Molucca Sea

Sophie left Jayapura at 6:00 AM yesterday morning after clearing out of the Harbormaster and Customs Office the night before. Our noontime position is 01.22.977 South, 138.07.016 East, which means we covered about 175 miles in the last 30 hours. Most of this involved motoring with one engine on a constant westerly course just 7 miles off the Papua coast. We are still getting a 1 knot current that contributes to our speed.

We did a radio call with Per Ardua at 8:00 this morning. They are 50 miles behind us and are motoring along quite nicely.

Our original destination were the Padaido Isands, which are 86 miles ahead of us. We’ve heard it is a lovely coral atoll and would make an ideal rest stop halfway between Jayapura and Sorong/Raja Ampat. But we downloaded some new weather files today, and it now appears that some fresh westerlies will develop in 30 hours and then last for over a week. So I think we are going to skip Padaido and try to go straight to Sorong with hopefully little motoring directly into the wind. We still have a lot of fuel. It does mean that we will celebrate the US Thanksgiving Holiday at sea, with no internet access to stream football games. Sort of the tropical circumnavigation equivalent of O’Hare closing due to a snowstorm.

In this part of the world, October and November is a transition period from the Southeast Monsoon to the Northwest Monsoon. Based on the weather forecast, it looks like the Northwest Monsoon, with its winds and currents coming from the northwest, is starting to kick in. Our main reason for traveling so fast through the Solomons and PNG was to make it up here before the wind starts blowing in our face every day. That makes for uncomfortable travel. Once we get to Sorong, we get back into cruising mode where we only have to cover short distances between harbors. We will then spend a month exploring Raja Ampat. Based on the weather it looks like we are just barely going to make it.

Or maybe not. šŸ™‚

As I write this, we just entered into a wall of brown water, the outflow from the Mamberamo River, whose entrance is 9 miles away. My chart shows that the river goes over 100 miles into the interior of Papua, and obviously takes a good chunk of it out to sea every day, because we just passed over this perfectly defined line in the ocean, turquoise on one side, mud brown on the other and stretching from the shore to the horizon. Our speed also just dropped a knot. I sure hope we get this current back when we are on the other side of this river delta.

We are certainly not going to catch any tuna in this mud. Maybe we’ll see a crocodile.

We passed a couple of feeding frenzies in the water yesterday afternoon. One of them involved 500 birds working low on the surface, with big splashes coming from the fish. Given the wind angle, we couldn’t directly sail into the frenzy. But we did see a marlin swimming along past Sophie, 50 feet away from us. At one point we were also joined by a school of 50 small dolphins who came over to play. Three or four of them would leap through the water at a time. It was all obviously choreographed. Jenna got some photos. The kiddies enjoyed the brief break from school.

It’s sunny and hot. The seas are flat. We have plenty of fuel and water and food. We are in constant sight of land. Now that Lauren is gone, it’s just me and Jenna doing night watches, the first time that’s happened on a passage since we sailed from Tonga to Fiji 15 months ago. Leo and Hazel are now doing an afternoon watch together, and that actually helps us a lot in the sleep department.

Pretty happy out here. No complaints. None at all. Except we miss our friends back home. And family. And football. Go Pats!

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