There are five parts - Part 1 - departure from Townsville to arrival in Panasia Island. Part 2 is from Panasia to Motorina and Brooker. Part 3 covers Nivani and Panapompom, Bwagaoia and Kamatal Lagoon. Part 4 covers Pananumara, Gigila, Hessessai Bay and Mahua Bay. Part 5 covers our return via Bagaman, Bwagaoia, Panapompom and Panaete. Part 6 covers the return journey from Nivani to Townsville and then to Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays. Photos can be viewed at Yahoo
Well after a l-o-n-g week, we arrived in the Louisiades yesterday, Sat 20th Sept at 10am. The weather was fine, a little cloudy and the breeze was 10 kts from the SE. We felt a sense of accomplishment, having completed our longest single trip yet.
It was Meredith's birthday too. She was in Mudgee as Matron-of-Honour to Fiona, her best friend since primary school. Daughter Claire was one of the fairies - we can't wait to see photos of the amazing event.
We are now anchored at Panasia Island at 11 deg 07.8S, 152 deg 20.0 E. It is a small spectacular island with vertical cliffs. We are on the NE side, anchored near a small (50m) beach. There is a large beach on the SW side which we will explore later.
Today we had our first visitors - John, Graham, Gibson and Kennon from the neighbouring small island. They brought bananas, pawpaw and shells. We didn't want any shells but traded them a T-shirt, and gave the boys a tennis ball and pen each. They enjoyed eating an orange, and having a cup of tea with us.
Judy is baking bread today. It is some time since we have had home-baked bread, so we are looking forward to it. Last Sunday after we left Palm Is, we celebrated our first Sundowner at sea with one of my homebrew beers, the first batch. I must say we were very pleased with the result - Coopers Lager - nice head, malty flavour, good bubbles. A great result.
We cleared Customs in Townsville on Tuesday 9th and having loaded the duty-free liquor, fruit and veg we departed for Magnetic Island. We waited for a suitable wind, and left there on Saturday 13th, making for Great Palm Island, only 25 NM away. After overnighting there we took off with NW winds 10-15 predicted.
Boring Sailing details follow - non-sailors can skip ahead if they like.
The weather predictions I had received in GRIB files showed NW 15 for two days, then easing, then SE 15-20 for the remainder of the trip. We left in NW 10 kts which came more northerly and freshening to 25 kts. Because of constraints such as reefs and shoals, we didn't have much option but to motor-sail to keep our course. We finished up motoring for 8 hours in the first day, but none after that.
We started with full main and headsail but by the end of the first day with 25 kt, we reefed the main to 2nd reef, and partly furled the headsail. We left the reefs in for the remainder of the voyage, with the headsail coming in and out as required. While we might have gone faster with the full main, we certainly would have heeled more. Even 15 degrees of heel can be uncomfortable below while trying to prepare meals or even walk about.
The winds remained predominately NE - E 10-15 so we were sailing at 40 deg apparent. This was slightly off course. Later when they swung to the ESE and SE we were able to get that lost ground back. Then we put up the staysail and found that it added about .5 to 1 kt and seemed to help in pointing.
Summary from the log:
Day Date Wind Dirn Wind Speed Miles Comment
1 14/9 NNW - N 8-10, 20-25 95 Motor-sailed past Rib and Pith reefs
2 15/9 N, NNW,SW 10-15, 5 70? No trip reading from GPS.
3 16/9 SSW S SE 0, 10-12 68? Becalmed from 4am until 8pm drifing abt .8kt
4 17/9 ENE - ESE 10, 15-20 100
5 18/9 ENE - ESE 10-15 106
6 19/9 ENE - SE 10-12, 15 140 Yeah! reaching 7 kts at times
7 20/9 SE 10 40 Saw 4 large ships between 4am and 6am
I found with the generally light winds forward of the beam, and with the thankfully flat seas, that I could dispense with the auto-pilot and just lock the wheel for a steady course, hour after hour with a small tweak now and then. This saved on power and reduced noise from the hydraulic pump.
END of boring sailing bits, Meredith!
While becalmed on Tues we tried putting up the MPS but there wasn't enough breeze to keep it full, so we put it away. Judy managed to get some laundry done. I came up to the cockpit after lunch and saw a whale! about 100m from us. S/he was joined by two others - I reckon they were talking about us. Big, black and whale shape under the water, but white on top. Eventually they swam away.
We heard Coastwatch talking to another yacht in our area, and soon he was calling us on VHF Ch16. They were flying very low, and their turbo-prop plane could hardly be heard until they were almost upon is. After giving them our details, they were off. They visited us again on Wednesday, and called us on the radio on Thursday after determining our position by radar.
Our watches vary depending on how we feel. Usually we are both up during the day with one having a snooze sometime. After dinner we decide who will do the first watch, and how long. Usually it is 4 hours but may be three, depending on how much sleep we have had, and when.
We use the radar at night on Watchman duty of 10 minutes, with a guard zone set around us. This has alerted us to the presence of several large ships. On Saturday between 4 and 6 am, we had 4 large ships within 5 miles of us. As the batteries discharge, we run the diesel generator for an hour or so to keep them reasonably charged. For nav lights, we run the mast-head anchor light until we see another vessel, when we switch on the tricolour. When one of the large ships was on a course close to collision, I called him on Ch16. When there was no answer, I put the deck lights on to illuminate the sails. Eventually an officer replied to a radio call - they were on their way from Japan to Brisbane.
A few problems have arisen. The alternator on the main engine stopped output, then came back but reduced amps. I changed the regulator but it seems to have made no difference. No matter though as we use the diesel generator for our main battery charging. The HF radio automatic antenna tuning unit has a fault, so I have to use the manual tuner. This isn't hard just a pain when switching bands and modes from voice to data.
One drama we could have done without - leaks (probably the toilet hatch) finish up in the bilges. While there wasn't a lot of water, maybe 2 - 3 litres. it soaked the winecasks, and made some of the fruit and veg mouldy. It is a pain having to haul everything out to clean and dry them.
We have done quite a few miles this year - Sydney - Hobart - Sydney 1500 miles from Feb - June. Sydney - Louisiades via Townsville, 1900 miles July - Sept.
So that's the news from the Louisiades. I will attach a small photo of Panasia. I hope its worth the effort of sending it. I need a good connection to get maximum throughput.
This is a first (& possibly a 'last'--these fingers on the keyboard belong to Judy)...I have the computer!!!
An uninhabited, spectacular Is. Sheer cliffs, rising straight out of the beautiful aquamarine water you see in the tourist brochures and a couple of eagles overflying their kingdom. The nearest village is on an island about 5 nm miles away.
On our second day, John, his son, cousin-brother and nephew arrived in sailing-canoe, (a dug-out canoe with outrigger and "PNG Kevlar sail, i.e. black garden plastic lateen sail) It's spectacular watching them sail these boats. They say they use the currents to navigate and cross reefs but can't really explain how they do this.
22/9 We dinghy'ed around the island from the lagoon on the NE side of the Is to a beautiful sandy beach and had our first swim in warm tropical waters.
23/9 Intended leaving Panasia Is, but winds increased to 25kn (with our new wind instrument we can now frighten ourselves), so decided not to try and navigate the surrounding reefs.
24/9 Left for Motorina Is., a two and a half hour sail away into SE winds of 15kn. Paul had the usual lure out and.... at last we had a strike! Just as I was about to use the gaff on a large silvery fish the hook broke out of the lure! Anchored off a small village (about 60 people in 15 traditional huts) Huts are built about a metre off the ground, made of a light timber frame with a roof of woven coconut, banana or sago fronds and walls of woven 'stuff' (must find out what it is).
This village has a lady "chief", Nedulo Boko. She is an ex-nursing sister who was in charge of nursing in one of the provinces. She has travelled to India and Singapore and has an MBE for Services to the Community. When her mother became ill in the late seventies, she, as the un-married daughter, had to come back to the village to care for her. She lives the traditional life, working in her garden growing yams, tapioca, bananas, paw paws tomatoes etc and fishes in the bay. She is also the local magistrate for the island.
Across the "mountain" (a strenuous climb and descent) is a larger village where there is an Aid Outpost Health Worker, the Church and the Elementary School. The villagers are very religious and have the most wonderful singing in their church services. The women sing the melody and the men seem to sing two and three part harmonies at will. The school has three women teachers and a headmaster, all of whom live in government built houses within the school grounds. This is the school for many of the surrounding islands, so the children live with relatives during term. Grade 3 has about 90 children, (the headmaster helps out). In this grade, the children start learning to speak, read and write English, so the standard is similar to our Kindergartens. The children are about ten years old in this grade. There are about 25 to 30 children in Grade 4 and Grade 5. At present there is no Grade 6. All children have to pay to go to school.
Back in Nedulo's village we were visited by various leaky outrigger canoes. These are dugout canoes too narrow to sit in unless you are a child. The adults have small pieces of timber about 30cm x 15cm which they put across the canoe to sit on and paddle. Every canoe has something to bail with because if they don't leak, they take water over the top. Freeboard is minimal! Children as young as 8yrs old paddle out, often with 3 other younger children aboard--the smaller ones, 1 to 2 yrs old are small enough to sit IN the canoe. They too bail, usually with half a coconut shell. Visiting yachties are known as "dim dims" and always have lollies for children! Usually they bring shells, a couple of yams or a paw paw to trade. The adults offer to fish for you and want T shirts, batteries etc. They also want "extras", so it becomes a bit of a game--Nationals v Dim Dims!
We spent the next couple of days visiting and enjoying the island, then on Saturday walked back over the mountain to watch an inter-island soccer gala; much enthusiasm, but the soccer
talent scouts don't need to hurry over. Teams came from various villages in Motorina, and from Brooker and Bagaman Islands so it was a good topic of conversation when we came to Brooker.
28/9 Another couple of yachts joined us, so we had a great time socialising.
29/9 left Motorina after an interesting anchor retrieval. A local bommie and our chain had spent the preceding days becoming intimate! Danny Diesel and his 100hp won the contest, though at one stage I thought Paul might make a swan dive off the bow.
Our destination was Brooker Is (AKA Utian Is on all the charts). This island is completely surrounded by reef with only one entrance. After we entered the lagoon there was a hair-raising journey over bommies and coral for about 0.5nm before sailing into the anchorage. This is in a small bay with a village stretching right around the beach. This village was a complete contrast to the ones on Motorina Is. Here the huts are arranged along a pathway, the huts have fences and some ornamental plants. Each hut is surrounded by grass which looks mown, but is cut with machetes. The few pigs we saw were in pens. On Motorina, the pigs roam free and thus the village is grassless, although each hut rakes the surrounding area daily. Also an interesting feature - they have communal toilets on the points at each end of the bay. These are perched out over the water.
Brooker looks quite prosperous. We counted 11 'banana boats' which are 19' fibreglass open dinghies made by Yamaha. They cost K18,000 or about $8000. The locals apparently do well with the beche-de-mer and cray industry. Yet, despite its apparent wealth and organisation, the school and aid-post are on Motorina which looks much poorer.
Not long after we anchored, we were welcomed by Jimmy. He offered to get us crayfish or fish, from the reef that night, but alas he had no batteries for his torch! This is a ploy ... get the batteries and use them in your ghetto blaster and not go back to the yacht (learnt from bitter experience with Jerry on Motorina). Paul suggested that he go out with Jimmy and arranged to meet at 1800hrs. When Jimmy arrived with Solomon and another cousin-brother, Solomon, it was 1850hrs...oh well, that's 'island time'! A couple of hours later they returned without crayfish but with a couple of large fish and several smaller ones. We decided to have the parrot fish--53cm in length, which they proceeded to clean and fillet. This was worth the batteries and T-shirt for Solomon who speared most of them.
30/9 Walked across the island to other smaller villages, one of which had a small trading store. The goods on offer were limited: batteries, flour, washing powder, soft drinks and of course cigarettes which are very strong and called Spears. When I asked why the main village didn't have a trade store, I was told 'Too much credit'. We then came back to the main village and met more of the locals. Most of the elders were attending a Christian Leaders 3 Day Camp run by the minister from Motorina Is but we were able to meet with them as they were on their lunch break. Throughout our stay here we heard beautiful singing wafting across the bay. The villagers sing without effort and of course have no instruments. Someone, usually one of the women, sings the first word and they all join in. Of course everywhere we went we were followed by the children. There were hoards of them as it is Term Holiday.
1/10 After a final farewell to the villagers, we set off for Nivani Is. It was once again a hair-raising trip through the lagoon to the passage through the reef. At one stage Judy standing on the pulpit and the GPS disagreed on the course. Judy could see suspect yellow patches, but the GPS could not. A short domestic ensued, we made contact with a patch of coral and stopped. A few manoeuvres and we were away again and this time Judy 's course was followed.
Now in Nivani in the Deboyne Group near Panapompom and Panaete, more despatches after we explore these islands.
The last epistle took us up to arrival in Nivani from Brooker, over a week ago. Now read on ...
Nivani is a small uninhabited island south of Panapompom which is much larger and site of several villages. They are separated by only a few hundred metres of shallow water. At some time in the 50's an Australian named Dusty Miller introduced coconut palms for the copra industry. Apparently copra is in over-supply, so none is produced here now, although one man told us there are plans to build a processing plant on Panapompom. With no industry, only fishing or tending gardens occupy the inhabitants.
Just off the northern tip of Nivani is the sunken wreck of a WWII Japanese Zero fighter. It lies in only 2 - 3 metres of water, so is easily snorkelled to. It is incredibly well preserved. The tail is covered in soft corals, the fuselage is intact, the pilot's seat is intact, the joystick is intact, one wing is visible, (the other just below the sand), the propellers are visible, one blade is slightly bent and there is a split in the cowling through which parts of the engine can be seen. Many fish use it as home. A moray eel is also supposed to live there. The story goes that one "dim-dim" (i.e. someone with white skin), sat in the pilot's seat playing with the joystick, when the moray eel bit him!
Apparently there was an allied post on the top of the hill which shot it down, (or a Japanese post on the top of the hill which shot it down). Both versions have the pilot making a belly-landing and swimming ashore.
In our previous anchorages (except Motorina) we were the only boat. When we arrived in Nivani, there were three other boats. Two left the next day, but 4 others arrived, with a fifth arriving after that. These boats carried Swiss, German, Spanish, Swedish, Kiwi and American sailors or passengers. On Saturday afternoon, it was suggested that we have a get-together on shore for drinks and a pot-luck meal. A vast feast appeared - curried lamb from us, fish, paella, salads, rice, etc from the others. This was laid out on banana fronds on the ground. The local teacher with his wife and two small daughters also joined us. He provided the wood for the fire using his machete. Everyone walks around with a machete which is used for cutting wood, climbing coconut palms, cutting off the coconuts, splitting them, slashing weeds in gardens, cutting grass so that it looks mown, harvesting garden produce, (paw paws, tapioca etc), even building houses.
After the meal, the Spaniards brought out two guitars. The whole family entertained us with many songs. No-one else was feeling brave/confident enough to have a go. They really were good - in fact the daughter is a music teacher and is studying for a PhD in music therapy in Brisbane.
Judy had been to a small service on Motorina and been very enthused by the singing. So I went to Panapompom to see/hear for myself. (No lightning strikes as I entered). The service was supposed to start at 11:30, and indeed a few people did go in then. Eventually a few hymns were sung, the Pastor and his assistant offered prayers and l-o-n-g sermons. People came and went throughout. We eventually excused ourselves at 1pm.
The church was built with solid timber poles and beams, with woven leaves for the roof and walls. The floor was sand with woven mats for seating - men on the left, women on the right. The singing was good though.
The church and the huts are cool even when it is hot and humid outside. Breeze finds its way through the walls and the huts, which are a metre or so above the ground have floors of split wood with gaps between, so more ventilation. There are windows and doorways in each wall which gives good cross ventilation. Occasionally you see a roof of corrugated iron and sometimes a hut built with flat tin walls, but usually these are vacant. They are too hot!
We did a bit more snorkelling around the point on the southern side of Nivani. It was quite good, colourful corals within a meter or two depth.
On Monday, only one boat remained. Some were heading further west to PNG or Australia, the rest of us went to Bwagaoia Harbour on Misima Island. We passed through the reef without incident and started sailing in a fresh breeze. Unfortunately we had to sail 30 deg off our course, and tacking back was even further off, so we motor-sailed the rest of the way. When we were only 50m away from the channel markers, the water depth was more than 150m; at the markers it was 20m! We anchored in 8m opposite the wharves of Bwagaoia.
Bwagaoia Harbour is only about 400m long by about 50m wide, opening to the south. The eastern and northern shores are all mangroves. The western shore is where it all happens. There are three trade stores, one of which houses the Post Office. A bakery is a welcome provider of good fresh bread at 1pm. The Guest House about 200m up the hill did a big bag of laundry for K10 (about $5). For the same amount each we had a meal there one night, which wasn't bad considering there were 17 of us.
The town itself is pretty shabby, rubbish everywhere. The basketball court, netball court and soccer field were in pretty bad state of repair. Houses are western style, mainly elevated and built in fibro or hardiplank material. Mangy, skinny dogs roam around with no discernible owner.
Most of the money comes from the gold mine about 4km from town. It is in wind-down phase and will close sometime next year. This will have a big impact on the town; I wonder if the Korean store owners will stay when the money dries up?
Next to the one of the wharves is the growers' market. An open shed with fairly new iron roof which collects rainwater in two large fibreglass tanks. The water is supposed to be good, but the flow from the tap is very slow. People come from neighbouring islands to sell their wares, mainly fruit and veg, but some had smoked fish. The main product on offer was betel nut which the islanders chew with mustard and powdered lime (the mineral, not the fruit). I guess it has some sort of narcotic effect, but the most noticeable effect is the reddening of their teeth. It is supposed to be carcinogenic too.
Quarantine and Customs Formalities
After hoisting our "Q" (yellow) flag, the Quarantine Officer, Kingsford, appeared. He took away our carefully almost-empty Honey jar but let us keep the few eggs we declared. Interestingly, the same honey is on sale in the trade stores. He had a look in the pantry and frig, but wasn't too bothered with any of that. Our clearance fee was K50.
The next day Customs Officer, Leonard, showed up. He was supposed to come the previous day but when he saw the number of boats waiting he went home, tired. Anyway, the formalities were completed without any problems, nor questions about why it it took 4 weeks after we cleared from Townsville.
One of the other sailors arranged for us to get a 'bus' (a tabletop truck with wooden bench seats). Air-conditioned of course, the PVC sides rolled up. We took a ride north along a pretty rough dirt road for about 10km through traditional villages to a village where our guide joined us. The cave was in a spectacular location on the edge of a cliff about 60m above the rock platform and sea below. It was pretty small, just enough room for two people to squat down. Arrayed in front were about a dozen skulls and bones, but as the floor fell away into the darkness at about 45 degrees, it was impossible to know how many deceased were in there. The 'guide' didn't really know much about who they were, how old, etc, etc as these remains had been there long before any of the village elders could recall. In fact, they don't have any information about them! One of our yachties thought they weren't victims of cannibalism, because the skulls were intact. So it was probably some sort of burial area.
Apart from a bit of shopping we were able to buy some diesel fuel, a little petrol for the outboard, and more importantly, replenish our water. We filled from the market's tank when we could, but it was very slow. Other times we used the tap at the wharf which was only turned on between 6am and 9am. Some people said the water was treated, others said not. 'Only for washing', they said. So we took no chances and kept it all separate from our remaining Townsville water, and treated it with bleach (30ml/100l).
The consensus was to go 18NM south to Kamatal Island and lagoon with the wind in a favourable direction, ie not on the nose. A pleasant sail saw us arrive about lunchtime and, after consulting mud maps and negotiating reefs we were anchored in 10m of water. Kamatal is a group of small islands and sand cays. We snorkelled near one of the cays, beautiful aquamarine near the sand, rapidly progressing to deep blue in 20m. Nice coral formations and myriads of colourful fish made it a great experience.
With winds forecast to increase, we decided Kamatal with the reef behind us, was not the best place to be, so we headed further south. We are now in Blue Lagoon which is between three small islands. These are only a mile northwest of Pana Numara island where there are several villages. Only one other yacht is here, a boat from Canada. The yachts we were with in Kamatal have gone to a neighbouring island. We will meet up with them in a couple of days.
In our last episode, Paul & Judy were in Blue Lagoon, after leaving Kamatal Lagoon. We were only there for one day as it was pretty exposed, and strengthening SE winds were forecast, so we moved about 1.5 miles to Pananumara. This was a good anchorage although we sometimes got 'bullets' of 25 kts, it was less than on the other side of the island. We finished up staying a week there because of the winds, and the nice people that we met.
Bernard George sure is a nice bloke.
Bernard introduced himself soon after we arrived, but we had heard of him from other cruisers to his island. He is the son of missionaries, in his 50's we guess. He has a grown up family back in PNG from his first wife, and another 5 kids, much younger in Pananumara. When he lived on mainland PNG he was involved with the maritime trade and college.
During the week other boats joined us, so sundowner drinks and nibbles were held on each boat. We were invited to Bernard's church for the Sunday service. Interestingly there are two churches for the small village, one Uniting, the other Uniting Charismatic Mission (Bernard's). The entire service was sung to the accompaniment of three guitars (all playing D, G, A7 and C for the whole hour). At the conclusion of this part, Bernard escorted us out so we didn't have to stay for the whole session. Our friends on 'Sowelu' had promised the other pastor that they would attend his service too, so they had a long morning.
As we prepared to leave Pananumara, we saw 'Sapphire Lass' approaching. They were carrying charts for our friends on 'Windchimes', Greg and Janise. They had just arrived in the Louisiades from Bundaberg and are continuing on to the Solomons. So another day was spent in the bay, with drinkies aboard Meridian.
At each anchorage, the the initial contact with the islanders is when they arrive in their canoes with some garden produce. Every adult has a garden and is expected to supply produce for the meals. Once married, that produce must feed both husband and wife, and ultimately the children, so a productive garden is essential. When a couple marries, they are frequently from different islands as villages are really family groups (grandparents, sons, daughters, grandchildren), so the couple will go to either the husband or wife's village to live. To begin with they will live with a family member until their house is built. This is done with family and friends helping ... the men cut the frame timbers and poles that support the house and the women weave the sides and some of the roof (some is woven in situ). Land for the house is allocated and does not have to be bought; land for the garden is selected within the family or clan area so the 'owner', (wife or husband) will already have an established garden that provides their food.
The gardens have to be seen to be believed. Most are on steep slopes. They have to be cut from the virgin bush/jungle using only machetes and digging sticks. Firstly the bush and small saplings are cut. The latter are left about half a meter high, the tops of these are stripped and cut into lengths of about 1.5 metres. Once the area is dry it is fired. Next the cleared area is gridded i.e. horizontal boughs are laid across the slope and then boughs are laid down the slope. This makes squares of about 1.5 metres. The saplings that were left in the ground are used as supports for the horizontals. Where none exist, stakes must be driven into the ground. This is quite a job as the slope is often as steep as 45 degrees! Each square has to be dug, so the owner has a big task. If he/she enlists the help of others, the cost is food for the day. We have seen up to 20 men digging a new garden. That owner has more than one garden so could pay the workers. Obviously each persons garden starts as a small affair. Digging is done with a sharpened stick about crow bar size. Some villagers do have iron ones they have bought, but these are few and far between. Because they haven't any fertilizers, after 2 to 3 years, the ground must be left to recover, so a new garden has to be dug and planted before the old one stops producing. As the sun rises it immediately begins to raise the 27 degree overnight temperature to 30 degrees plus. There is no twilight this far north, most of the garden work is done in the blazing sun. These islanders are very fit. Digging their gardens and paddling their canoes give them superb upper body strength and walking up and down the steep slopes give them lower body strength and aerobic fitness. Any gym junkie would be green with envy if they saw their physique! And all of this is done on two mainly vegetarian meals per day!
Cul de Sac lagoon
Paul on Margaritaville invited us to join him in his secret lagoon on the reef. Aria II had already joined him, so we set off heading north again. The entry to the lagoon was pretty easy with a minimum depth of about 6.5m under the keel. Anchoring was on sand in about 10m of water. This really was like a cul de sac, with sand banks and coral either side of the channel where we anchored. Later we were joined by "Seaing Double" and "Sowelu'. Not far away was an entrance through the reef, with a small island and sand cay. We snorkelled here in the afternoon and to say we were boggled is an understatement. The number and variety of fishes was unbelievable. I likened it to peak hour at Wynyard station - streams of fish going in all directions. Peter from Aria II tried spearing some coral trout but they were too far away for him to hit them. As the speargun fired, the fish heard the click and took off. It really was an amazing experience, so we will have to go back again.
We went back the next day, but the current was quite strong and the fish not so numerous, but Peter and Robert were successful in spearing some big fish (grouper and barramundi cod). We ate some of the grouper on 'Nereus' with Andrew and Robyn.
The next day all but 'Nereus' left - Aria II for Blue Lagoon, Margaritaville for Bwagaoia, Seaing Double for Gigila, followed by us.
This was a quite anchorage near a few small villages. Soon after anchoring we had the inevitable canoes alongside offering to trade. Usually it is things like pawpaw, shells, coconuts, bananas. In return we give them fishing line, hooks, flour, rice, sugar, clothes. One man asked for a plane for working timber. I didn't have one (even for myself) but offered him a wood rasp and some sandpaper. Judy also gave his wife some clothes for their baby. He was very happy with that, and asked what we wanted. I said that crayfish would be nice. Sure enough, that afternoon he returned with a good sized crayfish. Another man also offered to get us crays but he needed to borrow my 'diving-glass'. With some trepidation I handed them over. All afternoon I anxiously waited ... and waited. Finally just on sunset, he appeared with 4 crays -two of reasonable size, the others on the small side. For his troubles I gave him some lamp oil (kerosene is expensive and they usually don't have any). Judy gave him a pair of her cargo-style shorts. He was very happy with both trades. So after a month, our second cray meal was in hand.
Greg and Janise left Bundaberg after numerous delays. They came through the reef in the south east and made their way west. Finally we met at Hessessai Bay on Pana Tinani. We first met in the Great Sandy Straits on our first cruise north in 2000. We are all members of the Coastal Cruising Club and Ham radio operators, so Greg and I had several conversations on marine or Ham frequencies. Greg was able to pick up a spare exhaust elbow for our generator (the one I fixed on Magnetic Island) along with a few other essentials such as balloons, popping corn and a printer cartridge.
After sundowner drinks, we were able to treat them to a crayfish dinner. Windchimes had been here two years ago, and they are enjoying renewing acquaintances. When they entered Hessessai Bay, they were very pleased to be greeted enthusiastically by Ray and Nathaniel. The boys went off and found some crays for us, so another cray meal, this time on Windchimes.
Yesterday Nathaniel came out on his banana boat with the Yamaha 40HP outboard motor not working. Greg and I spent about an hour trying everything, but we couldn't get it to run for more than a few seconds. I suspected the slow-running jet but without a manual we were reluctant to pull the carbie apart. He would have to wait for the other boat owner to return from Misisma.
Later Ray and Nathaniel invited all of is to have dinner at their home. When we arrived we were surprised to see the spread that they had prepared - chicken, yams, potatoes, rice, bread rolls, biscuits. They had obviously gone to a lot of trouble, and we were honoured to have been asked. Their mother wears traditional grass skirt, which we have seen only once before. We gave them rice, sugar, tea, a digging stick, glasses, sunglasses, lamp oil, tools. Janise will pick up some grass skirts for her grand-daughters on our way back.
Today we left Hessessai Bay for Manua bay on Tegula Island. Windchimes had called in here soon after arriving and thought the people particularly nice, so we came back with them.
From here we will return to Pananumara - Greg has a sewing machine for Bernard George. Then to Bagaman Island to give Morris some tools. We will probably go back to Cul de sac lagoon before Misima to check out. West of Bwagaoia is a small village at Ebora with good water from a dam, so we will go there to replenish our tanks before going back to Nivani/Panapompom. We will await a suitable weather window and head for Townsville, sometime around the middle of November.
Good Evening One and all,
Its been a while since our last update. We are now on the high seas on our way back to Townsville. You *have* been checking http://winlink.findu.com/VK2AHB every day haven't you?
In the last episode, we were in Mahua Bay. We went ashore there and were guided by Hilda to her village. Greg and Janise from Windchimes had met Elimo James on their boat, when they had first arrived in the Louisiades and we thought we'd go visit him. Mahua Bay is on the northwest coast of Tagula Is (called Sudest by the natives). The bay is in a mangrove area, so the villages are built up on a ridge some distance from the shore. This is quite different from all the other villages we have seen on the other islands.
Anyway we walked up hill and down dale for about 4 - 5 km to get to Elimo James' village, passing through 5 other villages on the way. These villages seemed poorer than the others we had seen - clothes quite ragged, kids with protruding bellies. When we eventually reached Elimo James', village, he was away, but we did meet his mother (who didn't speak English). We returned to the boats and enjoyed freshwater prawns that we traded for clothes. One of the villagers, Sam, claimed to be a woodcarver and offered to carve our boat name. We declined, but Greg took him up. As it would take two days to complete, we decided that we'd go on to Nimoa Is and meet Windchimes back in Hessessai Bay.
Nimoa was only about 10 miles NW from Mahua so it didn't take long to be anchored in the bay. The locals were preparing for a "memory feast" for someone who had died some years before. It was to be a big one - we were told maybe 20 to 30 pigs for 200 - 300 people. These feasts are quite a big event - the locals built temporary housing for the visitors.
Nimoa is a Catholic mission with very attractively decorated church, trade store, small hospital and school. We went ashore to visit the school and got there just before 3pm. We met the Principal, but the children were busy in the cemetery. Saturday was All Saints Day, so the girls were sweeping the grounds and the boys were slashing the grass with their bush knives.
Sailing canoes (pron. selling KEN'oo) were arriving from all over, carrying guests for the feast. That night there was a lot of movement on shore. We decided that we'd move on and leave the excitement to the locals. Again, it was a fairly short hop back up to Hessessai Bay where we were rejoined by Windchimes. Greg had his boat name, carved on a piece of timber that might have been off a pallet! It was OK, but no great example of the woodcarvers art, such as from the Trobriand or Solomon Islands.
Grass Skirts and Rain
Friday is traditional dress day at Hobuk School - boys wear a sort of lap-lap made of pandanus and banana leaf, while the girls wear grass skirts with or without a lei of green leaves. The grass skirt is made from coconut leaves finely cut into strips, some of which is dyed purple (Dylon) or grey (mud). We visited the school with Geoff and Gwenda from "Willow", Marilyn and Des from "Tasha" and Andrew and Robyn from "Nereus".
Again, Nat and Ray came good with the crayfish for dinner. Saturday we went ashore to do some washing at a small waterhole as our water was running low. That afternoon we had a boatful of visitors as Julian had some DVDs to play, but no petrol for his generator. So we put on a Jackie Chan disc for them. Later we showed Nat, Ray and others "The Blues Brothers". Not much reaction from them, even when hundreds of cars were being trashed. Sunday and Monday, it poured! We managed to fill our tanks plus spare jerries, about 500 litres.
Tuesday the rain had gone so we moved back west to Gigila Is. When we were just about to leave there earlier, a woman asked us for a pillow or a towel. Her husband Melchior had fallen from a tree two years ago and was a paraplegic. She (Vreni) had to look after him and turn him every two hours. It's hard to imagine how hard their life must be in such conditions. Anyway, we told her that we may have something for her but we would have to look for it and that we'd be back. When one of the local children came out to 'trade' we gave her a note to take to Vreni. Vreni was out at 8am the next day and was very appreciative of the foam (which had been a v-berth cushion we had to dig out from under our bunk). We were also able to give her towels and some clothes.
Time was marching on and we had to get back to Bwagaoia soon to check out. Next stop was back to Pana Numara and Bernard George. Greg had found a Singer sewing machine to replace Bernard's broken one. He was able to transfer the hand mechanism from one to the other, and Bernard was happy. So were we when Joshua came good with the crays we had asked for last time. Next stop - Bagaman Island. We hadn't been there before so were looking forward to seeing it. The anchorage was in a very pretty bay with colourful trees lining the shore - they almost looked autumnal. We rafted up alongside "Windchimes" as we had done in all the previous anchorages. That night we were awoken by the graunching, crunching sound of coral against steel - we had swung around with wind and tide so we were over bommies. Greg pulled up some chain which moved us from the immediate source of noise, but it it put us over another so continued through the night. There was very little sleep until the tide rose. Next morning we moved a bit further out, clear of the bommies.
Greg and Janice had spent a week here two years ago, so were welcomed royally by Morris, Gulo and Simmie. With the two boats tied together, there was a constant stream of canoes tied up on both sides. Once again, a request was made for videos. We weren't sure what they wanted, or their understanding, so we put on 'A Bug's Life'. At one time we had about 12 people in the cabin. Later Gulo and tribe arrived around 7pm for more video! We called it off, claiming our batteries needed charging. The last of the visitors left around 9:30 pm - quite a tiring day.
Our track back to Bwagaoia took us past the cul-de-sac lagoon that we had visited earlier - the one with the great snorkelling. This time however it was quite cloudy and a strong breeze made snorkelling impossible, but we were able to show Windchimes the way in so they will visit it on their way back from The Solomon Islands.. Again we were rafted together. At 5am we were both awoken by our anchor alarm - the breeze had come up and the GPS was showing us as moving backwards towards the reef, quite quickly! The cul-de-sac is only about 80m wide. Greg had been awoken at the same time. We motored forward, then Greg let out more chain. We were OK, but it was not a restful situation! When the rain eased and visibility was reasonable, we crept out with Windchimes following. Apart from a few close calls (depth sounder going from 20m to 10m) we got out and through the reef without incident. We like steel boats! From there we were able to motor-sail to Bwagaoia for Clearing Out.
Leonard the Customs Officer came down and gave us our Clearance Certificate that afternoon. As it was after 5pm I suggested a beer - which was readily accepted. Windchimes, Tasha and Willow came in after us but not having officially cleared in, we couldn't visit Windchimes. However Graham the Quarantine officer gave them a clearance so they could go ashore. That night we all went to the Misima Guest House for dinner which was quite good, particularly the ice cream desert.
The next day was spent doing a bit of shopping (ice cream!), getting fuel and trying to get Greg's computer to work. His monitor had blown up on the way up from Bundaberg, so after many emails, radio conversations and phone calls, a new flat screen was on its way from Townsville via Cairns and the Misima Mines plane.
On Friday Tasha, Willow and Meridian left Bwagaoia for points south and west. We headed back to Nivani/Panapompom in the De Boyne Group. Windchimes were still waiting for the official clearance paper so they would follow the next day. On arrival, we were met by Toby, Martin and others that we'd met earlier.
A request for crays was met, that afternoon we had 2 large crays to share with Greg and Janise. Later Toby came to us in his canoe - "Can you help me?" Now when that question comes, you wonder - what next, material, soap, shampoo, kerosene, petrol?? It was fish hooks; he'd lost his last one. I gave him two. Later, around 8pm when we were enjoying an entree of pan-fried crays with ginger and garlic, there was a knock on the hull - Toby had some fish. He cleaned a large one for us which was chucked on the barbie. We asked him to come back next day to give him some goods in exchange.
Greg and Janise had friends Able and Akiriba (sp??) in Panapompom. They took over some glasses that they had donated by an optician. These were distributed to many of the older villagers. Able has a large sailing canoe and he agreed to take us to Panaete on/in it.
The last time we were here, we had tried to arrange a canoe trip to Panaete where they build them. That time there wasn't any wind so the trip was off. This time we would be picked up at 7am "island time" Monday. I had been watching the weather patterns forecast for the coming week and was anxious to go. When 8:30 came and went, with no sign of activity on shore I said to Greg 'if they aren't here by 9am I am going'. They must have heard me, because at 8:45 they were roaring across the bay. Soon we were all aboard along with the cargo. Janise is a teacher and she had been collecting masses of material from schools that was going to be thrown out. She had 10 large bags full of encyclopaedias, readers, teaching aids, pens, pencils, etc.
It sure was a great experience zooming along in about 10 - 15 knots of breeze. The canoe needs 4 men to sail it. Because it is an outrigger, tacking involves changing ends. This means that the sail has to be run from one end to the other. The sail is made of garden plastic or tarpaulin material with a gaff. The for'd hand unties the tack and runs along the 1 inch wide gunwale while the mast stays are re-tensioned, and the steerer swaps ends.
Steering is by a large paddle which the helmsman holds against the end of the canoe with his foot. He then adjusts the angle and depth to set his course. The whole operation is a marvel to watch.
When we arrived outside the school, we were met by every child there - about 230 of them! It was a work day so there were no classes. Some of them were conscripted to help carry the bags up to the Headmaster's office where senior girls helped with unpacking. Judy and Janise being teachers couldn't help themselves and *had* to sort and organise it all.
After a tour of the school and classrooms, we wandered through several villages until we found a canoe under construction. They are made without plans and with fairly primitive tools. The reason that are built in Panaete is because the timber for them grows there and nowhere else.
Our trip back was slower and wetter because of long tacks needed against the wind, but we didn't mind. It certainly was a highlight of the trip, and we were certainly pleased to have had the experience. After a final meal on board Windchimes, along with Able, wife, kids, and canoe crew a long day came to an end.
Tuesday 8am we weighed anchor and set off for Townsville. We expect to arrive Monday morning to clear in and relax in the Breakwater Marina for a while. Then we need to rearrange the boat, pick up our stored goods and re-stow it all.
I am writing this from memory as I don't have the log with me.
The forecast winds from the GRIB file were for E - SE 10-15kts. When we left on Tuesday morning at 8am, the wind was almost southerly just the direction we had to go. We motor-sailed until through Jomard Passage, passing a few large ships on their way to Japan or Korea. We were then able to sail, but with the wind fairly close to 'on the nose'. Eventually it swung more to the south-east and we were able to put a few miles behind us, 140 in a day. This was with two reefs in the main and partly furled headsail.
On about the 4th day the wind dropped so we wallowed for a while until we decided that we'd put the motor on. This was so that we could make it to Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island by Sunday afternoon. As we neared the Great Barrier Reef, the wind swung around to the north-west with a bit of strength, so we were able to sail the rest of the way.
With some relief we anchored there for the night and had a good sleep. Monday morning, bright and early we left Horseshoe Bay at 7am and set off for Townsville to clear in with Customs and Quarantine. This was quite straightforward; we had to give up some fruit, veg and meat. It was interesting to see the swabs used to detect narcotics and marijuana - none found of course. After that we were free to pull down the yellow 'Q' flag and proceed to our berth in the marina.
The next few days were spent sorting out the boat, hiring a car and retrieving our stored items, then stowing same. We also caught up with Chris, Nicole, Andre and Robert from "Seaing Double", and Bruce and Bev from "Mazury". Some walks along The Strand were always enjoyable, it really is a fantastic asset for Townsville. Eventually we had to give up the high life of 240V shore power, air-conditioning and ice creams and setoff again.
We spent another night in Horseshoe Bay where we met French couple Michel and Beatrice from "Chi Od". We first met them in Blackwattle Bay, then again in Coffs Harbour. Naturally when meeting old friends we had to have sundowner drinks. They kindly gave us their cruising notes for Vanuatu - they might come in handy next year.
From Horseshoe Bay we headed south for Airlie Beach. We had a good breeze when we left, but it gradually eased in strength and direction during the day. We had planned stopping at Cape Upstart, but It was north-westerly so we continued on, following "Mazury" who had left Cape Bowling Green that morning. We finally arrived in Queens Bay, Bowen around 1:30am in the middle of a thunderstorm. Next morning we went around to anchor outside the Bowen Boat Harbour, where "Mazury" had secured a berth.
Sightseeing and lunch in Bowen were not the most memorable of occasions - we don't think we'll rush back to Bowen real soon.
Another north-westerly day gave us a pretty good run to Airlie Beach where we anchored. Because Airlie faces north, northerly winds cause the swell to build up so it gets quite bouncy in there. After a couple of days we moved onto the mooring that we had booked. The owner will keep his eye on Meridian while we are away.
On Friday 12th Dec, we travelled to Hamilton Is by ferry to catch our flight to Sydney where we were met by Meredith and Claire-bear.