HAPPY NEW YEAR!

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all my readers and followers.

As the sun set on 2016 and another magical Whitsunday evening brought the year to a suitable close, I sat ruminating on the current project, Book 4 in my Williams series which is occupying much time.

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So it was a great thrill, and a confidence-boosting start to 2017 that on flicking through a weekend  paper I read a pleasing review by prominent Townsville journalist and reviewer, Mary Vernon, of Book 3 MELTED WAX.

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Thank you Mary for taking the time to read and review this work with a positive and pleasing review (and of course stimulating sales!)

The three books I’ve  published to date – PAYBACK, PURI PURI and MELTED WAX – are available in printed copy directly from me via my website www.johnbellbooks.com or by download to your digital reader from Amazon www.amazon.com/author/johnbellbooks.

Print-on-demand copies are also available from Amazon.

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And Home!

We enjoy a whale and calf near Square Reef, then a 15 knot bobsled ride inside the reef towards Mackay and the setting sun.20160824_175510_hdr

By nightfall the wind swings from north westerly to a cold 20 knot south easterly, bringing with it rain, sometimes heavy. We push through the sharp chop in the shallow water approaches to Mackay from the north, finally getting into the marina just after midnight.

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Next morning, we clear back into Australia through immigration and customs, and take on fuel.

Then out through the entrance and head north for the Whitsundays.

Hardly any wind at all, calm all the way.

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20160825_172936_hdrOff Cape Conway another whale with calf.

Overcast conditions, the light fades quickly and we work through passing showers.

Too dark to locate the mooring, we anchor overnight in Funnel Bay … and home!

Brian delivers us by dinghy to our doorstep – literally – and disappears into the rain to Drumbeat and Linda.

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Blue Water at its best

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Don’t get me wrong …  blue water sailing is mostly enjoyable.

Now out of the storms and in the sou’east trades, Drumbeat skips along, eating up the sea miles.

20160822_180139_HDR.jpgWe enter the shipping lanes between east coast Australia and east of New Guinea. A lot of ships traverse this bit of ocean. At one stage we have seven ships on our AIS screen. On sunset we pass the Chang Wah, 900 feet long. We’d been on collision course, until he turned to port and we did the same to our port.

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You can see why they call it blue water when you check the escape hatch out in the hull below waterline … this really is a loo with a view!

 

 

Brian plots our course through the Reef to our new clearance port of Mackay.

By the time we reach the Reef, the wind has eased, and we ghost along between the reefs. Flying fish and seabirds – one booby hitched a full night time lift with us, perched on a rail.

We stream a couple of lures, but no success.

 

 

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Ah, yes – the best laid plans …

20160820_055321_HDR.jpgSetting moon below the clouds of an early morning departure. Glassed off water farewells us, sky looks much better than yesterday. But at 2 a.m. the rain bucketed down, must’ve been a passing squall, with wind across the deck of 25 knots plus for about half an hour. Just to let us know there’s still some weather about.

20160820_061614_hdrWe cross fingers as we skirt the reef guarding the entrance. A hundred or more metres off our starboard bow a big marlin tail walks across the water, leaving us behind as he falls back into his element. I’m not quick enough to get a pic of this fitting farewell.

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We swing to port to run down the western side of Rendova Island, leaving Kolambangara off astern to starboard. Kolambangara, part of the scene of the naval battle in “Payback.”

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Blue sky above, but the horizon not promising, we sail fast in the protected lee of Rendova.

20160820_065825_hdrAn hour later, Kolambangara has disappeared into the base of a storm that comes chasing us.

Drumbeat slips along in light winds under full main and heads’l.

Instruments show 7.3 knots wind speed 8.6 knots boat speed. We continue like this, sailing faster than the wind, which is coming from just ahead of our port beam, slowly strengthening.

Now we’re parting company with the southern end of Rendova, 8 miles to port, lifting to the ocean swell. The sea is still relatively calm, nice fast sailing.

20160821_115806_hdrLunch on the run, puffy clouds over the slowly disappearing islands. The horizon ahead gives cause for concern, by mid afternoon we know why – a line of storms the full width of our horizon.

Soon conditions deteriorate.

We reduce the main to the third reef, and small heads’l as the wind quickly picks up – 25 knots, then 30, then 35 knots, worsening  While still daylight we take the decision to run from the storms. This means instead of heading south west to Gladstone, we go northwest towards PNG. It’s a wild trip for many hours until we get behind the limited shelter of a 30 mile long reef, Pocklington Ridge. By now a combination of distance between us and the storms and the reef shelter made conditions easier.

Well after midnight we reach the northwestern end of the reef, about 80 miles from the Louisiades, and gingerly turn again to the south west. The reef drops away to the Pocklington Trough, some 3000 metres deep. Serious water.

Daylight sees us in much calmer conditions, now heading for Mackay.

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AMAZON – John Bell Books

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Egholo Extended

Heavy showers overnight, the distant sea shows through the entrance all whitecaps and grey, pushed along by 30 kts of sou’easter. We sit motionless in this protected anchorage. Brian locates a small low developing immediately north of us. With any luck, it’ll move off to the east and leave us alone on our westwards journey. But we should wait a while – great! I love Egholo.

Chief Ngana takes us today on a stroll through neat and tidy houses and paths, vegetable gardens and fruit trees, of all sorts. Nut trees too. Similar names to Kavieng for a couple of the nut trees. Crab holes everywhere. Solomon Islands name for Abiu is Portera. They grow well here.

Ngana’s wife gives us a demonstration of recovering coconut oil. About 80 coconuts and a lot of work go to make about ten half litre bottles of clear oil. A lot of time and effort.

20160818_071759_HDR.jpgA walk past village houses and gardens takes us to the local school. We meet two of the teachers, young and dedicated Solomon Island girls.

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Egholo village school teachers

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Our friendly head man Gnana brings out his village visitor’s book, carefully wrapped in plastic.

20160817_074139_HDR.jpgWith two artists on board in Linda and Carol, the ladies work on a page for our visit.

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Village life flows on around us, canoes with kids, canoes with mothers and occasional men. This is much better than tackling that low-pressure system waiting outside for us.

We’re invited to leave Drumbeat for a while to check out a project of one of the villagers.

Can you imagine trying to build accommodation for backpackers when there’s no Bunnings handy? Local man Pesec, a Solomons entrepreneur, is building out over the water. All disparate bits of timber, but bedrooms and an already functioning flush toilet. He’s started bringing fish into the verandah each morning … something for tourists, he says. A triumph of spirit over

20160818_070236_HDRAll disparate bits of timber, but bedrooms and an already functioning flush toilet. He’s started bringing fish into the verandah each morning … something for tourists, he says. A triumph of spirit over

He’s started bringing fish into the verandah each morning … something for tourists, he says. A triumph of spirit over environment.  I hope his dream becomes reality. Very basic, very beautiful, very friendly. If any backpacker reads this and has a sense of adventure, get yourself to Egholo and stay a while, living over water. Tell ’em I sent you!

 

 

 

all too soon, it’s back to Drumbeat to think about the weather…

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Enchanted Egholo

No swell. No waves. Deep clean anchorage almost completely encircled by jungle and coconuts. A couple of small villages. Fresh water creek in S.W. corner, the mandatory mud bank for crocodiles in the opposite corner. No crocs, though, and apart from a vague hint that one visits occasionally no  apparent concern. Still, I didn’t stray far from Drumbeat when I slid in for a swim.

I’m pleased the weather’s looking crook, this is a lovely place, pretty good to be stuck in.

We’re right on track for the kids paddling to school from the village closest to us behind the stand of coconuts. Some as young as four. All with happy smiles and shy grins, brilliant flashes of white teeth.

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The old ‘foot pump bailer’ hard at work in a leaky canoe – there’s a few like that…

A paddling woodcarver calls by for a bit of trade, introduces himself as Soga. Very switched on, good English. Mixed with pidgin. Brian is excellent at this = more providing a spectacle than hard bargaining. Seems to be enjoyed by both sides. A lot of long silences, while I wonder have they drifted off somewhere. But no, all calculations and tactics. Until loudly “OFF the table!!” indicates a deal has been reached.

The kids soon learn that one square of chocolate is a prize they can collect. No greedy kids, no shoving or trying to get more. Smiles and “tenkyu tumas.”

Today we’ve been invited to the Gnana’s village, scrupulously neat and clean. By the water woodworkers are carving canoes. Using a short handled adze with a wider and thinner blade than I’m used to. Shaping is done by eye, and we can see the expertise as he slices layers of timber. The finish is as smooth as any table, inside and out.

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about 7 metres long

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thwarts hold sides in..very thin hull

 

 

 

 

 

 

The canoe carvers are busy men. Canoes from 1.5m (for the littlies) to 7 or 8m are everywhere, taking the place of our cars, bikes, trains, buses. And clearly a lot of pride goes into the art/skill of carving a canoe, symmetrical and seaworthy.

Our pace has slowed to that of the islands. Nothing happens real fast. A wonderful life-style, so different from our lives in Australia.

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