Sunday, 11 January 2015


It's been too long between updates and recently motivated by a friend who keeps a blog, we've decided to post on our new life on land.

So much has changed from our sailing days. We call Papua New Guinea home, just celebrated our 3rd Christmas here in the land of the unexpected. Life here in PNG, living in POM (Port Moresby) is so different, we'll try to take the time and share some of our amazing experiences.

We still have a view over the water...

Our mode of transport is a little different...

Working hard and loving being part of a great team at the Oil Search Health Foundation. While I was keen to return to work, I didn't think I would love everyday as much as I do.

Even Simon has found some exciting consultancy work.

But some things will never change...

The biggest surprise for us is how easy life in a house is. It had been so long, we forgot how easy it is to jump in a car, carry groceries in, have a big fridge and freezer, not worry about power, take a long shower, run the air-con when your hot, stick a load in the machine, turn on the dishwasher.

It was only 3 years ago that Simon was so sick in West Papua and our sailing friends rallied around us. I have to pinch myself each day to believe we are so lucky!

The question we're always asked, will we go back sailing? Perhaps... we loved those days, a dichotomy of freedom and responsibility, part of the sailing community. Perhaps one day... but for now we are happy.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Heading South & moving on

Well it’s been a while, there has been some miles done by both sea and air.
Looking to entertain Amanda on her day off Phil suggested a trip down south by road where a small village has traded pottery for thousands of years. Not much has changed except they now trade for Kina. We also got to see our first baby in a billum strategically hung in the campfire smoke to keep away the mozzies.

Phil, a veteran of the area of sorts, suggested as it was still fairly early we should try the loop road back to town. Sounded like a good idea at the time… however 12 months is a long time for what turned out to be a disused forestry road. The rutts were 3 feet deep in places, the mud needed a run up and it was impossible to turn around. What was a good idea turned more into a tale of survival but luck was on our side and after waiting for an inter-village dispute to finish, clearing the road again we hit the seal just as the sun went down.

Armed with our new waterproof to 40 metres camera another Sunday was spent on one of the many dive sites around Madang. A B25 bomber downed by the Japanese during world war 2. The story goes the crew all escaped.

Another intact wreck is one of Jessie Martin’s (previous youngest Australian to sail around the world solo) located within the confines of the harbour. This one apparently sprung a leak a few years ago and the locals who didn’t want it to sink next to their wharf helpfully pushed it out into deeper water.

Amanda decided work wasn’t working out, not the lifestyle job as promised so we packed the boat and headed off into what really was a lumpy sea heading south. Our chilli plant after surviving a number of miles wasn’t happy with the waves coming over the boat.

After a few days the sun came out and we were swamped with the friendly locals wanting to trade. The combination of their supply boat not having visited for quite a few months and a stabbing that closed the school on a nearby island caused the island of Malai to be overcrowded and very short on supplies.

We combined their boat with our outboard and fuel to organize a night fishing trip. A stop was made on a small cay to throw bits of coral at the birds. Once hit they are wrapped with bark and kept for… dinner.

A day trip sounded like a good idea and was with some good GT catches until the outboard spat the dummy about 4 miles down wind of anywhere. Amanda in her wisdom had sent me off with the VHF amongst other safety devices. This enabled me to put out a call for help to her. She then organized a girl who was visiting to go and borrow the Police canoe and paddle out to our rescue. I got into this very large unstable floating log and 3 of us spent an hour paddling into a head wind to reach Thyme. Once there it was only a matter of upping anchor, motoring back to the disabled boat and securing a tow line. Some days a job sounds like not such a bad idea.
A few days later we made rainy Lae, pot hole city of PNG, Thymes home for now. Looks like were heading to Australia.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Sink Or Swim

Torrential rain (note the dry wood in the new wood shed) in Nelson bid Amanda farewell, her work visa coming through before mine. We made one final trip to the flooded hardware store so I could get her bags up to their weight allowance.  Fortunately for us the flooding had blown up the freezer in their coffee shop treating us to unlimited almost frozen free ice cream.  

Showing off my Bear Grylis hunting and survival skills I built a very effective mouse trap with materials at hand, descimating the mouse population before being Jane'd one last time and heading back to PNG with my right ear mostly intact.  

Amanda spent a few nights at the house in Madang alone before travelling to Bougainville. With people walking down the road being able to see in the windows at night this attracted some unwanted attention ending in her moving elsewhere on the last night and some improvement in the fencing. 

The bees living in the side of the house weren’t happy to see me back. While walking past they took it upon themselves to attack me. I was chased all round the yard trapped by the high fences unable to get away. After being stung by what felt like half of them, they turn their attention to the dog. Bad luck. The next day Monpi had the bee man come. The old “I can’t come to work, I’m trapped by a swarm of bees” excuse isn’t going to cut it. The weekend was spent sewing new fender covers, cushion covers, and making a plastic bag holder while eating Lobster/bug bisque thanks to Phil having to empty his freezer before going away. 

To test out our new underwater camera I took Amanda and James for a dive off the boat at our mooring. Muck diving at its best, wrecks and rubbish everywhere.

With no wind the Sunday yacht race had become more of a Sunday diving event. A snorkel recon located a twin engine Cessna out near Pig Island in about 14 meters of water.

Some local knowledge also helped us find another 82 foot wreck, fairly recently sunk and untouched in a secret location. Well it was untouched until we got there. I found some pictures of it on the net when it was still being used to dive from not dive on. Still with its sails and loaded with dive gear, it’s a treasure trove, even if in the back of your mind you keep expecting to swim around a corner and find a dead body.

Speaking of dead body’s, Monpi Cocoa Exports was lucky not to have one on they're hands when the barge sunk over in Bougainville. The story behind the story is that only a week before the incident the Boss from Monpi in Madang gave the barge captain the boot, and replaced him with a skipper who forgot or didn’t know to secure Monpi’s own forklift. Looks like it rolled forward during the crossing, pushed the ramp down allowing water the rush onboard and fell overboard becoming as the article says “a new house for the fish”. The barge itself, semi submerged was salvaged. Luckily an expensive mistake but not a fatal one. The locals tend to take a dim view on work related deaths.


Thursday, 13 June 2013

Ocean Rafting

When diving ahead of the boat to try and set up a float-less mooring (I was advised not to use a float as it would be lucky to live there a week before taking up alternative accommodation in some random fisherman’s boat), I also found an old raft and needing a better way of getting to the boat than swimming decided to refloat and repair it. The cunning plan was to tie drums to it and fill them with air from dive compressor.

After getting it to the house, removing the old drums, grinding off the crap, a spot of strengthen, a lick of paint and putting in some plastic drums (traded for the construction of a BBQ), wa-la! no more dog paddling around brown floaties and recycled disposable nappies.

Amanda in the mean time was hard at work flying to Goroka to sample local coffee in the sipping room and buy locally made handbags. To her horror it turns out one of these was made from a cute little fluffy possum called a Cuss Cuss. There was also the trips to Bougainville to see if that’s really where the Bogans came from. It’s possible. Probably she slipped in some accounting alone the way.

 Hard at work back in Madang I was left to my own devices volunteering at the fishing club to help put in mooring lines without floats and anywhere else that contained the word fishing.

With Amanda needing a work permit and me wanting a stamp in my passport advertising my official status as not "not permitted to work" we booked our tickets to NZ as the formalities have to be completed once you are outside the country. The plan was to meet Amanda in Port Moresby and carry on together however the plan all fell apart when the only stamp I got was "not permitted to leave" not that I could anyway, they took my passport. Apparently there was a mix up in the paperwork (customs fault) and according to the computer I had stayed to long. And so I now can't leave? Only in PNG. Anyway all was not lost; I got to go back to Madang to ensure Andrew was keeping up with his studies.

5 days later it was all sorted and I moved on my next project, the repair and repainting of a rental property in Nelson. It’s good to be home.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

The big smoke of Madang

After locating a world war 2 wreck out in the bay, finding some chain and buying some rope our mooring was established allowing us to tie up stern to without the hassle of anchoring after each weekends outing. 

 We have now well and truly moved off the boat and into the house becoming real land lubbers for the first time in 12 years. At first we sat wondering at nights what people that live in houses do? Hannah from Amanda's work kindly gave us a TV.
 Phil, a local expat from Napier kindly offered to give us a tour of his work, British American Tobacco. The first tour had to be postponed due to an evacuation. A Tsunami warning, that Amanda remained at work for even though you could spit a mouthful of Buai (beetlenut juice) into the sea from her office chair. Luck was with her, and as she wasn't swept away by a large wave she got to attend the second scheduled tour.

Its hard to find a doctor here, impossible to find a vet. Sarah trys to come once a year from Oz to do vet stuff. This year she roped in a friend to also come and needing a helper I put my name forward thinking I would do the driving, animal holding and lunch getting. It was a little bit more hands on than I expected with jobs like monitoring heart beat and administering anesthetic also falling into my capable (?) hands. The upside is If you need your dogs or cats nuts chopped off, I'm the man for the job. Its probably the only time Sloops glad his are already history.
 Not knowing where to turn for a much needed haircut, I suggested to Amanda to find someone with a style she liked and ask her where she has it done. Hayden an operations manager at her work ended up multi tasking one evening and it didn't end in tears so it can't have been too bad.
Andrew the only other yacht owner for probably 200 plus miles has always been keen to race on Sundays. He won the first race but having technical problems like... a bit of wind on the next 3 occasions resulted in a current 1 : 3 result.
 Where is Madang? at the end of the red line.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Back to Civilisation

We left the Hermits and motored most of the 200 and something miles across flat seas to arrive in Madang Christmas eve. Yes Christmas was a while ago and Amanda now working claims not to have enough time to continue with her literary genius. The heavy burden once again falls upon my shoulders.
We had Christmas lunch at the fancy Madang Resort impressing the locals with my new look before heading out to Pig Island for diving and BBQ ing. I discovered a really long vine while looking for fire wood and during my demonstration on how to remove a leaf from a branch at 20 feet somehow managed to get a cut under my right eye.

We returned to the Monpi wharf our new home where the security guards helped us tie up. Amanda then immediately hoped on a plane to Australia where she managed to squeeze in a second Christmas lunch before departing to Singapore.

The trip to Singapore (where you can be fined for having a puddle in your back yard) was work related and came as a bit of a shock after floating about almost aimlessly only a week before. 

Somehow she avoided a fine for J walking and after a 6 day visit it was back to Australia to collect some stuff and a little entertainment paying her niece and nephew to eat Wasabi peas. I understand although Brock really wanted the money he was disqualified for throwing up and it was Hayley who walked away all cashed up.

Arriving back in Madang meant moving off the boat and up to the house where we met our guard dog Knuckle and our house mary, Cathy. Apparently all house keepers are called house marys.

We had been told to make sure everything is always locked but were surprised that this also included the fridge and the pantry. It must be a hungry business being a burglar. I questioned Cathy about this but was told that the painters had been in the week before and stolen a frozen chicken and a mop head so she locked everything up.

Monday, 28 January 2013

The paradisical Hermits

It was another calm and beautiful day that saw us sail (read motor) into the Hermits.

The fishing here was crazy - we were catching so much fish the freezer was full, the locals had stopped fishing and we discovered the dingy was too small for Hermit Island fish.

 With the weather remaining calm we headed to the south western rim of the atol to a place we called Bird Island. All eyes were underwater as we dived the outer edge of the reef. We saw turtles, spotted eagle rays, white tip, black tip and grey reef sharks, a huge array of reef and schooling fish as well as an abundance of critters. The water was so clear, at 30m you would think you were still in 10m.

When we weren't diving we were exploring brid island. Covered in Noddy's, Booby's and Frigates nesting. It was a bird lovers and photographers paradise - here are some of Simons shots.

Still hot on the trail of fish, our table was always full.

I guess all good things must come to an end and while waiting for some wind we've let time get away from us. It's Xmas in 3 days - if we were to leave now we could get to Madang by Xmas eve but we'll probably motor all the way. Do we want fish and lobster with tinnned veges for lunch? What to do...