Exploring the Mortlocks

On our first morning ashore, we are greeted by a gathering of school children, anxious to simply be with us. It is always very awkward to be the strange, new visitors to a place. No one is really sure what to do or what to say, and often, it is us trying to be friendly and act normal while we have hundreds of eyes looking at us with the precision and intensity of laser beams. I’d love to say it gets easier each time, but I still struggle.

All my insecurities surface and suddenly I’m not sure what to do with myself. With a smile, though, I fight the urge to clam up and stay stuck in my uncertain thoughts. Instead, I turn toward the faces surrounding me - the ears trained on my every word or sound, the eyes that follow my every move and gesture, the precious, curious kids whose every neuron is aimed in our direction.

Like a school of fish, we move across the beach, my tiniest action or word causing instant ripples of response throughout the crowd.

Usually, there are one or two children…

Mortlock Islands, PNG

Our first stop in PNG was a tiny remote group of islands called Mortlock Islands just northeast of Bouganville. It would be the first of many remote village islands we’d visit as we stayed clear of mainland PNG and all the crime associated with the busy port towns there. Matt on SV Perry had been in communication with a professor from Australia who had studied this particular island community, documenting their unique customs and language. Scientists have also been studying the effects of climate change on this island very closely. In the emails, Matt also found out that the people here didn’t have access to medical supplies, so while we were in Honiara waiting for one of our many shipments, we stocked up on some medical necessities and are excited to hand them over to the chiefs here.

The pass into the lagoon was deep and wide. A fish nabbed our lure right as we entered the pass, so I jumped up to helm while Mark dealt with the fish. Unfortunately, it was a big monster with sharp tee…

The Shipwreck - Roncador Reef Part III

Our first night at Roncador Reef, I kept having these crazy visions of desperate, emaciated fishermen from that ship coming to our boat in the dark. The hatch over our bed was open (sailor’s a/c) and I kept imagining a hand reaching down to grab me. Then I envisioned the entire crew climbing aboard like a zombie invasion - not coming up the transom steps like anyone else would, but slowly hauling themselves up the sides of the hulls and up the anchor chain, then slithering over the life lines and across the deck, clawing at all the hatches to find a way inside, moaning and seething.

Of course, once they got in and tied us all up, they’d sail away in our boat to escape this mid ocean hell they’d been wrecked in for who-knows-how-long. There we’d be, the four of us, sitting back to back in a tight little circle on the salon floor, a stiff, itchy rope wrapped tightly around our chests, watching as the zombie fishermen ransacked all of our cabinets and gorged themselves on our recent pro…

Runaway Car - Roncador Reef Part II

It doesn’t have a fancy automated trunk or bluetooth capabilities, but it does get us from point A to point B. Our dinghy is like our car. So much so, that when we visit the US and rent a car, many times, Mark or I will mistakingly call out, “Okay, let’s go! Everyone hop in the dinghy!” (Yes, it is always a big adjustment to living on land again!)

Well, today, Elizabeth, Mark and I decided to dive down to check out the anchor and the red snapper that we had seen hanging around beneath the boat. As we ascended from below, approaching the stern ladder, we were all careful to watch our heads - a habit that has formed to avoid hitting our heads on the steel bottom or sharp propeller of the dinghy.  Usually it is tied up behind Field Trip during the day when we’re anchored.

I was the last to surface, and on my way up, I saw Mark casually holding onto the frayed end of our dinghy painter. Something wasn’t right here. I looked behind him - oh no!  Where’s the dinghy?? I hurried to join them…

Roncador Reef - Part I

Satellite images have changed sailing dramatically. Roncador Reef ( is a perfect example. While looking at the satellite images months ago and planning our stops on the way to PNG, Mark noticed a small reef just
between Ontong Java and the Arnavon Islands. Zooming in, he could see a clear entrance to the circular reef, and that was the tipping point. This little spot in the middle of nowhere suddenly found its place on our agenda. It reminded him of Minerva Reef, the remote reef between Fiji and New Zealand where many cruisers stop for a rest if the weather permits. Fish and lobster are abundant and enormous, the water is crystal clear, and the diving is pristine. These are places that you won’t find on a travel brochure or in any cruise itinerary.

Our trip here was not a long one, but it was tough. I think I’d lost my sealegs after months hopping between the Solomon Islands, and unfortunately, I was sick the entire way. The southeast trad…