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Old 07-26-2006, 06:42 PM   #1
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Default cruising PNG - info please

We are a family with small children aboard and will be bringing our yacht from SE Asia through PNG back to Australia we are concerned about the PNG leg because of both the malaria risk and the personal safety issues that we hear about in these areas. Has anyone got reliable info about this, paricularly the security issue, safe ports etc. Thank you Irene
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Old 07-26-2006, 09:38 PM   #2
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Hiya Irene,

I sailed south from the Carolines through the islands of PNG to Cairns and later north along the coast of PNG. I stayed in Madang six months and worked throughout the region aboard the Melanesian Discoverer. 1995 - 1997. I do not have my charts or log in front of me but I'll try to provide an overview as best I can...

First off - Papua New Guinea is a wonderful cruising ground full of exotic flora, fauna, fish, art & culture.

It can, however, be dangerous in terms of both navigation and rascals. I will not add to the horror stories you've already heard. I will say that we met more nice people than bad. And that we had a great time. We were never robbed or hurt in any way although there were a few attempts made when we weren't looking.

Severe weather is rarely an issue.

Provisioning is just okay.

I wouldn't worry too much about malaria. Mosquito coils in the cockpit & lotions will keep you in good shape.

There are basically two routes to take - coastal & island. I would suggest for a southbound voyage to go the latter route thru the islands of New Ireland, New Brittan & Trobriands mainly because of the prevailing counter currents & shipping off the north eastern cape of the mainland and lack of facilities.

On our southbound trip we checked in at Kavieng on the NW tip of New Ireland. Next we went to fascinating Rabaul on eastern end of New Brittian. Rabaul has excellent anchorages just upwind of the volcanos. This will be the best provisioning port and is where we checked out of PNG - even though we intended to make a few more stops. I immagine they're still digging out from the last volcano eruption but there's a nice resort & swimming pool across the street from the Rabaul Yacht Club. All sorts of WW-II relics are there and worth checking out. Next we skirted the west side of Kirwina in the Trobriands and transited the boat passage called Gilibwa into deep water. There's a VERY primative village situated there and we had a delightful time ashore. We anchored on the western side and got a local fisherman to pilot us thru the passage. From there we sailed nonstop into the Coral Sea via the Lomard Entrance at Bramble Light. I believe we were in PNG two weeks on this trip.

The locals were quite nice everywhere we stopped and we never felt personally threatened at any time (the mainland ports are another story).

There are just a few rules-of-thumb to keep in mind anywhere you go in PNG. You MUST practice good navigation & seamanship because if you find yourselves on a reef it could cost you everything, as your boat will quickly be stripped and you'll be expected to buy everything back from the locals of nearby villages. Never EVER anchor deep within a bay or lagoon where you're surrounded by out-houses on the shore. Besides the health issues, outhouses are a sign of poverty and desperation prevails. Rascals are everywhere and will eagerly try to take advantage of your kindness or misfortune. People will approach you in canoes everywhere you stop and will want to get to know you or trade. I would occasionally invite those who spoke english aboard - but never below into the boat. You must always keep a cool head and your eyes open. Most people got themselves into trouble by lingering too long and drinking too much with the fellas.

Detailed charts are available but difficult to find. Lonely Planet has the best information.

I hope this helps with your decision.

Gotta run,

Kirk
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Old 07-27-2006, 10:16 AM   #3
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I have a terrible Internet connection, and this situation will exist for the next few weeks, so this will be a bit shorter than I would like.

Our experience in PNG was similar to Kirk’s. We loved the place, loved the people, had wonderful experiences. See Watermelon’s logs, especially:

Please see my PNG Cruising Guide, www.cruiser.co.za/hostmelon28.asp

Also, Papua New Guinea, www.cruiser.co.za/hostmelon17.asp

And, this in piracy from General Bits and Pieces, www.cruiser.co.za/hostmelon2.asp---

We were late (as usual) leaving Australia to sail to Papua New Guinea, and friends were waiting for us in PNG. Knowing that we had a couple days to go before we reached them, they decided to check out a different anchorage on the coast of PNG. That night, in the anchorage (which, unknown to them was considered a risky anchorage for private yachts), they were boarded by three men wielding machetes, and were robbed. These were people in their late 60s, and this experience terrified them (it would have terrified me, as well). They left the anchorage immediately, and waited for us to arrive, though they were ready to abandon PNG entirely. We convinced them to continue cruising the Louisiades with us, and we had a wonderful, wonderful time. We met many delightful locals, and never felt at risk. We were away from the mainland and its “rascal” problem. Makes all the difference.

What could they have done? Well, their experience made me insist upon a passive burglar alarm for our boat. It consists of a pressure pad that will set off an automobile burglar alarm – loud horn, with a switch so that it sounds for about 60 seconds and then stops, to sound again if there is still weight on the pressure pad. Also has a panic button. (Peter is very ingenious about electrical devices, provided I nag him sufficiently – he feels no threat from anybody or anything). Most thieves do not like noise that draws attention to them and will run. Alas, we get very lazy, rarely use it because we just don’t find many places where we feel threatened.

What we do not do is carry a gun.

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Old 07-27-2006, 01:33 PM   #4
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thanks for the info guys jeanne i did print off the relevant pages from your weblog and it was a good read, thankyou, also i like your idea of the boat alarm, my husband is also good at that sort of thing I might have to do some nagging too! kirk can I pick your brain furthur, I am wondering what time of year you did the southbound passage from the carolines, we are planning to be in PNG about April/May and are hoping the weather wont be too much against us yet (we are planning the whole trip to avoid the typhoon season in asia and the cyclone season in the southern hemisphere) also i was interested to hear that you were in the carolines we are going to try to get to Yap but probably no furthur east than that as this will be in March/April and the NE trades will be against us. have you been to Yap and is it worth the 250NM trip to windward from Palau to get there? thanks again for your replies Irene
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Old 07-27-2006, 09:38 PM   #5
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Hi Irene,

Our southbound passage thru PNG took place in December. Northbound was in March from Cairns to Madang and I departed Madang for Guam in October. These dates were dictated by job opportunities - not by a pilot charts or weather forcasts.

YAP! Wow! Delightful! By all means Go to Yap! Great anchorage right in "town". Harbor Master is a jolly fellow named Serfer Single. Do your best to be there for Yap Days Festival at the very start of March and be sure to take a video camera.

Try to visit West Fayu near Satawal on your way to PNG. West Fayu is an uninhabited atoll with good holding in the lagoon near the island. You can fill your freezer with lobsters & fish here. Satawal is just over the horizon and is the home island of the traditional Pacific Navigators and may be considered the center of their universe. They say West Fayu is their "refrigerator" because of the abundant fish & coconuts there. Please give our regards to Mao & Ben Pialig if you visit.

Both our south & north bound voyages began / ended in Guam and you'll encounter very little shipping between Guam & PNG. Squalls at night were about our biggest problem.

We decided that if the current political events really boil over and chaos starts to rule the modern world... we would head for Yap and hang out there until the dust settled. Yap was one of our favorite places and we made lots of friends there.

Do yourselves a favor and bring a batch of Betel Nuts with you from Palau to Yap - the locals will LOVE you for the traditional gesture. And while you're there - pick up a copy of HIS MAJISTY O'KEFE - a true story about a sailor who literally washed ashore there and became KING.

Take lots of fishing lures for the trip... and marbles & baloons for the kids ashore.

Lastly - if you make the effort to seek-out and pay a little respect to the local chief of each place you visit - you will be treated like royalty, eat well and have few problems. Bringing Betel Nuts from another island is an age-old tradition which will grant you immediate friendship throughout Micronesia & Melanesia.

Cheers,

Kirk McGeorge

PS - When you get to Yap, look up my old friend, Capt Arthur Tretnov and you tell Art that Capt Kirk sends his regards and would appreciate it if he would show you a good time and steer you in the right direction. Art worked with me in Guam and is a good guy. He lives five minutes away (over the bridge) from the anchorage. Bring him a betel nut on my behalf, okay.
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Old 07-28-2006, 01:28 PM   #6
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Right, we are definitly going to Yap after that write up!! sounds great, thanks for all the tips Irene
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