New Ireland to Buka Island

Lars Alfredson
Fri 10 Jul 2015 01:52

pos 5:26.62S 154:40.20E
Buka Island

2015-07-07 0600 up anchor and head down to Turtle Bay. As usual the wind is on the nose so it’s motoring all the way.

There’s always someone worse off than yourselves as we discover watching our two Aussie yachts trying to battle their way down at 3knots and hardly able to point to windward making little progress for their efforts but putting up with some rough conditions pounding away

About lunchtime we happened to look at our rod and discover we have caught something. How long it had been hooked we’ve no idea, but the poor Barracuda was DOA (Dead on arrival) when we pulled it aboard. Never mind, “The Butcher of Dawnbreaker” leapt onto the sugarscoop knife in one hand and  chopping board in the other and set to his grisly work producing two sizeable fillets from the recently deceased. Well done Lars, beer o’clock was proclaimed.

We decided to cut our journey short and pulled into Sulphur Creek, a narrow valley with a verdant rain forest forming an impenetrable jungle running down the steep mountainsides to the water’s edge.

 The only way in should one be foolish enough to venture ashore was via a small steam that ran down the valley to the water’s edge the shore of which shelved deeply into the abyss.

Ignoring the primeval noises from within we entered the water to find it had an oily translucence produced by the fresh water from the river trying to mix with the saline.

After a wonderful dinner of curried Barracuda and a good Aussie, Shiraz, we had just set to a game of Uno, when we had a call from our friends on “Honeymoon” asking us to guide them in. This is no land for night time sailing with its many unmarked reefs.

Way points were given and we lit our deck so they would have a marker when they made it to the entrance which they did, eventually arriving around 10 pm having taken some 24hours longer than we did.


2015-07-09 Up around 7 we motored over to them to discuss their trip and our respective sailing plans for the day. Despite all, they and their two young children were in fine humour. The more so when we told them of our swimming and they told us they had been advised by the visiting natives that the place was full of crocodiles!

Heading south we had intended to go to the southwest and the Trobriand Islands, but as usual the wind was on the nose and the prospect of 24hours bouncing up and down was rejected and a sharp left turn put the wind off the bow and gave us perfect sailing conditions. We were soon doing 8knots in 13 to 15 knots of wind very little bounce and going like a train.

Even the Aussies were impressed as we heard them commenting on the radio the “Dawnbreaker” was last seen “Going like the clappers”. The wind and our speed stayed constant for most of the day and into the evening. The irony was that we would arrive about 2 in the morning with no light to see us through the reefs. We know how dodgy the charts are, we found them to be 500 metres out when moored in Rabaul bay! Too risky when the channel is only 300m to start with.

Winding in the Genoa and with the wind down to 6-8kts our speed fell to 4 then eventually 2.5 before dawn. With the sunrise we gingerly made our way past the wrecked shipping that littered the shores, confirming the wisdom our caution.

Despite this and a good look out we got caught when the bottom rose from 40metres to 2m in a distance of 15metres. Fortunately we were carefully feeling our way in and hardly felt the bump. The clarity of the water was very impressive, though the lack of sunlight due to the cloud cover, made it difficult to spot colour changes to the water that usually indicate the reef. Luckily we were able to extricate ourselves back into deeper water and so continued to feel our way through the island passages to a suitable anchorage.


Bob The Blog