18th - 21st July 2016
1 degree 13.467S
144 degrees 17.919E
When eventually we stop sailing 2XS, people might ask
us for a specific highlight of our travels.
And I imagine both Pete and I would say…Longan Island, in the Ninigoes,
off the northern coast of PNG.
|2XS with the Longan public (and only ) toilet in the foreground|
|Junior and Minining - presents!|
Longan Island is just one of the low-lying small islands around a large lagoon, The closest shop is nearly 200 nautical miles away…the mainland about 150. They have no money at all, no ferries or delivery ships. Every now and then a yacht comes sailing in, and once a year a North Star cruise ship pays a very welcome visit.
|And new clothes|
It is very beautiful, but the main attraction is a village full of happy, well-fed, hospitable people, mostly speaking very good English in deep, well-modulated tones. It rains quite a lot (especially, apparently, in July…) and the soil is fertile, so there is a plentiful supply of vegetables. Plump succulent fish swim right along the edge of the beet, chasing smaller baitfish, and even four year olds have no difficulty catching them.
everywhere; lobster abound in the sea, huge coconut crabs are easy to dig out
of their sandy burrows.
|coconut crabs, cooked|
Nobody is hungry, and nobody seems to be bored. For the first time in our travels anywhere, not one single person said, Please help me find a job in Australia...
|Pete and Peter|
Not even the handsome young men. A gang of them came aboard to sing to us, with a home-made ukulele (thinly planed wood, fishing line for strings.) I asked them to out their names in my book (with dozens and DOZENS of visitors it is very difficult to remember everyone.) They listed themselves, and at the top, wrote, “The boys of Paradise Island known as Longan.”
Everyone brought gifts - huge pumpkins and snake beans, bananas and coconuts.
|Oscar and family (SOME of them!)|
And we gave them gifts in return…clothes, magazines, toys (marbles were a hot-ticket item,) and, most appreciated of all, photos, printed with my trusty little Canon Selphy.
Years ago my friend Sally had given my a big bag of rings which weren’t selling all that well on her stall, on the instruction that they were to be taken out of Tasmania. I sorted them into bowls and let each lot of visitors choose one. ONE!!! (They weren’t very good at ONE…I hardly have any left and I did have hundreds. But never mind!!)
|Rosina in new clothes|
The first to get rings were three lovely girls – Rita, Sonel and Juliet. The next day we visited the school and I noticed that the most handsome of all of the boys, sitting in the front row, was wearing a very pretty bright pink beaded flower on his middle finger.
The elected wardenon the island is Oscar, one of the first visitors, with his wife Keren. We loved Oscar and Karen and their tribe of children. He runs a very orderly village set-up – they have meetings and get everything sorted very well, as far as well could tell.
We also loved Ryllen, and his wife Elizabeth and tribe. There don’t seem to be any fertility problems on Longan…
Ryllen spent a long time on the boat, helping Pete with various fairly difficult tasks involving rust on the anchor chain. Removing rust FROM the anchor chain. I was very grateful to him and stayed happily in the cockpit with one of the naughtier of Ryllen’s children, Brendan (6).
Ryllen is building a new canoe, over 9 metres, two masts. Fabulous! The people of the Ninigo Islands are famous for their boatbuilding ability. Their canoes, with one outrigger, are swift and deadly.
Oscar and Ryllen took us out for a sail one afternoon and we whizzed along, admiring the skill of all on board while we tried not to tip over the side into the sea.
Pete asked where they get the wood from – Lonagn Island is very small; if you cut down the trees that would be THAT. They are much more ingenious. They go out onto the ocean and find logs floating around – there are lots; we did a bit of banging and crashing into them on the way from Labuan Sarmi. They hop onto the log, care their initials, and then wait for it to float gently into the bay. Nifty!
Every year in August there is a big canoe race- over a hundred, from Mal Island. What a fabulous event that would be! It is all fiercely competitive and they plan for it years in advance, Ryllen’s current building project won’t be finished until October. He has to plane each plank with an axe, both sides…very labour-intensive.
A frequent flyer on 2XS during our three days at Longan was Rosina, usually with all five of her children – Patrick, Alford, Vero, Veralyne and Nerolyne. Rosina is a force of nature, strong, vibrant, funny and resourceful. She happened to arrive for one of her visits to find me on deck, sorting out the many many bags of clothes I had pulled out from under the seats. She had brought us lots of veggies, and was promising lobster, so I told her to choose ONE thing for each of her family, including herself. Hmmm…ONE was not in her vocabulary!
|Carolyn Denny and friend Terry|
Soon after along came Carolyn Denny and Terry, full of love, arms full of vegetables for us. And ready to STUFF everything they could grab into any bag they could find. I looked, in some amazement, at one of our sturdy bags, which we use to keep the mainsail ropes in. It was bulging at the seams. I went onto the cabin and hissed at Pete, “WHAT will I do?? They taking everything!!” He rather thought this was my fault, and my problem, so off I went. RIGHT!!
I was very stern and said, “Carolyn! That is our special bag, and you can only take ONE item for each of you!” I thought she would be angry – she is very big, Carolyn, and potentially scary! But she laughed merrily, gave me a big hug, and surrendered the bag, a bit wistfully.
Then she came and pointed at her canoe, where Terry was frantically trying to untie the rope attaching it to 2XS. “Have a look at what Terry has taken! She has taken MORE!!” And indeed she had! She had a bag the size of a garbage bag absolutely full. I grabbed it back and said, “Terry no! This is TOO MUCH!!” I don’t think anyone who knows me has ever seen me be so assertive…
I didn’t manage to be quite so assertive with Elvis, Rosina’s husband… He and a gang of friends arrived with six splendid painted crays, and I said they could each take a t-shirt. Hmmm…I wasn’t quite as confident challenging Elvis…And he and his gang did come back a day later with SIX more crays for the bottom part of the fridge, which manages to keep things frozen. Whacko!! (This time they wanted hot stuff, not t-shirts. Hot stuff being – a bottle of rum!)
When we went ashore, one of the first people we met was Nellie Campbell. She invited us into her house, and Pete noticed she had a big solar panel. But no working battery. “Why not?” She looked at him calmly and said, “It is fucked.” Oh well… Pete gave her one of our old spares; hope it is not fucked!! In return she brought us two freshly killed chicken, including head and guts…Oh no…Pete roasted them confidently in the BBQ oven and…they were SO tough he took ages even carving any bits of to put on our plates…I would have preferred these chickens to have been left to scratch happily around the village!
|Nelly Campbell, awaiting a new battery for her solar panel|
Oscar took us for a gentle stroll around the village, which is picture perfect pretty. The houses are all just delightful. Mind you inside…they are not comfy! No windows, no furniture, nothing except for platform beds in each corner, covered with a very thin bit of something or another. NOT comfy!! No pillows, no mattresses. Elizabeth gave us some lunch in her kitchen hut and OI had a nice cut-off log to sit on while Pete sat on a plastic bucket. The lunch, mind you was delicious! Donuts (yes actual donuts! Fried up in another kitchen hut by Francisca, one of the village elders) with grilled fish. A wonderful combination! Mind you they don’t have any spices at all, not even salt. When I realised this I filled little jars with salt from our stores and our visitors were very happy.
We went to talk to each class, and Pete amused them all immensely by demonstrating how a kangaroo moves across the land.
I took a photo of the classes and printed them off, and then laminated them. The teachers were delighted – they hardly ever get an opportunity to have school photos of any description. My investment in printer and laminator was well worth it! (The laminator, by the way, was less than $30 and a box of 100 sheets of plastic was also very cheap Worth considering if you are about to sail off to remote areas!!.)
I loved their school rules…especially Do not swear, it will become your habit.
Religion is very much a part of every single lesson. The children who visited the boat would sing hymns to us, very tunefully and happily, and everyone said God bless as they came and went.
|Pete and Oscar|
But…they also have their old customs and superstitions. Rosina brought us a couple, of fairly scary looking coconut crabs in exchange for one of my precious umbrellas – she had been eyeing off my umbrella collection for days… These crabs are huge! We cracked them and took out the flesh while chatting with the family, and then prepared to heave the shells overboard – all food scraps go overboard on the sea. NO! cried Rosina! You will cause a big land storm! She took the shells to toss onto the beach, where the dogs and fish will eat them. Apparently you can’t throw land creatures into the sea, it goes against nature!
One our last evening at Longan Island Ryllen and Elizabeth invited us for dinner. On 2XS. They would bring the food. And then Oscar and Keren also invited us so we said they should all come. “We won’t bring our children,” they said. “It will be too noisy.”
Hmmm…they brought just a few of their children. We had fifteen dinner guests! Good thing I had kept all of our horrid old plates and the forks and spoons which are too small – I was going to give them to people in the Louisiades, who are very keen on crockery and cutlery. The ladies had brought big pots of food, all very delicious – pumpkin cooked in coconut milk, chicken and snake beans, succulent fish. I had made a very big pot of something splendid too – fried rice with snake beans and coconut crab! There was not one single scrap of food left…
I left the adults in the cockpit and went up to the front of the boat where the children were happily sprawling in the nets. Micklay was strumming away on his home-made ukulele so we had a rousing singalong – many Sunday school songs from them, Waltzing Matilda and He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands plus Banana Boat Song from me.
Earlier in the day three of the teenage girls from the island had come to visit. They had painted their nails silver (I bring such essential items to these people…) and then sung us a beautiful farewell song (Now is the hour when we must say goodbye, soon you’ll be sailing far across the sea. While you’re away oh please remember US!” I taught them the first verse of a song I learned on another small island, San Andres, in the Caribbean (near Columbia) in 2004. I wrote it out for them and they went on their way.
Take me back to my island home (San Andres)
The lovely wave and the coral reef
I want to be where the sun shines bright
And the sea changes colour day and night
To my absolute astonishment, when I started singing it for the completely different group of children in our evening dinner party group - they had already learned it!!
We so loved our three days in the Ninigoes and I should put a Facebook post up saying SO BLESSED. Except I don’t do that!!!
22nd July 2014
1 degree 31.016S
145 degrees 04.797
Luf Island (Carola Bay)
We tore ourselves away from Longan Island and made our way to an anchorage in Carola Bay (Luf Island, in the Hermit group.) It wasn’t all that good – our chain scraped across coral, although we tired very hard to find a sandy spot. It was also very stormy and squally so nobody came to visit, which actually was a great relief because we were tired and cranky after a long day at sea and were not up to meeting yet another group of delightful people especially as we were leaving the next morning…The poor islanders must have bene very disappointed to see us come and go without a single word or gift exchanged.
Sunday 24th July
02 degrees 00.455S
147 degrees 16.592E
It seemed like a very long and arduous trip from Luf Island to here, although it only took us 24 hours. It is quite exhausting steering without the autopilot, and last night quite early in the proceedings the Raymrine screen decided to stop working. Well it still showed us a beautiful map of PNG, but not where the boat was, or the track. So we had to steer using the wobbly compass, and Pete’s computer with the Google earth Open CPN arrangement. During one of my shifts – 2-4am – the Google map inexplicably disappeared into a very small dot on the screen… I had no idea how to rejuvenate it so I had to steer with ONLY the compass, and the stars. In a sleety windy squall with many dark clouds and no light…
But eventually it was Pete’s turn at the helm and he was able to rejig the Google map. And then when it was my turn again at 6am I turned on the Raymarine screen and there was the cursor showing the boat and the track and all was well.
Now it is lunchtime and we are going to eat some of our Longan Island crayfish so…BLESSED are we!! All things considered.
We are anchored off a small town on Manus Island, Lorengau. It all looks very civilised, with roads and communications tower. But who knows if we can get a new SIMcard for my modem; it is Sunday!
Tomorrow we have another very long day – 80 nautical miles. And the next day…another overnighter. I expect to come out at the end of these days looking ten years older at least; I am not a natural born sailor!