RoRC Report – North Pacific

RoRC Report – North Pacific

Along a route less traveled from Indonesia to Japan.

By RoRCs Sue and Andy Warman - 19/04/2018

On 12th March, Spruce arrived at the Japanese port of Naha, in the sub-tropical island of Okinawa after a 1250-mile passage. We found the air temperature very cold, even at 26 degrees latitude, after the tropics.

Since our last report, we sailed east to Biak via Yappen in Indonesia’s Cendrawasih Bay; other yachts conspicuous by their absence. Spruce arrived at a stilt village, where folks see few strangers. Myriad canoes aimed at us: paddled, outboards, sails. If we stopped, dozens of friendly faces would board us. We smiled, waved, shouted “Pagi-Pagi!” (Good Morning) and moved on to somewhere less populous.

Farther along the coast is Janoesi, a pleasant anchorage off an islet, hornbills flew lazily overhead. Our anchor not yet set, a speedboat raced over, conversation was limited, they made gabbled radio calls and left. Thirty minutes later, another visitor, Commandant of the West Papuan Army, “What, Indonesian Army?” we clarified. “No!” he insisted, “The West Papuan Army”. We do not know if the assault rifle was loaded. Our Indonesian language skills, cunningly honed to the minimum required for shopping and eating out, did not extend to “Can you be careful where you point your gun?” Although, when Sue pushed the barrel aside saying “Hati-Hati” (Be careful) he understood, she did not want it pointing at her. Our agent failed to mention that some remote parts of West Papua might better be avoided. Overall, we had a wonderful time in Indonesia.
This year’s La Nina affected Pacific weather for our 700M passage to the Micronesian Island of Yap. Variable winds, inaccurate forecasts and our arrival beating into a near gale. We had problems with immigration HQ in distant Pohnpei. Eventually, an email trail, proof it was they had broken procedure, got them to retreat from the $1,000 fine they initially demanded. It left an uneasy feeling at such treatment of visitors.

Notwithstanding our initial difficulties, we had an enjoyable month in Yap, meeting locals and members of the surprisingly large ex-Pat community. Two other yachts were encountered, one from Alaska, just leaving as we arrived. The other a Danish steel yawl built in 1906.

The final spectacle, Yap Day, actually spread over three days, is a festival celebrating island culture and history. Members from each village perform ancient dances wearing traditional costumes. Almost the entire 7,000 strong population is mobilised in some aspect for an annual event that has now been running for 50-years.

Our passage to Japan had atypical North Pacific weather for the time of year. We suspected La Nina again. Winds came more from the NNE and were stronger than anticipated. The most unpleasant watch fell to Sue, a six-hour period at night beating to windward in 30-knots of breeze with torrential rainfall. As we get older, we love our hardtop doghouse more and more.

We file this report from the beautiful Amami Islands, south of Kyushu, waiting a more favourable wind direction to resume our voyage north towards Nagasaki, Honshu and eventually Hokkaido, where winter still reigns.

Sue & Andy Warman
s/y Spruce – Amami Oshima, Japan


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