Nov. 17, 2009
Lat 01 46.81S Long 149 31.93E
Strike Two! But, first, I'll share the good news! We had a lovely time at Ropopo Resort in Kokopo, New Britain, PNG. For any of you traveling through those waters in the future, it's a must stop. Gerry at the dive shop is most helpful with any service or information needed. Again, the town is very modern and very well supplied. The resort was most accommodating. We had full use of the facilities including the beautiful pool, which was absolutely refreshing. There is 24 hr. security so the dinghy was safe on their beach. The waters in the anchorage are teaming with fish and the reef is spectacular for snorkeling. The active volcano is really a wonder to behold throughout the day. We continued to sail northwest to the tip of New Ireland. We started off with a nice spinnaker run for about 6 hours and then the wind fizzled out to 3 knts and less.
Here's the amazing news: since it was dinner time and the seas were flat calm, we came up with the brilliant idea of rafting together with New World while under passage. We tied up and had our fenders securely placed without problems. While Gerrie served up fabulous pasta, Clint decided it would be fun to fly the spinnaker on our boat in the whopping 3.5 knts. Unbelievable, it was the craziest thing you ever saw, two boats rafted together, our spinnaker out the port side pushing both of us along at 1.5 knts in 3.5 knts of breeze. That's definitely a first in maritime history! We took lots of pics. Our top speed ended up being 2.0 knts in 3.9 knts. We enjoyed a great dinner, had some relaxing conversation for a couple hours, then we simply tossed the lines and parted still under sail! It took us about 26 hours to reach Kavieng. Now before I get to the nitty gritty I will outline a few points. For all of you boat captains and wannabe captains receiving this, you know who you are, I only ask that you reserve judgment and glean from my mistakes for your own benefit; this could be you one day! DON'T RELY ON CHARTS! I don't care who made them, when they were made, how pretty they look, your eyes and your instruments are your safeguards. Drawing from my ER experience, in hindsight I have established a law for myself. When anyone 50 years old came in (and now even as young as 35 due to lousy lifestyles) and had any symptoms even close to a heart attack such as indigestion or shoulder pain, they bought an automatic EKG just to CYA. Well, I have determined that if I am in 50 ft. of water, I am going to stop the boat, assess the situation, get someone on the bow, and proceed with extreme caution. For those considering buying a cruising boat: if I lived somewhere like Auckland, Annapolis, San Fran where I kept my boat in a marina and sailed around the nearby coasts becoming very familiar with the harbors and anchorages, I would look for the best built fin-keel boat that can carry big sail so I could scream along as fast as I could getting the most thrill of the sailing life. However, if you are planning to circumnavigate going places that few have gone before with limited resource of information on those places, may I suggest that you consider a heavy, well-built full-keel boat that can take hardships that lighter, fin-keel boats would not survive. Ok, so having said all that, I was at the helm; I had already negotiated a reef infested narrow waterway into Kavieng port for 2 hours. I had the 3 sailboats at anchor in sight and was following the chart, big mistake, into the anchorage. We were in over a hundred feet of water. Clint just came up and said to slow the boat down and went back below to turn on the windlass, I had backed down to about 3 knts, all of a sudden the depth went to 40, 20, 10, BAM! I hit the freakin' reef! It was horrible! I looked over the side and it was like sitting in an aquarium as a fish ornament. We quickly scrambled, let down the dinghy, Abbey got in and drove around the boat to check a path to get off of there, I monitored the bow, Clint was at the helm while Abbey pushed the stern with the dinghy and got us off. The whole ordeal lasted about 10 minutes, but it seemed like the end of time! A local boat of Aussies from the resort saw it happen and came out to guide us into the anchorage. They simply replied, "No worries, we've hit that same reef a couple of times." Somehow that wasn't reassuring. Clint dove the keel and thoroughly checked it out. He said that the only damage was a few more spots, besides the ones from our last episode, where all the bottom paint was scraped off, but the gel coat was still intact. The rudder is fine. PS we have a heavy duty stainless bar running from our keel to the bottom of our rudder, that's a great well-built safety feature. If we would have had a skeg hung rudder that would have been the end of this part of the journey for a while. I can only hope that these recent "disasters" in my thinking, have made me into a wiser, more experienced cruiser. What's that saying about not trusting someone that hasn't been wounded? Whatever, I don't want to get to strike three! I feel like the count is full right now, though. We are on passage to Palau with 1000 miles to go. I love the passages! I'm good at avoiding big ships in the open ocean and there are no worries when there is no land nearby. I guess a random container or a whale could pop up, but a tree could fall on you while you're driving down the road too. Palau is reef-city, and the Philippines, well; let's just say that it is 7000 islands all connected by reef. Maybe this was just good exercise to prepare for the really bad stuff. As you can see, I am a bit tender right now. The ER in Vegas taught me how to just "buck up" too. Above and beyond all that, I have the Lord, so I am drawing a lot of strength from His Presence right now, thankfully! Back to cruising details, PNG is one of the most beautiful tropical places. There are tons of waterfalls, rivers, volcanoes, gorgeous exotic birds, rare critters, unspoiled reef, a plethora of sea-life. There are many WWII historic sites and lots to see by land tour. Unfortunately, the social situation is not the best. There is theft everywhere. Even the locals we spoke to are constant victims of theft. There is also violence. The places we went to did not have much violence, but the people there said Port Moresby has a lot of "attacks" and many of the other islands have continuous assaults. In Kavieng there is a very nice resort right off the anchorage called Nusa Resort.
The people are exceptionally friendly and treat you like family. It is very safe and secure there. It would be a shame to miss all of this beauty. I think, "Forewarned is forearmed." If you take the right precautions to secure your boat and dinghy and stay with reputable guides, it would be the adventure of a lifetime. Also, around the Kavieng area is some of the world's best surfing from Nov to April. We topped up with diesel in Kavieng, but the wind is still below 10 knts. We'd really like to average 5 knts at least to get through this passage in somewhat decent time. The gribs show that we are facing a lot of motoring right now. We need to get at least 300 miles under sail in order to have enough fuel to get to Palau. More to come, all good news we hope! Lots of love, Janet, Clint, and Abbey