Downhill Run?

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Matt Fletcher
Position: S 11 09.031 E165 47.812 (On Lapita Tikopia)

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.

A large group of people dancing under trees on the beach
Party and dancing at the Tikopian settlement of Nukukasi (Makira island)
A large group of people sitting on the beach
Jamie Wharram and Hanneke at the party in Nukukasi
Food laid out on a mat
The feast is laid out on mats on the ground. Baked fish, kasava and taro 'puddings' and various other local delicacies.
View of the open sea from the bow
Sailing out into the blue. The 200nm crossing to the Santa Cruz island. A hard windward stretch.

Makira To Nende - A Pilgrimage

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.

Crew on deck, wet and rainy
Atholl Anderson and Matt on Lapita Anuta in the pouring rain
Rain clouds over the sea
One of the many squalls approaches

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.

Rain clouds over the sea, boat in the distance
A final rain squall on the approach to Nende
An island in the distance, off the bow
Landfall at Nende in the Santa Cruz

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.

A wharf with people on it and a ship docked
The wharf in Lata (Nende island) with its wrecked freighter and the tired old trading ship that is the transport between islands. We last saw this ship in Tikopia in 1996 when we were there on Spirit of Gaia.
Red fish on a blue sheet
Red Snappers for sale at the wharf

Lata, Santa Cruz

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 Eve came back and Karl joined us, bringing with him bourbon, a harpoon gun, Italian coffee and a ukulele; an interesting combination.

A man playing a guitar
New crew member Karl

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 Frederika and a rum toast to the memory of Ernald (Pearson). Fairwinds brother.

- Matt Fletcher