"Arctracer" Letters

Louisiades and to Townsville, Oct 2004

We made it from the Louisiades to Townsville, Queensland in 4 days, sailing 593 nm. At first we attempted to sail to Bundaberg, farther south, but the wind wouldn't allow that so we made an easier sail to Townsville. Now we need to get south and hope the wind doesn't always come out of the Southeast. We had a good trip - saw dolphins and sperm whales spouting. We had a "resident" red-footed booby for a couple of days. He left the boat occasionally to fish, but did a lot of preening on our bow. We caught a mahimahi and a couple of striped tuna. We also caught a barracuda, but returned it to the sea. We had other fish on, but they threw the lure when jumping. At least we didn't lose any lures this trip. We know we're in Aussie Land as we have seen many parrots, ibis, a night heron on the dock, and heard many Aussie accents again.

In the Louisiades we found the usual requests for trade in return for shells, food, and special "baggi" necklaces. One man showed us the entire process for making them and made one for Nina. They are a lot of work - 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.

We only anchored at one village, but anchored for one night each at two uninhabited islands. The village we did visit had one family - parents with 9 of their 10 children and with each child having children. A couple of families had 8-9 children! They were a very lucky family as we had many trade items we wanted to get rid of. Most all of our trade supplies are gone now as we don't think we'll need such things in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. We even traded a mask and snorkel for a baggi necklace and 4 lobsters. One family gave us a HUGE mangrove (mud) crab for two pairs of men's shorts. The meat in the crab was as much as the meat in 3 of the lobsters!

To give away some notebooks, pens, pencils, toys, packages of noodles (which the kids love without cooking), rice, kerosene, sugar, tea, games, books, etc. we organized a toy canoe race after we noticed that many of the 7 - 14 year old boys had small sailing canoes they'd made. Nine canoes took part in the race and we had nine prizes. They were somewhat surprised that we hadn't given only a prize to the winner. The boys chose their prize (actually "prizes" in a pile) according to the place they took in the race. Many of the parents helped them to choose, depending upon what was in the "package" for the family. We definitely tried to have something in each pile for the child too. It was amazing that one father later had on the shorts that we thought would only fit his son! The men in the village are on the small side, but...

(view Louisiades photos)

The Australian quarantine and customs officials were very thorough in checking our boat. They even checked the points we'd marked on our charts against our logbook. We never had this done before. They searched the boat and took about 20 samples (of dust??) on material, which they put in separate envelopes and took back to their laboratory to test for drugs. The quarantine officer took the rest of our powdered eggs (only about 1 cup), some bananas, mangoes, limes, gingerroot, candied fruit for scones, opened carnation milk, and a wooden turmeric bowl that was given to us in Tikopia by the chief's son John. The bowl had tiny holes made by borer worms. We hadn't noticed them or would have worked on the bowl before our arrival in Australia. They said they would have it fumigated for $80+ Australian, but we decided that it wasn't worth all the sanding and finishing it would need afterwards. Plus, we have another smaller turmeric bowl that was okay. We were surprised that they let us keep our aloe plant, popcorn, powdered milk from the USA, cheese, and mung beans. When we arrived in Coffs Harbour in 2000 they took those items. If we'd had any honey they would have taken that, but we hadn't found honey in months. They also would have taken any frozen chicken or beef. Luckily we'd finished all that and only had fish, oysters and lobster frozen in the freezer.

Here in Townsville we're fixing a leaky water pump (or buying a new one) for our engine, getting boat insurance, and treating ourselves to honey, cheese, and salads. It has been many months since we could buy such things and it's definitely good to be back in civilization for a while. We should have more time for boat projects, email, laundry, sleeping, playing cribbage and backgammon (if we remember how), etc.

We probably won't have much to write about for a while as we work our way down the coast to the Brisbane area. It will mostly be day sailing along the coast, anchoring at night. We've done that before and this time won't have time to do much new exploring as we want to be in Brisbane by the 18th of November.

Congratulations to the Red Sox! We're hoping Kerry can come from behind to win just like his home state baseball team.