It is 8:00 pm, the moon isn't up yet and we are in the middle of a heavy rain squall. It is totally black when you look around. The wind have increased all day and for the last 5 hours we have had 20/25 kts and bigger swells. We are sailing conservatively with reduced sail area to minimize the stresses on the boat and crew. We were doing 8 - 10 kts with a big reef in the main and about half the genoa out and for night we have put the genoa away and put out the small staysail and reduce speed to 6 -7 kts. We have put 1 engine on to charge the batteries and it is just providing enough propulsion to steady the boat in the swells. Unlike the trip out from Cairns these winds are from a more favourable angle so it is much easier on us & the boat.
My next update will be in a couple of days time when we are closer to Cairns and I can get Internet access. We have done 220 Nm since the Johnston Pass and are 340 NM from Cairns. I was hoping we get to Cairns Monday 20 Oct but with the light winds the first day we should arrive on Tuesday.
17/10/08 Louisiades to Cairns
Up early and Patrick & I completed preparing the boat for the passage crossing: Fit the cover on the dinghy, tie down the fuel jerry cans, secure the kayaks on the starboard transom, lock all deck hatches and set up the jack line.
We all were out of the anchorage by 8:30 and through the Deijei Radi (Johnston) Pass and into the Coral Sea by 10:20 am. The pass is just over a kilometer wide and the conditions were calm but it still gets the pulse up as you approach and can see breaking surf each side and you know you could get strong currents. The current was 3kts against us but we motor sailed through with no problems.
The rest of the day we settled into passage conditions with small long swells and light 10kt winds.
It is 1 am and I'm on watch. The moon is up and is very bright being the 2nd night since the full moon. There are no clouds above us and plenty of stars but we are surrounded by rain clouds the closest about 6Nm away. The clouds are all lit up by the moon and it is like being in the eye of a storm. It is very surreal.
16/10/08 Nimoa Is to Lijiliji Bay, Sudest Is (Position 11.34.4 S, 153.7.2 E)
Early start, repaired the dinghy while it was suspended off the back of the boat. Jim off "Aussie Oi!" came over to return a USB memory key so got his assistance with the repair by working from his dinghy at the back of ours while I was working from inside ours.
Put a radio call out to the boats at anchor for our surplus meat that we can't take back into Australia. All was redistributed to yachts staying on longer in the Louisiades in no time.
A quick scrub of the waterline again as our next & final anchorage in the Louisiades will be in croc country so I'm not getting in the water there and we are away with "Catamaran Imagine", "Hadja" & "Kooltandra", "Tenacious" departed on the same course a couple of hours earlier. Final chance to catch fish and I wasn't disappointed - 2 small spanish mackerel, enough to replace the meat from our freezer. The trip was 35 Nm and we were able to motor sail for the first part and have a genuine sail for the final part, which was nice after all the motoring in the last section of the rally. While we were underway Ann started baking and cooking for the passage to Cairns. It is much easier & safer to have meals & snacks pre-cooked than trying to cook while bouncing around in 4m plus seas.
This area down the southern side of Sudest Is has a lot of reefs but they are easy to see even in overcast conditions. The anchorage in Lijiliji Bay was nice and protected with clear waters until a downpour as we were anchoring. By the time the rain had stopped the water in the bay was muddy from the runoff and it was impossible to see the reef around the bay, just as well we anchored when we did. That night you could here the crocs calling in the mangroves along the shore, good job I did the hull clean this morning.
Ran the generator to charge the batteries for the passage, however, it shutdown again with an overheating alarm after just 20 min. That's a job for Cairns.
15/10/08 Nimoa Is at anchor
Today, the final day of the rally program was spent at the Nimowa Catholic Mission. The Mission has been a community focus of the rally with cash and goods raised by the rally and the individual yachts in aid of the school and the hospital. We arrived at the beach in front of the school to a greeting and traditional dancers. The school children formed 2 lines and the yachties in 2 lines went up the children's lines shaking hands and talking to the children. Most were very shy and for some it would have been the first time they had shaken hands with a "dim dim" (whiteman). After a tour of the school it was back to the beach to present the goods and materials donated to the school by the yachties then into our dinghies and around to the Hospital in the next bay.
The hospital has about 26 beds, 6 nursing staff and no doctor. The nurses are advised by radio for procedures they are unfamiliar with. They also are desperately short of medical supplies. The Senior Nurse told of how they are forced to use verbal anesthetic when stitching up wounds - as they are out of supplies of local anesthetic they talk soothingly to the patient to distract them from the pain. The hospital services a large area of communities and only receives a limited amount of funding from the church and the PNG Government so the donations and materials provided by the rally were a great aid to the hospital. The hospital doesn't have the resources to feed patients so the patients have to have a family member with them to cook and feed them.
The mission that has so little hosted a lunch for the yachties as honoured guests. It seemed out of place but was explained that it was part of the tradition to treat honoured guests to a feast. After lunch a more lighthearted activity was arranged - sporting matches between the locals and yachties. First was a soccer match - a team of adult men of varying degrees of fitness and soccer skills against a team of local kids between 8 & 16 with very good soccer skills. The only thing we had on them was a height deferential which turned out to be a disadvantage as they ran rings around us. It provided much entertainment & merriment to the large spectator crowd of locals & remaining yachties, especially when one of the kids won the ball off us or when a yachties fell over, which happened often. Final score Local Kids 3 - Yachties 1.
The female yachties played a team of local girls in net ball with similar differences and outcomes.
The final rally BBQ was held on the beach that evening where Guy Chester had a final set of awards for each boat. We were awarded the "Best Fishers Award". Don't think that was true as there were a lot of keen fishermen in the rally fleet but it was all in good fun.
After the BBQ , launching our dinghy from the beach to return to our boat we found the whole bung assembly had come away and water was pouring in. Managed to get back to the beach, drain the water out and block the hole. Another repair job for the morning. On inspection, it appears to be a design fault. The dinghy is only 6 months old so the manufacturer will get some feedback when we return to Australia.
14/10/08 Nimoa Is at anchor
"5 O'Clock Somewhere" was leaving for Cairns today and Rob & Pam came over to say farewell. Rob had business commitments and needed to leave the rally early to ensure he was back in Cairns by the weekend. "5 O'clock Somewhere" was next to us in the marina at Yorkeys Knob for the week prior to the rally when we were all madly working on getting our boats ready for the ocean passage. During that time plus on the rally we got to know Rob & Pam and their outward bound crew Andy & John quite well. Andy & John left the rally in Misima to fly back to Australia. They are a great fun loving group and I'm sure we will keep in contact.
Today we did a river trip to some waterfalls on Sudest Is. We had 8 long boats with 5 yachties and 2 crew in each. We all left the anchorage together as "5 O'Clock Somewhere" was leaving - the long boats racing across the bay. It was spectacular and fun until we left the bay and crossed the passage to Sudest Is. The conditions went from flat calm to choppy swell but the long boats didn't slow down and sitting at the front on the floor you had to hang on for dear life as the boats pounded through the choppy passage - not good for me with my back problems. Just as well Patrick decided to stay on the boat to give his leg another day to recover - it would have been painful for him.
With the rain the previous night the waterfalls were in full flow but the real treat was vegetation growing on the river banks. There were giant pandanus, sago palms, beetle nut trees and the trees they get the ebony from for their carvings.
Once back at the anchorage the skippers from the other 3 boats leaving together on the 16th, Warren off "Catamaran Imagine", John off "Hadja" and Frank off "Kooltsndra", met on "Lettin'Go" with Patrick & I to discuss route & anchorage options. It was agreed we would go down the southern side of Sudest Is, anchor for the evening and exit the reef through the Johnston Passage the next day.
13/10/08 Wanim Is to Nimoa Is (Position 11.18.6 S, 153.13.4 E)
Great news I left out of my previous post - "Quintessence", the yacht that went up on the reef has been recovered from the reef and sustained only minor damage from its reef encounter. Unfortunately, some villagers from a nearby island came over and had stripped the boat of just about everything except the motor. The locals who where looking after the boat were powerless to stop them but could identify them to assist with the recover of some of the gear. The full "Quintessence" story will be on the rally web site www.LouisiadesRally.com.
This morning John off "Hadja" bought his diving huka over and helped me scrub the hulls below the waterline. It is a dual hose model so we could work under the boat together. There was a thick strip of green weed growing on the waterline and other growth below. Nothing like 29 degrees water temperature to test the antifoul paint. Several boats had similar growths but quite a few were clean. It has given us a good indication of how the various antifouls perform in the tropics. The purpose of the cleaning was two fold: 1) reduce drag to improve the boat performance & efficiency for the trip home & 2) clean hulls on arrival back in Australia so Quarantine won't make us slip the boat to have it bio-cleaned.
The trip to Namoa Is was another to windward so it was motoring again. It was the first where I didn't put any trolling lines out. We had plenty of fish, a freezer of meat that we can't take back into Australia and I didn't feel like cleaning fish today. When provisioning for this trip we had no idea what the fishing would be like here so Ann allowed for several meat meals consequently we will have a large surplus of meat when we leave.
When we went to bed is was a beautiful calm night but at 3:30 in the morning some severe squalls came through. The good news was it filled our water tank with fresh water - the bad news was it caused "Tenacious" a steel mono in the rally to drag its anchor and it was banging against our bow. There was only minor damage but it caused us to be pushed back closer to "Kooltandra" so we had to re-anchor in the morning.
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com