A Beginners Guide to Sailing in Papua New Guinea

Lars Alfredson
Sat 28 Nov 2015 07:18

A Beginners Guide to Sailing in Papua New Guinea

Chapter 1: A Shortage of Shorts

Now when I say a guide to sailing in PNG, let’s be clear, I don’t mean to actually include any sailing specific knowledge as distilling all the wisdom I have acquired on sailing on a yacht for two weeks would be spectacularly pointless. Rather I mean a guide to all of the things that are required to sail in PNG but do not involve sails or ropes or wheels directly as you can get better information on those things by asking just about anyone else.

Before going sailing in PNG you may wonder what to bring, as with most tropical countries the answer is simple shorts, t-shirts (as I have been told it is rude to sit at the dinner table shirtless) and that is pretty much it. Now in the case of PNG you will want to bring several pairs of shorts, not just for the increasingly novel reason of being able to change once in a while but also because interacting with the younger male locals will often result in demands for said shorts. I experienced this while riding in the bow of one of the local’s canoes, my weight bringing it within centimeters of the water line, he had acquired a fair turn of speed with a few strokes of the blade-like hardwood paddle when he dispensed with the small talk we had been engaged in and came out with “I like your shorts so give them to me” I tried to explain that they were my only swimming shorts and that I would not be giving them away. He considered this for a moment and replied “okay, I like them give them to me now”.  Not withstanding my reluctance to part with my shorts in general I considered the practicality of giving him the shorts “now” while 50 meters from the boat and in a crowd of young men in canoes. I declined once more only to have the decision firmly taken out of my hands when the shorts, which had been drying on the rail, were gone the next morning. Extra shorts would be a wise investment.

In fact a stash of second hand clothes in general would be a wise investment as stopping near villages (and it seems that all anchorages have villages) often produces visitors who paddle up to the stern of the boat to chat and often ask for candy for the children and clothes for both the children and themselves. I flatter myself to think that I have traveled reasonably extensively but the blunt requests for goods is something new for me. The boats often bring something with them, a watermelon, or some coconuts, and merely ask for “something nice” in return. But requests come in all shades as the shorts incident demonstrates and it is best to have at least something to offer as locals can and do say in terms of mild reproach that yachts usually bring them second hand clothes. This is a fairly reasonable practice as it takes considerable effort time and money on their part to make it into a town in which clothes are available and really it is a small price to pay for the fresh fruit often provided or even just to tour the villages and islands. It is still nice to pick which  articles of clothing one give them though.