PNG and Solomons: Security
Security is a big issue when cruising the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.
You can pretty much count on having at least an “incident” of theft from your yacht in these areas. We chained down our diesel jugs and tried to remove as much from the decks as possible. We stayed aboard at night and one of us even slept in the cockpit to try and deter the ones who would be inclined to steal. At other times in known areas where violent boardings have taken place, such as Rabaul, we slept inside and locked everything up tight. We kept cans of insect repellent and a billy club nearby just in case anyone got inside, although you probably won’t have much of a chance against a young man with a machete, so keeping them out is the best defence.
In Lever Harbor, New Georgia, we were canoed to the max by the villagers. Although they brought fresh vegetables and copious amount of fruit for trading, the mostly young males were somewhat disrespectful and pushy. Even the little kids that came were surly and rude. This was not the usual case in most places, so this particular village had an issue with leadership we think. One of the men, Presley, led us up a river to a nice waterfall. Later we invited him aboard for a chat and we learned a bit later that he stole a pair of sunglasses from the cockpit during that visit. That night we had a visitor who tried to steal things from the cockpit, but he made too much noise and woke us up.
In Vulelua, east of Honiara, we were boarded in the night by men armed with machetes who stole our dinghy gas tank, oars and helped themselves to ropes hanging on our mast pulpit. In some cases they slashed lines to get excess rope. We were lucky that they did not get into jib sheets and the like as we woke up when they made a noise and they were off the boat in a flash. We got careless there, even though we had noted that there were reported robberies there in the past.
We never had a problem ourselves in Honiara, however, others have hired locals to act as security guards at night and reported that several possible incidents were averted because of this.
We went to the Florida group, to Roderick Bay where the Ruka family will make sure nothing happens to you. When we moved the boat farther into the bay to get more protection from the wind, two villagers came out at night to sleep in our cockpit so we would not be bothered. John Ruka is well known to cruisers and has traveled aboard yachts as a guide and guard in the past. He takes your safety very seriously so if you want to cruise around that area, you might want to consider hiring him or one of his sons to go with you.
Another option, especially if you are a diver, would be to contact Brian Kaumae in Marau Sound, Guadalcanal. He has years of experience crewing aboard yachts and diving WWII wrecks in the Central province. He has the waypoints of many very interesting wrecks in the area and has marked them with buoys for diving. We met him in Honiara when he was aboard another boat leading them to these wrecks and later when we were in Marau Sound. He can be contacted there at the Tavinapupu Resort or by just letting a villager know you want to see him.
As is the case anywhere in the world, most of the people you meet will be honest, decent folks interested in a fair trade. It’s just the few who want to make trouble that get all the “press”. Having a local aboard that you can trust can ease the worry and enhance your visit.
Jim and Joy Carey
For other reports on this subject see: