presented us with drinking coconuts and bananas and we gave him a starting battery we had replaced that was still more than good enough for powering up lights around their home.    Thomas was thrilled.

Thomas invited us to his little village of Puhipi on Mal for a tour and to have us for lunch.  He takes great pride in showing us how he  and his family live. 

  Thomas's wife, Elizabeth makes pandanus hats and presented Joy with a couple as a gift.    She requested some dressmaker pins, which I happened to have in my kit, so that she could start training some of the younger women in the skill.

Richard explained how he makes the mastic (lime powder) from the shells and coral.    They use it with their betel nut chewing and actually it is not a good thing as it can cause cancer, tooth rot, gum disease and of course turns their mouths bright red.     Its a prevalent habit throughout Palau, PNG and the Solomon Islands.

Thomas's sister in law, Marianne, is thatching a new side wall for her kitchen.    A big storm in February knocked down some of the houses and flooded gardens.

We also met Wesley and Mollina who live a short distance away in the village of Piakuku.   Mollina also had us for a wonderful lunch with a greeting from the whole family when we arrived ashore and were presented with leis.

 Every time we went back to the boat we were given crayfish (lobster) and fruits and vegetables from their gardens.

We gave (traded) things like t-shirts; plates (Elizabeth and Mollina were sharing their plates so they could have enough for their dinners), diving masks and snorkels and children's books.    Here I get to read to the kids after dinner.  Little Anastasia was such a cutey,  I knicknamed her "flower pot".

Wesley and Mollina came out to the boat to visit just before we left.   Mollina was so concerned about Jim's cancer in his eye that she and Wesley went out searching for a particular tree, culled some of the bark, boiled it down and added it to coconut oil and presented it to us as a "cure".

 Wesley was very interested in our Ham Radio set up.   The islanders really want to connect to the outside world and the visiting yachts present them with a unique opportunity.    We became a de facto post office while we were there, typing up their messages to old yachting friends and sending them via e mail using winlink.   While we were there they received a few replies and were really excited to have made contact.    Wesley dreams of having a radio system so that he can get e mails and reach out to the rest of the world.    One of the benefits of this is that they can request things they need and hopefully another yacht stopping by will bring them a few things.    They don't ask for much and give so much in return.    This has become one of our most favorite stops of all time.

Just before leaving we were invited to the school and Jim gave a short presentation to the children about our lives, what it was like to live and travel on a yacht.   The kids sang songs for us and gave us even more fruit for the trip.

The medic showed us his clinic.   There were a number of broken things that maybe could be fixed if someone had the time and parts.   That's a big problem out in these that is much needed breaks down and then that's the end of it as no one can fix it.

Cruiser Notes:    Anchored at 1 23.5S; 144 10.8E.    Lots of coral around and comes up quick.  We anchored in 45 feet.    Good protection unless wind was out of the North.