OCEANIA

VOYAGE OF COMMITMENT 1

 
NEAR DISASTER
IN THE NEW HEBRIDES
 
 
           
 
On the morning of May 17, our position was latitude 22 degrees 33' south, longitude 170 degrees 12' east. We had a twenty-four-hour run of 141 miles. The log entries bubble with joy and enthusiasm. Then at 1300, while running the engine to accommodate our new deep-freeze compressor, all hell broke loose! With a muffled roar, the boat filled with oily black smoke. At first I thought we were on fire. while I tore apart the engine housing, Shirl stopped the engine. As the smoke disappeared, I saw the problem. the brand-new exhaust pipe installed in New Zealand had ruptured at the manifold. Our former exhaust pipe had lasted nine years. The Orams's installation had lasted forty hours. In prior years, we have had engine failures that could not be repaired at sea. We had sailed, in the aggregate, over five thousand miles without an operating engine and regarded this as of no great consequence because we were voyaging on a sailing vessel.
 
Now, however, engine failure was important. Why? We had to hurry and get it running again so that the 200 steaks in the deep freeze wouldn't thaw. this is what happens when wants become needs and a dependence is both upon the luxuries of life. We changed course from Port Vila to Aneityum - the southernmost of the New Hebrides Islands - lying black and white - practically uninhabited, sixty-three miles north-northeast from our position. We had fresh east-northwest winds, so we close-reached along as I spent four hours jury-rigging the broken e4xhaust pipe with tin cans and chemical muffler bandages. The steaks would last three days. Our landfall at Aneityum would be at dawn the next day. The plan was that we would sail into a bay called Port Aneityum and drop the anchor. I would then make more permanent repairs to the exhaust pipe so that the steaks would remain frozen until we reached Port Vila - 180 miles farther north up the New Hebrides chain. The bay was exposed to the west, but the British Pilot Book solemnly told us that the winds were rarely out of the west this time of year.
 
 
At predawn on May 18 - eight and a half days out of New Zealand - we made our landfall squarely on the western point of Aneityum Island. Coconut trees, "lush tropical paradise" - we were in haven again. At 3045, the seventy-five-pound anchor plunged down to the coral bottom in five fathoms in front of a mission station called Anelgauhat. After days of constant motion, the Morning Star was now lying benignly still. We had the peaceful feeling that comes over us when we drop anchor in such a place after a high seas passage. Melanesian natives came paddling out in their dugout canoes. They were friendly and brought us bananas and papayas. Aneityum is not a port of entry, so we didn't want to have undue conduct with the natives, nor did we want to go ashore. The British and French, who jointly control the New Hebrides, are very sticky about the formalities of entering their colonies.
 
We ran the engine with the jury-repaired exhaust, and it held together for the two hours it took to drop the freezer temperature to zero. After eight hours of motionless, uninterrupted sleep, we were ready to dismantle and repair the exhaust pipe more permanently. the log shows that on Thursday, May 19, we spent the entire day replacing the broken exhaust section with a spare section that we fortunately had with us. The next day at 0830 the wind suddenly came up strong and of the west! The seas in the bay started to break, and our anchorage and access to the open sea became dangerous. So, I made a stupid (in retrospect) decision. I decided to work our way around a point of a reef between the main island and a projection of a reef from an islet called Inyeng. Here we hoped to find protection from the breaking sea. The British chart from a survey made in 1853 (the most recent chart available) showed a seven-fathom passage between these reefs.
 
In maneuvering around coral reefs, I am aloft in the mizzen ratlines - about fifteen feet up from the deck. From there, with Polaroid glasses, I can see the ugly brown discoloration that signifies submerged coral heads. I can then con Shirl with steering directions - "Come left five degrees. come right ten degrees" - while she concentrates on the compass and the depth finder. With the breaking seas churning the water on either side of us we slowly proceeded between the clearly visible reefs. the fathometer, shooting its signal thirty degrees ahead of us, indicated the charted seven fathoms - forty-two feet. Suddenly, the fathometer went to four feet! As I shouted "Reverse" to Shirl, we struck an invisible, submerged coral had. With a sickening, grinding, tearing, rending crash, the Morning Star impaled herself and listed over to port. By the time I got down from the ratlines and to the controls, Shirl had full power astern. the seas were lifting us from astern and dropping our twenty tons with a pounding thud onto the sharp coral. It looked as though our beloved little ship, which had safely transported us one-third of the way around the world, was finished. She was listing heavily to port, and water was pouring in below. We couldn't back her off, and there was a visible reef close to starboard, so on a purely instinctual hunch I throttled full power forward with the rudder hard to port - the direction to which she was lying. With the seas lifting us from astern, we literally wrapped her around the coral head, and with more tearing and rending noises, we spun free, hading back into the bay.
 
With the electric and engine-driven pumps going, and with the water level below continuously rising we searched for sand upon which to beach her. But there was no sand not fronted by coral, and we were running out of time. The only way to save the boat was to reanchor, despite the rough seas pounding into the pass. so we maneuvered into seventeen feet of water under our keel, getting a little protection in the lee of Inyeug. Her, if she sank, we could easily swim ashore and possibly even salvage her later. As soon as the anchor with 300 feet of chain went down, I free-dove with mask and snorkel and a handful of pillows and towels. The water was gushing into the boat right behind the main fuel tank on the port side, so quick access from within was impossible. I rammed the pillows and towels into the hull where one plank was stove in and another had a depression fracture. As I surfaced and kept free-diving with more bunched-up rags, Shirl had miraculously dragged out of our disorganized storage system the sheet lead, scuba gear, caulking gear, and roofing nails.
 
The stove-in plank was just above the garboards - a rather awkward place to punch a hole in a beat. As the pumps kept working and the pressure of the water helped to compact the mass of material I had stuffed into the hole, the water coming into the boat slowed to a small stream that could be easily handled by the pumps. By this time, I had the scuba gear on, sheet lead patches cut, and had punched the roofing nails into the sheet lead and wound them with caulking cotton laced with underwater epoxy putty. I rigged a hammer to my wrist with a lanyard and jumped into the sea. Shirl then handed me all of the material, and with the hammer in one hand and the sheet lead in the other, I sank to the level of the holes. the hull was pitching into the seas breaking into the bay, so it was a bit difficult to lie on my back, bashing away at the roofing nails with the hammer while molding the sheet lead over the hole. the lead was very malleable and very effective. Once the patches were in place, I could get the crook of my arm around the pitching keel and with more accuracy pound the roofing nails into the hull. I had worked, along with everything else, a mixture of white lead and tallow into the cloth-stuffed hole. Every time the hammer struck, the white lead would send out a cloud that would obscure my mask. Then the hammer came off my wrist, and I watched in some dismay as it spiraled to the bottom. so, down I had to go to get it.
 
The leaks were now down to a mere trickle. by then it was noon. The wind had backed into the southwest, which was a bit of luck. three natives came paddling out. they had seen the whole event. They had watched us go on the reef and get her off the reef. Only now did they come out with fruit and offers to help. In some of these places, when a shipwreck occurs, it is considered fair game, and the natives will strip a yacht bare right before the owner's eyes. this happened to a yacht we knew at Sumbawa, Indonesia. But these three New Hebrideans were all smiles now. I explained the problem. that if the patches didn't hold, I would like to know of a place where I could beach the boat on sand. They pointed to a place near their village. So we weighted anchor and followed them as they paddled their dugout in front of us to an opening in the reef with a clear sand channel. Then they took me ashore and gave to me - wouldn't let me pay for - a piece of three-eighths-inch plywood that they had salvaged from the famous South Sea Island schooner Tiare Taporo, wrecked on the Aneityum reef a few years ago.
 
 
Back to the Morning Star we went with this prize. I sawed the plywood into patches about twelve by twenty-four inches in size. then  over the side again with the scuba gear. With these plywood patches nailed over the sheet lead with bronze serrated boat nails and imbedded in underwater epoxy, we felt that we could safely travel the 180 miles to Vila. The next morning the wind was out of the northwest, so we sailed away from Aneityum. We had been extremely lucky, and were grateful that we weren't leaving the Morning Star to bleach her bones on the reef. there is a saying among professional seamen in this part of the world. "Until you have been on a reef at least twice, you are not a real seaman." At that moment, we were exquisitely uninterested in qualifying for this dubious distinction. With the wind out of the northwest, I didn't want land in my lee, so we sailed up the east coast of Tana Island, right under a live volcano belching and smoking and sending volcanic ash with the wind far out to sea. As night fell, the wind switched into the east, so we sailed up the west coast of Erromango Island, where we would have an offshore current if the wind and engine quit. The next dawn, there was Pango Point, Efate Island, right where it belonged, thanks to a Venus and Port Vila RDF fix.
 
It was a glorious Sunday morning - balmy, breezy, and sunny - as we sailed into the lovely harbour at Port Vila with the Stars and Stripes fluttering from our stern, the British flag under one spreade3r, and the French flag and our Q flag under the other. You choose in this way which jurisdiction you prefer to clear through and be under in the New Hebrides. We preferred the French for a variety of reasons. On the way up from New Zealand, I had been in contact with a French ham in Vila - Jacques Sapir. What a great break for us! Jacques owns a shipping company and the one and only "slipway" in Vila. He and his wife, Robin, met us as we sailed in; had us to their home for showers and a meal and over the weeks that followed became two of the best friends we had made in our cruising life. Jacques had arranged clearance in with the French on Sunday and had everything organized for me. We examined his decrepit, worm-eaten marine railway to assess its ability to haul the Morning Star's estimated twenty tons of deadweight. Yachts can be and are wrecked on slipways, too. Jacques left it up to me. I weighed these options.
 
We haul tomorrow at the highest tide of the month, or we sail almost two hundred miles to Espiritu Santo, where there is a slipway but dubiously qualified shipwrights. More open sea with a patched-up stove hull. What would a storm do to those patches? Next option? Sail to Tulagi in the Solomons - nine hundred miles away, good haul-out facilities and shipwrights. I decided to risk hauling on Jacques a slipway the next morning. At daylight, Jacques and I were measuring everything. With a crew of natives, we beefed up the worm-eaten sleepers with sections of railroad tracks and lowered the slipway into the water. Because of broken railway wheels, it derailed. We strained to get it back on the track before the tide fell, and finally, with the aid of a fork lift, the slipway was in the water and ready to embrace the Morning Star. We drove the boat onto the slipway with six inches to spare under the keel, and, due to Jacques's great skill, got her safely out of the water.
 
Shirl and I excitedly surveyed the under-water patch job. I had to remove the patches with a crowbar! Except for the fact that the teredo worms would have devoured the plywood, the patches would have endured all the way around the world. there were no shipwrights in Vila to replank the boat, so I got on the ham radio and located the yacht Kraka, owned by a Dane named Lars, whom I had met in Tahiti and again in New Zealand. Kraka was in Noumea. Lars had built his strip-planked yacht in Denmark with his own two hands and was a highly skilled shipwright. He grabbed his tools and flew over to Vila. We replanked her with vasa wood - tough, oily, rotproof, and wormproof - a Solomon Island cousin of the teak in the rest of the boat's 1.1/4-inch planking. In one week we were back in the water in as-good-as-new condition. After all of this - the rescue of Hau Moana, the northward passage from New Zealand, near shipwreck - I said to Shirl, - Just think, grandmother, you could be home in a rocking chair." Her answer? "No way." I just looked at her and said, "Incredible."
 
SHARK WORSHIPERS
AND THE REEF AT FALAMBULO
 
On June 9, we reluctantly left the New Hebrides with a course laid off for Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, lying fourteen hundred miles to the west. The winds were southeast, ten to fifteen knots, the weather clear - ideal tradewind sailing. As we entered the Coral Sea, a lightning storm put on a spectacular display all around us. We have a lightning rod at the masthnead, but every time we have chain lightning in the vicinity, we keep our fingers crossed, for lightning has been known to strike the tall mast of a sailing vessel at sea.
 
On the fourth day out, the winds came up to thirty knots out of the south-southeast. The seas rose and one wave swept our taffrail section, tearing loose the fifteen-foot-long dan buoy man-overboard pole, snapping the fiberglass pole like a match and carrying it overboard. For months, we had been vacillating about whether or not to go to the Solomon Islands. Our course to Port Moresby put us then 310 miles south of Guadalcanal. The seas were rough and confused, and several were breaking into the cockpit, so we decided to turn north, run with the wind off our quarter, and head for Guadalcanal. Sailing through the area where the Battle of the Coral Sea was waged, I thought of the thousands of American boys whose lives were lost in these waters. It was this battle fought by the Americans against a large Japanese task force, that saved New Zealand and Australia from Japanese conquest. In Australia, they commemorate the day of the battle as a national holiday.
 
In overcast conditions, we sailed past Indispensable Reefs, the islands of Bellona and Rennell, and on June 4 sighted the ominous, cloud-enshrouded tip of Guadalcanal. Between rain squalls, we groped our way into Wanderer Bay on the southwest tip of the island. Natives by the dozens came out in their dugouts to welcome "Joe" - the name they give all Americans. Here on Guadalcanal, the chief topic of conversation is still World War II. these Solomon Islanders not only remember the Americans here, but they remember us with affection - a rare thing nowadays. The next day we worked our way around the west and north coasts of the island, past Savo Island to Honiara at Point Cruz on Guadalcanal. Here we entered and were slapped with a $100 "light fee," concocted by a yacht-hating, Yank-baiting, petty little British customs officer, John Green. We thought how bizarre it would seem to many of our friends who fought and died here that one day, Americans would have to pay to come to this island, the only oplace in the world where such a "fee" is levied against yachts.  
 
 
We cruised Guadalcanal and the Solomons for six weeks. today, the import of the Battle of Guadalcanal has faded from memory, but this campaign was one of major importance. Here the Japanese suffered their first defeat, and Guadalcanal marked the first ebbing of the tide of fortune, which had been running in their favour since Pearl Harbor. Japanese Rear Admiral Tanaka wrote after the war, "There is no question that Japan's doom was sealed with the closing of the struggle for Guadalcanal." Admiral Mitsumaso Yonai, Japan's naval minister, commented, "When we had to retreat from Guadalcanal, taking the whole situation, I feel that there was no further chance of success." And when, after the Japanese surrender, an interrogator asked Admiral Kurita, "At what stage of the war did you feel that the balance had swung against you?" Kurita simply answered, "Guadalcanal."
 
During the time Shirl and I roamed the island at Guadalcanal and sailed back and forth across the Slot and Ironbottom Sound, the historic battles of Bloody Ridge, Cape Esperance, and Savo Island came back to our minds. It was hard to believe in this beautiful setting that just a few years ago incredible violence took place here. The savagery of the night naval engagements off Savo Island was beyond imagination. In one night the Americans suffered the loss of three cruisers. Two additional cruisers - one American and one Australian - were severely damaged. After all of this, today the Japanese have a fish cannery at Tulagi, and their fishing boats illegally poach in Solomon Islands waters. Their products dominate the import scene in the Solomons. It makes one wonder who really won the war. The war hadn't touched primitive Malaita, so we decided to sail from Florida Island north to Malaita to see what these people were like. Our studies had indicated that the British always had problems with the Malaitans, and the natives of the other Solomon Islands fear these people. For centuries, the tribes in the Solomons and on Malaita have been feuding, killing, head-hunting, and warring with one another. They say to the missionaries, "We are grateful to you because the most important thing you brought us was peace."
 
To protect themselves against attack from their hereditary enemies who live in the highlands of Malaita, the lagoon people, over the centuries, built a series of artificial islands on the outer fringe of Langa Langa Lagoon. these islands are built of coral blocks. The people subsist on fish and coconuts, and they trade and barter with the mainland Malaitans. Their principal activity is the making of shell money. the men dive for the shells, and the women string them into intricate patterns with established denominations and a set value throughout the Solomons and Papua New guinea. Shell money is the medium of exchange for the purchase of brides, a centuries-old custom, and for many other transactions. Shell money and its "minting," or manufacture, are the chief sources of international hard currency for the tribe of pagan shark worshipers living on Laulasi Island off Malaita. The shell money in Malaita and Papua New guinea bears a distinct and direct relationship to the rates of exchange of Australian dollars, and as worldwide inflation set in, the price of brides became so prohibitive as to cause the Australians to attempt to influence these primitive tribes to abandon this curious tradition. Many young men simply could no longer afford to buy a bride.
 
These people swim and dive with sharks in the vicinity and worship them as their ancestors reincarnated. the hill tribes are afraid of the water, sharks, and all of the other evils of the sex; so they do not know how to operate a canoe or swim, thus affording the lagoon people a moat of protection between them and their enemies. All of this intrigued Shirl and me, so we sailed into Langa Langa Lagoon and dropped anchor off Laulast Island on July 20. We went ashore, met the chief - Mosikoru - circulated among the half-naked, tattooed natives in their village, took pictures, gave handouts to the kids, and, in general, seemed to be getting along with them without any problems. We left Laulast after a couple of days and visited the dedicated missionary staff at Mbuma, we decided to stop off again at Lau. After a few days at Mbuma, we decided to stop off again at Laulasi to see Chief Bosikoru. this time, as we anchored, we were met by a menacing native in a dugout canoe who demanded money from us. He was drunk on methylated alcohol, which the Chinese sell to the natives. I finally got rid of him, and Bosikoru came out to apologize to us and explain that this man was "problem." with his methyl-spirits drinking. Bosikoru told us that some of his people go blind from drinking methyl alcohol. We went ashore to Laulasi village later in the day. this time we were asked for money to take pictures of the sacred skulls in their skull houses, so we iaid them. but out of nowhere came two ugly-looking thugs whom we hadn't seen at Laulasi during our prior visit.
 
They demanded more money from us, and I told them we would leave their island, but that I wouldn't pay them. From the British days, they still refer to the "white skin" man as "mahstah," and they don't know just how far they can push him as yet. but they are learning fast. I walked over to Chief Bosikoru with these two hoodrums close on my heels. but Bosikoru was intimidated by them and had nothing to say. He was genuinely afraid of them. I rounded up Shirl, whom they called "missy," and we literally backed off the island into our dinghy with the "Malaita Mafia," as we later learned they were called, glowering threats at "mahstah" all the way. Before there was a chance for them to put any more ideas together, we had raised the anchor and were around the point out of sight of Laulasi, headed back to Mbuma. We were advised not to report this to the police in Honiara because of fear of reprisal against us or the boat in Honiara Harbor. The Malaitains have One-Tok ("relatives") in Honiara and they would be made instantly aware of our complaints. by this time, we decided that we had "had" Malaita and would have, going north in the lagoon to Malaita's princiipal village, " Auki. 
 
Normally, we try never to move in coral-infested waters until the sun is well up, and there is a ripple on the water. but I had a Solomon Island's Marine Department Chart that I had bought in Honiara, and it showed that the channels through the reefs were well marked with numbered beacons - diamond - and square-shaped - denoting starboard and port hand marks. We left Mbuma at daylight, working our way carefully through the marked channel. We passed Laulasi, but gave it a wide berth to port. Just two miles north of Laulasi, still in the lagoon, and in the marked channel, we went between the indicated marks at a coral village called Falambulu, headed directly toward the next set of marks, and struck a clifflike coral reef squarely in the middle of the marked channel. We had done it again! this time there was no hope of getting her off, as it was one hour after high tide and the water was going out the pass fast. Dozens of natives came o0uring out in dugouts from Falambulu and other islands in the area. As the dugouts approached and the Morning Star began to list, I felt utterly defeated. I put my head down on my arms and said to Shirl, "We have lost her this time, but I can't let these people see me like this." She touched me on the shoulder and said, "Come on, honey, you will think of some way to save the boat." Just a little touch. A little support. A little expression of confidence. That was all that I needed to galvanize me into action!
 
One big guy was obviously a leader, so I took him aside. First, I told him about our experience at Laulasi. He said, "Laulasi people, very bad. They pagans. We Christians - Melanesian church." He told me that two months ago a government ship had gone on this same reef, while following the channel marks, and six months before that, a Chinese trading vessel had also done the same thing, following the same stupid chart. Now what to do? The tide was giving out, but Morning Star was still standing upright on her keel. I told him that if he and his men helped me, I would pay them each five dollars Australian and him ten dollars. This was more money than they could earn in a week, so he cheerfully and enthusiastically agreed. First, I told him I wanted his best diver to go down deep in the pass and set an anchor imbedded in the coral. From this anchor, I led a line to a bridle I rigged at the masthead. Then I rigged anchors out from the bridle to the port side, and two more from the bow and from the stern. The trick was going to be to prevent Morning Star from falling over onto the sharp coral when the tide was way out. The chief told me that the reef dried out at low tide.
 
I then asked him to get me all the logs he could scare up. Within thirty minutes, out of nowhere came dugouts with coconut logs, which we then embedded in the coral and wedged against the hull. they even brought half coconut shells into which were placed the butt ends of the logs to protect the hull where they were wedged against it. Next we lashed the tires and cushions that we had aboard, along with the two-by-six planks that we carry, to the coral heads projecting up on both sides of the hull. As the water receded, I could see how incredibly lucky we had been. We had driven our twenty-ton boat squarely onto this cliff of a reef, passing neatly between upraised pointed coral heads on either side of us. It was as though we had driven it onto a slipway. Everything was fine if only the wind and the seas would remain calm. the next high tide was at 1800, just before dark. The boat was crawling with natives - men, women, and children. It was pouring rain and the skies were black with ominous peals of thunder rolling over the spectacle. Just then, the anchor from the masthead broke loose from the coral and the boat sagged over, against the coconut logs. With two men on each log adjusting them as necessary, we kept the boat from falling all the way onto her side. The natives in the water were squatting down below the surface to get protection from the cold rain.  
 
With the boat canted over at thirty degrees, Shirl had managed to prepare hot coffee and chocolate bars, for everyone involved - served in shifts. The natives were friendly, laughing, and indispensably helpful. They wanted to stay on the boat until 0500 the next morning, stating that the next high tide, due at 1800, would not be high enough to float Morning Star free. but I wanted to make every effort to get her off before dark because if the wind shifted and the seas came into the pass, there would be no hope whatsoever. She would break up or sure. Leaving Shirl and the chief in charge, I scrounged a dugout with a fast outboard and loaded it with gasoline I had on deck. Then two natives and I took off for the twelve-mile round trip to Mbuma Mission. I had seen a mission boat there and was going to try to recruit it to pull us off the dusk. When we got to Mbuma, the missionaries told me that the boat's engine was disabled, but that an interisland ship was due in the lagoon at 1600. After borrowing some large iron picks and bars, we made the tri back to Falambuku. The natives took the bars and chopped and picked away at the granitelike coral surrounding the Morning Star.
 
As the afternoon wore on, the wavelets started to slap against the hull. The tide was coming in! Gradually, ever so slowly, the Morning Star began to straighten up. We took all of the chain out of the boat and lightened her in every way, short of pumping out her fuel tanks and water tanks. I was saving this last procedure until I was certain that there was no way to get her off the reef. Much to the derision of fellow yachtsmen, we carry seven anchors, and six of them were in use as we struggled to save the boat. At 1400 the interisland ship had not appeared. At 1700 - one hour before high tide, a small interlagoon cargo-passenger vessel came by. I had given up on the ship the missionaries had thought might help, so I got word to the skipper of the passing vessel that I would pay him twenty dollars Australian if he tried to pull us off and if we succeeded.
 
In excited Pidgin English, he agreed. As the tide slowly started to reach its maximum height, the little 155-h.p. vessel strained and pulled a single line out our stern, then double one-inch nylon lines crossed. He jockeyed back and forth for over an hour with his passengers enjoying the show and not at all worried about their interrupted schedule. It was now 1815 and dusk was falling over Langa Langa Lagoon. The natives thought we might get one more inch of water before slack. At 1830 with full power astern and the native boat churning up a mighty wave, the Morning Star scraped free, and in minutes we were safely anchored in front of Falambulu village.
 
We handed out clothing, dishes, and gifts of all sorts, and promised that we would spend the next morning in the village. With that, the natives all boarded the dozen or so dugouts around our boat and paddled off into the darkness. At that moment, our love for these people was overwhelming. they had so cheerfully spent ten hours working with us in this crisis of the day. They had enjoyed every moment of the episode as a major event in their lives. We learned a lot about patience, fortitude, and laughing acceptance from the simple Malaitans of Falambulu. The next morning, we rowed in and had to visit each hut. We gave them Morning Star T-shirts, which they cherished and wore with great pride. At noon, we hoisted anchor and, with misty eyes, waved good-bye to these kindly, primitive people as we made our way back to Mbuma Mission. At Mbuma, we hauled the boat on their mission-boat slipway, the best, most carefully engineered haul-out we have ever had any place in the world. Because of the tide, we had to go onto the slipway at 2200 at night. At 2100 it was pouring rain. High tide was due in one hour. No lights appeared on the shore, so I rowed in through the darkness to try to find Brother Stan, of the missionaries there.
 
Floundering through the jungle with a flashlight, I stumbled onto a coterie of hill people huddled under a tree. They had just walked into the mission station with a freshly killed crocodile skin to sell. These fierce-looking people were the most primitive in appearance and manner of any natives we had ever seen. Brother Stan was well aware of what the tide was doing, and promptly at 2200, flashlights and lanterns appeared, and a crew of ten or so natives dove repeatedly to make sure that we were well chocked on the cradle. The next morning, we discovered that we had sustained no substantive damage. Incredibly, the propeller, rudder, and hull were unscratched. Only a few gouges in the keel and deadwood had to be epoxied, and we were back in the water by late afternoon. by now, we had earned the doubtful distinction of being "real seamen" by having been on at least two reefs.
 
When we returned to Honiara, we were astonished to find tied to the wharf a large white Soviet cruise liner with a load of Australian and New Zealand passengers. As we circulated among the passengers, we noted the Soviet officers and seamen distributing packets of printed material in English extolling the virtues of Marxism and Leninism to the black citizens of the Solomon Islands. The Solomons were scheduled to gain independence from the British within the year. As elsewhere in the world, the vacuum caused by the collapse of the British Empire and European colonialism was being filled inexorably by the new imperialists - the Russians.
 
BALI - THE LAND OF 1,000 TEMPLES
 
While in the Solomons, we had been tormented with indecision whether to remain another year in the western Pacific or whether to make the Indian Ocean crossing to South Africa in 1977. It was getting late in the season to cross the Indian Ocean, so we finally decided to leave the Solomons on July 30. We would head for Port Moresby, New Guinea, Thursday Island, Christmas Island, Cocos Islands, Mauritius and arrive in Durban by November 1 - just before the typhoon season off Madagascar was due to begin. From Honiara, Guadalcanal, through the Coral Sea, around the Louisiade Archipelago, we ran into the worst weather we had experienced in years. With solid overcast precluding celestial sights, we operated on dead reckoning alone. Strong wind warnings came out of Thursday Island. The RDF at Port Moresby had broken down. The log is replete with entries "Shipped big sea over boat. Squalls, thunderstorms, heavy rain, 40 knot SSE winds. Reefed down. Dropped main. Mizzen and reefed staysail only. Hove to. Riding outstorm for 16 hours." Off the coast of Papua New Guinea, we had several birds - gannets and other seabirds - land on the boat. Exhausted by the strong winds, they sought shelter with us. This is the first time in all of our years at sea that we have had this happen. 
 
With black/white racial problems developing in Papua New Guinea, we decided to bypass Port Moresby altogether and continue straight for Bramble Cay and the Bligh entrance to the Great Northeast Channel of Torres Strait. .. This is the route Captain Bligh took in his open-boat voyage following the mutiny on the Bounty, and he named many of the Torres Strait islands during this epic voyage. When the storm blew out, celestial sights revealed that a northwest setting current had put us thirty-six miles ahead of our log and dead reckoning position. I had intended to pick up the light on Bramble Cay, a small spit of sand surrounded by a reef, at 0400 the next morning. Now a fast snapshot of the fuzzy sun at twenty degrees put Bramble dead ahead of us three miles. We couldn't see it on radar, but I told Shirl it had to be right ahead of us. Just then, she saw the thin spire of the light-tower, right off our bow.
 
Just at dusk, we skirted Bramble with the wind steady at thirty-five knots, gusting to forty. It was too wild to try to anchor, so I had three equally hazardous choices, proceed until 2300 to Daru, Papua New Guinea, where I could pick up a light - maybe,; do a 180-degree turn and go back out into the rough Gulf of Papua, littered with huge logs from the Fly River, and heave to all night; or turn down Torres Strait and try to pick up reef-encircled Stephens Islet on radar and fathometer. Thursday Island radio continued to report strong wind warnings. I chose the last course of action, and when I told Shirl, her raised eyebrows caused me to wonder a bit. Shirl steered, huddled in her oilskins, with seas breaking over her. I had my eyes glued to the radar screen below. By 2300 I had the pimple of land surrounded by a reef called Stephens Islet on the screen. there was another prominent target, a ship at anchor sheltering until dawn in the lee of Stephens. 
 
Crawling toward the radar target sitting in the middle of the submerged reef, Shirl was to yell when the fathometer registered thirty feet. Inching toward the reef, she screamed, "Twenty feet!" "Reverse!" I ordered. Down went the anchor, and we pitched behind this reef throughout the rest of the night. In the morning, we found a row of uncharted rocks one hundred feet off our bow, so we had stopped just in time. We day-sailed the rest of the way through the reef-strewn Torres Strait - a narrow passage between Australia and Papua New Guinea. On August 9, we arrived at Thursday Island, a pearl-diving center, where we provisioned, fueled, and watered. On August 13, we left Horn Island, Australia, bound for Christmas Island, South Indian Ocean. Sailing dead before the wind in the Arafura Sea, we had one gorgeous day after another southeast winds, fifteen knots, no squalls - not even a rain shower. Day after day, we ran across the Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia, out of the Arafura Sea, into the Sea.
 
Log Entry, August 15: "Best first three days at sea ever. 35 fathoms. Cool breezes. Clear starlit night. Latitude 9 degrees 57' South, Longitude, 135 degrees East, 132 mile run. This is trade-wind sailing at last. Caught large barracuda, but shark but him off right behind gills before I could land him."
 
Then, 175 miles from Timor, 890 miles out from Thursday Island, the generator exhaust pipe broke, and the autopilot quit - both at the same time. We hove to all night, and the next morning I had the exhaust pipe silver-soldered together and the autopilot repaired. On the tenth day out from Thursday Island, we entered the Indian Ocean, standing well off from war-wracked Timor and fifteen miles south of Roti. One evening, Shirl and I were having dinner below when we heard a bumping, scraping noise on the hull. Startled, we jumped up as another grating noise echoed through the hull. We both thought, "It's got to be a whale!" We saw nothing, but I started the engine to frighten any whales in the vicinity. Several sailing vessels have been sunk by whales in recent years, and we wanted no part of a romance between Morning Star and a whale equally her size.
 
The next morning on our radio schedule, our faithful friend and daily ham radio contact, bud Alvernaz, in distant San Jose, California, asked me if I had felt the large earthquake that had struck Sumba Island, Indonesia. We were just south of Sumba in 1,700 fathoms (16,200 feet) when it struck, so we felt no tidal-wave effect. However, we wondered later if the strange noises heard through he hull could have been related to the giant quake. We had been getting continuous progress reports about Shirley's mother from Bud. On August 24, Shirley's sister reported that her mother was critically ill. We were 280 miles south of Bali, Indonesia, and 800 miles from Christmas Island. Bali has an international airport. We could abort our Indian Ocean crossing in 1977, head north for Bali, and fly home so that Shirl could visit her mother. But we had no visas for Bali, and the Indonesian officials were notoriously unpleasant about this. We could continue on to Africa and fly home from Durban in November.
 
The next morning at 0545, I obtained a perfect four-star fix on Venus, Sirius, Canopus, and Capella. Just then, two beautiful snow white tropical bosun birds flew at our masthead, then headed off north toward Bali. They returned and did the same thing again and again. I felt that these frantic birds were trying to tell me something. I changed course to 342 degrees, awaked Shirl to relieve me, and told her that were were going to Bali and fly home from there. A few minutes later, I had my scheduled radio talk with Bud, and he told us that Shirley's sister had called to ask that we try to get home. This was after we had changed course. On August 26, we were in the rough waters of Lombok Strait, heading for Benoa Harbor, Bali. While working against the strong current pouring out of Lombok, the alternator bearings froze and burned up the water-pump belt. As Shirl tacked the boat off the reefs at Nusa Dua, I replaced the alternator and got the engine going in time to enter the tricky channel at Benoa Harbor. Behind us lay a thirty-two-hundred-mile passage, completed in twenty-seven days.
 
We overcame all the visa problems, lined up a trustworthy custodian for the boat; set up a double anchor mooring; scheduled a twenty-three-hour flight from Bali to Guam, Honolulu, and Los Angeles; and on September 9 were winging our way back to California. Shirl's one-month visit with her mother was a tonic, and her health improved. Before leaving Bali, we had recruited two woodcarvers from Mas village. They had been living on the boat, working full time - seven days a week - while we were gone. When we returned we were delighted with the intricate, exquisite carvings of Balinese legends that adorned the Morning Star's interior. We had come to Bali quite by accident and were completely enthralled with the fascinatingly different culture we found there, which has remained relatively intact throughout the centuries.
 
Indonesia, with its 130 million people, is the fifth most populous nation in the world. On the small island of Bali alone, there are 2.5 million people. Like most Indonesians, the Balinese are an evolutionary mixture of races. In the main, they are descendents of the Malayo-Polynesians, ancient denizens of the three thousand islands comprising the archipelago. Along with their eastern Javanese ancestors, Indonesians have traces of Indian, Chinese, Polynesian, and Melanesian blood, resulting in a variety of features among the Balinese. By western standards, the Balinese are a most attractive race. The Balinese-Hindu religion dominates the daily lives of these people. Eighty percent are adherents to this religion on this island of one thousand temples. Another 10 percent are Muslims, and the balance are Bueddhists and Christians. Every action of the day is preceded by an offering to their god or gods. Every rice paddy, every home, has a small mini temple for the offering of incense and floral gifts. Lives are centered on the dictates of a power greater than themselves. Woven throughout this tapestry is the central thread of all ancient civilizations - the family.
 
Every family event is an occasion for celebration. The end of the first three months of a child's life is a festive event, followed by another family gathering at the end of six months of life, when the child's feet are allowed to touch the ground for the first time. Prior to this, it is always carried when awake by a parent, grandparent, brother, or sister. Betrothals, weddings, funerals, cremations - all are occasions for feasts, ceremonies, pageantry, and a reunification of the family. A man's riches are measured in terms of the number of children he had, children who will venerate and care for him in his old age. The aged are functional and needed - an essential opart of the fabric of the family. They are not put on the back burner as their "productivity" declines. The wood-carvers continued work on the boat while Shirl and I lived in a tropical thatch-roofed bungalow on Sanur Beach. The white-sand beach began at the stone wall surrounding our courtyard and unfolded down to the sea inside the barrier reef. Each morning during breakfast, we looked at a scene of breathtaking beauty as the sun rose over the Indian Ocean. The seas, driven by the southeast monsoon, geysered up on the reef with the sound of distant thunder. Inside the reef, the Balinese prahus (outrigger-dugout canoes) with their spectacularly colorful lateen-rigged sails on bamboo masts and booms ghosted along over the calm water. Balinese fishermen waded in groups, spreading their nets to gather their fish needs of the day. We continued to marvel at the industriousness and infinite patience of these people. Each day begins and ends pretty much as did the day before and the days before that centuries ago. 
 
As we toured all of Bali, we observed the people stooping from the waist down in the centuries-old terraced rice paddies, wading in mud to implant or harvest each precious shoot of rice. They work ten hours a day - 0500 to 1200 - two hours to rest in the thatched shelters dotting every field - then another three hours until 1700, as the evening begins. Everyone - men, women, children - works at some communally assigned task. The women, right along with the men, are engaged in manual labors of all descriptions - construction work, building roads and irrigation dikes, animal tending, fetching heavy containers of water and river-bottom mud in pails and baskets atop their heads. Bali was far and away the most interesting and vastly different place we had ever visited.
 
It was now late October. There was no way we could risk the Indian Ocean crossing at this time of year. The typhoons off Madagascar and the cyclones in the Bay of Bengal would tear us to pieces. so, the only place to sit out the typhoon season was to Singapore, lying one thousand miles north of Bali. On October 27, we sailed from Bali with Benoa villagers escorting us out the pass in their sailing canoes. We proceeded through Bali Strait to Pang Pang, Java, then up Djangkar, Java. We anchored there and watched the spectacle of hundreds of picturesque sailing vessels with their lateen rigs and colorful figureheads returning to their village with their catch at dusk. A Javanese fisherman luffed up alongside of us, and we bought a ten-pound tuna from him for eighty cents. Late into the night and long before dawn, we listened to the wailing chants of the Muslim worshipers praying to their god of Islam.
 
Before we left Bali, the police had warned us about piracy in the Java Sea and cautioned us about stopping at Madura. They said, "They kill you with knives." But anchored all night in an open roadstead off Madura, we stood watches and had no unwelcome visitors. As we cruised along the coasts of Java and Madura, we learned a lot about this fascinating part of the world. There are 80 million people on Java and Madura in an area of one hundred thirty thousand square kilometers, representing a density of more than 600 per square kilometer, which is almost twice that of Holland and England, the most densely populated countries in Europe, and more than twice that of Japan. there are more than 5 million people in Jakarta, and over a million each in Bandung and Surabaya. Eighty-five percent of Java's enormous population lives in rural areas, and around 70 percent is engaged in agriculture.
 
When Sir Francis Drake sailed the Golden Hind to Java in 1580, he logged, "The Javans were sociable, full of vivacity and beyond description, happy. They were likewise hospitable to strangers." Although there are exceptions, these words generally still apply to the Javanese of today. All white men here are called belanda, which originally meant "Hollander" when the Dutch controlled the then "Dutch East Indies," but the term now applies to all white men. 
 
As in Bali, there are dozens of ancient temples and monuments most of them older than Europe's great cathedrals, all of them completed long before the first colonists set foot on North American soil. Leaving Madura at dawn, with all of the ominous warnings about piracy in this part of the world well imbedded in our consciousness, our Java Sea passage to Singapore began.
 
 
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