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Hermit Atoll in Papua New Guinea: Latest cruising news – March 2011.

By Sue Richards last modified Jun 30, 2011 02:19 PM

Published: 2011-06-30 14:19:45
Countries: Papua New Guinea

Hermit Atoll - 8 till 26 March 2011
Contributers: Hanneke & Joop, SV Vaarwel

Unlike its pancake flat neighbour Ninigo, Luf island in Hermit atoll consists of two hills joined by a wide sand spit. The village Luf is located on the sand spit and the gardens are on the hill sides.

When we motored into the bay, navigating between the many reefs, we were welcomed by Ben and Ezekiel and escorted to the best spot for anchoring. Joop did not like it, too much coral. We checked other spots in the bay, but there was nothing better. Like Ninigo Cmap is way off and although the chart is very detailed it cannot be trusted. To illustrate this: we are anchored opposite Luf village in position 1°30.983 S, 145°04.804E, which according to Cmap is to the SW on the other side of the island. We use the offset capability of OpenCPN 2.3.1 to correct this and that works surprisingly well.

Bob was waiting for us on the beach, eager to show us the village where about 160 people live. Everything was very neat and tidy, a model village with paths lined with flowering hedges, the houses made with traditional materials and palm frond roofs. Everybody greets and waves to us. On the way we are given a drinking coconut, while Bob informs us that rising sea levels is a major worry . Luckily they have the possibility of relocating to the two hills, in contrast with the Ninigo inhabitants, who will see all their islets swallowed up by the sea.

Hermit island has fresh water wells, an opportunity for us to do the laundry For small fish hooks we are given food, such as papaya, pineapples, coconuts and even Cray fish, a type of lobster. They are 7 day Adventists, who observe the sabbath on Saturday and do not eat lobster (any more). On Friday the men are busy catching fish and the women with food preparation, because no work is done on Saturday, not even cooking.

They earn some money here with catching live fish. They are kept alive in a fish farm, until the boat comes to transport them in tanks to Manus island.

Two other yachts join us in the bay, Ilo from France and Que Pasa from South Africa.

Bob organises a bbq on Sunday in the Manta Ray Pass. We motor there, after divers have extricated our anchor chains from the coral. Bob is on board and has the waypoints to our destination, where we anchor in sand. A smorgasbord of food is prepared for the bbq.

After the bbq lunch we go snorkelling with Bob as our guide and hope to spot a Manta ray. No luck on Sunday, but on Monday Joop finds one after a long search. The manta rays are very large but not dangerous. There is a "cleaning station" in the pass, a spot where small fish wait for the manta rays and cleans them. The ray slowly swims small circles on this spot, while we hang around above the ray to observe it.

We sail back to the main bay and pick up the only available mooring this time. A much better idea than wrapping our chain around the coral heads. The next couple of days we don't sleep well, because of strong winds blowing. Rain and easterly wind, not good weather for leaving.

Luckily the people here can use almost anything in exchange for fresh produce. In the end we have to ration the small fish hooks and we run completely out of sugar. They grow delicious pineapples here.

Finally the weather improves, the wind diminishes and turns north east. We leave Hermit through the Southeast pass, head for Kavieng, the main town in New Ireland. Although the pass is shaped like a zigzag and not very wide sailing through it is a piece of cake, because the pass and the route to and from Luf are well buoyed.