Tuesday, October 7, 2008

(no subject)

Apologies for the delay in updating the blog. It has been a combination of no reception or spare frequencies at some anchorages and very full days when I've not had time to write the update. Needless to say all is well onboard and everyone is going fine and having a ball. But with the problems with communications we will be seriously looking at Satellite phones before we go into remote areas again.

8/10/08 Boboeina Is at anchor

Birthday wishes to Val. Don't know when she will get to see this but I'm sure that she knows we will be having a drink to her tonight.

All 3 rally boats here were planning to depart for Gigila Is today, about a 2 hour trip. "Hadja" departed around 10 am after they finally got their anchor up. They were snagged on coral bommies so I swam over with diving mask on and was able to direct them from the water at their bow. Their chain was wrapped around one bommie and their anchor caught under another. The water was clear enough for me to see the bottom from the surface in 15 metres of water.

We and "Kooltandra" were planning to depart around midday but just before then we had tropical downpours come in and it was too late to leave by the time the rain had cleared - not that anyone was disappointed, this spot is just magic. But I'm sure Gigila will be equally enchanting.

A late problem surfaced today - the GenSet shut down with an overheat error after only 35 mins of running and it wasn't as hot today because of the rain. Looks like another maintenance morning for Patrick & I before we leave for Gigila.

7/10/08 Boboeina Is at anchor

A relaxing day with a chance to catch up on some washing and boat chores in between swimming, reading, swimming, kayaking, swimming etc all in the most beautiful setting. Once we are back in Australia with broadband Internet access I will post photos of the area because words just cannot do it justice.

The day was concluded with sundowners on "Lettin'Go". Joining us was Bruce off "Swaggy" as well as the crews from "Hadja" and "Kooltandra". "Swaggy" isn't a rally boat but was in the same anchorage so we invited him over. He is on his own at present as his wife had to return to Australia for medical treatment of an injury received on the boat. Consequently, Bruce is looking for crew to assist him get the boat back to Australia, hopefully one of the rally boats might be able to assist. It is Bruce's 4th trip to the Louisiades and he was a wealth of knowledge about the area and the local customs.

6/10/08 Bwagoia Harbour, Misima Is to Boboeina Is (Position 11.07.3 S , 152.43.4 E)

The harbour was a hive of activity Monday morning as crews were organising fuel & supplies before departing. We only need one jerry can of outboard fuel and some fresh bread from the bakery so we were completed fairly quickly and got away by mid morning. As previously mentioned, the harbour is only small. Not mentioned but implied was the poor water quality in the harbour. On the shore there was a local public toilet that was out over the water where the sewerage went straight into the harbour, combined with 24 yachts in there for 3 days the ecolli count would have been fairly high. Although the local kids swim in the harbour we disinfected all our ropes and shoes once we departed. Talking of the kids swimming in the harbour, it is shared with a couple of crocodiles - the largest about 2 metres long. We asked the kids about swimming with the crocs and they reply was that they were friendly crocs. The local men said that they move the crocs on once they get much bigger than 2 metres.

The rally fleet has 6 days before we met again for our next activity so the fleet is scattering to get some R&R time. We are going to Boboeina Is with "Hadja" and "Kooltandra" 2 other cats in the rally. None of us have been there before but it looked good when we sailed pass it going from Bagaman to Blue Lagoon. Outside the harbour there was hardly any wind so we motored all the way. Managed to catch 2 good size green jobfish on the way. I filleted one and gave the other and the frame to a local at Boboeina Is. The are no permanent villages at the island but 2 temporary ones that are used when the people come across from Bagaman Is to tend their crops here.

It is a beautiful anchorage off a white sandy beach with palm trees and the thick forest coming right down to the beach from the high mountains. The water is crystal clear and the coral spectacular. We anchored in about 12 metres of water but swung back towards the shore and were sitting in 3 - 4 metres with coral all around us. As soon as the anchor was set and the boat organised we were all off the back of the boat for a swim - the first for 3 days after being in the harbour. It was fantastic - water temp at 29 degrees, the best coral we have snorkeled in the Louisiades and heaps of tropical fish that are not afraid of us and swim all around us.

To round off a great destination we all got together on "Hadja" for sundowners. After a few drinks it was decided that we 3 boats, "Hadja", "Kooltandra" and "Lettin'Go" would be the core of a small fleet to cruise the Kimberly Coast together next year with a possible further 3 boats that we think will be in it.

4 & 5 Oct 2008 Bwagoia Harbour, Misima Is

The people of Misima had planned a big weekend of celebrations to welcome the yachties and showcase their culture. It started with the yachties assembling on the wharf where we were greeted by children in traditional dress doing dances to welcome us. We were lead in procession from the wharf to the oval by several different dance groups and arrived at the oval to find several hundred locals waiting to witness & participate in the celebrations. The people had come from all over the island and several groups had walked over the mountains from the northern side of the island which is not joined by road. Special seating was provided for the yachties as the guests of honour, unfortunately the seating was on the oval without any shade. After the official welcome speeches we were able to move about so it wasn't too bad and we were able to get out of the sun by 11 am. It was a huge program the people of Misima put together and it was as much for themselves as for the yachties. The island once had a large mining operation but that has closed recently and the island economy hasn't recovered as they are still trying to establish alternatives. Attracting more cruising yachts to the island is seen as an alternate income source as it is one of the few places in the area where you can get fuel and trade stores.

During Saturday the yacht crews went up to the Misima Guest House to do our Customs clearance. Since the mine closed Misima isn't an official port of entry into PNG but the rally organised to fly the customs officer to Misima to clear us all in & out. As a consequence there were several other cruising yachts at Misima to take advantage of the arrangements. The other cruising yachts were charged a small fee by the rally organiser and the money went as a donation to the local hospital so everyone was happy with the arrangements. By midday the guest house recreation room was full of yachties chatting over a beer while waiting their turn to be processed by customs at a table in the middle of the room. It was very informal but worked well.

Sunday started with combined church services at the oval which several of the yachties attended. This was followed by a Pempewa ceremony. It is a gift giving ceremony where people line up in 2 lines facing each other and you exchange gifts. On one side were the local women and the other were the yachties. The Pempewa was very popular with the local women and the were 250 involved but only about 60 yachties so we made up several gifts each and kept reforming the line to exchange with a new set of women. The rally organisers gave us a list of suggested items for the gifts and suggested about 10 Kena ($5) per gift. We got to the Pempewa to find the women with baskets full of fresh fruit & vegs and handicrafts. It was a terrific but humbling experience to see people with so little giving so much. Talking with some afterwards we learnt that for them it was the giving that was important not so much what they received from us. As you can imagine we were laden down with gifts having participated 4 or 5 time each and the local women came forward to help us all carry our gifts down to the wharf to transport back to our boats. Once on our boats we sorted through the food items and the surplus was taken to the hospital the next day.

3/10/08 Blue Lagoon to Bwagoia Harbour, Misima Is (Position 10.42.0 S, 152.51.0 E)

Knowing that we are going to be in Bwagoia Harbour for 3 nights and that the water quality there was very poor, we ran the watermaker in the clear waters of Blue Lagoon and filled our water tank before leaving. It was a great sail to Misima with winds of 15/20kts off our beam for most of the way over and it was only the last 5 Nm where it dropped to 10/15kts . It was 29Nm trip and we did it in under 4 hrs which included anchoring in Bwagoia Harbor. Bwagoia Harbor isn't very big, in fact you could call it fairly small. There were 16 Rally yachts plus another 8 non rally yachts in the harbor over the weekend in a space for 13 max. Guy Chester got us organised with bow anchors into the mangroves and a stern anchor to stop us from swinging, and arranged for the cats up the northern end of the harbor in the shallower waters and the mono's up towards the mouth where the deeper water was. Frank & his crew off "Kooltandra" were in their dinghy ready to help the cats coming in to deploy the stern anchors. It all went like clock work and we were all settled in short time waiting for Quarantine to clear us into PNG, which happened on each boat without any drama. That evening we had the local choirs singing on the wharf which could be heard throughout the harbour. It heralded the start to a very special weekend.

2/10/08 Bagaman Is to Blue Lagoon (Position 11.08.0 S, 152.45.5 E)

A relaxing morning at Bagaman was planned before going around to the Blue Lagoon. We all had a snorkel around the boat. The water was clear and there was a variety of coral in about 2 - 4 metres of water. The relaxing didn't last long as we found we had a problem with the generator. There was no salt water flowing out the exhaust - the salt water flow is part of the engine cooling system. Patrick & I started at the water intake end and worked our way up the the genset engine where we found the impellor in the salt water pump had lost a blade. Fortunately we located the broken blade at the opening to the heat exchanger where it had blocked the flow of water. It was in one piece and nothing had got into the heat exchanger otherwise we would of had a major job on our hand. As it was, it was a hot and humid task as our genset is located in the back of long narrow cupboard - by the time we had finished I was wringing wet from sweat and just fell overboard to cool down.

It was a humid morning so several swims were had before all the rally boats at Bagaman left for Blue Lagoon around 11 am. It was only 5Nm and the winds were flukey with rain squalls so we motored all the way. Luck would have it that we stuck a heavy rain squall while going into the lagoon and it was impossible to see the channel or the coral reef. Fortunately "Sanctuary" was already anchored in the lagoon and guided us in via the VHF radio.

All went ashore for a beach BBQ. There were plenty of light rain squalls but it wasn't a problem in the tropics with the temperature over 30 degrees. It was the first time we yachties had had time to socialise with just ourselves without a function with a local village so it was good to relax and share a drink & chat.

1 Oct 2008 Nivani Is to Bagaman Is (Bagaman position 11.07.3 S , 152.42.2 E)

The start of another beautiful day in paradise. Had the usual early morning visits from the local kids in canoes. Some look that young that they wouldn't have been walking long and they are out in canoes. The youngest sit in the middle and have bailing duties which is a constant job with these low sided canoes. The kids have worked out that if they hang around the back of the yachts and look cute they will pick up lollies or score gifts like caps. Before leaving Nivani we provided Bruce off "Dancer" with some more fresh water - his watermaker isn't working. Dancer is staying at Nivani for a few more days and will rejoin the rally boats in Misima on Friday for customs & quarantine clearance.

The trip down to Bagaman Is was about 30Nm (about 55Km) and has 2 large reef passages to go through. We had light winds that were directly on the nose so we motored for all of the trip. Just after passing through the first passage leaving the lagoon around Nivani/Panpompom the weather changed and we had rain squalls develop near us. Luckily we did not have rain while negotiating through the reef passages. It is very much visual navigation here for reef passages and getting in & out of anchorages. The electronic charts are only used for larger scale navigation. There are very strong currents through this part of the Louisiades and as Murphy's Law would have it, the currents were all against us. Most of the way we had a 1.5 - 2 Kt current and up to 4 Kts through the second reef passage. It made for a long trip, 6.5 hours with no luck fishing until we were close to Bagaman when we caught a good size green jobfish and a mackerel tuna. The fishing here has been superb and we have had fresh fish most days. There was plenty of meat on the jobfish so we gave half to friends off "5 O'Clock Somewhere" and gave the tuna to "Sanctuary". The jobfish head & frame we gave to a local who saw me filleting the fish and paddled over to see if he could get the frame. All our fish frames have been claimed by local villagers so I make sure there is still plenty of meat on them.

As the trip took so long we missed much of the activities at Bagaman which included singing and traditional dances but we arrived in time to go ashore and see the carvings & handicrafts before the speeches and mumu (feast). Ann & Patrick found a few pieces of handicraft to purchase as gifts for family back in Oz.

Finally managed to connect with Mark & Susan off "La Scandell" via HF radio tonight. It was great to chat and hear their plans and we hope to catch up again on our way south down the Queensland coast. Mark has offered to do a weather watch for us as our departure for Cairns gets closer. It is good to have a backup as we have had trouble getting weather details via email over HF radio and Mark will have Internet access being on the Australian coast.

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