Ge Bitilik

1/7/2017 Simberi 74nm east, anchor in 18m, 2G cell. Getting out of bed in the pissing rain at 1:00am and setting off in the pitch black is not my idea of fun, so we had a couple of false starts where returning to bed seemed far more sensible.

Eventually we got away and headed for gold… well Simberi which has quite large gold mine and one of a few Islands being mined in this general area. If you get offered gold nuggets on the streets (as I was) at 50% discount to the market value be very careful. Sometimes cheap works but not always…. I am aware of someone who bought black pearls in Malaysia and later had them valued in Ozy at roughly twice the price they paid, so in theory that was good value, but I’m also aware of someone who bought a rather nice raw looking piece of gold, that actually had other minerals inside it and was just nicely coated and crafted in gold for the sucker.

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I had my usual Google image in which I could see the bottom and had plotted a route up behind the reef. To my surprise the Google image was seeing the bottom at around 25m depth of water. On a good image you get 15-20m visibility so this was quite rare. The water was probably the clearest I have seen in PNG so far. We anchored near an old wreck (SS Tintenbar) and while history was my only poor subject I guessed old steam powered boats of this vintage was probably at least 70+ years old. Thanks to Bundy shore station for the above link before this post made the air it seems my guess was not to bad There is still coal on the sea bed in places and much of the mechanics are still visible.

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A quick look around the reef we were hiding behind revealed not a lot of fish and while the water was clear not a lot to see.

2-3/07/2017 TaTau Is, 8nm South, anchor in 18m, mud 2G. Quite a few of the islands around here and heading south have fringing reefs that you can get in behind. The local council member stoped in on his way home chatting for a bit and these guys were educated not to bump into boats for a change. We got the various mine stories as we have moved around. Right now there is no mining on this Island, but plans are a foot. The locals have learnt a bit from others and this mining company that is to start next year must build roads, school, hospital up front before they start mining. Locals must get first options on jobs , accommodation for miners must be built  and so this will no doubt bring some money and help to the island along with some destruction as well to the environment.

When you ask about crock’s the locals will tell you different answers, some will say yea its fine others no they live there and some will, say just don’t swim dawn and dusk. The reef seemed far enough away from what to me looked like and ideal crock playground so we did a bit of snorkelling on the reef. This reef was much more alive all be it mostly small.

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The greenies will no doubt say that the reason Simberi reef is so quiet is the Gold mine. I’m no expert, but the mine is on the other side of the Island.

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4-7/7/2017 Cigaregare Harbour, 6nm SSE, anchor in 16m, mud, 2G.  only a short hop south essentially because of some mildly shitty weather coming and the fact it is labelled a port. In reality its a small bay with nothing more than a village house. While it is a bit squishy with two yachts in there it is certainly well protected and if you were expecting a big blow one could rig up additional lines to shore without a lot of trouble. For us we collected more than enough water to fill our water tanks in minutes and burnt diesel running the genset for movies and laundry. 

Watusi caught his usual couple of fish so after extending the leader as advised by the expert we did a run up the river in the tender dragging the lure. Sadly my record remains in place and now I’m told I must move to the rod and reel, instead of the hand line. This is a new lure as well, as I donated my last one to expert who feed it to some monster. I would have thought by now law of averages would at least seen some change. One difference remains between us that being that Ken has his out 2 min after the anchor is up, until 2min before its down and the majority of his catches are at the times, entering or leaving.

8/7/2017 Lihir Lakakot resort, 42nm SE, anchor in 5m, mud, some 2G. We actually set of the day before to come here, but rain and 15-20 on the nose just didn’t seem as nice as a beer and a movie. In the end luck was on our side as the next day when we did leave we had a great trip down with NE 15 knts and sailed all the way. I had contacted Mark from the resort prior and once again I had a good quick response. I could see there was a small bar at the entrance and as Mark had advised it has 5m over it at low tide so no drama getting in there. Again not heaps of room but enough for Watusi and I to swing around and probably the most protected anchorage I have been in this year. 

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The rain came and went more times than I could count and eventually we decided at this rate we would never go ashore so we made the 30m dash.  Its not really a resort at this time and its pretty much closed although Mark and his crew made us feel very welcome. A significant portion of there business came from the mine and back a couple of years ago the locals, had enough of the mines promises and dug there heels in pretty much brining the mine to a halt and with it a significant part of Marks business. That’s all pretty settled now so Mark will crank it up again, but mean time yachties are made very welcome. Once again the people here all very friendly and help full. We were greeted by a couple of the girls staying there looking after the place  and the cook invited us to dinner, which due only to the weather we declined. There is a small store on the edge of Marks property which they opened up specifically for us and I broke the budget and bought a couple of beers.

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Town (Londoiovit Put Put)) is on the othersider a good 35k by road. The mine were supposed to tar the road and I guess they did the first 8-10k the rest is pretty rough and ready. Sitting ( or bouncing) in the back of one of the pickup trucks we made the 1.5hr journey to town along with 10 or so others. Needles to say I wished I could move the padding on front to my arse and back. In some ways the super market here was better the Kaviang specifically in the meet department, and some western products I had not seen for many months, I guess a result of the mine. I could not bring myself to pay nearly $70.00au dollars for a cheap scotch (JW Red) but I did succumb  to going halves in $70.00 carton of beer with Ken. Screensaver was now facing its driest period on record inside, and new records for its wettest period were being set outside.  Luck would have it that on the way back there was only the three of us, and I guess me being the youth challenged I got to sit inside the cab so the trip home for me wasn’t to bad.

We managed a bit of walk around the local area between what seems to be never ending rain and I’m not looking forward to the rest of the wet season. This year it is crazy much more rain than prior years. I have grib files going back about 6 or 7 years and this year is by far the wettest. Below left hand side is beginning July 2015, then to the right 2016 and last 2017 all for the 3rd July. Below that the same line up 2015 through 2017 for July 24th.

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Hopefully after August things will settle down a bit.

 

14/7/2017 Namagurtamat Rahang Bay, 31nm WSW, Anchor Pun Pun 1nm east in 8m, 2G cell. In the SE trades heading SE is not always as silly as it sounds. In the past In Solomons, Vanuatu and New Caledonia I have done this with no great pain. Typically there are Islands to the east and west all within around 30nm 50nm and you can do a single tack East, then back west a few days later. Often the wind was light and tack for Screensaver in light winds is much faster.

While I wasn’t exactly planning to be this late coming down here I wasn’t all that worried, because we would simply sail out east to the outer Islands and then back West to New Ireland Mainland….. well that was the thinking. So this run we were pinching the wind to go almost WSW, in wind that was more south then South South east, so it didn’t really work and we motored sailed. Sadly the run the following day to Malendok didn’t work either as murphy saw my plan moved the winds to ESE. So what was basically a 45nm direct run from Lihir to Malendok we turned into a 75nm run expecting to sail but in fact motored sailed both legs and the current down here was starting to bite.

Namagurtamat or Rahang bay has a small harbour. At the end of the day with the large cargo boat there it seemed to small for us all to play in the same area so we stopped just around the corner off Pun Pun. A trip to the small town in the tender searching for a post office  was a lost cause and reinforced my growing belief to keep away from the mainland as I was approached by man telling us its not safe here to anchor I will show you were to go, where are you now, how long will you stay, is it just you two…. all leading questions and if he was genuine then that to is a reason not to be here.

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15/7/2017 Malendok, Bitlik 47nm, East,anchor in 18m, rock coral, no cell. This was supposed to be our second sailing leg, but as I mentioned the plan didn’t work until the last hour. I had a couple of nice anchorages picked out but as is the case with many of these islands out here and the surrounding waters are pretty much unchartered so on arrival at our anchor point at around 17:00 I found it to be 70m deep, or 1m.

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Another spot on North end of  Lif was only 25 minutes away and looked to be better protected and not all the deep. But this to wasn’t going to work unless you were going to drop your anchor on the underwater cliff and pull back on stern line to shore, keeping your fingers and toes crossed.

DR Smith: We are losing daylight quickly, by 6:00pm all you would see is anything out of the water and still we were not anchored.  This is going to turn into an overnighter, and its not nice out here….. Your going to go through that uncharted channel between Lif and Malendok now, this is not a wise choice….

We had a waypoint from SEAsia cruising guide and I  explained to KIm that was useless,  seriously I don’t know why anyone even bothered to give a way point to DD.mm only,  it’s a complete waste of time and misleading when such accuracies cover 1 nm (ie 60 seconds is a NM) For you landlubbers its akin to saying to your friend I will park my car  in Sydney CBD business district meet you there… good luck with finding your friend with those instructions.  Oh and my other pet hate, by too many is lead lines and guides that say steer/head 120’T WTF…… honestly that is pointless unless you have a starting point which many don’t.

We crept through the channel and once again my depth sounder screams at me not enough water. More and more now if it goes from greater than 90m to less than 9m in a second I have tended to ignore it. So with the wind up, the light disappearing rapidly, the depth alarm screaming at me we made it through the channel to approach Bitlik. Creeping around in near dark with no decent Google image, in uncharted water,  with the depth going from 40 to 20 to 5m,  the depth alarm going went off I decided we either had to stop and live with what we had now or move on. With the anchor down I hoped the wind would not change in the night as I had no real idea how far away we were from the Islands reef reef we were. My anchor watch that night was set very tight and thankfully the night passed without any drama.

The next morning a trip to Bitlik and climb up the hill for the view revelaed we were to close to the reef for Dr Smith

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The view was however very nice and it did look the part.

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Time to see what below the water before we moved to a safe spot.

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Nice and clear for sure, probably this place would make for good diving.

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We ended up moving behind a small reef where at least we had enough swing room and were in 9m and not 20m.

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