Thursday, June 17, 2010

Samarai Island

June 17, 2010-We left the Louisiades around two in the afternoon and sailed out through Cormorant Pass. Actually, we drifted out the pass as the winds were very light but the ebb current was pretty strong. This pass was much, much easier than the one we entered a week ago.

We headed due west and around five o'clock, we approached Jomard Channel. This is a major shipping channel for commercial vessels going from the Torres Straights north of Australia to China, Japan, the Philippines, etc. we began to see a ship to our starboard, and when it was within five miles, our AIS alarm system sounded. The ship was 950 feet, and it was huge. It easily passed in front of us, as did the next ship. A few minutes later we saw one ship to port and one to starboard, and the AIS again sounded. At this point we are preparing to cross the channel so we are obviously watching very carefully. The AIS lists the closest point of approach, and both vessels were at one mile-no problem. Then one of the ships, a tanker, began to close on us, and the CPA was down to 0.2 miles. We had slowed down a bit to allow him to pass in front of us, but then we noticed that the tanker had changed course enough that he would now move behind us, which was very nice of him to do. That left the other ship to pass in front of us with sv Linda in the middle. It was an exciting hour or so. Even after we were through the channel, we kept seeing ships for several hours.

It was dead calm all night. In fact, I could see the Milky Way and other stars reflected in the water because it was like glass. It was a beautiful,calm evening; however, no wind meant that we had to motor, which we did the whole way.

We arrived at Samarai Island around 9 o'clock and were listening to Australian Broadcasting Company on the single-sideband radio when we found out that it was the Queen's birthday. That meant it was a holiday and we could not clear into Papua New Guinea until tomorrow. We decided to go ashore anyway and found out that Felix, the customs officer, was out fishing. Who could blame him-it was a holiday. We did locate some diesel and a place to exchange money so everything was fine. Our only problem occurred when we returned to our dinghy. The dinghy dock moves quite a bit because of the swell. Steve got in, and I was looking at the situation. Steve said to just lunge for it, so I did. As I lunged forward, the dinghy lunged to the side because of a swell. I did a beautiful face plant right into the dinghy. My left thigh hit something on the dinghy that has left a nice bruise, but I was otherwise unhurt-only my ego since about 20 locals were in the area watching.

On Tuesday, Felix met us on our way to his office, so we all returned to the boat so that he could check us in, take care of immigrations and also quarantine. This was a very laid back operation, which was just fine by us. We then got our jerry jugs and lugged them to town to fill up with diesel. We needed just four jugs this time so it was a bit easier. In the afternoon we took a walk around the island because we have had so little exercise lately, and it was interesting. We found the central market, and on around the island, we found the hospital. The island is only 64 acres, so it did not take long to complete the walk.

On Wednesday, we were preparing to leave for Port Moresby, but we learned that sv September was coming in to get diesel before they continue on to Port Moresby so we decided to stay. Hans and Gabriele arrived around noon and had us over for a tuna dinner because they had landed a lovely tuna on the way in.

Steve helped them get diesel today while I took care of chores. We prepared the boat to leave in the morning to do a two-night passage to Port Moresby. Since we can't find a weather window to cross to Australia, we will move along the coast of Papua New Guinea instead.

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