New Mast in the Solomons
and an Earthquake
Our new mast was ordered in December, and completed by All Yacht Spars in Brisbane by the end of January. I went up to see it all being assembled and packed up for shipping, staying with friends Peter and Jenny, and Peter and Di. It was an impressive crate, 16m long and around .7m square. See crate1, crate2, crate3, crate4. The mast and wire weighed about 300kg, but with the extras I put in (like engine oil) it weighed nearly 600kg.
It was due to be loaded in early February, but some delays meant that it didn't leave Brisbane until 13th, due to arrive in Honiara on 4th March. I then flew back to Honiara to see the various officials such as Customs to get a tax-free import. Customs thought it was fine, as it was a replacement part for a vessel in transit, but the bad news was yet to come. I would have to see Dept of Finance regarding GST!! The worst scenario was that I would have to pay 19.5% or about $7000 Aust!! I also had to find the agent for the ship to arrange the unloading and storage in Honiara.
Suffice to say there was a lot of running around speaking to various people including Dianne, one of the owners of ITA Hardware and a friend of Noel's. She would arrange for the mast to be collected from the wharf and stored in one of their yards. After all this running around, I took the domestic flight back to Gizo, then the canoe (tinny) to Liapari.
The next job was to make sure that the mast got from Honiara to Liapari. Noel had a contact on one of the coastal barges who would drop it off for a nominal fee (2 cases of beer). This plan went awry when the barge went onto the slip for survey, and another barge was going to do the run. After the mast arrived on the 4th I flew back to Honiara to again make sure it was handled OK, stored, etc. I also arranged some insurance for the trip to Liapari as I didn't want to lose it at this stage, having spent a lot of money.
The Ministry of Finance finally issued me with a letter exempting me from GST, a relief. One of Dianne's workers was to arrange the pick up from the wharf to their yard, but the crate had been left next to containers which prevented the forklifts getting access. Eventually it was decided that the storage charges in Customs were not too high and it was cheaper to leave it on the wharf.
The barge that was doing the run past Liapari wasn't scheduled for another 2 weeks. The weekend that it was due to load, the weather was terrible, so it was delayed even further. Luckily, Dianne's husband "Bobo" also had material for Liapari, so I rang him on the satellite phone to make sure the mast was loaded. The next problem was getting the crate onto the barge, as it doesn't have a crane. The suggestion was made by Dianne that they break open the crate and carry the mast onto the barge. As I had packed many things inside the crate, I didn't want it opened or I would never see those things again. At my insistence, they managed to manhandle the crate onboard.
Mast arrives at last!
On the morning of Monday 2nd April, around 7am, the barge arrived with the crate on deck . The barge came into the small beach between the wharf and the small jetty that Meridian was tied up to. I was down below sending emails to the shipping agent in Honiara. Just after 7:40am Meridian started leaping about - I rushed up on deck to see the barge backing out. At first I thought the movement was caused by its prop wash, something I had experienced earlier when a tug left. Then I noticed the coconut palms flaying about violently and the jetty bucking violently, so much so that its hinge pins broke and the jetty was moving away from the shore. I grabbed some lines and fastened the jetty to some trees. It wouldn't have gone far because the boat on the opposite side, Swan, had a stern line to shore as well.
Meanwhile the water was surging ashore, nearly a metre higher than normal. The large aluminium boat Corrina D that Noel is building for Bobo and Dianne was washed up onto the now sunken wharf. The barge managed to drag it off before the water subsided.
IThe cause of all this activity was an earthquake of magnitude 8.3 about 100km south of Liapari. The subsequent tsunami caused the deaths of 32 people. On Liapari, some of the workers' homes were badly damaged, as were some of the workshops. Water tanks on stands were knocked down onto roofs. Much of Noel's equipment, including welding machines were submerged and damaged. However, given the intensity of the quake, the damage was quite modest. Many of the locals though were quite spooked by the experience and moved up to a temporary camp site on the highest part of the island, under tarpaulins. This was repeated in Gizo, with people living in this temporary "accommodation" for months. Their fears were reinforced by strong after-shocks over the following days, one was over 6. Photos at