Customs clearance was done at Yorky's on Friday 13th and was a fairly relaxed affair.
Du Chateau Island anchorage
regularly interrupted by sailaus pulling alongside wanting to trade. Lunch was on Quintessa then a run ashore in the dinghy for a walk and swim on the nearby uninhabited island of Kokobbu.
In the morning the rally crews took to the dinghys that would plane and we motored over to little Panasia Island. Those with slow dinghies were loaded into two longboats powered by 40 horse outboards and the whole fleet made the three mile crossing in beautifully calm conditions.
The village on the other side of Panasia Island had invited the rally group to visit and have a traditional Mu Mu lunch which involves the food being cooked in a hole in the ground lined with palm fronds and covered in hot rocks much like a Maori Hungi.
One rally lady was bitten by an insect in a very embarrassing spot and had to be rush back very SMARTLY to her yacht for some anti-histamine treatment so missed lunch but recovered quickly.
yet more crayfish
Sunday 22nd September
Sailau race at Panapompom
We left the lagoon on our own at 10.00 to head off to Moturina Island, 30 miles away. This involved passing through the lagoon reef of Panapompom, then re-entering The Calvados Chain of Islands outer reef at Pana Sagu Sagu Islet. We motored the whole distance into a light South Easterly and dropped anchor in 19 metres off the small village at Rima Bay.
By this time we had been eating crayfish every day at least once a day. We had it boiled, baked, bbqed, Mornay and even in wraps for lunch.
We went ashore soon after and found this to be a very poor village with the 12 families living here doing it fairly tough with little or no water for their gardens and a very limited diet. Many families throughout the Louisiades have a government issued solar powered lantern and we were asked to repair these frequently as we went from village to village. They were mostly simple repairs and usually successful. Broken knives and machetes were also a repair commonly requested.
The second half of the walk was on a very pleasant shady track through the village gardens and native vegetation.
We caught up with the local headmaster of the Moturina Primary school “Mr Christopher” who told us a bit about the school and accepted a few bits we had carried over.
Villagers building a community vessel ...4 years so far.
The rally supports this small school of 29 students because the village had the foresight to welcome Guy Chester when the earlier rallies were being set up. Some of the other villages are becoming disenchanted by the rally, not sure what’s happened behind the scenes but it appears the rally is not welcome at Hoba Bay on the next island this year although we can visit as individual boats. Perhaps Bagaman is seen to get the best and there is some jealousy between the communities? We do know that Moturina was invited to participate when the rally was originally set up and did not show any enthusiasm so the rally goes to those villages that were keen to be involved. They are now wanting to be on the official rally route.
Anyway the day at Bagaman was enjoyable with the dancing, singing and market that sells intricate and ornate wooden carvings all decorated with mother of pearl inlay. This island specialises in wooden carvings and they do it well.
A pleasant sun downer evening followed on Smart Choice.
The fleet moved to the Blue lagoon for a day of R & R away from the villages. A BBQ on the beach, white rum punch and tug of war with the “leaner” hull crews defeating the catamaran crews made for an enjoyable afternoon. We spent the night here and it proved to be quite rolly when the tide was in and covering the anchorage reef.
The Andy imposter
After some heavy negotiations with the local village councillor who wanted to charge an anchorage fee of K50.00 per boat, the rally decided not to go to the village at Hoba Bay as it would set a precedent if we started paying for anchoring rights which traditionally were free. The villagers were all prepared for us to do the Pem Pewa (basket exchange of goodies). In the end they convinced the councillor to back down. The fleet then moved to Hoba Bay and we went ashore for a great afternoon of cultural dancing, and watching the people doing their cultural handicrafts, fire lighting, weaving and Bagi making (shell necklaces.) Bernard George, one of the elders was great to talk to and demonstrated a fascinating hand drill used for drilling the holes in the shells for stringing.
In the Pem Pewa exchange each village lady swapped a basket of local produce and handicrafts that they had prepared beforehand with a yachty who had put together a basket of handy bits and pieces they could spare from their ships stores or equipment.
As visibility is not great for coral spotting we decided to stay put for the day in Hoba Bay. We need a rest day and some time to do some washing etc. Some boats moved off to explore other anchorages.
Many of the rally fleet are experiencing the need for repairs with some as follows
1 harmonic balancer failure
1 prodder failure
1 bow roller failure
Outboard motor failure
3 Water makers giving up the ghost (most repaired)
2 anchor winch failure (repaired)
The local school teacher, Inosi, hitched a ride with us as he needed to put in supplies for the next school term. On the way over we discovered we had done the Pem Pewa exchange with his wife and daughter and Inosi had made the sailau model Di had received. When asked how he was going to get back to Hoba Bay he thought he might be able to hitch a ride on a sailau. In 2008 he was sailing back to Hoba Bay with all of his supplies when it was capsized by some big waves. He lost all of his supplies and all of his school papers, but they managed to right the sailau and reached home empty handed. A very big setback as he had no rice, sugar or flour. He has a family of 6 children ranging from 13 year old twins down to a 10 month old.
The plan was to refuel the yachts as we had pre ordered fuel for most of the fleet before leaving Cairns. This involved pumping diesel and petrol from 44 gal drums into a 5 litre measure then transferring it to 20 jerry cans to carry back to the boats. Quintessa, the power cat needed 1500 litres but carried a 12 volt transfer pump, so it was a bit easier but still took about 4 hours to refuel.
A radio call went out at 6.30 that there were guys wandering about the waterfront with rifles. It wasn’t long after that gunfire was heard and we all stayed below wondering what was happening.
Our little group of 5 boats split up again with some going to join the main fleet at Sabara Island.
Robert Nelson showed us his house and Bagi making. He was using the tip of an old 3 sided file as a drill bit and it took ages to drill each shell. I gave him an old set of drill bits I had on board and his eyes nearly popped he was so excited to get them. This village is off the beaten track and we were only the 3rd yacht to visit this year.
Thursday 10th October
Most of the day was taken up motor sailing into a stiff SE to Nimoa Island.
Large sailau big enough to carry passengers and cargo
A trip up the Fiori River on Sudest Island had been organised by Guy and about 50 of us made the 20 nm round trip from Nimoa by hired local longboats powered by 40 hp outboards.
The main purpose of the rally to come to Nimoa Island is to support the Nimoa Clinic which looks after the medical needs of 12,000 people in the Rossel and Sudest areas. The main role of the clinic is as a maternity hospital and about 120 babies are born here each year with a surprising low mortality rate.
Everyone had stories to tell
Another perfect sunset in another perfect anchorage