Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Release Date 1/26/2010

Right as I got in the water these people went by on this boat towing a kid standing on a surfboard. It looked just like my youth, with me and my friends skimboarding up and down the river on a piece of plywood. The kid didn’t get a lot of style points, but he stayed up, and they were moving pretty fast…

I had a cold so had to take a few days off of paddling. Plans of doing a massive weekend trip were cancelled, but I finally felt good enough to go today.

I paddled out to Edamango Island again. It is about 2.5 NM away, but the wind was again blowing pretty heavily right out of the west so it took over an hour to get there. I nailed the boat on the reef pretty good coming into shore. It was the classic stay on the back of the wave, but of course I couldn’t and even laying flat on the back of the boat the bow got buried in the water and smacked the rock. I beached the kayak and did a bit of snorkeling.

This is the same island where Kate said all the beautiful blue coral on the beach is a kind of fire coral, so it was unpleasant swimming out to the reef. At points it was only about 1 ft deep with the swell exposing the rocks. I often hear a voice in my head like Homer Simpson “Ha Marine Biologist what does she know, Humph” but I am a bit smarter than Homer so I put my paddling shoes on my hands and managed to get over the rocks without getting stung.

It was overcast and all stirred up by the wind, but this was clearly the best place for coral I have ever seen. There are huge expanses of growing coral all kinds. It was all a dusky gray because of the, overcast day, and sediment. “Crappy visibility” of only 20ft. It must be amazing in the sun on a calm day. I saw tons of little fish and even a few little grouper all less than 2ft long. You can tell the tasty fish, they take off as soon as they see you.

I did a bunch of free dives. The coral is all shallow, at 30 ft it was just pebbly rocks and sand, but if it wasn’t so windy and the current so strong I could have gone out a lot further and maybe found a rise out in the water where there were bigger fish.

It got a little intense at one point as I got around the point of the island because the current got really strong. Like if you don’t use your hands to do the crawl you are going to go backwards and be swept out to sea kind of strong.

I saw a turtle right when I got in the water. Its head was buried in the rocks eating algae, and it totally freaked when it looked up and saw me 10 ft away. They can really move when they want to. I wonder how the locals catch them, and this was just a little guy.

I also saw a really cool black tipped reef shark about 2ft long, cruising in amongst the rocks..

I screwed-up my sinuses by freediving, and haven’t been the same since. I guess I wasn’t officially “better” yet.

On the way back in I saw a great sunset, and as usual the wind died so I didn’t get a free ride in. I couldn’t surf in either because the swell was almost directly broadside.

The next day there was a tremendous storm about 6AM while I was eating breakfast and 2 huge banana trees fell over in the yard. I chopped them up with our machete (bush knife). Banana trees have very shallow root systems and are always the first to go in a storm.

You can’t tell from the picture but this stalk of them weighs about 50 pounds. These were cooking bananas, like plantains in the US, and I made them for dinner. They have a nasty sticky sap in them, that I can NOT get off of the cutting board or the knife. They tasted ok, like plantains, but the dogs didn’t like them at all. I probably should have covered them with salt and butter that’s how I ate it.

I want the “house meri” literally house woman, but means the person who cleans our house to take them. I left her a note, let’s see if it was understandable….

Bikpela Win Bugarup Bananna Tri. Ples Yu kisim dispela I Kai Kai.
Big Wind broke banana tree. Please take them and eat.

Its got one of my favorite Tok Pisin words in it. Buggarup. Eg Buggered-Up, means broken….

Hopefully she won’t chop down all the other trees in the yard, or cook one of the dogs, because what I wrote made no sense…

Something about the weather, but I can’t make it out…

Release Date 1/19/2010


Also no bottle sorry, hope I don’t have to rename the blog….

After a particularly frustrating day at work I went out to paddle. Kate is out of town on a trip with some friends in India, so went out fairly late for a short trip. I paddled out around Nusa Island. It has been very windy lately, and the swell has been big. It is deceiving in the harbor, but once you pass the reef into the real sea it hits you.

This day it reminded me of the Atlantic. The ocean was a dark gray, swell from the sea, and wind waves on top of them. It was impressive. Unlike home it was not cold and upleasant. It was overcast, but still about 80 degrees, and even a chilly willy like me was comfortable in just a shirt and shorts.

I went around the two islands out the point to check out the new house we want to rent. We have found a ramshackle house on the coast that the owners want to fix-up and rent to us.

Inside it really looks like a beach shack. It is only about 30feet from the shore, and there is the constant roar of the surf smashing into the reef about 100 yards away. I hope we don’t go deaf.

The big revelation today was that about 50 yards away from the house it looks like I can do a launch, into surf, but not the terrible surf that comes in from the North. Maybe I can keep some of the kayaks under the house. Fingers crossed…. They have to actually do the work and fix it up, since it is falling down, but we are totally ready to go if it happens.

Unfortunately my camera battery went dead, so I couldn’t get a picture of it. I did get a nice picture of the surf crashing into “the blowhole” This was pretty interesting since it is sheer rock right on the coast, and massive clapotis coming out while the surf comes in. The picture doesn’t do it justice. It could be Wales…. This spray is about 30ft high…

Release Date 1/16/2010

Publish Post

No bottle

1/16/2010 paddled out to Rawl left 14:45, back at 18:45. It was pretty windy, wind was from the NW at about 10 or 15 knots, and there was big swell from the NW ~ 6ft sometimes with a very slow period. It was ok to paddle in, but I definitely had to keep paying attention.

I got out to Edamango Island in about an hour. I had my mask so did some rolls to checkout the bottom and took a few pictures. Most of which didn’t really come out. Funny thing about underwater pictures they are never even close to the real thing., specially with my point and shoot camera.

Because there was so much swell it had churned the bottom up, and there was no visibility in a lot of spots, but it was easy to tell where it was clear from the surface. I want to come back here and go snorkeling as soon as I can. I can leave the boat on the beach and just swim out, so I don’t have to worry about losing it. When it is windy and current is strong it is just too stressful to try and do any freediving because I have to keep checking on the kayak, the paddle leashed to the kayak, if I am drifting the surf, etc etc…

After hanging around for a bit I paddled on out to Rawl and did a bit of the same thing there. I then beached the boat and had a snack and a drink before heading back. I did some more checking of the reef here. I think it is as nice or nicer, but I had to get out quite away from the island before the water was clear enough to see anything.

I have been doing the roll over with a mask to check out the bottom, and I keep having a problem where I get disoriented and have trouble rolling back up. There is something about using the mask under water that makes it difficult. I actually find it a lot easier to come up if I just close my eyes and then go into the mechanical roll mechanism.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Release Date 12/26/2009

I have been paddling more and more, but not releasing a bottle most times because of laziness, and the lack of a good supply of garbage bottles.

Kate and I did get out on Boxing Day. We saw a large ship in the harbor that was picking-up a bunch of logs. They just seemed to toss the logs on the ship and tie them all together. These must have been beautiful trees all tropical hardwood.

We did a lot of work fixing-up Kate’s office over the holidays, and some of it was carpentry. It is funny when you go to the lumber yard and buy a 2x4 or a plank. All they have is beautiful hardwood, it isn’t all that expensive, and there is no other option. It makes me sad to think of all the trees that are cut down, and at the same time I am thinking about filling my luggage with boards the next time I go back to NYC for work.

The extremely hard wood, coupled with very crappy and cheap nails makes pounding a nail into a board a very difficult job. I resorted to pre-drilling for a lot of it, or went through 4 or 5 nails for every one that got pounded in.

On 12/26 we went out to Edmago island. We wanted to do some snorkeling, but it was too late by the time we got out there. We found a bunch of dead fire coral on the beach, so if we do go snorkeling here, we are going to have to be very careful. We now have a pile of beautiful blue dried coral. Unfortunately it fades when dry, but when it is wet it looks really nice.

My attempts at fishing have been met with continued failure. We come across these schools of voracious tuna feeding. When we are in the motor boat we have done pretty well catching them, but I can’t seem t o get them in my kayak. Part of the problem is that they move so fast.

When I see them jump I guess they are moving at 20 miles an hour. While they are feeding they stay in one place. I have had to paddle as fast as I can for 10 or 15 minutes to get to them, then I usually get one or two passes through them before they stop feeding and take off.

I tried spearfishing one day, but that didn’t go so well either. The day I went the current was very strong like 2 or 3 knots. It was too dangerous to try and drift since the boat moved so fast in the current and the wind. I would go down for a minute, then have to chase it for a long time to catch-up to it. Instead I dove down and tied my kayak to a large rock with my toe rope. Then I would swim for 10 or 15 minutes as hard as I could to just 20 or 30 yards upcurrent to make a dive.

At one point I did see a fairly large fish, and I dove down to check him out, but as soon as he saw me the fish headed up toward me (this is not normal behavior, and can be a bit disconcerting – the hunter becomes the hunted and all that) When he got closer I realized why, it was a remora!

Remora have a large suction cup on the top of their head, and they attach themselves to other large animals, usually sharks, and get a free ride. This annoying fish bothered me for the whole rest of the time. He kept getting closer and closer, and looking at my soft white underbelly. Fortunately he didn’t attach himself to me, or I would have gotten and industrial sized hicky…

One other day I did go scuba diving with an outfitter, Scuba Ventures. This was really nice. They took us to a great place that had tons of fish. I saw lots of large mackerel and barracuda. I even saw a huge grouper on the reef. The local chief who controls this area forbids fishing there, and it is too far away, so I won’t be going back with my speargun, but it was nice to see what might be possible.

I included some pictures of them trying to move Kate’s storage container. The little forklift wasn’t quite strongpella enough so we had to empty the container first, and even then it could only lift it about 6 inches up in the air. See if you can see the tires in the pictures, when the guy lifts it, the tires go almost all the way flat because of the weight.

One day I saw a beautiful rainbow at the end of the day as I was coming in. You will have to squint to see it in the picture.

The sky here is often just incredible in the late afternoons. The air is very clear, and there are these great colors that often peak through the clouds. It is most spectacular when it is a bit overcast. In the same view of the horizon you can see clear blue sky, 45 degrees in one direction it will be almost black because of a storm, in the middle all the other possible shades. I have taken pictures, which actually look pretty good, but nothing compared to seeing it live. I have seen this type of sky at some time on almost every day I go out. There are a lot of late afternoon storms, and when you can see the entire horizon there is almost one somewhere off in the distance.

On 1/10/2010 I went for a 4 hour paddle by myself. I am slowly trying to get back in shape, I think I’m getting used to the heat. I went out past the Lissieng resort almost to Manne Island. I want to do a trip out through Albatross passage to the other side of New Ireland. In 2 hours I got most of the way there, so I could easily do a day trip if I left in the morning.

On the way back I found a whole bunch of grapefruit someone had dumped in the water. This was similar to the huge orange slick we found one day off of Sandy Hook in NYC. They were edible, but really tough and not very juicy.

On this same trip I also came across a small sea bird standing on a floating coconut. It was like he was just taking a rest bobbing up and down on the waves. He seemed perfectly content, and didn’t pay any attention to me.

I would have to stay overnight, but someday I would like to get all the way to the Mite Island where Kate got our dog Mitey. I need to go past Manne Island, and through the Albatross Passage. I’m wondering if there might be heavy currents in this pass since it is pretty narrow between two large islands.

The chart doesn’t show anything, but my charts are from the US Defense department, and I think were originally created for the war. They have things on them about not anchoring or “bottoming a submarine” in the harbor because only the surface has been swept for mines.

I have been spending a bit, but not enough, time going through the Tok Pisin book trying to learn t he language. The most fun thing to do is just leaf through the dictionary, the variety of racist, and funny terms is hilarious. One I saw recently is “longpella pik” longpella means tall or long, almost always used for a person. Pik is pig or pork, but when you put the two together it is what cannibals call human fesh, basically long pork, since a person is taller and thinner than a pig. It is a little funny that a fairly new modern language, it can’t be more than 150 years old has a word for human flesh. It really wasn’t that long ago that they were eating each other, yikes!!!

12/26/2009 Truth breeze and shade are good.