Saturday, August 19, 2017

Takuu to Nuguria to Boang

Our friends on Field Trip have a knack for making connections at the villages. Sarah, an elementary teacher in her former life, visits the schools and offers help. Mark on Field Trip usually offers assistance to fix whatever needs fixing. We were lucky to piggyback on their efforts in Takuu and Nuguria. Both of these islands have been extremely welcoming and generous. At Takuu, we were the honored guests during a "Book Week" celebration where the whole village turned out to watch the school children perform modern and traditional dances and stories. In Nuguria, Conrad and Mark enjoyed helping to give a joint presentation about American culture and our boat travels to the whole school. We were inundated with gifts of lap laps (the local version of a sarong), necklaces, food, and other local items. We made new friends and got a deeper connection than we normally do when spending just a few days at a place. Both places are more Polynesian in culture and are part of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

Leaving Nuguria, we used a period of favorable wind to head east to the Tanga Islands. Our short overnight trip to Boang netted us a 50-lb wahoo and 60-lb yellowfin tuna. We broke our streak of Solomons doldrum fishing and actually landed both fish (and without losing a gaff!). Matt struggled a bit to fillet the fish because they were too long to fit on the transom. Boang is a more traditional Papua New Guinea Melanasian village. The villagers have been very welcoming but they don't get many cruisers that visit (only 1 boat in the last 20 years or so), so we have had a lot of canoes that want to just hang out around the boat. With no television and no Internet, we're apparently the most interesting show around for the moment. We chat with them as well as our limited Pigin and their limited English allows, but eventually we leave them to go do other things. This doesn't deter them and they simply continue to hang out around the new 'water cooler' in the area (a place to meet and chat).

Monday, July 31, 2017

Solomons to Takuu

After almost nine months of motoring through the Solomons (the longest we have been in any country while on the boat, by the way), we finally got our parts installed, made the last minute dash to the market to buy as much produce and fruit as we could store, checked out and headed for Takuu. We saw every kind of sailing, from perfect beam reaching through flat seas, to downwind in heavy seas, and upwind into waves and rain galore (to say the forecast was a bit off may be a bit of an understatement). We made some rookie mistakes: Mark's hatch wasn't all the way closed so his mattress was soaked with sea water--first time we have had that happen in 4-1/2 years of sailing. Conrad tossed his cookies inside the cabin and didn't make it to a bucket right away. We also lost a lure to something huge that about ripped the bungee cord in half, let alone snapping the 150 lb test line like it was nothing. Ripe bananas from the humongous stalk that Matt couldn't refuse (less than $3 US) started plopping down as the boat moved from side to side (a la the Pacific crossing), so it's lots of banana bread for the next while.

Takuu (Mortlock) is an atoll that is technically part of the Bougainville Independent government (which is itself nominally part of Papua New Guinea), though they get almost zero and are basically left to themselves. The inhabited islands are only a meter above the sea, so rising sea levels are a real concern facing the 200-300 residents and during very high tides some of the houses get inundated. The government wants the islanders to relocate, but many are reluctant to leave their home to move to a place with a different culture (Takuu is Polynesian in origin, while the rest of Papua New Guinea is Melanesian) and way of life. Our friends on Field Trip have been here for over a week and have making friends and fixing boats. We are enjoying the nice calm anchorage while we dry out Mark's bedding. Conrad turned 11 today (Matt made donuts to celebrate) and is itching to try out the new camera his grandparents got him.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Chillin' in the heat yo

Rescuing gobi fish

We had a fully sunny day for the first time in almost a week and we spent it exploring Rokana Nomana Island, near Lola Island.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Adventures in wildlife

Grainy footage of black-tip reef shark
Zipolo Habu Resort's sweet spot is fishing and their skilled guides know where to find them. Most days end with the clients' catch being cleaned and the scraps being tossed to the abundant black-tip reef sharks that frequent the beach. The following shots show some of the action. The pictures are a bit grainy because the sharks and fish kick up a lot of silt, plus they are just screen captures from an older Go Pro unit.  Oh, you want 4k clarity?  Go watch the National Geographic channel.  We also don't have David Attenborough on retainer, in case you were wondering.  

Sunday, July 9, 2017

More of the waiting-in-paradise game

Tuna in the can...
The good news is that our roller furler finally arrived at the rigger in Australia. Woohoo!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Offerings of the Solomons, good and bad

Stuart was nice enough to let Matt tag along on one of
his fishing trips. Blue fin trevally.
We have now been in the Solomon Islands for over seven months. For most of our stay, we have barely seen any other cruising boats except for the one (and sometimes two) we travelled with. As the season comes to an end, more boats have been popping up for short stays in the islands here but we are still mostly on our own. That's why yesterday was unusual.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

And we're waiting, we're waiting...

Conrad and Mark surfing and boogie boarding
When we mailed our roller furler to Australia to get the seals and bearings replaced, the friendly and helpful Munda Post Office worker, Riko, couldn't find the receipt book. Apparently our package was the first one of the year sent from this branch (yes, it was almost June; yes, they operate on a calendar year). This gave us pause. We'll be on the edge of our seat waiting to see if/when the package gets there.

Friday, June 2, 2017

So we were all set to leave the Solomons...

Mark chilling at Lola with his pals Pepi and Culi
We went to Noro and Munda to get our final diesel and other provisions so that we could check out by June 1. Before we stocked up on frozen meat from the fabulous Muzi Boko (a store made up exclusively of shipping containers and packed with reasonably priced goodies shipped from Australia), we decided to defrost the nearly-empty freezer. The thing hadn't been defrosted since leaving New Zealand over a year ago and had built up a good coating of ice.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Bug's Life

Close-up of a dragonfly.
Conrad has been a bit obsessed with bugs lately. His backup pet is a tarantula if he can't get a dog when we go back to living on land.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Send in the clowns

We are at a remote anchorage northeast of Gizo. It has a nice white sand beaches (digging never gets old). The diving and snorkeling are great--we have never seen so many clownfish. Even out here, our friend Samson has sailed/canoed out to offer us water coconuts and fresh produce from his garden.


The generator has gotten a lot of use due to the cloudiness and dive compressor. Matt has also been replacing a lot of pumps (refrigeration and bilge) lately. He loses about a quart of sweat every time he does one of these projects.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter in Gizo


When we were in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific, there were so many white sand beaches that we really became really blasé about them. I felt I would be just fine if I never saw another white sand beach.

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Taste of Civilization

The picture shows tiny Snake Island. At certain times of year, sea snakes go there to breed.

At Lola Island, the proprietors of the resort were kind enough to share their Internet with visiting yachts. This is the first 'unlimited' Internet we have enjoyed since arriving in the Solomons in November. Initially, it was a huge boon to be able to do the things we needed, such as banking and taxes. However, by the end of our weeklong stay, I was feeling vaguely discontent and somewhat anxious. A constant connection to the outside world brought me news (usually bad) and all the trivia of my favorite websites. Yet, being on the Internet sucked me in and I read fewer, played less guitar, and felt I was being pulled away from the real world. I saw the same effect on the kids as well, especially Conrad. He would rush through meals to email and e-chat with his friends. Both he and Mark were disproportionately excited about the arrive of (iPad) game day WITH INTERNET. I'm being overly dramatic but the experience gave me a glimpse of the challenges that going back to the U.S. might bring.

We are currently anchored at Malazeke Island, slowly making our way to Gizo. The village here is Seventh Day Adventist, so the villagers don't have teeth stained red and black by Betel nut. When we arrived, Billy came out to say hello, offer his many services (tour guide, boat bottom cleaner, carver), and see what we had to trade (angle grinder, generator, engine). He asked whether Matt was interested in going fishing and for help writing a thank you letter to the Australian High Commission for the water collection tanks that were sent.

Matt has continued his battle against the misbehaving freezer and refrigerator. Apparently, sealing the leaking pumps stopped the leak but made the water infiltrate the motor. Both pumps have been replaced (and new ones ordered). He has also cleaned the boat's bottom and propellers, which has given us an extra knot of speed.

The weather remains hot but we haven't seen much sun (for the Solomons) in the last week. Our water tanks are full but our solar performance has been dismal. Our generator is getting more use here than anywhere else in four years of cruising.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Lola Island

Pepe the dog loves the kids
Lola Island has everything: a friendly resort, a beach with rope swings and dozens of black tip reef sharks (they are more afraid of us than we are of them), clean water for snorkeling, and an island with skulls.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Back in the land of internet

The kids got to be in the water with these guys.
In honor of our first 3G for over a month--pictures! We have just been hanging out with our friends on Field Trip and Rehua, visiting villages, seeing sights, and snorkeling. The coral is healthy and there is and we are seeing a lot of fish that we haven't seen before. We would love a more consistent breeze and fewer flies but overall we can't complain.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Jubilation--dolphins again!

After a long dry spell from dolphins, we saw a couple large pods on our way to Nggatokae Island, including new-to-us Risso's dolphins. We got to swim with a big local pod of dolphins yesterday and today. Now we just need to get over this fishing dry spell.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Nggatokae Island

This is our first blog post via email so hopefully it works.

We have been enjoying the peace and quiet of the anchorage near Peava village. The village has incredible carvers and make enough money from carving and logging. That might be why we have had very few canoes coming by to trade. The kids have been playing with the Field Trip and village kids on the rope swings. Conrad has gotten to use the carving tools he got for Christmas. A couple of local carvers gave him a piece of wood and some carving tips. Matt's leg has finally healed enough to do some diving and snorkeling. There are lots of turtles, sharks, and coral.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Still bobbing around in the Florida Islands

Four catamarans in Tulagi Bay
The heat has twice caused our windlass motor button to spontaneously start (they are triggered by air pressure instead of an electrical switch). It has been when the cover was lifted and the hot Solomon sun blazed down on it. Both times it was the 'down' button (which is good) and we were on board and stopped it by turning off the breaker. Another sign of the heat. And I think we've learned to keep that cover down!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Temporary crew and normal life

Poor man's drone photo: Matt took this shot from the mast
as he checked our tricolor light.
As we were leaving for Honiara, John (the leader of the village near our anchorage in Roderick Bay) asked whether we and our buddy boats could take some kids with us for a school event. We hemmed and hawed to ourselves and weren't thrilled with a number of considerations, not the least of which was the idea of folks we really didn't know being on the boat, even if only for 5 hours.  We ultimately said we could take 10 (our friends on Field Trip said they could take up to 15). We were on the verge of saying no and even 10 seemed like an awful lot, mostly because of safety.