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Ndende Island, Santa Cruz Islands, June 27th 2007 (by Dagmar)
I think we are collecting rough passages. We had high seas, crisscross..., that was no fun at all.
We made landfall on Ndende Island, the largest island in the Santa Cruz Group. Graciosa Bay, known for its extreme depth, but well protected from all weather, is a port of call for every yachtie entering the Solomon Islands via the Eastern Group. That's what we thought, and what's written in the Pilot Books, but not anymore. There is no custom- or immigration officer. So we checked in with the Health Office and the Police. They will send all our paper work to Ghizo in the New Georgia island Group, where we will have to finish our paper work. Because of the extreme depths of the bay, we went to the dock, close to a half sunken copra schooner. We didn't like the place at all. Bart went with Harry and Ellen, from "Zwerver", into town. But there was hardly anything to buy. The local market had just some cucumbers and lots of betel nuts, but that was it. All people chewing betel nut, a mild drug, are having orange-red gums, teeth and lips. When they are doing it a lot, it looks a little scary. Especially Soleil needs to get used to it.
So off to Santa Ana Island of the San Cristobal Islands. But we had to motor the whole way. The ocean was flat like a mirror. We could even make pictures with the our and LUNA's reflection in the water.
Santa Ana Island, San Cristobal Islands, June 28th - July 1st 2007 (by Dagmar)
Situated off the bottom of San Cristobal Island is the islet of Santa Ana with a beautiful anchorage in the lagoon of Port Mary. Most Solomon Islanders live in coastal villages close to freshwater springs. Each family has a small coconut plantation for copra production and a few vegetable plots. The nearby bush provides foods, including nuts, ferns and fruits, as well as materials for leaf-house and canoe construction, rope and basket making, and firewood.
Before we entered the lagoon, a ray was jumping and looping in the water.
Soleil and I were finishing Soleil's 3rd Grade class the same day,...school holidays for both of us for 6 weeks....yeah....
Around midday we visited the village, followed by a lot of kids.
Chief John told us kastom stories from the island and showed us his carvings. The most important story for the island is the one about the man who got half-eaten by a shark and comes back in the spirit of the shark-man. I bought a shark-man carving from the chief. You can even find the drawings of the spirits on the wall of the local school. Some excellent carvers are here on the island. Wooden carvings are often inlaid with nautilus or trochus shell and are incorporating human, bird, fish and other animal motifs, often in combination, representing spirits.
Just some kids understand a little bit of English...but they were showing big happy smiles.....Teenage boys were playing self-made drums out of PVC pipes in different sizes and lengths, assembled together like pan pipes with rope. They were playing them with slippers...
Early the next morning we went for a hike to see the kastom house in the village on the other side of the island. Villagers refer to their traditional ways, beliefs and land ownership as kastom (custom). Dances, songs and stories celebrate war, hunting and the harvesting of crops. Many islanders believe in magic and devils. The kastom houses are tabu (taboo) for women.
Bart and Harry were aloud to enter by the chief, Ellen, Soleil and myself had to wait outside. These houses worship dead chiefs of the past generations, carrying their skulls and bones in carved war canoes, all labeled with their names.
The kastom village is right on the beach, not so much covered by trees, so very exposed to rough winds and the
nearby sea. We got fresh coconut from a local.
In the afternoon Ellen and I did a walk on the beach of Port Mary, followed by lots of village kids. We saw the biggest clam shell and went to the fresh water spring right next to shore.
In the middle of the island is a sweet water lake. The trail from the village brought us there in 20 minutes for a refreshing bath. Alex, the grandson of the chief loved to walk with us. He often paddled in the canoe to LUNA, singing songs with a lovely high voice.
Everyday Soleil had lots of kids to play with around LUNA until sunset. But never so much kids as the day before we left,...we counted 60 kids from the village, age groups 5-15, singing, playing, and swimming around our boat.
Tulaghi, Florida Islands, July 4th-5th 2007 (by Dagmar)
After leaving Santa Ana Island we stopped for a night at Malaupaina Island/3 Sister Islands on our way to the Florida Island Group. The people were very friendly, the village looked very run-down. At anchor we had lots of rain, the wind changed its direction several times, then stopped. A local fisherman sold us a huge very aggressive mud-crab, we shared with the "Zwerver" crew. It was very delicious...(see Bart on the picture with one of the claws) When we left the following morning it was dry for an hour, then it started raining again. On our way to the Florida Islands huge trees and tree trunks were passing our boats, for sure drifting in the water due to landsides caused by the heavy rainfalls of the past days.
Tulaghi was once the country's capital. After the war, it made sense for the authorities to shift it across to Guadalcanal, were by that time a very good airstrip and a small town existed, that became known as Honiara, the capital of today. Most of the wharf buildings here in Tulaghi town seemed to be deserted and rusting away. They for sure had seen better days, which nowadays gives the town a disillusioned impression, but is well known for great snorkeling and impressive wreck diving due to all the war equipment the Japanese dumped in the surrounding waters and all the wrecked US airplanes.
To do some shopping we had to walk thru "The Cut", a road hand carved out of rock through the hill to connect Tulaghi with Bokolanga township on the southern side of the island.
The shops were not offering to much things you need as a yachtie, but had soft drinks, tooth paste, sponges, a large variety of umbrellas, ....but no eggs. Since weeks we were desperate for eggs, to cook or for baking needs. No bakery in town, but luckily we still have some flour on board to bake bread. The further you come to the remote world, the simpler you live. The market just offered cook bananas, yams, sweet potatoes, betel nut, no tomatoes, cucumbers, salad, just star fruit and bananas.
Mboli Pass, Florida Islands, July 6th 2007 (by Dagmar)
The two main islands of the Florida Group, Nggela Sule and Nggela Pile, are separated by a deep narrow ribbon of water, the Mboli Pass. After leaving Tulaghi we motored east towards Vatughori Point and anchored in a bay close to a beautiful looking village, but the chairman who approach us right away was very unfriendly asking us to pay S$ 50.- for overnight anchorage. We never heart about this fee, no pilot book is covering this, so we refused to pay and pulled up anchor. We would have been willing to pay when he would have been a polite asking guy, but not somebody with obvious bad manners. For one night we anchored at Matahauma Bay, at the entrance of the pass, but had a disturbing experience with one of the locals from the nearby village, who tried to steal our "man over board" torch and that in day light. Bart caught him, but we couldn't sleep to good that night. Sadly all the islands close to Guadalcanal have a bad reputation because of that. Otherwise on the other islands we always had the greatest and friendliest experience with the village people.
Next morning we left for the river passage. The banks of the river are covered with mangroves, lush tropical rainforest raises up the slopes of the hills, small settlements were hidden under palm trees. We could see huge colorful butterflies, could hear parrots in the distance and saw tropical birds flying over LUNA.
The pass narrows and flattens towards the sea. We passed the Sioto settlement and left for Santa Isabel Island in the North, a passage with hardly no wind. We had to motor for some hours in the night, otherwise the current would have drifted LUNA to the South.
Finuana Island, Santa Isabel, July 7th-8th 2007 (by Dagmar)
Coming closer towards the mainland of Santa Isabel it started raining again. We had to enter a narrow, but deep pass which is formed primarily by Finuana Island. We anchored in a well protected bay behind Finuana. There was no village close by, just some huts and a log company in the pass. Overnight it still continued raining, but the next morning in dry weather we went for a paddle tour into the Korighole River. Big trees and trunks were a washed at its side, thick rainforest at the river beds. There was not much more to explore, so we left the bay in the afternoon for the New Georgia Group.
Mbirimbiri Island, Vonavona Lagoon, New Georgia, July 9th-11th 2007 (by Dagmar)
Still big rain clouds were following us, but no more rain in the night. Except for one hour with 15 knots of wind, we had to motor the whole way. We were getting short of Diesel. In the pass of Finuana Island, before we left Bart went to the log company to ask for Diesel. Amazingly they gave him 20 liters for free.
Diamond Narrows is the narrow waterway between New Georgia Island and Nauro Island which lies close to the north west of Munda and provides calm water access to Kula Gulf. From the north the Diamond Narrows are entered via a funnel shaped bay at the bottom of Kula Gulf, were at the end you will enter the Vonavona Lagoon.
For 2 days we anchored behind the little uninhabited island of Mbirimbiri. Some locals in canoes passed by the island to collect coconuts or to fish during the day. Bart went paddle boarding twice at the reef break.
Gizo Harbor, New Georgia, July 11th-15th 2007 (by Dagmar)
Gizo is the administration center and major settlement for the Western District of the Solomon Islands. The initial impressions is of a frontier town that has seen its better days and is now quietly rusting under the tropical sun. Still lot of the islands around are suffering from the aftermath of last years tsunami. Market days are Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but they are still not back to the full range of veggies and fruits they were used to sell before the catastrophe. After looking for 2 days we felt really lucky to get eggs for the first time in a month. Soleil was so excited that we could bake a cake again and have some eggs for lunch.
The Solomon Islands are famous for their high quality carvings in stone or polished timber. NGUZU NGUZU, pronounced 'noo-zoo-noo-zoo', is the Solomon's most significant art work. It is a traditional war god used by head hunters during their forays against other villages. The Nguzu Nguzu was lashed to the bow of the huge canoes just above the waterline. Some of the carvers visited us with their art work on board LUNA.
On Sunday July 15th we will be leaving for the Louisiades Islands in Papua New Guinea. Due to the lack of wind in the past weeks we changed our route. Normally we were supposed to sail around the North of Papua New Guinea and Papua. But the wind conditions are not so stabile up there. So we decided to leave for the Louisiades instead, sailing then on to Port Moresby and we will continue thru the Torres Strait. The day before leaving we got Diesel here in the harbor.
Last modified: September 02, 2008