Dairy of a Passage, PNG to Indonesia
Date departed: Tuesday 11 December.
Miles to cover: 898 NM.
Estimated passage time: 6 to 7 days.
We have an eventful first day. It is busy and rushed in the morning to try and get up and gone.
Market run first thing with Emelia and Noah. Then back to WH and anchor up to go. Left at 9am local time.
We are sailing this passage with our Australia friends on their catamaran, Lukim Yu. We met Denise and Jamie in Vanuatu and since then have spent time in 3 different countries with them. Our boat, being slightly larger, will be a little faster, so we will try and keep relatively close and buddy boat together, it will be nice to have another boat travelling with us, as this big blue can be very wide and lonely on your own at times.
There was actually wind as we left Kavieng Harbour, Papua New Guinea, so we got to sail for most of the day at varying speeds. Up to 9.4kts at one stage.
Nice to save some diesel. We will potentially need it all with the calm that is predicted on the weather routing maps. We loaded up with 700L, so hoping this will get us there!
I spent a lot of day in bed. Not feeling so good today with wave direction and roll and chop.
Had a huge squall for an hour or so directly on the nose with big 2 m waves. Super uncomfortable and things inside went flying, this was a bit of a wake up as we have had none of this for a long time. Everything was re stowed easily and no breakages. It passed and sea settled.
We saw whales in the afternoon!!! We followed them at a distance for a while and tried to fish a few work ups. Nothing.
I made a yummy tray baked chicken with beans, tomatoes, capsicum, smoked paprika. We will save the freezer meals for when we are a bit more tired after a few more days out here.
Chae did dinner, I slept before watch.
My first watch was entirely uneventful, the second had a huge rain and lightning squall come through. I had to turn the complete opposite direction almost to avoid the lightning, and then the headsail line got caught in one of the mast winches, so had to get Chae up to help me untangle it up the front. He went straight back to bed and I carried on, very wet and refreshed after the excitement.
I got to watch a beautiful sunrise as the air heated again, ready to dry boat and me.
Super relaxing and calm day, this is the passage I had dreamed of. Enjoying being out here in the sun, although it is super-hot and being windless means we are all sweating buckets!
You drink and drink and drink glass after glass of water and still hardly go to the toilet as it is just stifling.
No fish as of yet. Are there no fish in this part of the ocean like everyone says? Or is it that our speeds are slightly lower than usual so trawling the lines is not working?
Night comes again, and it is still glassy calm and easy.
I watch a movie at the helm on my watch and look around me at the open emptiness that are our surroundings.
Our buddy boat is a wee bit behind now as we had sailed for a bit and got ahead and also motored faster for a while trying to fish during the day. I look for them on the AIS but cannot seem to see them.
Denise and I message on the Iridium, it’s nice to have someone to talk to when you are up on watch, keeps you entertained and awake!
Entirely uneventful. Glass smooth seas. Hot as a mother. Did catch 1 average sized tuna and it had weird white colored flesh that seemed to fall apart very easily when touched and filleted. Not the usual.
Lasagna from freezer. So good.
Day 4 messed with us from the beginning. My morning shift had the winds building and sea very choppy. It was manageable and comfortable still.
We were able to sail which was good.
Then it got worse.
Super mega squall happened when 4 large squalls merged.
We had a water spout from sea to sky and thought we needed to get the heck out of there.
We then spent almost 12 hours, gaining bugger all ground, going up and down and back and forward to try and get away from the ever-changing winds and systems.
It was rough and it sucked big time.
Contact was kept with Lukim Yu who were a few hours behind us now, as we tried to give them some advance warning of what was coming. They too, got slammed by it all.
Took until almost 10pm for it to be an organized sea again, still big rollers but no more white caps.
I cooked stir fry for dinner which was hilarious in the circumstances. We were headed for a tiny island that we had basic sat imagery of, while trying to get north – also only comfortable way with waves at that point, tried to anchor but too rough.
Wish like mad we had stopped at the Ninigo islands that we had passed at first light. Pretty happy for today to be almost over. Both uber tired.
Kids were playing up this evening too, which makes for fun times when you are just wanting to sleep and can’t.
There are huge ships out here. 300 m ones, crossing outer paths regularly during the night. I am glad for AIS which tells us their information, speed over ground and direction etc. so we can make sure that we will not crash into them, it gives you time to work out courses and change sailing angles accordingly.
The sea showed us who is boss today. Makes it funny to try and drink a cup of coffee or tea on watch with this going on…
Ships in the night passed by this morning, many and close again.
These things are just insanely big, it makes you feel so insignificant and realise how small your boat is when the beam on these things is over 2 times your boat length.
Night was super slow. 1 engine. No sail. Got annoyed at going 4 knots after the sun came up so put the other engine on to get up to 6.
I managed to cook successful rice while moving for sushi today, and also managed to overcook dippy eggs for the kid’s breakfast. Rice is so often a challenge in a moving boat as it half cooks and some is usually hard!
Went to put main sail up when Chae woke and halyard had got loose in the weather yesterday and caught around the tip of the Genoa at the top of the mast…ugh. 30 mins of acrobatics to untangle. Luckily the sea was relatively calm.
Sleep for me then.
After a couple hours of sweat-bath sleep, it was lunch, and time for sushi making. It was delicious and kids inhaled it. Chae played a joke on Noah and wasabied one of his pieces, Noah got mad. It was quite funny though.
Ticking along motor sailing this afternoon. Dodging weather systems that appear out of nowhere…
Called one of my besties for her birthday. Made me feel very far away and miss everyone very much.
So tired still and daunted at the prospect of another couple nights out here.
Dinner from the freezer again, so glad all the meals were done before we left as it makes it so much easier just pulling something out of the freezer. The kids are endless eating machines, constantly wanting to be fed.
Made a pineapple upside down cake in all the bumpy chaos and it was well received!
A short nap for me and then back into it.
We bounced out way over into Indonesian waters at 2305, with breeze filling the air, the right direction for a change, and clouds shadowing the half moon that hung in the sky, weakly illuminating the darker squall clouds I was desperately hoping would pass behind us.
I have no words.
This is messed up.
Things just got real out here.
When will it end. We drive/sail back and forth in currents, wind and waves, hoping for a path and never finding one.
The ocean is horrifically rough and we have a washing machine like effect going on from wave directions coming from everywhere.
We chose to go the inside of some islands up the coast to try and get some relief from the weather as was meant to be slightly better there, well now we are stuck with very strong currents slowing us down along with all the other crap in this situation.
It has been another day of back and forward up and down and going nowhere really, Catamarans are not designed for this weather and sea state, in fact no boat would be enjoying this.
We continue on, hoping to make a little ground and get ourselves past this mess.
We did manage to catch 4 fish, one after the other when we managed to get an angle to sail, hitting 8 knots was obviously what the Walu decided was a good bite speed, as each time the boat would climb over 7 to 7.5 we would get a strike.
Full sail up, so we turned into the wind on the first one to pull it in, and then subsequent fish we just hauled on the line to get them in rather than mess with the boat. It was madness, within 30 mins we had 4 fish.
We stopped the boat to a knot for dinner in some resemblance of calm, managed to have her spin while we were just about to get started again and one of the lines got caught around the prop cone.
WHEN WILL IT END?!
With a rope tied to him, Chae had to get in the water and try and sort it out. Line was cut, lovely lure lost and we just had to get on our way into the mess that was the weather again.
It was just getting worse again. Winds building significantly again and waves to match. On the back of stuff all sleep, this was beyond me.
We covered 32 NM in the right direction over an entire day, to put this in perspective we can easily do 160+ miles per day in good sailing conditions, or motoring if we can use both engines. This was demoralising to say the least when we worked it out.
Winds continue all night and into the morning. I couldn’t cope.
Cried last night about it all and when Chae asked what I wanted to do, I said go home. Little bit hard right now.
He stayed up most of the night, I just couldn’t handle it. I did one watch at midnight as it settled slightly but then the wind got up toward the end of my time and I had to go and get him to help me.
The wind got to 40 knots. Apparently there is a special kind of noise the wind makes while ripping through the rigging and boat. I am so glad that it was a noise I didn’t get to hear.
We were smashing up and down into giant waves.
It was messed up.
The day provided no relief.
Huge currents while trying to get across the top of West Papua made us make little way again, and it was into horrific chop and big waves.
Confused messed up seas.
We finally managed to get off the river mouth dirty mixed up water area into sea again and started actual sailing.
The waves were getting too big again and with the wind strengthening we headed back to where we came from, dad providing intel on the river mouths where we could potentially go and hide.
We chose one, the Maremembo River. Apparently it is like the Amazon of West Papua and teams with amazing creatures. Sounds cool, any other day….
Huge almost standing waves tore us in. I sat in the cockpit and watched as they rode above the solar panels, threatening to swamp the back of the boat, but she rode them like a boss with our captain safely bringing us in through the chaos.
Chae said it was the most fearful he has been on the boat to date.
Once in the river we pulled to a jetty, a giant random jetty, and were surrounded by locals who spoke no English.
We tried to ask if they had solar (diesel) as by this stage we were running very, very low on it.
‘Yes’ was a confused translation, Chae went to go and see.
He came back, said we need to leave, there was not a good vibe in this place.
While he was gone I had a guy jump on the boat and just start to walk around looking around outside. A bit scary and weird.
We tried to anchor at the rivermouth away from the village. A 5-knot current meant we had a nightmare of a time and we realised we needed to leave properly, not just to the mouth of the river.
Back out through those waves was a prospect I didn’t not think kindly of.
Luckily, they had dropped a bit and Chae took us out, again calm and measured (on the outside at least) while I was all but having to go and change my underwear….
Out was easier than in.
We turned and headed for the other river mouth around the corner. By this time our buddy boat had already gone in, they were anchored in the still water.
We had another surfing experience to contend with before we got there.
The charts, which have so far been pretty reliable, must have been off centered and we again surged in on these rollers, that when you looked back were breaking after we went over them. It was manic. We were literally surfing in our boat, on giant rolling waves that would break behind us.
Before we bought the boat, Chae showed me a video of a guy surfing his Cat over a bar in Australia, (you can Google it if you want, give you some perspective … ‘Catamaran surfs into bar in Australia’ ) and I said to him if that is ever something that we have to deal with, I’m out…. Well, there was no out. We just had to keep going.
We slowly made our way over to the calmer water while driving on land apparently according to the charts, we picked our way into the bay.
We had locals waving and cheering at us as we went past, they probably never see yachts in here and then all of a sudden there are 2….
Seeing Lukim Yu and being able to anchor and be still for the first time in 8 days was a feeling I just cannot describe. Although it’s only a night to get out of the wild that is happening outside this calm spot, it’s going to be good to have a sleep and regroup.
Dinner and MANY drinks were had and we all fell exhausted into our beds.
We woke in the calm bay, wondering what was going to be thrown at us next when we leave today.
Yesterday was the most eventful day we have ever had. And when I say eventful it is a loose and positive sounding word for the actual experience we went through. I cannot describe accurately the horror that we had to endure.
The pressure is now on to get it Biak before they close for Christmas on Friday, 3 days. Oh dear…
Diesel situation is heavy on the mind, if it is anything like yesterday we may be in trouble with the lack of fuel. Who knew over 600L would not be enough…
Stopping for sleep and re grouping was the right decision, but now we just need to get on track again. I tell you, it’s not going to be easy to up anchor and head back out that river mouth.
OK, so highlight reel for the day….
– obviously waking up in the flat calm bay is no 1!
– getting out of the river mouth, riding over huge rollers (at least not surf this time) was pretty terrifying.
– hitting the open after the river mouth and having a good angle and fresh breeze to get us over the dirty river current water.
– getting to the ocean/river mix and raising we are going to get dicked again.
– constant 27 knots for several hours with waves that one would expect with that wind speed.
– winds slowly dropping during the day.
-sailing all day tacking back and forth and making sweet f all miles in the right direction….
– winds calming even more, bringing sea state to a comfortable size
– PlayStation battles between Chae and Noah
– having our buddy boat next to us for morale support over the day made it more bearable
– cooking dinner in the swell and waves while on a bit of a heel (yes catamarans do heel…. ugh, don’t know how you monohull sailors do it….)
– a stunning moonlight night to sail backwards and forwards in
– only 97 miles to go (in a straight line) by the time we tacked again at midnight.
– tunes up at the helm while sailing through the night
Sailing sailing, will it ever end. We make progress on each tack and inch our way slowly to the destination.
At some point during my sleep the wind drop enough for us to turn in the right direction and motor sail on a very high wind angle to gain some ground. This makes all the difference. We actually make headway.
We have a decision to make on if we go over or under the Schouten Islands (which look incredible by the way, Google satellite view them…)
We had always planned under but with the wind shifts, both boats decide the top way is more favorable.
Continue on the same tack and the weather locks into high gear again with big gusts and the seas build again.
It always amazes me how incredibly quickly the sea state changes with a bit of wind. Again, I say “No thank you go away, I don’t want to watch this again” so go inside and decide to do the dishes and try sort some order in the boat – I don’t know why as things are not staying put again!!.
It is interesting though, this type of conditions would have had me hiding out, but after what we have been through it seems a mere breeze. 25 knots, bring it on…. maybe there is a sailor in me somewhere after all.
Lukim Yu has one jerry can of diesel left and since we are on below zero, and we’re not quite sure how low our fuel gauges go, as they seem to work a long way under zero, they give it to us so we can all make it together.
Eternal gratitude is given to them and a promise that I will do all their laundry once we arrive as they have no washing machine on board.
A high seas diesel transfer happens, Chae heads to their boat in Bob, bobbing the Bob’s and bringing back the liquid gold.
Turning back into the wind we fly off again, siphoning diesel as we go and avoiding waves as they break over the front of the boat. Never have we had so much water over her as on this passage. One particularly keen one makes it all the way over the cabin roof and into the hatches that open to the cockpit…right where I am standing! Thanks ocean!
Dinner is cooked in the bouncy seas, by the time we are ready to eat, the island we are going around are giving us some shelter from the waves, so we can fly along with the calming area and continuing good winds.
Into the night again. Night 10…. of what we thought would be a straight forward calm 6 or 7 day passage!! Ha ha ha….
I take first watch as am unable to sleep. The excitement has been building in the boat, with banter on the VHF between us and Lukim Yu. We can see the finish line and are so eager!
Winds die down the channel between the islands but we don’t care, we have enough diesel now to make it motor sailing.
We change shifts and Chae brings her the final stretch.
The moon is full, lighting a glittering path for us, on the finally calm seas.
We pull into Biak Harbour at 4 am and anchor in the darkness, so very, very glad to have made it after all the trials along the way.
The anchorage is super rolly, but we don’t care. We flop into beds, our tired and aching bodies molding into the mattresses, enveloping ourselves on the marshmallow like comfort that is a boat off the open seas.
Customs still needs to be cleared, along with Health and Quarantine, Immigration and a visit to the Harbour Master. We will do this as soon as we can, being so close to Christmas this will be their last working day to get formalities cleared.
Man did we push it to the time limit
The relief is intense that it is all done. That we now have shorter journeys for the foreseeable future, where the weather forecasts are usually more reliable and we will have many more islands to bolt to should the need arise.
Funnily enough the predictions for the next 6 or 7 days is NO wind and glass calm doldrums conditions again…what are the chances.
Indonesia, you certainly gave us a surprising and vigorous welcome but man what a learning curve for us and shit, I’m glad to be in bed!