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Postings - Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, Palau
Date and Time:
October,2010- March, 2011
PAPUA NEW GUINEA, MICRONESIA, PALAU
View Photos - Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, Palau :
23 October, 2010 - Mission Bay, Departing Cairns, Australia!
SEAWANHAKA is anchored in Mission Bay, 8 nautical miles out of Cairns, 5 miles in from Grafton Passaage through the Great Barrier Reef. Finally, we are out of the shipyard, off the dock, and headed out of Australia. We cast off the docklines and departed Marlin Marina, Cairns on the outgoing tide this morning at 0857, exactly the last day of SEAWANHAKA's 3 year Australian Customs permit. When Australia Customs cleared us out yesterday afternoon, seeing the various unfinished projects, they were a bit dubious that we would actually be off the dock in the morning. And if you had seen the piles of gear and provisions on the dock, deck and cabin top at 6 p.m. yesterday you would have questioned that as well. But, with a very able crew of 5 and great support from many of SEAWANHAKA's loyal fans in Cairns, we made it. Not to mention a last great night on the town and several "last" aussie beers at Salt House!
We weren't exactly ready for sea, so we sailed out to Mission Bay, just around False Cape from Cairns, out of the watchful eye of customs, to finish off a few projects and get her seaworthy. A good night's sleep at a quiet anchorage and SEAWANHAKA and crew will be ready for the Coral Sea passage to Papua New Guinea.
24 October, 2010, 14:36 - Abeam Euston Reef Light.
Sailing out of Grafton Passage, Great Barrier Reef. Clear skies, fresh breeze, sound ship, good crew.... Good bye Australia !
I originally checked into Australia in October, 2005, for what was supposed to be one summer south of the tropical cyclone season. Who would have guessed that 6 years later I am finally saying farewell to this great continent. I did sail 2 seasons in there in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, so it wasn't all in OZ. I had some great adventures in Australia, both at sea and on land, and met some really wonderful people inhabiting "down under". Read about those adventures and see lots of photos under the Australia headings of this website.
27 October, 2010 - Suau Island, "Island Bay", Papua New Guinea!
We are very happy to be anchored up in this lovely bay along the southeast coast of New Guinea Island. It was my 5th passage across the Coral Sea, and by far the best. Smooth and fast, with great fishing thanks to our fishing expert Billy from the ketch DARU. We even hooked into a nice blue marlin one afternoon. We stopped the boat hove-to and spent a couple of hours getting him up to the boat; photos, then release. We only had rain once on the crossing, and it was very refreshing. Just at sunset we sailed into this big black cloud that looked menacing, but it was only rain, not much wind, and an hour later sailed out into the starlight for the rest of the evening. With 5 onboard the watch schedule was easy, and lots of fresh fish and stores onboard for great meals.
We sailed into PNG through a pass in the Sunken Barrier Reef, a several hundred mile long reef that runs along the south coast of New Guinea and south of the Louisade Archipelago of PNG. We literally sailed into the anchorage here on Suau, as we had a bit of an engine issue, but the wind speed and direction were perfect and we were able to slowly work our way up into a beautiful bay to drop anchor. All very pleased to be in PNG!
5 November, 2010 - Alotau, Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea
SEAWANHAKA is back in Alotau, cleared into Papua New Guinea for the 3rd time. We had a lovely week sailing out of Suau Island, through some of our favorite islands of soutern PNG. We had great fishing working our way east along the Sunken Barrier Reef, through Ilo Ilo, Doini, Gona Bara Bara and Samarai Islands.
We had an amazing stop at Gona Bara Bara. We had been through there in 2006. It is a world famous site of a manta ray cleaning station, but it is seasonal, and when we were there before in August it wasn't happening. Well, this stop our timing was perfect. The site is in the bay on the north side of the island, good anchorage. It is a very ordinary looking coral "bommie". The big manta rays circle the bommie, and take turns swimming up to the bommie, heads up, wings spread, while the little cleaner wrasse go to work cleaning off barnacles and algae. The bottom of the bommie is only 20 feet deep, so it is possible to sit on the bottom with scuba gear and watch for hours. The big mantas are circling in the bay, so there is also great snorkeling, and even watching them from the boat is pretty exciting. Never get tired of seeing those big, beautiful sea creatures.
We stopped in at Samarai Island, hoping to clear PNG Customs at that historic old seaport, but the customs official was off island. We had a lovely dinner at the Samarai Guest House, and the next day sailed through China Strait headed for Alotau. It turned out to be a great move, as the traditional canoe festival was on for the weekend in Alotau. Canoes, both sailing and paddling, come in from far flung outer islands for races, and the festivities include native dress, food, music and dancing. Quite a great time.
24 November, 2010 – Rabaul Yacht Club Anchorage, Simpson Harbor, New Britain Island
SEAWANHAKA had another challenging crossing of the Solomon Sea. We had a few great days sailing out of Alotau, to Waga Waga, Kana Kopi, Nuakata and Dawson Islands. We had a great stop at the uninhabited Dugumenu Island in the Marshall Bennett Group. It was a beautiful anchorage in mixed sand and coral, crystal clear water with a good swim to the beach. Only fish camps on the island; nice to anchor and have a fish fry before more of the Solomon Sea. From there it was lite winds, no winds, strong winds, winds from the wrong direction. There were times when we were changing our destination regularly; east of New Britain, west of New Britain, or Buka/Bougainville! Finally after a week of zigzagging at sea we were able to work our way into St. George's Channel between New Britain and New Ireland, and eventually anchor up at Kokopo, Blanche Bay, just south of Rabaul. Kokopo is a great southerly anchorage, but we are in transition season, and with the wind moving to the north with the monsoon, lots of fetch and chop, so moved up into Simpson Harbor, Rabaul, a very well protected anchorage.
24 January, 2011 – Departing Rabaul, Simpson Harbor
SEAWANHAKA is cleared out of PNG, bound for Micronesia!
We have had a great time in the Rabaul area the past 2 months. Simpson Harbor at Rabaul is without a doubt the best natural harbor in the south pacific. It is centered in the caldera of an ancient volcano, and now surrounded by 6 volcanoes with protection from winds from any direction. It is free of obstructions and reefs, with decent depths for anchoring for both cruising yachts and large ships. Just 15 miles offshore are the Duke of York islands, a cruising, diving, snorkeling, swimming and exploring paradise.
Rabaul and Gazelle Peninsula are layered with history. The area was initially settled by the Germans, thus the Bismark Sea, Bismark Archipelago, Hamburg Harbor, and other German names scattered everywhere. First European contact was by the Spanish, and even the early English explorer and pirate, William Dampier sailed the west coast of New Britain island in 1701. The result of the German colonization was an early affluence generated by large coconut plantations. They were upstaged only by an American/Samoan beauty, Queen Emma, who married one of the Germans, so that she had her plantation empire covered no matter who won the first world war! An early French real estate swindler, the Marquee de Rey, tried to set up a colony on New Ireland, but most of that European population starved, the survivors being rescued by Queen Emma, with the Marquee being jailed.
After WWI the area became an Australian colony until occupied by the Japanese in early WWII. The Japanese coveted Rabaul for its large, natural harbor with adjacent airfield, strategically placed to use as a staging ground for invasion and occupation of Australia. It was the scene of massive bombing by the allied forces.
But the real history of Rabaul is natural, with its rise and fall being dictated by volcanic activity. Rabaul was once called the most beautiful town in the south pacific, lovely Mango Avenue lined with large lush mango trees, sheltering thriving businesses and resorts. It was rebuilt after a 1937 eruption, but massive twin eruptions in 1994 on both sides of the harbor buried the town. It was just too large of an undertaking to rebuild from that destruction, and today much of Rabaul remains buried, with the businesses, resorts and government offices moving 30 miles south to Kokopo. But due to its great harbor, Rabaul is still a big port for copra traders and Asian tuna fleets. And just as a reminder of what could happen at almost any moment, the active volcano Tavervur belches constantly.
Fortunately the Rabual Yacht Club survived the ashfall, and was a great place to base for our adventures in Rabaul, the Gazelle Peninsula, and the Duke of Yorks. Lots of volcano hiking, snorkeling, diving, sailing, and even exploring some of the 300 kilometers of tunnels and bunkers dug by the Japanese to survive the massive bombing.
Our strategy for sailing to Micronesia, 800 miles to the north, is to get as far east as possible before approaching the equator and the easterly trade winds. Our plan is to sail south in St. George’s Channel to the south cape of New Ireland, then sail east on what we hope to find, the NW monsoon. We don’t have any particular destination. We’d like to get as far east as Pohnpei, the capital of the Federated States of Micronesia, but we really would be satisfied with anything between Kosrae to the east, and Palau, 1800 miles to the west!. Our primary goal is not to beat to windward, keeping the wind at 90 degrees off the bow. Fortunately we have no time or destination constraints and can be patient to find the right wind.
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