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Christmas Update

Lapita Voyage Blogs

By James Wharram

James writes from Korido on the second leg of the Lapita Voyage:

This Lapita Voyage expedition has reached the little fisherman’s port of Korida on the Island of Superiori/Biak, which is an offshore island off the North coast of Indonesian Papua - New Guinea (135-136 degrees East). This island is 1250 Nm from our starting point in Bohol in the Philippines, from which we departed 6 weeks ago.

As has been written before (by Hanneke), this voyage has had some of the hardest sea sailing in my life encountering violent rain squalls with windspeeds of force 7-8 on the first leg to Ternate (1 degree N, 127 degrees East). Once south of the Equator we have been out of the Northern Hemishere Tropical Typhoon area, but calms and contrary winds have made progress on the planned route irritatingly slow.

Sailing between the Moluccan islands
Calms on a wide ocean require a lot of patience on a sailing boat with no engine

Calms on an engineless sailing ship are totally frustrating, but our calms over the last week or so have been accompanied by inordinately rough seas, waves that have been generated by a typhoon, which hit Guam and the Marianas and had effects as far south as Papua New Guinea/Bismarcks.

I guessed the height of the wave crests at one time from observing a small fishing boat working out from a moored offshore raft fishing platform (an Indonesian practice), as 2-3m with a wave separation as less than twice the length of the boat. When there is no wind, and hence no steerage, the boat will turn beam on, which means a very unpleasant motion.

Steering paddle
The steering paddle needed regular checking for chafe
Hanneke at the helm
Hanneke after several hours on watch in the rain
Eve under a canopy in the rain
Eve is giving a cheerful smile in spite of the wet weather

On this second leg of the voyage from Ternate Hanneke and I had two new crew. The first was Christoph, a well-known participant in the world of luxury yacht sailing. Christoph had sailed on the first leg of the voyage from Bohol to Ternate on ‘Lapita Tikopia’ with Klaus, the organiser of the voyage. Though belonging to the same Düsseldorf Yachtclub they did not get on well together.

It is a well-known fact of sailing life, your best shore friend can become almost a hated enemy when sailing in close quarters under hard weather conditions.

So in Ternate, the end of the first 680 Nm leg of the voyage, we lost our well trained, well liked, hardworking English cameraman Matt to Klaus’ boat and had bon-vivant sailor Christoph as crew. Christoph has an excellent sense of humour, he had strength to easily pull up sails, he was not fond of washing dishes (but what man does?); for a man from the world of easy sailing on luxury yachts he did well.

However, Christoph had to leave us at the one civilised spot, a beautiful dive resort run by a Dutchman, on the small Island of Kri in the Dampier Strait, to catch his pre-arranged plane connection. So from there to here (290 Nm, which took us 6 days!) our sole crew has been a 30 year old German woman journalist, who has been commissioned to write an article for the German magazine ‘Die Stern”.

Crew sat around a table
Relaxing ashore for the first time in weeks at the Kri resort
Crew on the landing pier
The Dutch owner with Klaus, James and Eve on the landing pier
Cristoph packing bags on deck
Christoph packs his bags at the Kri resort to fly home to Germany
Eve on a pier in front of blue sea and the two expedition boats
Eve on the landing pier with the two moored boats

Eve admits she does not like camping (life on these boats so far has been equivalent to extreme camping), her last 6 years has been spent sitting behind a computer writing a dissertation on Post War German women. However she has proved one of my life’s theories, women make magnificent boat crew.

My partner in life and design, and skipper of ‘Lapita Anuta’ on this voyage (Hanneke), is aggressively (to a man) self-assured and efficient as a boat woman, but she started her sailing life as a small child. Eve however started her ocean sailing life just a few weeks ago in Ternate. She has turned out to be a brave, hardworking sailing woman and most important, one with a sense of humour. A pity she has to leave ‘Lapita Anuta’ in Jayapura for another overland writing assignment, but she will hopefully return in Honiara (Solomons).

The ‘problems’ on the second leg of this voyage highlighted on the blog notes on the Lapita Voyage Website occurred on ‘Lapita Tikopia’. One of their crew, another Christoph, who joined the ship in Ternate, developed a serious Bladder complaint. Unfortunately the extensive medical kit did not contain a catheter (we had suggested there should be one), or the British ‘Ship Captain’s Medical Guide’ (which was aboard ‘Anuta’), which tells you how to use one. In fact Gizela, the one woman crew member on that boat, had experience in administering a catheter. What this did show was that a medical problem can turn serious so far from outside help.

Christoph on deck in swimming shorts
Christoph comes down with a bladder/kidney complaint caused by dehydration in the intense heat

A basic fault behind the other problems is that I did not play a part in organising the timing of the voyage, none of us realised that my specialised knowledge (from my youth) in sailing a ‘non-engined’ boat was of the greatest value. The modern yachtsman is an ‘engined’ sailor, all the difficulties of entering and leaving harbour, all the “I will just switch on the engine to keep moving in a calm” gives the ‘engined’ sailor a different mental frame work, than the older ‘non-engined’ sailor.

Klaus planned the routing as a modern sailor, who can expect a 100Nm day average. On this voyage we are not modern sailors, we are ancient (before 50 years ago) ‘wind only’ sailors, we have to mentally adapt to living on the sea as Seapeople and be patient as Seapeople.

For myself, who adapted to being a Sea Person years ago it is easier to adapt back again, though to be patient in a rolling calm is a tough challenge.

- James Wharram