Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Episode 19 Munda, Rendova & Marovo Lagoon


Welkam to Episode 19 of the Hog Blog.

At the end of Episode 18 we had just spent 4 wonderful weeks with 2 sets of guests – firstly Paul’s parents and then Brisbane friends
Rowan and Kirsty.

Two days after they left, we get this crazy email from Rowan describing their somewhat adventurous trip home. It read like a comedy script!
They did finally arrive in Brisbane safely but a lot later than planned.
After all it is the Solomons and we now have learnt to expect the unexpected, particularly with travel plans involving a 3rd party.


After a month of having guests onboard we were pretty well worn out and both tired. We spent 3 days just veging out, cleaning Lorelei and returning her to her normal state.

When we went ashore at Munda many locals warned us not to swim around Lorelei as there were 3 crocs of 12, 14 and 17ft lengths in the local area. They had told us that the big one had taken their biggest pig just days before.
Sure enough they were right. We woke the next day to find the 14 footer sunning himself on the surface in front of Lorelei. He was there all day and the next morning too.

That night we went to Just Magic to celebrate Wendy’s birthday along with another couple Michael & Anna off the cat Shaylor.
It was obvious the locals weren’t too concerned about the croc as it was only about 75m from where they were fishing behind Just Magic at dusk.

There is something to be said about safety in numbers though…

At around 9pm we heard a huge commotion on the shore and many dogs barking and whining. We then heard the sickening sound of one dog’s screams as it was being taken by the croc and dragged into the water.

The next day it was 20+ knots of SE wind. The crocs didn’t deter Paul and Ben and they went over to the nearby island and kite boarded off the beach. The conditions were perfect and we had a curious local lad come out to watch.

Kiting directly under the flight path…oops!

Each Friday the Munda Markets are held on the foreshore.
In our opinion it was better than the Gizo markets as it was cheaper and there was a better selection of fresh seafood.
We brought a big mud crab for A$7 that was fantastic as Chili Mud Crab.

Lola / Zipolo Habu Resort

After 6 days at Munda we left on our own and said our final goodbyes to Just Magic as they were returning to Australia.
We wanted to go across to Marovo Lagoon but the swell was up and the conditions appeared great for surfing so we took off for Lola to take advantage of the SE swell at “Skulls”, the longest right hand surf break in the Solomons.
The first day Paul dropped in the RIB and was loading up the surf gear just as a strong 20+ knot blow hit.
It was quickly away with the surf gear and out with the kite gear and Paul was able to kite the shallow bar next to Lola Island.
Once again heaps of locals turned up as they had never seen kiteboarding before. 
He even landed a difficult loop with a grab he has been trying to do for ages.  He nailed it twice in a row and was stoked.

The next day the wind dropped out to virtually nothing and for 4 days the surf was epic with a big swell and windless glassy conditions.

Looking back to the line up at Skulls – that’s a looong wave….

The crazy thing about this surf break is you are surfing on a reef in the middle of a large bay and nowhere near land.
The water drops off very deep just out from the take-off point and there are a lot of sharks.
Lisa sat in the dingy just off the break pointing to the larger sharks. At one point she even had 4 large ones cruising around under the RIB. 
She also saw jumping Marlin, Sailfish, lots of Tuna and oddly enough a large school of short finned batfish.
Paul surfed the break for 4 days all on his own and couldn’t believe how he was the only one surfing for how good it was.

In between surf sessions we spearfished in a deep channel we found in between some smaller islands.
We saw some very large Manta Rays and speared Crayfish and Spanish Mackerel.

Skull Island

When the swell dropped we made a trip over to Skull Island.
The small Island is a tambu site (sacred site) as it is an ancient burial area.

Crossing the reef at low tide to get to Skull Island

The island has an area where many skulls have been placed in and around a large rock mound. Some of the skulls date back to the early 1600’s with the last skull placed there in the 1930’s.  The bodies were buried up to the neck for 10 days and then the skulls were twisted off and placed within the mound. 
They are a mixture of head hunters captured victims from other areas and local warriors and chiefs.
Fortunately Sunga, one of Sanbis Resort’s staff, was there at the same time as us and as he is from the area, he was able to tell us the stories of the past. His great, great, grandfather was the last one placed there in 1934.

Sunga with his relative’s skull

Note the 2 pieces of shell money which are carved from large clam shells

On the way out we found a large burial area that is the final resting place of a famous Islander.
He was the Solomon’s first Tuna fisherman and brought many Tuna to the surrounding villages. Whilst his body was normal, his head was an unusual shape with a large protruding piece around his mouth like a beak.
One day they found him washed up on a beach and he was brought to the island and laid to rest.
Today many of the traditional carvings in the Solomon’s depict him with his caught Tuna and his unique shaped head.

Girl Power – we returned to Lorelei to find the ladies paddling home from Munda after a day at the markets. It’s over 6 miles distance each way!!

Munda Again…..

After a week at Lola we returned to Munda for the markets and to ride out the terrible weather that was about to come.
The ITCZ (The Inter Tropical Convergence Zone ) is an area that runs around the equator and is the joining of the northern southern weather systems. Normally this time of year it should be above the equator however it had moved south and was sitting right over the top of the Solomons. The downside was it brought terrible weather.
The mornings were hazy and by noon it was very hot and humid.
At 3-4pm the storms started to form and by dusk it was pouring rain with the wind coming from all directions.
We were reluctant to move from the safe and secure Munda bay until the ITZ moved north again, which took about 1 week.
During that time we made the best of it with chores land based activities.

One night we went to a birthday party for Lorraine who works at the Leaf Haus Café.

Lorraine’s sister Moryta cooking the dinner.

At the back: Lisa, Paul and Ben.   In Front: Uma, Lorraine and Jean

We had an awesome night with her friends and family and left at midnight.
When we returned to our RIB we found it completely full of water from the heavy rain during the evening.

Two nights later we had Ben and Uma who own the Leaf Haus café over for dinner and had a fantastic night.
Like us they have the travel bug and spent over 2 years travelling around Australia in a Combi. Uma has seen more of Aus than most Aussies!!

When the weather finally cleared we booked on for some diving with the local dive shop. Just as we were packed, in the RIB and on our way to the shop they rang and cancelled because of boat issues.
We were bummed but tried to turn the negative into a positive and took ourselves off to try to locate and dive the 4 plane wrecks in Munda Harbour.
After sounding around we managed to locate 3 of the 4 plane wrecks with the RIB’s sounder. We were stoked!! 
 It all went downhill when we anchored up on the first plane which was a US F6F Hellcat and jumped in.
At first the viz didn’t look to bad but 3 meters off the bottom it was just a layer of heavy silt and the viz was only about 30-45cm. It was pretty surreal seeing only the tail fin sticking out of the silted layer.
After only 6 minutes (and being super paranoid about crocodiles) we aborted.
We tried the much larger Japanese G3M2 Nell Bomber with its huge 28m wingspan and massive engines that was in only 8m depth, but had the same results only this time a bit more was sticking up out of the silt.
We tried the Japanese Zero fighter in only 5m and also gave up after a short time.
We never found the 4th.

Oh well – we had to try…..

This is the only photo Paul took – the gunners’ dorsal turret on the Bomber.

The next day we tried again with the dive shop and managed to organize a double dive to The Kastom Shark Kave and Mushroom Island.
We had really wanted to do the Shark Kave for a while but it is in a remote location that has no nearby anchorage for Lorelei so we had no option but to pay for the dive and take the 1 hour fast boat ride to get there.
Our friend Walter from the US yacht Callisto also joined us for the day.

   Buzzing at high speed through Roviana Lagoon

The Shark Cave is a unique dive as it starts in a small fresh water sink hole on an island and finishes out on the reef wall on the other side of the island. The cave is quite long and reaches a max depth of 35m before coming back up and exiting on the reef wall at 25m.

Navigating into the lagoon side of the island where the cave starts

Solomon our dive guide carrying our scuba packs onto the island

The entrance…

Rigged up and in the water ready to descend

The walls of the passageways were covered in a layer of fine silt.
We had to be very careful not to touch them and silt it up

There is a series of tight passageways with large chambers
separating them.

Left: The cave exit on the reef wall has some unusual soft coral formations
Right: We found Pygmy Seahorses (only 5mm tall) in the Gorgonian fans at the cave exit. Lisa was so happy!

We had a great lunch break at a remote island.

After lunch we moved to the afternoon dive spot at Mushroom Island.
The dive was on a vertical wall that dropped deep into the abyss.
One of the highlights were the massive barrel sponges that stick out off the wall making for great photo opportunities.

Left: Note Walter and the boat on the surface behind Lisa. Shot from 24m.

Balira, Rendova Island

A few days later we took advantage of the fantastic weather and headed off on a new adventure over to Rendova Island 15nm away.
Conditions were glassy flat and we got some great photos.

This reflection photo was taken in open water over 600m deep – crazy!!

The small entrance to Balira Harbour on Rendova Island

An hour after anchoring we had a visit from Edward a local village elder.
We were grateful that he came to us as he comes highly recommended as a guide for spearing and diving and also knows the location of the Dauntless Dive Bomber plane wreck which is in the bay near his house.

Edward with his visitor’s book which we signed.

Lisa trading with the local girls for fruit, veges and Paul’s favs – Nali Nuts!

The next morning we were up early to a sensational sunrise before going spearing with Edward in the pass.

We only kept one fish and gave the rest to Edward and the grateful villagers in the area that traded with us for vegetables the day before.

In the arvo on the flooding tide we went around to the next bay and dived the Dauntless Bomber Plane Wreck.
It’s in 11m of water but is in a small mangrove lined bay and lying on a silty mud/sand bottom making the viz a little green.
It was however a fantastic dive and the best small plane we have dived.

Note the bent props indicating it was shot down and hit the water with the engine still at high revs. We found many bullet holes in the fuselage.

The tail fin still moved from side to side

After 10 minutes the fish schools returned and covered
the plane from nose to tail which was awesome.

We returned to Lorelei buzzing after a great day and to find the glassy conditions still with a beaut view looking back to the extinct Volcano of Mount Mbuloro which up until now had been covered in cloud.

The next morning whilst we were filling Scuba tanks, a teenage boy named George came out to say hello and proudly show off his new toy boat which he had carved out of the fibrous part of a palm tree.
It was all pinned together with fine pieces of palm frond split into strong needle like lengths.
He was so proud of his creation. The tender was awesome with seats, a centre console and a stern drive leg that pivoted up.

Two weeks before we had seen a 70m private luxury white boat and matching tender over near Lola that looked very much like his models so we are pretty sure where his inspiration came from.
Not sure who had the most fun playing with them off the back of Lorelei – George or Paul!!

That arvo we went spearfishing again but this time in our kayaks.
We had hoped the afternoon run in tide would produce better conditions and fish through the pass.
At first we exited Balira pass and drifted for 1klm down the outside wall to the Redova Harbour pass and shot some Rainbow Runners on the way.
When we got to the point off the main pass it was all happening.
There were bait fish like fusiliers, scissor tails and others in a dense mass going from the surface right down to 15m+ on the outer wall.
We had to blindly dive down through the bait fish to the larger fish below.
We saw large schools of Big Eye Trevally (Jacks), Tuna and Rainbow Runners offset by Spanish Mackerel, Jobfish, Bump Headed Parrotfish  and some seriously big GT’s you wouldn’t even think of putting a spear into.
The bait fish were busting up on the surface all around us. It was amazing but the local fisherman in their canoes thought we were nuts.

It was spearfishing heaven and in 6 dives we had 5 good fish.
Half an hour later and a few more good fish, we were stocked and ready to go. The last fish was a laugh - a GT swam right up to us and received a kill shot at point blank range while we floated on the surface.

From there we paddled into Edward’s village at Rendova Harbour and gave his family 3 fish.

 We then paddled back though the Canoe passage to Balira Harbour and dropped off some fish to Rosemary and her family. Ben her son gave us a traditional Tuna lure made from Gold Lipped Oyster and Turtle Shell.
Rosemary gave Paul a big bag of Nali nuts, much to his delight.

The one we kept. Paul’s PB fish whilst Kayak Spearfishing –
 A Spanish Mackerel.

Egholo, Rendova Island

After a 3 great days we moved again. We were going to make the run to Morovo but we were pleasantly surprised with Rendova Island so we tried the next bay down just 3nm away which was called Egholo.

Unbeknownst to us we sailed into a small holy war within the village.
The village is located on a beautiful little spit with a road running right down the middle. The Seven Day Adventists lived on one side and the Uniting congregation on the other.
Land on the point is running out. There was a court hearing to see who gets what pieces of land and it was all a little tense within the small village.  We sailed in on a Saturday so we stayed away from shore for the weekend while both sides had their Sabbath.
In the arvo we went for a kayak in the bay and found a small creek that went a long way inland up to the Uniting village gardens.

On the Sunday we linked up with Graham (who is SDA) and went spearfishing with him. We took our RIB around to our favourite point and jumped in.
The viz was great but the bait fish had reduced since our last session and instead the waters were filled with the small 30cm long gulping Tuna.
There were 1000’s – no, tens of 1000’s of them ranging from the surface down to 15m. It was truly surreal floating for hours in the middle of this massive school. Again we were blindly diving through them to get to the larger fish below.
We were impressed with Graham’s spearing ability. He was right there with us with his home-made timber gun and hand-me-down gear diving down to 20m+ and taking shots at some big fish. He’s the best local spearo we have seen since leaving Australia.
Whilst we got some big fish, the fish Paul was most excited about spearing was actually the smallest and initially we thought it was an African Pompano. However after looking at some books, now we are not so sure. It may be a Cale Cale Trevally but it’s right on the limit for their max. size if that is what it was.
If anyone can give a more positive ID we’d be very happy for the input.

On the Monday we went into the village to watch Graham working on his carvings.
It was nice and quiet as most people had travelled to Munda for the court case.

His main chipping/shaping tool has a timber handle with
a sharpened car leaf spring laced onto it.

 One hour later and his Ngozu Ngozu carving is taking shape

Some of his other handiworks.

In the afternoon we ventured into the SDA garden area to find the wreckage of a US B-17E Bomber “Stingaree” that crashed in the bush.
Fortunately we ran into a local gardener Lixon who showed us where it was. It is an overgrown, twisted mess and scattered over a large area. We did manage to find 3 of the 4 engines and a lot of the fuselage.
It was shot down on the 8th Sept. 1942 and sadly all 9 US crew died in the crash.
Ngana (one of the village elders) heard we were interested in the plane’s history so he brought out to us a laminated folder with all the history and photos of the plane and all its crew. It was a bit sad to see all the photos of the young crewmen who had an average age of only about 22.

One of the engines we found. Note the gardens behind on the hill.

One the way back Lixon took us for a swim in the local swimming hole.

The next morning we took off at 6am not really wanting to be around for the aftermath of the court hearing.
We did a 35nm run across to Hele Bar at the southern end of Marovo Lagoon and crossed the bar with barely 2m under the keel.
We then had another 10nm run up to Seghe where we finally dropped anchor at 4pm after spending nearly 40 minutes finding a spot without coral bommies littered all over the bottom.
Lisa single handedly caught a Spanish Mackerel on the way (and kept Lorelei on track, etc…) while Paul was downstairs flushing the desalinator.

Finally we were in Marovo Lagoon!!!
It’s an incredible place and has often been referred to as the 8th wonder of the world. The scuba diving here is world class.
We have both been here before but it is our first time in our own boat and is in our “Top 5” list of things to do on our sailing adventure.

Seghe, Marovo Lagoon

At 5pm the local passenger ship “Fair Glory” docked at Seghe wharf for its weekly pickup/drop off. Even before the lines were tied there were longboats from all around pulling alongside and loading/unloading both people and cargo. How in the world the shipping company controls what and who goes and stays is anybody’s guess as it was bedlam.
Even in the final seconds as it was leaving and long after all the ropes were stored and the ramp was up, there were still guys and girls jumping on and off and things being thrown on and off.
It was an amazing spectacle!!

Whilst at Seghe we went to visit the new hospital and also have a chat with the Aust. and NZ Army personnel that were stationed there and helping to put the finishing touches on the hospital building and doing some much needed maintenance on the local school.

On the way back we went past the local airport and were amazed to find the dilapidated old airport shack still in use.

When Paul was last here in 2010 he had a look at the new Airport Building which was 90% complete. The timber work inside was fantastic and it only needed fixtures and fitting out. Three years on the job has stopped, the funding has all gone and sadly it is not being used as originally intended.

The run down new terminal building…

Whilst at Seghe we dived the US P-38 Lightning plane wreck that crashed in murky shallow water near the end of the runway.
The wreck is covered in coral growth and pretty much intact with the exception of the tail fins which have snapped off and are sitting at a 90 degree angle.
Interestingly only 1 set of the planes propellers are bent back from the crash landing and the 4 machine gun magazines are only 1/3 full.

The P-38 is Paul’s favourite WW2 plane and he had models of them hanging in his room as a kid.
We did an 82 minute dive on the plane and found lots of small critters including some unusual Nudibranchs.

 The wings were covered in soft corals

Mbareho, Marovo Lagoon

From Seghe we made the 5nm run around to an Island/Village called Mbareho.
This area is not in the cruising book but had been recommended to us from another yacht. Thankfully they had given us a hand drawn map to get through the maze of reefs on the way.
It was perfect for us as it was also the closet village to 3 dives we really wanted to do.

On the first full day we linked up with Ralph who took us on a double dive day trip in his long boat .

Our first stop was near Hele Bar to dive the wreck of the Taiyo Longliner.
The Taiyo was a Tuna ship commissioned for the Solomons People.
On its maiden voyage the skipper missed Hele Bar and ran the boat up onto the reef. They tried to salvage it but the result was it sunk and slipped down the wall of the reef until its stern became wedged in a cutting. The wreck is now nearly vertical with the bow in only 1m and the stern in 40m.

Lisa at the stern which is wedged into the reef at 40m

The wheelhouse was full of baitfish

The bow of the Taiyo from the surface

The scenery and rock formations on the way back up the coast were amazing and we stopped in a little protected bay under some trees to swap tanks over before heading out to dive Penguin Reef.

The fish life was immense and the coral in perfect condition as it is rarely dived.

The Gorgonians just keep getting bigger. Only ½ of it is in the photo!

On the way home we transited from the open ocean back into the lagoon via the Canoe Passage and Jacks Creek. The Canoe Passage is natural but Jacks Creek is man-made (blasted with explosives during the war…) to allow canoes and longboats to transit without the extended run all the way down to Hele Bar. It is very shallow in some parts and the scenery is stunning.

That arvo we went to Ralph’s house to have a look at his carvings and block prints.
Ralph started as a wood carver but has utilised his carving skills to carve wooden blocks from which he makes block prints on hand made banana fibre paper which he produces himself.
He has exhibited all around the world and has done more than 8 showings in Aust and NZ alone.
Sadly Ralph had to go to Honiara the next day for 2 weeks so we said our goodbyes and thanked him for an awesome day of fun.

One big plus of Anchoring near an SDA village is they don’t eat Crustaceans. The local area is abundant with large Mud Crabs and Crayfish. They had no problem with catching them for us and each night we feasted, alternating between Muddies and Crays.

Two days later we went diving again but this time we took our own RIB and another local wood carver/block printer and village elder, Aldio.
The destination was the sinkhole at the ocean end of the Canoe Passage.
We were going to go alone in our kayaks but Ralph warned as about a giant croc (over 5.5m) that had taken up residence in the area so we brought a boat minder/lookout just to make sure all was OK.
Jason from Uepi Resort had told us the right tide time to dive this and it certainly paid off – the viz was amazing and well over 35m.

The start of the sinkhole is under a long rock ledge.

When we got there an old man named Brian (who has the only house in the canoe passage) was spearfishing. As we descended he watched us and Paul managed to get a great photo of him.

Lisa at the entrance to the sinkhole

Half way through the cave we found a small side passage that was filled with fish. When the fish parted we could see a lot of crayfish crawling
over the rocky floor and walls.

The caves exits out into an amazing deep but narrow slot with vertical walls covered in gorgonian fans and a small barge wreck at 48m.

All that’s left of the barge

Coming back up through the sinkhole we could see the overhanging trees clearly from 24m.

Transiting the Canoe Passage on the way home

Brian’s house in the Canoe Passage

The following day we spent the day onshore at Aldio’s home.
Like Ralph, Aldio is a renowned carver and printer and does local and international exhibitions.
He was making some block prints so Paul took some photos of him to display at his exhibitions.

Lisa spent some time with Aldio’s wife Raelyn learning the secret of getting the Nali nuts out of the hard shells.
Paul had a try but is a little heavy handed and his finished result was more suited to making peanut butter.

Bmindimindi Islands, Marovo Lagoon

After 5 days at Mbareho we took off again and this time we were on our way to Uepi in the northern sector of Marovo Lagoon.
When we were studying the Google satellite images of the area we saw a group of Islands on the way called the Bmindimindi’s. The area looked incredible for kayaking and exploring so we stopped for a few days.

This is the island group. The red anchor is where Lorelei was anchored.
We spent a whole day kayaking through the uninhabited islands.

It was Monday but the local SDA school in the village to our NW was closed for the day so we had a flotilla of pikinini’s in canoes paddle across the channel to join us on parts of the paddle. Their local knowledge was very helpful.

This is the way to do it. Get the pikinini’s to paddle 
and hand you drinking coconuts!!!

Some of the bays had beautiful coral in the shallows

In the arvo back on Lorelei the fun went into overdrive with lots of loud Aussie music, swimming and jumping off the duckboard.

The next day we headed off towards Uepi.
Well tried to ….
There are no detailed charts of this area in paper or electronic and the google earth images are covered in cloud so we had to eyeball it.
The distance was only 5nm and half way we started to encounter a maze of reef patches and shoals.
We navigated though them until we could go no further. We tried for an hour to find a pass through but only kept nosing up to shallow reef.
Reverse on the gearbox certainly got a workout!!
With a rain storm approaching and our hopes dwindling, we decided to abort and return to the Bminidimindi’s.
We were so disappointed! We only had to get another 300m and we could see the better detail on the satellite images showing as a safe route the rest of the way. We were only 1nm from Uepi.
Back on anchor, Lisa plotted us a way around that is 4 times the distance but a deeper and safer option. We could break the run up with 3 stops on the way for more diving and village experiences so we decided that was the way to go.
 “He who lives and runs away, lives to sail another day”

After 3 days of terrible weather with rain and winds we finally got a small break to enable us to motor the 2 hours to the village of Chae on Marovo Island. This is a carver’s village and we had a look around, met the chief and went to the small F&V market.

Lumilehe Pass, Marovo Lagoon

The next stop was Lumilehe Pass at the top of Marovo Lagoon.
We had another 2 days of horrible weather before it cleared and allowed us to get out and about.
The first clear day we went for a kayak/snorkel in the pass and visited some small islands in the local area.

We were amazed at the amount of crayfish we saw in the reef shallows. There was one under every small ledge.

For the next 4 days we dived ourselves silly.
The diving in the pass was mind blowing and we saw so much.
We could write pages about our experiences. Some of the highlights were diving late one arvo and sitting off the wall under a large bait fish ball while a school of Spanish Mackerel tore through it.
Another was an early morning dive on the outer eastern point of the pass.
It was a deep vertical wall with 40m+ viz and we had so many different large schools of fish swim past us. There were loads of sharks too.
It was an unbelievable dive and definitely the best since leaving Aus and a top 10 of all time. It was so good we did it again the next morning and Lisa swam with a lot of Large Dog Tooth Tuna with the highlight being 6 huge doggies all around her.
Here’s just a small sample of the 1200+ photos we took on the dives.

It’s not the best shot but that’s got to be the biggest gorgonian fan ever….

It’s always nice to return and find the RIB still anchored in the same spot

Filling scuba tanks is not too bad a chore with backdrops like this….

After a wonderful experience at Lumilehe Pass we sailed for 3 hours downwind to Uepi Island Resort.
On the way we trolled and hooked a big billfish that we had no chance of stopping. After a 45 minute fight with Paul in a full game fish harness and the Tiagara’s drag pushed to the stops we lost it. We had no chance really and never even looked like retrieving the 350m+ of line that peeled off the reel in the first run. Fortunately it snapped off at the leader knot and we got all the line back – minus our last Red/White Rapala CD18 lure. Bummer!!

Uepi Island Resort, Marovo Lagoon

Finally we had made it to Uepi Island Resort!

We think Uepi is one of the best diving resorts on the planet. Everybody who is a diver should experience Uepi at least once in their lives. It has something for everyone with amazing diving & snorkeling, excellent atmosphere and great food.
We were warmly welcomed and went ashore for drinks and dinner at the resort on the first night.

Thursday is the day when the carvers from the surrounding villages come to Uepi to set up small stalls and sell their carvings. The Marovo Lagoon carvers produce some of the world’s best carvings with most having a traditional or marine influence.
We initially just tried to blend in and mingle like the other guests but it didn’t work and several carvers came over and said “I know you – you were at my village last week. You’re off the yacht!”

The middle carving is made from a Sperm Whale Tooth

This was Paul’s favourite and sells for about $1200SD ($180Aus)

This carving is made from whale bone.

On the flooding tide we had our first dive at Uepi’s premiere dive site – Uepi Point.
At 30m the point is covered in amazing soft corals and is a big fish magnet. There are many sharks and lots of Dog Tooth Tuna, Barracuda and Trevally. We also saw a large school of Sail Fin Snapper off the side of the point. They come here each year to breed.

The coral gardens are amazing for fish photography as the fish are very used to divers and you can get very close to fish that would normally keep well away at any other location.

The third day at Uepi we were surprised to find out our friend Vanessa (who works at Dive Gizo) had arrived for a holiday with another friend of hers, Kat who also lives in Gizo. We were stoked and ended up doing lots of dives with them.
Uepi Point was so fantastic that we dived it every arvo on the flood tide for 4 days straight doing drift dives all the way back to the dive shop.
One highlight was a large curious dolphin. He swam along the wall towards us looking at the sea fans and sticking his nose into the small caves and under ledges – just like what we were doing!!!
Below are some of the pics Paul took at Uepi Point.

For the next 4 days at Uepi it rained and it rained and it rained!
It was so heavy at times the dingy would fill up in less than 30minutes.
The dive staff were working overtime to get the dive boats bailed out.

We were anchored well out into the lagoon in 20m of water but decided to move in closer to escape the chop and to be closer for the dingy ride to shore.
We took the RIB and sounder in to scope around and found a small area to anchor. It was only 4m deep and the line reef to get in over was only 2.5m.
Lorelei’s draft is 2.1m so things were a little close. Literally!
Just as we moved in a storm came in from nowhere giving us 30 knots, blinding rain and no viz. It was full-on but Lisa managed to get Lorelei's nose into it so we could get the anchor down to ride it out.
Paul dropped the anchor but we didn’t move? It turned out we were aground on the sand and the anchor was dropped in 1.9m. The wind heeled Lorelei over and we settled back into a little deeper water (2.4m) to ride out the storm. Paul was over the side with a mask watching Lorelei’s keel missing the bottom by inches.
The drama was working out how to get the anchor back in without going aground again.
Fortunately the tide was rising and we waited for an hour drenched and cold in the cockpit until the storm passed and we could resettle into our correct anchoring position.
It wasn’t a fun couple of hours…

In between dives we could jump in off the wharf and snorkel the pass.
The bait fish and shark action here is amazing.

For the morning dives on the run out tide we dived a few different locations including Inner Point, Elbow Point, Elbow Caves, Charapoana Point and a brand new spot called Double D that was amazing.
Here’s a few photos from those dives.

Joe our dive guide – he was great…

Your may have noticed in the last 6 months that Lisa has not been lugging her video camera around on the dives and is a little over the editing side. When Rowan came to visit he delivered 2 new camera bodies. One for Paul’s housing and another for the spare housing that we have as a backup. We have put together the spare setup for Lisa mainly for macro work.  The above photo on the right and the one below are her first “blog published” under water photos with her new set-up.

After nearly a week at Uepi the trade winds kicked back in and the storms cleared. We took a day’s break from diving and spent the morning kayaking around the Island and found some amazing shallow lagoons near elbow point.

Our first stop was the dive shop to get our freediving gear

Getting into the inner lagoon from the ocean
was certainly a challenge on the run out tide.

The beautiful shallow inner lagoon

The exposed rocks were actually ledges with an amazing cave and tunnel system under them. Paul just had to freedive through them…

The light rays coming through the holes in the reef were stunning

One afternoon we hosted drinks onboard Lorelei.
Grant & Jill, Jason & Kat, Vanessa & Nico (who had just arrived) and the 2 of us had a great time.
We pigged out on homemade Pizza that Nico had brought from Gizo and sushi made from fresh Coral Trout and Tuna.

Uepi Resort were hosts to a wedding and we were invited. Paul happily offered to do the photos. Most of the island’s guests and some of the staff came to join in the celebration.

Wedding music island style….

In the arvo we hung out at Jason’s place before hitting the resort’s kitchen to help prepare parts of the wedding dinner.

Note Lorelei anchored in the background

Talk about multicultural…
Two Aussies making Japanese Sushi and Vanessa (who is Spanish) cooking traditional Paella for the wedding dinner of 2 Texans who were married in the Solomons.

The Happy Bride & Groom

For the next few days we dived, relaxed, hung out with Jason and completed some maintenance on Lorelei.
The worst dive at Uepi was Paul’s 2.5 hour marathon to service &
re-grease Lorelei’s feathering propellor and change & clean the 10 anodes on Lorelei’s hull.

Maintenance photos are boring so here’s more dive ones from the last 2 dives at Elbow Point…

On our last day we had a walk around and found 2 large Monitor Lizards wandering through the resort grounds.

Overall we just loved our time at Uepi. It was an absolute blast and a HUGE thanks goes out to Grant, Jill, Jason, Joe our dive guide and all the staff that made our stay an awesome experience.

The managers have asked us to add to our blog that Uepi Resort is not set up for visiting yachts.
Uepi is a very popular dive resort and the staff have a full time job catering to the guests staying at the resort.
Visiting yachts may be welcomed at the resort if contact via email has been made in advance and the visiting times do not coincide with a busy guest schedule.
Diving and Snorkelling on Uepi reefs must be authorized by the resort and divers must dive with the resort and be accompanied by one of the resorts dive guides.
This policy has been put in place to ensure the dive sites remain in pristine condition.

Our short term plans are to leave Uepi and head south to 4 other dive destinations in Marovo Lagoon before heading back to Gizo and clearing out mid to late October.

This month is 2 years since we threw in our jobs and went sailing. 
NO REGRETS!!! Still loving it.

We have now had over 12 000 hits on our blog since its inception 2 years ago and are averaging over 250 a week now. 
Many thanks to all our readers. It makes the effort of putting the blog together worthwhile.

Apologies for the late posting of thi Episode 19. 

We simply have been in no places where the net is available.
Episode 20 is over 3/4 complete so look out for it when we post it from the Northern Hemisphere in about 3 weeks time....


Paul Hogger
Lisa Hogger
Yacht Lorelei

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