Saturday, October 30, 2010

Another Unique Place

English Cove and Irish Cove were another trial for us, but not nearly the trial they were for the first westerners to arrive here.,152.857217(Time:21%3A1+GMT%2C+Oct+29%2C+2010%20Latitude:-4.771233%20Longitude:152.857217)
Our engine died at the narrow coral-lined entrance, the worse nightmare of a sailor. We had a bit of sail up as a precaution and were able to sail clear of the bay without trouble. It took about 30 minutes to bleed the fuel filter and trace the latest air leak to the Raycor fuel filter bowl drain valve. Tighetening it only made it worse, so we had to use the electric fuel pump to keep it full of fuel while we motored into the anchorage. Riss finally noticed the champagne bubbles near the drain valve whenever the electric pump was off, confirming the diagnosis. We made it through the narrow pass, Larissa trying to process my panicy order not to ever let the engine idle and then asking her to idle up to some scary looking coral bombies and a shallow shelf of coral. Two women in an outrigger canoe seemed to understand my question about sand bottom and assured us there was none anywere around, contradicting the guidebook. So we dragged the anchor around across the hard rocky bottom in a figure eight pattern, with the boat alternately pushing and pulling on the anchor chain in forward and reverse, trying to keep the keel and prop away from the tensioning anchor chain. Eventually we somehow snagged something (or tied the anchor chain in a knot around a low rock). So we shut down the engine and I jumped into the water in the late afternoon sun, shadowed by the steep jungle and granite cliffs on 3 sides. Islanders peered on curiously from their canoes paddling out to us for the typical"trade" and to "admire your boat" welcome.
The English and Irish familes who first arrived here were expecting a thriving city with their newly purchased plot of land destined to grow in value in this tropical paradise. Instead they were abandoned on the thin beach of this jungle island and left to die over the next few years trying to eek out a survival on coconuts and fish, wasting away from malaria. The developer was eventually imprissoned for 6 years, but should have gotten much worse.
As the flies, gnats, and islanders swarmed our boat, we wondered how the Englishmen dealt with these troubles of the troupics. In the 1800's when the settlement was attempted, these islanders would have still been canibals. The single men in canoes refuse to smile and even scowl at you despite the typical greetings in English. We joked about being eaten ourselves as they paddled away one by one, seemingly angry at our existence.
One more pleast islander, originally from the Solomon Islands, or Boaganville Island, greeted us and explained that the village was offshore at the small islet near the entrance to the bay. As we passed it on the way in, it seemed to have more flat land and a beach suitable for canoe landing. A large tree branch was smoldering as it balanced across his canoe, the smoking branch tips only inches from the water's surface. "What's that for?" ... "Why the burning tree in your canoe?" ... "Why?" Why and how are questions that are difficult for islanders to understand in English, but eventually he got it and replied "For smoke. For pipe," as he puffed away on an English tobacco pipe. He'd asked us for "smoke" during the introductions and we'd gotten him to settle for some fish hooks, in exchange for a Papaya, scored lengthwise. We could never get him to understand our questions of the "why" for that lengthwise scoring of the papaya skin. It seemed obvious to him and he didn't ahve an explanation.
We did eventually learn how they hunt wild pigs around here. "With stones" an islander said. Now we used to admire the Marquesans who can take down a wild boar in the sttep rocky mountains with nothing but three large knives on their belt. And we admired the Peruvian cousins on a 20 ft catamaran and their innovative goat-hunting technique involving a fishing spear gun. But this was the most brutish and difficult way to obtain "the other white meat" that we'd heard of.

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