Rabaul and the Rascals

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

Longest. Passage. Ever.

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