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Friday, August 08, 2003

August 8, 2003-Spinning in the Louisiades

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wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Grass Island, The Louisiades

In the Louisiade Islands a quiet anchorage is rare. Usually the wind blows day and night, the wind "bullets" come down off the hills wherever you are, the waves bounce you and the boat swings and rocks, and between it all, you get no rest at night.

But Hata Lawi is different. It is really quiet here, the boat doesn't move, the wind is completely absent, and all we can hear are crickets from the jungle on the hillsides which surround us in this flooded, volcanic crater which forms this anchorage. It is so quiet I can hear the faucet drip in the galley sink. That's quiet.

The stars are out, and a full moon, and Mars. It is so bright outside tonight that it seems almost like a fog of moonlight surrounds us and the bay glows with it.

Tomorrow we head back to town to check out of Papua New Guinea.

The Louisiades are nice, very nice, and Hata Lawi is special, but we are ready to head out, toward the Solomon Islands. Itchy feet I guess, but that's probably one of the reasons we live on a boat: so we can get moving when we feel the need.

The people here in the Lousiades have made this leg of our trip memorable. There have been kind and beautiful people visiting our boat in their dugout canoes in every anchorage and harbor.

Mostly they are trading.

This afternoon we were visited by a couple of young men who introduced themselves as Peter and Clifford and there were also two small boys, who all arrived in one big canoe, and said they had just finished the day's work in the garden. They wanted to sell us a "Baggie" necklace, made of sculpted sea shells. It was a lovely baggie and Peter offered it to us for eighty Kina. We've been wanting to buy a baggie, and we could have paid that price, which is about $25, but I was quiet after he asked the K80 and then I changed the subject and talked about the weather for a while and he dropped the price. He said, "I'll cut it to K30 and some trade goods". In the end we settled on K20 and the trade goods he wanted, some trousers and a t-shirt. The t-shirt we gave had a picture of Bon Marley, who is revered in these islands, and we played some Bob Marley music on the stereo for them and they toured the boat before they left.

Then Roland and his wife Flavia came by, minus their son Clinton, whom been with them when they stopped by on their way to work in the garden in the morning. We asked about Clinton and Judy wondered if he'd been eaten by a crocodile, but they said he'd gone home to the village with Peter, who was his uncle. Then Roland showed us the pearls he had, nice big pearls that would be terrific on a pendant or necklace. He wanted K50 or maybe K30 and some clothing. We have a lot of nice second hand clothing that we brought for trading and Judy picked out a red outfit for Flavia, which she liked, plus they wanted some rice and so we had a deal. We sensed that they too wanted to see our boat so we invited them aboard and gave them some juice and showed them around. They waved goodbye as they paddled off.

Often the people have some veggies like tomatoes or potatoes or some fruit, or just a few eggs. We always trade with them, and we have always had a good selection of fresh produce on board as a result of it, and they don't ask too much for what they bring. But you can tell when they are unhappy with our offers. They just look down and won't meet your eyes. Finally they agree, or disagree, and sometimes they just paddle off a little miffed I think, but it is understandable. However, we won't pay a whole fishing rig for a couple of eggs.

Sometimes the men have such specific requests that I imagine they were sent by their spouses, "Stop by the yacht on your way home and see if you can pick up a bar of soap."

Other times the people who visit just want to talk, or just to get a close look at us and our boat. When we ask them what they are up to that day they often reply, "Just spinning" or, "Going for a spin", which we figure means they aren't doing anything in particular, just goofing off.

Several times people have come by to talk about the war in Iraq. They always ask if the was is over yet, which they know it is, but it is their way of bringing up the topic. We say that mainly it is, but there is still some fighting. Then they ask if Saddam Hussein has been caught. We wonder how they have heard about this war, there are no TV's or radios, or newspapers in these villages.

Once a boy named Raymond asked if we had a magazine, and he didn't want a sailing magazine, but People Magazine was fine. He noticed Mel Gibson's name on the cover and he recognized the name and then we talked about movies stars for a while. He got a big laugh when I told him the Arnold S. was trying to get elected as governor of California. He was amused that an actor wanted to be a politician. I didn't mention Ronald Reagan to him. Once again, we are surprised at what these people know about the world.

Then there was Andrew who weaseled us out of 2 gallons of dingy gas so he could top off his 40hp Yamaha powered speed boat, who said he'd "try" to replace it the next day, but we never saw him again, and we found out that the local trade store was out of gasoline. And Sam who never gave up until we agreed to let him carve a name board for our boat so he could earn some money and buy soccer shoes, and the old deaf/mute man with a pony tail who was the only person on Pana Namura who wasn't besotted by shyness and was willing to skip rope with Judy on the beach, and he was great, and the kids at the school who belted out the Papua New Guinea national anthem for Judy, and Billum who toted water for us for a week for the equivalent of $7.00, and he couldn't even lift the water jugs; it took him and two of his small friends to get a full jug down the beach to his canoe…

They've all been wonderful.

So we wonder what the people will be like in the Solomons, but one thing we've learned from the Lousiades: if we take the time to get to know the local people, it really adds to the enjoyment of our trip.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, The Louisiades

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