15 January 2009 | Buka Island
We left Teop this morning a bit tired. This was because a crew of 10 guys in three canoes who were out fishing on the reef last night came by to say hello at 9:30 PM. I wasn't asleep when I heard the knock on the boat but I was in the rack.
I got up and turned on some lights, hailed the other boats and then went out to see what was happening. A wad of guys were staring at me. I said, "hello, what can I do for you?". They said, "we're from the village on the other side", in rough English. I said, "I see, well we're all sleeping here, perhaps we'll see you tomorrow then? Good night."
They hung around talking in pigeon a bit and then moved off. The nice thing about our boat is that the 5 feet of freeboard puts the port lights out of easy view from a surface boat. Many of these folks are so fascinated with yachts that they want to peer into the boat, and do so without asking. Even to the extent of shining a flash light inside. There may be some bad seeds also, who are casing the boat for theft targets. It is hard to know, they haven't had a yacht here in 15 years or more.
They proceeded on to Angelique, where At, in a better humor than I was, entertained them for a half hour or so. This was much to the chagrin of Eric, because that just meant that they did not get to his boat until 10:30. They finally left at 11PM. It was a fairly selfish visit and the first I would condemn since we've been in PNG. Curious and amazed is fine, but not while people beating up the coast at 4:30 AM each day are trying to sleep.
In the morning, as we left Teop, I noticed that the Cape L'Averdy light was working. Amazing really. The day turned out to be lovely. We saw the sun rise and had as much as 40% blue sky, both a novelty. The wind was on the beam for the run to Buka Passage. The wind was well under 10 knots but it was on the beam. We motor sailed at 8-9 knots right up to the first squall.
The Buka area seems to breed a lot of squalls and thunderstorms this time of year. Not sure what the local affect is that causes this, or if it has just been a chance condition over the last three days of observation. Regardless, we had to drop the jib and sheet in the main as the wind came on the nose. We didn't get much rain though.
On the other side of the cloud mass we reached the passage entrance. The passage is well marked and plenty deep. We arrived, by design, at slack water and had no problem coming into the town quay. The currents in the passage can reach 6 knots setting southeast on a rising spring tide and 4.5 knots setting NW on a falling spring tide.
The wharf had the Spirit of the Solomons, an inter island transport, on it. She was a stout steel affair. Behind her I could easily see that the fixed wharf fenders would just bend our stanchions. The old wharf is a rusting hulk. The only choice was to raft up with the Spirit. So we did.
I must say, the banana boat drivers that zip back and forth between Buka, Bouganville and the other little islands in the passage, are anything but courteous. They blast right across your bow, and think nothing of pounding by at top speed, feet away from you, leaving a wake that racks you against the quay, or the ship you're tied to, in our case.
I jumped ashore, through the Sprit, and headed across the street to the police station. At the station I was escorted past the cage like holding tank, which was full up, and back to an office with the Lieutenant in it. I told him that we had emailed our consulate in Port Moresby and that they had been in touch with the customs office in Rabul, 48 hours prior to our arrival, as specified by PNG regulations. We had been instructed to see the police department in lieu of the customs official who was not in town due to a housing shortage.
The lieutenant copied our passports, ships docs, and clearance out of the Solomons and said good day. Wow, my easiest check in ever. I knew he was going to get yelled at but there was nothing I could do about it. I hurried back to the port.
Once in the port I asked a few guys about getting diesel for Angelique and Whistler. They indicated that we could have it delivered but that you would have to pay first. The bank was a mob scene (I later found out that it was a 2 hour wait for service and that it is always like that). The guy that helped me was half Australian and half Bukan. I passed his name on to the other boats and then got back out into the channel so that they could tie up without me in the way.
We left at 10:30 as Angelique was just arriving. Hideko and I motored out the north passage following the well marked channel and enjoying all of the wonderful little islands and rock formations in the area.
Once outside we could see that a lot of squalls and thunder storms were moving about on the west coast. After moving north a little we decided to anchor off of a beautiful island with sandy beaches and reefs all around. The anchorage is deep, 100 feet plus, but it is nice in the NW monsoon conditions. It also kept us close enough to keep in touch with our friends as they worked through the process of clearing in and getting fuel, not to mention keeping us from driving right into a big thunder storm which was sparking up track.
A local fisherman with an outboard driven fiberglass boat stopped by to say hello and gawk at our boat. He gave me permission to anchor in exchange for a walk around the deck. As we were talking I saw a waterspout sucking the ocean up into the sky to the south just off the coat. I pointed at it and said, "whoa, check that out". He looked and said, "yes a cyclone", and then went back to interrogating me about our boat. Spouts can have 120 knots of wind at the edge of the vortex. They don't live long and they don't go fast or far but still, yikes. I guess the locals see them often enough not to care too much. The fisherman later told me that a spout wrecked a house in his village last year.
Things continued to clear and the lovely little island convinced us to stay the night. Late in the day came the arrival of Whistler and Angelique. Apparently their clearance was far more involved than ours. If the sun is out tomorrow we will snorkel on the amazing reefs surrounding the little island and then head for Kulu up in Queen Carola Harbor.