We were all set to sail north today. Then at 5:30AM I heard a knock on the hull. Hmmm. It was our friend on the boat next door and she looked concerned. She was in the process of taking her husband to the hospital and asked us to watch the kids.
We were very concerned because it sounded like appendicitis, and you wouldn't want to have surgery in the Solomon Islands if you could avoid it. Not even in the Honiara, the capital. The main hospital in Honiara is call #9, an anachronism from the WWII USA occupation. They call the graveyard down the street #10.
Though worried about our friend, we had a great time with the kids. It was a gray and rainy day so we watched Disney movies, made pancakes and ran the air conditioning as the genset brought the batteries up. We did a little bit of scrambling to identify flights to Honiara and possibly on to Australia in case things required it.
After some pain killers and a belated doctor examination everything seemed to clear up. The doctor didn't arrive until 8:30, even knowing there was an emergency room call. Our patient was released late in the day with a renewed bill of health. Chalk it up to local food.
These kinds of events make you step back and think. What do you do if your appendix bursts and you're in the middle of a two week passage? There are options, but taking a 5 minute ride to the hospital is not one of them. Maybe it is a good idea to get your appendix out in advance...
The bottom line is there are people all over the world who live everyday of their lives far from quality medical facilities. Many without even the option of flying somewhere sophisticated should it be called for. If they get really sick in some of these places, they just stay in bed and hope to get better.
Internet access is good here but health care has a way to go.
Needless to say we did not leave today. We will probably leave on the 2nd now, with Angelica and Whistler after the customs guy comes back.
|The Solomon Islands||
We are planning to leave Gizo tomorrow on the way north to Pohnpei. Our friends from Kliener Bar came by for a game of Risk in the afternoon. Lucia crushed us all, no mercy.
Boat prep goes well and we should have no problem departing in the morning. It is nice to have all of the major bits of the boat in working order. It has been great to have the genset back online these past couple of weeks in Gizo. Not only is it nice to have full AC power from time to time (and AirCon!) but the MS2000 Inverter/Charger does a much better job of charging the batteries than the engines do when it is overcast for a couple days.
The dinghy's outboard needs some tweaking though. I think cooling water may be coming from a place it is not supposed to (scared to pull the thread on that sweater). Also the reverse is not working due to a needed shift cable adjustment. I'm hoping to fix both when the dink is up on deck in one of our upcoming anchorages.
Some new friends we met at PT 109 invited us to Fatboys for dinner tonight so we happily joined them. Fatboys has the best food in Gizo IMHO. It was a fun evening with Cara and Christian. They are great folks who recently moved to Australia from the USA. Christian is an avid surfer and Yahoo! exec and Cara is a PR exec working for Disney. What great jobs. Two more wonderful folks we've met that we hope to meet again!
|The Solomon Islands||
12/28/2008, Gizo Airport
The Gizo Airport on Airport Island is a dirt strip used by twin engine inter island prop planes. Two hundred liter barrels of av-gas are stacked by a small building that serves as the Gizo terminal. There's a leaf hut behind the terminal where I assume the caretaker lives.
The dock at the island is in a declining state of repair with the shore side bit looking nice, and the ocean side bit sagging into the water. It is a quaint setting.
In between flights you can find the locals teeing up for driving practice on the strip. At the east end of the island there are supposed to be lots of giant clams at snorkeling depth, though we haven't verified this. You can also see young men flying things other than planes on the run way from time to time.
|The Solomon Islands||
12/27/2008, Gizo Harbor
It was a mellow day in the anchorage. Things were quiet and perfectly flat at sunrise and we got a great picture of Whistler (shown). Hideko made a cake and we watched some Star Trek. We are on the last season of Enterprise now. After watching the whole franchise from the Original Series on, for the last couple years, we are going to be really bummed to see the final episode go by.
We went to Angelique II for sundowners at 5. At and Dia are a wonderful couple from the Netherlands. They had been sailing for 10 years in Angelique I when the prop and shaft fell out flooding the boat. She went to the bottom as a Dutch freighter rescued them. Daunted? No a chance. They took the insurance money, bought an Amel (built such that the same problem could never happen) and sailed farther and wider than before.
We're very excited because they are going to join us on the trip to the Philippines. So we will be a party of three boats now with Whistler. They are also going to buy supplies for the atolls, which was very kind of them. Cruisers are wonderful people.
|The Solomon Islands||
12/26/2008, Airport Island
Beach BBQs are a fairly august cruiser tradition. It seemed only appropriate that the anchorage get together for a good day on the beach around Christmas. Every cruiser has a budget all their own and many long term cruisers are careful not to blow out big dollars at resorts and expensive restaurants so that they can cruise longer (or indefinitely). Yet no matter what your budget, you can always swing a Cruiser Beach BBQ. Thus it is a great way to get everyone out for some fun in the sun.
The Cruiser BBQ Pot Luck is a slight variation on the Strict Pot Luck. The Strict Pot Luck involves everyone bringing a single dish big enough to feed about three to four times their crew (amounting to three to four courses for all attending). Someone has to manage the division between entrees, sides and deserts in this format.
The BBQ Pot Luck on the other hand is a little more random. Everyone brings something to grill for themselves and one side/desert to share, sized for two to three times their crew. You build a big fire to cook on and everyone has a great time with a wide variety of random sides and deserts (I always like it when there are lots of deserts).
Today we had a perfect Cruiser BBQ Pot Luck. Kliener Bar brought their big boat over and the rest of us dingied our way to the airport island beach. The beach is on the northwest tip of airport island and has good shade under the trees. There's a lashed branch table in the clearing and a rock fireplace for cooking. The dive Gizo folks tipped us off to the spot and since it is government land, we could use it without getting permission from a chief somewhere and paying the kastom fee.
The weather cooperated perfectly. We had a pleasant sunny day and everyone had a lot of fun. Polaris brought the obligatory patonk balls and all comers had a good time trying to beat Warner and Eric (though none could).
Three planes landed while we were there. You could stand right next to the run way to watch the landings and take offs. The FAA would not approve. You also need to make sure to park sailboats off to the side of the approach line.
Another party of local folks started a BBQ down the beach from us in the afternoon. Everyone had a great time mixing and chatting together. The local kids, Chad and Latasha from Gizo, joined Lucas and Nina, from Kliener Bar, playing about in the water.
We broke camp just before sunset, prior to any mosquito activity, and headed back to Gizo. The dinghy trip to the island was in displacement mode. The reason being the hull was full of water. While our hull does not leak to the outside there are several penetrations in the deck for the helm and what not. If it rains and the dink fills up with rain water overnight (a good foot in some cases out here), some of the penetrations are not perfectly caulked. So fresh water gets into the space between the deck and the hull.
When this happens planing is tough because as you accelerate the water goes to the stern. On the beach I pulled the hull drain plug to let the fresh water out. This allowed us to plane on the way home. Not bad for a 25hp considering we had three big and one small adult on board with a full party load of stuff, not to mention the console, starter battery, full tank of fuel and backup tank, anchor, etc.
I did go around the reef that runs out to the east at the north end of the anchorage on the way back. At noon on a new moon we had plenty of water to dinghy straight to the beach at airport island from the Gizo anchorage. On the way back (low tide) I was not so sure. With the light failing we followed the channel around.
It was a lovely day at the beach!
|The Solomon Islands||
We had a lazy morning today, relaxing with a nice latte. All of our out bound Christmas gifts had been handled via internet, Amazon.com mostly. I think we did pretty good and got most things to our nephews and nieces delivered by Christmas.
We got ourselves some gifts but in the end decided to wait to forward our mail until Pohnpei. Pohnpei is supposed to have great US Mail service with US Mail internal (not international) rates. This is due to the US Associated status of the Federated States of Micronesia, of which Pohnpei is a state.
We looked at our presents online instead of opening them, which was almost as good. The only thing I was really hoping to have in the Solomons was the replacement Olympus underwater camera we had bought. The one we have works but the display died. It has no view finder, so it is pretty silly trying to use it, though Hideko has managed to take a few pretty good blind shots.
At 11AM we headed over to the Gizo Hotel with Whistler, Angelica II and Polaris to catch a shuttle to Fatboys. Fatboys is a resort a couple of islands down and they were having a big Christmas lunch. The resort is lovely and the main building is the restaurant and bar, which is on pilings over the lagoon. The water was amazingly clear today and it was fun just staring over the rail into the water.
The bungalows at the resort were very nice and would make an amazing place to read a few books. The food was also excellent and the ambiance is very very relaxed. The atmosphere is a cross between island getaway and your friend's house. I don't know how else to describe it.
The folks who own the King Solomon Hotel in Honiara and the Gizo Hotel have just purchased the Fatboys resort. Grant, the owner builder of the place, is running it until the end of the year. The new owners and lots of Grant's family were on hand to help celebrate Christmas.
They served a great meal and we spent several lovely hours talking with the other boat crews and the folks who had come to join in the fun from all over the area. We saw an Australian couple that we had first met on the Guadalcanal battlefield tour in Honiara, among other interesting folks. The Solomon Islands is a small place.
After a great and relaxing day we were shuttled slowly back to Gizo, getting a wonderful tour of the islands along the way. It was a great Christmas.
|The Solomon Islands||
We set up a Christmas eve dive with Dive Gizo. Four of the yachts in the anchorage joined in. It was a great time for a great price. The weather was not fantastic but it didn't rain. There was an impressive swell running and a pretty heavy chop in the lagoon. We all got wet on the way to the first dive site. Premature, but not a problem when you're Scuba diving.
Gizo has had a rough time in the dive department, with the tsunami from last year damaging some of the famous spots. These spots still have lots of fish but the reefs were pretty much wiped out. There are still a good number of dives to choose from and on a day like today we needed spots on the opposite side anyway.
Our first dive was at Secret Spot. It was a good dive but visibility was not stellar. We saw some sharks and the reef was in good condition. There was a pretty good current running so it worked out as a drift dive. I always like just floating along with the plankton.
After dive one, we hopped over to an island where one of the dive shop guys had cooked us lunch. We had fresh bread from town and reef fish cooked on heated stones, Solomon Style, along with pineapple and rain water. It was a tasty repast.
Dive two was out at Yellow Corner. This is another drift dive (at least it was today) with lots of yellow soft corals. We saw a turtle, lots of intriguing fish (several of which sent me scurrying for the Pacific Fish ID books afterwards), and some giant clams and nice reef growth.
It was a bumpy and wet ride back but the shop made everything else easy. They changed over our tanks, rinsed and dried our gear and in general took great care of us. Many thanks to Luc and the crew at Dive Gizo.
The Dive Gizo shop is located just across the road from PT109. This makes it easy to load and unload at the nice PT109 dock. The Dive Gizo shop also has the most awesome collection of local carvings I have seen. If you want to buy a carving, this is probably the best selection around and at good or better prices than you may get direct from the fairly savvy carvers.
Once back in town I met up with Eric to finish picking up the supplies for our aid delivery to the atolls. We had to stop by several Chinese stores just to come up with flour and no one had onions. We did get most of everything else we were looking for though.
We had to hurry too because PT109 was having their Christmas Eve bash tonight. For 100 sol ($14 ish) you get a big Solomon style buffet feast. All of the yachts in the anchorage were there at some point in the evening. It was a lot of fun to chat with the many interesting folks on hand.
Whistler with Eric and Jenique were there and we are looking forward to traveling through the atolls on the way to Pohnpei with them. We had gone diving with Lucia Warner from Kliener Bar and their kids, Nina and Lucas entertained everyone with some wild dancing after the meal. I had a nice chat with the single handers on board Dream Hunter and Seabatical II. We got to know At and Dia from Angelica II much better after short chats with them over the VHF in the Russels and a few words as we passed each other crossing Munda bar in different directions. The Polaris crew, Peter, Jorge and Heike joined in the fun and Nueva Vida came later in the evening as well. PT109 managed a 100% yacht turn out. Anyone living on a yacht who has made it to the Solomon Islands has several interesting stories to tell. It would be hard to assemble a more intriguing group of individuals.
That said the ground based folks in the area also very interesting folks. We met Christian, a Brazilian surfer and high tech sales manager, along with his fiancée. There were a wonderful couple with lots of great travel stories. We also saw lots of the Dive Gizo folks, and many of the aid workers and assorted expats from in town. It was a great evening with a lot of great people.
|The Solomon Islands||