Saturday, October 29, 2011

Louisiades Rally - Part 4 (11th October – 29th October)

11 October
Anchorage at Sabira

Welcome for the Water Tank Opening
Spent the day swimming and relaxing at Sabira before heading ashore for the launch of the new water tank.  The people of Sabira have to travel by Sailau to their Grass Island to get their fruit, vegetables and water so the installation of a water tank is certainly of great benefit to their community.  The rally in 2010 were kind enough to donate to the island a water tank and it has taken the best part of 12months to get the parts to the island and get it installed! 

Chief George and the Dancers

Official Opening - Guy Chester

Quite a spread!

The festivities were not part of the rally but were instigated by Chief George and his village as they were so appreciative of the assistance offered by the Dim Dims.  We were greeted by the villages with lots of dancing and the girls wore some amazing headdresses and outfits.  There was also some sing sing before the official opening which was then followed by some games with the kids and refreshments and an awesome sunset!
Sunset at Sabira

12 October
Banaba Boat or Sailau??
Many of the yachts decided to spend another night at Sabira but we figured our time in the Louisiades is quickly coming to an end so it would be good to check out a few more anchorages so we are off again – this time through the Maga Maga passage on our way to Hessessai Bay which is at the north end of Panatinani.   On the way we crossed tracks with a Banana boat that had been fitted out with a Sailau sail (guess they ran out of Zoom) and had Mum with babe in arms doing the driving, she even managed to give us a wave!

Trading at Hessessai Bay

Hessessai Bay was again another lovely anchorage with some more good snorkelling to be had.  We were the only dim dim yacht in the anchorage for the night and the word quickly got around the locals that we had some fabric on board for trade, which is much sought after in these parts, so we certainly did get plenty of locals dropping by for a visit – we were lucky enough to trade for some beautiful shells and paw paws so all parties were pretty happy.
Local Sailau - Hessessai Bay

Moon Rise at Hessessai Bay

13 October
Nimowa Ambulance
The rally fleet is meeting up again this afternoon at Nimowa.  As we had promised the cruising fleet out of Royal Prince Alfred YC that we would check out the Nimowa water ambulance, that had been donated, we thought we better take the opportunity as it was on its way to Misima with Father Tony.  Mark did the right thing and had a look and it seems to be in good running order although they were waiting on an alternator that was being delivered by the rally.  After the ambulance visit we continued on our way to the anchorage at Nimowa.  There were some festivities ashore in the arvo but as we were filling up the water tanks from 'Little One' we were all running a bit late and felt a swim off the back was more needed.  We could hear the singing from the boat and from all accounts it was some of the best sing sing and dancing that had been seen. 
Sunset at Nimowa
Junior Sailau Skipper - In Training

14 October
A scene from Apocolypse Now!
Today we are off in five banana boats across to Sudest (the big island) and up the Fieori River.  The scene as us dim dims headed across to Sudest looked a bit like a scene from apocalypse now except we had Doctor Livingston (aka Dennis) leading the way.  Upon reaching Sudest the long boats took us up the Fieori River and into the heart of the tropical rain forest which was pretty amazing and quite different to coastal fringes that we have been visiting.  Upon arriving at the waterfall we all went for a stroll to the local inland village which was a bit of an eye opener as it made the villages we had been to almost look opulent.  It really makes you realise just how little these people really have.  A lot of the children didn’t look well but they are expecting a visit from Sister Sarah from the Nimowa clinic so hopefully she may be able to offer some help.

Our Banana Boat Skipper

Jungle Di!

Waterfall on the Fieori River

Local Inland Village

Back to the banana boats and most of us had a bit of a dip in the waterfall before a spot of lunch and we were back on our way to Nimowa.  Our banana boat seemed to have a bit of a fuel issue on the way back but after a bit of attention from Alex (the resident diesel mechanic on Muscat) we were back on our way.  We all had an excellent day and the trip on the banana boats was heaps of fun.

15 Occtober
Welcome for the Nimowa School
Today is pretty much the climax of the rally.  The program today includes a visit to the Nimowa School and then onto visit to Clinic.  The Clinic at Nimowa is the major charity for the rally and from all accounts the money raised by the rally fleet over the years has greatly improved the services offered.  The Nimowa clinic looks after around 7000 people in the eastern part of the Louisiades archipelago and offers a very valuable service to all the people living in this area.  Through the generosity of the current rally (including bribes, fines, auctions and other donations) and crews from previous rally fleets we were able to collect in total around 42,000Kina (~AUD$21,000) of which a fair share was being donated to the Nimowa clinic.  Sister Sarah and Father Simon (standing in for Father Tony) struggled to find ways to show their gratitude and put it quite simply when they advised that this was substantially more funding than that provided by their own people in the PNG government.  To give you some idea of the commitment from these people Father Tony  (an ex Victorian) who is now in his 70's has been working in the Louisiades since before he could grow a beard and Sister Sarah has been awarded a Queens Medal for her service to her community!

The Nimowa Clinic

Sister Sarah

The local soccer team from the Elementary School

After a really yummy lunch (including pizza, donuts and banana chips) we had to take on the kids from the local primary school in a game of soccer.  Our captain, Janis, the backpacker, (we figured a German should at least have some idea of how to play the game) tried to install some order but found it all a bit challenging to provide some structure to our team although most of the time was spent defending goals and not a lot of time in attack.  From the outset we figured there was no way that we were going to beat these little dynamos but we did put up a good show and at least scored a goal which is better than most.  In the end we were clearly beaten 2 goals to 1.    We certainly provided plenty of entertainment and laughs for the local village that were gathering for the main event which was the semi-final game between Nimowa and Sudest (I think).  The locals are all pretty good at soccer and put on a great game but unfortunately the team from Nimowa were just beaten. 
The Main Event - Nimowa Vs Sudest
Today was certainly a real highlight of the whole trip and put a lot of stuff into prospective – it is also very gratifying to think that perhaps a little of what we have given is doing some good and providing a little bit of assistance to these wonderful people. 

The official last day of the rally and effectively the day when we turn the corner and start heading back towards Melbourne (quite a daunting thought)!  The last day of the rally is at Wanim (or Grass Island to the locals for obvious reasons).  The anchorage on the western side of Wanim is a lovely spot and has a great outlook and again some really good snorkelling and we found the water here to be really clear so the visibility was excellent. 
Tonight we had the official closing BBQ for the rally which was a great opportunity for us to catch up with everyone before we all start to head off our own way.
Anchorage at Wanim
17 October
Most of the fleet decided to spend the day in Wanim although a few of the boats did head off to other anchorages.  Based on the weather it doesn’t look like any of the remaining boats (Reliance and Attitude are already on their way home) will be leaving till late in the week.  Sanctuary were kind enough to have us all on board this evening for some pre-dinner nibbles and to rid them of their cheese problem as we are not able to bring cheese back into Australia.

Mark & Lisa - Little One

Most of the fleet are wandering off although we decided to spend another day at Wanim.  The feeling is a bit flat today as everyone is heading off and it really feels now like the rally is over and we are all now looking to the trip home.  After all the preparations I am definitely feeling a bit out of sorts and quite sad that the big adventure is quickly coming to an end.
Walk along the ridge at Wanim

We went for a bit of a walk in the afternoon along the ridge towards the village at the north of the island and was good to get the chance to give the legs a bit of a work out.  During the days the clouds had been building and in the evening we had an amazing light show and plenty of wind and rain but were happy as clams aboard watching it all go by.  The only other boat with us still at Wanim in Love of Gaia who, due to some anchor issues, will be at Wanim until it is time to head back to Australia
19 October
The Very Famous Chief Gulo
Off to Bagaman again!  As we are going to have some strong winds for the next few days, and the forecast it is now looking very much like we won’t be heading home till Saturday we decided that Bagaman would not only be a good spot for a few nights but is also a good spot for a final departure out of the Louisiades.  At this stage Moonraker is already at Bagaman and it is looking like most of the fleet will be spending their last night in the Louisiades in Bagaman so should be a bit of fun plus we may get to spend a bit more time with the famous Chief Gulo!
Team Moonraker invited us and Leyla aboard for a BBQ this evening and was really nice to catch up with them all again.

20 October
Spent the day at Bagaman and as the weather is pretty stormy and wet outside spent a day hanging out on board which was kind of a nice change as we haven't had too many chances to hang out and not do too much

21 October
As predicted the forecast is still standing up and looks like we will be leaving the Louisiades tomorrow (Saturday 22nd October) so we spent the morning doing chores to get the boat ready for the ocean passage and prepared a few meals to make the cooks job easier on the way.  Headed ashore in the afternoon and wandered up again for one last look from the Worship Hill.  We also took the opportunity this afternoon to distribute the last of our trade and donation items.  The rest of the fleet is all meeting here this afternoon (apart from Sanctuary. Love of Gaia, Rex and Honeywind) as it is a good spot to leave from when departing from the Calvados Group.   It was great to have most of the fleet back together again (Leyla, Moonraker, Desire, Finesse, Tinker, Little One and Sally) although everyone was getting ready for the voyage so there wasn't a lot of socialising going on but Moses was been kept very busy finishing off the last of the carvings before the cut off tomorrow morning. 
We have also made arrangements with Chief Gulo for a visit in 2 years time when we hopefully pass by through the Louisiades  again on the way home from our inner pacific trip - we have been put on orders to bring back Milo which is apparently one of his favorites!
Our last visit ashore at Bagaman :(

22 - 26 October
Leyla is off early in the morning but the rest of the fleet are hanging out to do a last weather check before we depart.  Forecast hasn't changed and everyone is off and it is nice to be heading home as a group.  The fleet is splitting up as some will be heading back to Cairns but a number of the boats (especially the ones that are heading south) are planning to head to Townsville (Little One, Moonraker, Desire and Sally).  The first couple of days on the trip home are a bit windy and the sea state is a bit uncomfortable but progress is good - Sally even managed 180NM on the second day out which is an average of 7.5knts - not bad for a cruiser. 
The wind started to back on day 3 and conditions became very pleasant - this is a good thing as it is Bruce's birthday today and we would hate to have a grumpy birthday boy on board.  We served up one of this favorites, Tuna Bake, for dinner so a birthday at sea isn't all that shabby.
We were lucky enough to sail most of the way home but did start motor sailing around lunchtime on Tuesday as we were keen to get into Townsville as planned on Wednesday morning to meet Customs and Quarantine. 
All went to plan and we were tied up at the fuel dock in the Breakwater Marina around 6:00am on Wednesday and were cleared and in our pen by 10:30am.  First stop as you can imagine was a shower and then the laundry.
What a treat - our first dinner off the boat for a while and would you believe it we ended up at the yacht club!
27 October
The rest of the Townsville fleet went through there clearance formalities in the morning.  We must admit we were pretty impressed with both customs and quantine people and they really made clearing back in pretty easy and certainly not an issue at all. 
The rally still  hasn't quite finished yet as we had dinner tonight with the Townsville team (including Dennis and Annette) at the Seaview Hotel for a good catch up.

28 October
We say goodbye to Bruce this morning as he is heading back to Melbourne.  I am off to get a much needed haircut and Gina is out getting a pedicure as she is flying out to Brisbane tonight to spend the weekend with a good friend before she also heads back to Elwood.  They have a busy time in front of them as they are now getting ready to head over to the Caribbean to go cruising on their new yacht Wyuna which is a 47' Leopard Cat - how exciting is that

29 October
OK this has to be the end of it! 
One last BBQ for those of us that are left - the numbers are now quickly depleting as crews are returning back to a more normal way of life  This time Team Tinker (Dan & Belinda) join in as they are driving back down the Mackay so that they can get back to work on Monday - which is already 1 week late due to the delay in our departure from the Louisiades.
We are now waiting for Leapy Lynda to join us so that we can start making our way down south. 
Qantas is causing her a few issues but at this stage the weather is indicating that we wont be leaving until Thursday or Friday so all good at the moment.

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