Papua New Guinea
If you ask any sailor where one of the wildest place in the world is then some where in the conversation PNG will pop up. Ninety-nine percent of the world does not even have a clue where this wild, remote part of the world is. PNG’s southern tip is located a few hundred miles north of the northern tip of Australia and some geologists claim that this 1000 mile long island actually broke of the continent and drifted north a few million years ago.
It is hard to believe this 1000 mile long country with hundreds of smaller islands is home to over 600 languages but it also has some of the most beautiful rainforest left on the face of the earth. Sadly the tree’s will not likely last another 10 years at the rate they are cutting them down. But the fact is that if you buy anything made of teak or mahogany then most likely the wood it is made of came form here. These magnificent trees are located, cut down and flown by helicopter to gathering areas when a road to drag them out can not be made and then loaded on barges and sold for penny’s on the dollar. The locals are left with empty promises and a pocket full of cash in which one generation will quickly spend.
The land is also rich with natural resources but has been stripped bare of many of these in the last 50 years. With little or no regulations to follow large companies came in a took over mineral rich areas by force and started mining with reckless abandonment. In their wake they left land and villages decimated for the sake of making the almighty dollar. Mining towns like the one on Lihir Island are very similar to any gold rush town. Men come from miles around for the chance to work at one of these huge strip mines. Prices for goods in the market are triple what they should be like a simple box of breakfast cereal costing $12.
There is a good movie out called the Coconut Revolution that shows what happens when these companies go too far and ultimately start civil wars. This was the case when a mine was destroying thousands of acres of forest and several rivers with mining and the chemicals they use to leach out copper from the ore. The local people finally had enough of their land being destroyed while being under paid and exploited. They gathered forces took over the mine burning and destroying hundreds of millions of dollars worth equipment and running off the management basically with bows and arrows.
Our second stop in PNG landed us on Hermit Island which is a beautiful 10 mile across atoll with several islands surrounded by miles of reef. Sadly this reef has been exploited with dynamite fishing and very little coral or fish are left. The tiny village must get many yachts visiting each year because they now what they like to trade for. We went ashore with our usual bag full of goods and gave away toys and tee shirts which in turn provided with lots of fresh items from the gardens. Mainly pineapple and oranges! These are the sweetest and juiciest pineapples I have ever ate and thankfully we had heaps! The next day the “Trading Ladies” came out to the boat with hand made items to trade for sheets and towels. For one set of sheets and 4 bath towels I traded for a beautiful purse made from hundreds of tiny shells(not for me) and some other amazing hand made items that went into the souvenir pile. After the trading was over I cut up a watermelon from the refrigerator and we indulged in a rare favorite fruit for these people on the back of Downtime.
Sunday is a day of rest on these religious islands. Richie had tried to organized a soccer game with the locals but even this was too mush for a lazy Sunday afternoon and nobody showed up. Looking for things to do we took the camera drone ashore and took some arial shots of the village.
If you want to get every kids (young and old) attention take a remote controlled helicopter to shore! You should have seen the faces of these kids when this buzzing little helicopter took off and started circling overhead! I would fly just out of reach over their heads and let them feel the down draft of the propellers and they would giggle and laugh!
Next the ladies that I gave matching orange tee shirts to the day before came up and asked if they could sing me a song in appreciation for the gifts. They sang a beautiful song about God keeping us safe on the ocean and it was quite special.
I will remember these kind and generous people forever and want to thank them for showing me their island.
Continuing east we had planed to stop and clear into PNG at Manus Island which was the next island on our way until we heard the stories of what kind of town Lorengau was. Apparently Manus is home to one of Australia’s largest prisons and also the place where they deport refuges that come to their country illegally. Basically a darn good place to have your boat robbed! Instead of stopping we sailed by and caught two nice Yellowfin Tuna and a Mahi Mahi a prize that would most likely have caused a small riot if we had brought that quality of fish ashore. It was strange to go by an island with this big of a population and not have seen at least one boat out fishing?
Our next target to clear in was Kavieng, New Ireland another 350 miles (2 days) to the south east. The winds were fickle but finally picked up after several hours of motoring and when they filled we made miles effortlessly. I was frustrated that each time I looked our ETA when it kept telling me we would arrive just after sunset, which never a safe thing in any new port. We would either have to wait out side the port or slow the boat down. Slowing down a boat that is already going 7 mph is right up there with drilling holes in the bottom for most sailors so our option was find another place to clear in down the road. As luck would have it I looked in my cruising guide and found that we could clear into Lihir Island with simply continuing on through the night and covering another 120 miles of effortless sailing. We arrived mid morning and started the process of clearing in and out at the same time? Like any slow paced island we wound up waiting a few hours for the customs agent to arrive. We were finally assisted by a nice woman officer who collected our paperwork but had to go all the way back to town because she forgot her immigration stamp.
Sailing another 80 miles southeast we arrived at Feni Island where we encountered some of the most primitive people I have ever met. They were very friendly and welcomed us into their village where we met their chief. We traded many items and one of the big hits as always was a new soccer ball that we gave to the village. This was another like many places where even simple medical supplies are non existent and where several kids had runny noses and severe pink eye. Thanks to Dr. Steve who was on the boat a while back I had some medicine to give to these poor people and hopefully cure a few children from blindness.
It is said that alcohol is a big no-no to give to the local people here and we saw the effects of this first hand . We were walking back from the village tour with me out in the lead when a blind drunk local came out of the bush and charged at me wielding a 3 foot machete yelling “Why you come PNG?” over and over. Needles to say I turned and ran while the local guides we had with us subdued this individual and sent him on his way.
The next day we set sail with the Captain happy to have all his limbs and head still attached and sailed 45 miles SE to Green island. This was home to some of the more remote villages I had ever seen. The curious islanders paddled out in numbers to see one of only a handful of visiting yachts that stop each year.
One mother in particular came out several times paddling with two small children a half mile each way in a small leaky canoe determined to trade for clothes and anything else toe wear or eat for her family of six. She was most generous and brought flowers and vegetables from her garden and in turn we gave her whatever we could find on the boat that she needed for her children and also a bag of flour,rice and sugar. She told me that her family and several others moved to one of the outer small islands on this atoll to get away from the main island and the roaming pigs that the chief owned that kept digging up their gardens.
Life here on these islands is mere survival. Most people live day to day and own only the tattered clothes on their back and little else. All their food comes from the sea and the land. The community system keeps them alive in tough times since they share everything.
If I went back to this part of the world I would bring a ton of rice, and literally and another ton of kids clothes. For the mothers I would bring basic medical kits, clothes, soap, and seeds for the gardens. The men need fishing gear, spear guns and diving masks. Simple rechargeable solar lights would be a answer to prayer since there is no other source of light when the sun goes down other than fire.
The next stop on the way east is the Solomon Islands, so stay tuned!
The year 2015 started with Downtime in a remote anchorage in Sorong, Indonesia in the NE part of Indonesia with me flat on my back with some rouge flu virus trying to kill me. I was alone on the boat anchored a half mile from shore and in between a crew change with a soaring fever, unable to move far before the debilitating effects of this unknown virus would make my head spin and force me to get horizontal again. This as close to death as I ever felt I had ever been. I was lying in a pool of sweat actually trying to remember if I had ever felt so bad and what if anything could I do about it? Getting to shore seemed out of the question because I knew if I left the boat unattended I would surely be robed and come home to an empty shell. Next was the doubtful possibility that there was even a doctor ashore that could do anything for my situation.
Finally after the third day of sleep and 1st day of self administered antibiotics my fever broke and I turned the corner onto the road of recovery. Thank God because who knows how long it would have taken someone to find me if I did take a turn for the worse.
After a week of being horizontal I was back on my feet but nursing a hacking chest cold and somewhat ready to greet the new crew that were due to arrive on the 8th and 9th.
Richie (Grasshopper) from New Zealand arrived ready for an adventure with surfboard in tow hopping to find a wave to ride along the way Richie’s sailing adventure started with a provisioning run with me to town that morning.
The fish market was located on the main wharf and the first and last thing we walked through going into the city. The catch varied from day to day except for on No Fish Monday because everyone took Sunday off. The prices were cheap and the fish fresh and we loaded up on a nice chunk of Marlin, fresh Prawns and squid that were each just a few dollars US a pound.
With the freezer full of fish we headed to the supermarket.
I bet you are thinking: “Ohh, the fish market is where the fresh catch is displayed on beds of crushed ice in a refrigerated glass cases right? “ Wrong! This market is a simple roof covering concrete poured in place tables next to the bay with vendors displaying their catch in grungy ice chests that most likely have never had a scrub with bleach and soap or laying on the rough concrete tables. Thankfully they do have ice to keep the fish cool that is available in huge 100 pound blocks.
You would think there would at least be a water faucet to wash it all down after a long hot day of selling fish, but no they simply place the suction end of a pump in the ocean and spray it all down with water that I would not dare swim in! Needless to say I only bought fish that were whole and cold to the touch or fresh out of the coolers.
When you leave the fish market and walk towards town you pass by large screens that are on frames built a few feet over the ground used to dry sardines. Underneath these screens is an uneven dirt floor with pools of water from the daily rains and the ground is literally moving with thousands of maggots. One good whiff of this and you are ready to gag so you take a big breath before you get there and walk as quickly by as possible.
I have to say that just simply walking in these third world countries is dangerous. There are no building codes and simple things like step hight’s and sidewalks without huge holes to trip you is something we rarely even think about back in the states. Here sidewalks can have holes that you not only trip on but could fall completely into and stepping off a simple curb the height can vary fro m from one inch to a 2 foot drop. After my first face plant back in Fiji I have learned to pay attention and watch where I was stepping.
After a mile walk through town we arrived at the supermarket where things were just a little cleaner than at the fish market, but not by much finding dust covering every thing in the store . We shopped quickly and soon most items on the list were checked off. An hour later we had filled three carts full of various food items and two more full of toys to be given away down the road. The four foot long tape from the register at the checkout lane at looked like I had just landed on Park Place with four hotels on it playing Monopoly showing something like $1.2 million Rupia!.
The conversion rate here is $1200 Indonesian Rupia to $1 USA and subsequently you find yourself with money that has lots of extra zeros printed on it. The conversion rate is so bad that when you ask the question who wants to me a millionaire most people just shrug their shoulders and laugh. I had a few million in my pocket but when the 4 foot register tape finally got done printing and I saw the number it made my heart flutter just a little. I pulled my wad of Monopoly (Indonesian Rupia) money out and began counting in nice big piles of 100,000 Rupia ($80 US). A few minutes later I dispensed all but $10000 Rupia of what I had in my pocket. I told Richie at this point, now there is a good shopping lesson go in and spend all your money in your pocket but don’t go over! We had just enough left for a few ice creams on the way back to the boat.
The heavy items like beer and fuel were delivered to the boat and by the end of the day we had the boat fueled and with enough food aboard for the next four weeks.
Daniela from Germany (Wind Woman) arrived the next morning toting her kite gear and all we had left to do was simply clear out and set sail. Well this sounds easy doesn’t it?
We found out in Indonesia clearing out is like getting on a bad carnival ride and watching a monkey Fu%ing! a football at the same time! Our first stop immigration found us waiting an hour for the agent to show up for work, late (island time). then it was off to customs to fill out more forms. finally to the port captains office where I was informed it was disrespectful not to ware pants. It took no fewer than 4 cab rides back and forth across town and one trip back to the boat to put pants and shoes of all things on the increasingly grumpy Captain.
It is hard to imagine any body living in a country within 10 degrees of the equator even owning pants when the lowest temperature are in the mid 80’s. By noon the temperature on land reach the century mark most days and today was no exception! It was HOT damn HOT!
Four hours and a sorry excuse for a lunch ashore later we walked back into the Port Captains office, this time Downtime’s Captain was wearing pants forcing a smile while the crew waited quietly outside in the heat. We had just spent the last 2 hours clearing out of Customs and Immigration and had about enough of the run around. When I walked back into the Port Captains office to find the only other guys on the island with pants on sitting in front of the cranked up air conditioning smiling at my pants, patiently waiting to do my paperwork.
It must be a status thing wearing pants in the tropics to show others you work in an air conditioned office?
We set sail at 4 pm with calm seas and set our course due east, a course we would maintain for the next 2000 miles.
At first I felt something was very wrong because the wind was not in my face and that I was actually going with the current. This was a big change from all the miles I had done in the Philippines where the wind and current seemed to always be going the wrong direction. After a few hours of motoring we raised the main sail and set the jib as the predicted winds filled in.
There is only a few months out of the year that you can safely sail east in the south pacific and it occurs in January right after end of cyclone season when the winds are still blowing out of the north west. As long as you miss the last cyclone you can cover the eastward miles sailing downwind before the easterly trades set back in late march. The plan is all good until that surprise cyclone pops up as you will see later.
Our first stop in PNG was Ninigo Island 750 miles and 4 days later. When I said the winds filled they really filled and they blew 30 plus knots on the aft quarter for three days strait. With the big 1700 square foot head sail up Downtime was flying downwind, sometimes surfing down waves at over 13 knots! We covered 630 miles in 3 days which by the way is an all-time distance/time record on Downtime. We were being pushed east by winds feeding a small tropical depression (cyclone) southeast of us.
When the wind is blowing this hard and the boat is going this fast it is a sailors dream or nightmare if things go wrong. With that kind of force continually being applied to the boat by the huge sail you just hope there is not a weak link and the boat stays together and continues doing what it was designed for.
Anything over 8 knots is too fast to fish but just before arriving at Ninigo the winds let up enough to furl the Headsail and slow down and wet a few lines. We sailed along the Western reef and it did not take long to get our first strike. We landed a nice Giant Travail just before the pass into the atoll and but lost two others who swam away with $20 baits in their mouths.
In the morning the winds were down to 15-20 knots and there just so happen to be a perfect place to kite surf on the end of the island. Wind Woman the other kite surfer aboard and I got out our gear for my first session of the year PNG style! The locals lined the beach with wonder in their eyes having never seen such a crazy thing as people skimming over the water being pulled by huge kites ever in their lives.
These islands surrounding the atoll are like many of the islands we had visited in Micronesia, small low-lying islands surrounding a lagoon. The islands are covered in coconut trees and are rarely more that a few hundred yards wide or a few miles long and less than 50 feet above sea level. The lagoons are usually turquoise blue water with white sand bottoms and shallow enough to anchor in(less than 100 feet).
As soon as we had set the anchor the locals began arriving sailing their outrigger sailing canoes out and we traded the fish we caught for some fresh banana’s and paw paw (Papaya). One guy who paddled up even offered to take Richie lobster fishing the next morning and they came back smiling with 5 nice lobsters!
On these remote island the locals come out and ask for all kinds of things from clothes to batteries and whatever else they think you might have to give away. I usually have lots of spare everything to give but having left from Indonesia left my trading stores were limited. Had I known the big need for children’s clothes I would have bought hundreds of kids shorts and tee’s in the Philippines where you can buy bundles of second hand clothes for pennies a pound. the other thing they need is any kind of soap and hygiene products from tooth brushes to hand lotion. Deodorant and soap would be a good idea but how would you start caring this many supplies…..
These outer island have very little contact with the mainland and have very limited medical supplies and runny noses and pink eye are a big problem. Even a small cut can turn into a big problem in days without proper care here and most people just wrap whatever cloth there is available around it to keep the pesky flies at bay.
We give away as much as we can but know at the next island it will start all over again and there is only so much one person can do.
It has been my experience with this crazy sport of kite surfing that I can either have the perfect place to kite or just enough wind to sail out on the ocean, but rarely both. Well, here I was again with the perfect place to kite but not enough wind ….So up went the sails and we continued motor sailing east in light following winds.
Our next stop will be in Hermit Island so stay tuned,
I returned to Downtime after another hectic summer of traveling in the states in mid October. I had left the boat for a second time in the safety of Ocean View Marina, a small marina just south of Davao City located on the small island of Samal. This marina has the capacity for about 100 boats and is surrounded by a concrete wall that keeps all but the feistiest northern storms out except for when waves get big enough to actually go over the 8 foot wall. The 60 mile long bay is surrounded by 3000 foot mountains and the area is protected from the many typhoons that the rest of the islands in the northern Philippines encounter several times a year.
There were just a few things on the repair list before we set sail and one was to haul Downtime and have fresh antifouling paint applied to the bottom. It had already been over 2 years since the last time I had done this way back in New Zealand. The old paint had lost it’s ability to fight of growth and now the bottom was covered with thousands of barnacles that seem to thrive in marinas.
Hauling Downtime is a delicate process and having the right equipment in the form of a proper cradle that fits under her bridge deck is a must. Needless to say this had to be manufactured custom to fit Downtime and took days of welding 12 inch I-beams to a marine railway at the right height and distance apart to perfectly fit under the boat and serve as a temporary support while the bottom was painted.
Having a guy like Tjartan the marina manager in charge with years of experience made the whole process look easy.
I simply pulled Downtime up to the railway and and within minutes we were being slowly pulled out of the water by a massive winch up the railway.
Once out of the water the work began. In other parts of the world a pressure washer would have blown the barnacles to king dome come, but here labor is so inexpensive that all things are just done by hand. It took six guys two days to get the bottom ready for the fresh paint. It took a just few hours to scrape of the barnacles but much more time to sand off the cement they excrete to attach themselves with.
With the guys busy working on the boat we headed to the market to buy the first of many loads of provisions. There is no one stop shop to buy it all and we spent days looking through 4 different markets for all the things on our list. On our big shopping day we hired a cab for the afternoon and had him drop hundreds of pounds of shopping right next to the boat.
The next thing on the list was to fill the fuel tanks. A simple task in most parts of the world but here there are very few fuel docks and most fuel is carried to the boats in 5 gallon jerry cans. I was as close as I was ever going to be to a fuel station and the process of hauling 250 gallons of diesel painfully began by shuttling fuel hauling just 35 gallons a trip. Even getting this small amount the fuel station ran out 3 times in the next few days but I finally managed to get the boat filled.
With the fuel tanks full and the bottom paint applied we took sunday off and rented a motorcycle to cross the island and relax. We took the long way to the south end of the island chasing signs that should have taken us to a small dairy farm just a few miles away. We never did find the dairy but must have rode 20 miles across a 10 mile long island. In the end the we found this beautiful resort where you can sleep in a tree house 20 feet up in the air! The resort was quiet and had just two other guests at this small resort and it was nice to relax after a busy week.
The last job to do before we launched was to simply apply a fresh coat of wax to the topsides. I had the crew ready to apply a coat of wax, a job they obviously never done before from the looks of it. They all looked up at the boat 10 feet up in the air and thought I was crazy thinking they could reach that far up. It took several minutes to explain we needed scaffolding and to get them to carrying barrels and blocks to support beams to stand on. It was painful to watch the slow process but the last wax was being buffed off an hour before we launched the boat.
Back at the marina we wrapped up the last few trips to the market stocking up on produce and the last things we would be able to find in the civilized world. By Wednesday the forecast looked promising and we set sail for Sangihe just over 200 miles to the south. In this part of the world I do not know why I even bother with weather forecasts since most times it would just be easier to put the wind strait on the nose and start the engines and we would be going the right direction 90% of the time anyways.
At least I remembered about the 3 knot current that I fought going north last season a current that hat runs along the east coast of Mindanao and I set course for Cape St. Augustine. This is where the free ride south would begin after motoring 60 miles down the bay with little or no wind.
Once in the southernly current the boat speed picked up the predicted 3 knots and we actually found a breeze to sail with. With full sail we were cruising along at 10 knots over the ground in a 20 knot breeze. The only downside was that the wind was blowing strait back over the current and causing the waves to standup and knock us around. Then later just a few hours after the sun went down nasty squalls began , pouring down rain every few hours and the boat speed would fly up over 14 knots with 25 knots of wind in the sails. Needless to say the motion inside Downtime was very uncomfortable but we were making miles and it made no sense to further shorten sail.
The low pressure system passed and in the past 20 hours the wind clocked 160 degrees and what started as a starboard tack finished off the trip on the port side. Then just 40 miles out the wind turned strait out of the south back on the nose and it was time to finally put the sails away and burn a few more gallons of diesel to make port before dark.
We entered the harbor and were welcomed by our friends Paul and Lisa on Lorelei. Friends we last saw in the Marina in the Philippines and would be sailing this season with.
The harbor in Sangihe is open to the west and had temporary moorings placed for a rally that was just here a few weeks before. Mooring scares me and always makes me wonder what is actually attached to the ocean floor? From the looks of the rope they scrounged together it would not take much of a storm to break them and it took us 3 tries to find one with a proper attachment to tie off to. We spent a few restless nights on the mooring tossing and turning before I got fed up worrying we would break off during the night and finally went across the bay and dropped the anchor in much calmer conditions.
This is my first time visiting Indonesia and my first impression was how friendly the people are. There is a continual greeting of smiles and a “Hey Mister, how are you?” as you walk down the road in a place were very few Americans have traveled before. Life here in the small town revolves around the local markets where a limited variety of fresh fish and produce can be found. There is no shortage of tomatoes, cabbage, potatoes and fish. But delicacies like pineapple, watermelon or other fruits can be hard to find, not to mention anything green to make a salad with?
We had planed to stay just a few days and be on our way but then we got news of a paragliding festival coming to town that would offer rides off the 3000 foot mountain the following weekend. 150 flyers were arriving on Thursday for a exciting weekend of paragliding and we patiently waited for Saturday to arrive so we could experience the rush of flying though the air on a paraglider
The weekend finally arrived and the ramp was built to launch the kites and then the rains began. Only one lucky jumper made the decent by kite while the others totally frustrated re-packed their gear for a long 20 hour trip back to Jakarta by ferry.
With the rains came the west winds which churned the anchorage into an uncomfortable slosh. It was even uncomfortable on Downtime but the mono hulls had masts pitching 60 degrees making all but impossible to live aboard.
This was our motivation to leave and we set sail on Monday for Mahengetang.
Mahengetang is a small island just 30 miles further south that is known for a dive site with an active volcano spewing bubbles from the ocean floor. We anchored of the east of the island and did 3 dives on this 400 yard long mound of rumbling rock. We never saw the bubbles but we sure heard the rumbles of the volcano under us!
On shore was a small village of a boat building community. They were in the process of building what looked to be a 60 foot ship trimming one board at a time with a small chainsaw. at the rate they were going it looked like it would take about a year to complete the project with 3 guys actively working.
30 miles further south is Siau and yet another island with an active volcano. This 6000 foot grumbling monster spews smoke continuously and last erupted in Aug 2013. At night you can see the orange glow lighting up the smoke clouds spewing off the top. The anchorage here is right next to town under the volcano and the kids on shore are waving “Hello Mister” every time they see you. Unlike the last anchorage the Catholic churches here out number the mosques and on Sunday I had front row seats to the amazing choir singing familiar hymns.
One day I had a bunch of kids swim out on the original swimming noodle (bamboo) to say hello. I let them on the boat gave them an oreo and some juice and then they all pointed to SD and wanted a ride back in the dink. I loaded 8 screaming kids in and roared off to shore with a boat load of laughter!
The Indonesian government realizes the value of tourism and provided us with a english speaking guide who showed us all the places we could inject money into the local economy. He brought us to the capitol building to meet the governor and took us to the best places to eat which in this economy only cost $5 US per meal.
We did 4 dives with the local shop that when we purchased two dives he gave us two free with our own gear and showed us our first of many species in Indonesia including a frog fish! Macro diving is new to me and focusing on tiny critters is like a long game of wheres Waldo. Paul and Lisa did a great job finding tons of critters and took these amazing pictures and were nice enough to share them with me.
It was a sad day when Deb finally got the results from a mole she had removed in Davao. She would need further tests and have to fly back to France to get this procedure done and endure the 30 hour plane ride to get there. To make the trip even longer the day she was set to travel the high speed ferry to Bitung broke down and she found herself on the slow boat that would triple the time of the trip and arrive at 5 am for a 6 am flight! She made it by 15 minutes !!
Continuing South the next stop was another volcanic island of Roeang. We anchored on the east shore next to a fairly recent eruption (within the last 20 years). The diving in front of this lava flow had some of the best coral we had seen and had a slow tidal current that let us drift dive between the two dinghies.
On our third dive we were 20 minute in and 80 feet down when what sounded like a large ship rumble started and progressively got louder. I kept looking up wondering why a ship would be this close to land and saw nothing? Then the roaring pulse got even louder and we had to cover our ears to protect our eardrums. At this point we concluded it was not a ship but an earthquake and saw huge boulders bouncing on the ocean floor below us. Several huge 4 foot around sponge corals that we had just swam past began tumbling down the wall towards us almost landing on Paul! I was swimming next to a vertical rock wall and quickly backed away when debris started tumbling down. Paul shot to the surface and thought the volcano was erupting but to our relief he signaled that it was not. The water clouded quickly from huge amount of debris that tumbled down the wall and our next concern was the possibility of a tsunami since it was obviously a large quake. Thankfully this did not occur at our location because we would have had no chance getting to the boats in time.
The quake we later found out registered 7.3 on the scale and was centered just over 100 miles north of us. Through the rest of the dive we heard small tremors but nothing like the roar of the original quake.
While we were having fun diving this boat pulled up and 8 guys hopped out and began making small rocks out of big rocks with sledge hammers. The guys who did not get the hammer duty were filling sacks with the black sand. It took them a just few hours to load the boat and while the captain hauled the first load of sand and gravel to the main island the crew stayed prepared another load. I joked with Paul that we are lucky we got here early because the island will be gone in a few years!
I did not want to look like a lazy sailor while they were busy bust rocks so I got out the grinder and polished the dive tanks.
Another quick hop of 36 miles put us at the Southern tip of Bangka in a calm bay in front of “The Pain In The Ass Resort” The bay was over a mile across but the only place to anchor as a few hundred feet off shore on the east side close to the “Pain in the ass” resort since the rest of the bay had a choppy swell or was to deep to anchor in. We dropped the hook and were settled in and a small boat came out “The pain in the ass crew” and asked us to move because “Big Ship” coming in tomorrow. We tried the other side but when the wind picked up we found ourself 20 feet off the windward side of a shallow reef, not a place to get a good nights sleep! We moved back over to the resort side and were greeted agin by PITA crew but this time we negotiated and said if the ship arrives and we are in the way we will pick up anchor and leave and this seemed to be a agreeable solution. The next morning we woke to a boat moored between us slightly larger that Downtime and safely 100’s of feet away.
While Paul was filling dive tanks Lisa and I went to the island test flew the DCMI Drone to make sure it survived the many flights on the boat. The drone flew perfectly and we found out the pilot (Me) still has a depth perception issue when I unsuccessfully tried to fly around a coconut tree 80 feet away!
After a few more dives and a wake board session we headed south to Bitung and the Lembeh straits where more diving awaits!
We will be staying in Bitung and diving the many dive sites for the next few weeks and you can follow up on Lorelei’s blog for some amazing pictures of what we find diving together.
Out here still enjoying the dream! Peace, Capt. Pedro
Hawaii October 2014
There are a few times when I have I traveled in the past that I buy plane tickets that do not seem to make any sense and this trip to Hawaii was one of those times. I had originally planned to stay on only two islands, Oahu and Maui on this trip, but like everything else in my crazy life that changed.
The Mexico thing pushed my Hawaii thing a week. So my flight from Mexico took me first to Denver where I had left two big bags full of boat parts to spend a night and then to Oahu. Next I spent one night in a crappy little motel close to the Oahu airport with what looked to me like 200 other travelers were doing the same thing due to the fact that I arrived after the last flight to Maui left. Then there was one last quick hop and I got on a morning flight to meet Deb in Maui.
We arrived at the same time and set off for our first frustration of the day, the rental car company. We had 250 pounds of luggage and wrestled them to the shuttle stop it was then that we first noticed that it is damn hot in Hawaii this time of year! The line at the rental car company was ridiculous and out the door and I did not see any reason standing in line for an hour at Budget when there was nobody waiting next door at Hertz. 15 minutes later I pulled into Budget in a Hertz car and loaded up the bags into the first of the 5 rentals cars we would have during the next two weeks. Sometimes when I mess up it all works out and this was one of them since I actually did not have the car booked at Budget until the following day and our hotel was just minutes away and we made our switch into a Budget rental car number 2 the next morning. The best way I found to rent a car is to get on Price Line and name my own price. I can usually get a car for about $25/day. When you rent with a major credit card you will find you already have insurance as one of the card features, or simply tell your carrier to give you a rider before you leave home and save yourself $12-15/day.
Our travel plans were simple, to stay in a place a few days and then make a new plan. Nowadays with tools like Booking.com and Expedia you can find some great last minute deals on rooms and can be flexible on where you stay on the island. The first hotel we found was a place close to it all in a newly refurbished older hotel for around $100.
Maui is shaped like two 25 mile across islands joined together by a strip of land and is one of the few places they still grow sugar cane in the islands, both have dormant volcanoes rising 10,000 feet up in the centers. The North West shore is where most all the big resorts are and the southern part of the island is way less populated. The two big tourist draws are the famous “road to Hana” and Haleakala Volcano. On our second day we drove up to Haleakala, a beautiful hour long drive that takes you to the craters edge and right up through the clouds. The 7 mile hiking trail down into the crater takes a few hours and is well worth the effort. The trail steadily winds down to the bottom and I kept thinking while easily going downhill that the trip going back was not going to be very much fun at all. After 5 miles I stopped but Deb wanted to go the last two miles and all the way to the bottom to get shots of one of the many small craters that lined the caldera floor while I found a place to relax and read my kindle. It took all the water we were carrying to get us out after hiking the 5 miles back up hill. We were huffing and puffing and were both amazed as we were passed up by a 60 year old woman who told us as she sped by that she had just ran the Maui marathon the day before.
The next day we headed south to Hana and we enjoyed the drive taking lots of pictures along the way. We had stopped that morning at Whole Foods and brought a tasty picnic for along the way. The drive takes about 6 hours to make the loop around the south end of the island and there are several waterfalls and black sand beaches that must be seen along the way. The seven pools are located on the south tip of the island is a place that looked a little too busy for this sailor, but if you want to swim under a waterfall you should stop and take swim.
Heading back up the west shore the climate changes drastically and it becomes arid. The majority of the rain falls on the eastern shores of these islands as the clouds are lifted by the winds going over the mountains they drop their moisture. The west sides rarely gets rain and reminded me of pictures of the African savannah.
After a long day of driving we headed to the small town of Paia to pick up a surfboard Deb had her eye on and then grab a bite to eat. When we got out of the car and went to grab the backpacks they were nowhere to be found. Someone had lifted both our backpacks somewhere along the way! We had the car locked or the backpacks with us all except one short time when we stopped and took a picture of one waterfall, I noticed a car pull in next to us at that turnout but did not notice them even get out of the car. They must do this daily and wait till the unsuspecting tourist turns there back and then grab what they can. You think you are safe being in Hawaii, but I have heard many stories of thefts just like these in places where a fresh set of easy targets drive through every day.
Getting robed is a sickening feeling and the stuff we carry around is sometimes very difficult to replace. The item on top of that list in my bag was my passport that small book that has absolutely no value to anyone else in the world. At least I had my credit cards in my pocket and the rest of the stuff like cash was just painful to lose.
The first thing you need to replace a USA passport is a birth certificate. Luckily I had several copies of this document the only problem was they were several thousand miles away in either direction. One copy was on the boat in the Philippines and the other copy in my office in Kansas. Fed ex to the rescue! The second is to get to a US Post Office and get a passport application form. Next we chose to hire a agency to expedite the process and hired Fast port Passport to move the process along since our flight to Davao was leaving in just 10 days. We obtained the services and documents were on the way but it would be a few days before fed ex could get the birth certificate to where we were so we set off for two days to visit Lanai.
Lanai is a small island off the North West shore of Maui that until about 10 years ago was known as the pineapple island, it is now the one of largest private owned islands in Hawaii. We had planned to catch the 3:30 ferry which Deb thought left at 4:30 and we wound up on the 5:30 boat. Glad I am not the only one who has these issues with time and dates. The upside was that happy hour starts at 3 in Hawaii but the downside was that we would arrive after dark.
The plan for what it was was to get to Lanai and then take a bus to the only small town on the island and find a place to stay. The first and only bus I saw was going to the Four Seasons and the passengers he was waiting for must have missed the ferry. New plan Deb, I just talked to the bus driver and he called up and there was a room available at the Lodge at Koele. When I say room, it was actually a suite and one of the nicest rooms I have ever stayed. The Four Seasons experience is not soon forgotten, the bill will make sure of that! This location was amazingly beautiful, set up in the hills and landscaped to make you feel you were in one of the world’s great parks. The rain fell through the night and the morning sun burned of the mist of the 150 foot pine trees as we sat on the balcony overlooking the entrance. The central dining hall was in what felt like a huge family room with 30 foot tall stone fireplaces at either end. Towards the center there were couches surrounding the fire place and a grand piano softly playing and where we had desert after our delicious meal. Our breakfast was served a the same table and the morning light let us admire the beauty of our new backyard and its big pond with wild turkeys nibbling away at the grass around it.
In the afternoon we rented one of the last jeeps available on the small island and set off for a tour of this small island. The one and only blacktop road headed just 6 more miles east and down to the beach before branching in either direction along the coast in dusty two track. Some of the spots in the road were deep talcum powder and the dust went flying others had big mud puddles that tempted us to get this freshly washed jeep muddy. The mesquite trees provided cover for the deer and other wildlife that have been introduced here. Deer season is open year around and you can get permission bag 3 a day since the population has exploded to 17,000 or so. The other game is wild turkeys, rock quail and doves that also have no predators to keep their numbers in check. You can literally catch quail and dove with a butterfly net here since they have no fear of man.
In the morning we followed a dusty red clay dirt road and drove north from the hotel through the old pineapple plantations. On the north end of the island was a volcanic area named “Garden of the Gods” with places that looked like you were driving across the moon and then the road got really rocky and headed down to the beach. The jeep had decent off road tires but they were no match for the soft sand this beach had miles of. Within 15 minutes we were buried to the axles and stuck but by simply letting the tire pressure down to increase the tire footprint the jeep crawled out. With the tires aired down and twice as wide as before the jeep floated on the sand and we easily drove the few miles of coastline to the nearest shade tree and had a picnic.
We saw only 3 other people the whole day and felt like we had this slice of paradise all to ourselves for last two days. We checked out of our room the following day and had lunch in town but had to rush to catch the 4 pm ferry after making yet another wrong turn? We stopped for directions and were told of the “shortcut” make the first right turn, go past the solar farm and then left cross one road and then turn right. Darn jeep needs a compass for a sailor to tell where he is going I say!
We spent the next night at a 100 year old hotel right on the wharf in Lahaina which has the biggest banyan tree growing next door in the park we had ever seen. Kathryn at the front desk of the Best Western is an amazingly efficient person and got us checked in within minutes, we loved the retro style hotel. When you are in Hawaii and think you absolutely need stuff like jewelry, pearls or a souvenir to take home you in luck here in Lahaina and can fill that itch with at least 50 jewelry stores and 100 other shops to browse. It was our inside joke from then on and we would say “need jewelry”? Nope, thanks but I been to Lahaina!
We had my passport documents shipped to Kauai which would be our next island and had a flight booked for 4 that afternoon. I had left the two big bags in Oahu with a baggage service to baby sit so we just had our new backpacks and new huge surfboard bag to tote around. I dropped of the car and Deb spent the next hour checking into the 30 minute Hawaiian flight that would supposedly take us to Kauai. I met her at security and we proceeded to the gate that said Kona on it. Kona! That is not on Kauai it is on the big island! Damn did it again. For the next 30 minutes I tied up the only available Hawaiian agent getting this all sorted. Needless to say our luggage and two paid empty seats were on that way to Kona and two not so cheap seats had us on the flight to Kauai. But the bright side is that the surfboard and other bags will have been to all the major islands in Hawaii by the end of this trip, lucky them!
The race was on to see which birth certificate would show up first, the one from the Philippines had a two day head start but many more miles to go but the tracking number showed the one from the US took the lead and would be there the next morning. We had several l copies to make so in the morning went to the Sheraton business center at the resort next door and were making copies when who of all people walks in? The Fed ex Man! I asked if by chance had the envelope for me on his truck and he took me through the lower corridors of the hotel to the delivery dock and found my package and saved us both some time. I was finally feeling like I was going to get this new passport as we drove to the post office located in a small western town on Kauai. The lady that helped us went out of her way getting us an appointment to fill out and notarize the forms at the post office but frowned when we told her that we would send them fed Ex to New York. She kept telling me I had to take them to Honolulu, but I just said no thanks and I appreciated the help anyways. From there we rushed back to the airport to the Fed ex terminal and posted the package just to find out it would leave the island in 23 hours since the one and only plane of the day had just left. We were really cutting it close, but did all we could do so it was time to relax.
Our finding hotels on the internet had been working well so far and we logged on to Booking.com to find our next home for the night. We chose a lower end place with great reviews located on the east shore of Kauai for just under $100. It was not hard to see that we set our sights a little low right when we walked in but after staying at the posh Pour Seasons we thought how bad can it be right? Well, the first room we saw was located right next to the laundry and had zero view of anything but a wall outside, I went and told reception this was definitely not going to work and got a ”better” room on the 3rd floor. Again we thought how bad can it be right? The room was older than me and amazingly had zero ventilation at least the room on the first floor had a ceiling fan. The twin beds were shoved in the corner and I thought who-who were kids again! Next I walked into the bathroom which had enough mirrors to make feel like I was at the carnival and I actually had a hard time finding the door out! We toughed it out and tried it for the night, but by morning Deb had her bed dragged out onto the balcony and was literally sleeping outside and I woke in a pool of sweat saying pack the bags Deb I can’t do this $E%^T!
Back on the computer we found the Aston and for $20 more and for just over $100 you can stay in one of the nicest place we found in the islands! (Not Counting Four Seasons but that was not $100 either) Everything about the place was first rate from the staff to the location. The room had just been updated and had a nice king size bed and best of all AC! There were several local places to eat within walking distance and even a nice beach to relax on.
The surf report showed promise of a north swell and Deb was ready to try her new board out. We drove up to Hanalei Bay but arrived there to find the waves were huge and much bigger than she had rode before, but that did not stop her from getting out there and giving it a shot on some of the smaller sets. After surfing we headed to the small town and sat down for lunch just before the skies opened up and it began to poor down rain. We had an amazing view of the steep mountains that hug this coast and magically began seeing new waterfalls appear before our eyes from all the rain. In the end there were no less than seven waterfalls rushing down the steep mountain face. When we returned to our hotel we heard on the radio that the only bridge on the highway out that small town was threatening to be closed from the water leaver rising in the river. Later we found this little town lies just below one of the wettest spots in the world with over 700 inches of rain recorded last year.
We were on the road early the next morning to beat the afternoon showers for our visit to Waimea Canyon which is located on the west side (other side) of the island. This promised to be worth the drive and it was at the end the highway winds right up into the clouds to the top of the volcano. Just before the top you find yourself driving right next to a one of the biggest canyons in the islands that is over 4000 feet deep at points. The contrast in colors is amazing with the deep greens of the vegetation next to the bright red volcanic earth. The canyon is a beautiful place to explore where thousands of years of erosion have created another small wonder of the world. Hiking down into the canyon is a must but flip flops would not be my shoe of choice next time and hiking with the backpack with those things we were afraid could get stolen added a few more pounds, considering who really needs to take a laptop on a hike? Deb carried the roasted duck in her backpack that we bought at a Chinese market that morning and we had a nice picnic at the waterfall at the end of the trail.
Our hike ended none too soon and by the time we returned to the car the afternoon showers began. We continued north around the island and found ourselves on the longest beach in all the Hawaiian Islands.
We had been trying to book a helicopter tour the whole week and from we could tell the morning flight was the best since the rains started every day after lunch it seemed. We tried to get on a flight with no doors to get the best pictures but the Hughes 500 (the one they flew on Magnum P.I.) has a strict weight limit and we were 10 pounds over and that required us to buy 3 seats for something like $800! We passed on that and found our next best option was to get on a plane which turned out to be an amazing flight. Not only did the weather cooperate it felt like the sunshine was actually following us and we were able to see the very top of the volcano which was the wettest marsh lands on earth. You know you have had a great flight when the pilot keeps saying “I have not seen that in a while”. The crew at Wings Over Kauai showed us the best Kauai had to offer and were fun to fly with.
This was our last day in Kauai and from there we caught a flight to Oahu on Friday to go pick up my passport. Having triple checked our tickets that morning for time, date and destination we felt fairly confident we would see Oahu that afternoon.
It was our lucky day at the Hertz rental car place too, they did not have our class of car in stock so it was pick a car any car and have a nice day. We drove out in one of the biggest cars they had and Deb thought we looked like the perfect soccer parents.
Cliff the bag babysitter met us at the airport with the two bags full of parts and we loaded the back of the Ford Flex with 5 suitcases and a surfboard with no problem. My trusty 8 years old Motorola Android GPS led us strait to the Fed Ex office and soon I was holding a small blue “golden ticket” that would allow me back into the Philippines.
We then drove east over the mountains to our last hotel surprise in the afternoon rains. This Hotel was one of the places you find on the internet and wonder what angle they actually took the picture from when you arrive? The room was located on the bottom of the steepest driveway I been down in a while and had just a faint resemblance to what I had seen when I booked it. This was a higher end room price wise but the location had much to be desired being located down a busy residential road without any view to speak of.
The surf report showed flat conditions during this transition time of the year and famous breaks like Pipeline could be wake boarded over since they were so flat. We did a small island tour and found our Hawaii adventure was suddenly over and packed our bags for the long flight to Manila.
Of all the places I had been in Hawaii in the last years I find Kauai to be my new favorite. The “Garden Isle” has much to offer and has a little slower pace than some of the bigger islands. My next favorite would be the big island which I went to last year with its many miles of road to explore. You can find all varieties of activities and sorts of adventures here or put your feet up at the nicest resorts in the world. We stayed in all price ranges of rooms and all I can say is “You get what you pay for” with the exception of the Aston which was exceptional for the price. You can do Hawaii on as little or much as you want to spend and the best of all you’re speaking English, never that far away from the mainland and your phone still works!
Our Adventure continues in the Philippines so stay tuned,
Peace, Capt. Pedro
October 29, 2010
You know when you go out on a regular saturday night dressed like this, Are you being strange or is everyone missing out on a whole lot of fun? I would like to think the rest of the world is missing out!! Arg!! Captain Pedro!!
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