We spent the night in Gizo, even though we thought we would leave. The good ship Mie convinced us to hang around and we would sail together for PNG. That was fine and they even let us raft up with them, which was great, Mie is so big that it was like being tied to the dock. We made plans that we would head for Duke of Yorks and after some final business headed out of Gizo. On the way to international waters, right before we cleared the last set of islands we saw a local boat stopped in the water. The truth is we almost ran over them as we didn’t even see them in the waves. It turns out their engine died when they were on their way home from Gizo. They were about 10 miles from the nearest land and we took them in tow. We were taking them to their village when a fishing boat from their island spotted us and came over and took them. That was fine, good deed done for the day we continued for Papua New Guinea. The rest of the trip was not so exciting, just lots of motoring (we motored the whole way), dodging squalls and thunderstorms and trying not to catch the extra big-ass sword fish that insisted on taking our tiny lures.

We arrived in Rabual, PNG and came into the harbor amidst a smoldering volcano and many cones around us. This place is a very protected harbor, but it was destroyed in 1994 by the twin eruptions of Vulcan and Tavuvir. Prior to the eruptions there were 3,000 ex-pat Europeans here and it was apparently some version of paradise with cafe’s, restaurants, theaters and everything else that comes with culture. When we arrived though, there were just piles of ash everywhere. In fact the devestruction is incredible. It is not unlike Pompeii, except very few people died and it was only 18 years ago. It sort of reminded me of being on the Rock of Van and looking down at the destroyed city that lies below, except that wasn’t from a volcano. I am not really sure if I can recall ever seeing anything quite like this place. Perhaps a small town after a blizzard, but if the snow was black and never melted.

In any case, we picked up a free mooring at the local yacht club and spent the rest of the day trying to hail customs on the radio. No luck, but the next morning they said to come on in. I thought clearing would be easy, even though my exit paperwork said I was heading for Palau. The immigration man wanted to see me visa, well, sir, I don’t have one. This was going to be a problem, but luckily for us, the typhoon was at that moment ravishing Palau and I explained to him I had to stop here and would be here for less than two weeks while things got back to normal. He had to make some phone calls. After awhile it came that I needed to head to the regional office and pay the visa fees. Not actually get a visa mind you, just pay the fees. Fine with me, so I headed to Kokopo and took care of the paperwork.

The rest of the time in Rabaul was very well spent. We spent a day touring around and saw the old WWII sites. First was the bunker that Admiral Yamomoto did all his scheming and plotting in, and then a nice little museum. After that we headed up to the Japanese Peace Memorial, which I still don’t understand why they call them that. Then back to the very friendly yacht club. The whole time we were guided by an 11 year old girl named Naomi. She spoke perfect English and Zach and I were confused. She knew all the history of everything and elaborated with ease, and we did not know if she was the smartest person we had met in ages or if it just appeared that way because she spoke English so well.

Later that day we went out to the volcano observatory and got a tour from the seismologist. The town of Rabaul and the harbor sit atop a large caldera that is still, obviously, quite active. This being the only volcano observatory in PNG they also get data from the many many other volcanoes in this very tectonically active region. We also went out to the old Japanese “Sub Base”. This was a fascinating thing to see as really there was just a small fringing reef coming off some cliffs that were probably 300 feet tall. The subs would tie up to the reef, literally, and then they had supplies loaded on from caves in the cliffs. A little different than Delta Pier or the Barn, that’s for sure.

At the club we met the boat that was moored next to us. It turns out that the captain, Fritz, was a bit of a treasure hunter/savager/marine archeologist, he wrote the book “The last New Guinea Salvage Pirate” about his exploits salvaging WWII wrecks. Now he was back to find the AE1, the first Australian submarine which was near here sunk in world war one. Both he and his son where interesting guys and had lots of stories about the wrecks they had been diving. We even went out with them one day to find a Jap Zero that was supposed to be in perfect condition, but no luck. Ayden, Fritz’s son, Zach and I also climbed Tavurvir, the smoldering volcano. The hike was pretty brutal, not because the volcano is high, (it isn’t), or because it is a long way from town (it’s not). The hike was brutal because you walk across the black ash field in the scorching heat. When you are crossing the ash plain, you are literally walking on the roofs of what was an incredible city and is now a black desert. Then when you reach the base of the volcano and start ascending, you take two steps up and slide one back, very tiring. The last 200 feet or so, you are fighting off the lung wrenching stench of sulfur dioxide. But the view down into the crater is fantastic. There is not really any show, like the volcano Yasur in Tanna, just billowing yellow vents releasing noxious poisonous gas. We didn’t stay up there long. On the way home we saw a betty bomber.

We stayed a few more nights at the club and got to know the 9 ex-pats that still remain and then headed off to the Duke of York Islands. The last two night we stayed at the pleasant village of Mioko. The anchorage there is remarkable and I went to get permission from the village council to stay the night upon arriving. They were so excited to see a yacht, apparently they have not seen one in a long time, that the local pastor and one of the elders gave us a tour of the whole island. We got to see where and how they make the lime that is used in chewing beetle-nut. Basically they gather coral from the beech and fire it and then turn it to powder. Of course, they had the best in all of PNG. Then they took us to some old caves used by the Japanese in the war as well as some natural caves. Finally we heard the story of how the AE1 was sunk nearby. I asked the man how he knew this and he described the story he had heard from his grandparents. So Fritz and Ayden, if you read this, there you go. When the afternoon thunderstorm rolled in, they understood we had to return to Slick. They were very kind.

We came over to the village of Molott today. Many people here have mullets. The trip over is only about 12 miles but through some very beautiful and clear water. We drove over a reef at one point and the water was so clear I thought for sure we would run aground, the coral was so close. We came around the corner and into Balanawang Harbor. I told Zach to ready the anchor and just then about 30 spinner dolphins jumped around Slick welcoming us to this very protected alcove. Also welcoming us were the villagers standing on a dock and waving for us to tie-up. What, seriously, a dock out here? Ok, if you insist. We got settled in and they said we were the first yacht to tie up here in a long time, over a year. Then they charged us $25. We received a tour of the village, it is a nice village. But that cost another $10. Well, OK, a bit expensive, but what can I do. Then a massive thunderstorm rolled in.

It is surprising that we have not seen a single other yacht since we have been here. Mie turned south to go to Madang for some crew exchange, but I thought for sure we would see someone else in Rabaul or here. Tomorrow we head for Kavieng, our last stop in PNG. I have decided that if the wind blows us right, we will try to be in Yap for Christmas and the Palau for New Years. We were originally not going to go to Yap (or Palau for that matter) but it is not so far out of the way and looks the usual amazing. Lets just hope that there are no more cyclones to cause any more unscheduled detours.