16 Aug 2012

Alotau - Louisiades (Take 2)

Farewell to Alotau!
The plan for the final leg from Alotau - Cairns (also known as 'Leg 6B') was to follow Steve & Pat's route East to Nivani & Panasia Islands for a bit of a Louisiades cruise, then jump off from there into the Coral Sea for Cairns.

Timing, however, was dictated by our need to arrive in Cairns on Fri, 3 Aug for the dreaded Aussie CIQ during office hours. We had been warned that overtime charges if late would stretch into hundreds of $$$, so we didn't want that!

The pleasant, encouraging breeze that welcomed our departure from Alotau quickly hardened into a stiff and surprisingly cool S'ly as we left Milne Bay, with a short chop in the face for good measure.

Max trading
We quickly rolled away much of our cruising Genoa and shortened to 1st then 2nd reef in the main. And that deep 2nd reef remained in, all the way to Cairns! [I have to say here that our new heavy cruising main from Lee Sails (9.3 oz Challenge HM HA) has been a godsend, and money well spent...]

We made the shallows of the Grant Island gap in daylight, then rounded the Engineer group of islands under a waning gibbous moon (no, really). M. Mal de Mer stepped aboard quite soon after that, and outstayed his welcome. Or perhaps it was the pot noodles, rustled up at midnight to keep out the cold?!

Chef John
Passing the Conflict Group, then N of the Toilesse Islands for shelter, we entered the West Passage of the Deboyne Lagoon just after dawn, and anchored NW of Nivani Island to dry out (yes, more leaks in the forepeak) and enjoy the Bosun's famous bacon & eggy-bakes.

We were just dozing off when Toby arrived by canoe and offered to guide us closer in through the reef to more sheltered water. This we did, ending up in 25' due N of the island, and conveniently closer to the Japanese Zero we planned on exploring next day. We thanked Toby with the usual trading goods (pens, fishing hooks, T-shirts) and he departed happy, promising to spread the word that we were keen to trade for crayfish.

Local pearls
John then dived into the galley and turned out a massive chicken stew, involving the contents of every can of vegetables he could find, which fed us all hugely for supper, and every meal the next day too!

Another chap stopped by with his young son later, hoping to sell some local pearls, but at 70 Kina each he didn't have any takers. Thinking about it now, ropey as they were, we (I) should have grabbed one as a memento.

Nivani beach
Dawn the next day (Mon, 30 Jul) saw us straight into departure prep. Having slept on it, and given the unsettled weather, we had decided to press on for Cairns. Heading straight for the Jomard Entrance would allow an easy sheltered sail initially, without the need for more coral navigation. The Coral Sea awaited!

Still time to explore Nivani, though, so a shore party of John, Richard & Max were despatched to dive the Zero, while the Skipper & Bosun got ready for departure, digging out Trysail & storm jib, just in case.

By 1400 we were off, full Genoa and 2 reefs in the main. Wind 160/15-20. Perfect.

No comments:

Post a Comment