With a steady light east wind we pulled anchor and made our way back north to our anchorage at Kale. A beautiful slow sail that took most of the day. We planned to stay here just a day or two before sailing onward to Arnavan island, but the winds were not favorable for about a week. Once we had a good forecast, we decided to take Poru passage through Isabel island. This passage is very narrow in places, and a very swift tidal current gets running through it. To get to poru passage from our anchorage, though, we had two choices. Either sail out to the east through the another reef pass into headwinds and swell, around Kale island, and into Poru passage. Or, time the tide and pass through a very shallow, narrow pass immediately adjacent to the anchorage and pop right into poru passage. We chose the sketchier route, even though the locals discouraged it. I used the lead line and the dinghy to plot us a course through the shallow pass. When the day came for us to go, everything was lined up. We had a high tide at sunrise to get into Poru passage, then a brief time where the current would be slack, then the current would pick up to carry us through the 8 miles of Poru passage, and although the winds would be strong, they would be in our favor to then cross over to Arnavan island. Serena sat at the bow as i maneuvered us into Poru passage. First step is done. Now i followed my charted course through Poru. The first half was relatively simple, as i followed my gps waypoints. It then got very narrow with big cliffs on either side, and the current picked up to about 3-4 knots. Serena could see the bottom at some points, but I think it stayed deeper than 10 ft, because the depth alarm never went off. We got spit out the other side and sailed along in the lee of Isabel in order to gain some sailing room before heading across to Arnavan. The wind was picking up, and once we felt like we had enough room, we turned to cross over to Arnavan, about 10 more miles. We had a very fast and fun beam reach. I tested out the new slab reefing setup that I had put together recently, shifting from the roller boom reefing I had before. We sailed through the reef pass into the anchorage on Arnavan island. Very happy to be here after a very technical sail. I stressed and planned so much for that sail, and it went perfectly.
Arnavan island is a marine reserve in the Solomon Islands. It is also a sea turtle hatching area. Since we were planning to sail to Australia soon, we would have to get rid of our dugout canoe. Typically, yachts are charged quite a bit of money to anchor here, so we traded our canoe for permission to anchor. We had wonderful snorkeling, a great beach trail to run on, and saw baby turtles hatch. This was also where we had our closest croc encounter. As we were taking the dinghy home after snorkeling nearby, we saw something on the beach. As we got closer we realized it was a croc, about 10 ft long, and then is suddenly ran into the water. We kept motoring, and then we saw it swim directly under the dinghy. We couldn’t believe it. Then as we kept going, we motored right over another one about 3 feet below us.
One evening we motored the dingy over to a beautiful sandspit jutting out from one of the small nearby islets. There were lots of pieced of drift wood, so gathered up a larger pile and started to build a fire. There is very little in my life I love more than tropical campfires on a beach under the stars and sky. We laid out next to the fire for hours that night. All alone, just us. How is it that we have come here to this place to experience this moment? There are so many other people on the planet fighting for survival. What are we fighting for? We are fighting for the collective consciousness of our planet, of our universe. We fight for love and peace through our own growth and awakening, and pray to inspire that in this world.
Watching for the right weather to sail back to Gizo was really challenging. We had about 50 miles across to New Georgia island. Once across we could anchor again in Paradise harbor, or continue towards Gizo and possibly anchor on Kolombangara. It would depend on how long it took us to get across because we wouldn’t want to enter Paradise harbor in the dark being that the channel is so narrow. So, if we didn’t make it by sunset, we would just continue in the dark towards Gizo. The wind seemed to be blowing from a different direction every day, and it was usually different than forecasted. I was looking for a forecast of favorable winds lasting at least three days. The first day I could make sure the forecast was right, I would sail the second day, and the third day meant that the second day would probably be good. It was still monsoon season so the winds were all over the place. I found my good forecast. First day was good. Started motoring the next day with super calm conditions. The wind came up out of the complete opposite direction that was forecasted, but luckily it was just barely still favorable. We had a perfect sail across and anchored in Paradise harbor with last light.
The next day we made our way to Gizo. Ran into a squall the jibed the boom twice, snapping the end of it off. Luckily we were only 3 miles to Gizo town. Motored in and began the process of figuring out a new boom. For about 500 bucks we had a new timber one milled, transferred the fittings, sealed, and setup. Solid and beautiful.
An islet of Isabel we sailed to next is called Papatura. We had a really fast sail from Kale to Papatura, making the 35 miles during the day. We sailed along inside the barrier reef, and had a few very close calls when the depth alarm would suddenly go off, as we see coral heads suddenly passing beneath us, then deep blue again. We caught a huge Spanish Mackerel on this passage, too, which was amazing!!
There is a small resort on this island where we anchored first. Here we would leave our boat, in order to fly to Honiara to pick up supplies, and extend our visa. The airport is close by, and we did not have time, nor favorable winds, to make it all the way to Honiara by sail.
We first anchored a bit deep, and it was way too rolly and exposed. To anchor in more protected, we would need a bow and stern anchor to keep us from swinging around. With the dinghy, I took our secondary anchor with about 300 ft of rope and dropped it in the shallow sand near the beach. I attached a small buoy and weight to the end of the rope, and placed in the deeper water. We motored in to pick of the line, then out to where we would drop the main anchor. Once the main anchor was dropped, we pulled in the stern anchor line, as we let out the bow anchor chain. once we were in place, I secured the stern anchor line to a snatch-block and shackled it to the bow chain. I lowered the whole thing into the water, so the boat could swing around the single point held by both anchors. There was some excess rode from the stern anchor sitting on deck, so every other day or so I would unwind it from the chain.
We stayed here a couple weeks before we moved to another anchorage away from the resort, and closer to the surf.
There were a whole bunch of different surf breaks in this zone. I surfed one right hander, and the rest were lefts. Mostly I was surfing this one really fun left hander on the northeast side of Papatura. Usually I surfed alone, or with Serena, but sometimes people from the resort would come. This break was about a 5 minute dinghy ride, through a shallow pass between two islands, then along a shallow sandy area within the reef. We would always see little reef sharks and rays on this journey. It was really fun zipping along the shallows. We also found our own little wave perfect for Serena.
While flying over when returning from Honiara for our visa run, I noticed a huge black sand beach, and it looked like this perfect little wave was peeling across the sandy bank, like a sand point break. I figured out where it was on the charts, about 10 miles from our anchorage. I packed up my stuff, picked a day when I thought the weather would be good, and headed out. It took about 40 minutes to get there. The furthest I've taken the dinghy from home. Unfortunately, it was too small to surf the shortboard I brought, so I just cruised around and ate my lunch. I met some kids from the nearby school, and they showed me where the giant crocodile lived. I decided to head out, but the wind was picking up. I went anyway, and it got really rough. Then I started seeing lightning really close, so I made a detour through a nearby reef passage onto a beach. I met a kid, and we went for a walk down the beach, drank some coconuts, and waited for the weather to back off. I made it home safe after that.
We visited the nearest village to ask them for permission to anchor where we were on Papatura. The chief wasn't around, so we said we'd return again tomorrow. We traded for fruits, veggies, and eggs. These eggs were legit. Not developed at all. We came back a few days later. No chief today, so we were told that the chief would come visit us. The next day the chief came. He seemed a bit unsure of what to do with us. I don't think they get many visitors from sailboats. He had very nice sunglasses and a nice watch, so I think he gets money from some other chiefly duty. We gave him 100 Solomon dollars, two bags of rice, and a DVD. We stayed a total of 8 weeks, so I don't think that was such a bad deal.
I had a great squid lure, and caught lots of squid that hung around the anchor chain during the day. When I caught one, it would squirt ink, often hitting the boat. I was always scrubbing ink off the side of the boat. They were really good eating, though. I used one as bait on the hand line, dropped it over, and after about 2 minutes hooked something big. Hauled in a huge barracuda. Not very good eating, though. Tried frying, baking, not great. Apparently smoking is the best method.
We were having issues with our dinghy outboard. It seemed to be cavitating too often. I talked to the local mechanic who also worked for the nearby resort. He thought that the bushing within the prop was wearing out. This bushing protects the engine gearing should the prop hit something hard while spinning. Because it was wearing out, the force of the water on the prop was enough to cut it lose sometimes. So, we pounded a few nails into the bushing. This tightened the bushing and stopped the prop from cavitating. As the nails rust, it will further tighten the bushing. However, this is only a temporary solution. Likely, this made the bushing too tight, that if the prop were to encounter a hard object, the gearing may be damaged. We couldn't get a new bushing where we were, so this was the best we could do.
We visit the nearby village again to trade for fruits and vegetables. I think we brought some rice, maybe some dvds, but usually they prefer to have Solomon dollars. I think there are some small Chinese shops they buy things in. We get lemons, guava, and pineapple. I climb around in the guava tree picking ripe ones.
The fishing around Papatura was relatively horrible compared to Kale. And, I lost lots of lures trying to catch what was there. I would motor around for hours wasting tons of fuel in the dinghy trying to catch something. It was sort of my job to catch fish. I also didn't have much else to do. Just being out on the ocean, witnessing the little tropical squalls cruising through, was wonderful.
We took a ride about 4 miles form our anchorage to check out a few little islands to the north that might have nice bays to anchor in. We also heard there was good fishing out there. There was no wind so the water was really smooth. We stopped first in a little bay that would be very protected unless the wind was coming directly out of the southwest. It had a nice beach, but seemed a bit crocky, and we saw a really big jellyfish cruising around. We have our trusty lead line to check depths. We kept going to some other spots I had marked on the chart, but it was all very deep, at least 100 ft in areas that would give us enough swinging room. There was one zone where we could drop a stern anchor in a shallow sandy shelf, and our primary in about 120 ft water, but we weren’t totally sold on it, so we marked it down and moved on. We took a lunch break on a beautiful white sand beach. Ate the sandwiches we packed, and climbed a coconut tree to get some fresh coconuts. It feels like we have the entire planet all to ourselves. Far out and free.
On the dinghy ride home, we trawled for fish with the hand line. The water was crystal clear as we motored along the edge of the reef. The line hit and I knew it was something big. As I pulled in the fish we could see its silvery shape. Quickly I got it in the boat. Our favorite fish! A spanish mackerel, about 30 lbs. We were stoked!
One day when I was out checking the surf, I saw a white sail on the horizon. Another sailboat! It had been months since we’d seen another yacht, so I was so excited. I waited for them to get closer then motored out in the dinghy. Martin and Krystle from Australia. I told them where we were anchored and said there would be plenty of room for them, too. I motored back to the boat and told Serena the awesome news. We love islanders, we love being alone, and we love meeting other sailors. It had been a bit dry lately in the “other sailors” department. Martin and Krystle anchored next to us for about a week. We shared meals, stories, charts, and surf!
One of my favorite discoveries from anchoring in this remote zone was naked bodysurfing. One day i found a small piece of wood floating in the water. It looked like it was somebody’s canoe seat. I sanded it a bit, and drilled some finger holes, sealed it, and it became my hand plane. I started bodysurfing the same reef break that i had been surfing. To reduce drag I ditched my shorts. It took me a bit to work out the technique, but pretty soon I was getting nice little barrels! When a wave is already really fun to surf, it is super fun to body surf! This will forever be an activity I will be bring to remote tropical sailing.