Six days, several lost lures, one big shark, and zero fish! Our fishing luck has disappeared on our journey to Papua New Guinea. What could be causing this? We are currently threatening to cast our fishing god that we acquired in the Solomons overboard as he must be the problem! There were four straight days without a single bite and then on the fifth, they finally started biting. Biting alright, biting right through the wire leaders on the line and going home with a pretty new fish shaped lip ring. The closest we came to pulling one on board was after hearing the zip of the line going out followed by my grabbing the rod to begin an enormous fight. As the fight began, the line snapped and immediately the culprit showed his face at the surface. It was about a ten foot long shark, of what species I cannot be sure, but I must assume some form of bull shark, based on his shape. All we saw was a huge dorsal fin break the surface followed by the back of the body as it made one final pass by the boat before departing for the deep. Our luck really needs to change. There is only so much you can do with canned tuna and corned beef!
Minus the lack of fish brought on board lately, the trip has been filled with sunny days, great snorkeling and visits to plenty of incredible places. Our last stop before crossing a line that someone long ago and very far away put on a map to designate a different country, took us to an incredible lagoon situated between two islands that were surrounded by coral reefs. The islands were the last of the most westerly group of the Solomons known as the Shorltands. The boat was anchored in a channel of deep blue water surrounded on three sides by the clearest emerald green water the eye can imagine. In order to have time to explore both nearby islands as well as the magnificent reef surrounding us, we decided to spend two nights there. The islands nearby had no permanent residents, but there was a group that spent the night fishing around the island and departed early the next morning. From there, we thought we had seen our last Solomon islanders and had the entire area to ourselves. That changed at about three’ o clock in the morning. As I heard the sounds of people outside the boat, Bill awoke and came outside to see who was there. He greeted an approaching aluminum boat by saying hello and seeing what it was they were up to. Michal and I climbed out onto the deck thinking it better to show our visitors that there were other people on board just in case they were out looking for any kind of trouble. They told us they were just saying hello and were out fishing, and not having any luck either. We said goodbye and thanked them for stopping by, not to mention waking us up at an ungodly hour. It’s really strange to have a group of guys just come by the boat to see who we were and where we came from in the middle of the night! I guess to us this is strange but when you spend a great deal of time awake out fishing on the reefs at night, you must assume that everyone stays awake all night.
Today, we made our first landfall in Papua New Guinea. It was a long hot day without wind until finally feeling a breeze in the afternoon. Making our way the forty miles up the coast of Bougainville island, the furthest reaches of the country of Papua New Guinea, we now find ourselves about three hundred miles off the equator. The sun in now approaching it’s closest point to the earth during the year and the days here keep getting hotter and hotter. Coming from Alabama, it’s definitely nothing I can’t deal with, but the Polish couple seem to be a little less tolerable. As we sailed into PNG waters, we were greeted by a vast pod of dolphins. After seeing them surround the boat, finally about thirty or so came up and surfed on the bow for a while. I think they must have spent a half hour cruising with us. It’s always an extraordinary experience to sit on the bow sprit and be surrounded by dolphins keeping pace with the boat, jumping out of the water and shooting to the surface for a breath of fresh air. You can even hear their squeaks and sonar sounds as they communicate just below the surface. I never tire of our encounters on board with these dolphins.
Upon our arrival to our first island in PNG, we were greeted by multitudes of people from a nearby local village. The village is near what used to be an old copper mine that shut down about fifteen years ago. They said that since closing, the town has completely shut down. No customs, no yacht club and no stores anymore. We asked if they ever saw other boats like ours come there and they said “Of course, we have seen plenty of yachts here.” When we asked when the last boat was there, the replied, “Before the crisis, when the white man was around.” Well, the crisis that they speak of refers to a recent civil war and apparently since the mine shut down and all the white people left, no boats have visited this area. Probably the civil war that has been going on over the last fifteen years as well deterred some of those boats from stopping by.
It is pretty exciting to see the differences between the two island nations that are so close together. I mean, we traveled only twenty miles between the border of the two countries and suddenly all of their canoes have changed. The ones in the Solomons were not very refined but were efficient and well crafted. Here, all of the canoes our sleeker and have an outrigger on the side to add to the stability. Apparently, they have developed pretty sophisticated sailing canoes here in PNG as well which we will see more of as we make our way through the islands. I am excited about the opportunity to see this new culture and learn more about all of the unique people who make up these islands!