Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Buying trade goods for the Solomon's and beyond.

So we are nearly provisioned and ready to go, but in a day and a half the sky is supposed to open up and drop a huge amount of rain on this corner of the Pacific, so we decided to wait a few more days before leaving.

Which is fine. We are finally finding time to do some boat project jobs that are non-critical, but are really making the boat more comfortable and enjoyable to live in. An example is the forward hatch in our V-berth. That particular hatch was not designed real well. If it got buried under green water, water would inevitably drip in. Not much, but over the days of a long passage things would get wet up there. We solved that issue by running a strip of gorilla tape along the seam all the way around the joint where the hatch cover meets the cabin house. Great, except you can't open the hatch easily.  Not a problem in chilly New Zealand. Big problem close to the equator.

So now, using wood that I bought and prepared in New Zealand, I have made fascia boards along the joint where the hatch closes against the cabin house. In addition I put in an additional gasket on the inside of the joint. So now water cannot get in. Period. We can open the hatch any time we want and boy is that nice.

Since the wood was teak and it had to be cleaned with acetone, epoxied, and screwed, and the screw holes sealed with teak plugs, dry weather was required. So we put a tarp over the front of the boat and had at it. We even sewed new canvas snap covers for the hatches.

So anyway, we are getting ready for Vanuatu, the Solomon's, and PNG. There are a few decent sized towns in those countries, but most areas we will be visiting are going to be subsistence living, and many areas of the Solomon's and Papua New Guinea do not even use currency.

We have spent time talking with cruisers who spent last years cyclone season where we intend to go and they have explained how when a sailboat arrives at many remote villages along the coast small outrigger canoes and rafts are paddled out to meet the visitors and the locals inquire what fish, fruits and vegetables are needed. This is where the trade good come in. You can't pay with cash. They can't use it. So you offer items that you have extra of such as food, tools, clothing and the like and an accord is reached, and a bit later the food is paddled out to your sailboat.  So what do people bring for trade I am asked? Well many folks trade extra ropes and line, fishing tackle, and food. Based on recommendations from cruisers who know the area here is what we have purchased specifically to trade.

Small fish hooks, fishing line, thread of many colors, sewing needles. We will make little packages of 20 meters of line and a handful of hooks, some sewing needles and one or two rolls of thread. In addition we are buying many small 500 gram pre-packaged bags of rice, sugar and about 1000 bags of black tea. We also picked up about 200 lolly pops.

Any printed material in English is highly prized for teaching children. We have been saving magazines, and school books that we are not using anymore for that purpose. We have lots of extra cloth we bought in Mexico we will trade, and lots of extra wire, some spare tools, and extra medical supplies too. All the clothing the kids have outgrown is fair game as well.

We also have provisioned lot and lots of tinned meat, flour and many other sundries.  But our fresh will come from trade primarily.

Talking to the kids about leaving behind this idea of strictly cash economies has been really interesting. Tamsyn and Griffyn are collectors of everything. Shells, beautiful rocks, small toys, and fabric. Tamsyn sews cloth dolls and doll cloths and gives them to her friends. Everywhere we have traveled on this journey the kids have been fascinated by the coins and paper money of the different countries. Now every piece of old jewelry, or unusual shell, or cool toy has taken on a new dimension of value. Both kids are sorting through all their stuff and setting aside what they are willing to trade. They are so excited. So much so that they are very frustrated that we are not on our way already.

I've set them each the task of asking a stranger three questions a day and then reporting on it at dinner each night.  They are loving it.  They are getting much more comfortable approaching anyone they meet.

When we do leave Fiji the plan is to sail to southern Vanuatu and climb up the the lava lake in the crater of Mt. Yasser volcano on Tanna. Then we will work our way north, island hopping our way along until we jump to the Solomons.

One final thought about Carrie's post describing our kids going to Khemendra school for a while.  We are so pleased the kids experienced  a Fijian school.  No, it isn't a great school, but that wasn't really the point.  We wanted them to experience another culture not by looking in the windows, but rather by participating.  Now dozens of local kids greet the kids by name every day. As we move further west, this experience will make it easier for the kids to relate to and have fun with the children they are going to meet.  As a side benefit Tamsyn and Griffyn have a new perspective on boat school as well. 

More soon.


1 comment:

Rattinox said...

Vanuatu sounds like a fascinating place, if somewhat geologically terrifying.......we'd love to see some pix of you all and those cinder cones!