30 August, 2007



Papua New Guinea – Guam – Port Townsend.


Don't ask, don't ask.  I know. . . I know.  Everything just gets clearer once you start sailing.  I was so sure of my last plan, the one that had me sailing to South Carolina .  The real problem was then being in South Carolina with my boat when I wanted to be in Port Townsend or Bellingham.  To get Araby there would take a lot more time and lots more money (an engine to get through the Canal,and the Canal fees themselves$$$$$).

Time never comes back.  I have a goal.  I want to get started.


However, there also was an impetus.   When I was approaching Torres Strait, I had this strange churning of the stomach, the sort of feeling that, as a sailor, one must try to be attuned with.  It was an eery feeling.   At the same time I had a recurring dream of sailing into Port Townsend.  It took me a cou\ple of days to piece it together, but eventually it all becamse clear.   I turned around, backtracked three hundred miles of the coral sea and turned north into the Solomon Sea, making for New Guinea.  From New Ireland (NG) I would sail for Guam, then from there direct to Port Townsend. 

This is a dangerous route.  I am cutting the fringe of the typhoon region as a dangerous time.  Really, I am sailing across the areas where they generate, therefore rarely reach their maximum force.   Also I am not stopping.  I will move through the dangerous southern waters quickly.  Guam has good typhhon holes in case I get stuck there.   I concerned, but only as a means of responsibility.


I am rushed.

I have been at sea for 18 days, great sailing much of the way.   I am only taking today in New Ireland if I can get out and the weather looks fair.  It will be a two to four week trip to Guam to resupply.  (duldroms.) 


All for now.  Wish me luck and see you soon.

And, as always, I have a backup plan which is rather interesting . . .

Jonah Manning
S/V Araby

Online Journal -www.freejonah.blogspot.com
Email - bellyofthewhale.gmail.com

128 Holliday Rd
Columbia, South Carolina, USA

Emergency contact:  
Dibble Manning
phone:  001 - 803 - 787 - 4352  
also check addresss in "to" column

02 August, 2007

Tanna and thoughts

To Tanna


The trip from Saweni Bay, Fiji to Tana, Vanuatu was a great change.  The winds were light and the days clear and sparkling.  Had to drop all sail only once for a few hours due to calms.

The conditions were a bit odd.  Every day or so the wind direction would shift, some sort of front must have been moving through.  It brought a bunch of rain on the last day, and headwinds.


This was no the sort of trip that is a relief to end.  It was only six days.  I was having lots of thoughts, crazy ideas, things that now with a more sober mind I'll have to think on with more reason.  It is amazing how a passage can open you to new ways of looking at your life, all that tine alone to do nothing at all but think about who you are and what the hell you are making of your chances.

I have dreams I'm not moving towards, things that matter that are stalled.  I want to gain momentum.  The things I think of when underway have a strange precision, but as soon as that anchor drops I lose the initiative.  Or I think that the former was just nonsense to start.

How do I move forward?  Carry on.




I thought I would start sailing hard for the east coast of the States, via the Cape of Good Hope.  It is a long route from here, one that should be undertaken soon, and will push me toward madness, Donald Crowhurst mad. 

But if I do it I will have accomplished something, a goal—something I don't feel myself doing at the moment.  I am treading water.  But Am I really?  Why do I feel that way?  This was the plan all along.

Yea, but the plan has morphed since then.  I know I need to sell the boat, sail first, sell after.

I want to sail it all the way around, but I don't want to take so long to do it.  Where is a middle ground?  Philippines this year. . .



new plan


I have decided to make the run, to sail from Vanuatu to Darwin, Darwin to Cocos Keeling. . . to Madagascar, around the Cape, and then Home!  I could be home by May!

Wow am I scared though.  That is so so many miles, hard miles, alone miles, continuous miles, and things won't go well.  I can count on that.  And I'll have so little time in between.

But this is precisely the point.  It is a push, a trial; I will reach out and touch the veil.  When was the last time?  Perhaps leaving Port Townsend.  That was frightening.  The first trip solo was more exciting, as was Caroline's Pass.

I know I won't let myself stop.  The season could close out on me I suppose, but that won't be so bad.  But I must try, and I feel I have the time I need.  But I'll miss the Solomons, which I'll regret. They'll have to wait.  There will be so much I'm leaving behind.  Jason and Laurel—when will I see them again?  Impossible to tell.


Am I for real?  I hate when these decisions arise.  Why the push for home?  Why is that the goal?  What will happen once I arrive?

Why push for home? . . .Because I will be able to move forward with my other goals.  And what of Hong Kong?  That will have to wait until it happens.  Making money helps.  (I have a potential job there.)

I could arrive in SAfrica by late November.  Put the boat up.  Go home.  Then I could come back refreshed and cross the Atlantic.  Or, I could fly to Hong Kong and move Arnie's boat to Aus.  If so I have to wait to cross the Atlantic more then likely, but I"ll be cruising the Philippines, Indonesia, and whatnot.  Not bad.  But it will take some thought.

Otherwise I can be Home by May.  I can sell Araby in Charleston.  I can start researching more about steel boats.  Go to Nova Scotia to see the Wylo.  Get my captain's license, start delivering maybe.  It will be a scary time.  So many choices and possible paths.  I can't see it clearly at all.  I need money.

But I also need more experience: medical, teaching, writing, climbing. . . damn I have so much to do still.  How can I start getting it done?  Where?  The reality is I don't think I will find the answer sitting at anchor.  My answers come when I sail, when I work, when I accomplish.  I've wasted time.  I've become fat in spirit, weak in heart.   Time to trim the fat.  Time to step out once more, even if. . . especially if. . . I don't know where it all leads.

It is a risk.  I give up a lot.  A lot of places won't be the same if I ever make it back here again.  But it isn't the places and the sights and experiences that matter. . . it is the heart.  My heart isn't in it and therefore it isn't prime experience which is all I care for.  I've passed by many a'fine opportunity before today.  But my days I must keep riveted.  I must always follow the dream, which is a string of goals reaching out into darkness.  With each success comes just enough light to show the way to the next.  Sometimes.


Here we go. 

Queen of Tanna

The Queen of Tanna
Many people travel for many different reasons.  Be that as it may, many of us travel to interact with a different people, to learn different ways, and in there doing learn how similar we all really are.  But often our differences separate us to a greater degree than the traveler's limited time can overcome.  And too often, perhaps, time has no capacity to overcome the differences of rich and poor, black and white, Christian and non, American and other.  A place like Fiji, wonderful as it is, I think I would never in a lifetime overcome my 'otherness', no matter my friends or acceptedness.
And this seems often the way of it.  After all, I am different.  I am from an affluent powerful nation, advanced (apparently) in every way.  Yet the countries I visit are quite the opposite.  Nor can I ever change the color of my skin.  In the islands I will always be an outsider.
Let us not forget that I am a traveler, not an immigrant.  'Otherness' is accepted as status quo.  I make friends.  I interact as comfortably as I can.  I bear the stares as curiosity rather than derision.  And all is cordial and jovial.  But rarely do I penetrate far into the inner sanctum, far into heart of a community where I feel truly accepted, unjudged, any differences viewed wholly and entirely as immaterial.
Too often there is the expectation of 'fair trade': I'll give to you if you give me something back.  But this is business.  Young men come out to my boat in their dugout canoes offering me fruits and vegetables of all kinds, and they make like they are simply giving them away.  Yet they really want a tee-shirt, or some tool, or batteries, or lollies for the kids.  It isn't the blind generosity that they wear upon their faces.  And theses are great and nice guys, good people.  But we are the perpetually rich yachties.  Our boats are laden with stores of vast treasures to be sought out and bartered for.   I find this exchange boring and mildly uncomfortable.
Firstly, I don't have vast stores.  I have no sweets for kids.  I have only a bag of moldy clothes given to me by the friend of a dead man and an assortment of rusty screw drivers, chisels and files—which, frankly are worth a bit more than a couple of cabbages.  So I struggle to find the balance of the 'fair trade'.  Perhaps some of the locals have noticed because I haven't the boat traffic I had a week ago.  I am ashamed to say that I don't mind the peace, even if my vege is getting low.
Some other yachts spoil these people shamelessly.  One even brought them a portable lumber mill (a chainsaw mounted on a straight bar running along a table).  The village promptly named the next male born in the village "Mark" in the man's honor.  But the amount of sweets and cakes and gifts that emanate from many boats is . . . well, extreme.  I'm not sure if 'fair trade' is really very balanced.
The point is not the fairness of trading but the reality that these sort of interactions are more akin to the bartering of communities with wandering traders, bringing rare goods from afar, than they are interactions amongst friends.  I don't travel so I can haggle and trade, but so I can sit and laugh and discuss life.  Often we reach that place, not through trade, but by giving and receiving.
One of my favorite experiences while traveling was when I was busing back from Venezuela.  Crossing C. America entails crossing many boarders, exchanging money at each one to pay the various bus fares, ECT.  Somewhere along the way, perhaps Honduras, I had just cleared in and was walking back to my bus and was hungry.  The frontiera (boarder) is always busy with venders and I asked for a couple of tacos, but as I sifted through the assortment of coins from the blitz of Latin American countries, I failed to find the vender's due.  From the corner of my eye I saw the vender interact quickly with a man as I fumbled about.  I then confessed to the man that I hadn't the right change—but, before I could return the tacos he waved me off and explained that another man had already paid him form my tacos.
And that man had already boarded his own bus.  No thanks, no regard, no visual confirmation of my gratitude.  Such a simple thing, yet it defines explicitly what I love about Latin America.
I had been hearing about Jocelyn long before I met her.  She was heavy-set, the typical large physique of the middle-aged Melanesian woman.  Standard tall afro.  She was expecting a baby any day.  She had lived in Australia as a flight attendant for several years before moving back to Tanna to raise her family.  I only met her a few days before I was to leave and three days after she had had her first girl (out of four children).    She had the baby at home before the midwife arrived and then walked outside to have a shower.  She named the baby Laurel, after my friend Laurel on Monkey's Business.  Three days after the baby was born Jocelyn decided to have a feast at her home.  Amazing.
I went with Kim, Jason and Laurel.  I met Jocelyn and her husband Sam, a local chief.  I never even saw the new baby for hours; it never made a sound.  You never would have thought that Jocelyn could have just had a baby.  This woman knew everything.  She talked of all the special herbs on Tanna, herbs for healing, herbs to kill, herbs to make a man less "ready to go", or even herbs give him more get up and go; herbs for all sorts of colorful things.  The villages have sacred rocks for making rain or stopping it.  The place of these rocks is called taboo and cannot be visited by strangers or women—though, she said if someone were chasing us we could go find one of these rocks and touch it then we could not be killed.  Good to know.
There was something intoxicating about Jocelyn.  We all got that rare feeling that this woman wanted nothing but our company, our conversation.  We all brought a bit of food to at to the feast, but they were minor accoutrements.  (Well, to the kids, Laurel's cake would be apex of the meal.)  We ate and ate.  Jason mentioned that the U.N. had run a survey that found Vanuatu to be the happiest country in the world.  This didn't surprise Jocelyn or us for that matter.  On Tanna, they grow virtually any vegetable you can think of, minus rice.  It is hardly exaggerating to say that a man could merely sit down in the woods, wait, and some fruit is bound to fall within his reach before he starved.  Survival is that easy here.  Villagers have little need for money—they'd rather trade.  Money, which can only be used in the center of Lenakel, is for clothes, flip-flops, tools, fishing equip., or rice if they want it.  Some may by things like batteries to run radios.  A few villages have generators for electricity.
They live in clean straw huts.  Their gardens provide more than enough food.  Pigs and chickens run free for anyone to harvest if desired.  There are cows and goats as well.   Alcohol is rare.  They drink kava instead which they grow. (It is a root, ground and steeped.  It is not alcohol, but induces a mild euphoria.  Very nice.)  Tobacco is also rare unless it is grown.  They grow some marijuana, but it really is the kava that is the popular rite.
In short, these people want for little and realize it.  There is no violence or poverty.  For instance, Muriel, the first lady I met on the island.  She was left by her husband with three kids.  In the States, she'd be in a tough spot, but here she lives similarly to all others.  She lives next to her brother and they all share a garden.  Of course, she is the lowest member in the village and she must bare a degree of shame, but neither she nor her children are wanting.  They live normal lives.
I didn't see Jocelyn for several days after our feast.  But I was flattered to hear from both Kim and Laurel that she asked about me any time they visited her.  Me?  And I hadn't given her a thing.  I was flattered.  The next day was Vanuatu's Independence Day and Jocelyn had invited us to come with her to celebrations at another village and at her home village.  I had considered leaving this day, but I was so taken with Jocelyn and the fact I hadn't seen her again, not to mention the fact of a party, that I reconsidered and met Jason, Laurel, Ross and Laura from New Dawn, and Jocelyn, Sam, and little Laurel on the beach at eight am. 
The weather threatened rain, but I trusted the men in charge of the sacred stones to have done their jobs.  So we loaded up and headed out.  (Jocelyn had gotten a truck for us as her home village was a long way off.)  The road (there is only one road on Tanna) was filled with people all walking our way.  A village close to the Mt. Yassur (the volcano) was having the biggest celebration this side of Lenakel.  We saw our friend Chief Philamon and hooted at him.  We filled the truck with as many children as we could manage.
The weather cleared and we sat around on straw mats laughing and eating tid-bits.  There was music and football (soccer).  We didn't' stay long before moving again to Jocelyn's home village.  And this was where everything changed for me.
As we reached the village and the center where everyone was gathered, people started screaming at our approach.  This old lady, I thought at first, was livid.  Or course, then I understood: this was Jocelyn's mother and she had never seen her newly born granddaughter.  I think we were all touched at Jocelyn's reception home.
We were now far away from Port Resolution, where we trade and pay for this and that.  There is no tourism here.  And maybe, what was more, we were with Jocelyn.  We'd all (the men that is) been in a kava ceremony before.  We love kava, but in Port Resolution it was sort of done for our benefit, or changed somehow for us.  It was okay.  But here, today, Jocelyn sent us—Jason, Ross, and me—off with Sam and her nephew to drink.  It was a different thing somehow.  We were just there.  Nobody wanted anything, no one putting on a show.  We were friends of Sam and Jocelyn's enjoying a fine holiday as they do on Tanna.  Ross and I climbed up a great Banyan tree and sat up there, and then saw a little boy had followed us up.  See sat high in the tree and laughed.  Meanwhile the women went out and danced.
When we rejoined them, Jocelyn told me that I should dance with a couple local girls, seeing as I was the only available man in the group.  I said I was at her disposal.  Jocelyn pointed out the girl and I approached her for a dance.  On the grass were twenty 8-13 year old girls.  Everyone made a great mass to watch us dance.  They hollered and screamed and seemed to be thoroughly entertained.  Meanwhile Ross caught it on video.  God help me.  I left to high applause.
It wasn't long after I sat down that Sam asked me to come back out front with my juggling balls.  This was totally unfair.  I hadn't juggled in years—I had just brought them out for fun earlier.  I was in no position to argue—and what did it really matter?  I much preferred being used for entertainment then for my money or sweets or tools.  So I went out and juggled as best as I could, acceptable if not good.  I was in such a sterling good mood that I figured anything I could do to give back was fine by me.  So I laughed and smiled.  I wouldn't have foreseen that when I woke up this morning.
Yet I hadn't foreseen any of it.  I can never remember feeling so comfortable with such a foreign people.  We wanted the same thing from each other: good company!  Drinking kava with an elder the conversation again ventured to the difference between America and Vanuatu, rich and poor—as if I am constantly trying to teach people how good they have it here—but this man, like so many here, already knows.  "When you are here, if you need place to stay, we give you a place to stay.  We give you food.  You can walk from the other side of the island.  It is no problem.  We feed you.  You save your money for place where you need it.  Here is not important.  You see, we have plenty of food here."  You could see in his eyes that he meant it. 
Does it diminish the experience that we paid for the truck ride?  Ha.  I fought and scrapped to pay as much as I possibly could.  You see, without us Jocelyn would not have been able to go see her family in her old village.  We made that possible for her.  But her sincerity changes things.  It was an honor to pay for that truck.  It was about time that we had the opportunity to give back.  We are mutually giving, not 'fair trading'—and the difference between the two is everything.  It is friendship.