Six days ago, we departed Buka, the capital of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, heading South in hopes of reaching Woodlark Island, a short 250 miles away. We were trying to spend a few days visiting some of the Southerly Islands of the Papau New Guinea archipelago on our way to the main island where we would once again trade out our crew. After a day of light wind blowing from the wrong direction, we decided to follow the winds for the afternoon and drop anchor behind a nearby island. Knowing that we were going to be at sea for a few days, everyone was glad to have another night of rest before getting underway. While anchored, we were, as always, visited by locals wanting to trade fruit, fish and other various things. The first guy to the boat had a couple of beautiful lobster that we gladly accepted in exchange for six Kina, or about two U.S. dollars. The next morning, in exchange for some sugar, we secured several green coconuts and for a small bag of rice, we acquired about a dozen lemons the size of grapefruits! Most of the people who visited us during our short stay here said they had never seen a sailboat and just wanted to have a look. They pretty much just paddled around the boat in circles, looking up at the mast and asking us questions about it. I think it was as much an incredible experience for them as it was (as always) for us.
After our brief stay at Hatsigan Island, we departed once again for Woodlark. The morning brought with it a nice breeze that looked like it was going to start us off in a good direction and with good speed as well. Our luck changed shortly after and the rest of the afternoon was spent with the current actually pushing us faster than the wind. Thank God for a two knot current flowing southward! Night fell and with a full moon approaching, the sky was always illuminated. Our two hour watches were quite uneventful that first night with just a bit of wind to barely keep the boat moving; unfortunately it was in the wrong direction.
We awoke the next day to more light winds barely pushing us Westward. From here, we all realized that there would most likely be a few extra days at sea than we had originally planned. While the wind continued to slowly push us further and further away from our destination, we decided (not that we had much choice) to just go where ever the wind took us. A day later, and with the wind finally picking up, it began to look like we were heading to a different group of islands know as the Trobriands. It is an area that is supposed to be know for it’s incredible wood carvings and loose sexual standards. While we had planned on visiting this group of islands after changing out our crew, we weren’t opposed to stopping by on the way down. As the day went on and the winds continued to grow stronger, they began blowing us more towards the west again and thus even further away from our second destination.
On our fifth day out, we finally could see on the map where it was that we would make landfall. We were heading for the North Eastern coast of New Guinea, about 100 miles north of any spot that we had considered stopping. As we worked hard to get in by sunset, we had traveled about 450 miles over the past five days, 200 more than originally planned. With the sun on the horizon, we approached our first choice of anchorages only to realize that something about our position and the chart were not lining up and we couldn’t tell where reefs or shallow spots were. Without knowing our exact position, we decided to run back up the coast to another anchorage and try out luck there. As the sun dropped below the horizon, we pulled in with just enough light to find shallow enough water to drop the anchor. While we were bombarded throughout the entire night with waves causing the boat to stay in a long fluid rolling motion, it was still a bit smoother than the ocean had been for the past few nights while underway. Anchored now at this spot that we know nothing about, nor see any people around, who knows what the next few days will bring. I think we have about a week to make our way further south and directly into the wind in order to make it to a town with any sort of airport where our new Russian crew can join us and our Polish crew can depart to enjoy the rest of their honeymoon without us!