Green Island Lagoon
17 January 2009 | Green Island
Everyone in the fleet was up early today. At's call came on the radio at 4:20. Groggily we all reported in good to go and the weather looked fine. Fine is not a good thing in sailor's parlance because it means no wind except in squalls. That is basically what we had all day. It was a beautiful day, blue sky and fair weather cumulus, but there was little wind.
We made our way out through the easy exit in Queen Carola Harbor before sun up. Angelique discovered a canoe already out fishing. We were the last boat out the pass but ended up in front by Green Island. The trip was uneventful. We didn't even catch any fish, which was surprising.
As we approached Green Island I could see that the chart was pretty far off by the radar. As it turned out the charted position of the island on our Navionics charts was a good nautical mile east of where the island really is by WGS84 datum. Another way to say it, is that the island is a mile west of the charted location. A turn to port was required because our track line approaching the pass from Buka went over land in the real world.
As we approached the island we could see cumulus building over the island. It seemed to focus right on the pass. Of course. We zig zaged our way in to give the rain some time to let up and improve our visibility, but also to get a feel for the pass and the breaks on either side. Like most passes, it is not too bad after you've done it once, as long as you don't go when the current is ripping. It was, of course, our first time.
Hideko was on the bow guiding us in and I was glued to the sounder and watching the water color up ahead. The good news was that the sun had come back out and the water in the pass was crystal clear. The closest tide station was back in Buka but we expected to be in during a long mid day slack with no more than a tenth of a foot change between low-high and high-low tides. There wasn't more than a knot of current as we came through and the visibility was great. I later snorkeled the pass and can report that it is fairly wide and without any obstructions if you stay off of the edges.
The shallowest bit is a 20 foot bar and that comes at the very end, once you're inside, just before reaching deep water (100 feet). Once in the lagoon we called back waypoints for the entrance to the other two boats since our route was useless here (due to the chart offset). We turned to starboard and came in on the lovely beach, just inside the pass, and anchored in a comfortable 40 feet of water with great holding sand.
This is one of those anchorages where you get mobbed by kids and young adults on canoes when arriving. They all want to look around and see this crazy contraption that you live on. It is tough after a long sail to have not a minute of peace until sunset, but it is the way of things in Melanisia. We did trade for some nice fruits.
I also met a guy named Max who was on the way to go spear fishing. I asked him if I could join him and he said sure. So I kissed Hideko and hopped in his canoe with my spear and mask. I asked him how many folks lived on the atoll and he said 3,000. Wow. That's a lot of people. I asked him if there were still fish in the pass. He said yes.
He told the truth, but the size of the fish was left out of the response. I saw perhaps one Doctor fish and one Hind that were eating size. The only other things big enough to eat were two black tip reef sharks, one white tip and a nurse shark, which I found sleeping under a reef. Max speared four aquarium sized fish and assured me that the pass was better at night with lobster and bigger fish. I believe him but I think the people here just don't realize the pressure that 3,000 folks can put on two passes in such a small lagoon.
The coral are healthy though and the water is beautiful. The water temperature is 88F and the visibility is 100 feet. I didn't get close enough to the two terrified fish I saw that were eating size to even take a shot, but I had a lovely time snorkeling about. It was also fun to be the only white guy in a duggout canoe.
An inter island freighter came through the pass (it comes once a month) while we were out paddling, and all of the PNG guys on deck gave me a funny look. I just kept paddling. They threw some Betel Nuts out into the water on their way by, which the locals swooped up quickly.
Hideko held court back at Swingin' on a Star and ended up with some tasty grapefruit, oranges, coconuts (for drinking), pineapple, some kind of potato, and snake beans. Poor Hideko was very tired when I got back.
Eric ran about on his kayak during the day, but later ended up at Angelique in the engine room. We didn't realize it at the time but they lost all power right in the middle of the pass! No sounder, no plotter, no nothing. They made it in fine of course but were intent on figuring out what had happened. Eric tightened their alternator belt, which seem too loose for comfort, and the charging system seemed to be working much better there after. This would not be a great place to have to get parts for electrical! The fix seems to have them going again.
After a quick chat late in the day we all decided to make for Nugarba tomorrow first thing. It is another atoll 82 miles closer to Kapingamaringi. Kaping is our real destination because we have an aid package to deliver to them ASAP. If we make Nugarba (it is an atoll and there is some question as to how safe a pass entry late in the day will be) we will leave for Kaping the next day. If Nugarba is unsafe to enter (charts are not good and the only guide that mentions it has a one sentence pilot) we will just press on to Kaping. It will be nice to finally get to Kaping and take a few days off.