Stuck in Gizo

Hello everyone. Sophie dropped anchor in Gizo, Solomon Islands at 8:15 local time this morning. We have good news, bad news, and good news in regard to this.

The good news is that we safely completed another long passage. Sophie traveled around 740 miles in 5 days, almost all of it straight downwind. Our current position is 08.05.840 South, 167.35.521 East, which is the farthest north we’ve been since we arrived in the Marquesas on my brother Richy’s birthday in March of 2013. Nothing broke during the trip, we caught some fish, and at one point crossed over the South Solomons Trench, which is 23,000 feet deep. Everyone on Sophie is happy and a little tired.

The bad news? It’s Saturday here, and the folks from Customs, Immigration, Quarantine, and Health are all gone for the weekend. Legally we need to stay on the boat under a yellow quarantine flag until Monday when they are all back in the office. We had pushed to get here on a Saturday morning because we had hoped that government offices here were open on Saturday mornings like they are in Vanuatu. No such luck. I went into town when we arrived and was directed to the local police station, where an officer named Hilton took me under his wing and walked me down the street to the customs office. Hilton was wearing an Australian bush hat and a sleeveless cowboy shirt. He had the deep, gentle voice of an English butler, and his teeth and gums were stained bright red from chewing the local leaf. After he tried the door to the Customs Office, he turned to me and politely said that we really needed to stay on the boat until Monday. I asked him if it was safe in the harbor for us to do so, and he apologized and said that unfortunately there are some bad boys in town and that if we stayed on the boat and kept it locked we’d be fine. This wasn’t a surprise to us, but I was bummed that we were not able to head directly to the marina at Lamieng.

The other good news? Hilton also said that if we needed anything from a shop this weekend, it was OK for us to come into town to get what we needed. That was nice to know. Every store on the main drag of Gizo had a sign for something called “SolBrew”, the local beer, so I went into a bottle shop and asked how much did a cold bottle of beer cost. The response? “$1”. I asked how much was a case of 24 bottles. “$24” was the answer. I smiled and bought a case on the spot.

Throughout the last 18 months, the price of local beer has ranged from $3 to $8 per bottle, depending on the country. SolBrew is far and away the most inexpensive local beer we’ve encountered on the entire trip. Once we got the case back on board we realized that it tasted like a real German lager! Jenna’s verdict? “This is some of the best beer we’ve had!” Also, we are anchored off of something called the Gizo Yacht Club, which is also called the “PT 109 Bar and Grill” (JFK served here in WWII.) I spoke with the owner when I first arrived on shore, and he apologized that they do not yet have the capability to prearrange yacht clearance into the country. He had just bought the place and was trying to get it back on its feet. He also insisted that we all come in for dinner tonight, he would deal with any issues that arose from customs, and that Sophie would be perfectly safe while we were gone as long as we locked it. We are anchored 150 meters from his bar, and we are very much looking forward to a local meal on shore.

But first? Long naps. And school. And some laundry.

Have I mentioned how lucky we are?

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