Tuesday, September 21, 2010

We Made It!

After a long upwind slog we finally made it to the Louisiades in Papua New Guinea. It's definitely the most idyllic, unspoiled tropical island group we've seen so far. The islanders don't eat lobsters and instead trade them with cruisers for T-shirts and "soccer boots." So we had our fill within an hour of dropping anchor. We were the last boat to arrive at Panacea island, so we had the undivided attention of all the islanders that have canoes to paddle out to us. Surprisingly the treat they enjoy the most is a glass of clean water. If you chill it they are over the moon with delight. Coca Cola is "bitter" and ginger snaps are too "hot." Though the kids did learn the Australian word "lolly" (candy) after a day of visiting boats. So they quickly developed a sweet tooth.
We gave one 14-year-old a crash course in algebra and physics before we had to leave with the fleet for another island. He wants to join the ranks of the famously daring and skillful PNG pilots that swoop down into short runways surrounded by mountains on the various islands. He's saving up money for the Misima boarding school fees next year.
Panapompom, where we are now, held a canoe sailing regatta yesterday, organized by Guy Chester, the sailing rally founder. The islanders use gaff-rigged, double-ended wooden (hollowed log) outrigger canoes for all commercial transportation on the outer islands. To tack or jibe the boat they just move the front of the sail around to the other end of the boat, and sail the whole thing backwards. Blue tarp is the modern sail cloth of choice. Today we're trying our hand at sailing their canoes and then taking all the islanders out for a race in the lagoon on the cruising yachts. There's a Japanese zero that crash landed here. It is remarkably in tact despite the coral growing all around it. Supposedly you can sit in the seat and operate the switches and control stick. We'll snorkel it tonight.

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