Posted by: catamarantwooceans | October 7, 2011

Santa Cruz – Solomon Islands

21.9.11 – Wednesday – During the night Ureparapara’s reputation for “wind bullets” coming down the steep crater sides justified itself, 30 knots wind suddenly springing up. An added “benefit” was the heavy rain that fell from time to time, forcing us to keep our hatches closed and cabins stuffy and humid.

At 0530 we went out with Santa Cruz island in the Solomon islands as our destination. Distance – close to 200 miles. Wednesday was a day of rains and squalls, not very pleasant! We covered 60 miles in the first 9 hours but later squalls made us reef deeply and lose speed in order to have an easier ride. 

Squall cloud

Israel is in a bit of a shock caused by the boat slamming into waves.

Night came and after a final squall the conditions abated and those who were off watch had a good rest.

22.9.11 – Thursday – This was a completely different day from the one before. The sun was shining, we had no rain and the wind was relatively light. At 25 miles to the island I had to use the engines so as not to arrive to close to sunset.

Clearing into Santa Cruz is not so clear. The information we have is that there are no customs or immigration and that we should seek out the local police. We were not sure where to find them or, for that matter, where the town or village were.

As we approached the island we saw the big cloud hovering above. It did not take long for the deluge to start. I had to stand outside in my oilskins,  barely able to discern anything ahead because of the stinging raindrops hitting me in the face making it difficult to keep my eyes open. I felt funny in my yellow foul-weather gear, passing fishermen in canoes with no protection at all.

We entered the bay via the western entrance which as a reef in the middle. According to the chart the favored channel was to port of the reef but my eyes told me another story. We stopped by a canoe, driven by a woman with her husband and child on board and asked for directions. Passing the shoal we turned into the bay and started looking for the town/village/ or whatever place we could find the authorities. On the right we saw a dock with a sunken fishing vessel on its side. On shore we could see a lot of people, small fishing boats and inland a few high antennas. We came near and the people confirmed that this was Lata town and that we could find the police in town.

As we carefully approached the dock, some men came to help with the ropes. One of them, a man named Paul, with the typical red gums of a betelnut user, attached himself to us and lead me to the police station where all I had to do is fill a form with the particulars of the boat and the crew. “Is this all I have to do? Can we just sail out to Nauru the day after tomorrow?” The policemen assured me that this was the case. Great!

On the way back to the dock a truck stopped by. “Are you going to the dock?” a man inside motioned us to climb onto the back. As we got to the dock I disembarked and thanked the driver. “Did you already check in?” he asked. “Yes, I’ve been to the police” “But you have to come to my office too, I am the premier”. Premier of what? thought I and promised to seek him out tomorrow. Paul was planning to sell me lemons and take me to see all sort of local artifacts. “Tomorrow!”

We left the dock to motor is heavy rain to the recommended anchoring spot. Two catamarans,one of them a James Wharram design were at anchor and we dropped ours between the two of them. No time to chat now! We had to tidy the boat and make dinner. We’ll talk to them tomorrow.

23.9.11 – Friday – In the morning I swam to the Australian catamaran near us and got some info regarding Lata town, local money versus the U.S one etc. The people from the Wharram cat, Hans and his Swiss-French wife Isabel came by too. Now we heard about those guys from Warwic and Nancy. They said that Hans was in and out Solomon islands three years in a row without bothering to do the formal entry. About two weeks ago, the police got to them and confiscated their passports, pending a decision by the authorities in the capital, Honiara. Now that we met them we learnt that they got the passports back and that they are awaiting a positive solution. One of the rumors is that they want to participate in a Wharram boat building project in Otopua island. 

Wakataitea

When they heard I was going to talk to the Premier, who is actually the number one man in the province, they requested that we talk on their behalf. 

Hans und Isabelle

The anchorage is more than two miles from the town’s wharf and with the wind blowing on the nose when you go back with all the shopping and two fuel jerry-cans we planned to purchase will not be all that pleasant. So we decided to go there with “Two Oceans”. As we got to the wharf the wind piped up and short steep waves started pushing the boat onto the concrete dock. That was unacceptable so we went and anchored in the west entrance to the bay and dinghied from there.

First run was made by Zvi and myself. Leaving the dinghy near the wharf we pass the improvised market there and cannot but notice that the most sought after item is the betelnut. The local guys and some women chew the thing which dyes their gums and teeth bright red  and ultimately ruins them.

Red jaws

The users spit and mark their passage with reddish-brown stains. Betelnut stalls are to be found in every corner. Paul told me it was :”Like a drug”.  

betelnuts

The Premiers

First on our list was the talk with the Premier. We met on the way to the administration building, showed our respect which was really the whole issue and got the assurance that regarding the case of Hans and wife he succeeded in formulating a satisfactory ending to the matter. 

Next was shopping. Due to our dismal fishing performance we were low on some food items. We entered a few shops and were disappointed by what we saw. We also had a problem of not having the local currency. We met Paul again and went with him to the bank to try and change our U.S dollars. The teller said that they did not change money. Paul said he knew a private person who was willing to do it but when we got to that man’s store he wasn’t present. On the the petrol station we went and surprisingly found the best stocked general store in town was there! They were also ready to  take American money and take us with the goods and our two 25 liters fuel containers back to the wharf with their big truck.

Next dinghy ran was to take Israel to the hospital. Israel had some infected abrasions on his feet and elbow, had some fever yesterday and today felt pain in his groin gland. The male nurse in the hospital did a great job dressing the infected area and also got some antibiotic and Paracetamol pills. 

Woundedknee

Hospital (read...)

At 1600 we anchored again near the south shore of the bay (10 degrees 45.592 S  165 degrees 49.388 E) and started the barter phase of the day. Local people came by in their canoes with fruit, vegetables and artifacts made of wood or tapa. They wanted shorts and T shirts and I had some of my old stuff to give. Paul who got the ranchero hat I bought in Panama and wore only once gave me a wooden idol for it.

Paul ranchero

 

We had an outstanding visit by a young woman, Margaret, who had aubergines and green peppers, and turned out to be an intelligent and articulate person. She told us she was trained to be a teacher, married to a man who never went to school but was happy for his wife to get better education. They have four children (the baby was with her on her canoe) and she is planning to study computers in the near future. She said her child prompted her visit, saying he wanted a “Lolly” from the white men. He got quite a few! Impressive lady. 

Margaret

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