Papua New Guinea Ho!
Course: North east Speed: 2 knots
Wind: East F3 gentle breeze
Sea: rippled Swell: SE 0.5 meters
Weather: sunny and warm
Days run: 72 nm sailed, 58 nm made good.
So far the engine has remained dormant. It just seems a futile gesture to motor ten or so miles, unless one has a very specific objective in mind, when over three thousand miles of voyage lie ahead of us. Progress has been predictably slow in the very light airs, nonetheless we continue to make ground in something approximating the right direction. I would have liked to have been further to the east then we have ended up but my attempts to make any easting overnight were not to be. We tacked at four this morning but, in the light wind and small swell, only ended up retracing the ground over which we had come. I suspect a bit of a westerly current might not have been helping matters. So at six this morning I tacked back to the north.
This morning dawned bright and clear, and brought with it the sight of craggy islands rising over the horizon to the north east, and the coast of New Guinea a smudge of grey beneath the towering white clouds to the north west. We have just crossed over the shallows marked on my chart as the “sunken barrier reef”. The depth sounder showed a minimum depth of nineteen meters as we passed over it, which tied in nicely with the charted depth and, given that the chart has warnings all over it that the area is inadequately surveyed, it was a nice confidence check.
As we approached the “barrier” we encountered numerous pieces of flotsam, mostly logs of various sizes, many of which were being used as a welcome perch for resting seabirds. I conjectured that perhaps the forces that drew all this driftwood towards this particular spot were the same forces that seemed to be drawing Sylph into its vortex. I was grateful that we were not careering along at six or seven knots in the dark when approaching this patch of water, though it was never my intention to approach a poorly surveyed area in the dark, and was one of the reasons why I tacked away to the south this morning. Further, if conditions had allowed Sylph to make six knots it would also have allowed me to stick to my original intention of gaining more easting before heading into PNG waters.
Now we are north of the sunken barrier and back into deeper water, the wind has freshened ever so slightly, but sufficient to have us making a very satisfactory five knots. Other shoal patches lie ahead, but if the wind holds we should have those behind us and be back into more reliable soundings well before sunset.
The swell is negligible, the sails are full, and morale is high (though the first mate reckons it is too damned hot, with which I will not argue).
All is well.