One of the things I like most about living on a boat is that it gives you the ability to change your point of view…literally. Sometimes it is just the wind swinging the boat around a little while resting on anchor, offering you a slightly different angle on things. Sometimes you to move to a whole new neighbourhood and all the problems and tensions of the previous week suddenly come into perspective.
Although we enjoyed our time in Rabaul I didn’t realize how much being “in town” was stressing me out until we left. While we were there I was enjoying trolling the second-hand clothing/book shops, the interesting rides on the cheapo buses, the hum of the crowd at the local market, the faster-than-we’ve-had-it-for-a-long-while internet. Despite all the stories we’d heard about PNG we felt safe in Rabaul. In fact we felt safe enough that when Steve had to go away on business for 10 days I had no hesitation whatsoever staying on board by myself.
OK, I had a little hesitation but an audible motion detector in the cockpit (that scared the bejebus out of me when I got up to check the boat in the middle of the night and totally forgot it was on) and a baseball bat in bed seemed to soothe me.
But when Steve came home he knew something wasn’t right. He made it back for Hallowe’en but I hadn’t even mustered enough enthusiasm for my self-professed “favourite holiday” to even search the market for pumpkins. In fact I hadn’t even mustered all that much enthusiasm for his home coming.
I figured I was just completely drained. I had spent my time alone on board writing and completed two long articles and a solid proposal while he was away. Intense bouts of creativity like that often leave me feeling empty and I thought I just a needed a couple days to recharge. But almost a week came and went and I couldn’t find the reset button. I seemed to be falling further down the “difficult mood” rabbit hole, causing all sorts of troubles between us as I plummeted.
With the boat fully stocked and all the online work done we dropped our mooring and pointed the bow towards the Duke of York Islands, fully expecting to motor the 18 or so miles as there had been no wind for a week. But a light breeze filled in and we put up all the sails and suddenly were trucking along at 7 kts. Which felt ridiculously fast because we haven’t had enough wind to make more than 4kts in a very, very long time.
I am constantly amazed at how different each country that we visit is, especially when we only sail to the islands next door.
So far Papua New Guinea has been a VERY pleasant surprise for us, particularly considering that it was never our intention to stop in Rabaul. After three weeks here I can’t even fathom why we would have sailed right on by. Oh, right, the “rascals”.
Rascals is the local term that quaintly describes violent and unsavoury characters such as thieves, vandals, drunks who like to fight and machete-wielding crazy men that show up in the middle of night. PNG has a bad reputation about rascals.
It seemed everyone we talked too over the last year had bad experience in PNG. Normally we take such stories with a BIG grain of salt, after all there are bad places everywhere and many such encounters are a wrong place/wrong time scenarios. But these horror stories didn’t seem particular to one small area.
Everyone warned to stay away from the “mainland” which is the large island of Papua that PNG shares with Indonesia. That was a no brainer- decades of political unrest have peppered that islands history with seriously violent outbreaks. Port Moresby is still considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world for tourist. But we spoke to people who had problems at other islands. Let me tell you it is one thing to read stories online about being boarded and threatened but when you met the guy who suffered a broken arm and 16 stitches while defending his wife from a local man who had a machete held over her head you tend to sit up and listen. Carefully. Continue reading →
That pretty much sums up the 12 days it took us to cover the 450 or so nautical miles between the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. Just to give you an idea of how slow that is we could have walked here faster than we sailed…literally. No joke.
We were hampered by very light winds for the whole voyage. We sailed over the Solomon Basin, home to the New Britain Trench which is some 8000M deep. Either we found the home of the nefarious creature of the depths, the Kraken, who took a liking to our keel (our depth sounder regularly flashed 4.5M while we drifted over this chasm for 4 days) or it causes some rather annoying contrary current when you’re sailing north. Continue reading →