September 27, 2004
The Russell Islands
Two days later found us anchored in the very deep Sunlight Passage, a fissure that splits the two main islands. This is, perhaps, it is the only body of water named for a soap product. The entrance is marked by Lever Point. Before independence most land was owned by Lever Brothers. Orderly rows of coconut palms continue to be a main feature of the topography. Many of the occupants were recruited from other islands to work the plantations. One of the groups came from Rennell Island and brought their carving skills with them. We were now on a mission to be serious carving collectors and unlike the primitive carvings we already had these were known to be very "finished".
After another topical flood from the sky we hitched up the dinghy and went carving hunting. We found the village about two miles away on the other side of the Sunlight.
As we approached the village we were impressed by the friendliness of the locals, all out waving to us. Just then the outboard choked to a stop. Apparently we had run over their fishing net.
After apologies onshore we explained our mission to a bare chested man holding a baby. He seemed to be in charge. He was a bit concerned. Since "ethnic tension" there have been few visitors and they no longer keep finished carvings. If we wanted to put in an order there was no problem. We could have eagles, crocodiles, or dolphins. But if we were in a rush he was afraid we were out of luck. He showed us his works in progress-eagles - and arranged for a guide to take us to a couple of carvers down the channel who were part of the village.
The third carver had a finished carver of a mermaid and dolphins- we loved it and for about US $ 70, it became ours. I asked the carver how they came to be such good carvers. "We all studied under a master carver who had learned the skill in Canada."
After turning down the offer to be his US agent we returned to Onora and went for a swim. We were later told we must be brave. We were less than 20 meters form the mangroves where the crocodiles hang out.
Our final carving acquisitions came a few days later in Viru Harbour in the New Georgia Group. After another water dump from the heavens we sat anchored in carving central. Four carvers arrived at the same time and we invited them onboard to show the treasures. By now I was getting the hang of it and decided to make it a market. I had each one show his pieces and quote his prices. The first was the most expensive and the last was least. After he quoted he added "but I am negotiable."
Well, the prices ranged from $110 for an ebony carved bowl to $ 3 for a dolphin. This was the first ebony we saw and believed it when we were told it was hard to get and harder to work with. We agreed to buy one piece from each bout somehow ended up with eight. Of course we did not negotiate. We finished, shook hands, smiles all around. They left saying we were the best boat ever to come to the village and begged us to return soon.
We swore to each other we were done with carvings. But by now the word was around the village and their two best salesmen had been out to the boat. We left with two more.
October 8, 2004
New Georgia Group
We were in New Georgia to meet up with Leonore, another of Kelly's boats owned by David Dillard from the states. He and his crew of Joe (French), and Kate (Irish), were on their way up the islands to Japan and Russia before crossing the Bearing Sea, down Alaska, and the Americas to the bottom and then up the other side.
As far as we know this was the first rally of Kelly Archer boats in history and, with two boats, the largest gathering as well.
Leonore is a beautiful boat. She is one of the finest 80-foot yachts around. David spared no expense. He even had her painted.
For the next week we visited villages, a WWII Japanese air base dove war relics. The final night we had our Gala dinner in Ghizo at the PT-109 restaurant. It is the top place to eat on the island. The other place is the hotel. Both places serve wine but only the "PT" owns a corkscrew.
We had planned to take over the stage and present awards but a "Kustom" dance group had been booked so we sat and watched the men and the women take turns showing off the Hawaiian Hula. There was no stage anyway.
October 9, 2004
New Georgia Group
The next day Leonore was gone and we went with Tim, local dive operator and a couple, Jeff and Chris, all Australians, to see a sunken Japanese freighter and the fish.
By his tattoos I guessed Jeff was in his late forties. He has tattoos of his three children and his dog. The children are pictured at ages seven to eleven and now they are in their twenties. They are very well done in color. The dog's name is Rex and is on the right shoulder with the kids on the left. I wanted to ask him about the kids' mother but Jeff has been a corrections officer all of his life and I decided not to ask. Besides, I found out from Jeannie that Chris and Jeff are engaged to be married in a year.
Jeff has been working at the Honiaria prison on a contract that expires in March. The prison includes convicted bad guys along with those waiting for trial that includes former members of the police and members of parliament.
Jeff is ready to get out now. He explained that the problem with the prison is the problem with the country. It goes back to the code of the villages. If someone in your village asks you for something you give it to him. Just about every village has its own language so if he literally "speaks your language" you have to deliver.
In the prison there are inmates and guards from the same village.
The next day we got our final DHL package, containing our absentee ballots. It was smoother this time, DHL knows us. It contained four compete ballots with a letter from the Chicago election office saying that they send out two each just in case one gets lost. If both are received they throw out one. We voted twice.
We checked out of customs and pulled up the anchor for the Lousiades, Papua New Guinea.