Sneaking past the pirate coast

I initially thought that the rumors of pirates along the north coast of Papua New Guinea was overexaggerated and didn’t think it would be a problem. But once we arrived in PNG, the locals kept telling us that the threat was real, and in our second village we were visited by Police or pirates? who were checking that WE were not pirates. We kept ourselves to the islands, away from the coast, in the hopes of keeping ourselves out of reach from the pirates grasp, but even in the islands there are Thiefs and rotten eggs. On our final leg along this coast, we had to stay close to land and well within reach of any opportunistic pirates who saw our boat. But we were able to sneak right past them, until we were caught by someone else just before we reached the finish line.

Our fourth village visit in PNG went way better than the previous three. This time the chief came out to our boat in his own canoe and he had us anchor right outside his house so we could stay under his protection. He directed us to anchor right on top of a reef, and even though I was apprehensive after our previous village, I figured I would drop anchor when the chief said so. After a long and bumpy night from the wind coming onshore, we went visiting the village. Feeling very safe, we all had a break from the boat and even climbed a mountain on the island. At noon we said goodbye after being showered by gifts and giving some fuel in return. We were about to sail over night to Madang.

The village visit had left Naomi in a weakened state and we soon discovered that she had heat stroke. That ment she was out for the rest of the sail, but the boys were up for the challenge. Little to no wind caused us to motor all night. We had our sails up in the hope of catching any small puffs of air. As we motor down the coast we are getting quite close to land, and I have a strong sense to keep our navigation lights off for the night. Nobody here except big ships are using navigation lights anyways, and I figured I wouldn’t make it too easy for the pirates to come find us in the darkness. That turned out to be a good move as even locals take precautions by travelling in groups along that stretch of coast.

In the middle of the night we run out of fuel. We had given away too much fuel to the chief and we only have 7 liters left. We had been hoping for wind to help us along, but that did not happen. In the early morning we set our course straight for land and was able to find a fuel station. Paul went to shore with two kids in their dugout canoe, and had to escape from a drunken policeman who wanted a bribe. Thankfully he was able to get fuel, and we were on our way without anyone following us. Now it was only smooth motoring before we reached Madang, or so we thought.

Only 7 miles away from Madang we were approached by a fast fiberglass boat. As they come closer we see that everyone is heavily armed by AK-47s and guns. The boat has a sticker saying Police on it, but other than that it looks like any other boat. The men are like the previous police (or pirates?) we met, big, gruff and not nice. They treat us like we are suspects in a crime, and demand to see our passports. They also take my phone, and the main guy puts it in his back pocket while eying me. We are powerless against these guys, and like before we are not sure if these guys are actually police or pirates…

Turns out we are suspects in a crime, or at least they want our statement. The village counsel from two villages ago had filed a case against the thiefs and the police was after us to get our statement. The Madang Police kept our passports and told us to come get it from the police station and deliver the statement. I tried to argue that we needed our passports back, but he wouldn’t have it. He gave my phone back though, as he realized he wanted me to call him. They drive off and we enter Madang a little less joyful than anticipated.

In any case, we had reached a major milestone! I had always planned to have a rest once we reached Madang. Here we would have a break as we were able to tie up to the dock YWAM Ships now owns in the middle of town. We are basically 2/3 done with the whole trip to the Solomon Islands and it is time for rest and reset. We need to do a service on the outboard engine, we need to do a lot of small repairs, more provisions and buy some more items for the boat. Finally we will have a new crew member come aboard and join us for the final leg to the Solomon Islands. Now we will have two Solomon Islands crew to finish the trip, like I always dreamt about! And we did get our passports back, the next day.

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