Passage from Papua New Guinea
to Palau Diverted
to Jayapura, Indonesia
October 1, 2013
02 32'.66S 140 42'.65E
Maybe the sky knows this is our last night in Papua New Guinea because it puts on a beautiful show. The sun is setting as we empty our fuel cans into the tank. Brilliant orange, yellow and pink streaks stretch across the cobalt expanse of the evening sky. Palm trees silhouetted on shore etch a beautiful memory of Ninigo and all of PNG in our minds.
The next morning Thomas brings Elizabeth, Judy, Lucy, Silvester and baby Elizabeth out to say goodbye. He sees Westley, Mollina and Finn paddling their canoe and picks them up. He is considerate, concerned the group will take too much of our time, so tells them they will only stay three minutes but we don't let them leave that quickly.
Jim shakes hands good-bye with Westley and Thomas. He would like to stay longer to spend more time with them. They are bright and eager to learn things that he could teach them. Westley says he would like books to learn more about business because that is what he studied in school.
Elizabeth comes below and gives me a pair of earrings to remember her. She doesn't need to, I will always remember her. I tell her I will wear them when I get dressed up in Palau and we both wipe away tears. Lucy says we are not good friends but we are sisters in God. Judy lets me hold baby Elizabeth one more time. Mollina gives me a long hug. I wish I could have more days with all these women. We are honest with the friends we make in the islands and don't lead them on saying we might return someday. We know we won't. It makes our good-byes even more difficult.
As we prepare to haul up the anchor a canoe paddles up. It is Pewin. When he introduced us to his family there were five children but he said there is a sixth. Phillip. He is in the hospital at Port Moresby because his eyes hurt and now he cannot see. Pewin is planning to visit him. "How will you get there?" I ask. "By boat to Manus and then work until I have enough money to fly in a plane." "How much does that cost?" I ask. He shrugs. It does not matter, he will work until he makes enough money to go, maybe months. Jim and I excuse ourselves and duck behind a house. We count our money and leave ourselves a small amount in case of emergency. Then we go back and give him the rest. He is stunned.
He has come out to thank us and tell us he will always remember this. It is a story he will tell his friends and family. He gives us a thoughtful letter and our hearts melt. I give him a leather bracelet and a braided one with beads for Paulyn. He puts it on and says he will not take it off. It must fall off on its own. It will remind him of us and our kindness. Jim and I find it amazing that the amount we would spend on a nice dinner and a bottle of wine in California can make such a difference in his life.
Maybe it is a good thing this is our last visit to a remote island because it is getting harder and harder to leave. The people are so kind, so welcoming, so fun to be around, we hate to say good-bye. Now we are headed off to Palau which has Free Association with the United States and lots of American ex-pats and American stuff. We are leaving the third world and I don't know if we will return. I know for sure we will never be in a place as remarkable as Papua New Guinea again.
We have sailed from the isolated islands in the southeast corner of Papua New Guinea to the remote islands in the northwest without ever having seen another cruising sailboat. It has been an amazing journey and we are sorry to see it end.
Dark clouds loom as we head off in light air. Once we get through the pass a squall catches us and lets loose a torrent of rain and 25 knots of wind. It is over in four minutes. For three hours we dodge and are caught by more squalls. Just before sunset the sky clears so we rig the sails wing and wing and sit back to enjoy. There is lightning in the distance but it's nice where we are.
We motor on and off as the wind dies and picks up again. Squalls roll by and we do our best to avoid them. We are not always successful. When they are gone the night sky is glorious with millions of stars. It is like being in a snow globe with the odd star busy shooting like a roman candle. At 2258 on October 1 we cross the Equator. Tenaya is in the Northern Hemisphere for the first time in three years. We have come close to two big ships and a third calls Jim on the radio just to chat.
At 00 44'.87N : 140 26'.49 E we sail close to a big steel drum painted red with white letters and numbers. It is easily 500 gallons and there are no lights. Jim writes SCARY in the logbook. Running into that at night would not be good.
When we left Ninigo the winds were forecast to be light so we are on a rhumb line to Palau. At 1600 on October 2, just after we miss the steel drum, they kick up to 15 knots from the south. The sailing is wonderful! At 2011 another cargo ship passes, its Closest Point of Approach is one mile. Just then a squall hits with winds over 25 knots. In an hour it is gone and we are motoring. It goes on like this all night. At 0442 we are in the middle of an intense squall and decide to heave to and let it pass. We learn that Tenaya will not heave to. Some boats won't. She drifts SSE at 3 knots for three hours. That's pretty much all the progress we'd made in the previous three hours.
After three hours we realize it is not a squall. The weather has changed and the wind is coming out of the west now and will be all the way to Palau. It's getting stronger - high 30s with gusts over 40. We are at 140E and need to get further west to 135E. We try tacking into the wind but get nowhere. There is a 1-2 knot current against us. We try motorsailing but, at 1200 RPM to conserve fuel, we get nowhere. The sky is dark with clouds and rain.
A booby circles the boat and a juvenile brown noddy lands. He hops down into the cockpit in the pouring rain and then up on the cushion under the cockpit enclosure Jim made. He looks bedraggled and eyes me as if to say, 'you are warm and rested so let me have that dry corner. He inches right up next to me and I'm certain he would have hopped up on my lap if I had let him. He tried.
He keeps me company on my watch. We chatter and grumble and each time I get up he steals my spot. We take self portraits and giggle. He drinks the water I squirt from my bottle and stays with us for more than a day. Every few hours Jim or I write 'bird still here' in the log.
At 1100 on October 3 the wind is 29 gusting to 37. We give up trying to go west and head south to Vanimo, the furthest west port of entry for PNG. At 0400 on October 4 we cross the Equator again. Back in the Southern Hemisphere. I contact yachts Totem and Muggerl for information about Vanimo. Behan on Totem sends me loads. Richard on Muggerl suggests going to Jayapura, Indonesia instead. It is a bigger city with less safety issues. It's also a little further west. West is good.
At 1000 on the sky has cleared and the sea has calmed. I put the noddy out on the deck in hopes he will fly away. He sits there for a while and when I look again he is gone. I hope he has flown away and not gone overboard.
In the calmer conditions we have a look around Tenaya. Jim goes to the mast to coil a halyard that has come loose and he notices the boom sitting funny. The pin has come part-way out. If it comes out completely with the mainsail fully extended, the boom will bang around and probably break something or tear the sail. He quickly rolls in the main, one of the nice things about having in-mast furling. The pin has a small retaining post that keeps the pin in place and it is gone. He removes the pin and lashes the boom to the mast. This keeps it safe until the pin can be replaced.
He has a plan to use another pin, which is too long, and add washers to shim it up. It's pretty bouncy still so he decides to wait until we reach Jayapura.
At 0105 on October 5 Jim writes in the log: Boat off starboard beam. Two white lights. Think I see red light. When I come on watch at 0200 we are in the middle of a squall. Rain is gusting sideways at 25 knots. We can't see a thing. He tells me there is a ship nearby. Normally ships show up as a purple blip on radar on the chartplotter but it is all purple because of the rain. It is not showing up on AIS either, but because it has two white lights we know it is big. Jim says he called it on the radio and was told they would pass behind us. He is not happy that we are cutting in front of a big ship we cannot see. Okay, I am awake now!
The squall subsides enough for us to see the ship's lights behind us. Jim goes to bed and I settle in for my five hour watch.
At 0500 I see lights on shore 33 miles ahead. Now the sea is smooth and the wind is in the single digits. Our reprieve from this passage is in sight.
Coming into Jayapura is like sailing onto the set of Waterworld. Huge, dark trimarans with nets hanging off them are moored throughout the harbor. I expect to see my friend Lori Lynn and dozens of other stuntmen and women blasting around on camouflaged jetskis but instead we see long, narrow boats with engines and outriggers on both sides puttering about. We are startled to see some people with what appear to be masks covering their faces approach us until they wave and we realize they must be keeping the sun off their heads.
The land is green and mountainous and the bay is expansive. We motor slowly into the harbour, past the red and green lit buoys and head for the harbormaster. We should be able to anchor nearby but the water is still 40 meters deep. This is not a place where yachts stay so there is no marina or public dock.
There is someone on each of the Coast Guard boats tied up on the wall. We motor close to the small one and wave hello. I ask and motion if it is okay to anchor there. The man signals to tie up to his boat. We glide by him and the man on the big boat waves. In excellent English he says to tie up to the other boat. Perfect! What could be a safer and more convenient location?