In 1965, when Panguna was still an exploration project, a lone sailor brought his boat into Kieta harbor to pick up supplies and spend a day ashore.
When I met him he was staying in the Kieta pub.
He said that when he came ashore the local Kiap asked to see his TPNG visa.
He had none, and said that he only wanted to buy some food and be on his way.
The Kiap told him that as the Territory of Papua New Guinea was an Australian trust territory, it was necessary for him to have a visa. He was in violation of TPNG law.
The Kiap impounded his sailboat. Boarding the sailboat, he put locks on it and forbade the sailor to board it. The sailor was not allowed to maintain it or even to use it as sleeping quarters at night.
The sailor told me that he had been sailing the south Pacific for months, stopping at many island ports of call for supplies. He had never had any problems with local authorities before.
I left Bougainville a month later. When I left, his sailboat still sat at anchor in Kieta harbor. Its hull was visibly rusting. It appeared that the boat was deteriorating rapidly. By that time it might have already become unseaworthy.
I later heard that the sailor had to abandon his boat and fly back to Australia.
Graeme Wellington’s Facebook site contains one photo of Kieta harbor with two sailboats anchored. One of them might be the impounded boat.
You can access Graeme’s pictures by clicking on his comment ‘Here’s a picture of Trader Joe.’