Annual Summary of 2004

In 2004 we sailed 7,400 nautical miles, visited 6 countries and crossed the equator three more times. We had many new experiences, even after 6 years in the Pacific. At villages we traded for local fruits & vegetables, lobsters, mud (mangrove) crabs, coconut crabs and many handicrafts. Popular trading items continued to be reading glasses, fishing equipment, kerosene, rice, clothes, tools, notebooks, pens and pencils. It was a good year for trolling on passages, and we almost always had fish in the freezer. We feel that we have now seen and experienced the Pacific. Present plans are to head to Darwin at the end of the cyclone season in April and continue west from there. Political situations in Indonesia and beyond will help determine where we go next year. Here is a summary of our travels in 2004:

Kiribati (December & January) - Snorkeled and celebrated the holidays with Micronesians and a few cruisers on Abaiang Atoll and Butaritari Atoll. A big January event was the birth of our third grandchild, Antonio.

Marshall Islands (February - April) - Twenty-seven cruising boats were here this year, the most ever, so there was much socializing with other cruisers, including yacht races, Taco Tuesday nights and beach BBQs. At Ailuk Atoll we enjoyed seeing the local sailing outriggers, and our photographs of them were used for the cover of the Majuro Telephone Directory, the cover of a Tourist Guidebook, and a spread in the local paper. We traded for many covered baskets and a 15" diameter wall hanging, all woven of pandanus and coconut fibres and decorated with shells. We also traded for necklaces unique to Utrick Island with green "cat's eye" operculums, and a small green glass Japanese fishing float . We ate pandanus fruit three different ways with villagers who had little other starchy food. We did some boat work, and took advantage of the good mail service from the US.

Federated States of Micronesia (29 April - 28 June) Kosrae (29 April - 17 May) - An island of 2000' ancient volcanoes, lush rainforests and very fertile soil - a change from low coral atolls. Ate more mangrove crabs here than anywhere; visited the old (circa 1200 AD) stone ruins of the royal fortress village at Lelu and the religious site at Menke; toured the mangroves in an outrigger canoe; and drove on all the (not many) roads. We went to the museum, a clam farm, a swiftlet cave, Sipyen Waterfall, and snorkeled at Walung to view giant clams and coral. Pohnpei, FSM (19 May - 28 June) - Another high island with rainforests and fertile soil, and nearly equal representation of oriental and "western" products. Large numbers of people chew betel nuts and have red mouths and teeth eroded by the lime used with the nuts. We saw the old stone wall built by the Spanish, the German bell tower, and some big Japanese guns - all reminders of previous foreign occupations. We enjoyed dance shows, visited the museum, hiked to the top of the ridge above the harbor, and circled the island by car to see rainforests, waterfalls, and the new government complex. Most impressive was Nan Madol, the ancient political and religious complex with extensive stone structures, 92 artificial islets and canals. Ant Atoll was great for relaxing and nice snorkeling.

Kiribati (12 July - 13 August) - An unplanned visit, necessitated by a shroud breaking on passage. We waited in Tarawa for a new shroud, then revisited Micronesian friends at Nonouti Atoll.

Solomon Islands (24 August - 16 October) We worried about malaria, but decided to see this Melanesian country now that the Australian-led police and military forces seem to have ended its years of "tension." The economy is impoverished, tourism is negligible, and we were generous in our trading. Vanikoro - A high island, sparsely populated, with virgin rainforest and Kauri trees. Traded for necklaces of flying fox teeth, many shells we hadn't seen before, a triton shell trumpet, a strange big pearl from a giant clam, a carved paddle, a shark club, old axe heads made from giant clam shells and pendants made of turtle shell inlaid with carved pearl shell; ate huge bivalves found in the mangroves, 'cut nuts' and green ferns. The locals eat flying foxes, turtles and dugong on special occasions, but we didn't have that opportunity. We read local legends recorded by Peace Corps volunteers after interviewing the paramount chief; learned more about the 1788 Laperouse wrecks and that young men in Vanikoro help people from New Caledonia with research of these wrecks. Tikopia - Inhabited by Polynesians who carefully preserve old traditions and a strong social order centered on four clan chiefs and the Anglican church. Some older women still go bare-chested and Jerry pressed noses with some men in greetings. The destruction of Cyclone Zoe in December 2002 is still apparent. Their thatch houses are built very low to the ground and protocol demands crawling backwards to exit. Men fish for wahoo in season during the day and flying fish at night. We saw four traditional dance performances, and were dressed in traditional tapa (bark cloth) and decorated with turmeric oil to watch two of them; were given gifts of woven fans, a woven hat, wooden headrests, turmeric bowls, dancing clubs, and traditional necklace "hooks" made from pearl shell; heard panpipes (made now from pvc pipe, not bamboo) played by whacking the ends with rubber flip-flops which wash up on the beaches; ate masi (cassava, mashed and fermented into a cheese-like mass) which is stored in pits for survival after cyclones. Jerry repaired a few things, and got the island's only radio transmitter working again by installing a spare solar panel and bypassing a broken regulator. An amazing place! Santa Ana Island - Populated by Solomon Islanders, who use simple dugout canoes including tiny ones just for children. (In the Pacific, canoes with outriggers are now used only by Polynesians and Micronesians.) Saw two "custom houses" containing the bones of former chiefs and skulls of prominent men; traded for a wooden fishing float shaped like a bird and a tremendous number of shells; visited the "custom drum" (a stalagmite in a cave up the cliff behind the village); and met villagers whose parents were coastwatchers during WWII. Marau Sound, Guadalcanal - Tavanipupu Resort was unoccupied for four years during the recent "tension," and we heard of some killings and other unpleasantness, but the situation seems okay now. Saw custom shell money sold or traded by the fathom with 4 fathoms the traditional "bride price;" received more shells for trade than we'd ever seen before; traded for a traditional coconut shell spoon, an angelfish carved out of a giant clam, a traditional hook carved out of a golden-lips shell, and a custom shell money necklace; saw a dugong in the anchorage; met a lay preacher and healer who insisted on trying to fix Jerry's bad ankle and blessing our boat. He wore a long white robe and sprinkled drops of holy water and holy oil both inside and out while mumbling various incantations. Honiara, Guadalcanal - Toured WWII sites; saw women carrying pails of water on their heads 1/2 hour from the river; bought Malaitan shell money; saw the heavy presence of Australian navy and police to enforce law and order. Nukufero, Pavuvu Island, Russell Islands - A village of Tikopians who gave us presents just to see our photos of Tikopia. We walked on overgrown roads made by American Seabees during WWII. Americans, including Nina's father, landed unopposed on Pavuvu Island in February 1943. We were warned about crocodiles in the anchorage but never saw any. Marovo Lagoon, New Georgia Island - Saw the renowned high quality carvings with nautilus shell pieces inlaid in the wood; traded for a "Spirit of the Solomons" carving of kerosene wood - elaborate with fish, sharks, turtles and people all over the panel, on top of one another and twined around; bought a large rosewood bowl with a cover; saw our first hornbill; saw many dugouts for children. Thirty-two kids (a record number) came aboard at Chea Village after we invited them to look at photos, listen to CDs and eat popcorn. Mbareho Village in Nono Lagoon, New Georgia Island - Traded for a king ebony wood Nguzunguzu - the most famous traditional design of the Solomon Islands, a bust of their old war god which was always mounted on the bow of a war canoe; traded a nautilus shell for an ebony mask pendant; bought three small bowls inlaid with nautilus shell and a wood- block print of lizards designed by a local and printed on paper he made; ate megapode eggs; had a contest for the kids (with prizes) for the best diving off the back of the boat. The kids play in the water all the time, apparently unconcerned about crocodiles, but we stayed out of the water. Roviana Lagoon, New Georgia Island - Saw many WWII reminders, including wrecked barges and sites of American workshops and mess halls. The 43rd Division, including Nina's father and two of her uncles, crossed from Rendova Island to New Georgia and fought Japanese troops through the jungle to eventually capture the airstrip at Munda. One man proudly told us about helping the 43rd Division as a scout. Gizo - Watched the local Gilbertese (now I-Kiribati people) dance troupe perform - they were resettled here by the British administrators in the mid-1950s.

Louisiade Archipelago, Papua New Guinea (19 - 24 October) - Traded for special "baggi" necklaces; were shown the entire process for making these from cracking up a particular kind of shell into thin half-inch pieces, drilling holes in the middle with a makeshift drill, and grinding the irregular-shaped shell pieces into circles; had a model canoe race for 8 boys with each choosing a prize.

Australia ( 28 October - 31 December) - Worked our way down the east coast from Townsville to Brisbane to meet daughter Hilary. Saw some of Fraser Island, the world's largest sand island, with friends in a 4-wheel drive vehicle and on walking tracks. Hilary's Visit - Toured mostly around Brisbane, but took a train to Charleville and a car from there to Quilpie in Queensland's Outback. Fossicked for boulder opals, experienced the Springtime 35C (95F) heat, and saw red soil, kangaroos, wallabies, pademelons, emus, brumbies, lizards, hawks, red-winged parrots, galahs, termite mounds, windmills and satellite dishes.