Summer cycle in the west Pacific done and dusted! Now back to San Francisco to my S&S 34 to prep for the ‘next’__________________/)
BJ Linda and I are in Darwin. End of 5000nm long passage from Osaka to Darwin. Trevor and crew will take over from here.
It was a wonderful experience. Japan to Australia. Trevor a nice boss. Was so.
After the eastern end of Papua New Guinea we fetched trade winds. From New Britain to east end Papua New Guinea and Louisiade Archipelago was fresh south wind. I.E. on the nose. (You get that). Then we turned the corner for Torres Strait and Darwin. Down wind easterly.
It was straight down wind, which means tacking down wind. 30 degrees either port gybe or starboard. (To prevent an accidental gybe with auto pilot).
We tactilely gybed to the starboard, guess what, Port Morseby dead in front. We been weeks in the tropic sun and were sun burnt. They sell beer and yummy land type food. Lets go there. Never been there. (Have you?)
When 3 nm from Port Moresby entrance to the bay and harbour BJ made contact with the Royal Papua Yacht Club, who act as yacht agents.
It is saturday, you will have to anchor until monday to clear in. Checked anchor winch. Wont work. Got damp. 50 ft to anchor in. BJ, is strong. (He is so) reckons that is too deep for him to pull an anchor up. (Me too). What the heck. Keep going. So we did. Still haven’t been to Port Moresby.
A high of 1033+ cooked up strong wind warnings over the top of australia. And Arnemland. 25 to 33 knot. Got a 30 minute rainsquall, 40 to 45 knots. I suppose that is windy. Bloody hell the skinniest bit of the Torres Strait channel, its dark, its raining and a ship coming around the corner. It’s on AIS>. 2 reefs in the main. No. 2 headsail furled to snippet, Torres Strait mid night. Narrow channels. Bj by the wheel pressing B&G auto helm. 5 degrees here 10 degrees there. Linda at the chart table calling the shots. She does that rather well. My job was to relay sitting on the cockpit step. Big responsibility for me. Well it was. 5 degrees left. What did you say, ” 5 left”. “No a bit more”. “what do you mean a bit more”. “Well a bit more” , “whater do you mean” . “Well more”. Meantime there is a May Day out from a Frenchman in Torres Strait. I think he hit the bricks. His epirb went off, picked up by authorities in France and relayed to AMSA.
AMSA organised helicopter rescue next morning. Good AMSA>.
We did not want to reef further in the strait. If it aint broke don’t fix it. Not there any way.
We averaged 230 miles per day for 4 days. Trevor (he owns the boat) reckons we did that last part rather quick. Goes a bloody side faster when he and his son Daniel are racing it. Not all carbon fibre for nothing.
Carbon Fibre has a few faults. My short wave radio won’t work inside the cabin, (Blimey that,s the BBC). Nor hand held GPS. Tropics are hot and the inside holds the heat. Strong if the yacht leaps over the crest of a wave and free falls into the tough. But a worry if it hits a tree trunk or log head on.
Now “Optimus Prime” is in Darwin waiting for the good Trevor to take over. We loved her.
BJ and Linda have gone back to San Francisco. They both own an S&S 34 each, parked side by side. Linda keeps hers more tidy, Spotless according to her. I will tell BJ you said that. – (just did). Bad Jon.
Wherever those two S&S 34s are, is their home. (BJ has a mini trans yacht in France – he races).
My nautical journeys continue, per usual.
‘A sailor’s greatest danger lies not at sea but on land’…
The postscript to ‘high tension’ while avoiding a developing typhoon en route from Japan to Australia via Guam – is another story…
PS: A big special thanks to my cruising dad Brian Sr for the positive outcome of my recent ‘combat mission’ near Iwa Jima island south of Osaka. He taught me everything I know about respecting Mother Nature, weather and when time-tables conflict with open’windows’. A jagged pill ingested during six cyclone seasons up mangrove swamp ‘bomb-shelter schools’ spanning the South Pacific during the mid-’80’s…
…Perfection off the beaten cruising ground milk run = ‘It’s the people you meet along the yonder blue road versus places are the diamonds you’ll hold in the memory bank of your rum scarred mind for the rest of your life 😉
With our grand depart from Guam to Paupa New Guinea and Australia aboard our ride – the Reichel Pugh 49’ ‘Optimus Prime’, it’s taken a number of days to reflect upon the last pit-stop and this most beautiful of places we d stumbled upon in the Philippine Sea.
This isn t quite what we d expected , however – I ve always thought ‘Assumption is the ultimate fuckup’. I don t know where we come up with so many false stereotypes, but I d never expected Guam to be such a wicked seductress. And I didn’t want to let her out of my arms anytime soon.
It all got progressively more beautiful as we entered the lush green harbor which is home to one of the US’s western-most Pacific naval and Air Force bases. According to the eleven hundred page book ‘Ghost Wars’ which I’d been reading en-route from Osaka and my assumptions – the US’s ultra covert paramilitary forces that took out Osama Bin Laden are also tasked with combating terrorists in the Philliphines and Indonesia from this forward operating base. Guam’s Anderson Air Force base is responsible for high altitude ‘Global Hawk’ drone over-flights of the Chinese, North Korean and the Indo Philiphine theatres.
…Submarines come to and from the harbor entrance daily as Black Hawk’s deploy Seal commandos via fast rope to subs waiting in the balmy tropical waters below. Something rather novel to witness from the deck of our racing yacht – S/V ‘Optimus Prime’!
Obama’s doctrine that ‘the world is a battlefield’ while taking the fight to the terrorists as a pre-emptive measure appears alive and well in this tropical gem! A rather un-usual back drop to what is an incredibly peaceful, friendly and unspoiled island that embodies the true meaning of the Aloha Spirit.
Picking up a mooring in turquoise clear water less than a mile from the Mariana’s Yacht Club, a few members came out in a Zodiac to welcome us and ferry us ashore to meet customs and immigration who came down to us (on a Sunday), while we enjoyed a cold beer and glass of wine! How cool is that for a change versus the airport norm ?!
Meanwhile, we befriended some of the most eclectic and adventures people I ve met anywhere…you know it’s a good night when you come back with a sunburn from the morning after a weekend bender on anchor with our new adopted ‘family’ – a Navy Seal, Kelly an employee of Xerox Guam, Chris and ‘Mo’ – the incredible yacht club chef and owner of ‘Mo’s Hot Box’ – the best place to have lunch in downtown Guam 😉
Jon Sanders, Linda Pasquariello and I now each have a special coin to throw down from a Seal ‘operator’ when we need a drink in some inhospitable foreign port of call such as Yemen. Or if we need to win a little additional respect before the bar room brawl or shoot out like the’Ok Correl’! I reckon it’s something a little more more ominous than slapping down a hundred dollar bill for a bribe…Rather, WHAM – “Get ready for a ass whooping!!”
Between re-provisioning runs via the ‘K-2 Challenger’ kayak to and from shore, we played tourist and drove round the island. Beuatiful and pristine sums up the experience in two words. At Pirate’s Cove, we read about the Japanese soldier that hid in the hills above the bar for twenty eight years all the while thinking the war was still going on!!
After he was later discovered hunting for food at night he declared he could often hear music from the bar and wondered what was going on ?! He lost two fellow soldiers to starvation while living in their underground ‘chateau’ that measured just a few square feet. Three decades alone and I thought Jon spending twenty two months at sea aboard a forty-seven footer in the lonesome was extreme – think again !
We also stopped by a cliff overlooking a bay where I commented to Jon that it looked like a good spot to pull into on a boat. Turns out I was right. There was a monument down the hill describing it was where the world’s first circumnavigator Magellen came ashore in Guam five hundred years ago. How cool to stand with eight time circumnavigator Jon Sanders and the ghost of Magellen -10 ‘laps’ of the world between this ménage a trios of seamen!
So after ten short days, it was time to swallow our hearts and leave for Port Morsby in Paupa New Guinea…Being a yacht delivery, it’s tough not to be completely free and stay for six months, but then again, we re fortunate to have stumbled upon this oceanic diamond in the first place -‘it gives me the head’s up to come back soon aboard my own boat.
Indeed, that is my new cruising itinerary separate from racing. I also want to head back up to Japan from there, take the bullet train to Tokyo, see more of Osaka and cruise the inland sea amongst the most generous and kind people on the planet – Japan.
Indeed, it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never met these mistresses in the first place. To return from over the horizon on my own boat and re aquint myself is a dream worth savoring along with the sake and ‘Mo’s Hot Box’! My mouth is already watering like a tropical rain squall !