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Friday, November 21, 2003

November 22, 2003-Tales From The Solomons

As it often does with us, inertia has set in. We'd planned to spend November cruising in the Solomon Islands, to Morovo Lagoon, or Choisol Island, two interesting cruising grounds, but instead, other than short trips around the area for snorkeling and exploring, WINGS has mostly remained anchored in Gizo.

Tonight is an exception. As I write this we are anchored in a small bay on Vella Lavella Island, about 25 miles from Gizo. This is just a weekend outing for us, we'll go back to Gizo on Wednesday and we are planning a Thanksgiving dinner with some other cruisers there on Thursday. But meanwhile we are in a very pretty bay with rain drenched and mist shrouded mountains on one side and a ring of islands on the other, and the local people sing as they paddle their canoes around. Their beautiful voices and a few tropical birds are all that break the stillness of the place.

Since no other yachts have visited this bay for a few years, we are drawing quite a bit of attention. All afternoon there have been a cluster of canoes around us, with local people in them, just quietly looking at us. We talk with the few who come alongside, but mostly they don't have much to say, or can't speak English. After a few hours of this we retreated below to escape the stares

We are here to visit a volcanic area nearby to see some thermal eruptions, and our friends on Vellela and Caledonia may meet us here, plus we wanted to get out of Gizo to a place where there was clean water so we could swim and scrub the bottom of the boat, but it turns out that this is not one of those places. Why? Because of crocodiles! The first native to visit us who could speak good English is the Chief of the village, and he warned us against swimming, saying that there were plenty of crocodiles in the bay. That settled that.

But, while we've been hanging around Gizo, we've been enjoying life, taking it easy, with friends from the few other boats around. Actually there have been quite a few boats around and once last week there were ten here including four from Seattle (well, sort of). First it was us, then Garth and Wendy on Vellela, fellow CYC members from Seattle, arrived, and then Josh and Nelia on Caledonia, a nice Cal 40 home ported in Port Townsend, and John Sloboda's Joliga II. Although John hails from Sparks, Nevada, his boat, a Ranger 30, was made in Kent, Washington.

A sad story about John: He has been very ill and has been flown to Guam, and possibly on to Hawaii for treatment of a badly infected foot. First he went to the local hospital and they decided it needed an operation they didn't feel they could do, so John had to leave his boat and seek better medical facilities abroad. We've been looking after his boat and getting it ready for a long-term stay until he can come back

While we have been in Gizo we have had some serious computer problems and I have had my head down working on them, and maybe I've been doing a little too much of that. Yesterday morning a local wood carver named Simon stopped by to show us his carvings, (this is a frequent occurrence in the Solomons). I really didn't want any carvings but I came up on deck to be polite, meanwhile wishing that he would just go away so I could get back to my computer. Then I realized that maybe I had it all wrong: here I was, in a beautiful island setting, talking with a pleasant and articulate local artisan, and all I wanted to do is work on the computer. Probably I had my head in the wrong place. So I stayed on deck and offered Simon a cup of coffee and "storied" with him a while. He told me some of the cultural history behind the carvings and about his family and it was a good break. And…I bought a small carving.

After Thanksgiving, and the as soon as a new computer and some boat parts arrive, we'll finally break free of the inertia and set off back to Papua New Guinea, this time New Ireland Province, on our way to Palau.

Fred & Judy, SV WINGS, Solomon Islands
07 degrees 41.4 minutes South Latitude
156 degrees 45.3 minutes East Longditude

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