Blue Water at its best

20160822_121704_hdr

 

Don’t get me wrong …  blue water sailing is mostly enjoyable.

Now out of the storms and in the sou’east trades, Drumbeat skips along, eating up the sea miles.

20160822_180139_HDR.jpgWe enter the shipping lanes between east coast Australia and east of New Guinea. A lot of ships traverse this bit of ocean. At one stage we have seven ships on our AIS screen. On sunset we pass the Chang Wah, 900 feet long. We’d been on collision course, until he turned to port and we did the same to our port.

20160823_070933_HDR.jpg20160821_162003_hdr

20160823_095517_HDR.jpg

You can see why they call it blue water when you check the escape hatch out in the hull below waterline … this really is a loo with a view!

 

 

Brian plots our course through the Reef to our new clearance port of Mackay.

By the time we reach the Reef, the wind has eased, and we ghost along between the reefs. Flying fish and seabirds – one booby hitched a full night time lift with us, perched on a rail.

We stream a couple of lures, but no success.

 

 

AMAZON – John Bell Books

JohnBellBooks.com

Advertisements

Ah, yes – the best laid plans …

20160820_055321_HDR.jpgSetting moon below the clouds of an early morning departure. Glassed off water farewells us, sky looks much better than yesterday. But at 2 a.m. the rain bucketed down, must’ve been a passing squall, with wind across the deck of 25 knots plus for about half an hour. Just to let us know there’s still some weather about.

20160820_061614_hdrWe cross fingers as we skirt the reef guarding the entrance. A hundred or more metres off our starboard bow a big marlin tail walks across the water, leaving us behind as he falls back into his element. I’m not quick enough to get a pic of this fitting farewell.

20160820_055414_HDR.jpg

We swing to port to run down the western side of Rendova Island, leaving Kolambangara off astern to starboard. Kolambangara, part of the scene of the naval battle in “Payback.”

20160820_065301_HDR.jpg

 

Blue sky above, but the horizon not promising, we sail fast in the protected lee of Rendova.

20160820_065825_hdrAn hour later, Kolambangara has disappeared into the base of a storm that comes chasing us.

Drumbeat slips along in light winds under full main and heads’l.

Instruments show 7.3 knots wind speed 8.6 knots boat speed. We continue like this, sailing faster than the wind, which is coming from just ahead of our port beam, slowly strengthening.

Now we’re parting company with the southern end of Rendova, 8 miles to port, lifting to the ocean swell. The sea is still relatively calm, nice fast sailing.

20160821_115806_hdrLunch on the run, puffy clouds over the slowly disappearing islands. The horizon ahead gives cause for concern, by mid afternoon we know why – a line of storms the full width of our horizon.

Soon conditions deteriorate.

We reduce the main to the third reef, and small heads’l as the wind quickly picks up – 25 knots, then 30, then 35 knots, worsening  While still daylight we take the decision to run from the storms. This means instead of heading south west to Gladstone, we go northwest towards PNG. It’s a wild trip for many hours until we get behind the limited shelter of a 30 mile long reef, Pocklington Ridge. By now a combination of distance between us and the storms and the reef shelter made conditions easier.

Well after midnight we reach the northwestern end of the reef, about 80 miles from the Louisiades, and gingerly turn again to the south west. The reef drops away to the Pocklington Trough, some 3000 metres deep. Serious water.

Daylight sees us in much calmer conditions, now heading for Mackay.

20160824_173037_hdr

 

AMAZON – John Bell Books

JohnBellBooks.com

 

 

Lukim Yu Bihain, Egholo

Easy to say, “see you later” in Pidgin. Not so easy to do. But – who knows what the future holds.

20160818_174042_HDR

The low has weakened, but widened. There seems to be a bit of a gap coming up weather wise. Reasonable wind for a short while, then a section of stronger stuff (25 kts) easing off (15/20 kts) as we head west. Our plans became the best laid of mice and men, you will see.

OK, decision made. We are leaving Egholo. But the memories will always stay with us.

20160817_131539_HDR.jpg

Including watching youngsters at sunset shoot the tiny point break in their canoes. One on a home made board. Much laughter and lots of happy.

20160818_170839_HDR.jpg20160818_170949_HDR.jpg

20160818_170932_HDR.jpg20160818_170818_HDR.jpg

Lots of waving, and 0600hrs we are out of Egholo harbour. Already we can feel the breeze, a bit more than expected, and it’s only early.

By late morning we’re well down Blanche Channel heading S.E. along the eastern side of Rendova under heads’l and main. My first sail in a big cat – my experience has been in monohulls. And does this thing move! 60 ft of boat weighing less than my 13 tonne flybridge cat. The secret is in its construction – balsa cored kevlar. Even the lifeline stanchions are kevlar, and the sails. No wonder it performs well, with tall mast and large sail area. Headsail, drifter, two spinnakers to go with the main. The motion is SO different from a monohull.

We leave Tetepare to starboard and head for the exit past Vanganau from Blanche Channel, where we are farewelled by two Spinner dolphins, smaller than ours.

Away from land, we’re lifting to the ocean swell and the press of a breeze stronger than anticipated.

All overcast sky, squalls and storms well ahead and to port. Will they do the right thing and pass by us?

Of course not. By midday we are in storms, wind way too strong, seas rough. Brian takes the sensible decision to go back.  20160819_113645_HDR.jpg … pics don’t do it justice!20160819_115458_HDR.jpg

That in itself is an experience, going about in this strength of wind. Brian, calm and purposeful, methodically turn us around, and we head back to Rendova. Easier motion, with wind three quarters astern.

We scoot along, touching 23 knots at one stage. Yes. Faster than I could push Scorpion with 2 x 315 hp diesels! 23 knots under sail. Exhilarating, if a little other-worldly. Skippering Drumbeat is more like driving Starship Enterprise. Immense bridge deck, instruments and screens everywhere. Sailing by instruments, a whole new experience. Noise is overpowering –  sound of the wind, and the water slamming into the hulls.

We head back, this time along the western side of Rendova where Brian knows of an anchorage, although he’s not been into it before.
20160819_162509_HDR.jpgNot just an anchorage, this is a cyclone hole. Even more protected than Egholo, deep water, good holding bottom, jungle to the water, twists and turns to get in, after going around a long reef that lies right across the entrance. Raining steadily now, the calm water a blessing. No people, no canoes, we motor and anchor in 18m over sand, in behind Kenelo Point near Nusa Laeni.

I fillet a bunch of little fish from Egholo while Brian sets up the rain catching systems  to replenish our tanks. This place is silent, primeval, as the vertical rain showers pattern the dark water and brooding jungle. Gives a whole new meaning to calm water. Wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a Tyrannosaurus Rex or something shove through the leaves.

20160819_162859_HDR.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We go to bed wondering what tomorrow’s weather will bring.

 

AMAZON – John Bell Books

JohnBellBooks.com

 

 

Egholo Extended

Heavy showers overnight, the distant sea shows through the entrance all whitecaps and grey, pushed along by 30 kts of sou’easter. We sit motionless in this protected anchorage. Brian locates a small low developing immediately north of us. With any luck, it’ll move off to the east and leave us alone on our westwards journey. But we should wait a while – great! I love Egholo.

Chief Ngana takes us today on a stroll through neat and tidy houses and paths, vegetable gardens and fruit trees, of all sorts. Nut trees too. Similar names to Kavieng for a couple of the nut trees. Crab holes everywhere. Solomon Islands name for Abiu is Portera. They grow well here.

Ngana’s wife gives us a demonstration of recovering coconut oil. About 80 coconuts and a lot of work go to make about ten half litre bottles of clear oil. A lot of time and effort.

20160818_071759_HDR.jpgA walk past village houses and gardens takes us to the local school. We meet two of the teachers, young and dedicated Solomon Island girls.

20160817_135059_HDR.jpg20160817_135237_HDR.jpg

 

20160817_135928_HDR.jpg

Egholo village school teachers

20160817_133544_HDR.jpg

Our friendly head man Gnana brings out his village visitor’s book, carefully wrapped in plastic.

20160817_074139_HDR.jpgWith two artists on board in Linda and Carol, the ladies work on a page for our visit.

     20160817_082849_HDR.jpg

 

Village life flows on around us, canoes with kids, canoes with mothers and occasional men. This is much better than tackling that low-pressure system waiting outside for us.

We’re invited to leave Drumbeat for a while to check out a project of one of the villagers.

Can you imagine trying to build accommodation for backpackers when there’s no Bunnings handy? Local man Pesec, a Solomons entrepreneur, is building out over the water. All disparate bits of timber, but bedrooms and an already functioning flush toilet. He’s started bringing fish into the verandah each morning … something for tourists, he says. A triumph of spirit over

20160818_070236_HDRAll disparate bits of timber, but bedrooms and an already functioning flush toilet. He’s started bringing fish into the verandah each morning … something for tourists, he says. A triumph of spirit over

He’s started bringing fish into the verandah each morning … something for tourists, he says. A triumph of spirit over environment.  I hope his dream becomes reality. Very basic, very beautiful, very friendly. If any backpacker reads this and has a sense of adventure, get yourself to Egholo and stay a while, living over water. Tell ’em I sent you!

 

 

 

all too soon, it’s back to Drumbeat to think about the weather…

20160817_151024_HDR.jpg

 

AMAZON – John Bell Books

JohnBellBooks.com

 

Life to the beat of a different drum

The beauty of this place isn’t diminished by the overcast sky and misty showers. We join Brian and Linda on Drumbeat off Noro, on the island of New Georgia, anchored inside a shallow reef separating us from the channel. I eye off the pass through the reef, and automatically compare the width of our boat. Hmmm…

A visitor drops in by canoe for a bit of “story”.  And maybe a bit of bartering.

20160816_092650_HDR

Soon it’s  dusk and the sun shows momentarily below cloud as it waves goodbye for the night.

20160815_171318_HDR.jpg

Tomorrow is another day, and the local market calls.

20160816_080638_HDR.jpg20160816_080558_HDR.jpgOur last chance for fresh stuff, so we stock up. Jakfruit? Yes. Coconuts, pawpaws, bananas, all types of fruit and veg.

Market bartering done, we dinghy out past a line of big fishing boats that supply the local tuna cannery, and back to Drumbeat after clearing customs and immigration. That took a while, lik lik longtaim, but hey – who cares? They certainly don’t and that’s a contagious attitude.

20160816_082648_HDR.jpgWe swing out past Noro houses, slide through the narrow gap in the reef and turn to follow the barge that just left the Noro wharf. It seems to disappear into the jungle as it turns into Diamond Narrows. On my last trip through here in a Beneteau 44, maybe ten years ago, it seemed too tight for boats to pass. Not so – deep water to the banks, and sufficient room as it twists and turns westwards. Overcast and windless, we motor on calm water.

Trying to pictur20160816_095137_HDR.jpge racing down this channel on a stormy night with a squadron of wartime US Navy torpedo boats. It was much easier to fictionalize in Payback than it could ever be in real life.

20160816_095405_HDR.jpg

These pics don’t do the narrows justice.

Check ’em out some time on Google Earth, it’s Diamond Narrows in the Solomon Islands, near New Georgia.

AMAZON – John Bell Book

JohnBellBooks.com

M2MvM – the last of Burma … Rangoon (now Yangon)

Whoever said all good things must come to an end is probably correct, but I wish right now he wasn’t. I don’t want to leave Burma, and hope to return to this wonderful country.

From Heho and the fabulous Inle Lake, we fly to Yangon, founded in 1755, renamed Rangoon when the British annexed the country in 1885. Tree lined avenues, lakes and parks and a bustling city centre. A wealth of Victorian architecture, including the famous Strand Hotel, sister hotel to Singapore’s Raffles.

And traffic.20160316_103728_HDR

We visit the must-see Shwedagon Pagoda 2,500 years old, on Singuttara Hill, the most sacred Buddhist site in Burma and one of the wonders of the religious world. Complex geometry and many structures, up to 110m high, the lower stupa claims 8,688 solid gold bars, with another 13,153 in the upper part. The tip of the stupa claims 5,448 diamonds, 2,317 rubies, many sapphires and other gems, 1,065 golden bells and at the very top a single 76 carat diamond. It’s like Burma kept the best pagoda for the last.  For us, at any rate.

20160316_174344_HDR

20160308_150951_HDR       20160316_172549_HDR

 

 

 

 

Looks like a job for Ocean’s 11!

 

 

20160308_101908_HDR

We have lunch on Inya Lake, within 200 metres of Aug San Suu Kyi’s house where she spent 15 years under house arrest.

All too soon, it’s goodbye to fabulous Burma/Myanmar as we fly to Singapore and then home to our own Mandalay.

20160311_101618_HDR

John Bell Books

AMAZON – John Bell Books