Monday, September 8, 2014

Louisiades Prep - wars

World War I

The German protectorate covered Bismarck Archipelago and North-east New Guinea 1884-1914.

In one of the first actions of the First World War, Australian troops relieved the Germans of their territory in the Battle of Bita Paka. In 1921 the League of Nations gave German New Guinea to Australia.

World War II

Jan - Feb 1942. Bismarck Archipelago falls to Japan in the Battle of Rabaul

The Japanese began preparing to invade Australia, which led to the Kokoda Track campaign beginning in July 1942, and the Battle of Milne Bay in August 1942.

Battle of Milne Bay

The Japanese were trying to knock out an airfield near Alotau, which risked their sealane south towards Australia. The Australians successfully defended against their attack.

The battle is considered to be the first in the Pacific campaign in which Allied troops decisively defeated Japanese land forces. Although Japanese land forces had experienced local setbacks elsewhere in the Pacific earlier in the war, unlike at Milne Bay, these actions had not forced them to withdraw completely and abandon their strategic objective. As a result of the battle, Allied morale was boosted and Milne Bay was developed into a major Allied base, which was used to mount subsequent operations in the region.

Siege of Rabaul (1943)

Allied forces attacked the Japanese base at Rabaul.

Allied advances 1942-44

Deboyne Island was a Japanese seaplane base during World War II.The Japanese found that their new base was just a little too close to the allied planes based at Port Moresby and the base was quickly abandoned. The Japanese never returned to the island however several ‘Zero’ fighter planes were ditched in the area during the Battle of the Coral Sea. One remains virtually intact in the shallow waters of Deboyne Lagoon.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Louisiades Prep - anthropology

The Louisiades are in the southern part of a wider area known as The Massim. It is to anthropology roughly what the Galapagos Islands are to evolution. Participant observer anthropology started here, and it has been a sacred area for anthropologists ever since.

It makes sense to me to try and understand it as much as possible before we go there.

The Louisiades are in the southern Massim.


The Indo-Australian Tectonic Plate has been moving north since the break-up of Gondwanaland. The Indian part collided with Asia about 50 million years ago, and the crumple zone of the leading edge threw up the Himalayas. The crumple zone of the Australian part hitting the Pacific plate threw up the New Guinea highlands. 

The line between the Australian plate (known as Sahul) and the Eurasian plate created a discontinuity of fauna known as the Wallace Line discovered by Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of evolution. Monkeys and elephants to the north-west; marsupials to the south-east.

Sahul was a single island until the ending of the last ice age about 10,000 years ago. You could have walked from New Guinea to Tasmania until then. 

My last boat was called 'Sahula' in recognition of this area that I hoped to cruise in.

The line of contact between the plates around the Pacific is associated with volcanoes and earthquakes. It is known as the Ring of Fire. 

Ring of Fire

The volcanoes in the area of New Guinea and the islands east of it lead to plenty of obsidian, which was important for high quality tools for stone age cultures such as the Lapita, and mines of gold and copper recently, eg Ok Tedi, Lihir Island,  and Bougainville Island. There was a gold rush on Misima and Sudest Islands in 1888.

 Human occupation

The first wave out of Africa

The second wave from Taiwan - the Lapita people
The Lapita's have been called 'The Vikings of the Pacific'

They established a base in the Bismarck Archipelago in about 1400 BC. They used volcanic glass called obsidian in their tools. They had outrigger canoes, spoke Austronesian languages, and produced characteristic Lapita pottery.

Lapita pottery found here

Their descendants became the Polynesians, who colonized the Pacific.

The Papuan peoples tended to live on the New Guinea mainland. They speak about 600 different languages. The Austronesians tend to live on the islands and coastal areas. They have about 200 languages. More on the languages of the Pacific here.



  • Baron Nikolai Miklouho-Maclay (Russian)  Madang area 1870-87
  • CG Seligman  (British physician) 1898, 1904. Wrote 'Melanesians of British New Guinea
  • W. H. R. Rivers. (British psychiatrist) Described in The Regeneration Trilogy
  • Bronislaw Malinowski (Polish) 1915-18 Trobriand Islands. 
  • Reo Fortune (NZ psychologist) Wrote 'Sorcerers of Dobu'. Margaret Mead's second husband.
  • Margaret Mead (US anthropologist). Manus, Sepik River. 
  • Gregory Bateson (British anthropologist) Sepik River. Margaret Mead's third husband.
Some of the shenanigans between Mead, Fortune and Bateson are described in an earlier page in this blog. 

I tried to write a movie script for the story years ago, but it was made into a movie by someone else. 'In a Savage Land'. 

I recently heard that there is a new novel which is a lightly fictionalised version of the same threesome, and that it is to be made into a second movie. Euphoria by Lily King. Youtube of her being interviewed here. Spooky.

But I digress.

I think the important things for prospective cruisers are:

The Kula Ring.

Described by Malinowski in 'Argonauts of the Western Pacific' (free download here).  

There are a mass of islands, stretching from the Louisiades in the east, to the D’entrecasteaux Islands close to Milne Bay, and Woodlark Island and the Trobriands slightly further north. On these islands, certain people belong to the Kula. They participate in an elaborate ritual, with ceremonies and magic that involve them passing ceremonial objects in a circle around these islands. The objects are quite specific; one is an arm-shell called ‘mwali’ made from a cone shell, and the other is a necklace made of spondylus shells, called ‘soulava’. These objects are precious, but not kept as property. The key is to pass them on. So one man in the Kula who has a ‘mwali’ exchanges it with another man in the Kula who has a ‘soulava’.

 Mwali arm-band. Travels anti-clockwise round the Kula Ring.

Soulava necklace. Travels clockwise round the Kula Ring.


Most Massim cultures are matrilineal. Descent is traced through the mother and maternal ancestors
Spirit (Baloma) of a deceased ancestor impregnates the woman while bathing in the sea
Responsibility for a baby lies with mother and her brother (not the father).
Sexual taboos very limited.
Oedipus complex absent
Neuroses said to be rare

Many variations in New Guinea. 

This led to the Trobriand Islands getting known as the Islands of Love.

A festival at the time of the yam harvest features conspicuous celebration of sexuality.

A BBC documentary about Malinowski here.

Further episodes here.


Most canoes built in the islands are constructed on Panaeati Island (within Deboyne Lagoon), a regional canoe building centre for at least 100 years. Some canoes are built for use by Panaeati residents, but many are destined for other islands (primarily the small islands of the Calvados Chain and neighbouring Vanatinai, or Sudest Island.

Wood carving, historically, has been an important art of the Milne Bay area. The Milne Bay peoples created canoes, called waga. When Charles Gabriel Seligman visited the area in 1904, he described the waga as playing "such an important part in the life of the district," and being a "decorative art" that has "reached its highest expression in the carvings of the ornaments for the prows of the waga."

 Contemporary Anthropologists

* - studying islands of the Louisade Archipelago

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Louisiades Prep - navigation

This is the biggest trip either of us has done, by far. My way of dealing with anxiety is to prepare, some say over-prepare. But often when one is well prepared, one can more confidently vary the plan, and throw a few jazz notes over the written music.

A source of comfort is that we will be sailing in convoy, at least on the way over, with George's brother Ken, his wife Janice, and two friends. They will be in a larger, faster, catamaran called 'Resolute'.

The wind at this time of year blows fairly predictably from the south-east, often tending towards the east as one approaches the Louisiades. In addition, there is often a strong east to west current near the Louisiades, which leads to advice from many sources to keep south until one is confident of making the landfall you want. Otherwise you might have to beat at the end of the crossing.

Which contributes to our decision to start from Townsville rather than Cairns. The course is a little further off the wind.

This course also gives us a few potential stopovers if the wind is strong and we get fatigued. We can anchor at south Flinders Reef, NW Herald Cay, and Magdaleine Cay. We probably won't, but it is good to be able to break the journey up if we want to.

The Louisiades Yacht Rally has gone from Cairns to the Louisiades every year for the last six years or so. We would have joined it this year, but the organizer, Guy Chester, has decided to give it a break. The rally normally starts at the western end of the big lagoon, and travels eastwards along the Calvados Chain of islands in the archipelago. With the prevailing wind being from the south-east, we have been persuaded that it would be more convenient to start in the east and cruise downwind. 

This raises the question of how and where do we check in for quarantine and customs clearance. The rally arranges to fly an official to the island of Misima, at some expense (shared by all the boats on the rally). After some discussion, and a few phone calls to customs in Alotau, the regional capital of the Milne Bay region, we have decided to sail to the eastern end of the islands and cruise slowly down to Misima, where we will get quarantine free pratique from John Metuselo (aka Metu) who is Health Officer in Bwagaoia (Tels: 6437455, 6437442, or 6437460). We then plan to cruise on further west, intoning the mantra 'we are on our way to Samarai to check in for customs' to anyone who challenges us. The customs officer in Samarai is Felix Dosi (mobile 73373405 in case he is out fishing).

Australian customs in Townsville need to have 96 hours notice of your return. This can be by email to If, for any reason we had failed to check into PNG, then they are likely to give us 'extra scrutiny' on our return. It would be helpful if we had kept a careful log of where we had been. We aim to run a 'track' on our chartplotter so we can show it to Aussie customs.

Cruising guide
The best sources of cruising information about the Louisiades that I have found are:
The Maranatha site is particularly good. I have created a mirror of it on my laptop, since we likely won't have the internet when we are there. This is relatively easy. On a Mac you get the app SiteSucker. Then put the whole top level of the site in (, and let it download to your computer. Next open the file 'index.html' in your browser and bookmark it. Now you should be able to browse through the site when you are offline. Its not perfect; many sites contain links that go outside the site itself, but the great majority of the links work fine.

Windows computers use a similar program HTTrack.

I'm impressed with the Maranatha site. I have put most of their waypoints into Google Earth, and they look convincing. The waypoints for the old book DimDims and Dolphins look less reliable. You can see the Google Earth screenshots, with the Maranatha waypoints, here

I have shamelessly plagiarized from these sources to create a written cruising guide; 
'Cruising the Calvados Chain'. Download it here. It is 140mb.

Whereas the mainland of PNG has some significant security concerns, the islands are relatively safe. This is a compilation of reports of different places assembled by a variety of yachties. Click on the image to go to an interactive Google Earth site with more detail.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Louisiades Prep - the boat

A lot of work has gone into our proposed trip to the Louisiades. I thought I would write it down, not because I imagine it will greatly interest the casual reader of this blog, but in case someone else is planning a similar trip and might find it helpful.

I'll organize it into three sections: boat, navigation and the people.

  • Electronics. This was triggered by the lightning strike we suffered in March 2013. Pretty much the whole electrical side of the boat had to be renewed. I have tried to increase our inputs, decrease our outputs, and improve the storage with lithium batteries. We have ended up with 280 usable amp-hours, whereas we previously had 120. 
  • Solar inputs. An additional two 120 watt solar panels have been added zipped into the canvas sunshades. There is a new MPPT solar regulator which is a lot more efficient than the previous one, and allows us to charge at up to 25 amps at mid-day in full sun.
  • LED TV. The original fitted TV was quite greedy of amps. The new one is an LED Kogan 12 volt one. My impression is that it saves us about 30 amp-hours on a night when we are watching TV or a video.
  • Storm jib. There was some good advice on the Louisiade Rally briefing, which included things like a storm jib, life raft, and doing a safety-at-sea course. We have done all of them.
  • Extra diesel. A bladder in the bilge of the port hull carries 100 litres. Two jerry cans in the genset locker. So 320 litres in normal tanks, 140 litres extra. Total 460 litres.
  • IsatPhone Pro satphone. The economical mode is SMS, but we can talk direct, and also use it as a modem to pick up GRIB file weather forecasts. With a Mac we use UUPlus for email, and zyGrib as a GRIB viewer. Evernote folder here
  • Insurance. We had been insured by Nautilus until recently. They managed our claim after the lightning strike pretty well. But when we applied for a quote if we went to PNG the consequences were expensive, and included a $20,000 excess. We got an alternative quote from Topsail, and it came in at half the price, with no excess.
  • Travel insurance. We are both in Avant, a medical malpractice insurance scheme. We discovered that an add-on to the normal policy gives us year-round travel insurance very economically.
  • Health. There are some serious bugs afoot in the tropics, especially ones carried by mozzies, like dengue fever, malaria, and Japanese encephalitis. So we have taken care to get serious mozzie screens over all the windows and doors, including the big trifold doors and the opening windows at the front of the main cabin. Beyond that, we trust the Travel Doctor who specializes in the sort of information one needs for this sort of project. In effect this has included:
    • Japanese encephalitis
    • Prevenar 13 (pneumococcus)
    • Adacel (diptheria, tetanus, pertussis)
    • Dukoral (cholera) 2 drinks
    • Vivotif (typhoid) 3 capsules on alternate days
    • Anti-malarial Malarone (start 2 days before entering malaria zone)
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Bushmans repellent

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Maggie Island

Townsville is particularly blessed as a port because it has an off-lying island as an easy destination for a sail. Magnetic Island is affectionately known by locals as Maggie Island. It is lovely. Beautiful walks, stunning bays. Picturesque granite boulders everywhere, and a bit of military history.

 View from The Forts, a WWII gun-post.


 Arthur bay

Friday, August 1, 2014

Easy cruising

This cruise is particularly undemanding. Lovely sunny weather, a gentle SE trade wind of 10-20 knots most of the time, and not far to go from Airlie Beach to Townsville in two weeks.

So we have been enjoying the easy pace, some lovely sails, and sorting out a few tasks before the big trip in September.

Here I am trying out a new cover for the RIB in case we have a 'Life of Pi' experience. We also have an official life-raft, but I regard it as little more inviting than a blow-up kids paddling pool. We may end up with two separate ones; one for us and one for the tiger!

More safety rehearsals

A few days in the Whitsundays.

Stonehaven Bay sunset 

We are not Tamils, honestly hossifer!

 Bowen headland

Some success. A spotted mackerel

A fisherman at Bowen who is more successful than us!

 Coal ships at Abbott Point

Trawlers at Cape Upstart

There is a controversy currently raging about the dredging of the area around Abbott Point as part of a plan to increase coal exports from Queensland to India. Read about it here. The concern, which is entirely legitimate, is that the spoil from the dredging will damage the Great Barrier Reef, which is already under stress from various environmental threats.

The GBR is on a shallow shelf about 50-60 metres deep. I am surprised that neither the proponents nor the opponents of the scheme have put up the idea of dumping the spoil off the edge of the continental shelf, less than 80 nautical miles away. It would do much less damage there.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Solar developments

We are back aboard in the Whitsundays, with the simple project of enjoying a relaxing cruise to Townsville, and ensuring that all is in order for the big adventure to the Louisiades starting on September 12th.

I thought I would discuss developments in solar power on boats, for those interested. No doubt some readers of this blog are already ahead of me.

After the lightning strike, and the electrical refit that followed, I asked for consideration to be made for a future increase in solar panels. As part of that, our solar regulator was changed from a Steca Solarix PRS 2020, which used the PWM system and was good for 20 amps, to a Morningstar Tristar TS-MPPT-60 solar controller, which uses the MPPT system, and can handle 60 amps.

The difference between PWM and MPPT is important.

In simple terms, the task of the controller is to reduce the voltage coming from the panel to a level that is safe for the battery. This is particularly important with the lithium batteries that we have. The older systems of solar regulator basically throw away any voltage that is too high.
But the MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) solar regulators manage to convert excessive volts into more amps at 12 volts (safe for the batteries), thus increasing the effective yield from the panels.

Another bonus from this is that one can attach more than one panel in series, and boost the harvest from the beginning and end of the day when the sun is weaker. The Tristar TS-MPPT-60 can accept up to 150 volts maximum. 

The second development of interest is the arrival of thin flexi-panels that can be zipped into canvas shades. Previously I had imagined that we would need to build some solid fibreglass panels and mount conventional solid glass panels on them. Because they will lie under the boom, and dangling ropes such as reefing lines sometimes sweep across the cockpit roof at speed when we gybe, I had imagined our expensive solar contraptions landing with a splash somewhere downwind.

But the recent arrival of 1.5mm thick flexi-panels means that we can zip them into our existing canvas sunshades with minimal weight and expense. 

They are connected as two sub-arrays, port and starboard, with the pair on each side connected in series, and the two subarrays connected in parallel to the MPPT controller.

Each sub-array can put out a maximum of 48.5 volts. The MPPT controller massages that down to a safe level and boosts the amps.

On a sunny day I have seen it registering 25 amps. Loverly! My Dad would have been very impressed!

I can unzip the panels and remove them and roll away the sunshades if we are leaving the boat over the cyclone season, or are exposed to high winds.

All good!