The Alba Chronicles
Neville Howarth
Wed 29 Jul 2015 23:31



06:23S   133:02E


So far we've done 945 miles with 70 miles to go. We did 170 miles in the last 24 hours.  We’ve got sunshine with scattered clouds and 20 knot SE winds.  We’re on a starboard broad reach with 2 metre seas.  Here's what we did yesterday and overnight.


29 July 2015  Papua New Guinea to Indonesia (Day 6)

For the past two days, we've averaged 7 knots, so there’s an outside chance that we'll arrive by sunset tomorrow, which is very encouraging.


We had another glorious day.  Our course is turning slightly more north as we approach Tual (skirting around another large island group called Pulau Koba), so we swapped the pole over to starboard and gybed the genoa.  The wind stayed at SE20 and we had very handy 1-2 knot current with us all day, pushing us along at 7-9 knots over the ground.


I received an email from the Sail Indonesia rally, which gives us more information and confirms that we need to keep pushing on.  We were planning to meet the rally in a place called Wangi Wangi around the 14th August, but the anchorage is only suitable for 10-12 boats and our rally has over 40.  To make matters worse, there's another rally with another 40 boats scheduled to arrive on the 15th - it will be ugly with 80 boats jostling for space, so I think that we'll give that place a miss and join the rally at the next stop, which is Pasar Wajo, Buton.


The wind dropped a little in the afternoon, reducing our speed over the ground to a mere 6-8 knots, so it was looking unlikely that we would make it to Tual before dark tomorrow.  The city of Tual is at the northern end of the Kai Islands, so I spent a few hours researching possible places to anchor around the southern end of the island group.  Stopping at one of these anchorages would shave 30 or 40 miles off our passage and hopefully allow us to make landfall before dark tomorrow.


Just after sunset, on my 7-10 watch, a fleet of fishing boats suddenly appeared in front and to the starboard of us. Their strong lights could be seen looming over the horizon.  They don't show up very well on our radar, so all I could do was to keep on our course and sail through the middle of them. 


One of the fishing boats came to have a look at me passing within 200 metres.  The boat was lit by twenty or so very bright lights and I think that it was trawling a net because it was motoring at less than five knots.  I can't be sure be sure though, because its lights were blinding me.  The Arafura Sea is very shallow - we've been in 30-100 metres for the past three days since we left the Torres Straits, so I guess that it's a good area for trawling.


At our change of watch at 0100, Glenys gave out a little cry of astonishment when she saw that we were surrounded by thirty fishing boats.  Fortunately for her, the fleet all disappeared behind us within an hour.  The rest of the night was lovely, with a full moon, but we lost our favourable current.