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Without James, I took every opportunity
to photograph and sketch the canoes and
ask questions. Generally it takes one or two
weeks to make a small 'dugout' outrigger
canoe, depending on the skill of the builder.
The canoes in Karkar were for fishing and
were fairly short and fat, but many were
painted nicely with patterns on the sides.
They all had two upright notched sticks on
which fishing spears could be laid, which
were decorated at the top with either fish,
birds or dolphins.
We were told by an older man called John
that up to the 1970s there was a trade by
sailing canoes from the mainland at Madang
to Karkar, bringing pottery in exchange for
food produce. This trade was apparently
stopped by the government because it
was claimed to be 'unsafe', i.e. canoes
sometimes got lost. Nowadays most
transport in New Guinea is by 'banana
boat', a long narrow fibreglass speedboat
with large outboard motor(s).
After one day visiting the people on the
island we had to sail on. That morning the
wind sprang up early, quite strong, and
we made haste to leave, as the NW wind
is directly onshore in this bay. Sailing out
of a situation like this is called, in sailing
terms 'clawing off a lee shore', so this was
going to be a test if the boats could do it.
We hoisted sail and got ready to raise the
anchor. 'Anuta' was quite close inshore, so
I told my crew we only had one chance to
get this right (or we would be on the rocky
shore). It was important to get off on the
right tack, so we were ready to back the
mizzen as a wind rudder to get the boat
pointing the right way. Unfortunately, though
the anchor came up clean, the tripping line
was caught round a lump of coral, the only
thing we could do was cut the line and leave
the buoy behind.
This little emergency had slewed the boat East, to our planned next stop at Garove
always does when all sail is taken down.
a bit and we had to get her round on the island in the Witu group. Garove has a large
This however was more comfortable than
starboard tack so the sails would start to crater lake that would give good shelter.
expected, the big waves just rolled under
draw. With the sails held aback to turn her,
the boat, the hulls lifting over the crests, with
she at first was sailing backwards, but just On our second day we did the best mileage
only the odd awkward breaker coming over
in time the mainsail started to draw and we in 24 hours so far, 120Nm, mostly our
the decks. We lashed the tiller and 'Anuta'
pulled away from the shore that was only mileages are 60-70Nm on the good days
moved at a gentle 1.1 - 1.2 knots sideways
about a boat-length behind us. Pfeww!! We and a lot less when we have changeable or
in the direction we wanted to go until dawn,
sailed close-hauled and cleared the reef at light winds, which is very often.
while we tried to sleep in our wet cabins.
the South headland of the bay, 'Anuta' had
At 6am we hoisted the stormsail again as
proven her windward ability! There was worse to come, day three (7/1)
we had another 22Nm to go to Garove
started at midnight with a change to the waypoint and we wanted to get there as
But there were more tests in store for stormsail as the wind was now WNW
soon as we could.
us. After a day of changeable winds (5th around force 6, the seas very rough with
January) getting round the South of Karkar much water coming on deck and the cabins
With the following wind from the West we
and neighbouring Bagabag island, by 10 getting wet inside, the large deck hatches
were sailing at 5-6 knots with rain as well
o'clock in the evening the wind and waves are not completely watertight. By 02.30 the
as waves making everything and everyone
increased, the wind was now North, slowly wind got even stronger and we took down
very wet. By 10.30 the waves were huge,
turning more NW, but much stronger than the stormsail and I tried out the sea anchor
the wind around force 7 gusting 8 and we
the forecast NW 3-4, more like 4-5 with 6 (made from two rattan fishing baskets and
were getting near the waypoint, which I had
in the squalls, with rough seas increasing in a weight). The sea anchor was not effective
set about 2Nm SSW of the island, thick
size. We were down to the small mainsail in keeping the sterns into the wind, the
rainclouds were making visibility terrible and
on the foremast only. Still 150Nm to go, due boat determinedly turned beam on, as she
we could not see the island.
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