Monday, January 14, 2019

Enroute to Biak

After a scant 1 day at Wayag, and 2 days motorsailing east along the north coast of Waigeo, we finally arrived at our rendezvous anchorage at the east end of Waigeo Island in Raja Ampat. 00-18.00S / 131-19.06E in about 25 feet of mud/sand.

Here, we were joined by our friends on Ocelot, Indigo II, and Berzerker. Sadly, Songbird is still in Samal waiting for their new LiPO4 batteries to clear Customs in Manila. (We hope our Songbirds will eventually catch up).

We all spent yesterday prepping for the next hop--275 miles to Biak, an island in the middle of Cenderwasih Bay. The route takes us along the top of the "bird's head" that sits at the western end of West Papua, Indonesia.

On Soggy Paws, Dave discovered milky oil in the Port saildrive. This means we've got salt water mixed with the gear oil. Not a great situation. Dave thinks they may have pinched an o-ring when they re-assembled the saildrive. Ideally, we'd need a haulout to remedy the problem, but Dave thinks he can do it on a beach with a good high tide. Right now the tides aren't right, or we'd head down to Batanta where put Soggy Paws on the beach in 2016 to change the oil. Looks like the 23rd has the right tides, so we'll be looking for a beach near Biak. Meanwhile, he sucked as much of the milky oil out and replaced it with new oil, and we'll try not to use the Port engine unless we have to.

We all left the anchorage this morning around 7:30, heading east. The wind is light NW and the seas are slight, so it's not an unpleasant motorsail. There's a high overcast so it's not too hot.

If we went direct, it would take 2 1/2 days at around 5 knots. But I think we'll stop tonight at a tiny island called Pulau Amsterdam (aka Mios Su). We are worried about motoring at night with big logs in the water--washed out to sea by the rains. Stopping tonight means we'll cover more of the coast near the rivers in the daylight.
Sherry & Dave

Cruising SE to PNG, Solomons, Vanuatu
At 1/11/2019 4:30 AM (utc) our position was 00°18.00'S 131°19.06'E

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Oh Lovely Wayag, Again!

We left the marina on Samal on New Year's Day, and anchored overnight in a lovely bay on the SE corner of Samal Island. From there we left early the next morning, and motored south for Indonesia, 186 miles away.

The Gulf of Davao is almost always calm in the morning and we motorsailed all day in light winds. Our GRIB files promised a fair wind from the mouth of the bay all the way to Talaud, and that is what we got. We had a fast sail with following current, overnight to Talaud Island. As per normal, my watch was busy--winds up and down and light squalls required constant sail trimming. At one point I logged "Crazy hour! Wind shifted to the nose and died, engine on for 10 minutes. The wind is back but way east and now we are hard on the wind!" Dave's watch was not much different. In all, it was a good overnight--no fishing boats to dodge and only one ship on AIS.

We arrived at Talaud in another squall. The anchorage someone else had given us looked too exposed to the current wind, so we went further in to the south coast and found a nice protected spot. 04-00.00N / 126-41.71E in 45 ft sand. It rained all afternoon and evening, but was nice in the morning.

The next hop was another overnight, 140 miles to Rau Island, Morotai, N Halmahera. Our friends on Java were there, and had procured an Indonesian sim card for us, so we could have internet as we coast-hop through NE Indonesia. We first met Java in Ecuador in 2009! Rau is a surfer spot, and there's some nice NE swell in this area right now. So there were a couple of other boats, all surfers. We anchored next to Java at 02-17.41N / 128-10.39E in about 40 ft of sand. This was a pretty anchorage with a nice beach. The new Telkomsel tower on the SW corner or Morotai was serving up 4G internet at times (and 1G at other times!).

From our previous experience going from Morotai to Wayag, we knew we couldn't make it in one overnight. Java had recently stopped at an anchorage on the NE tip of Halmahera, and said it would be a good one in the current conditions (northerly winds and a big swell). The only downside is that it was 67 miles away--a long day even for a catamaran. We hauled anchor at the crack of dawn and kept pushing all day, sweating arriving in an unfamiliar anchorage after dark. Fortunately, we got more breeze than forecast, and we had a fast sail across the north coast of Halmahera, and made it into the anchorage just before dark.

The next hop was 130 or so miles to Wayag. The only tricky part of this one is a ripping northbound current. The weather routing from, produced a route that went down the east coast of Halmahera for awhile before cutting across to Wayag. This added about 15 miles to the direct line route. When we rounded the first point and headed south, we were already bucking a 2 knot current. So we ended up doing a modified version of what FastSeas recommended (a dogleg SSE and then ESE), and did end up with low current for quite awhile, but later had about 2 knots of current on our nose for a number of hours during the night. It was a typical tropical passage with a few rain showers, squalls and calms. The only other exciting part was (finally) noticing the small notice on the chart indicating "for 35 miles surrounding this point, volcanic activity has been reported and sounding are not reliable." It was dark by then, and there was nothing to do but to trust the Garmin soundings (which looked much more accurate than was was on our OpenCPN CMAP chart). We were not that worried about running on a new volcano, but the swift current combined with underwater pinnacles makes a rough ride.

We had put up our Code Zero, a light air sail on a light furler on a removable bowsprit, in anticipation of all the light air sailing we had expected. But reality didn't match the forecast...during the day we had too much wind to use the Code Zero. In fact we ended up on my watch with a double-reefed main and jib and still doing about 7 knots with an ETA of 3:30am!! By the time the wind lightened up, the wind was too far aft for the Code Zero to do us any good (and I wouldn't be happy about flying that big sail on a moonless night with a few squalls around, anyway). At one point, even with the engine on, and a little wind behind us, we were doing only 3 knots over the bottom.

Then, just after dawn, bang! a fitting on the bowsprit broke and we had to do an emergency takedown of the (thankfully furled) Code Zero. The winds were now 20-25 kts and it was raining. I went from a deep sleep to dancing with the sail on the foredeck in my underwear in about 30 seconds. Nothing went over the side, and fortunately, Dave thinks the broken part is fixable.

Having been into Wayag before, we had tracks and waypoints, so entering on an overcast day was not a problem. We wove our way into the inner bay with ease. We were a little surprised to find 3 cruising boats already here, but it's a big area and there's plenty of room. We're having happy hour on Soggy Paws tonight!!

The clouds are clearing and it's time for a swim...
Cruising SE to PNG, Solomons, Vanuatu
At 1/8/2019 1:10 AM (utc) our position was 00°09.68'N 130°02.03'E

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Underway! New Year, New Cruising Grounds

We left our friendly Holiday Oceanview Marina on Samal Island, Mindanao, Philippines on New Years Day to set out on a new adventure--seeing Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu.

We will be hurrying south and east until June, when we hope to be all the way down south to Vanuatu. Then we'll turn around and cruise back. We are "making time" to the east along the offshore islands of the north coast of Papua New Guinea while the NW winds are blowing. Then we have to get south to Vanuatu before the strong SE trades kick in in June in Vanuatu.

Right now we've made about 400 miles toward the SE in 2 long hops... Samal to Talaud, and then Talaud to Morotai. We are underway leaving Morotai to hopefully go overnight all the way to Wayag in northern Raja Ampat. But we won't linger there, and plan to continue east to the major Indonesian port of Biak, where we plan to check in, refuel and reprovision, and check out for PNG.

I swear I'm going to blog regularly this year! So stay tuned--many adventures ahead.

Sherry & Dave

Cruising SE to PNG, Solomons, Vanuatu
At 1/3/2019 4:54 AM (utc) our position was 03°59.98'N 126°41.70'E