On Monday morning we came back from Lissenung Island to Kavieng to get back in touch with the provincial fisheries staff and the local NGO's.
We were very luck to have an opportunity to be shown around a small scale biodiesel plant. The biodiesel is produced from coconut oil and this project is funded by the provincial fisheries department to create a market for the copra as well as a cheap fuel for the fishermen. We saw a couple of five horse powered Chinese outboard motors running on the biodiesel. Chris will bring back some to test on Magic Roundabout when the boat goes back to New Zealand. Due to frequent fluctuations in copra prices and the high cost of diesel in the remote islands biodiesel is something that OceansWatch needs to have a very good understanding of the process of turning coconut oil into biodiesel.
During our shopping trip to the local market we met with Chief Masulem from Enuk Island who invited us to come back next year to train the locals in ReefCheck surveying. He even kindly offered to build us a hut on his grounds the next year so that we could stay at his village.
Sunday was started with a 50 m ReefCheck transect in the near-boiling-point waters on the sheltered side of Lissenung Island. The area is not legally protected however the owners of the nearby resort and staff look out that no one fishes or extracts any shells from the site. The reef is therefore in a quite good condition and among other species we encountered a moray eel, a lot of parrot fish and a crown of thorns lurking under a small table coral. We didn't detect any bleached corals, however speaking to the owner of the dive resort we learnt that there have been coral bleaching outbreaks before but so far the corals have always managed to fully recover.
We spent most of Saturday doing some last-minute interviews for the video Rachael is doing on OceansWatch. As a special treat to everyone and a farewell to Rachael we had some drink in the late afternoon on the boat. After 6 weeks on Magic Roundabout's trip through Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea Rachael left on Sunday morning. Rachael's commitment and enthusiasm has been key throughout this trip and we are all looking forward to watching the final OceansWatch video. We would like to thank Rachael as well as wish her the best for the next trip around Fiji and Tonga. We do nevertheless miss her bubbly craziness, so Rachael come back!!!! ;-)
Friday morning we went ashore to be met by the local tribes treasurer Graham Chen who was congregating the community by means of banging a log drum. After a tour through the island and the village and a half an hour stay at the church house due to the sudden onset of torrential rains the local fishermen, women and children from the nearby school gathered under the 'meeting tree' to hear Chris' presentation on OceansWatch and ReefCheck. Chris talk was highly welcome and during a Q&A round after it we learned more about the local fishermen's concerns such as what to do with crown of thorns outbreaks and the consequences of climate change for coral reef communities. During a conversation with the treasurer after the meeting we found out about the change in the weather patterns they have observed during the last decade and how this has affected their traditional cultivation and fishing activities.
In the evening we moved the boat to a more safe anchorage next to Lissenung Island, a small island with a small resort on it specialised on diving.
Chris and Irene went into town to meet John Aini from the local NGO Ailan (Island) Awareness and Sandra from the Fisheries Department to arrange their first ReefCheck survey venue. On route they were lucky to bump into Hugh Walton who is involved in developing sustainable fisheries practices within the National Fisheries Authority. Hugh provided them with valuable insights into the various marine conservation initiatives in the area as well as the political constraints involved in effectively enforcing sustainable practices and laws. Chris was very interested to learn that Hugh had recently organized a bio-diesel symposium and a tour through the local bio-diesel plant was arranged for next weekend. Chris's bio-diesel interest stems from a general interest in alternative energy for powering OceansWatch yachts and from a request to help the people of Karkar Island (PNG) to look for alternative markets for Copra. Meanwhile, Rachael and Jeges spent time in the local village being shown the process of copra production and recording an interview with Jeges for the film Rachael is making about OceansWatch
Shortly after midday the whole crew set off to Enuk Island where they hope to conduct ReefCheck surveys during the following days. We were greeted by chief Masulem who invited us to make a presentation to the village about ReefCheck at 7:30 am the following morning which encouraged the crew to an early night.
19 and 20/08
Chris, Irene and camera-crew Rachael had several productive meetings with a number of local government bodies and NGO's including the Provincial Fisheries Authority, the Nature Conservancy, Ailan (Island) Awareness and the World Conservation Society. All of these meetings provided key information as to how OceansWatch can best serve local marine conservation initiatives throughout the New Ireland Province and PNG as a whole. While the meetings were going on in town Jeges and Leila kept busy undertaking lot of maintenance work and converting the boat from its delivery mode into its ReefCheck mode. Chris has been thrilled at the response to OceansWatch so far here in PNG. He is very confident that OW can play an important role in supporting sustainable use of the marine resources in PNG. Head of the provinces Fisheries Authority Satarek said about OceansWatch "This is something that we have been needing for a long time"
Our overnight sail to Kavieng was gentle with near perfect sailing conditions. We welcomed the occasional downpour as it washed the boat free of the remaining gritty ash layer of the Rabaul volcano.
Slowly approaching the shallow waters of Kavieng, we were amazed by the beauty of our surroundings: small islands scattered hither and yonder reflected in the tranquil turquoise sea, that was only disturbed by the single-hull canoes of the fishermen. We wondered what the chances were of experiencing the splendour of this location within ones lifetime.
New winds are now blowing over Magic Roundabout. With a touch of reorganization, Chris is beginning to feel right at home again.
Whilst provisioning and doing an interview shoot at the local market Leila, Rachael and Irene were approached by the Kokopo market inspector who kindly gave them a tour and told them a bit about the history of the area, which is ruled by the vagaries of its volcano.
From the hustle and bustle of the market they searched out the internet café which was more like a sauna where the emails sauntered into the ancient computers on typical Island time. Two hours and 10 emails later we headed back to Magic Roundabout to prepare for our trip to New Ireland.
That night our entertainment was provided by ReefCheck training DVD's. We also caught up on the Amadis project DVD. The Amadis project was run by OceansWatch trustee Lily Kozmian-Ledward in 2006-7 in the Caribbean and Pacific. Feeling inspired we were ready to get stuck into work again. We said our final good-byes to the Kokopo locals and the awe inspiring sight of Rabaul's smoking volcano and set our course for Kavieng, on the western side of New Ireland Province.
08/15/2008, Rabaul, New Britain
Picture is of Magic Roundabout anchored in Kokopo with Rabaul's active volcano in the background.
We left Nguna Pele for Santo, excited to embark on another part of our journey. We set sail in the morning and by night fall we were in the middle of some unexpectedly strong winds. Unable to go on we turned the boat around to seek shelter in Port Vila.
After two nights safe harbour the bad weather had subsided and with cruising permits in hand, some fresh fruit and vegetables and our spirits high we made our second attempt for Santo. For the most part, the crew was rather inexperienced but we soon learned how to stack shelves properly so our boat did not look like it had gone through an earthquake.
On Friday we arrived on Santo, excited by the prospect of diving the world renowned S.S. Coolidge on our free day. The Coolidge site is close to Million Dollar point and both areas make for amazing diving. The SS Coolidge sank during WWII, miscommunications leading to the boat hitting a series of mines. Luckily few lives were lost and we were lucky to dive one of the most beautiful wrecks in history!
With fresh water, clean clothes and a sense of nervous excitement we set off for a 12 day sail across to Rabaul, Papua New Guinea. On our voyage, Leila, Irene and Rachael worked hard to support Jeges the skipper, learning the many idiosyncrasies of being at sea, reading the wind and setting the boat up to make for easy sailing. This was to be the longest journey at sea for all three women. At times Jeges must have felt very lucky to be sailing through the Pacific Ocean with three beautiful women and at other times we are sure he felt lucky to be such a competent captain, so that he could ensure all ran smoothly. Nothing went amiss and many great moments were shared.
As we passed the Solomon Islands we were in awe of their beauty. We knew then that it was best not to have a time frame to stick to when sailing. Sadly, the wind held and we did not need to stop by to refuel.
On the tenth day with the words muttered "i am starving" from Irene, we felt a tug on the line. Low and behold a huge Spanish Mackerel won the girls the competition of the biggest fish caught (watch out James ;-) ). She could have just said we were hungry, instead we had fish, fish, fish for three days...
On the twelfth day we sailed into Rabaul at 4 am. Our efforts were rewarded by the sight of Rabaul's active volcano glowing into the dawn light. This was one of the most humbling moments in our journey, to be in the presence of such a wild side of nature. We watched well into the day as billows of smoke and ash spumed its way into the air, it was not until we rounded the corner into Rabaul that our smiles turned to frowns finding ourselves covered in buckets of ash. We looked on in horror as our 3 days of boat cleaning disappeared under a toxic layer of grey silt. Its amazing that many families still manage to survive all year round under these tough conditions..
Radioing into customs we made arrangements to get out of there as fast as we could heading for the shelter of Kokopo and away from the apocalyptic scene of Rabaul. We were all excited to finally meet OceansWatch founder Chris Bone, who was waiting for us in Kokopo
08/11/2008, En route to PNG
Picture is of OceansWatch PADI SCUBA trainer Leila Cara with 3 of her pupils who can now do their own ReefCheck surveys by Scuba.
Week 12th July
Jegs, Irene, leila met in port vila for the first time, over dinner.
they discussed a game plan to retrieve boat from Malakula which had
been been held up due to bad weather.
The following day Rachael joined the party and began the documentary
shooting. The team broke off into two groups, Jegs and Lleila flew to
Nostrup in Malakula to retrieve the boat and bring it safely back to
Port Villa. They spent hours in the heat of the day peacing together
local dialogue that eventually landed them a ride. they were given
pride of place at the front of the truck, Two hours in a taxi service
that was more like a full scale delivery service, exchanging news,
money, letters and goods throughout the exciting journey.enabled them
to make there way to the boat to meet with James and Katie,.mean while
Rachael and Irene ventured deep into the Vanuatu jungle with fit
machete wielding natives who demonstrated the traditions of Kava
planting harvesting and drinking rituals.
It was dark by the time Lala and Jegs met with the boat, after a few
hours sleep the boat set up for a long beat to windward. Thirty hours
later the boat made it to Port Villa, a relief after their battle with
30 knot head winds and seas to four meters. Although a little slow
Magic round about behaved her self perfectly tacking easily and making
The team was was reunited. Everyone was happy to be on dry land,
enjoying a pizza and open air cinema at " Nambawan " Cafe. On screen
we all got to see Lalas debut performance on the Thailand shores of
The next day was saved by Rachael as the oceanswatch crew were put in
a bit of a pickle. After the entire supper market was impressed with
the three full shopping trolleys of food, they were less impressed
when the OceansWatch card declined. lucky for everyone Rach had a
financial back up.
With the unexpected delay of the boat reaching Port Villa due to bad
weather the project was now seriously behind schedule. the crew had to
move fast to succeed in the important task of training the Nuna Pele
locals to dive. We all looked forward to exploring the marine
protected area and play our part in helping secure its success for the
On the way to Nuna Pele we were lucky to experience the village Katie
had been calling home for the past two years. We presented the Chief
of the village with a tuna that we had caught during our sail. We
spent our time going over fish identification and important notes for
our Reef Check training. This is the place we parted ways with James
and Katie, it was sad for us all, but exciting for the new crew to
look to the horizon and set sail for the following weeks of our
Week July 21st
Our first challenge was met when we arrived at Nguna Pele. The reef
extended nearly two miles from the island making it impossible for the
crew of Magic Round about to off load the compressor and dive
equipment. Luckily the local MPA (Marine Protected Area) were geared up to assist and with the
use of their MPA inter-island ferry we were able to transport what we
needed to the Island and begin the dive training.
We had two principle objective, firstly to get our team trained in
Reef Check to enable us to extend ReefCheck methodology in isolated
areas, the second was to train a team of locals to scuba dive. Rex
and Felix work with Vanuatu Fisheries and JICA (a Japanese NGO) and they would use there
scuba training to help monitor, protect and replenish the stocks of
the Giant Clam, Green snail and Trochus shell. John, the third
trainee was involved with the Nguna Pele MPA. This area
was set up by Chris Bartlett, a former Peace Corps worker, who still
actively works to extend awareness and activity in the MPA.
This area has become a model for other Marine Protection
Programs in Vanuatu due to its success. One of the ways funds are raised is by
encouraging tourists to "Adopt a Turtle" during the tagging process.
We were always on the lookout for other ways to provide support. We
assisted John as he completed the sinking and boy placement of a
safe mooring that protected the breathtaking coral gardens from anchor
damage. We were also invited to design, investigate funding and installation
of four yacht moorings to provide visiting yachtsman a safe place to
moor - this will provide a small cash flow for the local MPA.
With the new crew member Brian settled in it was time to think about setting off South from Luganville. The day was spent on the north shore of the bay filling the Diesel tank, a laborious process as there is no fuel dock in Luganville and neither jetty or wall we could moor against. Therefore several hours were spent heaving diesel from the petrol station to the dingy then out to the boat and back again. In addition to this, in the afternoon the hunt for the elusive gas refill station began. It turned out to be 10 miles out of town, and a very expensive taxi ride! Our days missions thus completed we returned to the more sheltered anchorage at Aore for an early night.
Tuesday 1st - Wednesday 2nd
We had an early start from Luganville, sailing south across the straight between Espirtu-Santo and Malekula, Although we were heading directly into the swell and it was not the most comfortable trip, we made good time, and rather than bash on through the night to arrive in Banam Bay in the dark, we anchored in the lee of a small island just north of Norsup, the island capital. The next morning we again set off early and sailed south, arriving in Banam Bay in the early afternoon. That evening we quickly visited the village to say hello and meet the chief to ensure we were welcome to anchor where we had, and then returned to plan for the next day.
Thursday 3rd - Wednesday 9th
We had been asked to visit Banam Bay by Henk Meuslar of project MARC, a medical aid organisation. He has started to set up a yacht club in the bay and wanted to have a report on the state of the reef in front of it, for two reasons; firstly so he could advertise it as a good snorkel site and secondly to help encourage the establishment of a Tabu area in the bay. We then met up with Jake, a local guy who had worked extensively alongside Project MARC setting up local aid projects. He took us on a tour of the bay, and in particular outlined the proposed snorkel area in front of the yacht club. The reef in Banam Bay broadly speaking consists of two habitat types. From the shore outwards for approximately 70m there is shallow reef, where much of the coral (mostly Acropora species) is exposed at low tide or just beneath the surface. Further out from this there are scattered small coral heads (>15m across). Because the depth and size limitations on the reef here it was not possible to carry out a ReefCheck survey. Instead we took the 100m2 area in front of the yacht club site to be representative of the rest of the bay. We then sampled this area extensively. We mapped it, carried out 45 min fish ID swims (where every species was recorded - 92 in total), carried out substrate surveys and invertebrate surveys. For the invertebrate surveys we were helped by lots of the young guys in the village, which was really good fun, as well as helpful in finding things we wouldn't normally notice. The same procedure was used on a selection of the small coral heads, therefore covering both habitats. This baseline survey is very important to allow future assessment of change, especially if a tabu area were to be established.
In addition to the survey side of the work in Banam Bay we tried to get everyone in the village thinking about the reef. We showed (using a projector and a bed sheet) one of the BBC 'Blue Planet' series. The film chosen was about the Reef. Using this as a tool we explained the ecology behind what people were watching. For example, in one scene there is a Crown of Thorns devouring the coral. Katie explained (in Bislama) how the Crown of Thorns kills the reef, and how, if its predators such as the Conch or Maori Wrasse are over fished then the Crown of Thorns population can explode and lead to the death of the reef. We held the showing in a hall which could hold over 100. At the beginning it was packed (I had three kids sat on me), but when we switched the lights on at the end there were even more people hanging from rafters, and squeezing in through the windows! It was a very popular event!
We were also very lucky to, by chance, meet the local Vanua-tai (resource protectors) representative, a really keen young guy. We sat with him and talked about the reef, problems they were having, Reef Check (which he had already heard about), and the philosophy of OceansWatch. He then insisted that we accompany him the following morning to address another village meeting. Katie explained Reef Check and how and why monitoring was important, as well as the importance of taboo areas. I explained OceansWatch and believe left people looking forward to our return and working with us in the future. After the meeting there was some beach volley ball! As an Englishman I am useless at volleyball (where would we play?) so I left it to Katie to represent us. I think she lost?!
We tried to leave Banam Bay to make the Maskelynes or back down to Efate where we were expected, but the big swell, really short gaps between waves, wind gusting 30/35 knots head on and a very strong current between Ambrym and Malekula ensured we made no head way. After a few hours of extremely uncomfortable trying we were literally half a mile south of where we had started, so we turned for the comfort of the bay once more. Later that day we were relieved to meet a boat coming in from the Maskelynes. They were heading North but told us it was so bad now that they had to give up for the day, which made us glad we had beat a retreat. Over the next few days the wind increased, we had 25 knots even in the shelter of the anchorage, which led to several restless nights.
Although we were frustrated to be stuck (new crew were waiting), I think the village was very glad to have us there still, as we had made some really good relationships whilst there. On going back ashore everybody came down to greet us and make sure we were all ok, with exclamations of 'eeee wind e strong e strong strong' or 'bigfela wind eee no gud' that's Bislama for the winds strong! On the Sunday Jake took us as part of his family to share laplap in the village. Each family prepares its own 'special recipe' laplap, and then, sitting on the beach, everyone swaps bits with each other. Jake's wife Emily had prepared her laplap with taro and emperor fish amalgamated into it. Others had used yam as a base and others kumara. It was a really pleasant place to be, surrounded by the village and enjoying the food and company. After eating our fill we followed Kastom and lay out (where we had eaten) and had a snooze.......
The new skipper arrived, and as by now the wind had dropped we decided to try for Efate again. We managed to make East to almost Ambrym then tacked back to Port Sandwich... Then some small tacks (current greatly reduced this attempt) down to the Maskelynes (8hrs thus far). From there we were able to make 170 degrees so headed South. The wind had picked up to 35 knots and we could do 4 knots, double reefed and with a tiny jib out. However the toe rail was in most of the time, it was hairy! But definitely fun. When we were about on a level with Emae the wind angle changed, so we could steer 150, direct to Nguna. However we got there in the dark so decided not to anchor and keep going to Vila... Katie helmed a lot, she was impressive for her first time and in such poor weather... As went into the shelter of Efate and past Lelepa and Hat Island the wind completely died. On rounding Devils Point and then tacking to come into Vila bay, we got hit by the full force again. As this area is relatively shallow the swell mounted up to at least 6m, but they were well spaced (like rolling hills) so as Brian said 'no worries'... Except there were 40knot gusts! Was a crazy few hours... Made it back to Vila in a total
07/30/2008, Cornwall, England
Meeting with James Wharram and Hanneke Boon
I visited James Wharram and Hannake Boon on Wednesday 23rd July. This is a meeting I had long been looking forward to as I hold them in high regard for several reasons:
I love people who are unconstrained by convention. James, bucked the stream of conventional "wisdom" in the 50's when he set off across the Atlantic in a small catamaran. He made it with flying colours and has gone on to prove time and again the seaworthiness of his Polynesian style catamarans. Sailing is not a cheap sport but through producing relatively cheap to build plans that can be tackled by a good handyman James has allowed many people to follow their dreams. James also espouses a simple, low tech, green approach to cruising, one I am also very much in favour of.
The Wharrams and Hannake live in a delightful part of the country, at the head of the Devoran Estuary, Cornwall. It's an area that I know well from frequent holidays as a child and where I first sailed on the sea, so it was great to be able to visit again.
My long term goal is to have several Wharram Catamarans acting as lead boats, around which OceansWatch activities can be based. The catamarans will transport cargo, divers or the people we might need to undertake humanitarian work such as doctors, engineers etc. The boats will house small labs so that basic scientific work can be undertaken, will be able to work for long periods in remote areas and carry several tons of cargo. I feel strongly that the Wharram Islander 65 is the ideal boat for OceansWatch. It satisfies all of the above criteria as well as being relatively cheap to buy and maintain. Whereas a fancy keel boat might need a slip and expensive topside re-spray a Wharram can be dried out at low water and painted by hand, by volunteers.
I also feel strongly that OceansWatch must offer the best possible value for money to it's donars and the Wharram Islander 65 fits that criteria very well.
There is one Islander 65 being built at the moment for a french client. The builder is Andy Smith in the Philippines http://www.andy-smith-boatworks.com/ Andy is the only builder licensed by James Wharram to build the Islander. In August 2007 I visited Andy Smith's Boatyard to inspect the half finished boat and was very impressed by the workmanship and also by the way Andy treated his employees.
I had been exchanging some of my layout ideas with Andy and James so my visit was a great opportunity to swap more ideas and also learn from the current build.
We studied the plans for most of the day and came up with a new layout that will be simpler to build and maintain and will provide more cargo carrying capacity than our previous plan.
For more information about Wharrams visit http://wharram.com/index.php
07/05/2008, Espiritu Santo
30/6 Changeover day today. Chris departed and Mel took over as skipper for the trip back to Efate.
29/6 Sunday was a fairly easy day for us. We did a lot of overdue boat and person cleaning and were joined by Brian (an experienced sailor and diver) from Australia who is helping out for the Santo to Efate trip
28/6 Arrived at midday and went to town in the afternoon to do a bit of shopping and catch up with emails.
27/6 Today we went back to Leone and managed to get a full ReefCheck transect done as the rain had eased off and visibility improved. We did a shallow transect with the help of 4 men from the local village. This survey went very well with the local's spotting for us whilst we filled out the data sheets. In 2003 this village had been given some Trochus (Tectus niloticus) by Vanuatu Fisheries with the aim of the community protecting them in order to develop a sustainable harvest in the future. The Trochus is used for button making as well as being collected for the Curio trade. We were very encouraged to learn that the community had imposed a tabu on Trochus collecting that was still in force and we found many Trochus on our survey. In Vanuatu we are using a modified ReefCheck system that monitors additional species that are important in this economy including the Trochus. After completing the survey we quickly entered the data into the ReefCheck templates, which produce some nice graphs. Kate Thomson made up a PowerPoint presentation for the village that included information about ReefCheck, OceansWatch and what we had found on their survey. We were invited to the village Nakamal (meeting house) by chief Nathaniel to speak to the community. We brought along petrol and oil for the generator which after a couple of hours trying eventually wheezed into life. Whilst waiting James and I joined the men in grinding Kava root which has the reputation of being the strongest in the Pacific. It's expected that male visitors to the Nakamal join the community members for a shell or two on special occasions such as our visit. Luckily it has little effect on me apart from numb lips for 10 minutes or so. I found this visit very interesting. The Nakamal is the centre of the community and the village all meet there often, houses general do not have a lounge area as such so people visit the Nakamal for socialising. The women do all the cooking inside on open fires or in earth ovens. Unfortunately every meal seems to consist of Taro, Manioc or plantain but for a special treat we were given some canned Mackerel! Katie's presentation was well received and one or two questions were asked. We were asked to come back next year to do more detailed surveys as well as to train some of the community to do their own surveying. We left the Nakamal at about 9 pm and had an overnight sail to Santo.