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Saturday, July 05, 2003

July 5, 2004-Arrival In Papau New Guinea

Our last night at sea on the way into Papua New Guinea was hairy; it was dark and dirty with low clouds and no moon and the wind blew a gale and the waves were huge. In those conditions we were blown through the night towards our destination, the narrow, unmarked marked reef entrance to at Dumaga Harbor on Sudest Island in Papua New Guinea's Lousiades Islands. It was no place to arrive at night. No way would we approach the reef system of the Lousiades in darkness. For one thing the charts were known to be inaccurate, the reefs to be treacherous, and the pass narrow. For another, we could see nothing, it was totally black.

So as the gale drove us onward and we became too close and it was still hours before daylight we dropped the jib and hove to. Even that was unsettling; stopped in the darkness, in a howling wind on a rough ocean, unable to see anything, waiting for daylight. It still made our stomachs churn and we just held on, trusting our navigation and hoping not to hear the crash of nearby surf or the impact of our keel on a reef. We prayed for the dawn to come so we could make a safe landfall.

And then the sun came and it was a welcoming sight.

The excitement was not over yet though, even in the daylight we had a wild arrival, blowing through the pass in the reef with the left over swells of the Coral Sea breaking on either side, and then in the calm water inside the reef, navigating to the shelter of Dumaga Harbor with the poor visibility of solid cloud cover; it was tense. But we crept forward, and finally the hook was down and we breathed a deep sigh of relief and then toasted ourselves on a successful, if unnerving, passage.

As we folded the sails and put the boat away we looked around. Dumaga Harbor was a good anchorage, bullet proof with plenty of room and good holding. What we didn't see however were any sign of human life. No boats, no houses ashore. Well, none of our guide books even mentioned this place, so what would we expect, a crowd?

But then we noticed a few wafts of wood smoke drifting down from the hill above our anchorage. Someone was burning something in back of the harbor. What, we couldn't guess, but it meant there were people here. When we scanned the shoreline with our binoculars, we saw a dugout canoe or two pulled up under the trees, and a few roofs showed through the palms.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Dumaga Bay, Sudest Island, The Louisiades

Apparently there was life on Sudest after all. We launched the dingy.

Click here to see all the photos from Papua New Guinea

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Sudest Island

Note: Sudest Island has other names; some maps call it Vanatinai, others call it Tagula. Out chart called it Sudest.

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