Our elated leader, Guy, happily announced that he was 0.18nm from the Duchateau waypoint and would be entering the lagoon soon after the sked. There were many yachts that were due to arrive today, for us there will be another night at sea. ETA as of this morning is 15th 10.11am.
During the last 24 hours at sea we encountered many ships on their way through the Jomard Passage. This is the major shipping channel for ships transitting through PNG to the Southern Hemisphere from Asia. Luckily for us we could see them on the AIS, and were able to dodge them. Throughout the passage we ran our radar at night only, during the day we needed to do something!!
Some Stats. . . .The trip took 96hr, we averaged 5.46 knots (1650RPM) into ESE head winds of 20-30knts.
As the sun was rising on our last day at sea we were 35nm from Duchateau Island. By now there were 12 boats anchored and resting enjoying the island life! It was another 2 hrs until we were safely anchored. Dragonfly was following us and reported that their autopilot had jammed and they were unable to disengage the pilot to manually steer. There were a few tense moments as they headed in through the passage, surrounded by coral, I might add. We turned around and prepared a tow line but with the help of a few voices on VHF, they managed to gain steerage once more.
In our efforts to find a suitable anchorage we weaved our way around the other yachts as I closely monitored the depth sounder, but it was all too scary with depths going from 20m to 3m regularly. So I turned Opal Lady away from the Bommie Mine Field and headed back out to anchor in clear depths of 20-25m behind the last line of yachts. Once anchored with our flopper stoppers deployed we received a visit from Guy to welcome us. Little did we know that he was performing a tidness check as one of his awards was titled ‘Tidiest yacht on arrival” . Needless to say we didn’t win!!! Then the Lets Go crew whizzed over in their tender to welcome us. It appeared that our plans of an afternoon nap were heading out the window fast!
The festivities on the beach were planned for an early Happy Hour, some of the local Sailaus’ (pronounced say lau) from neighboring islands had caught a feast of Crayfish for the welcome BBQ. There aren’t any locals living at the Duhateau group. The temp outside was 28deg with an 18-20 knt Easterly blowing.
As the sun set we were picked up by Steve and Yvonne and Leonie from Pure, to go ashore as we hadn’t had enough time or energy to get the dinghy down.
The locals prepared and cooked beautiful Crayfish and fish on the Rally BBQ Plate with everyone taking side dishes to share. The sunset was absolutely magic!!
Just as well we put the flopper stoppers out as every yacht was rocking and rolling! By 10.30am it was time to leave for Panasia Lagoon 11 nm away with an 18knt Easterly and 1m seas. It took no time for Alan to rig our game reels and 1/2 as long for the first one to go whizzing out. It was big but unfortunately we lost it. Because of the nature of the entrance we were to assemble outside at 12noon and await instructions from Guy and the Sanctuary Crew to navigate the entrance. For clear vision on the way in Alan stood on top of the pilothouse roof with the sun high above and his Polaroid Sunglasses on he communicated instructions through the hatch above my head so we could avoid the bommies that were sprinkled in the lagoon.
Once we had navigated around the bommies and anchor we could appreciate the surrounding beauty and realise that we had certainly arrived in paradise. Sparkling water, palm trees and smooth, paradise aqua water! The locals were sailing in from the surrounding islands in anticipation of our visit and madly waving to us.
The excitement began and there was a steady stream of canoes paddling out to visit all the yachts. Out came our lolly supplies as well as our supply of trade goods. One of the first canoes to arrive held Joshua and his son, with their goods sitting in the bottom of their dugout canoe. They had several Crayfish as well as yams and a small bag of tiny tomatoes.
Later that afternoon we went in shore for Happy Hour and a BBQ. We were greeted with lots of children all eager to pull up our tender. I took in the Chocolate Caramel slice that I had baked earlier. The BBQ consisted of stacks of Crayfish, which we ate until it was coming out our ears!! I then pulled out the slice and offered it to the natives! Mistake No 1!! Within seconds the plate was empty and Alan was watching from 10m away and he couldn’t see me! Hands came from everywhere, taking handfuls even though I was saying Take 1! One a, One a! in their speak! A lesson learnt! Next time pass one piece out at a time.
A few things!!! There is no electricity or lights or running water! No Furniture, they sleep on the ground or on a grass mat within their elevated grass hut. Mum asked me how they clean their teeth and shower . . .It doesn’t happen! Just don’t breathe in! They swim in the sea! One look at their teeth, as they chew betel nut will tell you that they don’t clean them! Red stained and broken! Betel nut is Areca nuts that are chewed, in a similar manner to chew- ing tobacco, for their mild euphoric and stimulating effects and to help reduce tension.
The most common method of using areca nut is to slice the nut into thin strips and roll them in a betel leaf (from the Piper betle) with slaked lime (powder) or crushed sea shells. This leaf package is generally referred to as a “betel quid”, or a “betel nut chew”,
Today we all congregated on shore at 10am (this was our first lesson in learning about Island time! We waited and waited!) for the longboat ride to the Limestones Caves. Except for us and a few others that had large dinghies, everyone else went by longboats (7m long x 2m wide fiberglass construction with a hp outboard) out through the reef and around the other side of the island. There were more huts on this side as it was sheltered from the prevailing southerly winds. We were led through the small village of grass huts that were elevated 2m off the ground and along a path that led to a steep incline that required us to climb a ladder leading to a hole in the the rock wall. Once through we climbed the interior ladder down to the slippery mud cave and at the bottom was a huge fresh waterhole! Everyone enjoyed the coolness of the cave and a swim in the cool brackish water. The ladies of the village had a stall selling/trading fruit, bananas and paw paw and vegetables, yams, ibecca, set up for when we returned from the caves. I traded some vegetable peelers for some bananas. That evening we had a short Happy Hour ashore before retiring to bed, very tired!
We all assembled again this morning on the beach to await our guide to take us to Little Panasia Island. The bags were packed with a picnic lunch and plenty of cold drinks for the 2nm ride to visit the Skull Caves. Dodging reefs and bommies made the trip interesting. Once there, everyone was led up a winding very rocky steep track but even though I was being very careful and holding Alan’s hand, I managed to roll my ankle and had to return to the beach. I passed the camera over to Alan and he continued on whilst I sat and used the ice in the esky to try and reduce the swelling ankle. It took 1 1/2 hours for them to return and the track became even more difficult as they neared the caves. There were 8-10 skulls in the caves but the locals were unable to explain their presence, so we all set about contriving our own story!
Back on the beach everyone enjoyed their cool drinks and picnic lunch before taking to the dinghies again. Mckenzie insisted we visit their village that was on our way back. What an eye opener!! Huts of grass and sticks, a very rusted away tin roof and guttering that led to an old fiberglass water tank with a rusted tap attached was their only means of collecting water. They had clay pots under some of the holes to catch the drips! The village was sparse but very clean in a million dollar position. Once underway again we put out our trolling lines and slowly made our way back. By now the afternoon storm had arrived and the rain fell, although very wet I did manage to catch a nice Red Emperor.
That evening Guy had arranged an evening meal with the natives and we were all to share the food. I made a large baking dish of fried rice and we took in several packets of sausages for the BBQ. After observing that the women of the village stood back throughout the meal I decided to share the Apple Custard Slice that I had made earlier that afternoon amongst the women only!. Alan approached John, village elder and explained what we wanted to do, with the help of Danny from Lets Go and Doris a well spoken lady from the nearby Brooker Island, we handed the slice to ONLY the women. The men and children had been visiting the yachties all day receiving Dim Dim treats so I thought it only fair.
Following this Guy made a presentation of 20 outdoor plastic chairs, 2 large folding tables and several large tarps to the village. We had carried these over on the top deck! Then came the presentation of awards for the trip over .. Cleanest Boat on arrival, best chef on passage, best skipper, best crew, fastest time etc. he also handed out the skite plaques for the trip!
Another magic day and we said farewell to the Panasia (pronounced Panacea) people as we made our way back out through the narrow coral entrance. One of the most valuable functions on the chart plotter for this trip was to have the track function turned on. It became the best tool to use when heading back out through the reefs, as you could follow your inward path!! NOTE: make sure you zoom right in before following it!!!!
The fishing rods were set and only 20mins later we foul hooked a very large Mackerel, the fight was on and as Alan pulled him to the boat all 20kgs of him, the hooks came out and he swam away.
Heading north 22 nm in clear seas & 15-20 knt NE winds until we arrived at the western entrance to Panapompom Lagoon, a much less threatening entrance than Panasia. Then it was a 4nm trip to windward to reach our anchorage at the small island adjacent to Panapompom, Nivani Island. We found a spot amongst the 6 yachts that were already there in 6m of water. As the afternoon wore on the remainder of the fleet came in, and another Happy Hour on shore.
Our day started early with a welcome performance by several of the local singing and dance groups and then followed the Mini Olympics – swimming and running races. Both local and dim dim races were run separately. With a short break for lunch, then came the pinnacle event for the locals with a hotly contested Sailau race, the prizes for the whole day were provided by the Rally. Several rolls of tarp fabric and several rolls of rope were up for grabs. These had also been cargo on Opal Lady for the trip over!
The locals took those wanting a Sailau ride around the bay. We went aboard “HAPPY”, cost 10 kina pp. Laura, Katherine from Sanctuary joined us. Several other sailaus went with low numbers of dim dims. We dropped the girls back at Sanctuary and went aboard to discuss the afternoon Yacht Race with Guy. Object of the day was to fit as many locals on the boats and then have fun. The rules – there are no rules! Start line was between Opal Lady and the western tip of Panapompom Island. Boats were to have colour of some description up, drinks and nibbles for the locals and were to sail to longitude 150’30, which was the down wind extent of the lagoon, any further and they would be high and dry on reef!! The race started after a 5 minute postponement due to Lets Go not having weighed anchor. They sailed across the line like Browns Cows, most with spinnakers flying and Guy bursting the radio with calls of encouragement, bribery and corruption! The proceeds obtained from the bribery and corruption were donations to go towards the Nimowa Clinic Fund!
We took off in the tinny after the start to take photos of everyone under spinnaker and arrived back with just enough time to have a quick swim before the first yachts crossed the line. Every boat received a toot from our horn as they crossed the line and then it was a rush to get organized and be on shore for the presentation of prizes from the previous days Olympics and a Moo Moo cooked by the Church Ladies.
On the beach at 9.30am for 10.30 sailau ride to Paneati Island, 6nm away to visit the local community. We arrived after a 1 hour trip in sunshine. Sailaus don’t tack as such, but they actually change the position of the sail and the helmsman changes ends of the boat with his long handled paddle that he uses for the rudder, all this happens whilst throughout the whole trip there is one smaller boy doing the bailing. (obviously doing his apprenticeship!)
We walked through 5 villages that were spread along the shore. After a visit to the hospital, Ben took us to the school and introduced us to one of the teachers, Joy. There are 9 teachers and 245 children. They are in desperate need of a photocopier and all stationary. We took them 200 exercise books, pens, pencils and a few other bits of stationary. Joy explained that they have to travel to Alatou (300nm away) to get copying done, @ 2 kina($1A) a copy and to purchase supplies. At present they had run out of pens and paper were waiting for one of their colleagues to arrive back from Alatou with supplies, she had been gone 3 weeks already!!
We stopped for lunch beside the new wharf, and it didn’t take long for us to draw a crowd of local teenagers who seemed to think our picnic amusing. We shared our lunch with Ben and then gave him a container of fruit slice which he shared amongst the teenagers. The wharf was built by the locals, all labour was paid for using donations of clothes from the yacht VISION. The men worked long hard days and on completion were given a full set of new clothes as payment.
We made our way back to the boat building hut and marveled at the knot tying skills of the locals. This island contains the premium quality trees needed to make the best sailau hulls. Once I started taking photos the children came from everywhere to stick their face in front of the camera and then wanted to see the results. My 2 kg supply of lollies were running out fast and the children were still coming. The Dim Dims were gathering in readiness for the trip back and a local boy decided to run up the coconut palm to pick a coconut to sell to one of the ladies waiting. Entrepreneur in the making!
I took a great photo of a lady and her two children when the boat helmsmen came and told me it was his wife and he asked if I could take a photo of all the family. I took the shots and when we arrived back we had them wait until I printed and laminated it for him! I’m sure it was gold! and will be treasured for ever!
After this mornings sched we pulled our flopper stoppers up and prepared to follow Sanctuary and Let’s Go out of South Passage to head for Kamataal Island 26 nm away in 10-22 knt SE winds. As we were nearing the entrance to South Passage one of the lines went off! We pulled in a pretty 10lb blue fish???? And not long after on the same lure we caught a 12lb Trevally with 2 large black spots on it. This one was photographed by La Belle! These will be put on the BBQ at Kamataal tonight. We headed south leaving Redlick Islets to port then passed Mabui Islet and rounded the southern tip and proceeded to the 44m channel north of Pana Sagu Sagu Islet. 10.57.1S – 152. 37.5 E . On arrival we handed the fish to Jimmy, nick named the harbour master!
The program for the next couple of days was for everyone to take turns to visit Kamataal Island as the anchorages there were small and would require the fleet to take turns. It is also home to the only Yacht Club and book swap library in the Louisiades and is run by Jimmy who also runs the unofficial boys home for wayward youth. As a fundraiser Lets Go was given the job of running the Kamataal Fishing Competion. For 20K a head you could fish outside the lagoon with a local and submit your fish for weigh in before 4pm. For those that didn’t want to fish it would cost them double!! All in the name of fundraising to support Jimmys’ football team!
Much effort had gone into the decoration of the beach and the approach to the Yatch Club! Frangipanis stuck on the ends of the palm fronds and the ground swept as well as a welcome sign erected on the beach!
We had a well earned sleep in and then went fishing in the afternoon around the large coral walls on the outside of the anchorage. The drops were 20-40metres in places and we caught a Blue Trevally, a Red Emporer and a beautiful 3lb Coral Trout! Our favourite eating fish. We kept him and after the 4pm weigh in, gave the rest to the locals.
This morning we went ashore and found Elijah to take fishing but before we could make it out of the anchorage a huge storm came over and drenched us so we went back to the boat, gave Elijah a clean dry shirt and had a cuppa whilst the rain cleared. Temperature was 38 degrees and 100% humidity.
Back in the tinny and we set the rod up with a lure for Elijah and within 100m we caught a fish! The look on his face when it went off was priceless, he had never used a fishing rod before. It was a 16lb Coral Trout, WOW!! An amazing experience! Anything else we caught the rest of the day paled in significance. We gave him the fish, a couple of lures and fishing line at the weigh in, this won the competition for us!
Before dark the locals played the yachties in a game of soccer dodging the palm trees and pigs on the playing field. Declared a draw. When the light had faded we all retired to the Yacht Club where the ladies of the island had prepared a Moo Moo for us, a beautiful spread of yams, pork, chicken, corn and pumpkin, 10k pp. The table was always dressed with flowers and a tablecloth. They take great pride in what they do.
On a cloudy morning we left Kamataal and headed 12 nm south east to Bagaman in 15-18 knt Easterly winds. We caught a 950mm Spanish Mackerel on the way. That evenings’ sunset was beautiful.
Great organisation was needed to get all the yachties assembled off the beach at Bagaman in their tenders and ready to converge on the beach all together so the villagers could play us up the beach and present us with frangipani leis. Following this we sat on arranged seating under a tarp to watch the various dances and singing groups. Guy presented the community with several bags of clothing and enough pairs of soccer boots for their island team. After the festivities we attended a class at the Elementary School, coral floor, no seating or desks and each pupil had a small well worn blackboard and piece of chalk. English is one of the main lessons taught. We presented the school with a package of books,pens and pencils as did a few other yachts.
From here I wandered to watch the women prepare lunch, another Moo Moo. They were cooking crayfish in saucepans over open fires and trying to get the crays out of the pot with their fingers!!! In my bag of trade goods I had large stainless serving spoons and tongs which I gave to them. The smile on their faces was enough for me!
In the afternoon after our lunch the locals set up a lot of stalls selling their carvings and grass woven matting, bags and an assortment of Baggi. These are shell and seed necklaces that represent a status symbol amongst the locals. Many locals use these for money. We purchased some woven bags and a carved pig(you have to see what the locals think are important about their pigs! Well hung!) and also a carved canoe that is inlaid with shell perfect for serving cracker biscuits.
That evening Sanctuary hosted a BBQ on board that we attended with 20 people.
Whilst the locals were making their last efforts to trade and sell bananas and carvings with all of us from their canoes, Doc Roger (Engarde) worked hard again to remove a stingray barb from a little girls foot. It was badly infected and needed removal surgically and injection antibiotics to clear the infection. He wanted her sent to Misima hospital or she would die!! Guy provided the locals with the fuel to take her and the funds to buy fuel for the return trip.
Meanwhile whilst trying to swap the boom winch wires to pull up the port flopper stoppers, we broke the the winch wire. So Alan hand retrieved them and then we went 4nm around the point to Blue Lagoon where he spent the afternoon trying to fix the problem and I cooked a Roast chicken dinner for tea and I made 4, 2 for tomorrow!
We were supposed to be onshore for the Jimmy Buffet Beach Party, but we needed to solve our winch problem first. We did attend for a couple of hours to participate in the tug of war but couldn’t help out with the Jimmy Buffet Trivia and the cricket we gave it a miss in favour of trying to fix the winch.
The plan for today was to move the couple of miles east to Hoba Bay but due to the heavy showers Guy spoke to the village and postponed the welcome until tomorrow.
We had an early start to the day so Alan could get a start on the winch problem, and as would be the case we picked the day that it rained torrentially for almost the entire day!! One winch rope broke and the other winch was acting like the solenoids weren’t working so the plan was to change the winch drums over so at least we would have 1 operating winch! It finally let up when all the work was done. At 4.30pm! But the problem wasn’t solved! I spent the day baking, sponge roll, sponge cake, powder puffs, fruit slice, and chocolate caramel slice.
With the rain finally let up we packed our fishing gear into the tinny and headed off but alas only a few hits but we were treated to a magnificent sunset. We got back to the boat at 6pm just as the light was fading. After drinks on the bow we enjoyed our 2nd roast.
Sun shining and calm seas but most of us decided to stay anchored at Blue Lagoon and use their dinghies to get to Hoba Bay. We had an early start and motored over to Hoba bay for a quick cuppa/ slice on Lets Go and then into the village for a welcome and cultural display and Moo Moo. After the welcome we went to the school where several men were to fix up the guttering and the leaking water tank faucet. We were then treated to a MooMoo with a butterflied whole pig that took pride of place at the table. The pig was very tasty but it was full of fat, a cholesterol nightmare! The village set up a cultural display whilst we ate lunch. Baggi making, wood carving, fire lighting and basket weaving. I sat with one of the elder ladies to learn basket making, very difficult to maneuver the palm fronds into place. The young girls are taught the art once they reach the age of 14. To prepare the palm fronds, they are baked on the fire then woven. Some fronds are dyed with fabric dye to make the coloured mats and bags.
We were up at 5.15am to depart Blue Lagoon heading north for Misima 30 nm away. It took a while to manually pull up the flopper stoppers and put the poles away without the use of the boom winches. We weighed anchor at 6am and left the lagoon so we could arrive at our allotted time of 12noon. Pure, Mudusa, and Stargazer were to follow on later whilst non-rally yacht Pampero were leaving for Townsville later that day.
We had a great mornings fishing on the way, we lost one first up, then caught a 9kg Mackerel, then a 14kg Yellow Fin Tuna, next was a 11kg Dophin Fish, then a 12 kg Dolphin Fish, and finally just outside the Misima Harbour we lost another Yellow Fin Tuna. WOW and all before 12 midday! The winds were from the east at 10-15knts. Misima Harbour is only small and it would be a choreographed event to fit all 25 Rally Yachts in. The plan was to raft 3 yachts up together with everyone top and tailed using their bow anchors. To complicate this further the harbour is not very deep and there is a great deal of the space that needed to be kept clear as the planes take off from the airstrip that borders the west side of the harbour. The locals were lined several deep along the western shore in front of the town to welcome us. This was the weekend of their Showcase Misima Festival and some villagers had made the trek from the other side of the island taking 3 days to arrive here for the festivities. Misima is the “city” of the Louisiades, it has a hospital(No doctors), 2 supermarkets(No, nothing like ours, more like the old fashioned Corner Store) a bakery and the Airport(smaller than Aeropelican used to be!).
Just after all 25 yachts were rafted and anchored, the wind changed slightly then began to increase. Lets Go was rafted beside us with their bow to our stern and their anchor out. A large dark cloud mass appeared on the horizon to the east and the rain began to plummet down. The frantic call went out from one of the yachts on the seaward side of the harbour for all tenders to come to the aid of the 20m derelict boat that was dragging anchor and in danger of causing havoc on us all. So Alan took off in the tinny as did most others that were able to and played tug boats. They nudged the hull with the help of natives on deck and secured it to the mangroves that were lining the harbour. There was a little more room opened up ahead of us and whilst he was away I began to re anchor, so we had a lot more anchor chain out. He returned to see us moving forward in our tiny space and jumped on board to assist. We reset the main anchor and then put out our second bow anchor to starboard using the tinny to place the anchor. He then took Lets Gos’ stern anchor off them and located it well off to their port stern quarter. We were then happy with our position as the winds were increasing and a few moments later as the wind was strengthening further, the mayhem began in full force! One after another of the rafts of three yachts ahead of us started to drag anchor. By now the wind was blowing 45knots across the harbour. We held fine but the danger was the number of yachts dragging and seeing we were the last row in this small U- Shaped harbour we were getting understandably nervous!! A few of the cats went behind us and anchored on the mud flats that would dry at low. The owner of a small local boat moored behind us was calling for help(actually he must have been screaming for us to have heard him, seeing we were to windward). The 2 Al’s went to the rescue. More wet clothing! There were yachts being pushed into each other, screams, cries of help on the VHF as everyone tried to stay clear of everyone else. We did manage to fend off a few boats and there were definitely a few tense moments but all in all we remained unscathed. Because of the harbour floor being churned up with so many anchors going up and down several boats had issues with motors failing as there sea strainers became blocked. We had trouble, our generator (on so the aircon could operate, it was 36+ deg!) stopped pumping water, and white smoke was coming out so I quickly turned it off and Alan spent the next hour in the engine room sourcing the problem! Blocked strainer as well! One yacht ended up putting to sea for 24hrs until the weather abated. Not much sleep was had that night by most that night! We were the rock in the harbour and apparently slept through more havoc at 2am!
Just prior to the storm the Quarantine people were being ferried from boat to boat. The cost for this was K100 for Quarantine Pratique and K56 for Vessel Clearance. As they cleared your boat, you were then responsible to take them to another boat. Sounds O.K! But add to this the 45knts wind and torrential rain! What an exciting afternoon! Bailing the tinny became a constant activity. Just from Opal Lady to Medusa, 300m upwind of us required Alan to bail again before he could put the Customs people in the tinny! It was nearing 4.30pm by now. They worked well into the evening and Sanctuary gave them dinner and sent them to the local Guest House for the night, they still had 6 yachts to clear the following day! The rally had paid their flights in, to clear us this is not a normal port of clearance.
The calm after the storm and in the light of day all the yachts ahead of us were mostly anchored on their own. A few started to lick their wounds, several had scraps and bruises and some needed panel beating and their stanchions straightening!
We assembled on the shore at 11am to be welcomed and by one of the local dance groups who then led us up the road to the playing fields, where the tarp covered seating was arranged in front of the official platform overlooking the playing fields. The welcome and traditional dances and singers performed for a few hours before the pinnacle event of the day - The Miss Misima Showgirl Competition. The judges were 2 of the Rally Ladies and one village elder. Each was given a score card and the girls paraded in front in their traditional grass skirts! Only! Funny but none of the men were bored watching this event!!!
That evening we attended the Guest House for the Rally Dinner and were treated to a banquet of traditional foods. Following dinner Guy conducted a Charity Auction. Each boat was asked to bring something useful and something bazaar to donate to the auction. We took a jar of Water Cherry(local fruit) Jam that I had made that afternoon(80K), 8 pieces of Chocolate Caramel Slice(K60), 2 bottles of red wine in a cooler bag(K325 ) 2 single bottles of Red Wine(K125 ea). The Auction raised several thousand dollars for the Nimowa Clinic.
All laded with shopping bags full of useful items for the ladies we went ashore to the Pem Pewa (translated means give/receive) ceremony that is a popular way to raise money here where 2 people exchange gifts after having given a sum of money to the worthy cause.(K5). People participating form 2 lines and after the singing of the Pem Pewa song they exchange gifts. Because of the large numbers of local ladies we all made 3 or more bags per person. All this took place with showers of rain and another squall, must be the norm as the locals carry on regardless.
We received some beautifully made baskets full of fruit and veg decorated with frangipani flowers. Most of the food was donated to the hospital or the next island that we visited as it was far more that Alan and I could consume! After the ladies helped us take it back to the tinny we had to take our passports and ships papers to the Guest house where the customs official was waiting. We cleared in and out at the same time.
Most yachts had left the harbour this morning but we decided to take a day off and stay put!
For the next 5 days there weren’t any official rally events and everyone was encouraged to cruise and explore. We headed SE 39nm to Sabara Island in 15-20knt SE winds. Another great fishing trip, we caught a Mac Tuna and lost another and also lost 2 lures. The tuna was given to the village on arrival. Sabara Island anchorage is a very pretty bay with several small islets that border the bay. We entered between these islets into crystal clear water with depths of only 3m throughout. Really protected.
The daily temperature was 30+degrees and you could nearly set your watch to the storms every afternoon. The children enjoyed the daily iceblocks, they devoured them as quick as our freezer would freeze them.
Over the next few days Peter(Sanctuary) and Alyn(Lets Go) had a look at the boom winch and finally Alyn found the problem and fixed it for us! He soldered the wire back on the brush!
By the end of the week there were 10 yachts in the small anchorage and a whip around raised A$500 to purchase some roof iron, a watertank and the guttering so the village collect their own water. Presently they had to travel 8nm to a nearby island to collect their fresh water.
On our final day there we visited the local school at the eastern end of the island, 4nm away by boat and gave them another of our school packs and again mobbed by the children whilst giving out lollies. They quickly organised an impromptu traditional dance to thank us! On the way home we investigated another bay that held the local Mud Crab Farm. They collected the small crabs from a neighboring island and placed them inside the fenced area until they were full grown.
We were due to leave this morning but all went ashore first to say farewell and present the village with some goods and the money for the water collection system. I gave the ladies a huge bag of fabric and sewing equipment and then spent a few hours teaching them how to cut a pattern off other pieces of clothing. One lady couldn’t see very well so I gave her a pair of my old glasses, the smile on her face when she had them on was beautiful.
In 15-20knt Sou’easterly winds we headed to Wanim (Grassy Island) through the Magumagu Passage and caught a 1m Spanish Mackerel weighing 9kg and then another 10kg one.
Tonight there was a scurvy lot of Pirates ashore and loads of scuttlebutt around, obviously the golden liquid helping this! T’was the night of the Pirate Party!
A few of the pirates were nursing sore heads today as we moved the 12 nm East to Nimowa Island. It was raining again and the wind was on the nose so the rest of the fleet once again joined us and motored there!! At 5pm we joined the children and parents of the Galanga Primary School for a MooMoo and sing sing by the children. We presented them with another of our book parcels and a guitar that our friends gave us. I also took another 100 ice-blocks in to give the children.
We were taken by Banana Boats 15nm in 25 knt headwinds over to Sudest Island and up the Fieori River through thick tropical forest to the waterfall to enjoy a picnic lunch, then on the way home we stopped to see a Sago processing area on the banks of the river. On our return journey the seas were flat which made the trip a lt more pleasant.
Our visit to the Nimowa Clinic and High School was delayed due to more heavy rain and the program was changed. Alan and I were to leave at lunch time to head back to Brooker Island to see the friends we had made at Panasia. So we went in to the clinic and delivered our gifts and went back to the boat and left for Brooker (Utian) Island. Once clear of Nimowa the rain lifted and the winds eased to produce flat seas. We made a stopover at Hoba Bay for the evening and continued on early next morning.
The overall trip from Nimowa to Brooker was 56nm. We caught another 7kg beautiful blue fish just outside the reef. Once we navigated through the narrow entrance in the coral, we dropped the anchor in the eastern bay at 10am. What a magic spot, we stood on top of the pilothouse to enjoy the magnificent view.
Within minutes we were surrounded by canoes of children eager to say hello and of course all ready to trade. Alan went about setting up the hooker unit to be able to scrub the bottom of the boat before entering Australian waters. He left me to deal with all our visitors. After admiring and trading a shell from one small girl, I mentioned to her that I liked shells within 10mins the canoes started arriving with their shells to trade. By nightfall I had a large amount of huge shells. Being our final day, I gave out all our lollies and ice blocks. Late in the afternoon we had a visit from the keeper of the island visitors book and his family and managed to find the 2nd yacht in the book was Kudos! They also brought us a Conch Shell and gave Alan a lesson in blowing it!
Finally night fell and we were sitting relaxing after a very hectic day when we heard a sound outside. It was Doris, her husband, son and nephew had come to visit. We welcomed them aboard and invited them to stay for dinner. I served Roast Lamb in gravy with boiled potatoes, pumpkin and broccoli. Except for the pumpkin they had never tasted any of the other foods, besides the lesson in using knives and forks. Doris explained that this was the first time that she had eaten dinner with her husband! After giving them loads of gifts we said our goodbyes.
To avoid more trading we got on the move early, just on daylight but as we were pulling anchor, there was a canoe outside the pilothouse window with a man holding up a large shell for me to see. Alan rolled the eyes and after my plea went and traded something for it. Then we took off for Panasia Lagoon. We hung outside the reef whilst the morning radio sched was on and listening to the weather forecast we decided to enter the lagoon, put the tinny up on the boat deck and lash everything down and leave ASAP. Inside the lagoon was another 36 ft yacht “Ino” owned by a young South African, Marnix. Alan went over to visit and ask there travel plans. We offered to fulfill their shopping list. Marnix and Ben came over with their list and we were able to give them all they needed to avoid the long trip back to Misima for supplies. Their comments in our visitors book “you were the fairy godparents that answered all our needs” and “we have not eaten meat for 1 month”.
The boys helped Alan put the tinny back on top and this cut the pack up time to 1hr instead of several.
Sanctuary had arrived and offered to cook our lunch and we had a beautiful BBQ lunch before heading out the Jomard Passage and into the Coral Sea by nightfall.
Calm seas and light NE winds accompanied us for the first 48hrs of the trip home. With winds expected to turn SE and strengthen we upped the revs on the motor to get back inside the Great Barrier Reef as soon as possible. The final 26hours of the trip saw the seas rise and the winds turn SE.
We arrived in Cairns at 2115hrs on the 17th October. Total trip time 79hrs. The customs instructed us to anchor across from Marlin Marina and head into the marina early the next morning for clearance. Customs cost was $330.
Our statistics for the entire trip were - 230 motor hrs @ 9.33 LPH over 1288 nautical mile, the generator - 282hrs @ 2.45 LPH. Total fuel used 2775L. On the trip over we avg 5.46 knts and on the return trip we avg 6.62 knts and saved 17hrs due to the calmer seas for the first half.
The Rally raised in excess of K25,000 for the communities, $10,000 in medical equipment was donated and one rally yacht donated K10,000 to Nimowa Clinic with a further 3,300 per year over the next 3 years. (These figures are yet to be finalised)
A magnificent trip and fantastic experience! Very well run and organised.