Roo and Alma used our time in PNG to get acquainted. They went on a mad shore expedition together. Doing home stays with the locals and getting themselves into trouble with the law for driving into a one way street. It was good to see everyone got along well, this bode for good times on our journey towards Indonesia.
At Port Moresby I said goodbye to Ben, he had to go back to New Zealand as he was not allowed in to Indonesia at the time. As he had not accepted the Vaccine into his life. Ben had become a good friend over the past couple of years. He taught me a lot and helped me getting closer to the big boss. Something I will forever be grateful for. I hope to cross his path again when he sails his beautiful wooden Herreshoff up into the Asian waters.
It was the 18th of July. We asked for the immigration and customs officers to be at the Marina early in the morning. It was only 10:30 before we finally got all the stamps and papers to leave PNG behind us. The sail up to Debut has begun. It would be a 7 day journey. Down to the bottom of Australia near Thursday island. Then cutting through the Torres straight. And finally up north towards Debut, Indonesia.
The sail was great. The company aboard was delightful. Roo baked bread, Alma made wonderful smoothies and the days passed by melting one into the other. The sail through the Torres strait worried me. The waters are shallow and lined with reefs. But on the 20th of July we passed the straight, mostly at daylight. A strong current pushed us through the gap between Moa island and the long reef. Ah Ma was clocking 11 knots at times, flying on the currents and the winds. Njord was favorable to us that day.
We kept a fair distance from the Papua New Guinea coast in order to avoid fishing vessels and floating fish aggregation devices. But as we headed north towards Indonesia the waters became littered with those dreaded fishing vessels again. At times we had 25 to 30 knots of wind pushing us along. Ah Ma was flying at times, but it was not too good for our night’s rest. Nights were spend looking at the AIS targets on the plotter, figuring out what was a boat and what was a net marker, and plotting our way past. We found that the shipping lane along the Papua coast was clear of fishing obstacles. So we joined the lane, having only to worry about big boats passing us.
But when the winds died down I could have a good mornings sleep. I could trust that Alma and Roo would keep the boat on track and out of trouble. When I woke up there was a treat of pancakes with ice cream, amazing!
On the 25th of July we found the Anchorage in Debut filled with yachts. The kind people of El Gaucho guided us to a safe anchoring spot among the dozens of yachts.
In Debut we joined the Sail 2 Indonesia Rally. Not that we want to sail along the islands of Indonesia as a couple of Australian tourists. But the rally would provide an Agent and coordinator that would help with all the required formalities in Indonesia. Checking in to Indonesia is (still) not a straightforward process, and the covid madness didn’t help. Crazy requirements were added to the list of bureaucratic idiosyncrasies, like getting “port to port” clearance and needing to let the officials know where you are. We found out along the way that these ‘rules’ differed from region to region and could mostly be ignored.
It was quite amazing to see forty or fifty yachts gathered in the small bay. We reunited with the kind family of ‘Bliss’ and made some new acquaintances along the way.
At Debut Roo and I tended to the water-pump of the generator. It was leaking buckets of water as the pump shaft seal had seen its final days. We asked the rally coordinator where to find such a seal. It should be a pretty basic part, even for a remote place like Debut. But no solution or suggestions came from him. Luckily a friendly rally participant offered me a spare seal, so Roo and I could commence the operation “safe the pump”
It took some doing, but after half a day of colorful language and occasional cigarette breaks to evaluate next steps, we managed to recover the water pump. Big hoorays when the generator kicked into gear again, without a cloud of white smoke or a flow of water coming from the seal. We are happy to hear the noisy bugger rattle away again, making lovely amps for the hungry batteries.
The rally offered some group dinners and some sort of ceremony to offer everyone their cruising permit. Half a day in the middle of nowhere listening to a bunch of officials holding speeches, a waste of time. The group dinners ashore had very few options for my vegetarian ladies, so that ended up to be a one time visit.
At Debut we decided to leave the rally track and head up to Raja Ampat to explore a more exotic side of Indonesia.