The Alba Chronicles
Neville Howarth
Sun 12 Jul 2015 20:52



11:04S  153:12E


So far we've done 890 miles with 10 miles to go.  We're 10 miles from the reef passage. Unfortunately, we’ve got 100% cloud cover, with 15-20 knot south winds and there rain showers around, so the visibility for seeing the water colours (and water depths) isn’t very good.  We’ll have to make a decision what to do when we get to the passage...  Here's what we did yesterday and overnight.


12 July 2015  Luganville to Papua New Guinea (Day 7)

At 0800, we were 180 miles away from our destination, so it was touch and go whether we’d be able to get there tomorrow.  We have to go through a pass in the barrier reef and then we’ll have two hours sailing to the anchorage, so we need to get to the pass by at least four o’clock in the afternoon, otherwise we’ll not have enough daylight and will have to heave-to outside the reef until the next morning.


I worked out that if we average 5.1 knots then we’ll just make it.  However, if we average 6 knots, then we’ll be at the pass by eleven o’clock in the morning.  We increased the revs on the engine to 2000 rpm, which uses nearly twice as much fuel as 1500 rpm, but puts our boat speed up to 6 knots – sod the expense.


Just after breakfast, we headed right into the middle of a big squall system.  It looked like the depths of Mordor, so I put a reef in the main, but the wind only picked up to 20 knots (from dead ahead).  It took us a couple of hours to clear the system then the wind dropped off again and we had a fabulous sunny day.


With the looming threat of having to heave-to for the night outside the barrier reef, I did some more research and found another pass (Chubudi Pass), which is 6 miles closer than Sawaiwa Pass.  We have accurate waypoints for Sawaiwa Pass, provided by another cruiser’s website (http://www.maranatha.id.au/), but don’t have anything for Chubudi Pass; however, it looks wider and easier to navigate.


I don’t trust the Navionics charts, but fortunately, I’ve created some KAP charts of the area from Google Earth and, by comparing the KAP charts to the Navionics charts, I think that I’ve worked out some waypoints through Chubudi Pass.  Being an hour closer, this takes a little bit of pressure off us and I’ve also worked out routes to some closer anchorages as well, just in case we are late getting through the pass.


The wind slowly picked up from the south during the afternoon and by three o’clock we had enough wind to sail on a cracking beam reach under blue skies.  Just before dinner, as we approached the western end of the Louisiades, we came across a shipping lane with five ships heading across our path, going to and from Australia. 


One Japanese tanker was on a collision course with us, so I called him up on the VHF radio.  His suggestion was that we pass “starboard to starboard”, but that would have meant that I’d have to sail across his path, which is always scary, so I suggested that we pass “port to port” and, despite having the right of way, I made a 20 degree correction to starboard.  We passed ½ mile behind him.


Our route took us five miles to the north of Rossel Island and, up to midnight, we had to motor for a couple of hours because we entered the wind shadow of the 18-mile long island.  For the rest of the night, we had a fabulous sail on a beam reach with 15-20 knot winds and calm seas, being sheltered from the oceanic swell by the barrier reef of the Louisiades.  At dawn, we had totally overcast skies, which made it look very gloomy as we approached the reef passage.