It took us four days and four nights to sail from Kavieng to the Hermit Islands, with very little wind during the first two days. But we didn’t start the engines once, at least not until we had to enter the pass to the lagoon. We have quite a few long distance legs coming up and we can’t rely on diesel, even if that means going slow. On the second day, the wind picked up a bit and we managed to fly the spinnaker for most of the day. The last day and night unfortunately was a bit rough. It’s as if I had jinxed our trip by saying on day three that, so far, it had been one of the most enjoyable crossings ever with flat seas, calm winds and following current. Ouch, shouldn’t have said that.
Anyway, nothing too horrible but an uncomfortable 24 hours later we were happy nonetheless to enter the pass into the lagoon of the Hermit Islands. It was pouring rain and the visibility was pretty bad but, surprisingly, the pass had markers (sticks put in the reef edge to mark the entrance). Now we just had to figure out on which side we were supposed to pass these markers As we peered through the rain into the turquoise water it soon became obvious which way to go. Once safely inside the lagoon, we dropped our anchor next to s/v Rampetamper and s/v Pacha, in front of the main village.
The Hermits are one of the remote offshore atolls of PNG. There is no airstrip, no tourism. Not even a supply ship stops here. If the villagers need supplies, they have to motor 140 nautical miles to Manus Island, which takes 8 hours each way in a longboat. Needless to say, these locals were happy to see us and keen to trade some lobsters and fruit and vegetables for flour, sugar and anything else we were happy to part with. But we didn’t experience the long queues of canoes behind our boat, like we had seen in other places, all wanting something. The people here were very respectful and not pushy or demanding and were even reluctant to come and trade fruit and veg unless we explicitly asked them to.
The lagoon itself was stunning; dotted with many islands – some inhabited, some not – with turquoise water, exquisite corals and a healthy sea-life (turtles, manta rays).
After a few days we moved to the other side of the atoll and anchored beside a desert island. It was one of the most enjoyable anchorages since the Tuamotus in French Polynesia, two years ago.
As we sailed overnight from the Hermit Islands to Ninigo – another remote atoll – I had some time to contemplate and appreciate this life we love living so much. I treasure those few hours of ‘me-time’ during a nighttime passage, alone under the stars and with the moon rising. I get to read my book, listen to some music or podcasts, put together a few playlists, In between, of course, I keep an eye on the instruments and I scan the horizon every five minutes, checking for other boats and approaching squalls. And I noticed on the calendar on my phone that it was three years ago when we hopped on a plane to Turkey to pick up Rehua and started living onboard. So happy anniversary to us! It’s amazing how time flies.