13 December 2008 | The Western Province
We finally made it to Gizo. Back in French Polynesia when we decided to head on west rather than trying to stay for a year or two, Gizo was our big waypoint. We couldn't go to NZ like the main pack because of Roq (NZ is dog hostile), and Australia was out for the same reason. If you're going to head North you either go through he Solomons to PNG, Micronesia and points beyond, or you go up to the Marshalls and across to Micronesia and on.
A few yacht blogs and some cruising guide info had made Gizo sound like a nice place for cruisers during cyclone season. Gizo has never had a cyclone, though they get strong winds sometimes as the cyclones pass to the south or east. The town has enough infrastructure to take care of your needs, fresh market, banks, yacht club (PT109 which is basically a bar), The Gizo Hotel with nice restaurant, two lovely resorts (Fatboys and Sanbis), post, airport, customs and immigration, places to eat, grocery stores, hardware stores and the lot.
Gizo is the town and it is located on the island Ghizo. Ghizo and the other islands in the area are all enclosed in a single barrier reef. This makes anchoring anywhere in the area reasonable and the Gizo harbor is particularly well protected. You have a fair amount of fetch from the north and east but there is an island to the northeast (an important direction to have covered, and the southeast through northwest is covered by Ghizo island. You could always hop around if need be because you can find cover from any direction inside the lagoon.
Getting here was interesting. We decided to back track out of Vonavona lagoon rather than coning our way through. It was a bright sunny day, but a bit too sunny perhaps. Hideko would have been roasted alive on the bow. It also might have taken too long seeing as how we would have to creep and crawl through the intricate and shallow bits. It is a long lagoon.
We said bye to Joe on Lola island by VHF as we left. He told us that Noro generally did not supply fuel on weekends and he had called them for us but got no answer. That was enough for us to nail shut the Noro fueling idea (even though it was so flat calm today it would have been a good day to dock there). So we headed back out Munda bar.
As we crossed the bar we ran into Angelica II, the Dutch boat we had seen in Honiara and the Russels. They were Munda bound (a nicer town than Noro from what we hear) so we said hi and told them we'd catch up in Gizo.
There was no wind and the sea was like glass with a long low swell. The Vonavona lagoon and fringing islands were beautiful as they passed to starboard on our way west. We went north through Furgeson channel to make an entrance into the Gizo lagoon at Kennedy Island. This is the island JFK swam to after PT109 went down in WWII. The pass here is deep and easy.
Once inside we went up the coast of the island of Mbambanga. To the east we saw Fatboys and to the west we saw Sanbis. Both resorts looked lovely and we will certainly return for a visit to each.
There are several reefs and shoals inside the lagoon but most are marked and the marks are in decent repair, and on station so far as we have seen. The lagoon is about 100 feet deep in most places.
We came up the channel south of airport island (the island with the airstrip) and entered Gizo harbor. It is an interesting town. It is a mix of shanty and full posh Solomons structures. Perhaps the tsunami a year and a half ago has something to do with this, but I think in general this is just how things develop in towns in the Solomons.
We found only one other yacht in harbor, to our surprise. It was Nueva Vida, some folks we had met in Honiara a couple weeks ago. We anchored in 45 feet a little ways out from the inner anchorage where the NV was sitting. There are a couple of moorings in the area and you are likely to swing all over the place here with the random wind directions so better to have more room.
It was a long hot day. We enjoyed the lovely scenery of the trip and a couple of dolphin visits to boot. The entire crew (particularly Roq) was ready to shut down once the hook was settled. So we did.