Where we went: taken:

Samarai, Discovery Bay, Alotau, Byron Island, Kitava, Kiriwina, Lae, Salamau, Gasmata, Rabaul, Kavieng

Water and Weather:

La Nina was in full effect throughout the trip with NE Monsoon transition weather until we left Rabaul! The entire country was experiencing lower than average rainfall and the trade-winds failed to manifest with any consistency until Mid February. This resulted in quite a few dead calm days on the Solomon Sea and some freakishly squally weather on the Bismark. We were however quite lucky with the establishment of the North Eastern Monsoon winds as we reached Kavieng, which enabled an almost northerly departure to Chuuk...but had we travelled West to Palau as initially planned it would have been a long and squally trip!

Whilst beautiful the Huon Gulf should be treated with caution as the high land masses on either side tend to result in quite a lot of storm activity closer to land which means either a feast or a famine if you're heading into Lae. Similarly, if heading out of Lae the Vitiaz Straight can be a rough ride unless you're prepared to stick to it's west side and head for protection if needed. As for us, we were very glad to have taken the southern route to Rabaul, stopping in Gasmata and coming into Rabaul via the St. Georges Channel, which BTW, has a devil of a current (up to 3 knots in places) but can nonetheless still be negotiated (with some frustration) by some careful tacking.


Samarai is an easily negotiated anchorage so long as you settle roughly opposite the old wharf between the two markers, although the cross currents that run either side of the island can run up to 6 knots and occasionally cause a little swell.

Milne Bay offers many potential anchorages however we used Kana Kopi Bay and Discovery Bay as they offered the most protection. Watch out for the sunken sailing vessel in Discovery Bay as it rests in the nicest spot! (easy enough to spot though as the mast still sticks out of the water). In Alotau be prepared to anchor in around 25 metres as most of the closer anchorages are in use and often centred in the busiest part of the harbour. We anchored very close to the Alotau International Hotel and left our tender safely there when we went ashore.

Kitava offers a beautiful anchorage, but seek assistance from the local in reaching the sweet spot, otherwise you'll find it subject to current and swell. You may also need to pay the locals for the pleasure of their company (no matter what you chose to do) and for that reason we didn't stay long, but it is definitely idyllic and worth a stop.

Kiriwina harbour area is incredibly shallow and shoal ridden so you'll find you need to anchor almost 2 miles out! Kiriwina itself is not particularly alluring although necessary if you need fuel (as we did).

Lae, contrary to popular belief has a wonderful marina (full of power boats) but if you're desperate (as we were) a great place to stop, make repairs and re-stock. Wouldn't recommend anchoring offshore at all though as Lae is far from a safe area!

Salumau Harbour is a beautiful place to rest your sea legs although if you anchor off the village you will almost certainly be asked for and anchorage fee and it will be alarmingly high. We were fortunate to have made good contacts in Lae that enabled a 'free' stay but I think we were simply fortunate. (FYI – Contrary to our cruising guide's advise you will not be able to reach Lae from here by land, unless you're up for a couple of days hike!)

Gasmata is a beautiful place to stop but be very cautious as you negotiate the frigging reefs around the entrance. We anchored off Akikwok Island with a stern line to the shore so as to minimise exposure to passing currents.

Rabaul is a very sheltered and easy anchorage with excellent holding near the yacht club but you do need to be careful not to drop your anchor on a wreck. You will also need to be prepared to wash your boat off when you leave as a liberal covering of volcanic ash is hard to avoid.

Kavieng has a nice sheltered spot at the northern part of the harbour in front of the Hotel there. Holding is excellent, with a few bommies around but if you choose your drop spot well and you'll be fine.

NB: We found our charts to be on average about 500 metres out so be wary of GPS co-ordinates that are given. We found a daylight arrival and cautious navigation a better bet.

Culture/ People:

PNG is incredibly diverse... I believe I read somewhere 800 distinct languages and almost as many cultural convolutions so a summary is almost impossible. I can however relay our observations.....The further north we travelled the more we enjoyed our interactions. Our early encounters, whilst initially welcoming quickly soured when our usefulness or novelty value dwindled. The South coast of New Britain and West coast of New Ireland were welcome exceptions, more interactions were heartfelt and generous (not to mention safer) than those we encountered closer to the mainland.

As far as we were able to gauge PNG is very much a land of the 'haves' and 'have nots'... Those without desire 'it' and those 'with' seek to guard and protect 'it' by whatever means possible (no amount of missionary activity can counter the impact of industrialisation and the consumerism that accompanies it). Unfortunately this makes for a very opportunistic nation, riddled with corruption and it's poor governance does little to aid this state of affairs.

This is of course a rampant generalisation but sits with our experience and the experience of those we spoke to.

Officialdom and protocol:

Ahhhh Customs...my favourite.... Quite a mixed bag on this one. Samarai was official and fair albiet a tad lazy, Alotau was one to watch out for (always ask for a receipt from Matthew as those overtime charges seem to pop up the better dressed you are and the larger boat you have), Lae was very helpful and professional, Rabaul was half half (Wesley was great but Mary was a cow) and Kavieng (by all accounts) was extremely easy going and helpful.

Island visits should always include some interaction with the local chief....BUT....tis best to go find the chief yourself...that way you know exactly where your money/gift is going. It is remarkable how many villages have more than one chief willing to take your tribute!


Fresh fruit and vegetables are plentiful and cheap all over PNG, it's almost certainly organic so it always tastes great. You may as well be prepared to pretty much do without red meat though. You can occasionally purchase frozen chops or mince but it's often best left alone as 'use-by' dates are often ignored. Fish is plentiful (either catch it yourself or by it from the villagers) and a great selection of smoked fish is always available at markets so long as you're prepared to soak it for ages before you attempt eating it (actually smoked fish is far better than tinned fish...the stuff in the cans sold in PNG is vile).

Supplies and repairs:

It's amazing what you can find when you have to!

In retrospect Lae was a wise move when we discovered our gearbox was screwed. We were able to acquire assistance from the Yacht club and Transmarine provided some much needed linkages to Australia that made ordering and receiving parts very quick and easy. The quality of the work however was not the best and as with most repair work we've had done, needed pretty close supervision.

Rabaul and for that matter Kavieng were also great sources of bits and pieces, enabling the purchase of fan belts, bolts, screws, ropes, rust inhibitor, marine paints, etc... Rabweld, Interlink and Agmart being the better of our suppiers...but if you really want the good goss....best to ask Rod Pearce on the Barbarian (based at the yacht club and known to all that pass through Rabaul). Kavieng houses similar suppliers however we were lucky I think to have found Reinhart Engineering to assist us with some welding. They were extremely quick and skilled.

Well that's about it for PNG. If you want more info then simply ask.