Friday, 9 September 2016

Sunday 28th August - Saturday 10th September 2016 - highs and lows - friends and thieves

(Now in Alotau - I don't seem to be able to open my emails, or to send any...will keep battling!!)

Sunday 28th August 2016

04 degrees 20.090S
152 degrees 18.574E
Irish (Siur) Bay, New Ireland, PNG
9.1m depth

It took us most of the day to get to Irish Cove, recommended by John Lau, who we met in the bar at Rapopo Plantation resort.  He managed to impart quite a bit of useful info to Pete before retreating to the TV rugby game, and we are very grateful to him!

Because Irish Cove was absolutely beautiful.  Mysterious, steep, thickly forested, with drifting mist down the valleys. 

We stayed there for two nights.  Sunday we had decided to relax, and get the kayaks out to explore the rivers, and English Cove around the corner.  Well…I relaxed, for the most part.  Except for times when Pete needed my help… He spent many MANY hours fixing – yes! – the toilet pump, a painstaking, boring, frustrating job.  He also figured out a way to tie the oars into the dinghy so they don’t leap around in a frightening way while we are rocking and rolling at sea.  We really DON’T want to lose our oars…

The kayaks stayed where they live, down in the hold…

I spent the afternoon entertaining visitors.  A whole flotillas of little canoes showed up, with 12 children ranging in age from 7-14.  They were on their way back to their village after church.  Coming to see us involved a detour of many kilometres but they were perfectly happy to paddle in their tiny boats.

As usual, I took note of their names:


I gave them a few biscuits and a friendship bracelet and read them some stories, then sent them on their way.  The older girls spoke English quite well and I was able to ask them if there were crocodiles in the bay.  Oh yes! They said, cheerily.  Many many crocodiles in the mangroves – the mangroves were about 20 metres away… So…no swimming for me!  I did dip quickly into the water, hanging onto the ladder for a brief moment because I was so SO hot, after the children had gone.  It was surprisingly cold – I am used to the water being very warm and balmy!  But it didn’t matter…I wasn’t staying in more than a few seconds, not with many MANY crocs nearby!

Monday 29th August

05 degrees 012.552
151 degrees 57.379E
Wide Bay
New Britain (PNG)
4.7m depth; rolly

We got up early and made our way back across to New Britain.  We anchored around 3pm, near a coconut plantation.  It is nowhere near as glorious and beautiful as Irish Cove but…it is very nice to stop for the day!

Tuesday 31st August

05 degrees 36.006S
151 degrees 30.331E
Jacquinot Bay
New Britain PNG


Yesterday was hard work…the autopilot stopped working.  And the chart kept turning itself on and off.  Same old same old.  We are stopping here for the day because Pete thinks he might be able to fix it – he is hoping it is just a disconnected wire. 

There were some beautiful moments – a pod of small whales not far from the boat, all blowing happily on the surface, at least ten of them.  They weren’t close enough to get a decent photo but we were able to watch them for quite a long time, which made us happy.

Other than that our trip from Wide Bay to Jacquinot Bay was uneventful, but it was long, and we were exhausted but the time we dropped anchor a bit after 5.30pm.

We were greeted by ecstatic young men in canoes…Jasper, Ferdinand, Yonah, Salwood and Gramey.  We tried to tell them we were too tired to be nice to visitors but they looked so totally crushed that we let them on boat, gave them a few biscuits each, and showed them the wonders of 2XS.  Jasper said he had never seen a boat like it; obviously catamarans don’t call in to Jacquinot Bay very often…

We had planned a bit of a sleep-in, after a very early night but…gentle crashes against the side of the boat, footsteps…6am – visitors!  Three canoes with cheery young fathers with small children, all waiting to see the wonders of 2XS… I sent them all off, gently enough, with a biscuit each, and told them Captain Pete was asleep. I imitated some snoring sounds, which they loved. 

And then at 6.30…HELLO!  HELLO!  Grandma, hello???

Jasper and Co, with two hands of bananas and four coconuts…How could I resist??  It makes Pete and me just a bit giggly to be referred to, with great respect, as Grandad and Grandma…But, fair enough!  We are most certainly older than their actual grannies…The boys didn’t stay long; they had to rush off to school.

But…there is still a steady stream of happy delightful people wanting to chat…


After an unsuccessful battle with internet connection, I went for a restorative swim while Pete continued, unsuccessfully, to battle with the autopilot.  I was much improved by my swim; Pete not so much by his struggle…

We lowered the dinghy and took it in to a little beach close to Palmalmal Secondary School.  We had to shelter from the rain in the garage, where we had very nice conversations with some of the teachers.

I went to the toilet in the office building, where I added to my collection of delightful toilet-door notices. No doubt computer will say NO when I try to upload it… It says, succinctly:


Love it!

Leo, one of the senior teachers, was very concerned when he found out Pete and I are alone on such a big boat as 2XS.  Looking at us pityingly he said, “I can see how old you both are.  Don’t you think it would be a good idea to have someone young, to help you on your travels?”  We said we thought we could just about manage and he was very surprised.  “So you really think you are fit enough?”  Do we REALLY look so very old and frail??

In in the meantime was having a very nice chat with Joe, aged 45, senior teacher of Legal Studies and Social Science.  I took two selfies of the two of us together.  In one of them I look as if I am about to be murdered; he looks as if he is about to murder me… In the other he looks benign and I look…a bit old and frail!

He told me how very important it is for the students in PNG to learn English.  It is, he says, their only hope of having a common language.  There are (literally) hundreds of different local languages spoken in PNG and yes, it would be a definite advantage if they could understand one another!  I told him that it is the same in India, and that they also have a unifying religion – cricket!  He laughed and said it is becoming that way in PNG as well – not cricket, but…rugby!

After a few hours in the general store (Chinese owned, of course…) we made our way back to 2XS.  There on the shore was a crowd of children, cheering wildly.  We went up to them and said they could swim out to the boat.  And swim they did!!  They had a cheery woman with them – possibly mother to one or seven of them – and a nice young chap called Nathan.  They ate a few biscuits, raced around the deck like mad things, posed for a photo which made them totally ecstatic when I printed it off for them, and then off they all jumped, with the mother holding the photo, in a plastic bag, above her head.  Life is good, in Palmalmal!

Later in the day…

MANY MANY visitors…Gary, Mitoit,  Clarinda, Sonna, Herman, Irene, Maylynne, Assumpta, Gabriel, Fairlie, Basil, Elvira, Rangel, Mary, Mabel, Kelvin, Abel, Nelsons I and II, Jamielynne, Quinty, Quentin, Ethlyn, Brenda, Josephine, Alphonse, Gideon, Dean, Elsie, Stanford, Ramson, Gibson, plus another nine whose names I didn’t record…They were all just delightful of course but…exhausting!!

Biscuits and bracelets for all of them!

Wednesday 1st September

06 degrees 07.078S
150 degrees 44.729E
Ambio Village, New Britain (PNG)
8.7m depth
Sheltered between and beyond reefs

We arrived, mildly exhausted near Ambio Village and anchored between two lively reefs, in a mercifully sheltered bit of water.  As we approached our anchorage we could see hordes of children rushing out of the village and along the beach.  They all went and perched on a rusty broken jetty and cheered enthusiastically.  Gradually older people joined them, with picnic baskets…There were probably 60 people lined up, hooting and banging on the metal poles.  Nobody got into the water to swim out…But a few small canoes did make their brave way towards us, and their occupants confirmed that there are…crocodiles.  No swimming!

Our visitors were: Lucy, Charlianne, Sylvia, Peter, James, Selwyn and Anton.  We entertained them briefly, gave them biscuits and bracelets, and sent them on their way…it was getting dark and we were…buggered!

Saturday 3rd September

08 degrees 35.290S
151 degrees 00.911E
Kiriwina Island
Kadalawa Point

Another long-seeming passage from New Britain to the Trobriand Islands…Long-seeming because…no autopilot, no moon… But we managed OK.  I am, as I always say, NOT a natural-born sailor but…I wasn’t ill, just a bit…beside myself.  We did two hour shifts, and 8-12, 12-4. 

Some sort of problem with the rudders, the steering…

We spent the afternoon with me turning the wheel this way and that way pouring hydraulic oil into the system, while Pete went from one engine to the other trying to work out what was wrong with the rudders.  The rudders had been fairly tricky, although the night…Adding to the degree of difficulty!!

(He fixed the problem in eh end.  But…still no hope of fixing the autopilot.)

No idea when we will ever get internet connection again…

Monday 5th September

08 degrees 30.338S
150 degrees  55.474E
Kaduage Village, 5m
Kaileuna Island, Trobriand Group

We spent two nights and a day rocking and rolling in wind and rain near Losuia, which is apparently the largest settlement on the Trobriands.  Too tired to care much that it was raining and windy…and there was no hope of getting anywhere near the township.  We felt as if we were anchored way out at sea – it is all very shallow and it would have been a big trip in the dinghy, battling against lively waves, to get to shore.  So…we just rocked and rolled on the waves.

Wednesday 7th September

So on we went to Kaileuna Island, where we had a very nice anchorage, sheltered within a reef, off Kaduage Village.  They never ever have yachts visiting and the entire village was in an uproar.  On our first day we had over 150 visitors…and just about as many the second day.  We were very welcoming, if slightly overwhelmed…they all got a bracelet, and something to eat – a biscuit, or popcorn.  And they all got to listen to music played loudly on our wonderful little Bose bluetooth speaker. 

In return they brought us masses of vegetables.  We have enough local root veggies – great stodgy yams and taro (they really are horrid but very filling) – to feed an army.  Plus a mountain of beans, a dozen coconuts, a few tomatoes, and four very welcome pumpkins and two enormous and very unripe pamplemousse.  It was all a bit like the sorcerer’s apprentice – VERY hard to stem the tide!  Everyone got something in exchange for their contribution– school books with pencil and sharpeners, clothes, rice, sugar, soap.

They also got PARTY TIME!!  Lots of giggling, dancing, chat, stories

And we now know Kaileuna Island as – The Island of Thieves because they stole so much!  It is very hard to supervise so many people…and not polite, either… So…they took Pete’s thongs, my sunglasses, one head torch, my on-deck laundry detergent, this and that sundry item, from under our noses.  And a few enterprising young men found a way to open our bedroom hatch and drag out our bedsheets and all of the clothes I had on the bench – two silk dresses from Vietnam, much loved, and my favourite (slightly ragged…pink sailing dress.)  I actually caught them in the act; I went downstairs and saw one of them leaning in gently dragging my pink cashmere shawl out through the hatch.  I went up and slammed the window locked it, and he immediately scampered back up to the cockpit to sit innocently with the others.  I didn’t realise he had already taken all of those other things from the bed and the bench…obviously he and his friends had lined up a canoe right next to the boat so they could just drop everything overboard; I am NOT quick on the uptake!

Fortunately we had a very nice experience doing a tour of the village.  It was just fascinating, and we did not yet know how much had been stolen – we did know John had taken my sunglasses, because when I asked him he said he would bring them back, very sorry… (How did I know this particular John had them??  Well…he posed for his photograph with them prominently perched on his forehead….)

Two young men took charge of the tour – Coral Mono, from Losuia, and Peter Gigi, son of the village chief.  It was a fabulous village, with four deep pools near the beach, each with spring water – one for men to bathe, one for women, one for drinking water, one for clothes washing.

We met Lydia, the community nurse, who said that actually the water is tainted and that a lot of people get sick…good thing I didn’t accept the invitation to have a nice cool drink!

Coral and Peter took me to the house of a Very Important Person in the village, an ancient wisened man, who came out with an elaborate neckpiece.  He charged 5 kinas to have his photo taken.  I also took a photo of his revered old wife…(I later found out that these venerable ancient people are all of 52 years old…)  Pete arrived in the village later than I did – he had gone back to the boat to shout at three boys who had clambered aboard in our absence.  He arrived with a swarm of children following, shouting, laughing, cheering.  They followed us everywhere; Peter and Coral, our self-appointed guides, were very cross.  They would grab the arm of a small boy and hurl him across the mud, or the grass, snarling, “Just fuck away, you boys!!”  The boys, very sensibly, paid no attention to them at all.

On our way back to the dinghy we visited the venerable ancient elder again and he gave Pete an amazing talismanic necklace thingy.  It looks very nice hanging on the inner wall of 2XS, near Pete’s bark painting from Arnhem Land.

I am so glad we had such a fabulous and interesting visit to the village, because soon after we got back to the boat we realised that…our beloved Bose minispeaker was gone.  Peter and Coral were suitably horrified, and they promised to get it back for us.

This morning they arrived before 7am…MUCH too early.  They had my white sunglasses, and Pete’s thongs, retrieved from John, but they must have found a moment to take my very favourite tortoiseshell glasses and pop them in their bag instead…They asked me what they should do if they found the Bose speaker, and I said that they could keep it but that it would be of no use to anyone without a charger…And just after they had left I noticed that – aha! – the charger was gone…The list of things they took grows day by day…I reach for my stash of biros and – gone.  Ditto Pete’s iPod, my spare earphones, our Digicel phone top-up cards (worth 65 kina, a lot of money!)

We are totes devo re all of this.  Why did I let this happened, this morning, when I already knew that Kaduage Village is the Village Of Thieves??  Well…in my defence, Pete had gone back to bed, hoping that this would be a signal for Peter and Coral to, in their own words, fuck away.  And I was very dopy…I had gone to bed at 6pm full of strong painkillers and have spent the day recovering. 

And the painkillers??  Well…in the dark last night some fishermen arrived – yes, we needed another dozen exuberant visitors!!  They had some fish for us and I said I would fillet them in the kitchen; this seemed a much more pleasant option than chatting in the cockpit with a dozen exuberant fishermen… We don’t have very sharp knives but I was doing a reasonable job on the largest of the fish.  It wasn’t very big but it had very strong skin.  While I was wrestling to get a last little bit of flesh off, I pricked myself on a dorsal spine…There was no blood, no wound, but the pain was totally excruciating.  I sat on the step and cried bitterly.  I then lay on the couch and cried some more; then I started shaking until my bones rattled and I took myself off to bed with two aspro clear and three mersyndol in my system…I plugged myself into some podcasts and lay there with my finger clutched in the sheet (yes we did have a spare one, although I wept even more bitterly when I climbed into bed and realised my favourite blue one was gone…)  And then I slept…and when I woke up – the pain was gone!  Not a twitch, not a smidgin!  Just a drug hangover!!

08 degrees 51.954S
151 degrees 07.631E
Vakuta Island

We left the Island of Thieves at 7.30 and it took us all day to get to an anchorage here, at the bottom of the Trobriand group.  I can’t tell whether it is beautiful or nice or anything; all I can say is that there is no village nearby and therefore no visitors.  Thank God!!  I don’t have the energy for another lot of people, or for being very vigilant about our possessions…

09 degrees 28.804S
150 degrees 19.996E
Mud Bay
Goodenough Island

They were lovely, in Mud Bay.  We kept them, so to speak, at bay…They clustered around in their canoes, gazing hopefully at the boat.  Pete told them we had been besieged by thieves and that nobody was allowed on board.  “But we are Christians here!  They are VERY bad in the Trobriand Islands,” they said.  Nevertheless…while I was happily sitting on the steps reading books to the assembled masses bobbing around in their canoes, Pete found a man, standing in his canoe alongside 2XS, with his arm eagerly reaching into the kitchen…He very loudly threated to cut this man’s hand off, and some of my book club shouted, angrily, “You are spoiling everything for the rest of us!!”  Indeed he was…I think my kiddiewinks would have liked to see Pete wielding a machete…but alas our cockpit machete has been nicked! 

I am heartily sick of the thievery…in fact I now find it hard to sleep; our erstwhile Kaduage friends Peter Gigi and Coral Mono ended up giving me the willies.  They became more and more aggressive with me, when Pete had gone back to bed, complaining bitterly that we had given them “nothing.”  Well…nothing included a very nice portfolio of portrait photos nicely laminated; hats; National Geographic magazines, food, music, party time, company…plus all of the things they had stashed into their bags while I was assiduously doing the washing on deck.

Friday 9th September

10 degrees 06.859S
150 degrees 44.326E
Topo Village

I want to cry with joy because we are anchored near a very beautiful village, nestled amongst shady trees.  As we drew near we saw children playing happily with their best toys – large car tyres, rolling around.  And lines of people on the beach, cheering madly.  But…we anchored just before dark, and when all of the kiddiewinks came out in their canoes, we were…totally buggered.  There was an older boy amongst them.  I gave him a 2XS card and said that we were just too tired to have visitors.  “Oh yes,” he said, calmly.  And off they all went!!  I felt like calling them back and giving them all of our worldly goods…But, I didn’t!

Saturday 10th September

10 degrees 18.730S
150 degrees 27.234E
Alotau harbour
Milne Bay PNG
14m, dirty water

It is midday and we have arrived at Alotau.  We have anchored and are very relieved to be at this destination.  We can clear out from here (Customs, Immi etc) but...not until Monday!

Now it is time to battle with the internet!  Fortunately our horrible Coral and John didn’t manage to find all of the Digicel cards and we managed to scramble together just enough for one big top-up.  So…here’s hoping!

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