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Date: 08 Mar 2009 05:07:26
Title: Downhill Run

Downhill Run?

S 11 09.031 E165 47.812

Out on the open ocean once again. Anuta and Tikopia lie tantalizingly close,
some 200 nautical miles away, and it's good to be on the move. This is the
downhill run. It's been one hell of a trip, but a long one and I'm looking
forward to getting to the islands. They are extraordinary places, their
peoples know we are coming and everyone is excited about the boats. It's
going to be great.

We have been pretty busy over the last month: filmed for a German TV
documentary on the Nggela Islands; partied in Honiara at The Point Cruz
Yacht Club; sailed down the coast of Makira; sheltered in the beautiful safe
anchorage at Waimasi Bay; hung out with the Tikopian community of Nukukasi;
chased chickens and harassed pigs with Prof Keith Dobney; and constructed a
double-hulled canoe for Prof Atholl Anderson's Maori sailing experiment - it
was a great success. Then we crossed the 200 mile gap separating 'Near
Oceania' and 'Remote Oceania' by sailing between Santa Ana on Makira and
Nende in the Santa Cruz Islands.

An Atlantic crossing it is not, but Santa Ana marks the end of a chain of
islands that stretches west for thousands of miles from South East Asia.
This passage at the end of the Solomon's held up the eastern spread of
people for millennia and it wasn't until about 3000 years ago that the
Lapita people finally nailed it and the colonization of the eastern Pacific
took a great leap forward.

We were all chuffed to have made the crossing, particularly Atholl who has
been wrestling with questions surrounding the colonization of Remote Oceania
for years. This first-hand experience of what the Lapita people might have
faced was special for him, but it was no picnic. It took a week of beating
against unfavourable winds, rain squalls and choppy seas to make it. The
spar on Klaus's mainsail broke late one night during a powerful squall and
the waves crashed over both boats getting everything wet. Days on a wet deck
seemed to go on and on and the salt-soaked shorts gave us sores where you
don't want sores. Lata (capital of the Santa Cruz Islands) with its long,
deep, safe inlet could not come quick enough. Memories of the Philippines
came flooding back.

Anchored just off Lata wharf with its wrecked freighter we took five days
R&R. We drank SolBrew and ate plenty of red and white deep sea snapper,
which have eyes the size of pool balls, whilst waiting for the sun to shine
and everything to dry out. In Lata we Eve came back and Karl joined us,
bringing with him bourbon, a harpoon gun, Italian coffee and a ukulele. An
interesting combination.

Atholl and Keith have both left, but so too has James Wharram who recently
learned of the sudden death of his dear friend Ernald. His boats have done
us proud and proved themselves worthy of trans-ocean travel again and again,
so he leaves tired and sad, but with no small sense of achievement. Our
condolences go out to Fredrica and a rum toast to the memory of Ernald. Fair
winds brother.

Matt Fletcher


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