Maneba Wharf manager Dennis Agebo placed the necessary calls to his manager at Lae to seek authorization to tow my boat behind one of their slow vessels.
Cargo vessel UMBOI operated by Lutheran Shipping towed my boat to within 50 meters of the Lae Yacht Club entrance.
Captain Marakai Sijou of the vessel UMBOI visited my boat to ensure a safe tow were possible. He asked me to further brace the eye at the bow.
The boat is now in Lae...
February 13, 2009
On Wednesday February 11th, at 01:30 local time, the cargo vessel UMBOI operated by Lutheran Shipping arrived at their wharf in Lae. It had left Maneba Wharf at Finsch Harbor, also run by Lutheran Shipping, at 18:30 Tuesday evening. I was in tow behind that vessel, sleeping while we averaged about 9.5-10 knots, maintaining VHF contact with Captain Marakai Sijou ahead of me on UMBOI. When within reach of their wharf, I untied their tow line, waited alongside their pier until I could shake hands with the captain to thank him for his great favor, then rowed my boat a total of perhaps 100 meters to enter the Lae Yacht Club marina where I was expected, and to tie it.
Since arriving at the Maneba Wharf at Finsch Harbor, the priority had been to keep the boat safe from vandalism and petty theft, then to transfer it to Lae for storage in a container. My goal still was to reach Australia, but I wasn't going to insist on rowing the whole way. The new plan was to continue the circumnavigation journey from Finsch Harbor to Lae on foot, then to kayak due southeast to Oro Bay, then finally to walk the Kokoda Trail to Port Moresby. There, I would get back in my rowboat to aim for Australia. So the boat had to be placed in a container and sent ahead. These logistical hassles were part of the game that I played...
During transport on the reefer vessel VANILLA from General Santos City to Lae from Dec 25 onward, I was sleeping on a relatively hard sofa in a meeting room. The beds on this ship were oriented along the length of the ship, fore and aft, such that the side to side rolling motion of the ship would rock the person like a baby in a crib. However, my sofa was oriented 90-degrees to that, and with each sway of the ship, my lower back was compressed and stretched like an accordion. When I woke up each morning, it was as if I had jumped rope all night.
Every following morning, I woke up with a progressively worsening lower back pain. I did not understand the injury mechanism early enough to make a correction, yet kept wondering why... When I transitioned to GLAXINIA the first week of January which then took me from Lae to the put in site, I had a proper bed on which we even placed an extra 20 cm of foam for added comfort, yet I did not have sufficient time to heal. On January 15th, when we arrived at the put in site, I had a choice: either stay on board, go back to the Philippines, miss the season, store the boat, all to return a year later, OR commit with an injured back, hoping that it would loosen up with exercise!
I felt that I had to choose the latter. After all, this was the season for northwest monsoons, with reliable northwesterly winds in the Bismarck Sea, and westerlies in the Solomon Sea. I could manage fine, I thought.
I had strong pain killer and muscle relaxant medications with me on the boat, but it turned out that I had left with insufficient doses of anti inflammatories. So I was only able to address the sciatica symptoms; rowing certainly did not help when what I needed was bed rest.
Sleeping was a huge problem. Since my injury had developed while laying down, my aches increased when I went in the cabin for a rest. Sleep deprivation worsened my ordeal, and I was already drained when I had to work overtime over four days while navigating around islands to work my way into the Vitiaz Strait.
Pulling into Finsch Harbor on Wednesday the 4th was a relief. I could reach Lae soonest to stock up on proper medications. I could take time to heal properly. I could then execute a different plan than originally intended, by continuing from the Maneba Wharf at the Finsch Harbor.
While waiting for the word from our friends at the Frabelle Fishing Corporation about one of their vessels which may pass through the Vitiaz Strait on their way to Lae, I explored other options as well. Who else could help move my boat to Lae so we could store it? I even entertained the idea of rowing the boat to Oro Bay, about 150 nm to the south which would have allowed easier access to the Kokoda Trail leading to Port Moresby. Over the last whole week, the winds have remained from the east in the Huon Gulf that I had to cross for Oro Bay, and they were channeled up the Vitiaz as southerly winds. There was no chance to leave Finsch Harbor.
The manager of the Maneba Wharf where I had tied up, Dennis Agebo contacted his manager in Lae by phone to seek authorization for one of their slow vessels to tow my boat. They even asked whether to lift it on deck, but I worried about possible damage.
When the vessel UMBOI arrived on Tuesday, Dennis briefed Captain Marakai about my request, "he crossed an ocean, but he can't cross the pond" we'd joke... Captain Marakai was intrigued and very interested to see my boat. He came to inspect the eye at the bow, and asked many questions about the boat's construction, its behavior at sea and my experiences out there. He wasn't convinced of the strength of the eye, "what if the bow breaks, what will you do," he'd ask. "I would like tow the whole thing not just the bow," he would comment. I then braced the eye further using one of my rode lines, pulling it in tight toward the rest of the boat. He was satisfied. Before he left, his parting question was: "What is your call sign?" "You can call me YELLOW ROWBOAT," I replied.
Raymond Critchley, who is the manager of Swire Shipping in Lae has taken me under his wing, first alerting the Lae Yacht Club management about my impending arrival, who have then welcomed me and allowed me to use their facilities. Ray has continued his magic by then introducing me to the Hornibrook people who had the cranes to lift my boat and the capabilities to build me a cradle to carry my boat. Our new service sponsor Swire Shipping would handle the container storage and forwarding to Port Moresby. Providing a quick ride to the drugstore to buy my medications and to the local technology shop for the prepaid wireless internet access cards were just some of the friendly gestures from Ray.
As I talk to the sailors and game fishermen at the club, I hear about how different the winds have been this season. Since my arrival on Wednesday, we have observed mostly east winds in Lae, which is the opposite of what they expect. The Australian expatriates who frequent the club, talk about severe rains and flooding between Brisbane and Cairns, and out of control bush fires in the south around Adelaide. We all ask and wonder if these shifts in the wind and the events in Australia may be the tail end the strong La Niña conditions which were in effect last winter... The Pacific has not been cooperative with the winds, first driving me west last year, now denying me easterly progress.