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Tuesday, January 20, 2004

January 20, 2004-Death of Old North

wingssail image-judy jensen

We said goodbye to an old friend today, we blew up Old North, our last cruising spinnaker. This 3/4 sail has been with us since we bought WINGS in 1986, and it was old then, too old, it was deemed, to be of any further use as a racing sail, even back then. So by now it was an ancient sail, one we have used as a cruising sail off and on, all these years. It has given us many happy downwind days.

Today, whether out of restlessness or boredom, and justified by the need for a little more speed on our way to Palau, (to get there before dark on Monday, you see), we hoisted our old friend, on a broad reach in 14 knots of breeze. Not too much, even for an old guy, I reasoned. I rigged the pole and sheets and guys and we hoisted. It set well and when it filled our speed jumped from 5.5 knots to over 7 knots.

There is little I love better than the wonderful feel of power on a brisk reach under spinnaker in the open ocean. It is glorious. The bow wave roars, the wake streams out behind you in a froth of white, and the boat sings a song to you. And when the wind hits 20 and a big wave lifts the stern, you bear off down the face of the wave and feel joy as the speedo winds upward. The feeling is electric. It's you and the boat and the sail and the ocean and the wind and the roar of the bow wave, and the strain of the afterguy… Ecstasy! Gorgeous! Energy flows through my veins.

It feels so good. It even feels good to the off watch. Judy poked her head up and asked if I was having fun. I was.

I put a chair on the afterdeck and put on long pants and a long sleeved shirt for sun protection. And a hat. Got my water bottle. I was ready for a whole day of this.

I saw some speeds of over eight on the speedometer and I was aiming for nine.

Then, after just two hours, with no warning or any problem (no we hadn't collapsed and refilled this sail) it just burst, with a soft "pop", and then it was just tatters streaming out ahead. We put the autopilot on and got the sail down, all the parts of it, and cleaned up.

No major harm done, we're still sailing, and we have been expecting this to happen to this old sail every time we have used it for the last 2-3 years. Maybe I was rash to set it in 14 knots, or to leave it up when the wind built. But the sail died, I am sure, having as much fun as I was. It had a good life.

By the way, this is the last of our old "cruising" spinnakers. We started this cruise in 1996 with three of them, and they have all come down the same way in the end, death with their boots on, so to speak. So I guess we have to buy a new cruising spinnaker. It will be another one just like this one, red and white and blue, son of Old North.

Fred & Judy, SV WINGS, Western Pacific Ocean, on passage to Palau
(06 deg 26 min N, 140 deg 04 min E)

PS: I fixed the sail the next day and we used it again.

Click here to see our sail repair set-up.

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Monday, January 19, 2004

January 19, 2004-Departing Papua New Guinea

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Good Breeze

The wind was fresh and the day looked nice so we left Kavieng in a hurry, not wanting to lose the moment or the sailing breeze. With fishing gear still on the stern and the dingy still inflated and on the bow we weighed and set sail. We beat past town, out of the harbor and over the reef and soon the mountains and jungles of Papua New Guinea were behind us.

It was an exciting and exhilarating feeling to be under sail, finally heading out, bound for Palau, the Philippines, and Hong Kong, across the equator, into a new ocean, towards a world which would be totally new to us, after years of planning.

wingssail image-fredrick roswold
Suddenly it is windy

Before long, however, the wind died and we sat still. Then the wind came back in the form of a daytime squall. We reduced sail but even with just the main we were flying. In a few moments though it blew over and we were becalmed again. This cycle repeated itself.

wingssail image-fredrick roswold
Storm Clouds at Sunset
As the day wore on the sky filled with thunder heads. We could see that it would get stormy. It was time to get ready, no time for the dingy to be on deck.

wingssail image-fredrick roswold
Black Squall

As darkness came upon us we found ourselves sailing into the hell of a huge black squall. We knew it would be night when this monster hit us and in the darkness we would be blind, unable to see or prepare, or even just know when to say a prayer.

The anticipation was worse than the squall, but the squall was bad enough; hours of howling wind and rain and Wings driving through the night under reduced sail. We two lonely sailors waited for the worst to happen, not even knowing what the worst was, but thankfully it never did.

It was just another night at sea.

wingssail image-fredrick roswold

It is never as scary when you can see around you and we welcomed the sun after the night of black squalls. On this morning there was still drama in the sky but we were OK; we made it through the night.

wingssail image-fredrick roswold
Out of the Squals
By mid morning we had sunshine, blue skies, and light wind from the NE. This is the trade winds we were looking for, and it sure is nice to get it.
We tacked over and as the wind freed we eased the sheets.

wingssail image-Judy Jensen
Great Sailing
A bad photo, but a great day. The trades filed in and we set the kite and headed westward toward Palau.

What a mess!
That was nice but before long Neptune decided to take down our spinnaker. Well, "Old North" has served us well for many years, we got it with the boat in 1986, and it was old then, so it has seen some years. As bad as it looks, I was able to repair it and the next day we had it up again.

Repairing underway

That's sailing.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Western Pacific Ocean, on route to Palau

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Sailing Again-January 14, 2004

wingssail image-fredrick roswold
Departing Papua New Guinea

The first day out of Kavieng is pretty nice; it is good to be at sea and sailing again.

Today we're heading north towards the Equator, close reaching under genoa and full main, in light wind, a gentle swell, and blue skies. It’s nice going, and good to be underweigh after a slightly too long stay in Kavieng, Papua New Guinea. Yesterday we finally got our alternator back from the repair shop, installed it, finished our provisioning, got our clearance, and made our final preparations for getting underway. We left this morning at 10:00am, a pretty civilized departure time if you ask me.

So where to now, you might ask? Us too. We don't know for sure, but it will either be Ninigo Atoll or Palau.

Ninigo Atoll is a collection of islands and coral reefs 390 miles west of here, part of Papua New Guinea, but isolated from it. It is reported to be a friendly and beautiful place where the south sea life is lived in a traditional fashion, mostly because they don't have any choice. Since it is so far from anywhere few, if any, trade ships go there; there are no stores and nothing to purchase. They don't run outboard motors because they can't buy gas. What they do have on Ninigo, we've heard, is terrific sailing canoes, big ones, and plenty of sailing skills to make them go. We've hear stories of 30 to 40 ft canoes which can really fly, and the Ninigo people love to make them do it. We'd like to see and photograph these canoes.

The problem with sailing to Ninigo, and why we might not get there, is that this is the season of the Northwest Monsoon, with typically strong NW winds. In those winds Ninigo is upwind from Kavieng, and it would be a rough beat. Right now the wind is a light South-westerly, and it's easy sailing, but if those Northwester lies fill in, and we get tired of slogging to weather, we'll bail out for the alternate destination, and our true objective, Palau.

Palau is 1140 miles northwest, in the North Pacific. It too is reported to be a beautiful place, with great dive sites and good shopping (and it used to be part of USA). We know we can get there, or at least we know we'll have favourable winds for that passage. We just have to keep going north until we hit the NE trade winds, and then surf off to the West to Palau.

Meanwhile, we're settling in to our passage, watching for squalls, and enjoying the sail.

Fred & Judy, SV WINGS, The Bismark Sea
(02 degrees 05 minutes South, 150 degrees, 46.7 minutes East)

January 20, 2004-Great Sailing Day

Today has been a great sailing day. An idyllic sailing day. The kind of sailing day that non-sailors think all sailing days are like. The kind, I guess I have to confess, we hardly ever get: a nice warm summer day in the middle of the ocean, blue sky, blue sea, gentle wind, making good time towards a new Tropical paradise. Its quiet, it's calm. We are relaxed and living the good life.

Yesterday was pretty nice too.

It sounds like I am being sarcastic, but I'm not. This is a really nice day.

Today I sat in my arm chair in the cockpit, cool under the shade awning, and read a good novel, listening to some very, very, good old music on the stereo: Clapton, old stuff, very nice.

The wind vane was steering.

How good is that?

Judy baked some biscuits, because our bread from Kavieng, finally after 6 days, started to go moldy. We cut off the mould and ate the last piece for breakfast. That's good timing, when you finish the last piece of bread just as it starts to go bad. say?

No buts. The passage so far has been a relatively soft passage, (as opposed to a hard passage, and we've had some of them in the past too) after a bit of a rough beginning.

After sailing out of Kavieng in light but steady winds we had two and a half days of lumpy seas combined with light and variable winds, interrupted by squalls and rain. That was tough sailing, not dangerous, just hard work, and stressful, because the squalls threatened to be intense, but we survived it OK. We went slow, got sail off when the squalls came, or when we couldn't see if they were coming or not, like at night, stayed dry, took it easy.

wingssail image-fredrick roswold
Black Squall Approaching

The evening of the fourth day we sailed into a huge black cloud bank that came right down to the water. It looked ominous, like nothing I've ever seen before. It went from one horizon to the other. Again we shortened sail. Behind this bank of clouds the weather changed. The variables and lumpy seas left. We got steady northerly winds. The air was cooler.

We were on port tack, as we had been since leaving Kavieng, and we sailed into the knock for a while. Then we tacked onto starboard and into a nice, long, lift.

The stars came out

Since then...well, like I said, it's been idyllic sailing. You should try it.

We still have 600 miles to go to Palau. Maybe this weather won't hold. But maybe it will.

We'll let you know.

Fred & Judy, SV WINGS, Western Pacific Ocean, on passage.

Click here for more photos and stories from this passage.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2004

January 13, 2004-Kavieng, the Final Outpost

wingssail image-fredrick roswold
Kavieng Harbor

The final outpost in Papua New Guinea is Kavieng, a small, rough, and dirty town with a violent history (Japan conducted atrocities against Europeans here during WWII).

But Kavieng has a good harbor and at times there will be a few yachts anchored here as in this picture. The population is mostly native Papuans, many seem to be just out of the jungle, but there are a few expats hacking out a living in what looked to us to be tough conditions and we didn't quite understand why they were here, but then there are always a few foreigners hanging out in even the most desolate of third world outposts, so why not Kavieng? I think we met them all and made friends with each.

We stopped in Kavieng to provision and to fix the alternator. For that it had to be flown to the mainland, and things did not move so fast in Papua New Guinea. We were here over Christmas and New Years.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Kavieng, Papua New Guinea

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Saturday, January 10, 2004

January 10, 2004-Crew of Kokiri

wingssail image-fredrick roswold
Peter & Catherine

Peter and Catherine of the yacht Kokiri, London, were among the friends we knew we would miss as the yachts prepared to depart Papua New Guinea and head off in different directions. Kokiri was going into the North Pacific, to Japan and then to North America. We were the only yacht headed to Hong Kong.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Lihir, Papua New Guinea

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January 10, 2004-Papua New Guinea-About the Country

Our visit to Papua New Guinea began in the Louisiades, the island group far to the east of mainland Papua, where we sailed to from Australia in 2003 and where we joined several other yachts cruising amongst the islands interacting with the local Papuans.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Papua New Guinea

The remoteness, the ruggedness, and the history of the area drew us in. Papua New Guinea was a spectacular region with extensive cruising grounds and it had a fascinating history. Papuans had been one of the earliest cultures in the world to domesticate plants, around 7000BC, and yet they were one of the most recent people in the world to practice headhunting and cannibalism. Papua New Guinea intrigued us.

We stayed in the Louisiades for two months and it was delightful. We met many lovely people, saw awesomely beautiful scenery, and learned more of about the history. It was a largely unspoiled area.

Later we traveled through other parts of Papua New Guinea, mostly in the Bismarck Archipelago including Bougainville, New Britain and New Ireland. We avoided the mainland itself because we heard so often that it was a high crime area and we even heard of violent crimes against cruisers. But the Bismarcks, we’d heard, while still dangerous, were safer. We found that claim to be true and we also found that cruising in Bismarck Archipelago was like going back in time a few hundred years. It was beautiful but primitive. The islands were stunning, the sailing adventurous, and the cruising possibilities endless. The towns were rough but friendly and in the villages the people maintained customs and lifestyles which seemed almost from prehistory. Despite the warnings about crime, during our entire visit to Papua New Guinea, we never had any problems with crime or any other issues. Yet, in the end, despite having a really wonderful cruise, we didn’t like it. There was something dark and dangerous lurking in Papua New Guinea and it put us on edge. The danger was tangible. The problem is that the people are violent.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Proa sailing,Papua New Guinea

The concern about violence was more than about the high crime rate or the numerous reports of murders which filtered in from the bush, or even utter obliquity of domestic violence; it was the attitude of acceptance the people seemed to have towards violence. A village could be massacred by a neighboring village, which we heard of while we were there, and the police would investigate for two weeks, then the police would announce, “The matter is settled; several pigs have been exchanged.”

Cruisers were not safe, either. While we were there some were robbed and attacked and even killed. The worst places were the cities on the mainland island of Papua. Towns like Medang and Lae looked safe, and the streets were quiet, but then you noticed that the phones were all ripped off the walls of the post office, and most of the men carried machetes. There was a simmering anger in Papua New Guinea and you were never sure when it would be directed towards you. We were glad to leave.

Pig Roast on Pan Numera Island, The Louisiades

The Louisiades were different. They are still part of Papua New Guinea but the people there seem to be happier, not so angry. Reports of theft were rare in the Louisiades and we heard nothing of violence; we really didn’t feel we had to worry about safety in the Louisiades. And we enjoyed it there.

However, getting there was no piece of cake. Our trip from Australia was quite an adventure.

Read here about our arrival in the Louisiades.

Click here to read all the stories from the Louisiades.

Click here to see all the photos From the Louisiades

You can read more about the security in Papua New Guinea on noonsite: Papua New Guinea

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Kavieng, Papua New Guinea

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