Thursday, September 25, 2008

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25/09/08 10pm Panasia Island (Position 11.07.871 S , 152.20.087 E)

A quick update to the details below. Position Lat & Longs have been provided so you can use Google Earth to pin point where we are.

I was hoping to get this blog update emailed this morning but the conditions were unsuitable and I couldn't get a connection. We are currently at anchor at the lagoon at Panasia Is. It is a beautiful setting much like Thailand with high cliffs, sandy beaches, fringing reef and crystal clear waters. We have caught up with a couple of the rally boats that came here directly this morning rather that coming into Duchateau but unfortunately the mood of the rally boats here is subdued with the knowledge that one of our rally companions has had their boat go up onto a reef outside the Duchateau group. It happened this morning while we were traveling across from Duchateau to Panasia. The rally organiser's boat Sanctuary had come across an hour before us and we were at the front of the remaining boats traveling across when the distress call came across on the radio. The boats closest went to see if they could assist and we being closer to Panasia acted as a radio relay boat for Sanctuary who was in the lagoon at Panasia behind the mountain and had poor reception.

At this stage it is still uncertain the condition of the yacht but we will be part of a few boats from Panasia taking manpower to Duchateau tomorrow to assist in getting personal effects of the stranded vessel. The couple on the yacht are permanent liveaboards like us so we can really feel for them, they haven't just lost their yacht but also their home. It will be devastating for them to have this happen at the end of a 5 day passage when they were coming into calm waters after a severe night at sea.

We update on the outcome in the next few days.

25/09/08 9am

We are at anchor at Duchateau Islands in the Louisiades. It is a beautiful anchorage with all the features you would expect of a tropical hideaway - palm tree covered island with white sandy beach and coral reef. We arrived yesterday at 1100 hrs and managed to catch 2 fish trolling through the channel between the islands. A 1.2m barracuda and a green jobfish. We gave the barracuda & the frame from the jobfish to some of the locals who were fishing in the area. They wanted to give us a very small lobster in exchange but we said it was a gift. Later another couple of locals paddled out to us and traded 2 t-shirts and 2 caps for 2 good sized lobsters. They were all from the same group so the fish we gave earlier would have been shared.

By yesterday evening there were 6 boats here and we all got together on "Sanctuary", the rally organiser's boat, for drinks, BBQ lobster and we all shared stories of our passage experiences.

Today it is blowing 25/30 kts and this anchorage is a bit exposed. It is a safe anchorage with crystal clear water and coral bommies but is rolly with a small swell coming in over the reef. Compared the past 4 days of the passage it is quite comfortable. Later today we will be sailing across to Panasia Island which will be more sheltered in the lagoon on the north side of the island.

I've had problems getting my last lot emails out via the HF radio, had to connect 8 times to get 3 small emails out and 2 emails with weather details in. Other boats are experiencing the same so it must be the atmospheric conditions. As a consequence I've decided to combine my blog updates and up load every 2 or 3 days.

24/09/08 1am

I'm 3 hrs into my last night watch for a few weeks. We arrive at the Louisiades tomorrow morning and it will be short day hops within the Archipelago until we do the return trip to Cairns. I've enjoyed the night passages - there is something special being at sea at night, you really tune into the rhythm of the boat. Tonight is very dark, the moon hasn't risen yet and there is total cloud cover at times as rain squalls pass through so it is difficult to see the horizon. There is plenty of phosphorescence in the water and our boat is leaving a trail of light through in our wake which is quite surreal. We are getting close to the shipping lane and have sighted several ships and had to alter course a couple of times to avoid some of the closer ones.

23/09/08 12 noon

What a difference 12 hrs & 10 kts of wind can make. Today the winds are down to 10/17 kts from the 15/27 kts of the first 2 days. The sea swell is the same but chop has reduced with wind and things are much more comfortable. Everyone is back to eating normal meals today instead of snacking on fruit & muesli bars like the last couple of days. We are 116 Nm from Duchateau and have set the sails for a steady passage to arrive at approx 0900 hrs when the sun will high enough to allow us to navigate through the coral reef into the anchorage.

Our watch system of 4 hrs each is working well. Patrick is doing 0200 - 0600 & 1400 - 1800 hrs; Ann 0600 - 1000 & 1800 - 2200 hrs; and I'm doing 1000 - 1400 & 2200 - 0200 hrs. During the day when off watch you can relax or grab a nap. Sail changes happen at between 0700 - 0800 hrs to set for the day and around 1730 hrs to set for the night passage - everyone is on deck for those.

Ocean passage is certainly different to coastal cruising. The only vessel we have seen in the last 48 hrs was a ship heading for Cairns at 0400 hrs yesterday on Patrick's watch - it got to within 3 Nm of us. I can pick up 3 vessels on the radar but none appear to be rally boats judging by their course and speed. The closest is 14 Nm away but when you look out all you can see is water. We have contact with other rally boats via radio and have scheds at 0900 & 1830 hrs where everyone gives there current position, heading and speed. Tonight a number of rally boats will converge as we head towards our common goal at Duchateau. It is also a busy shipping area so a sharp lookout will be required by the watch.

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