December 7th 2010

Feels as though there’s been quite a bit of water under the bow (and some of it over the bow) since I last sat down at the computer… actually there’s only been 190 nautical miles of water to be specific.

We left Alotau amidst a wee bit of Drama for Danny on Baguette…you see he’d had his bag stolen the day before and unfortunately it contained all his ships documents, passports, visas and credit cards….a significant bummer! The implications for him and his crew are quite profound…he will not be permitted to continue his journey until he has replacement documents, and this means a trip to Port Moresby to obtain them and no doubt some more money for Matthew the customs guy. Danny was of a mind to simply wait til nightfall and skip town but as we haven’t seen or heard from him since we left I’m not so sure he didn’t re-think that option…. So we may…or may not…come across them later.

We were slightly ‘over’ Alotau when we left. Matthew was an opportunistic, money hungry, sly kinda fellow (long story but he’d hit Danny for 100 Kena just for providing what is supposed to be a free service), we always got the impression he was looking for each opportunity to bolster his rather insignificant salary, understandable but tiresome nonetheless….so we were happy to be away from his influence.

Not to mention the wind….we finally got some wind and were able to sail all day…tacking back and forth across Milne bay, occasionally with a dolphin escort, until we found a nice place to anchor for the night in Kana Kopi Bay, right at the tip of the bay entrance. We had a similar experience the next day with South easterlies allowing us to make good ground all the way to a little uninhabited spot called Byron Island. We were thinking it may have been a good anchorage to spend a couple of days but the weather had turned northerly and as the island was so tiny it didn’t afford much protection so we skipped outta there through some rather nasty choppy seas.

Unfortunately a northerly wind when you’re attempting to travel north is not much fun so we tacked as much as we could for most of the day until we could tack no more…. So with no safe anchorage in sight (only reefs and small islands frigged by reefs) we simply turned on the motor, headed straight into the wind and motored through the night into the Solomon Sea, straight past Normanby Island…. And a stormy night it was. The seas weren’t huge by any means, but localised thunderstorms made for some rather spectacular light shows and wet sailing.

The radar helped a lot… we were able to see the rainfall associated with weather systems and scoot either past or alongside them where possible. Still, it was a long night. We took shorter shifts this time as we’re continually hand steering which means it’s a little easier on the body but not so good for sleep….and I gotta say I found this one pretty tough, especially given an impending period…. Neither the body nor the mind was a willing player. This meant Ralph did waaaay more than his fair share of the steering as there were times when I just couldn’t get my body to obey me, a period, queasy stomach and physical exhaustion all jumbled up together to turn me into jelly….not much of a sailor at this time of the month I’m afraid.

The next day the weather conditions had not changed…in fact a huge system had developed right over our intended anchorage on the east coast of Kiriwina (the largest island in the Trobriands), not something to head straight into and not a pleasant sight when you’re buggered and in need of a break…. So with little no other option at our disposal we headed east to Kitava Island (a smaller island about 10 miles east of Kiriwina) and crossed our fingers that our Admiralty pilot was correct about a potential anchorage (there’s precious little information about the Trobriands aside from a couple of well-travelled routes that run east of Kiriwina and absolutely nothing about Kitava.

Our initial thoughts were we’d have to go back to Kiriwina as the island looked steep to and densely wooded which often means little sand to anchor in….hmmmmm……but as we approached we were pleasantly surprised (and more than a little relieved) to find something of an oasis, with a few locals coming out to meet us in canoes to point us in the direction of the best place to anchor away from reefs, tides and currents. Actually one of our pilots was the island chief ‘Jack’…who hopped on board, had a wee chat and a cigarette and left us to eat and sleep in peace.


December 9th 2010

We spent a calm but rolly (quite a bit of swell) night and awoke refreshed enough for an explore of our new harbour (if you can call it that)…we had the standard early morning gaggle of canoes around us with carvings to proffer and curious children looking for lollies, but nothing too drastic so we ventured on land to see what we could find by way of fresh food… and as it turned out there was food aplenty. We had mentioned to our pilots the night before that we were looking for some greens and the like, so a veritable market garden was basically placed at our feet….huge, long green beens, tulip (kinda like spinach), pumpkin, paw paw, melons….. and our own special guide that took us up the well-tended paths past the school to the main village….sounds great doesn’t it…but there’s a catch…. You see tourists are the only means of obtaining Kena….so when they have a couple in their grasp….. well….sufficed to say… we have a rather significant collection of melons, paw paws and pumkins, not to mention a woven palm leaf bag and yet more small carvings…… we also scored an invitation the school’s graduation ceremony the following day.

The school was well organised and the teachers were dedicated (they don’t get paid a lot so they’d have to be)…they appear to have had quite a bit of assistance from the Australian Government with more on it’s way in the form of rain water tanks and solar panels etc. Water being the more critical as the rainfall on Kitava is actually quite low and storage facilities are minimal. We were asked if we had any books or magazines on board to donate to the school, but unfortunately we really didn’t have all that much that was applicable aside from a couple of cookbooks…so we handed over a few pens, textas and pencils …pretty measly really but I guess every bit helps

The graduation ceremony was absolutely fascinating (the sociologists in us fully indulged…especially intriguing was a small disturbance caused by a local lad who’d been drinking ‘home brew’) and we were treated as highly honoured guests, however the length and monotony of the proceedings got to us after a while and we made a dash for it…..lucky we did actually as the heavens let loose and we were just in time to get the hatches closed on the boat.

Despite the glowing main plot…the subtext within this environment is a fraction less lustrous. Kitava is a clean, safe and peaceful place with a beautiful anchorage, which has made it the stopover point for many pacific cruise companies and with this as the island’s only form of income their pursuit of the dollar is relentless…

That said…we were not charged for our anchorage ….nor were we charged a snorkelling or diving fee as other boats have been… but perhaps this is because we left before being asked….but ya know given how incredibly beautiful it is… it’s probably worth the money…so long as I knew where it was going…and that is a tad harder to ascertain!


December 10th 2010 am

Here we sit in a very shallow bay about 3 nautical miles from Kiriwina’s capital, Losuia….perfect calm, albeit a little warm and sticky…thunderstorms in the distance, but no rain on us at present. Not a soul to be seen aside from the occasional fishing canoe in the distance.

The plan is to see whether we can re-fuel a little here before progressing north to the east coast of New Britain…. Then we’ll day hop our way around to Rabaul (Capital of New Britain). We’ve not been sitting around much as we’re keen to reach lower latitudes (round 4 or 5 degrees) before the North West monsoon transition takes full effect. You can kinda feel it happening now…. The winds are tending northerly and the calms are longer.

The thunderstorms are of little consequence at this point, in fact they are often a blessing as they bring some steady, decent winds at their edge….but that northerly makes sailing pretty tough so we’re just making sure we always have sufficient diesel….sad but true…. as there’s nothing more demoralising than bobbing around with sails flapping waiting for a breeze.

So it’s off to Losuia to see what we can find.


December 10th 2010 pm

Wouldn’t recommend Losuia as a tourist destination…not the pristine paradise of Kitava by any means…but fuel has been expensively obtained nonetheless so we’re set to head off tomorrow.

The sun was absolutely cruel today both of us were completely sodden even before getting in the dinghy for our 3 mile ride in through the shallows to Losuia….and pretty fried by the time we got back. Luckily our swimming pool is warm and inviting so a quick dip makes it all OK…and the tropics being the tropics also ensured we were given a fresh water shower to wash all that salt off.

We had quite a downpour actually so Ralph crafted a wee funnel out of rope and encouraged all that precious run off into our drinking tank…. It’s nearly full now, which saves us the bother of using our rather leaky watermaker. Coffee made with fresh filtered rainwater tastes sooo much better.