It’s Tuesday here, and Sophie finally left Gizo this morning and motored the 14 miles north to the boatyard island of Liapari, where we are currently stern-tied to a dock.
It took me until 1:30 yesterday afternoon to finish up all of the government paperwork required to check into this country, and by the time I was done we think the outside temperature was touching 100 degrees F with very high humidity. Much of that time was spent waiting in line at banks to get cash to pay the government and to buy diesel. By the time I finished up all of the government work and shoreside errands on Monday, it was too late to head up to Liapari. So the rest of the crew joined me on shore for lunch, and then Jenna and Lauren hit the market while the kids and I hit returned to the boat and hit the air conditioner button on Sophie’s electrical panel. We ran the AC for over 4 hours and then slept soundly through the night.
There were 5 other catamarans anchored in Gizo when we arrived on Saturday morning, and all of them are eventually heading up to Kavieng, Papua New Guinea. That is where we are planning to go on Friday so we seem to be on a popular route right now. We’ve been told that only 50 cruising boats visit the Solomon Islands every year, so over 10% of them are here right now. We definitely feel like we have left the popular “coconut milk run” cruising route between the Americas and Australia/New Zealand.
And that case of beer I bought Saturday morning? It seemed to go away very quickly and I had to go into town to buy 2 more cases to last us through this week. We were tired and thirsty and hot.
A Hans Christian cutter arrived in Gizo Saturday evening, and they had just sailed south from Kavieng. They said the town was lovely but that their passage was awful. All of those strong southeast breezes that gently pushed Sophie up from Vanuatu smashed into the nose of this poor boat as it headed 480 miles into the wind to get to Gizo. Timing is everything when it comes to cruising.
We met the couples sailing three of our neighborhood cats over the weekend. Roland and Micky are South Africans on a Fontaine Pajot that they have been cruising since they took delivery of the boat from the factory in France in 2008. They rounded South America to reach the Pacific. We spent a couple of meals with them talking about how to cruise to South Africa. Their recommended route, which was one we were considering, was to head across the Indian Ocean from Thailand to Sri Lanka to India to the Maldives to the Seychelles, then turn south to the northwest coast of Madagascar and then Mozambique and then hop the coast of South Africa around to the Atlantic. They were especially keen on Madagascar and Mozambique, which they described as lovely, safe, and full of friendly people. And what about the dreaded Argulas current, which cruising websites describe as a place that produces steep 20 meter waves that smash your boat into waiting schools of great white sharks? “South Africans love the Argulas current … it pushes your boat south at 4 knots!” said Micky as Hazel lay her head on her lap. “You just need to make sure you don’t get too deep into it so you can get out when you need to.” They also described how we can go about going on safaris while visiting their country.
We’ve made new friends, and they could very well be crossing the Indian Ocean when we are doing so.
Another highlight of the weekend was buying stone carvings from dugout canoes that paddled up to the boat. Most were carved from river stone similar to the stone used for carvings in New Zealand. Jenna and Lauren bought about 10 pieces between them, including carvings of the local fishing god (body of a man, head of a bird, tuna in his hand) and carved wall hangings of “Gasere”, the local worship octopus that grabs your enemies to prevent them from harming you.
Our Gaseres must have worked, because we went into shore on Saturday and Sunday nights for dinner at waterfront restaurants and we were not bothered by the local gangsta boys on either night. Plates of local lobster ranged between $8-$10 at each restaurant, and they were delicious. We did, however, lock the boat up tight each night and slept soundly in the heat.
There was no rain on Sunday, and we were able to get 8 loads of laundry done, dried, folded, and put away. The local heat seems to dry wet clothing very quickly.
Yesterday while I was dealing with the government, Jenna was back on Sophie supervising the loading of 600 liters of diesel onto the boat. It was delivered in 200 liter drums on a long boat and then hand pumped into our tanks. During this procedure, Jenna’s sunscreen must have sweated off, because yesterday was the first day in our entire 2 year trip where she got a sunburn. I thought she was impervious to that sort of thing, but she simply takes really good care of her skin and the Solomons climate got the better of her.
Liapari is very hot and humid. Spirit of Africa is docked next to us, and they will be leaving their boat here for the cyclone season while they go back to Africa. Our friends on Per Ardua were here 8 days ago before they left for Kavieng, and we hope to catch up with them there. It would be nice for the kids to once again have some playmates their own age.
Finally, the manager of the shipyard here, a man from the Solomons, asked me where we were from. I told him. He then said “when someone from a yacht says they are from Australia, we say ‘Welcome to the Solomons.’ When someone from a yacht says they are from England, we say ‘Welcome to the Solomons.’ But when someone from a yacht says they are from America, we say “WELCOME TO THE SOLOMONS MY FRIEND. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU” as he dropped to his knees and spread his arms wide, a big smile on his face.
We are feeling very welcome, indeed.