Friday, October 24, 2008

Goin to Indo

We left the paradise that was Alacrity in the Hermit Islands, and did the 250 miles to Vanimo on the mainland so fast that we shaved a whole day of our projected travel time. Favorable currents are heaven. Vanimo was our last stop in PNG. We left about an hour ago.

We didn't plan to stay long in Vanimo. It was just a needed stop to check out of this country, and to visit the Indo consulate for the last of our paperwork for the next country. Then I discovered surf.

The first 2 days it was just a little right hander a short dinghy drive from the anchorage. As soon as the pikininis on the beach saw Suzi drop me off from the dink, they all paddled out. You should have seen what they paddled. Scraps of wood no bigger than a carving board. Most had rough edges and others weren't even rounded. The oldest boy surfed a door. No kidding. A door. I asked one little boy why he didn't have a "board". "I do. It's there." He pointed to the sea floor and sure enough, lying on the reef was his piece of plywood. It didn't even float. He dove down to retrieve it when the wave came. Here's the part where I have to embarrass myself - they were all better than I! I've come to the conclusion that it takes little talent for a surfer to surf on a surf board. The talent is catching a wave and riding it on a square scrap of waterlogged plywood. Little Dui caught long rides on his plank of wood. He did his best gangsta stance with his knees unbent, arms crossed, and his bottom lip puffed out in a solemn pout. He's 6 and like most of the others, surfs completely naked. They spoke little English except, "You go, you go! No, you go". They weren't afraid, just overly generous. You won't find that in CA. There were 2 dangerous rocks that a non local would never be aware of. They know this, and on their own initiative posted a pikinini to stand on each one. They were dry from the knees up and took turns guarding me from danger. From their vantage point they could see the sets coming in better than I could. "Tripela" means big, and "Liklik" means small. I couldn't understand anything else except, "Chuck Norris" and "American Ninja". They weren't the best waves, they weren't the biggest waves, but the pure joy of surfing was better exemplified here, than anywhere I've ever been.

Then I found out where the big boys surf. The point on the other side of the bay is world class; left handers on the east side and right handers on the west, with a Japanese WW2 wreck lying on the reef, right in the middle. Quicksilver is holding an international tournament there next year. We took the bus and spent the afternoon. I stayed out there so long my shoulders were killing me the next day. I had no business going back, but of course I did. It hurts to type, but god it was good.

As we were leaving the locals gave us bags of fruit. "Come, enjoy our waves, and please, take some food with you." I've never met people better than the Melanesians. Please seek them out, and be kind to them. I'm saddened to leave this fantastic country, but this trip only seems to get better, so Indo - here we come!

Capt Bob

P.S. / Back in Guadalcanal (when we had internet) our buddy boaters; Emelia researched Jayapura, the city we are now heading to. They spotted a KFC in a pic of the city. It was confirmed for us in Vanimo - Jayapura has a KFC. O god I miss fast food. It's only a 35 mile sail. We'll be eating out of a bucket tonight.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Serene With The Knowledge That Paradise Still Exists

I was in Berlin just 8 months after "the wall came down". It was 1990. There were long tracks of the wall still intact as it bisected the city. Along with my pal Jimmy, I bought a chisel and a hammer and secured my handful of hardened concrete nostalgia. I was back in Berlin 1 year later and the only section of wall still standing was in the museum at Check Point Charlie. The city, as I had remembered it, was completely changed. The "no man's land" between the walls (there were actually 2 parallel walls with a mined death section in between, in case you didn't know) was springing to life with the building of condos. For years, it was the sole domain of some light weight rabbits and the desperate few who tried to broach the gap. How quickly it was converted to the Capitalist dream.

If I'm glad I'm taking this voyage of the world now, then I need to admit that I sometimes lament the fact that I couldn't have taken it sooner. The world is changing so fast, and those places that are pristine and faultless are disappearing at a rate that is disturbing to say the least. But I have good news. There are a group of islands in Papua New Guinea called the Hermits. Off the east side of the island of Luf, and on the outside of the reef, there is an anchorage called Alacrity. I am there now. I beg you to take a gander on Google Earth - 01 29 155 S, 145 07 937 E. The South Sea Fantasy still exists after all. The only other boat here is our buddy boat Emelia. In fact, we haven't seen another cruising boat in the last 1,200 miles since we left Guadalcanal. The road less traveled is paying off.

Never in my life had I seen a giant clam. I saw 30 of them in one day. They sit unattached to any rock, just resting in the sand, in less than 10 feet of water and when I say giant - well, a golden retriever could make a bed in one of these shells. There must be 70 lbs of meat in each one. The visibility has never been less than 60 feet and is often double that. We are anchored in 37 feet and I can make out individual grains of sand on the sea bed. We are so far from the village that sometimes a day goes by without even seeing the local natives. When we do see them it's because they come to this spot to fish. They give us lobsters. Just give. You may have seen lobsters as big as these, but I doubt you've ever seen lobsters as brilliantly colored. It looks as if they've dressed for a rave in day glow tiger stripes and psychedelic greens. There is such an abundance of sea life here that it is now obvious why Jacques Cousteau fell in love with this spot.

I've never been a proponent of religion but I think I love the Seventh Day Adventists for one reason only: They are essentially Christians that keep Kosher. In other words, they don't eat shellfish. This whole island chain has been converted. Hence the prolific populations of clams and lobsters, and the reason they give them to us. Let's all face Loma Linda, CA for a moment of silent praise.

There is an uninhabited island nearby that is our own playground. The reefs are so large and the people so few. There are no air strips, no hotels, no running water, and no chance for tourists. It's paradise, and unless the citizens of the world start buying sailboats and forging their own way here, this place will never be trampled.

My graffiti strewn chunks of German concrete are now stored in a box in my mom's garage, a reminiscence of an era that no longer exists. And someday, if I'm lucky enough, I'll be an old man with nothing but wilting memories and photos to remember this place, but I can say this with near certainty - after all I've seen, and I've been at sea for almost 3 years, there will always be spots on this planet that are so remote that they remain pure. We might have to work a little harder to get there, but boy is it worth it. This is the stuff that makes one younger.

I hope you can sleep a little better now,

Lobster breath Bob

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Hermit Island is in the Admiralty chain of islands. Jacque Cousteau listed it as one of his favorite spots on the planet. We'll be there in 6 hours.

But now I must back track.

I like Kavieng. I like it a lot. There are places where sailors will find an archipelago with hundreds of anchorages, protected waters, great snorkeling & diving, and within close proximity to an urban area in which to reprovision, & repair. Las Perlas Islands of Panama, the Vavu'a group of Tonga, the Mamanucas of Fiji - they all satisfy those requirements and so does Kavieng. The difference is, the others have been discovered, Kavieng is a jewel just waiting for a Moorings franchise or an episode of Survivor to ruin it. Check a map - it's on the top end of New Ireland in PNG. It's been a long time since I saw dolphins at anchor. Kavieng's aren't shy. Plus you get Japanese planes lying in 30 feet of clear water. It was a great spot. We ate giant crab claws the size of your fist, drank over priced beer at the Nusa Island Resort, hand fed a sea eagle a bait fish (the resort rescued it and it's now tame. It's the size of Paula Abdul with claws that could steal a pikinini - impressive), and bought more diesel. We also met some Indonesian's who had their fishing boat seized for illegal fishing. The one word of English they could speak was, "accident". Yea right. There wasn't a level deck on that whole boat. It was if it was designed to prohibit sleep of any form. I've seen lots of those boats along the way and they never acknowledged my hailing on the radio. Now I know why.

We left after refueling and anchored just a few miles away to rest up for the next leg of this trip, which is now underway. We should be making landfall today around 2pm, 3 days after we left. The entire trip has been calm. For some of it, we had nice winds and could sail, but for these last 40 miles we're going to motor. There's no wind and if we don't get in before dark we'll have to bob at sea all night waiting for first light.

Full sun and no wind mandate exceedingly hot days. We drag behind the boat to cool off, drink lots of cold water, and hide in what little shade there is, all to no effect. The sweating begins about 7:30 in the morning and doesn't stop until 5pm. Suzi gets mad if I accidentally touch her during daylight. That's why I blow a whistle at 5pm and pounce on her. You can probably imagine how well that goes over "wif me English bird". And yes - I've begun brushing up on my tortuously annoying accents again.

Timely Update: We made landfall about 4 hours ago. Maybe landfall is the wrong term. It looks like we're employees who work at Walmart, and have to park at the extreme outer limits of the parking lot. There really isn't any land around us. We've found a shallow patch in the middle of the ocean and have anchored in 36 feet of water inexplicably protected from swell by the fringing reef. This water is extremely clear. No wonder Jacque loved it so. The natives have already come to greet us. They promise lobster tomorrow. We caught a fish just as we were approaching the pass. Hunger or protein won't be a problem for some time. Now is the hour for easing into this SoCo hundy proof and choosing a movie after Suzi's hummus and my thrill seeking leap off the spreader.

Your salty dog,


Random Clearing House (France, Albania, USA, Colombia)

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