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.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Dave and George,

    We ran into you on the walk up to Mt Oldfield on Lindeman Island in 2011 and have enjoyed your blog ever since.

    Your recent trip out to the Louisiades has sparked our interest in travelling offshore with our family - However, we remain undecided in part due to the requirement to find a PNG custom clearance officer and the insurance implications.

    Did you ever formally clear into PNG?

    Nick and Sam