Tuesday, September 30, 2008

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30/09/08 Nivani at anchor

The bulk of the rally fleet left today for the next anchorage where there are planned activities with the local villages tomorrow. We decided to stay and have a R&R day and go down early tomorrow. We snorkeled over a Japanese Zero from WW2 that is in only about 3 - 4 metre of water. The coral is starting to grow over it in parts but it is still obvious what it is. The cockpit is open but the word is that it is home to a large moray eel so it was a case of look but don't climb in. The reef at the southern end of the island has some great coral especially on the edge of the drop off and we were treated to a wide variety of coral & fish while snorkeling.

Another treat today before the rally boats left was a call over the radio this morning from Stuart off "Orpailleur", one of the rally boats, he was offering free use of his Satellite phone for today. He was on a prepaid monthly plan and had heaps of time left that would expire at the end of the month. So we were able to do quick calls to family - a great opportunity to catch up briefly and tell them all was well.

29/09/08 Nivani at anchor

Today we lived up to the definition of Cruising - "Cruise is doing maintenance in exotic places". It is the first day we have had since arriving to catch up on repair jobs. Our danbouy self launched in the big seas during the passage on the way over and the flag pole came away from the float - luckily the life ring didn't go with it otherwise we would have lost the lot. We have been able to do a makeshift repair that will be OK until we get home and access to a wider range of materials. The other repair was the anchor light at the top of the mast. Patrick volunteered to go up the mast and I was very quick to accept as I'm not very good at heights. The anchor light is part of a 2 in 1 unit that houses the anchor light and the navigation lights. The nav lights are working and the anchor light was working until a couple of days ago. After checking the switch at the cockpit it looked like it was at the light end so up went Patrick in the boson's chair with a bag of tools and test gear. Fortunately it was a very calm anchorage so he wasn't swinging around at the top of a 16m mast. The light is a LED system and was new last year in January so we knew it wasn't a bulb. It turned out the the unit had water in it and a wire to the anchor light had corroded away from a junction fitting. Patrick had to bring the unit down to the deck where we were able to replace the wiring and junction block. Then another trip up to refit it. We suspect that it was not installed properly as there was no rubber seal in the unit's mounting system. Patrick took a tube of silicone sealant up and has done a temporary seal until we get back and can check how it is meant to be.

It was good to get the maintenance jobs out of the way and while it was hot work with the temperature about 32C we has several quick swims off the back of the boat. We are anchored in about 4 - 5 metres of crystal clear water with small coral outcrops scattered about with the usual variety of tropical fish - there is always something to see while swimming.

The day was topped off with sundowners (drinks & hors d'ouvre) on the back of "Lettin'Go" with friends off a couple of other yachts.

28/09/08 Nivani/ Panapompom Inaugural Canoe Regatta

The day started with a heavy downpour and things were looking very wet for the regatta. Proceedings were meant to start at 8:30 am but that was "island time" and it all started to happen around 10:30 am by which time the rain had cleared and most of the people coming from the neighbouring communities had arrived.

It turned out to be a big day, well supported by the island communities - the cash prizes donated by the local MP helped. There would have been over 200 local people attend the regatta plus about 50 yachties off 17 boats anchored in the bay. Things started with speeches then traditional dances. The dances were concluded by a group of children doing a dance depicting a dugong hunt which was fantastic. I've taken a movie of it and if it is OK I'll post it on the blog when we get back.

The regatta included 4 swimming races plus 4 paddling canoe races for Girls, Boys, Ladies & Men and 2 sailing canoe races - one for under 5m and the other for over 5m. There was much merriment amongst the locals with the races especially when something went wrong like a swimmer heading off in the wrong direction or canoes colliding. The sailing canoe races were quite a spectacle with 17 small canoes and 16 large canoes on the water together. The way they can control the sailing canoes is amazing. A special treat for us yachties was the opportunity to go for a sail on these after the race was over. To see the simplicity of the boats compared to our yachts but these are the main form of transportation here.

It was a great day and finished with a traditional feast (Mu Mu). There were fund raising activities for the yacht rally to raise money from the yachties for the local medical clinic on Panapompom.

27/09/08 Panasia to Nivani (Position 10.47.3 S, 152.23.3 E)

The conditions were prefect for us for the sail up to Nivani Is, a distance of 23Nm. We had 15/20Kts coming right on our beam for most of the trip and very little swell as we are now inside the outer reef. Lettin'Go is heavy for a cat but is a great sea boat and she revelled in the conditions sitting on 10/11 kts for most of the trip. The only downside was we were going too fast to troll for fish and only had one strike but we didn't land it. Other boats traveling slower caught more mackerel.

Nivani Is is another beautiful tropical spot that words cannot do justice so you will have to wait for the photos to be posted once we are back with Internet access. Nivani is a small uninhabited island about 1 Nm from Panapompom Is where the local village is. The people in this area have planned a big day for us tomorrow with a sailing canoe regatta. As soon as we had dropped anchor we were greeted by a man (James) in a dugout outrigger canoe who gave us a printed sheet with the program for tomorrow and had a frangipanni lae for each of us. James explained how the whole community were looking forward to the regatta and pointed to 5 huts on the beach at Nivani that had just been built for the occasion.

26/09/08 Panasia to Duchateau & Return

This morning we woke to voices outside the boat at about 6 am. It was a local family in a sailing canoe wanting to trade fruit & vegs. I don't know if it is a deliberate ploy to get us negotiating before we are fully awake or they were just very keen. I suspect it was a bit of both.

Today the 2 catamarans at Panasia, "Sanctuary" & ourselves went back to Duchateau to assist in the retrieval of personal effects off the yacht that had gone onto the reef. 3 yachties from the rally came with us, Bruce & Mark off "Dancer" and Peter from "Medusa". We anchored on the northern side of the island, went ashore and walked around the southern side where the stricken yacht was. What a sight it was - the yacht had been pushed right across the reef and onto the beach where she was sitting upright against some rocks. She has a long shallow keel which would have contributed to reducing the amount of damage sustained. She was in remarkably good shape but unfortunately will be very difficult to get out of the the reef. The reef runs about 150 metres out from the shore and she ran aground on the highest tides for some weeks. The people off the yachts that went to assist the day before had been working with the owners, Chris & Wendy, to identify the important personal things they wanted to retrieve and had taken them off the boat and stacked them on the shore. It was heartbreaking to see, Chris & Wendy were still in shock so it is hoped that they remembered the all the personal things that have special memories and can't be replaced. It was about 1 Km walk back around the island to where the yachts were moored and it was hard work carry heavy loads in soft sand at midday in the tropics. Fortunately with the number of people it could be done in one trip.

On a lighthearted note, Bruce & Mark are keen fishermen and Lettin'Go is a great fishing platform so the most was made of the trip over and back. We caught 3 good size mackerel on the way over and had 2 more onboard on the return trip when Ann pointed out we had more than enough. So lines came in for the the rest of the trip and we began preparing the fish which was completed back at Panasia. 2 of the fish were filleted into meal size pieces and 2 were done into mackerel steaks and 1 was left whole for the local villagers. A BBQ was held that evening for the rally yachts and the locals where there was plenty of fish plus a lot of the meat from Chris & Wendy's boat so no-one went hungry but also nothing was wasted.

At the BBQ, Guy, the rally organiser, presented all the boats with a rally nameplate plus some fun awards. We got the award for 1st place on handicap - it has very little to with how we performed as the handicaps were determined by a random draw both at Cairns & here at Panasia then combined together and applied to our passage time. We were the 4th boat the arrive which was good given how much we eased back to reduce the strain on the boat and crew. Also, it is a rally not a race.

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