Ninigo to Vanimo

Tue 11 Oct 2016 00:25

02:40.978S 141:17.78E

Looking through the porthole: the beautiful tropical lagoon and coral islands.

From a total lack of wind things changed overnight and on the day we were due to leave we had driving rain and strong winds. 

Mal fishermen feel the wind picking up...

We waited until there was a break in the rain before braving sailing through the pass so we could see more than 20 feet around us. We were fine, we could see the waves breaking on the reef even though we couldn’t see the colours to let us know the depths, and we got through with no difficulty but with a little bit of adrenaline. We left on the Saturday afternoon planning to arrive first thing Monday morning and it was a tiring and busy day and two nights. We had frequent squalls, during one we hove to until it passed, and the wind was up and down like a yo-yo, dropping to almost nothing before a squall arrived then coming in fiercely. As a consequence we were forever letting out and taking in sail so we didn’t get much rest on off-watches. When on watch we were having to play a balancing act of keeping the wind at an angle we could sail at whilst trying to avoid being side on to the swell. When we were rolling with the swell the sails couldn’t stay filled and would flap with each roll, similarly, if we were too close to having the wind on our tail, when we swung a little with each wave the jib would collapse. Not the chilled ‘set the sails then listen to a podcast whilst keeping an eye out for other boats’ type of sailing that we knew and loved!

Finally, 28 miles from Vanimo, we hove to and took turns to rest a while before it was time to head in.  As yet another rainstorm was passing over we decided to pull in the sails and motor the last few hours, which was made quite exciting by running over a 30ft log, complete with root ball. There was a series of clonks as it passed under the hull and wedged against the keel, it then broke free, clearly hit the prop because the engine stopped, and wedged on the rudder a while before bobbing free behind us. Remember this was in pitch black, pouring rain with no visible moon or stars. The bangs were impressive. The more disconcerting thing was we discovered the reason that we had run over it instead of it simply being pushed to one side: it was tied with blue rope to a local motor boat, one of the 25 ft ones with an outboard. I’ve no idea why they were towing it 18 miles away from land without a light in the pitch black, however they were none the worse for their short tow by Lochmarin and motored away. Knowing there were unlit boats around that far off shore made the rest of the journey rather stressful as we peeled our eyes for any dark shape on the dark sea in the pitch black. Dawn, and with it the rich forest smell of the mainland, was a welcome relief. 

Logs being loaded in the harbour

These fishing boats were taking no chances in the swell - serious stabilisers! 

We had planned a dawn raid on Vanimo as it has the reputation of not being a safe place to stay overnight. The idea was that Phil would go ashore to find customs and immigration to check out from PNG and to go to the Indonesian Embassy for our visas, whilst I would stay on board to guard the boat against boarders. It occurred to me that I might not do too well if a dozen burly boarders turned up with sledge hammers and jemmies to force their way in. I had Phil’s fishing spear gun, I could sound the horn and call for help on the VHF channel 16. But I had never shot the spear gun, nor loaded it, and Phil had called the harbour master as we approached but there had been no answer so that route might not have been too fruitful. Making a lot of noise seemed to be my only recourse, which might not be too effective against determined boarders. However, we judged that just having signs of life around the boat and the dinghy on board would deter people from coming on board whilst Phil was ashore and either the raskols were away that day or the plan worked and we were off again by four in the afternoon with paperwork complete, headed for Indonesia just 18 miles along the coast. 

Its been an intense couple of months but so rewarding. At times we’ve felt overwhelmed by the needs of the people queuing up to trade with us, at other times we’ve felt in awe at the wealth of the lifestyles we’ve seen around us. At all times we’ve had our breath taken away by the varied beauty of this wonderful vibrant country.

Looking West along Papua New Guinea mainland as we left for Indonesia.