Saturday, March 16, 2019

Rabaul to English Cove

Mar 14-15

We checked out of PNG with the Rabaul Customs officer with next port listed as Gizo, Solomons. While in town, we all hit the stores and the market for one more round of provisioning. We bought some very expensive marine 2-part epoxy in one hardware store that had some marine supplies--so we could pay back the epoxy we had borrowed to make our rudder repairs (done in Kavieng), and have a small supply on hand in case we need it again.

We left Rabaul in the early morning, headed SSE to a pair of coves on the SW end of New Ireland, named Irish Cove and English Cove. As we motored out in the glassy conditions, we motored right past the smoking volcano that we had hiked a couple of days before.

Once the wind came up, we were able to sail most of the way with the NW wind mostly behind us. However, as we approached the coast of New Ireland at Lamassa Island, the wind switched 180 degrees and came strong on our nose (some weird land breeze).

Dave wanted to see a cove that Rod Pearce (famed WWII airplane hunter in PNG) had said we could anchor, and from which we could scramble up on a ridge and find a downed Japanese plane. So we let the other boats go on to the anchorage in Irish/English Cove and we explored around a bit. We found that there was indeed an anchorage where Rod had pointed out, at approx 04 43.56 S / 152 48.08 E, in about 20-30 feet of sand/mud. This is probably only a one-boat anchorage.

There was a big thunderstorm building offshore and we still had at least an hour to go to get to the anchorage, so we didn't explore too much, but maybe we'll get a chance to go back on our way back north.

Being last in a 4 boat fleet into a tiny anchorage meant we got the outside spot. But fortunately our buddy boats had left enough room for us. We were wedged into tiny English Cove two-by-two, with Ocelot behind us hanging in 12 ft and we had to drop in about 40 ft.

It seemed like the cove was exposed to the prevailing westerly winds, but the outside reefs blocked the swell and we were fine in there. We had checked out Irish Cove and found it much deeper--we probably could not have fit all 4 boats in Irish Cove.

By the time we came in and anchored, our friends were surrounded by canoes. These were friendly curious people and it turned out that most of them were from Lambom Island nearby, where we could see a fairly large village on the satellite charts. Lambom does not have a water supply, so the villagers come daily to Irish Cove in their canoes to get water from the fresh water river that empties into the bay.

Only a few families actually live in this bay. Eventually the Lambom canoes departed as the sun started to set, and we met Passie (pronounced Posse, like the American west group that forms to hunt down the bad guys) and Joel, two of the men who live in English Cove. Both spoke really good Englsih, and neither chewed bettlenut (a mild drug from a local plant that leaves the chewers with red stained and broken teeth). So we had a nice chat with them. Passie told us we could come in to the river to get water or take a swim in their swimming hole. He also told us there was a waterfall a little ways upriver that he could guide us to if we wanted.

We had planned to depart for Buka the next morning, but we had a little happy hour conference and decided we'd stay for the day.

Passie guided us up the river to the small waterfall. It was more like a small rapids than an actual waterfall, but it was nice to get out and walk some (though a little of it was walking up the rocky river bank, and those with flip-flops struggled a bit). On the way back, we took a shortcut through some of the village's gardens. The birders in our group were happily spotting birds, too.

Back at the swimming hole, we had a nice time splashing around in the surprisingly cold clear water. Liz from Indigo brought her laundry in--the laundry she'd sent out in Rabaul came back no cleaner than when it left, and a little smelly because it never got properly dried.

The next morning we did an exhaustive look at the weather. The weather didn't look great for a long passage to Buka, but it didn't look great the next day either. So we collectively decided to go ahead and go, knowing that the forecast showed either light wind directly behind us, or light wind on the nose... we would be motoring most of the passage.

At 3/14/2019 10:31 PM (utc) our position was 04°46.28'S 152°51.42'E

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Missing Updates

I hope to back-fill these one day, but for now I've got to note that I've no time to fill them in and I'm going to get "terminally behind" if I keep waiting to do it.

Mar 5-6 Kavieng to the Duke of York Islands
Mar 7 Duke of York Islands to Rabaul
Mar 7-13 Rabaul, Smoking Volcanos, and Lots of History

At 3/20/2019 10:31 PM (utc) our position was 07°04.58'S 155°51.40'E

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

A Little Fun in Kavieng

Feb 19-Mar 4 Kavieng, Papua New Guinea
Google Maps Link to Kavieng

The rudder repair was not the only thing we did during our two weeks in Kavieng.

Dave was really keen to dive some of the World War II wrecks in Kavieng. We had planned to dive with Jase and Jolene who were temporarily running the primary dive operation in Kavieng (Scuba Ventures). We thought we could negotiate a multi-dive group rate as a package deal. Often dive operations will offer a "cruiser rate" as they know most of us are unemployed and on a tight budget. Plus most cruisers are experienced divers and usually have their own gear. It's a no-brainer in our opinion, if the dive boat has space and is already going out, adding another self-sufficient diver is almost "free money".

Dave and Craig in our Local Dive Boat

Jase sympathized but said he was limited in what he could do for us, discount-wise. And a couple of our divers were on a really tight budget. So we contacted Clem from Clem's Place in New Hanover (our previous stop) to see if he knew of a local dive guide in Kavieng. Everyone already had all their own gear, so we just needed a guy who knew where the dive spots were and boat big enough for 4 divers. It turned out that Clem was in Kavieng when we were--waiting on something to come into Kavieng, and he offered to round up a friend with a boat and take us diving.

Dave Checking out a Kate Torpedo Bomber

The first price we got from Clem was amazingly cheap and seemed too good to be true, and it turned out to be not quite a complete price. After we added the price for a few necessities (like a boat, fuel, dive gear for the guide, and tank fills) our cost per diver was about half what Dive Kavieng offered us as their best discount. Sue on Ocelot spent 3 days in fervent text message negotiations with Clem via WhatsApp, and ultimately got things nailed down.

Dave Inspecting an Empty Artillery Shell

So our divers (Dave, Craig from Berzerker, and Jon and Sue from Ocelot) were able to do a few days of discount diving in an open boat and a local dive guide who didn't speak much English. I'm sure our experience would have been MUCH better and easier with Scuba Ventures, but it was OK taking the budget approach, and more importantly met the budget restrictions of our friends. Tip: It's difficult buddy-boating with people who have different interests and budget than you do. We all managed to make it work--4 boats cruising in company for 3 1/2 months, but it was ticklish at times!

Another thing we managed to work out was a day trip down the coast of Kavieng on the Boluminski Highway to see a few sights. We were still waiting for the rudder to finish drying and wanted to see a little more of New Ireland (the PNG island that Kavieng is on). This trip I got to go on, as it didn't involve getting my leg wet, and I was starting to feel better. Liz on Indigo had gotten the number of a tourist van operator. With a little negotiation we managed to hire a nice van (but no aircon) with a driver and "tour guide" for the day that could take all of us. The normal tour cost for the day trip from the hotel was $100 USD per person, but we managed to go direct to the van operator and hire the van for the day for about $35 USD, no frills (ie we bring our own lunch, water, and pay our own admission, if required, to wherever we stopped). $35 USD pp is still a little high for a day trip, but we were to find the Kavieng prices were some of the highest in PNG, because they are so far out on the supply chain.

Our Little Tour Group

One of the big attractions on the Kavieng Day Trip is Cathy's Eel Farm at Lairabina Village. Sadly, Cathy had just passed away a couple of days before, and the village was preparing for the funeral (to be held the next day). Our guide called ahead and managed to get us an opportunity to see Cathy's eels, as our entry fee is what supports the village. We also got to see the women of the village preparing for the feast associated with a rather large funeral gathering.

The eels were really cool. They are in a clear freshwater stream that runs through the village. Tourists come in and buy the Eel Food (canned tuna, I think it was) and then you can feed it to the eels. You are standing in the stream with these 5-6 feet long and 4-5 inches in diameter eels slithering around your feet. With my infected sores, I didn't dare get in the water, so I was left to take pictures from a safe distance. I didn't get a very good picture, as everyone was standing in the way. But someone else got a good shot of the eels that I could share with you.

These Eels are HUGE!

Another stop we made was at the Treehouse Village Resort. Here is what Lonely Planet has to say about the place: "The Treehouse Village Resort has a series of traditional-style, fan-cooled bungalows on stilts overlooking the beach. Two units are perched up a 200-year-old Calophyllum tree, above the dining room." Sounds cool, but a coastal storm a few months ago kind of beat it up, and it wasn't open.

One of the Treehouse Resort Houses in a Tree

The people who lived in the Treehouse Resort Community were very friendly, and we spent quite some time talking (or attempting to talk) to them, and taking pictures all around.

The Friendly People at the Treehouse Resort Village

On the way back to Kavieng, we took a refreshing stop at a local swimming hole. Of course, I had to sit out and take pictures.

The Swimming Hole

We also made a quick stop at a fruit stand to buy Dave bananas. These ladies were very friendly.

A Road-Side Fruit Stand

Of course, on the way back into Kavieng, we had to stop and see what World War II relics there were.

A WWII Shore Gun in Front of the Methodist Church

Dave Examines and Documents For

Checking out the Rifling (and the Trash) Inside the Barrel

And This is Me, Tired and Ready for a Cold Beer
"Just another rusty bit in the jungle..."

On another day, our crews dinghied over to Nusa Island, the island adjacent to (north of) Nusa Island Retreat and hiked to the blow holes and also saw some more World War II relics. There was a small per-person fee that goes to the owners of Nusa island. I was still healing, so did not go, but here are a few pictures from Dave's camera.

The Northern Tip of Nusa Island

A Small Sample of the "Blow" (Better at Some Tides)

One of the Guns Rusting in the Jungle

Another Big Gun

A Coconut Crab Living Inside the Barrel

A Command Center "Pillbox"

The Entrance--Made for Small Men!

For many more pictures of the exciting World War II relics we encountered during our travels in PNG and the Solomon Islands, check out Dave's presentation "Exploring the WWII Relics of Melanesia (New Guinea & Solomons)" on our Presentations Page.

For much more information on cruising in Papua New Guinea, download our free 285-page cruising guide, the Papua New Guinea Compendium, from here:

Rudder Repair in Kavieng, PNG

Feb 19-Mar 4 Kavieng, Papua New Guinea

One of the most urgent things we needed to do once we reached Kavieng, PNG on Feb 19, was figure out how to repair our port rudder, which had a soft-ball sized dent mashed into the leading edge by a log.

The Log We Hit Enroute to the Ninigos in January

Dave is great with mechanical things, but considers himself a little weak when it comes to fiberglassing. So we enlisted Jon Hacking from our buddy boat Ocelot to help him do the repairs. Fortunately, between the 4 boats, we managed to scrounge up the necessary repair materials.

The first step was to get the rudder out of the water. This we opted to do by dropping the rudder (carefully) while in the water. We consulted with the St. Francis Owners Group for advice. One person said the rudder would float, another said it would sink. So we got Soggy Paws into as shallow a water as we could manage (not very shallow where we were anchored). We also tied a line around the rudder, so someone on board could hold onto it. Then I got in the water, Dave loosened the bolts, and down she came.

Disconnecting the Rudder Arm Prior to Dropping the Rudder

Loosening the Bolts Holding the Rudder

Fortunately the shaft wasn't bent (which would have jammed the rudder stock from coming down the tube). A little wiggling back and forth on my part, and the rudder dropped a couple of inches. I took another breath, pulled harder, and the rudder came right out.
Sherry Pulling Rudder

Rudder is Out!

The rudder didn't float, but it wasn't too heavy for me to hold up in the water, and we had the security line on it.

Our Ding from a Big Log

The ding looked pretty bad. Dave and Jon took the rudder ashore to a small covered shed that Nusa Island Resort kindly let us use. The first step was to grind out the ding, rinse it well in fresh water, and let it dry for a few days.

Once it was dry, Jon and Dave started building the ding back up--first with some foam, then with putty and fiberglass/epoxy. We had a little bit of old bottom paint to finish it up. The repair was kind of crude, but it fixed the hole, and we're back in business.

Dave and Jon Working on the Rudder

I was worried about getting the rudder stock up into the tube, but it was no big deal. We had everyone from our little flotilla helping out in one way or another.

Putting the Rudder Back In

(follow up note: When we hauled out in July 2019 to do some other bottom repairs, the rudder looked fine, though the old bottom paint wasn't doing much, so we repainted the rudder)