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Monday, September 26, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Andrew Holt has gone a-sailing!

Andrew's new home and berth in Mackay

An old Canberra friend got divorced some years ago, found himself a new wife, a new home, and a new business in Mackay, to which he added a boat and, following his recent 61st birthday - and perhaps feeling his own mortality creeping up on him - , decided to up anchor.

He refitted his boat - whose name I don't know but it is not "OVERSIZE" - and is now heading for Papua New Guinea and beyond. His last few messages read:

We are due to clear customs in Townsville tomorrow afternoon. Then we go out to Magnetic Island and then over to the Louisaides Archipelago islands on the South East corner of Papua. It should take around a week as we will stop at a couple of reefs on the way.

Waiting in Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island. Cleared out by Customs yesterday. Heading over to the Louisades for a couple of months. If we like the idea of cruising then may go up to the Solomons for Xmas. And then who knows.

Click on map to enlarge

We are currently anchored up at Willis Island which is pretty much on the 200 mile mark out from the coast. Tomorrow we leave here about 5pm for the biggest jump so far about 400 miles nonstop up to Rossel Island in the Louisiades. We're hoping to do it in around 3 days. Halcyon struggle more than us during these sails because of them healing over so much. So much for keeping in touch with FB.

Well, we're here at Sudest Island in the Louisiades Archipelago PNG. The trip from Willis Island to here took 50 hrs non-stop. A very eventful experience. For those of you who don't know, we're travelling with Ross and Yvonne Stewart. Their boat is called Halcyon, ours is Settlement. [Editor: according to the Australian Register of Ships, Settlement is 13.8m long and was built in 2002]

Anyway, we arrived here on Sunday about 5pm. Well, since 7.30am on Monday we've had a constant stream of locals coming out to the boats to trade things, e.g. sweet potato, some horrible looking green stuff, eggs etc. The stories we're going to have to tell when we get home!!!! We did do a deal yesterday: about 6 dozen oysters for 6 AA-batteries. We went into a village this pm. Mind boggling. We don't know how fortunate we all are. There is a feast on in another village early next week that we've been invited to, so may stay here till then. It sounds like a travelling kind of show that they put on whenever someone dies.

One guy that came out yesterday wanted Andrew's help with some electrical probs with his generator. He said enthusiastically, "I can pay you with a pig", to which Andrew answered, "WTF am I going to do with a pig?" The income some of these people get here is from alluvial gold up the river. So guess what were doing in a couple of days? Taking a picnic lunch and Andrew's wizz-bang metal detector up the river for the day.

Left Dumaga Bay and the Ru Village on Tuesday morning. Just sailed north till we found something that we liked which is Bada Bada Bay, about 13 nm away. Of course, it has a couple of cillages. From here we'll go around to Targula station at Bobo Hai P.T at the northern end of the island. Its about 20 nm, The people so far are very friendly with every village with a pastor either Uniting or Catholic.

Well, we're now anchored off Nimoa Island, the beginning of the Calvados group. It was really hard leaving that first spot. We became quite fond of Christopher and little Kevin.
We never did get to go to the feast as it was always in a few days and we had to move on. We stopped off today at a trading post to get some diesel and check out their shop. I've never seem so many different brands of bully beef. I was hoping for some tomatoes but alas there was none. We stopped at Badda Badda Bay which Ross renamed Gooda Gooda Bay because of all the Crayfish and Mud Crabs that they brought out to trade. We really wish there had been more info on what these people need. Something we'll rectify when we get normal internet again. The most common thing they ask for is soap. I had a snorkel here this pm. One of the best I've ever had. Will have to drag Andrew in tomorrow. We'll probably stay here till Monday. Yvonne and I are planning a Father's Day lunch for the Dads. Lamb shanks and Yvonne's bread and butter pudding.

Well we've been on Rossel Island for 11 days. In the one anchorage at Tyron Bay. In this time we've been to church last Sunday. Don't fall off your chair Mary!!! It's the best upper arm exercise I've had in a while. All that clapping, CYC church??????

Friday was the celebration of PNG's 36th anniversary of Independence from Australia. So we along with about 9 other dim dims(white people)we were the special guests of the proceedings. Sadly we were about 20 mins late and missed the majority of the visiting Pastors service!!!

Anyway let me tell you their was no bbq or cold beers. They put on a buffet of local food. I must admit I was slack and apart from pawpaw I couldn't bring myself to eat any of it. Even cast iron gut Andrew was a little reserved. Ross ate enough for all of us.

Forgot to mention Thursday. A special day at the school. The kids all dressed in there traditional garb and exchanged gifts. Which is a grass skirt for the girls and a g string made out of banana leaves for the boys. So once again we're seated in the front of the proceedings starting to understand how Royalty feels. When they start marching off to the left to go to get there exchange baskets. Well as Ross put it "Andrew what a boob fest". The funny thing is that it's actually female thighs that are taboo. So when I get out of the water every pm I have to get Andrew to pass me a towel to hide my sexy thighs. I wish.

Andrew's sitting with me having a glass of red and said to tell you about the visiting the Anthropologists. So here goes. They have been here for 8 weeks and came over to the celebration for the day only. One hawaian and two kiwis from the ANU in Canberra. They're here to find out about Rossel Isl residents of the past and to see if these people left from here to colonise the Solomon's and other islands. As you could guess, maybe, but the weather is wet, still waiting for a fine day to do the washing.

To say these last 11 days have been an interesting insight into how other people exist would be a enormous understatement. Poor Ross tonight has found that the small boy he befriended has probably stolen from him has been a real bummer. But lets not go there at the present. We farwelled our adopted family tonight, very sad, Jonathan, Willy, Enidth, Lucy and there mother, Nina. We have also found out there is no marina facilities in the Solomon's so are rethinking strategy for xmas, maybe Darwin who knows.

Andrew would like the rugby results anyone!!!!!!!!!!!

Currently at Robinson Anchorage at the island of Abaga Gaheia in the Calvados Group. Heading over to Alotau for fuel and customs clearance. Thanks for the rugby results. We had intended going to Solomons for Xmas to leave boat but there is no marina. Prefer marina for security as boat could be there a month before we go back.
So are looking at other options. Maybe go to Cairns then Darwin to do the Kimberlies next year then maybe sail Indonesia rally. Then sail Malaysia rally.
Would look at sending boat from Singapore to Med then sail home via Atlantic and Pacific but who knows.

Had a very nice coral trout for lunch that Sue caught. Still waiting for mud crabs but the locals suck too much beetle juice. Off to Pana Numara Island to dive at the blue lagoon. Eventually will get to Alotua hopefully for the RWC finals.

The Truth about the trip to The Louisiades

What you are about to read is the ramblings of an old man and you will probably get sick of it after the first page, however I am going to tell my story, no matter what.

What I and for that matter Yvonne think of The Louisiades.
Just because we have been together for 48 years doesn't mean that either one is brain washed by the other. Maybe I am?

Also in my ramblings things are not necessarily in order or context but read on, it may become apparent.

These are some of our considered opinions and if we offend anyone (Henry and Jeane) we apologise in advance. You've read all the stories so far and can tell we have had a fantastic time, but there are some negatives that we think we should tell you, to fulfil the picture. The following has in no way been influenced by our boat problems that could happen anywhere.

The Trip Over:

Most of these incidents occurred on the passage, the night and morning before we arrived.

We had troubles with reception on both systems HF and VHF, but due to Andrew's ability with electronics, he was able to fix both problems. (At Willis Island before departure from Australia)
Yvonne's eye:
Tea time, whilst thickening a stew, mixing cornflour with water, with both hands full and not supporting herself a wave hit and she was thrown into the refrigerator door headfirst. She turned her head to protect it and had a glancing blow high on the cheek bone enough to break the skin. I Band- aided her up and Sue, being an ex nurse, came over the next day and put a dressing and some Steery strips on it. She now has another wrinkle to go with the rest of her love lines.

The Dingy:
I was on watch and noticed that the dingy although still held to the davits by a chain at the bow and stern, had snapped a 6mm stainless steel turnbuckle which allowed the other to dislodge and the dingy was on a severe angle swinging back and forward crashing into the newly painted davits. The outboard petrol tank was dangerously close to falling out so I called Yvonne to come and watch me whilst I tied it temporarily into place.

The Safety Harness:
When I or we, even in good conditions, leave the pilot house, on a sea passage, the rules is put on your self inflating life jacket/safety harness and attach yourself to the boat with a seat belt type strap so you can't fall or slip overboard. These conditions were not good so I donned the regalia and went to work. I completed the job slipping and sliding on the back deck, came inside with the safety strap and went to unattach myself from the strap only to find out it wasn't there. I had been clipping onto the boat but wasn't attached to the strap. There's a word for that, something head!

Lost Danbouy:
See above (Dingy)

Lost Life Ring:
See above (Dingy)

The Headsail:
I took over the watch from Yvonne at about 3.00am, she complained that the boat wasn't answering the auto Pilot and she had a hard time keeping it on track. I looked at it made some adjustments to the rudder sensitivity and rudder angle movement and found that it was hopeless. I looked out and noticed that the navigational lights were brighter and more visible than normal, why, because there was no Headsail. The end result being that the halyard had broken and the sail was in the water acting as a sea anchor. Hanging over the port side pulpit and coming out on the starboard side mid ships. Pitch black, raining I informed Andrew that the sail was down but still attached and he turned around and came back. By this time I now knew the problem, and while he circled the boat, at 5.00am (first light) in 25 - 30 knots of wind I winched the sail up stopping every now and then to empty the water and securing the sail on deck. A great surprise and relief was that the sail was still in one piece, a bit dirty from rubbing against the anti-foul but still intact.
We motor sailed the next twelve hours to Sudest Island.

The Port side Stainless Steel Pulpit:
Bent see above (Headsail).

The Anti Foul:
Removed see above (Headsail).

The wind vain:
I have the arrow and one arrow tail.

Whilst There:

The Cap Shroud:
One day I was looking at the rigging as you do, and saw that the port side Cap Shroud was frayed like a rag dolls top notch, holding by the thicker centre wire still in place. So we taped it up put two hose lamps on it and supported the bottom spreader with the spinnaker halyard curling down the existing shroud (Andrew's idea)

The Main Halyard:
Putting up the main sail and jamming it in the rope clutch (we say jammer) I noticed that the outer shield had come away from the inner rope below the jammer, fortunately I could bind it with insulation tape to allow it to go back up and not cut it down. I am now using my topping lift as a halyard and my halyard as a topping lift.

The Gear Box:
Well the truth is we have no forward motion what so ever only the wind. We anchored and sailed away from The Louisiades with no clutch, sometimes we have reverse, but we can't back all the way to Australia and we would have had to have waited in Port Moresby for a replacement Automatic Gearbox, for who knows how long.

The Return Passage:
The trip back certainly wasn't as bad as going over. If the winds had dropped too much, motoring wasn't an option so we had to press on no matter what. The weather was better, the sea state was better, the angle of the boat was worse in means of comfort. The last day was as good as it gets, we think, and we still weren't happy at sea.
Entering Grafton passage at night was to say the least daunting, but calling a ship and getting no answer was scary, An Asian Captain on a large ship, that couldn't speak English made matters worse. When he eventually spoke he said in Asian English "Wot is ya teson" (What is your intension) I felt like saying "Not to hit you, you big pri.k". It was horrifying, seeing his profile on the radar screen on a collision course would scare the s..t out of anyone. The fact that your six nautical miles away (that's only about 20 - 30 minutes at max and it would take maybe 10 minutes to cross his path), the fact still remains that if he hits then you're gone.

Anchoring in the dark, with no motor, in a strange location, with no moon (Andrew got that wrong, it was covered in cloud) and even with Settlement's spreader lights on and her blue aft lights, Andrew with his search light it's still hard to know how far away they were . I knew where they were but not how far, consequently I dropped anchor miles from where I should have and consequently we rocked and rolled all night in the middle of the bay. Not that we knew, we were out like candles.

From what you have read so far (in this email), I know there have been a lot of negatives.

It was really good, relaxing and something that not everybody can do and I appreciate the fact that I could (you have to have a boat). I loved interacting with the people, especially the kids and for the little something that we could bring to them. The naturalness of an incredible country with natural beauty friendly and happy people will remain with us forever. The food, sea food fruit chicken eggs, but not many vegetables is limited in quality and variety

Sweet Potato, different varieties, Pumpkin, Ibeka (type of spinach, it's a green - yuck even cooked in coconut milk as recommended), Yams - yuck (but maybe we could have experimented more with them although I doubt it) beans and tomatoes.

Sea Food:
Oysters, Reef fish including Red Emperor, Coral Trout, Sweet Lips, Lobsters (two types) Painted Cray's, Medium to King Prawns (but we left before the prawns were received) Cockle type shell fish.

Bananas by the bunch or hand, Passion fruit, Mangoes, Paw Paw, Pineapple, Oranges (which are green) Limes.

Chicken Eggs:
There are Bantam chickens running around every village. Sometimes people own them; sometimes the village owns them so you can't be too sure of the quality because someone will just pick up and egg and go and trade. Some are bad, real bad so we used to sink them in some water those that floated even a little bit were returned to the trader before negotiations.
All of the above foods were negotiated and traded at the back of the boat, with kids from seven to oldies, Magistrates and local Councillors. What we bought would cost us thousands of Australian dollars in any standard country.
Although some, the greatest minority of the people were out to get as much out of you as possible and not in a nice way; for the most part they were all fantastic, really inquisitive about us, our way of life, our worldly possessions, our children everything they could learn. We went along with their bartering and usually gave more than they asked for however if they were greedy I would either say enough or give back their goods.

The Bad Things (summary only):

The Trading:
As well as being fun, this can be a real pain when you get a lot of canoes parked off your boat all wanting something any time of the day. You can ignore them and they will sit and wait giving out the occasional cough or a quiet hello until you practically have to order them away. There is only so much fruit and veggies you can take. And if you let them on board, they will sit and talk amongst themselves, perfectly relaxed, while you just sit there and wait for them to go.

The Poverty:
Most of their houses are constructed of timber frame with woven frond walls and a woven grass roof. They are built above the ground on stilts, to protect themselves from the pigs, if they have pigs or on bare earth, with a raised floor where they sleep eat and cook.

The Hygiene:
Because they have nothing you see the same people wearing the same cloths every day, sometimes inside out, probably when there dirty. Swimming to them is washing, that's what they call it.

Beatle Nuts:
This is the worst thing. It is some sort of nut that grows on a tree that looks like a coconut palm. It is a cultural thing. They have been doing it forever and it is killing them. It's a drug and is habit forming like cigarettes. If they just did that I could possibly accept it, but they also use lime, in their mouth which interacts with the beetle nut and produces red foam, which they spit out, leaving their gums and teeth red and rotting. I knew all this before and I imagined that the lime was from the fruit of a lime tree but no it's lime that you use in concrete, they get it by crushing up coral. No wonder their mortality rate is so low.

I've been told by so many people that PNG has not changed in thirty years and is likely not to change as the politicians are apparently all corrupt.

What will we do now?
Well we have learnt a lot in the two crossings, and our trips around the islands and intend to sail even in light breezes and not just start the steel spinnaker (motor). We are now prepared to do the occasional overnighter if we want to, even a two nighter (only along the coast, never in the open sea again) but that's about it. We have done things we couldn't have imagined our selves doing, things we have seen others do and marvelled at, like sailing to anchor and sailing from anchor. Now we are there, or not quite yet, after this morning's episode.

After going to bed at 2.30am, we awoke and got ready for the Volunteer Coast Guard to tow us into the marina, and finally home safe and well. It could have been a lot worse if there was no wind; we could have been still out there or whatever.

We have established that we are Coastal, Fine Weather Sailors; we are not Blue Water Cruisers.

When after we did our first overnighter going to Magnetic Island from Bowen, we told Andrew and Sue that were not confident in ourselves or in Halcyon - We were right on both counts, still you have to have a go and we don't regret it.

Last but not least

The Company:
Andrew and Sue are now life time Friends (with a capital F), we kicked our relationship off when we met firstly in the Hinchinbrook Channel, then sailed south with them from Fitzroy Island to The Whitsundays some three or four years ago. A nicer couple you could not find, they are generous, helpful in every way and the best friends, plus they are also "Foodies".

It was them that suggested we go to the Louisiades, it was Andrew that planned and organised the whole thing. Sue organised the renewal of our Passports and obtaining of visas, the changing of currency and probably a lot more that I can't remember. Andrew organised the Australian Registration of Halcyon, including the delivery of papers personally to the Canberra office.

On both passages Andrew and Sue slowed their boat down to stay close to us. During the headsail incident Andrew and Sue returned (some two hours) back and circled Halcyon until we were under control then went ahead and found an anchorage, and advised our entry into the reef and the position which we just made before dark, in the rain.
Through the whole adventure Yvonne and I were just following on, trusting in Andrew's judgment on the weather, the rout, and the method in which we cruised the islands. During our passages Andrew kept me informed on the waypoints, the position of ships and called them to advise them of our position. This was especially helpful when entering Grafton Passage, last night, Andrew called a big ship up, advised him of his position and more importantly our position in regards to moveability.

On the return passage Andrew contacted Customs, the Marina, and the Volunteer Coast Guard for towing..... .... Anything and Everything.

We did have some issuers on occasion, as four people tend to do, spending so much time together. However the conflicts were resolved over a beer or a meal (Sue can cook anything and make it tasted good).

Today at 10.00am the Coast Card came out and towed us into the marina. We have been busy with Customs, Quarantine, getting mechanics, getting riggers and getting a stainless steel fabricator (more money) and finishing this monumental disaster of an email that changed into a novel of sorts.

Since we left Magnetic Island on the 12th of August until we arrived and anchored in Cairns the total trip covered 1,531 nautical miles and took eleven weeks six days and twenty hours. You could say twelve weeks or you could say three months but being pedantic as I am, I must quote the exact time.

Well as Bugs Bunny said:

"That's all folks"

Much Love

Ross and Yvonne

Thanks to so many of you that enjoyed my musings and encouraged me to write more (you fools, given an inch I'll take a mile).
Ross and Yvonne Stuart
The Good Ship HALCYON at sea somewhere

Good on you, Andrew! "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did." Those are Mark Twain's words, not mine, but I fully agree with them.

Sunday, September 4, 2011