Rapture: A Fleming Owner Cruising Story
"Rapture" is an owner-submitted cruising story by Norman Haupt on his Fleming 58. If you are a Fleming owner and would like to submit your own cruising story, please email us at marketing@FlemingYachts.com. Enjoy!
After six months planning, the day finally arrived as we set off on the first leg to Cairns, with crew changes at various ports on our 3 month voyage.
Brisbane – Brisbane
31st June – 26th August
31st May: Brisbane – Fitzroy Reef
With the boat ready to go after six months of preparation, Ken & Peter arrived at 8pm for the first leg to the Whitsundays.
We cracked open a bottle of champagne to celebrate the start of our adventure. We departed at 8.30pm after my last goodbye's with the family and headed out with slight seas, 5kts from the s/west.
Arrived off Double Island Point at 7.30am and crossed the Wide Bay bar at 9am with slight seas and 10kts of wind.
With our first intended stop Fitzroy Reef three hours away, the port gear box alarm sounded with high temperature. The port engine was shut down and we arrived at the reef at 4.30am - too early to enter, and the weather deteriorating with 20-25kts from the southeast. We entered the lagoon at 7.30am with better light for some rest and hopefully improving conditions. All to no avail - the wind remained.
3rd June: Fitzroy Reef – Percy Islands.
Departed Fitzroy Reef at 7.45am for the Percy Islands, with no improvement in the conditions, and the gear box not overheating.
4th June: Percy Islands – Scawfell Island.
Arrived at South Percy at 2.30am, anchored and caught a few hours’ sleep. We departed again at 9am with no chance of going ashore at West Bay with the conditions. Arriving at Scawfell Island. at 5pm, for a good night’s sleep. The boning system (CAN control system) was doing some strange things so I decided to do a reboot. Two hours later it fired up. Not good.
5th June: Scawfell Island – Airlie Beach.
Departed Scawfell at 9am after a good sleep with the intention of arriving at Able Point that afternoon. I contacted Sam re boning problem, and we berthed at Able Point Marina at 4pm. Cleaned the boat and off for a meal ashore.
6th June: Abel point Marina
General jobs around the boat and catch up with friends, shopping for supplies. Duncan (Fleming Yachts) made the decision that the CPU’s in the computers were to be replaced. Daniel will fly out from Taiwan and Sam from Sydney to meet us at Hamilton Island to do the repairs.
7th June: Airlie Beach – Hamilton Island
We departed Able Point at 10.am after fuelling up, Ken departing for Proserpine and a flight home. Sam had made arrangements for us to get a berth next to Redmond Ross 65’ Fleming and we were tied up by 2pm. Sam and Daniel arrived. With everyone settled in Daniel and Sam staying on Redmond Ross, Daniel set about repairing the computers, replaced the CPUs and doing a program update. Dinner and early bed.
8th June: Hamilton Island
Daniel completed the jobs on Rapture and did some minor modifications on Redmond Ross. All jobs completed by midday. Bob arrived early after-noon, we set about exploring the island. Another night with dinner ashore and a few red wines.
9th June: Hamilton Island – Cape Upstart
Departed Hamilton Is. at 6.45am and arrived at Cape Upstart at 4.30pm to anchor. Conditions not improving - still 20-25kts from the s/east.
10th June: Cape Upstart – Orpheus Island
Departed Cape Upstart at 3am with conditions no better for Orpheus Island. We arrived at 5.30pm at a great anchorage. Conditions had improved during the day, still from the s/east 10-15kts.
11th June: Orpheus Island - Mourilyan Harbour
Departed Orpheus early with intention of going through Hinchinbrook Passage, entering at Lucinda. We arrived with a falling tide and after some time trying to enter the passage, we gave up due to shallow water.
We cruised down the outside of Hinchinbrook Island with fantastic mountains and clouds forming over the high peaks.
We arrived off Dunk Island around 1pm and decided to keep heading north. About 1nm northwest of Dunk we all responded to a voice and about 200m out, we came across a person in the water.
We retrieved him from the water, much to his relief as he had been in the water for almost 3 hours, was thoroughly exhausted and being carried further out with the current. His son had swum to a small sand atoll 500m away and we proceed to pick him up.
They had left Mission Beach in a two-man kayak with no life jackets and the kayak not suitable for the job. When it started taking on water, they had decided to swim to Dunk Island leaving the semi-submerged kayak behind. The current had taken them away from their target and they were heading further out to sea. The son had managed to make the small atoll, but his father was in no condition to get there. With both men on board we gave them a hot shower and some refreshments, called the police and arranged to meet them further north at a pier. On the way, we located the kayak and pulled it on board. I believe they would have had a better chance staying with the kayak (and life jackets).
We handed them over to the local police officer at 4.20pm and headed north with a great sense of satisfaction. Anchored in Mourilyan Harbour for a restful night.
12th June: Mourilyan Harbour – Mission Bay
Departed at 6.30am for Cairns with a stop to try and catch some fish but had no luck. We anchored in Mission Bay at 6pm for an unpleasant night with a swell rolling around the headland.
13th June: Mission Bay - Cairns
Departed Mission Bay for Marlin Marina Cairns and were in a berth by midday.
Bob and I went into town and hired a car for duration of our stay, while Peter cleaned the outside of the boat. A few drinks at the bar at the end of the dock and off for a restaurant. We settled on Prawn Star - several trawlers moored up in the marina with seating serving sea food and refresh-ments.
Upon taking our seat we struck up a conversation with three gentlemen out for a similar dining experience as we were. They all worked for Bell heli-copters and were in Cairns for a conference. There was a service engineer, David from Mackay, Brett from Kentucky who was the Sales Manager to all English-speaking countries and Gabriel from Montreal service support.
We all decided to return to the boat for another glass of red. Several bottles later and tall tales from both sides we called it a night.
14th June: Cairns
Headed up town for an early breakfast and to find a new phone as mine was not about to make the trip and a new Dyson the old one was failing (de-spite still being under warranty).
Telstra wouldn’t sell me the phone I wanted without a plan, so I brought it at JB and took it back to Telstra to transfer the data. What a dumb system.
Off to the airport with Bob and Peter for their flight back to Brisbane, got more supplies then returned to the airport to pick up Ian. The oil for servic-ing the Man engines was finally delivered to the marina. Ian and I set about servicing the Man’s and Onan, cleaned the strainers and did any jobs before we headed off for dinner.
15th June: cairns
A walk up to the esplanade for breakfast before a busy day. Two trips to the airport to collect Don & Cathy them Martin & Billy before stocking up the boat for the trip with perishable supplies and liquid refreshments. We headed back to the Prawn Star for an enjoyable dinner. Saturday night in Cairns and the town was buzzing with markets and music, we returned to the boat to talk over the day and what we still need to do.
16th June: Cairns
Went up to the Italian restaurant for breakfast then more last-minute shopping and sightseeing and preparing the boat for departure tomorrow. I returned the hire car late no extra charge. Back to the Italian restaurant for dinner again and had an early night before the adventure begins.
CAIRNS TO LOUISIADE ARCHIPELAGO
17TH June: Cairns – PNG – Louisiade Archipelago
Cleared the berth for the fuel dock, with nothing heard from Customs and Immigration after sending the paperwork through on Friday. We fuelled up at 8.30am and filled the two-fuel bladders on the deck. Contacted Border force by phone (“sorry we had a different crew on over the weekend will sort it now”)
They emailed the clearance through. I rang them again about visiting the boat and stamping the passport. All good to leave.
Departed Cairns on our first leg to the Louisiade Group. A few hours out of Cairns we started trolling the outer reef for our first fish dinner. As time passed with no luck it looked like we were going without fish for dinner.
Then finally our first strike. It was Billy’s birthday, so he had first fish - a nice yellowfin. Two barracuda followed that went back. Sashimi for dinner with red curry tuna to follow, nori rolls for lunch the next day.
We settled in for the long journey ahead planning to visit Bougainville Reef along the way. We arrived at Bougainville reef early in the morning. With the weather still blowing 20-25kts, fishing was out, and we proceeded to circumnavigate the reef before continuing our journey.
We had a few members of the crew suffering from the rough conditions, so most meals were off the menu. Time spent reading, napping, watching and the odd bar open. With Panasia Island about 12 hours away the over temperature alarm sounded once again on the port transmission. The en-gine was shut down and only re-started on approach to Panasia.
20th June: Panasia Island
We arrived into the Louisiade’s and our first anchorage in the lee of Panasia Island. The island on approach looked uninhabited, but we would learn during the coming weeks every island had habitation. There was a substantial hut on the beach along with a sailing canoe and out came John to greet us.
He had setup the structures to take advantage of the guided kayak tours that travelled through the Louisiade’s several times a year and the various yachts that visited during the cruising season. We transferred the fuel from the fuel bladders before deploying the kayaks and having a snor-kel from the boat. Then trying our luck at fishing in the tender, we found the reef with the outboard no damage and the current took us off. No fish. We need to do better. Sundowners and a well-earned sleep.
21st June: Panania Island.
We enjoyed our first breakfast in paradise (except for the weather) before starting various jobs on the boat. Ian and I serviced the Onan and water maker before cleaning the transmission heat exchanges. Don, Cathy, Martin and Billy cleaned the boat after the trip. We went off to the island to join John for a meal he had cooked on our behalf. We had bananas and yam cooked in coconut milk - not your most memorable meal. We soon learnt that the locals don’t use salt and most food was bland.
22nd: Panania Island.
Did some exploring around the island in the tender though we were restricted due to the weather. We went back to the beach and some trading with locals that had walked across the island to visit. We discussed with John our intention to move on tomorrow and he asked to accompany us and guide us through the reef into Booker Island, as the charts were a guide only.
23rd: Panania Island. – Utian Island (Local name Booker Island)
Went ashore to pick up John before heading off. The conditions away from the leeward side of Panania were still southeast at 20-25kts.
John was heading home to his family on Booker Island. He was invaluable for getting us through the reef, as the charts were a guide only and could be up to 500m out. All navigation from now on would be by sight.
As it was Sunday, we discussed with John attending the church service. Upon anchoring in front of the village we were descended upon by several canoes. We anchored in the bay and went ashore to visit John’s home and family. On arriving on shore, we were greeted by 20-30 villagers.
We were welcomed into John’s house along with an entourage of smiling children. An elder, Joseph, gave us a run down on Booker, then took us for a tour of the village. We visited the Church and met the minister. The service was cancelled due to rain as there are no windows in the building and no seats. The villagers needed to sit on the floor and it was covered in water.
We walked around the village and spoke to several families. Returning to the boat to spend the afternoon entertaining children with popcorn, ice (from the freezer) and biscuits, trading these for vegetables, fruit and coconuts. With the stern of the boat constantly packed with canoes and chil-dren, Ian, Don and I went out in the tender to the outer reef for a snorkel. Wow! Can it get any better? The tender anchored in three metres of water swimming the reef edge that dropped off to 40 plus meters with amazing coral structures and fish life. Our request for lobster was noted and around 6pm we had a visit from Sam and his wife Joanne, who had been out and collected six lobsters. We invited them aboard for food and drinks.
24th: Booker Island.
The next morning Marie, Sam & Joanne’s daughter came and invited us to lunch at their house. Midmorning we went up to the school to address the children. Martin did some sketches and we left them with some reading books, colouring pencils and books.
Off to Sammy’s house (Grass Hut) where we had boiled chicken and vegetables (bland as usual). Killing a chicken was a great sacrifice so this was a real honour bestowed upon us. Sammy’s brother and two of his sons offered to go with us to the outer reef to show Ian, Martin and myself where and how to get crayfish. On arriving we anchored in 5 metres of water with the swell breaking on the reef 10 metres away.
The locals went over the side and swam through the break and into one metre of water, walking around bare footed on the reef looking for crays. We swam around in some incredible reef structures with a sheer drop off. We saw no crays, but the locals returned with four crays. That evening Sammy, Joanne and their daughter Marie visited. Marie left with a gift for her netball team.
During the last week in the Louisiade’s, we experienced a steep learning curve on local culture and what to expect during our travels. We traded with the locals with flour, rice and sugar and presented gifts of clothes and books.
25th: Booker – Bagman Island.
We departed Booker keen to catch some fish. We dropped a job fish and got bitten off twice. Wire trace from now on, before landing 3 mackerel. We had travelled through many islands, sighting villages on all islands before anchoring off Bagman Island. Sundowners and mackerel for dinner with a few bottles of red.
26th: Booker Island – Mabneian Islet – Kivi Passage – Pana Kuba Island.
The day was spent fishing and cruising through the islands. One mackerel and a couple of barracuda. We anchored in the blue lagoon for a snorkel Don & Cathy had a walk on the Island while the rest of us explored the reef. We departed for Panakuba Island for the night and settled in for sun-downers and a nice fish meal with local vegetables washed down with red wine.
27th June: Pana Kuba – Pearce Patch – Basses Islands - Debagarai Passage - Robertson Anchorage
Went to Basses Island for a fantastic dive inside the lagoon, on a recommendation from Fiona a friend from Airlie Beach. We weren’t disappointed with some of the most spectacular reef structures and fish life. We got lost in the beauty of the dive and ended up hundreds of metres from the boat and a long swim back. We headed out through the passage to try our luck fishing and had another day without fish. We headed into Robertson An-chorage on Gigila Island. On arrival we were swamped by outriggers with more trading and gifts for the locals. Dinner and early night after a tiring day in the water.
28th June: Duna Labwa & Sebudi Passage – Hiscock Reef –
Pana Wina Island – Robertson Anchorage.
Up for breakfast of conge and fresh bread washed down with coffee. After more travelling, sightseeing and fishing, we dropped anchor early at 4.30pm off Pana Wina Island. We decided the anchorage was uncomfortable. Wind gusts buffeting off the mountains 25kts with one-metre swells and the boat beam on. We pulled up anchor and returned to our anchorage from the previous night at Robertson’s Anchorage. Anchor set and our first visitor, Martha, a local that had visited the day before. We had caught a large mackerel which she accepted with great joy and her family gath-ered on the beach to see the catch. Dinner, drinks and bed.
29th June: Robertson - Owen Stanley Bank – Buname Passage – Nimoa Island.
Along the way we spotted our first foreign cruising boat since leaving Cairns. It was a yacht under a French flag passing about 200 metres away, we waved and sounded the horn. They totally ignored us, so we won’t be sending them a Christmas card. We were anchored by 1pm and cleaned the boat after the rough trip from Robertson Anchorage. Happy Hour and some trading with locals and gifts for their families. We arranged with two brothers to go diving for crays the next day at 8.30am. There was a yacht anchored 300 metres away. Hans a solo yachtsman well known in Louisiade’s for installing solar systems. Hans has been coming here for six months a year for the last 16 years, leaving Cairns during the winter months.
After installing numerous solar lighting systems, he seemed to be losing interest as the locals have no concept of how to maintain the systems and they eventually fail. We were approached several times with requests to repair wiring.
Hans came for sundowners and stayed for dinner. He had the idea that Cathy would do the cooking being the only female on board. He struggled with the concept the she did very little cooking with the majority being done by Ian as we struggled to get him out of the galley. Another big night!
30th June: Nimoa Island
Cathy, Don, Ian and I picked up Arnold and Brian this brother and we went out to the reef where they would show us where and how to catch crays. We spent two hours in the water - another great dive.
The boys found one bommie with five crays under it and another with three, but the crays just kept going further into the crevices beyond reach. The boys were disappointed and said they would come back at night and get them when they wander around the bottom. They needed some D cells for their torches. We had none on the boat so a trip onto the island where there is a small shop.
While we had been away, Martin & Billy went ashore and walked the island, meeting the locals and visiting the hospital. Don and I went to visit Hans to get some Kina so we could purchase the batteries. He also gave us some maps and google earth images for our forward journey. Martin & Billy stayed on the boat and the four of us headed for the village shop and hospital, with some Panadol, Dettol and other medications. We spent sev-eral hours walking around the village observing the locals going about the daily chores. We came across a feral pig rooting around on the beach. Don and I went up for a pat, much to the delight of Cathy & Ian. Ian with camera poised waiting for the pig’s reaction. No pork tonight we’ve had no meat for two weeks.
We got the batteries then watched one native mowing the soccer field with a push mower. All the locals are soccer mad and it was practice after-noon. Arnold was waiting as he and his brother both play. One small child was most upset at the sight of several “Dim Dims” (white people).
We met the two head nurses (husband and wife) at the hospital where four locals assist with no doctor and more than 400 births a year. Malaria and AIDS are the major issue and if any real emergencies arise, it’s three-hour trip Misima Island by long boat, weather permitting.
We invited the head nurses to the boat after they finished for the day. On the way back Arnold was by the soccer field with the new bush knife he had purchased from the shop. He requested a lift back around the island to his hut. After dropping him off, we went back to the boat for drinks and awaited the arrival of our guests. They arrived around 4pm we had sundowners and soft drink on the flybridge. We listened with amazement to the stories of the operation of the hospital.
The government continues to cut back the funding and things get very desperate. When the suture needles run out, they use the thin wires from an umbrella to fashion needles. They get about three malaria cases a day with some shark bites during the Beach de Mer season, when the islanders dive to supply the foreign boats. They explained that there is no lifestyle disease like the western world, but plenty of mouth cancer from chewing betel nut, with no cure. I had a box of suture kits and gave them half the box. They departed and we settled in for an early night.
1st July: Hudumu-Iwa Pass – Bramble Pass – Nimoa Island
Arnold and Brian came to the boat with five crays they had caught that night. They had gone out during the night, but the tide was wrong. So they slept on a small coral atoll on the ground and went diving at 3am. After trading for the crays, we made them some food and hot drinks.
We travelled to the outer reef and anchored off the passage in 10m of water and took the tender into the lagoon, anchoring in two meters of crystal-clear water with no wind and perfect conditions.
The coral and sea life were spectacular. There was fan coral and bommies with fish everywhere. There was a hole in the coral we called the cod hole you could rest on the bommie and watch the cod mill around. Specular.
I had my spear gun and tried on numerous occasions to get one of the large coral trout, but they kept just out of my depth. I’m not so young anymore - can’t make the deep dives. I did manage to get a direct hit on a rock.
After returning to the boat for lunch, several of us went back with bait to catch a trout. Not a single bite. Anchor up and some trolling outside the reef 300 + metres of water 100m from the reef.
We landed 2 barracuda and a cracker of a mackerel by Martin, with another blistering run before losing the fish. The line was left out and we had three more strikes with no luck. On retrieving the line, the hook was straightened out. No wonder we had no more hook-ups. We headed back to Nimoa island and anchored up, called one of the locals and gave him the two barracuda with instruction that one was to go to Arnold.
3rd July: Nimoa Island - Gold Rush Channel – Snake Passage – Yeina Island – Yuma Passage – Sudest Island
Left for Sudest Island. Schools of Bonito were everywhere, and Ian rigged some small skirts and landed several fish. Ian believed they make good sashimi. He was the only one on board with that opinion.
Side off and one hour in the fridge and we had some nori rolls with avocado and some sashimi with soy sauce and wasabi. It was ok but not as good as yellowfin. The run-up Gold Rush Channel became a dead end and while there, we were approached by a very enthusiastic and smiling native in a canoe. He asked if we could take him to Cairns and see the girls. It sounded good but no go. He left with some newspaper used to roll cigarettes, and some empty drink bottles to take water in the canoe.
We headed for Snake Passage which was breathtaking at about 80 metres wide and one km long. It wound its way through the coral while we travelled in 90-100m of water ten metres abeam was dry reef.
We ran along the side of the island and came across a small secluded bay and dropped anchor in a mangrove lined bay with mountains on both sides. Ian and Don tried fishing, and both hooked the same ray that resisted all attempts to bring it to the boat. This proved to be great entertainment for everyone, with some encouragement from me about them being a ‘wusses’ and needing to put some effort in. They finally got the ray to the boat for release, complaining about backache and tiredness!
There were shacks dotted all around the mountain sides with clearings for cultivation and log fences all around. We could only assume that was to keep the feral pigs out. After dark there was shouting all around the mountains. A canoe approached the back of the boat with four people aboard.
The men (maybe one was a girl) were all chewing betel nut and appeared to be high and answering question with one word. They soon gave up and left, leaving us with an uneasy feeling. We slept lightly that night.
4th July Balboa Islet. Sudest Island
After departing the night anchorage, we spotted another bay close by which was where we were heading for the day before. A beautiful bay with structures all around and a small pier. Children came running down to the water, we blew the horn and departed, going further along the island for a look. We then headed back to the bay for the night’s anchorage. Our first visitor arrived - Alice, the local council officer enquiring if we were with the Uniting Church - not the first time we had been asked that question. Martin and Billy took the kayak ashore to explore Rambuso Village on the island while Don, Cathy, Ian and myself headed out for a snorkel.
Martin and Billy were met by Miriam and given a tour of the island. There was a women’s teachers church conference on the island during the school holidays. Uniting, Seventh Day Adventist and Catholic denominations were represented. Some of the teachers had travelled for two days by long boat to get there.
We had another great dive with canyons running up into the coral and vertical drop off’s with beautiful coral and a huge array of fish and sharks, with several large rays lying on the bottom.
Returning to the boat, Martin and Billy were enthusiastic about the village. The next day was the closing ceremony and a soccer match. A decision was made to stay another day and visit the island tomorrow. We were approached by one of Alice’s children with a HF radio requesting if we could repair the radio - a bit beyond our capabilities.
We were low on fish, so Ian and I headed out in the tinnie to try our luck. After trolling for two hours, we give up after the comments from both of us about the correct depth and where to troll. We were about to head back when strike, we landed a nice Spanish Mackerel we eat tomorrow! Back to the boat for sundowners.
5th July: Sudest Island
Breakfast treat was pancakes with ice cream and coffee, enjoyed by all. A lazy morning with everyone catching up on some rest before heading ashore in the afternoon. At 1pm we headed for the village tying the tender to the small jetty. There were several turtle shells lying on the sea floor. The government has asked the villages not to kill turtles, but old habits are hard to break.
We had a discussion with the school head teacher then visited the communal kitchen, set up in the middle of the village for the conference. All the food is bland as no salt is used. They boil most things in coconut milk.
Speeches were made by the local councillor and several ministers to end the teachers conference. Then it was off to the inter-island soccer match and netball. Soccer is the main sport and played with great enthusiasm. There were some skilled ball players and some less so. Some had boots but they all had a strip to wear.
This was the best kept village we had come across so far with paths lined with plants all around the village.
We then headed to the church, up a steep hill overlooking the water. They were building a small accommodation unit with modern materials with the intention of renting it out to visitors for 50 kina a night, to raise money to support the women and girls in their missionary work. Nancy was the head lady. We mentioned that we were short on vegetables and she advised us that they don’t offer or trade unless asked.
Back to the boat for sundowners and dinner and we noticed a canoe behind the boat. They had been waiting some time for us to finish our meal. They delivered corn, ibeca and yams. We invited Nancy, Theresa, Geraldine and family onboard for tea and biscuits. We enquired as to how the vil-lagers of Rambuso get their income.
Oh, no problem we pan for gold in the mountains, I have a small bottle full. A trader comes around periodically and purchases (steals) it for about A$200.00 an ounce, they said. They were impressed with the water being made on board and left with several bottles full.
6th July: Sudest Island - Rossel Island
We departed for Rossel Island after clearing the reef. Within 30 minutes we had two nice size yellow fin on board with Cathy catching her largest ever fish. At the entrance to the inner reef around Rossel, we spent some time trolling around a large structure. Four Spanish mackerel and two Dog tooth tuna - another species I can tick off my list.
We spent some time looking for an anchorage inside the outer reef but failed to find a spot that we felt comfortable to anchor. We headed for Tryon Bay for a safe anchorage. After giving away three mackerel, we had numerous canoes arrive wishing to trade. They finally left us in peace. Sundowners with sashimi and tuna steaks for dinner with local vegetables.
7th July: Tryon Bay - Ulanga Village
Up for breakfast of poached eggs and toast (fresh from the bread maker).
Anchor up and a leisurely cruise further around the island to a large bay anchoring in 25m of water 20m from the shore. We decided to put out all the chain 100 metres but got to the rope attaching the chain at 91 metres, so either it was short or the robe counter lightly out. Some canoes with young boys arrived before we could complete our anchoring.
I decided to try my luck with casting a lure and quickly hooked into the coral bommie, fins and mast on, off to retrieve the lure. Halfway out I started to wonder about crocodiles having watched two dogs attempt to swim to the boat only to be quickly retrieved by several boys in a canoe.
After talking to the villages, we discovered there were crocodiles around with one large one near the village, no more swimming around here.
We spent the afternoon relaxing while Martin entertained the locals trading soap, clothes, canned tuna and books for yams, ibeca, tomatoes, or-anges, bananas, coconuts and several vegetables and fruit we were not sure of.
8th July: Rossel Island lagoon Ulanga Village
Up early to make the fish congee with poached eggs, fresh baked bread and a glass of champagne to wash it down. The canoes started early - more produce than we knew what to do with. Around 9am we packed the tinnie with snorkelling gear, Don stayed behind as he was feeling slightly off. Af-ter the dive all the comments were about the specular array of coral and fish.
On returning to the boat Ian prepared lunch with fresh bread, tomatoes and ham, the first meat for three weeks - it went down a treat with a cold beer. Siesta time. Back up to more canoes and children on the back deck, Ian and I decided to take the tinnie and try our luck for a mackerel.
After 1.5hrs we decided to give it away when we hooked up. While Ian fought the fish, a marlin was finning around not far from the tinnie. After catching and releasing another barracuda we changed lures and tried for the marlin. No luck, back to the boat.
Martin and Cathy had taken the inflatable kayak over to visit the village, returning with stories of the great setup and cleanness, and the large swirl not far from the kayak (dental floss for crocodiles) Martin maintains he saw a large tail break the surface. A large croc lives near the village. More canoes around the boat with most chewing betel nut adding lime and mustard leaf. Some were only young – 10 to 12 years old.
We loaded everything back on the boat with intention of exploring further around the island tomorrow. Dinner mashed yam, corn cobs, carrots and tuna steaks, chilli butter, tomato & chives salsa and some red wine to wash it down.
9th July: Rossel Island – Lagoon, Ulanga Village
After breakfast we headed off to explore further around the island inside the fringing reef. We put out 4 lines with great expectation of catching some fish. We caught one barracuda only. An hour later with the wind reaching 30kts and a huge swell running, we gave up and returned to the previous anchorage. We now had a track on the chart through the reef that could be followed that night. There is no way you can rely on the elec-tronic charts, only visual at close quarters.
Anchor down and five minutes later the canoes were back. They were happy just to sit there with some interaction with us. Martin spent time talk-ing with the children and giving out reading books. One young girl had limited vision and Martin fitted her up with a pair of glasses. The expression on her face was priceless. We spent several hours preparing food for the crossing to the Solomon Islands.
Steak for dinner, followed by early bed.
10-11th July: Crossing PNG - SOLOMONS
Up at midnight, anchor up, chain and snubber washed and stowed. Then the nervous trip back out through the reef. All good, though some stressful moments. The water contained lots of phosphorous and most of the reef structures could be made out in the dark. Clearing the outer reef around 1am. At 10.30am tanker heading for Brisbane came up on the AIS. Wind and swell very uncomfortable with no relief in sight. The weather forecast was for improving conditions. Yes, it got worse - 3-4m swells. Several crew sick at some point and several sea birds hitching a ride on the bow. Still no relief from the wind and sea, another tanker, destination Nora in the Solomon’s.
At 2pm, we rounded Nusambaruky Point and anchored off Gizo, 37hrs after departure. Don dropped me ashore with all the passports to scout out the situation with customs and immigration. I decided it wasn’t a problem as no one seemed to care, and after the police directed me to the vacant customs office, which was overgrown with weeds, who cares. We had run up the quarantine flag anyway.
I found the local phone provider and purchased a local sim card.
Heading back to be picked up at the wharf at PT109 bar and restaurant and I spoke with a local who gave me Billy’s number. He is the immigration office at Nora. I called Rapture on the two way and the crew grabbed wallets, phones and shopping bags. Don acted as taxi driver and Billy guarded the boat, we were not certain on security.
We set about changing money with the Chinese traders and withdrawing from the ATM. Shopping for groceries, fruit and vegetables at various stores as not one store had all we required. They all carried bulk supplies to service the tourist resorts round the western providence.
We booked a table for dinner at PT109 and Martin organised a long boat to take us in at 6.30pm. We weren’t happy with the anchorage close to town having read various blogs of things being stolen from boats, so we decided to move.
We headed 750m further away from the town. After dropping anchor and putting up with the roll for 15 minutes, we went back to where we started from.
The long boat never arrived so we dropped the tender and headed off. Ian drove in and was frustrated with the no show of our ride. But he really didn’t need to take it out on the pylon at PT109, almost sending us out of the tender, and shaking the restaurant dining area. We were seated by 7pm, meals ordered - three Chilli Calamari, two Curry Fish & Stir-fry Beef. A table of 20 had ordered just before us. I guess the cook (not chef) was under the pump as we were all under the weather by 9pm when the food finally arrived. The Sol Brew went down well and the wine was ok! The food average to say the least. Not a good night as we hadn’t had a real meal since leaving PNG.
The café on Rapture was first class compared to PT109. A decision was made to do a night watch due to our proximity to the town.
12th July: Gizo – Noro Port on New Georgia Island
Four of us went ashore to complete our purchase of supplies and get some instructions on how to set up the sim cards. When we brought them, some verbal instructions were given but never sank in.
Another visit to the ATM and the liquor store, one for beer another store for rum.
On returning to the boat we prepared for departure for Noro when a long boat approached asking permission to come aboard. Billy introduced him-self, he was from Boboe Village on Arundel Island and a tour guide and dealer in carvings from his village. His grandfather was one of the natives who helped rescue Robert Kennedy during WW11.
He laid out his carvings on the cockpit table and we purchased several items. He then discussed some of the war wrecks that he could guide us to and we settled on a price and arranged to meet him the following day.
We headed off for a 2.5hr cruise to Noro to clear immigration and customs. Anchored off Mbabanga Island was a charter multihull Mouse Trap 33.5m (110’).
With no phone connection as we had only purchased data for the sim cards, on arrival at Noro we headed ashore and to the markets on the water-front, among the mud, rotten vegetables and betel nut juice, we purchased phone time. The Australian sim cards wouldn’t work for some reason. Who knows?
I called Billy. There was no answer and after asking around, I was directed to his office. The doors were open, but no one was there. I could have taken what I liked. He called back saying he was with the customs officer on a freighter and wouldn’t be available until the next day, Saturday give him a call after 9am.
We discussed dinner. Martin and Billy still not feeling 100 per cent (the trip and the previous night’s meal). They decided to stay on board for toast and baked beans. The four of us went ashore to a Chinese restaurant that Ian had located earlier near the immigration office. There were two VIP rooms. We were escorted to one and set up with a fan and a movie on the screen. It was a great meal to die for. The crayfish in ginger and shallots was exceptional.
13th July: Noro – Kolombangara Island – Vonavona Lagoon
A relaxing breakfast of egg on toast and toast and jam with coffee.
I rang Billy, no answer, he rang back 30minutes later and we arranged to meet at his office. I collected all the passports and required documents and headed off with Martin. The process was straight forward though the paperwork was taxing having to be filled out in duplicate by hand. SD$500.00 later and we had cleared immigration. Billy provided a wealth of information about cruising the Solomon’s and who to contact for bulk fuel.
Two more departments to clear - Biosecurity and Customs. Billy contacted Louise at Biosecurity and she arranged to meet us in one hour. He failed to contact with John, from Customs.
It was back to the boat, second trip ashore with Cathy, Don and Ian to Telekom for more credit on the sim cards so that we could call each other on the local network. Then it was off to Louise at Biosecurity which was another straightforward operation. More forms and SD$500.00. No checking the boat!
Louise tried to contact John and there was no answer. She had been talking to his wife earlier and they were shopping. She rang his wife and got him that way, obviously reluctant to come to the office.
More waiting 30 minutes later John arrived. He was a little gruff. More paperwork in duplicate much easier with Cathy doing some. The cost SD$3999.00 which we didn’t have, and the computers weren’t working so he couldn’t give us a receipt. We arranged to come back Monday.
We finally contacted Charlie, and because of the container ship on the wharf, we had to await their departure before he could fuel us up. We queued at the bank to withdraw cash from the ATM - only SD$4000.00 per day per account. Ian’s cards wouldn’t work. Some ice blocks from the store and back to the boat. Quarantine flag down we were ready to cruise the Solomon’s.
Up anchor and a run down through Diamond Passage and Swinger Passage. We travelled on exploring the area all by sight, charts way off or no de-tail. We finally headed back past Noro towards Billie’s village and found a beautiful tranquil anchorage in Vonavona Lagoon on Kolombangara Is-land, the site of an extinct volcano. The lagoon was surrounded by a village.
14th July: Vonavona Lagoon – Boboe Village Anchorage
A breakfast consisting of Congee and toast - the crew’s favourite. Up anchor and across the channel to pick up Billi for our tour. First stop Kolom-bangara Island and a slog through the jungle and mud to some caves that had been dug out during the WW11 and used by the Japanese as a hospi-tal. Remnants such as bottles, stretcher frames and gas masks remained in and around the caves. It was a difficult descent and trek through the caves with mud and water up to our calves and low head height.
Billi had the boys from the village cut a track by hand through the jungle, otherwise it would have been a real hard slog. One can only imagine the tough conditions during the war. The American at some point were on the other is-land only 1km away. This destination is not on the tourist brochure.
We crossed a track made by a dozer and noted a huge tree stump where a tree had recently been logged. The Malays had the rights to log the is-land with all the benefits going offshore - a great shame as the tree coverage was disappearing. The locals had recently won a court battle and stopped some logging near the caves. Other locals did tours up the side of the mountain to the very top of the extinct volcano for twitchers as there some bird species only found there.
They produce copra to make a living and sell carvings and shells. We were shown how they produced the copra in the furnace. Then packed into sugar bags and taken to Nora to be shipped out. That explains why there are huge piles of coconut husks under all the trees.
We paid the elder, a woman for the right to visit the caves SD$300.00 each, than headed back for a swim of the back off the boat to remove some mud, no thought of crocodiles!
Back across the passage and anchored and entered a crystal-clear shallow lagoon via tender before heading up into the jungle. A short stroll and we arrived at a house with nice gardens and strolled through them 200 meters to a complete WW11 tank with armament holes that had obviously disa-bled it and possibly the crew. Back to the house to pay the ferry man another SD$300.00 each.
Our next run to the submerged plane went longer than expected and the dive was cancelled until tomorrow. We headed up Vonavona Lagoon to an-chor in front of Billi’s village “Boboe Village”
This was a great anchorage and a tour of the village, visiting Billi’s hut to see the full-size war canoe adorned with carvings. The elders had set up their carvings in the community hut and everyone purchased several items. Carvings made from ebony, nut and kerosene wood - exceptional quality work now on display in our homes.
15th July: Vonavona Lagoon – Noro
The day started with Don making banana pancakes - a great start to the day. Billi arrived with a friend to guide us to the Wildcat fighter from WW2 that was in 10m of water in the lagoon. We anchored app. 100m off the plane and Billi, Don and Martin went for a look and marked the site with a buoy.
Martin and Billy had decided to head home and Billi was to run them back to Fat Boys resort before they caught the next day’s flight out. We bid them farewell and a safe trip.
The remaining crew relaxed with a coffee before heading off for a snorkel on the plane. 10 meters is just out of our diving range. We are not as young as we once were. The plane was complete and remained in excellent condition for the 70 plus years in the water. We spent 20 minutes swimming before we swam to a small coral atoll for a look and walked the island. There were stone/coral structure made for fires where locals had camped on the atoll leaving their rubbish behind. Pity.
Returning to our gear, we noticed we had company - a local dive operator had a charter diving on the wreck. We swam out and there were five people all from one family with scuba tanks. Ian made a comment that it would be nice to dive on the wreck with a tank. A young lady overheard Ian’s comment and offered him the use of her tank. Ian quickly got set up and was off with go pro in hand to get some great shots.
Back to Rapture, where we cleaned up and set off through Vonavona Lagoon landing a nice Spanish mackerel, the only fish on the trip back to Noro via Diamond Passage. I contacted Charlie the fuel supervisor and arranged to fuel up the next day.
16th July: Noro – Kolomanbangara Island - Jack Harbour (Local name after a USA soldier)
Don ran Ian and me over to the wharf, leaving Don with 3 x 20lt drums to be filled with petrol. Ian and I headed off to the bank to get cash from the ATM for customs. Walked up the hill in oppressive heat to pay customs only to find that John wasn’t there. Short walk back to Telekom so that Ian could top up his SIM card. We phoned customs, still no answer.
Someone had mentioned that a shop called the Blue Container importing them from Australia and had all the supplies we required. We were told that it was a five-minute walk down the road. Ten minutes later and soaked in sweat, we stopped a taxi and two km later we arrived. The taxi wait-ed. The shop was air conditioned, neat and tidy and had most of the things we required, including beer and rum.
Stocked up, we headed back to the customs office to find John there and finalised the bill that had reduced to SD$3800.00 somehow. No complaints from me.
Don arrived in the tender and took the supplies back while I headed to the bank as cash was needed for fuel. After waiting in line for 30 minutes I asked to change A$3K only to be told they had their quota of Australian dollars, so ‘no’. After some persuasion and pleading about needing to fuel up, they relented and cashed A$1k.
Their EFTPOS facility didn’t work, so there was no withdrawing cash. It didn’t work the entire time we were in Noro.
We went back to the market with the mud, betel nut juice and rotten vegetables piled up, for some more supplies for the evening meal.
We were finished by 10.30am and got Charlie on the phone after trying for three hours. No go with the fuel. There was now a purse Seine boat on the dock, and he wasn’t certain when they would leave. He was not enthusiastic as I had said I only required 1500lts.
At 1.30pm we gave up wasting our day and headed for Kolombangara Island to find a nice spot for a snorkel. We entered Jack Harbour past a village at the entrance into a beautiful harbour, surrounded by huts. We put the tinnie in, and we went out to the reef for a snorkel, entering the water to more beautiful coral formations and abundant fish life. Some 20m from the island it dropped off to about 40m, with lots of reef sharks, that made Ian’s day as it was his first swim with sharks. We chatted with one of the locals who was swimming along the reef looking for shells. Don asked about big sharks.
No, I’ve never seen any here!
Back to the boat for a relax and Ian prepared dinner. Cryovac BBQ chicken from the Blue Container made into a stir fry with local vegetables, and of cause lots of chilli, garlic and ginger - Ian’s specialty.
17th July: Jack Harbour – Noro – Mbambanga Island
Up early for more fish congee and fresh bread. We ran Rapture out through the passage into the main channel, as we had no phone contact there. With fuel getting low and no chance of making Honiara with the fuel on board, another attempt to contact Charlie. He answered and I informed him I now required 4000lt. His attitude changed and said he’d call you back in 30 minutes. We anchored in the cove where we had been with Billie pre-viously when exploring the caves, for a snorkel. Ian was slow to enter the water and took a call from Charlie. It was all good tie up alongside the purslane boat. Heading back, I gave the boat run at 18kts. Just a well we were refuelling. No dramas with the tie up with plenty of help and interest from the crew on the fishing boat. We needed more cash to makeup the required total of SD$38K, so Don and Cathy got a lift to the bank with one of Charlies workers. Problem solved.
We headed back to the cove where we anchored, opposite the Japanese tunnels. We all quickly entered the water, Don and Cathy headed one way, Ian another and I took the underwater scooter for a run. The coral structures were as usual specular. How good can it be?
I proceeded the clean the hull, while I was in the water. I noticed Ian up on bommie several meters from shore. A native was walking out on the coral towards Don and Cathy pointing out beyond them.
Next thing Ian is racing back to the boat. I didn’t think he could swim that fast. There’s a crock over there. He had swum up to a creek and noticed a large shape one metre below him, funny tail for a fish. He was quickly back on board a little shaken and very excited.
Don and Cathy were also doing some speed records returning to the boat, the native had been pointing out another crock 15metres out from them.
After some very excited conversation we decided that the lack of sharks around here was because the crocs ate them. Ian’s nick name is now Steve On board Rapture, we had coffee with whisky to settle the nerves and with the wind picking up it was time to leave. The wind was increasing off the back of a storm and with the anchor caught on a bommie. I wasn’t looking forward to a swim. I would have to send Steve in, the expert with crocs. Finally after some effort we were free and out of there. Back up the passage toward Gizo and Fatboys Resort on Mbambanga Island. The resort was owned by our ex neighbours the Kennedy’s from Manly during the 1950-60’s. We finally anchored some distance from the resort out of the wind and headed in for dinner. There was some trouble with coral and the prop.
Not the first time. Ian copped lots of advice from Don and me - all well deserved. “stay wider, no go in there, it’s deeper over there” Cathy had a great laugh.
Finally, we go there and were told you must be friends of the two Scotsmen, we heard all about you and the trip. We were told of their antics we were not going to try to live up to their reputation.
The bar/restaurant was located over water and they do night dives with fish and sharks turning up for the event. When we arrived, a group were ready to go in dressed in wet suits, it was a site to see everyone with scuba tanks on, 2m of water if they were lucky.
Why bother? One lay on the bottom while the others floating on surface. I offered to take one for an exciting dive, knowing just the spot with Steve as a guide.
The buffet dinner was for 6.30-8pm arriving at 8pm. We decided to skip the ice cream and headed back to the best restaurant around with chef Ste-ve.
We let Ian drive again with some threats coming our way about any advice.
18th July Mbambanga Island – Liapari Island/Liapari Lagoon
More congee for breakfast then we set off around Kennedy Island where JFK was stranded during WW11 for Lipari Island. A nice relaxing cruise. Even the fish were relaxed. No fish today.
We navigated through the narrow and shallow man-made entrance into the large lagoon and anchored in front of the boat yard run by Noel and Rose Hudson. I had met Noel when we first visited Gizo. He asked me then if we were heading to Liapari as there was an American yacht on the reef at the entrance. We had no problems navigating the narrow passage. We had height but from the cockpit of a yacht, navigation would be difficult. The Americans use the opposite colour on navigation marks causing some confusion.
After lunch, we headed ashore to inspect the array of old and partly repaired boats. We wandered through sheds filled with jobs in various state of completion. The generator shed had four generator sets. Some were good and some would never work again. The wood shed had saws and profilers, steel shed with lathes, presses and welders. They could most likely fix anything.
We visited the office and were given a run down on the history and told to go anywhere on the island. The owner Noel was at Gizo. After walking for 40 minutes we had half the island covered and returned.
We did a further inspection of the slip and two barges, one under repair. Good luck! There were vehicles, jet skis, outboards, engines and gear boxes. There was a three-storey restaurant/bar under construction from 2003 with many more years to go. Maybe they know something we don’t? A beau-tiful spot just the same and it wouldn’t be hard to get lost and quickly slip into Island time.
We were told not to swim in the lagoon as there were crocs. We didn’t need to be told twice. We set off to explore the lagoon and look for crocs. Five minutes later Cathy spotted one all of 1.5m long by the edge of the mangroves. Steve must have been feeling off as he didn’t want to go in to-day. Steve assured us the one yesterday was much bigger.
Back to Rapture sundowners, chicken and vegetable red curry for dinner, followed by red wine, and an early night.
19th July: Liapari Island – Kennedy Island - New Georgia Island
Started the day by servicing the Onan. Ian and I are getting good at this, the air conditioning in the engine room helps. Anchor up and out the channel, rods out no fish again. An hour later we anchored off Kennedy Island. With unfavourable wind we abandoned the idea and put the boat on position hold. Don and Cathy took the first turn to swim to the island and explore the fantastic reef structure, followed by Ian and me.
The island had a caretaker, a husband and wife to collect a fee from the visitors and the occasional cruise ship that visits. Turns out it’s owned by another of the Kennedy boys from Manly.
It is set up as a day resort with a bar, hammocks, carvings and WW2 relics and the full story of JFK. His patrol boat PT109 was rammed off the island at night by the Japanese and the crew managed to swim and hide out on the island. They were finally assisted off the island and back to their base by Billy’s (our guide) grandfather.
When Billy was on board previously, he had shown us the letter sent by President Kennedy some 20 years later, thanking them for their assistance during the war.
Back on board and we headed for Noro Harbour. Don, Cathy and I headed ashore and took a taxi to the blue container, some last-minute supplies we doubted we could get in Honiara, while Ian packed the fishing and dive gear away. Ian was booked on a flight out of Mondo tomorrow and with his trip coming to an end he was a bit glum.
Back on board and we headed up through Diamond Passage to find an overnight anchorage. We settled in for Ian’s last sundowners on the back deck for a while, after our fill of olives, pickles, cheese and biscuits with Cathy’s fried mini capsicums, dinner followed with Tom Yum soup and ice cream, a late night for us - 9.30pm.
20th July: Vonavona Lagoon (Arundel Island) - Mondo (New Georgia Island.) - Rendova Harbor (Rendova Island.)
At 8.30am we left Vonavona Lagoon for Mondo for Ian to catch his flight to Australia. We arrived at 10am after avoiding many reefs entering Mondo Harbor. We went ashore and shopped at the markets for fruit and vegetables leaving them in the tender and catching a taxi to a private museum of WWll items. We were told it was only a 20-minute walk. We arrived 15 minutes later by taxi dodging nonstop potholes. It was just as well we hadn’t decided to walk.
We returned for Ian to catch his flight. Ian went with the taxi to the airport 400m up the road. We walked there to check out the town, and returned with Ian to Agita’s resort for lunch, once again said our goodbyes.
On returning to the boat we spotted Ian on shore. The flight was delayed. We departed heading south at 2.45pm, following our track out of the reefs. At 3.30pm we decided it was best to anchor before dark and went into Rendova Harbour on the eastern side of Rendova Island.
This is the site of the PT base where JFK was based during WW2. One island was the base and another for the offices. We met up with two American boats - both sailing cats. Soggy Paws and Ocelot. We invited Sue and John Hacking over for drinks and kicked them off at 11pm. They have been sail-ing around the world for 14yrs and were a wealth of information. (hackingfamily.com).
21st July: Rendova Harbour (Rendova Island) - Viru Harbour (New Georgia Island) -Nono Lagoon (New Georgia & Vangunu Is.) - Marovo Lagoon (New Georgia & Vangunu Island)
Up anchor at 6.15am. We visited Viru Harbour on the southern end of New Georgia Island - a perfect harbour high mountain all around, gun em-placements and a tank overlooking the entrance. The villager was located all around the lagoon. The villages came out waving from the ridge line. We departed for Nono Lagoon then through to Marova Lagoon - the largest lagoon in the world. After a nervous trip of sight navigation through the reef we anchored at Uipi Island for the night north of the resort. The weather wasn’t suitable for a trip to the resort in the tender, so we ate on board.
22nd July: Marovo Lagoon (Georgia Island.) - Honiara (Guadalcanal Island.)
At 8.50am we departed for Honiara. The trip through the reef was difficult to say the least. Don directed me via google earth around the lagoon for a safe passage out. Heading into the sun and bad weather made it near impossible to navigate by sight. Into open water and the usual weather for our passages, heavy weather 20-25knts 3-4m swells - the usual weather we have come to expect.
Honiara to Vanuatu
23rd July: Honiara
We arrived at Honiara at 4.10am and anchored for some rest and cleaned the boat. We contacted Sam and Marc and went ashore for breakfast at a trendy café. The café was a popular spot for expats, federal police from Australia and New Zealand, and Bio Security officers from Australia. Sam and Marc joined us for breakfast, and we decided to clear the next day. I went to the markets for fruit and vegetables before returning to the boat. Don and Cathy departed for a hotel and Sam and Marc settled in. A few drinks that night and early bed. Honiara had lived up to what I had been told.
24th July: Honiara (Guadalcanal Is.) – Vanuatu
Breakfast ashore then headed to immigration as we were told they opened at 8am. Wrong It was 9.30am so we returned to café for coffee and caught up with Don & Cathy. Back to immigration (SD$500) to clear out. The correct officer wasn’t in yet (island time) and we finally cleared by 11am. We purchased some coconut crabs on returning to tender. Now to customs - more forms but no charge. We returned to the boat and depart-ed Honiara at 1pm. We failed with the cooking of the coconut crabs. Better luck next time.
The trip to Vanuatu was rough with wind 10 degrees off the bow and 3-4m swell, winds up to 30kts. Yet again, it was shitty weather for the passage with two sick crew members - the usual for a new crew at the start of a passage.
There were no boats along the way, though one AIS signal came up and displayed on the radar. I decided this was a long line marker as the MMSI number was 465. Marc spotted a large flock of birds working fish, but there was no chance of fishing with the weather conditions. A pity I would have liked to catch and eat an Albacore.
27th July: Hiu Island - Lorup Bay (Ureparapara Island.)
Stopped at Hiu Island at 9am for a feed, shower and a small break with no possibilities of anchoring. Departed 11am for Ureparapara Island and an-chored at 8.30pm in Corup Bay. The anchorage was in a volcano crater that had collapsed on one side into the ocean. Natives visited in canoes, but we sent them off with a promise of visiting the village in the morning. Good steak, meal and bed.
28th July: Lorup Bay
Up, clean some the salt off the boat and coffee for breakfast. There was yacht anchored in the lagoon, and we soon had a visit from the solo sailor. He was a German who had been sailing around the world for four years and was in no rush to head home. He was after any navigation information we may have had. At 11am we decided to launch the tender and go ashore. I took a selection of items to give away.
On reaching the beach we were meet by John who described himself as one of the chiefs. He was well spoken with good English. He gave us a tour of the village (300 islanders) and a walk up the beach to the school which was closed on Sunday. He gave me a rundown on the village while Sam & Marc entertained the small children. Sam carrying John’s son on his shoulders & Marc swinging other children around by the arms. When we returned to the village, we gave some books and colouring pencils to the headmaster and two boxes of pain tablets to the elders.
We observed several men chopping kava root. We were offered kava but declined. We were told the German sailor came in every day to drink kava. The afternoon soccer match had started, and we watched for 30 minutes. The field was like the others we had seen and the best they could achieve. When the corner was taken, only the striker’s head was visible. Upon returning to the boat, John came out in his outrigger and we all enjoyed a few beers before the three of us had turns in the outrigger. Sam testing a potential new product line. John was given several items for the village. Best received were six pairs of football socks.
After John left, we consumed two bottles of red, realising that we hadn’t eaten all day. We enjoyed a steak and salad.
29th July: Lorup Bay - Solo - Port Paterson (Vanua Lava Island.) Lesalav Bay (Santa Maria Island)
Anchor up at 6am for Sola on Vanua Lava Island to clear customs and immigration. Arriving at 9.30am I made for the clearance office so as not to get caught with 90-minute lunch break. Immigration was at the police station and there were more papers, though this was straight forward. There was a drunk in a cell due for release at 3pm after 24hrs incarceration. The smell was bad. I was not certain if it was him defecating in the cell or the cow that was being slaughtered behind the building for the Independence Day celebrations the next day.
Off to customs and he wanted to visit the boat. I was uncertain whether this was necessary, or he wished to see the boat. The police/immigration of-ficer also came along, and the customs officer requested to see the drugs. There was no real interest. I think he just wanted to appear to be doing his job. They told us we could purchase sim cards on the island. They both had a tour of the boat and a can of coke and we returned to the island. We asked a villager about purchasing sim cards. Sam & I visited five shops with no joy. We tried to purchase some garlic, but they wouldn’t take AU$ back to where we came from to the bank, long wait, island time. I changed AU$500 and received SU$ 37,240.00, so rich now.
Back to the boat. Stuff the garlic. We’d had enough walking. It was tender up and we departed for Santa Maria Is. and Lesalav Bay, a further 20nm. It was 25-30kts 3-4m swells. Will it ever give up? This was the first Island inhabited in Vanuatu about 4000 years ago. We arrived at 4.30pm to see three people kite surfing off the reef break at the entrance to the bay. Great waves and skilled riders. The vessel a large sailing cat Lavente, a Sun Reef 80. Can be chartered for US$55K a day. There was lots of shouting coming from the village. We assumed they were playing soccer, as part of the 30th
Independence Day celebrations. They got independence from UK & France in 1980. We anchored for a good night’s sleep.
30 July: Lesalav Bay - Matanda Bay – Luganville (Espiritu Santo Island)
Up anchor at 7.30am and spent two-and-a-half hours trolling, no luck again. We anchored in Matanda bay further around the island. Before we could complete anchoring, an outrigger arrived from Matanda village. It was chief Richard, elderly gentleman in his 60s. He told us that he was in the vil-lage with his wife and 2 granddaughters, as his two sons and their wives left for the celebration at another village. We asked if we could anchor and dive. All good. We said that we would visit after our dive. We had a dive off the point of the bay. Average coral. I saw one large trout and several big parrot, along with two barracuda. One was 6-7ft. long, biggest I’ve ever seen. We were also shadowed by a six-foot reef shark.
Back at the boat, Richard arrived with some bananas and a torch for repairs. We had no luck with the torch, so I gave him a small LED replacement and some shampoo for his wife. We all shared a beer, before cleaning up and following him ashore. He gave us a tour of the village. They breed chickens that are purchased by other villages along with fruit and vegetables. The main village at Lesalan Bay apparently planted lots of kava and now have a shortage of basics. We gave Richard a bottle of red wine for holy communion and some colouring pens, books and clothes for the chil-dren. We returned to the boa.t Richard came out for some hooks, batteries and cord for a clothesline.
We departed at 4pm for Espiritu Santo Island and Luganville. It was an overnight trip arriving at 4.30am, anchoring up for one hour to sleep before cleaning the boat. I went ashore at 8am to check for a café for breakfast, fuel, sim cards & bank.
The phone store was open - just as well I was early, very busy. The bank opens at 9am their ATM was broken, next ATM broken. I visited the petrol station and got the number for the Shell fuel depot. Their ATM worked. I called Marc & Sam to come ashore for breakfast. Finally, I got through to the depot and was told to come to them. We caught a taxi to the Shell depot, and they told us to visit Customs for a form for duty free fuel. There was no go as this was not our port of departure. Taxi back to town for breakfast then returned to Shell. Their EFTPOS didn’t work. It was a taxi back to the bank for a long wait. VU$684,653.00 required rate 77.42 to AU$. Fuel cost VU$132.30 per lt. AU$1.71.We did some shopping at the supermar-ket and Marc and Sam returned to with the shopping and I went back to Shell depot, which was closed until 1pm. There was a 45minute wait. Finally, fuel was booked for 2.30pm on the main wharf. I contacted the dock, tie up anywhere was the response. After checking the options, we tied up bow into a 3-4kt. tide only one fender required, the dock was set up for cruise ships. Docking charges VU$12,000.00 (13m boat!) a saving on this small vessel. Will the costs ever stop? The tanker arrived dispensing some fuel for us to check. After fueling up, we departed before they checked the true length of the boat.
Across Segond Channel to Aore Island - some resorts and lots of private homes. This is a beautiful spot with clear water and lots of coral. The area is all marine park. All the mooring spots taken, we headed back to anchor off Clemenceau point at Luganville. We had a shower then back to Aore Is-land Resort for drinks and dinner. It was a great night and an incredible spot, looking over the channel to Luganville. Back on board by 9pm after get-ting a little lost on the trip back in tender, only by about 1nm.
1st August: Luganville - Palikulo Bay (Espiritu Santo Island)
We went ashore for breakfast again. Sam and I had pancake stacks with ice cream. Yum yum. We couldn’t do those on board. We went back to the boat, anchor up and we moved to Palikulo Bay past million-dollar point. This is where the Americans dumped all the equipment from that area at the end of the war. We would have gone for a snorkel except for the seas. Palikulo Bay is a great anchorage away from the 3kt tides and 25kt wind at Luganville. Tender in and up to the entrance. We could taste the mackerel, but it was more of the same around Vanuatu with no fish. Dinner and early bed - 4am leave tomorrow.
2nd. August: Palikulo Bay - Aoba Island - Maewo Island - Port Havannah (Efate Island)
Anchor up at 4am and 25nm trip in 25-30kt breeze for Aoba Island to try to catch Sam a fish. We trolled the entire leeward side. No fish - what’s new? Across to Maewo Island. The weather not looking good so we decided it would be better to be at Efate Island and Port Vila as we need to be there on Monday. Great trip!! Still from the s/east 25-30kts as usual.
3rd. August: Port Havannah
We arrived at 9.30am with 40 knots wind gusts into Port Havannah and anchored 16 nm from Port Vila. We cleaned the boat and had brunch. Keith & Leslie off Gaday, a 43ft. Lagoon from Mooloolaba dropped by to say hello. They had travelled over with Lance and Margaret, friends from home who were anchored in Port Villa. Sam tried some bottom fishing as Keith had caught several, but no luck again.
After lunch we dropped the tender to have a look around and decided against visiting a resort as that would be the end of us for the day. There were five or six resorts along this section. A nice spot in good weather. The road across the bay went to Port Vila 30 minutes away and there were beauti-ful houses all along the shore.
We invited Keith & Leslie for drinks. Marc was cooking a pasta dish and we invited them to stay. They left after we have finished 6/7 bottles of wine. Big night. They are both marine biologists and I learnt how to kill fish, a small amount of alcohol in the gills and it kills them instantly. Can’t wait to catch a fish.
4th August: Port Havannah - Port Vila
Up at 6am with sore heads and cleaned the inside of the boat before breakfast at 8am. Anchor up and off to Port Vila. Contacted Lance Duke and got a phone number for a mooring. Phoned Ron and got directions. We tied up to what they described as the cyclone mooring with 11 tons of concrete. His game boat was moored next to us. At 108ft, Dream Catcher is an American built game boat with two 4000 series MTU engines. They had just come from the Gold Coast after having Stabilisers fitted. They had a trip with flat conditions. Lucky for some.
Moored up at Ron’s wharf was 157ft boat in Vanuatu for charter work and for the owners use. We cleaned the boat before visiting Lance & Margret Duke for a catch up and details about Port Vila.
Phoned Ross and we caught up at the Water Side Bar & Grill, a few beers to start the day. We walked along the waterfront, only a short walk accord-ing to Ross - three rugby fields that were more like ten. Brett joined us up at a restaurant/rum bar for dinner and a few rums.
Port Vila to Noumea
5th August: Port Vila
Breakfast ashore at Rossie’s then some shopping, via the craft markets. I purchased a Nautilus shell. It was a lengthy walk to the supermarket for more supplies. On the way back, we meet up with Lance & Marg and invited them for sundowners. Off to Customs for forms to purchase alcohol du-ty free. It was worth the effort. Ron Zacapa normally $95-105.00 in Australia $45. Then we shopped at the markets for fruit and veggies.
Drinks with Lance and Margret at 4.30pm then off for dinner ashore big night, maybe too big for Ross & Brett.
6th. August: Port Vila - Lenakel (Tanna Island)
Breakfast ashore then off to pay for the mooring, I purchased two more Nautilus shells on the way back. Anchor up and the weather forecast shows the trip to Tanna Island reasonable weather. Wrong. Ross & Brett were sick and hardly surfaced until we got there. Another crossing with 20-25kts winds and 3-4m swells. Over this.
7th. August: Lenakal - Noumea (New Caledonia)
We arrived at Lenakal at 6am, anchored and made breakfast. After launching the tender, Marc ran me ashore to clear Customs & Immigration. With directions from the police, off in a van/bus, had no luck and ended up back where I started.
With some help from the woman in the health center, Immigration arrived in 10 minutes. More paperwork. Customs finally arrived one hour later more forms. No charge. A surprise as there is a VA$800.00 cost to depart. No complaints from me. Back to the boat for some photos with the surf breaking off the bow of the boat. We departed there with perfect conditions for the first time in two months.
8th August: Noumea (New Caledonia)
We arrived in Noumea at 3pm and booked into Port Moselle. More forms. Bio Security came on board and removed all the fruit & vegetables and the chicken from Noro. No cost unlike Solomon’s. The woman at the marina suggested and booked us a restaurant for 8pm. We headed off early for dinner and Ross took us 13 rugby fields over hills to find some bars he had been told about. The only one was at the marina in the other bay, Port Ngea. Just slightly off Lemon Bay was where he had been told about, 15 minutes by taxi. It was a brisk walk back for dinner and one of the nicest meals for a long time. A local restaurant that only opens four nights a week with five main courses available, we were the only tourists. We will re-turn there before we leave.
9th August: Noumea - Ils Nge
A storm came through at 5am and the boat next to us wasn’t tired up correctly and hit our hull. Marc & Brett retired their lines. Ross & I never even stirred. Up to the marina and finalised customs clearance, then breakfast. Off to clear Immigration and some shopping for fruit and vegetables, sim cards for the phones, back to the boat and depart at 11am.
Off to the outer reef to try and catch some mackerel. One lonely fish. We then anchored for the night at Ile Nge (Island Nge) there were 20 moor-ings. The best one was marked ‘Pilot’. There was no one around so that was us. We went for a dive to sea grass bottom with a large school of sweet lip, Red bass, GT’s and some 8ft plus sharks.
After dinner with the underwater lights on the fish refused to play lights out and line out. First up I hooked a 30+kg GT. It was some real fun. We took some photos then set him free. Next up, Marc caught a nice sweet lip then Brett hooked one of the sharks, which ended up around the stabiliser and was cut off. We all had a great time with plenty of excitement.
10th August: Ils Nge - Ile Pines
I got up early and departed for Ise Pines. Lines out at 6am, we trawled through some incredible reefs. No fish. Arrived at 1pm and set off for a dive. The reef was not very inspiring and poor visibility. We tried another spot on the way back same, same. There was a cruise ship anchored in the bay. Carnival Spirit and the Island was teaming with tourists, so no use going ashore.
On returning to the boat we were waved down by another tender. It was David Baddiley & his girlfriend Maddy off Popeye from Brisbane. They came over for drinks and a great afternoon ensured. Dinner and bed.
11th August: Ile Pines
Got up to rain and wind so took the opportunity to wash some of the boat and clean the strainers. Discovered a split in the raw water intake hose on the Starboard engine. Short term fix with some amalgamating and Denso tape. I will replace the hose in Port Moselle on Saturday.
We finally went ashore for a look despite the wind and rainy conditions. We had a few beers at the resort bar before the cold and rain drove us away. We returned to the boat to find it rocking and rolling in the swell.
Anchor up and move to a better spot in the southern part of the bay with less swell. With the tender under tow, the rope got around the prop. Marc had fun removing the rope twice in the rough conditions. Dinner and bed with much better conditions in the southern part of the bay.
12th August: Ile. Pines - Recif Kuta (Kuta Reef)
Breakfast then off to get the location of the reef that David told us about. A tour of Popeye a French made 46ft. Amel Maramu. Arriving at the reef there were two other boats fishing on the reef. We launched the tender and went bottom fishing with high expectations. No fish. Dinner and bed.
13th August: Kuta Reef - Baie De Yate
Breakfast then off to the eastern lagoon off the main Island. Lures out and our first mackerel for several days. We headed up the east coast and vis-ited Baie De Tare. Not very inviting as an anchorage, so off to Baie De Yate. I assume Baie means Bay in French. I’m great at French having got three percent in grade eight. Along the way we landed several mack tuna and retained them for bait. The boys went out in the tender checking out the Hy-dro outlet and the village. At least they returned with fresh bread sticks which we devoured on the back deck with cheese and wine. Must keep up the French tradition.
14th August: Baie De Yate (Bay De Yate) - Baie De Pony (Bay De Pony)
Breakfast Conge with mackerel a favorite, up anchor and lines out. I suggested we try some bottom fishing. Five hours later and 40 odd fish later we had had enough, with one Trout and a green job fish weighing in at 5kg. We went into Baie De Pony and anchored. Some locals coming over off the other boats at anchor and had no interest in having any fish. They were adamant that the red throat emperor had ciguatera. We spent the next sev-eral hours cleaning and packing fish. Job fish for dinner and a well-earned rest.
15th August: Baie De Pony
We travelled further up the Bay to look at the hot springs and waterfalls, with low tide and no chance of getting the tender to the springs. Back the other way with lots of walking on goat tracks to see the waterfall, then back an alternate route longer but safer. We met a couple out walking and struck up a conversation. Turns out he is the author of the Rocket Guide to Cruising and he has been boating since 1958, and they have taken up citi-zenship in New Caledonia. Back to the boat for a cupper and a nap.
16th August: Bay De Pony - Ilot Mato (Mato Island.) - Port Moselle (Noumea)
Up early and headed off for the outer reef and a dive at Mato reef, light winds and some sun. Ross & Brett snorkeled the edge of the reef not very inspiring and cold. Confirming my booking at Port Moselle, we headed to Port Moselle arriving at 3pm. Booked into our favourite restaurant for 8.30pm. Don and Jake are due to arrive at 10.30pm.
Ross and Brett found some baguettes and we devoured them with cheese and red wine on the back deck. Another fantastic meal at Aup’tit Café then back to the café at the marina to listen to some music from a local band, very ordinary attracting a dubi-ous crowd. Boat and bed after a night cap.
17th August: Port Moselle
We ventured into town and found a nice café in the park for breakfast. Contacted Don & Jake and met at the markets for coffee. We headed back to the boat for a thorough clean of the outside and I serviced the Onan replacing the complete water pump.
Brett departed for the airport and we went up town. The place was closing as this was part of the public holiday and very little open tomorrow.
Marc departed to his hotel and rang back with some details on the tourist area at Lemon Bay with lots of restaurants. A taxi ride dinner and drinks. This is one of the tourist’s areas of Noumea. The main town seems to be the locals mostly. We called a taxi for the trip back and struck up a conver-sation with the driver. He had run a limousine service in the south of France and had had enough of the country and moved to New Caledonia. His view was that the country was getting extremely expensive and Kanak youths had lost respect for their traditional ways and represented 90 per cent of the jail population. Back to the boat and bed.
18th August: Port Moselle
Up after a good sleep to fresh baked bread and fish conge. The markets were open for the morning and we replenished all our supplies for the re-turn trip to Australia. Back to the boat and a lazy afternoon. Returning to Lemon Bay for an early dinner then back for a sleep.
19th August: Port Moselle - Cato Reef
Up early and confirmed that the mechanic was coming to service the Man engines. John arrived at 8.15am. He speaks good English and lives on his boat with his girlfriend and a dog. He has lived in Noumea for seven years and before that toured Australia and other parts of the world. He has no desire to return to France.
We serviced the engines and completed the job by 10.45am. Ross and I raced off by foot to clear immigration by 11.30am. Then we went further on to customs for clearance and paperwork for duty free fuel, AU$2k saving. I returned by taxi via several ATM’s for CFP franc $74500.00 cash to pay John.
Off to fuel up, 4100lts then return to the marina and another taxi to the Port office to get clearance. Emailed Australian home security about our pending arrival then headed off, to anchor at Ile Nge near the outer reef for dinner before our passage. The crew declined the offer of a snorkel with the arrival of several 8ft. plus sharks. We cleared the outer reef by 7.30pm I headed off for a good sleep with perfect sea conditions. Our first way-point is a sea mount that rises to 22m from 2500m, 380nm away.
Noumea - Cato Reef - Brisbane
20th August: Coral Sea
Awoke to a small swell with one-metre flat seas and 5-10kts of breeze. It was a pleasant change, 290nm to go to the sea mounts. The seas picked up during the night to 20-25kts. But didn’t last long, but enough to give the sea mounts a miss.
21st August: Coral Sea
By mid-morning the wind dropped out and we had a great run with 1-2m swells and 5-10kts wind. We spent two to three hours trolling around birds working but only caught bonito.
22nd August: Coral Sea - Cato Reef
Weather still great when I came up for my shift at 2am. Nice to be able to get a good sleep. The weather deteriorated as we approached Cato Reef, circumnavigating the reef before heading down wind to kill time then back. We anchored on the north western side of the reef in 14m of water, the only likely anchorage in the conditions and watched the birds and the huge 4-5m swells crashing onto the reef on the far side of the lagoon. A quiet day catching up on sleep. Two sweet lip and a 4kg job fish were caught. Off to bed with hope of a better day tomorrow.
24th August: Cato Reef - Brisbane
I woke a 5am with the south easter still blowing, by 6am the wind turned to the north and 10 knots. Then back to south east but light winds. We decided that the most important thing was to walk the island, with wind down to 10-15kts, the tender was launched and off we headed.
We headed through the reef and swells towards the beach and into 5 knots of current around the island. The huge swell breaking on the far side of the lagoon 1nm away was sending a huge volume of water through the lagoon and out the other side sweeping around the island.
The beach was beautiful white sand with coral and shells everywhere. The island was filled with hundreds of thousands of birds and the ground was covered with chicks. I believe most of the common birds on the east coast were represented. I took along my book on sea birds and identified all the ones we saw.
We walked the circumference of the island on the beach as walking on the land was not an option without the risk of treading on chicks. We collect-ed lots of shells on the beach. Back to the tender and the hairy trip back out through the reef and strong currents.
The chart showed a boat passage into the lagoon with an anchorage, obviously a joke unless you travelled by small boat 4-6m. Anchor up, line out, another barracuda. Headed up to the north east corner of the shoal to a promising spot. Lots of birds working and we lost four lures all nylon trace, all chopped off. The decision was made to only swim on lure, first I landed 35kg Wahoo, then Ross got a similar size yellow fin. Jake got another 40kg yellow fin. We could have just kept catching fish, but it was time to head for home. Fillet and pack the fish for the next 90 minutes while heading down swell. Shower and course change for Cape Moreton with s/east swells and 10-15kts looking good for the remainder of our trip to Moreton Bay.
25th August: Coral Sea - Moreton Bay
I started my shift at 2am 10kts calm seas 9.5kts across the ground. We had picked up the east coast current and I increased the revs and we travelled at 10.3kts with a dropping wind. There were lots of whales all down the coast and one finning marlin. We anchored at Shark Spit inside Moreton Bay at 10pm after a trip with flat, calm seas.
26th August: Moreton Is. (Shark Spit)
Up at 5am and prepare the boat for the trip to Rivergate. We tied up at Rivergate at 8.15am. Customs advised us they would be here ASAP. They cleared us in the cockpit, no issues not even entering the boat. It must have been preparations I made and the good-looking skipper.
An hour later Bio Security arrived and thoroughly went over the boat. A good thing as we need to secure our borders for any pests. Can’t say the same for some of the current rules and self-regulation (e.g. white spot on prawns). All clear with the removal of some fruit and vegetables and any unmarked meat, though its origin was Australia. This cost $150.00 for the disposal of the supplies and $570.00 for the inspection.
Ross departed for the airport and home and Jake for home. David Fussell from NRW came to look at some repairs that will need to be attended to. Don and I departed at 1pm for Raby Bay and family keen for our return. Just before turning into our canal I call my grandson Otis on the VHF to look down the canal. Great excitement as he had been talking about me and the boat since I left.
Home: at last the adventure is over.