Sunday 12th June 2016
2 degrees 54.125N
131 degrees 47.228E
|Last fish and chips at Bottom Time bar (Palau)|
OK so sometimes I wonder why oh WHY we are doing this. Wandering around in a boat with Pete forever fixing things and getting very very hot. We could be home in cold cool Tasmania…he could fix things there without turning beetroot red and dripping profusely from every pore.
But then…we arrive in an absolutely heavenly place like Helen Reef, halfway between Palau and Raja Ampat ie miles from anywhere, way out in the North Pacific. And all is right with my world!
Pete had planned an experimental route from Koror to Helen Reef. He had spent many hours in the Bottom Time bar with Leslie (SV Carina, US,) who is both brilliant and kind and patient. She showed him how to download Google Earth photos and overlay them with Open CPN to create a very accurate chart. And how to downloads a program which shows currents. Current currents, very useful.
So we set off at 11am on Wednesday and headed east, not south. (I would have headed in a direct line to the reef…I would have been wrong!) Pete’s idea was that we would ride one of the currents this way and then catch another current that way, in a graceful sweeping curve which would lead us straight to Helen Reef. And – he was right! It was all smooth sailing, literally. Hardly a breath of wind so maybe just smooth cruising…And on Friday 10th, we arrived at a mooring inside the reef at 5pm. For the record – I was not sick at all, just very very tired…SO exhausting, sitting at the helm, sitting on the couch, making cups of tea…
(And what went wrong? Because of course something always goes wrong, on a boat. I think it was on the first day after leaving Palau…ominous sounds from the port engine. OH NO!! The engines are so very reliable; we love them, and rely upon them more than most sailors…ie we motor more than most sailors… Pete came and woke me from a deep deep sleep – it was 6.45am and I had come off my five hour watch at 6am. I was a great help, sitting groggily at the helm, trotting back and forward with screwdrivers and hammers and whatever while Pete toiled away in the hot hot engine hold. It took about two hours; he didn’t complain once, but finally emerged looked as if he was being boiled alive. It was the fan belt, snapped right through. Thank God Pete has so many spare parts for this and that stashed around the drawers and lockers on 2XS. Time now to get a new spare fan belt, I reckon!)
The reef is extraordinary. It is an enormous great lagoon enclosed by reef, with one tiny island, where the five rangers live. There is only one passage through the reef, and then it takes another two hours to cruise up though tie lagoon to Helen Island.
|Helen Island from 2XS|
Not many people come here. This year there have been six boats visiting. We are allowed to stay for just 72 hours. The rangers made us feel very welcome. They gave us their visitor log book and I created what I thought was a very nice page, with photos of Hercules and his team. But OMG – some of the others have gone all out to make fabulous log entries!
SV Segue, the last boat here, in April, produced a glorious watercolour drawing…I think a logbook brings out the competitive streak in all sailors!
All around us is the lagoon, smooth, clear, beautiful. And full of very large turtles – we have never seen such big ones! They are mating at the moment; I have managed to get photos as they thrash around – it doesn’t look like an easy process, for a large sea turtle.
|"Fucking turtles," says Pete|
Yesterday I spent so much time in and out of the water, swimming out to nearby bits of reef, that I was absolutely exhausted. And I will do the same today, once the tide has gone down just a bit, so I can see where I am going.
The little island itself is gorgeous. But the most wonderful thing of all - it is a bird colony! Home to black noodies, sooty terns, crested terns.
There are no predators here, no environmental dangers (I will skip over the fact that there is a distressing amount of plastic crap floating around, and littering the sand…) so the birds live a very happy life, shrieking, mating, laying eggs, whirling around in the sky.
Most of them just made a lot of noise as we passed by, trying not to alarm them. Some would take off and fly above us; others took to the beach and ran into the shallows, with their chickybabies.
Wednesday 15th June 2016
00 degrees 26.102S
130 degrees 48.220E
Duck Pond marina
So yes we have arrived in Raja Ampat, and very pleased we are to be here. We do love Indonesia…
Our joy is somewhat dimmed by the dreadful news about Robert Hall, one of the hostages, brutally beheaded in 13th June. Our hearts are heavy indeed…