Story and pictures copyright © 1999 Julia Hazel
Jeshan goes to PNG - Page 1
August-October 1999

Sunday, August 15, 1999

Landfall this morning on the south western side of Sudest Island, which is at the south east end of the Louisiade Archipelago in Papua New Guinea. It's called Tagula on older charts.

Happy day, after six days at sea since leaving Cairns. Not a long passage for Jeshan, but the last five days have been rough and wet, so the crew (me) was grumbling a lot. And I mean A LOT!

Not unexpected for a tradewind passage in the "uphill" direction (heading eastwards) but I HAD been optimistically hoping for lighter winds, which would have been much less uncomfortable. So much for unrealistic optimism.
The first day out was lovely. That was last Monday. The customs officer came promptly at 11.30 as arranged, pleasant and efficient. Then down the long channel from the Cairns inlet in bright sunshine and light winds.

Smooth seas all afternoon, heading out to Grafton Passage, a good wide "gateway" in the Great Barrier Reef.

I had intended to anchor off Fitzroy Island overnight, but the weather was so nice that I decided to just keep going and stow away last minute things while under way.

Even outside the protection of the reefs that nice starry first night was comfortable, though mostly sleepless because I needed to keep a close lookout for shipping so near a major reef passage.

This was on the way down to Cairns from Port Douglas a few weeks earlier. I was too busy stowing away last minute things to take any photos on departure day. And the weather was too lousy for photos the rest of the passage.
The next morning, while catnapping to make up somewhat for lost sleep, I was woken by a very low flying plane. Turned out to be a CoastWatch patrol. After they came back for another low pass I realised (d-uhhh, dummy!) they might be trying to attract my attention. Turned on the VHF belatedly, and told them who, what, where, etc. Got a pleasant reply, with thanks for the info and good wishes for the trip.

At that stage the wind and seas were already picking up, and by early afternoon we were down to two reefs in the main. Not too bad, though salt spray flying everywhere because we were fairly close-hauled.

A couple of hours later one of the self steering lines broke. By then it was more than just spray - I got thoroughly soaked during the fiddly process of end-for-ending the remaining bit of line and re-threading it.

The seas increased throughout the next night, overlaid on two distinct swell patterns. One with the wind (as you would expect) and tolerable, the other from dead ahead and extra horrible.

It was jump one or two and then hit the next like a brick wall. Repeat. And continue repeating.

Next day still miserable. Rain squalls. Mean seas.

Then, more of the same. Plus salt water getting in through the chain pipe and leeward ventilator even though both were blocked up as usual.

But "as usual" is only 99% watertight. A constant high pressure salt water assault squirts a lot of nasty wet stuff through the remaining one percent!

Finally anchor down this afternoon in Liji Liji Bay. We are anchored far out from shore, very windswept. Not a soul in sight, and no visible habitation on the distant rainforest-covered slopes.

No way to go in any closer in these conditions. The water is murky, presumably from rain run-off. With the overcast sky there's no chance of seeing the many reefs scattered around the bay in time to avoid them. Already as I came in, ever so cautiously, I had to spin Jeshan round and retrace our track when the depth sounder jumped suddenly from 20 metres to 3 metres -- there was a wall of coral across our track though quite invisible at the time.

The weather is still miserable with rain squalls belting across. But I am very glad to be here! Looking forward to a proper meal and then early to bed.

Next: Jeshan goes to PNG - Page 2

Story and pictures copyright © 1999 Julia Hazel

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