2013 Overview – Australia and the Louisiade Archipelago

Dec 11, 2013| 0 Comment

We began 2013 onboard Avante in Sydney Harbour on New Year’s Eve, and our sailing plans for the year were simple. We would soon take Avante north to Brisbane where our friends, Stephen and Cyndy Everett, had found a place to leave her while we went home to the States. Later in the year, we would return and “cruise in Australia.”

While at the Everetts, Cyndy asked if we would be interested in joining them and sailing the two J/160’s north to the Louisiade Archipelago in Papua New Guinea. Quite frankly, that idea had not been on our radar, but after a little research, we realized what a great opportunity it was. Thus was our sailing plan for 2013 developed.


Year End Summary

Jan 1 – Jan 23Australia589
May 16 – Jun 27Australia942
Aug 30 – Sep 13Australia193
Sep 14 – Sep 17Australia to Louisiades535
Sep 18 – Oct 23Louisiade Archipelago457
Oct 24 – Oct 28Louisiades to Australia667
Oct 29 – Nov 20Australia640
Total Year4023


We spent 2013 sailing in only two countries – Australia and Papua New Guinea. We sailed a little over 4000nm, almost 2400 of which were going up and down the east coast of Australia. We did two ocean passages, but they were fairly short and relatively easy.

After spending New Year’s Eve in Sydney Harbour, we headed back to the Pittwater, but we found that this small cruising ground is extremely crowded right after the Holidays when Australians enjoy their summer vacation.  We returned to Sydney and anchored the boat for a few days in Lane Cove River while we explored the city.  From Sydney, we went back up the coast to Brisbane where we had arranged to leave the boat for several months.  On the trip north, we realized what an advantage the south flowing East Australian Current had been when we were southbound.

While the voyage to the Louisiades had been Cyndy Everett’s idea, she would not live to make the trip. We returned to Australia in May for a very sad event – her funeral. But the trip was still on, and after some discussion with Stephen Everett, we decided to join the Louisiades Rally which departed from Cairns in September.

While in Brisbane, we completed some maintenance on Avante, taking advantage of Stephen Everett’s knowledge of where to get work done.  We had the boat pulled and the bottom painted, and we bought new sails and a new dinghy as well as getting many other items off the “to do” list. 

Cairns is roughly 900nm north of Brisbane on the Queensland coast. Since we wanted to spend July and August at home in the mountains of Telluride, we left Brisbane in early June and sailed Avante north to Townsville where we were able to leave her in the Breakwater Marina. We had previously cruised through most of this area, and it was nice (and certainly much easier) going through places where we had been before.

At the very end of August, we returned to Townsville.  After a few days for boat maintenance, cleanup and provisioning, we continued north.  We took about 5 days to cover the remaining 200nm to Cairns where we docked at the Yorkey’s Knob Marina and prepared for 6 weeks in the remote Louisiades Archipelago.

The passage from Australia to the Louisiades was probably the easiest that we have ever done due to its short duration and benign weather.  Total passage was 535nm and took just 73 hrs.  It was sunny with winds between 10 and 20 knots for almost the entire trip.

We went to the Louisiades with the Australian based J/160, Salacia, and we had decided to go along with an Australian rally primarily for ease of customs and immigration clearance.  Without the rally, we would have had to continue past the Louisiades and on to mainland Papua New Guinea at the beginning and end of our trip to properly clear in and out.  This rally was a lot more regimented than our previous rallies and not really our style, but the many scheduled activities did give us good exposure to the island people and culture that we would not have had on our own.

There are a lot of islands in the Louisiades archipelago, and sailing around them was quite interesting. The Louisiades are the most remote and isolated islands that we have visited. The islands are scenic, and the topography is interesting. There are many reefs and reef passages, but we found them to be adequately charted (Australian charts) and generally visible due to the clarity of the water.  We had decent winds, almost always from the southeast, and were able to sail much of the time.

There is only one place in the Louisiades that could be called a town.  Although Misima is the center of the Louisiades and has several small shops, you can’t depend on doing much provisioning other than fresh fruit and vegetables on market days.  We took on a little fuel, but this had been prearranged and paid for before we left Australia. 

The most memorable aspect of cruising the Louisiades is the islanders.  The people of the Louisiades are the poorest that we have encountered anywhere.  They travel between islands on small sailing canoes.  There are a few long boats with outboards, but fuel is expensive, and outboards require maintenance.  Many islanders have never been farther away than Misima.  They live on remote islands, few of which have even a tiny store.  Most of the anchorages are near a small village, and when you anchor, the islanders paddle canoes out to your boat to trade.  Often, they have almost nothing to trade.  Many times, we were offered a few vegetables or an egg or two. Fortunately, we had taken a lot of small trading items, and we spent much time talking to a canoe by the side of Avante and exchanging one of our items for something that we really did not need because we knew that the islanders really needed some of our trading items.  The islanders did do some nice woodwork and other crafts, and occasionally, they had lobster. We could usually pay cash for these items as the people use cash for their trips to the shops in Misima. 

The rally had a number of events scheduled at various islands and villages, and donations to local villages were a key part of how the rally operated.  Unfortunately, the distribution of these donations created a lot of issues.  The cargo culture that was created in the Pacific during World War II is alive and well in the Louisiades.  To the people of the Louisiades, even the least well off cruiser appears to be a multi-millionaire. 

After the rally finished, we sailed on to the island of Rossel.  You have to sail 50 miles to windward to get there, and not many boats want to do that.  According to the islanders, we were the only cruising sailboat that had visited Rossel that year.  It felt quite remote.

For our return passage to Australia, we wanted to get as far south along the Australian coast as we could. With the normal southeast tradewinds, most boats cannot sail to weather well enough to get all the way south to Mackay.  We left from the east end of the Louisiade Archipelago and sailed for Mackay, stopping at East Diamond Island for a day.  It is a tiny island in the middle of the ocean, and it reminded us of Chesterfield Reefs.  It is full of nesting seabirds and sea turtles that were waiting for darkness before heading ashore and laying their eggs.  We entered Australia through the Hydrographers Passage in the Great Barrier Reef, then stopped at Scawfell Island for the night.  We received permission from Australian Customs to stop as we would not have reached Mackay until after midnight.  This was a longer route than our passage north, and we covered 670nm.  Winds averaged 20 knots and were forward of the beam almost the entire way. 

We cleared into Australia at Mackay, just as we had done the previous year.  We then headed south covering 600nm on the way to Brisbane.  This was the third time that we had covered this region, and we again enjoyed the many lovely anchorages on the way.  By Thanksgiving, Avante was back on the dock that she had previously used in Brisbane, and we were back in the USA.

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