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Papua New Guinea is just delightful!

By Sue Richards last modified Jun 26, 2008 07:03 PM

Published: 2008-06-26 19:03:23
Countries: Papua New Guinea

Royal Papua Yacht Club – Port Moresby
Manager: Brent St. Hill
Assistant: Jossie

My wife and I spent 11 weeks "gunk holing" our way from Tagula (at the end of the Calvados Chain) to Port Moresby via 33 different anchorages. The last 7 weeks we had all the anchorages to ourselves and never had any trouble.

We came through the reef pass the last week of November and anchored at Manubada Island which gives good protection from both the SE trades and the NW monsoon winds. The Royal Papua Yacht Club (RPYC) monitors VHF 84 from 0800 to 2100. They have a high, powerful aerial with a reputed range of 40 miles. We contacted the Club and when we came through the marina entrance one of the club rescue boats was there to help us tie up to one of the club's mooring buoys. You can stay there for 15K/day (April 2008 ATM rate 2.63K-$1.00US). The docks are well made, securely fastened floating docks with metered 220V, 50Hz electrical outlets. The water supply is so pure in Port Moresby that it can be used to fill your battery!

RPYC is a superb large modern club with a large dining room, extensive bar, TV's, Pokies (slot machines), Internet, exercise and weight room, laundry facilities, very clean showers and heads and two large play areas for children. WiFi is present for the docks, although be careful as it is 100K for 80MB - not time related. The RPYC is patrolled 24 hours a day and nobody can get into the club unless they have a key or an approved pass - all the day workers need one. The club has marine staff who are very helpful.

If you need the boat washed or waxed there is a lot of good inexpensive help. It was not until late in our stay that I discovered Jimmy. He worked on a house boat near the end of C dock "Why do you ask" on Tuesday and Thursday. He is one of the best and brightest and most pleasant workers we have ever had on board. Normally he and the other workers get 25K/day, but I was so impressed as he only took a 10 minute lunch break that I paid him 30K/day, with which he was very pleased.

Safety Issues
Near to the club is Andersons Supermarket which is excellent. Initially, from listening to the local expats, we walked there with some trepidation carrying a pepper spray. However we found it to be quite safe and my wife would walk there alone and back with no worries. Downtown is small but safe to walk around during the day.

Several articles have been written in different magazines about Papua New Guinea (PNG). Most of them are based on hearsay and are false. A particularly gregarious example was published in Ocean Navigator in 2007. The author obviously has little insight into countries visited and makes outrageous quotes from other unfounded sources. Having never been to Port Moresby or Lae, he claims that "they are rife with crime, rivaling some of the worst in the world", which is just nonsense!

We have found Port Moresby, and PNG, delightful. The people are always polite, happy and smiling. Obviously there is crime, but everywhere has crime. In ones own country people ignore the thefts, burglaries, shootings, muggings, beating and numerous murders (accidents and deaths) from motor cars. Yet if one of these should occur in a foreign country, it is widely pronounced as a dangerous place! Washington, New York, Sidney, LA, London, Paris etc. all have a much higher and more lethal crime rate.

There is a bus system, but we decided not to use it. Port Moresby is scattered over a wide area with the necessity of going to several parts of the town to find things, meaning numerous bus changes. We used Scarlett taxi, which is the only metered taxi firm. Red Dot has a regional fare system. By using Scarlett we soon learned the correct fares so when using a taxi off the street, we would just say what we would pay before entering, and this stopped a lot of hassle.

There is a good high speed Internet Cafe upstairs at the Steamships Mall, which is only 15K/hour and no MB limit!

Lohebergers is the nearest and only chandlery. One can walk there in the day wearing scruffy clothes and carrying no bags. Lohebergers, like most of PNG, is quite expensive. PNG has almost no manufacturing base so everything must be shipped in with a 25% duty from Australia, which is also very expensive.

To have propane tanks filled you can leave them at the front desk, or the club's ute will take you there. As Indonesia will not fill US type propane tanks, it is necessary to fill up before leaving.

The marina has a fuel dock at usual prices. As PNG gets so few visiting yachts, there is no organized infra-structure enabling one to buy duty free fuel or alcohol before departure. However, goods can be shipped in via DHL or Fedex duty free. Label packages "Ship in Port": as they do not understand "Yacht in Transit".

PNG has one annoying peculiarity. On our second day we bought a SIM card for our cell phone only to find it did not work for the numbers we needed. We had bought a Digicel card. Telecom is the only system for land lines and all businesses. It has its own cell phone system B mobile. So far Telecom and Digicell cannot work out an agreement, so one system cannot talk to the other! From the practical yottie point of view you need B mobile, even though international calls are cheaper via Digicell. However, we made our long distance calls via Skype. Take your computer into the club to get a fast enough WiFi connection. As Skype is not down loading material from the internet to your computer it does not intrude on the 80 MB limit.

We had been hoping to wait until Singapore for a haul out but after 3 months in the marina the bottom was so foul we had to haul out. MES is nearby and has 4 different ramps to haul out. They mainly haul large steel boats but they have pulled out yachts. Berthrom, the assistant manager, has been there for years. Rowa, who is in charge of haul out and launch, has been there for over 30 years and knew exactly how to make it safe. We came out on the wide #4 slip. Rowa had 2 other divers with him in the water and put 6 people on deck to handle the lines. Angelito, a qualified experienced engineer, had delayed the haul out by 24 hours to reinforce the cradle that our bridge deck would sit on. Everyone was determined nothing would go wrong - nor did it. We used Hemple paint because of previous good experience. Subsequently, we found it was much cheaper than the International paint all the other boats used. As our slip was near to a village from where kids would emerge at dusk and climb through the fence to grab any scrap metal, we decided to hire a guard for 12 hours each night (at $4.50K/hour). We were still living on board, and my wife and I agreed that it was the most pleasant experience we had ever had during a haul out. The cost of the haul out was not cheap, it never is unless the yard has a 32' wide travel lift.

Port Moresby Weather
Another favorable aspect of Port Moresby is the climate. The RPYC has its own micro climate. It is warm, sunny and breezy every day. If it rains, it is only for a short time. There is a small range of hills behind the club and bad weather and thunder storms usually stay behind them. We wanted to leave Monashee II while we flew back for Xmas. Although the RPYC is at 9 47S and below our insurance cyclone limit of 8*S, Port Moresby has never had a cyclone. Therefore it is a good place to stay for the cyclone season.

While at the RPYC I went out to anchor at the west end of Daugo for a week whilst my wife had to fly home. Daugo Island is part of the reef protecting Port Moresby. The west end has a beautiful beach and good anchoring. About 3 miles away at the east end was the village. I was looking for solitude. Over Easter Saturday, I saw a boat leave the village and head towards me. Two smartly dressed men asked if I was leaving but I told them I liked the place so much I was going to stay another 2 nights. Only then did they politely ask if they could use MII as a turning mark for a sailing canoe race that day!! How polite. There were 4 laps and it was great watching the skilled, and not so skilled, tack or jibe around me. Only one canoe misjudged. I realized this and was up on deck waiting to fend off. However, at the last minute the helmsman let go of the sheet and sailed backwards!!

PNG is not perfect. Nowhere is. However, it is a wonderful place to cruise and get away from the lemming migration of sailboats that is occurring. If you go, take a lot to trade with. Lollies, balloons, toys, exercise books, pens for the children. Clothes, fishing gear, rice, corned beef, flour, soap, shampoo, large nails, string and rope. Carry a lot of glue to help repair their canoes and water tanks. In Skeleton island, I supplied some epoxy glue to seal a 30' canoe. Later that day I noticed someone diving from a canoe near us. After 2 hours he came and presented us with 8 lobsters – because we had helped with the canoe.

Sail to PNG. Do not be afraid but use common sense as you would in your own "civilized country".

Ian Munro
S/V Monashee II
52' Catamaran AeroRig 5'draft
Papua New Guinea