Lorelei’s Sailing Adventures
Welcome to Episode 24
At the end of Episode 23 we had just had a fantastic 4 weeks in Yap in
were just about to leave… Micronesia
We had booked in to be cleared at 9am Monday and had anchor up and were underway by 10:30am. We managed to hoist the sails straight after the anchor was up and sailed out of the harbour, through the channel and out into the blue.
The wind was NE 15 knots and directly downwind so it meant zig-zagging downwind to
With it slightly more North for the first half, we cleared the bottom of Pal au Yap and gybed over and headed west for the first leg. The
first night was a 50/50 mix of cloud and stars but overall a pretty non
eventful night but it was choppy and rough with 2m of confused seas and we both
felt off colour. We did have to gybe at 3am to avoid a collision with a
By noon on day 2 the storms had started with minor squalls and a little rain. At 2pm we did our final gybe and worked out we had a 130nm run still to do to get to the entrance of
. The port closes
at 4pm and with mandatory $175 overtime fees for late arrivals we were paranoid
about being late and hit with fees. Koror
So we sailed pretty hard through the arvo and evening to hold the average 6.5 knots needed to get in early. That evening it was pitch black with 100% cloud cover and a lot of lightning overhead – our worst fear!
Thankfully by 3am it had started to clear up, the wind had held through the night and we arrived at the entrance at 8:45am with loads of Dolphins playing in our bow wave on a sunny day.
Land Ho! The Pal
aun coastline in the background
With time up our sleeve we sailed through the pass, up the channel and into the port dropping sails only 50m from the clearance wharf.
We were just astounded at the amount of dive and snorkelling vessels that passed us as we sailed in. There must have been at least 20 12m long vessels all with twin 200hp outboards and loaded with 20+ people in each ( most of whom were Asian…). Amazing!!
We had completed the 265nm straight line passage in 47 hours covering a total sailing distance of 319nm with a great average speed of 6.8 knots.
We used less than 2 litres of diesel combined to leave and arrive.
Fortunately another yacht had made it in 30 minutes earlier and all the officials were still at the wharf. We must have had to fastest check in ever with all 5 departments done in a record 45 minutes. The quarantine flag was up less than an hour!
Wooohooo – We were cleared and in
!!! Pal au
For us it is a lifelong dream to come to
to dive and
for all our travels onboard Lorelei, this is the No.1 destination for us both. Pal au
20 years ago we dreamt of maybe a 7-10 day trip there one day….
Well were about to certainly exceeded that.
After checking in we proceeded around the corner to Sam’s
(and were greeted in a boat by Sam
himself…) who showed us to an awesome mooring in the corner with a lovely
outlook and surrounded by stunning little rock islands. Perfect! For $2 a day,
we decided to make it our home for the next 3 weeks. Tours
By 5pm we had joined the yacht club, had the grand tour of Sam’s Establishment, a tour of town by one of Sam’s staff in car and had gone shopping. There was so much yummy food in the supermarket. The biggest range we have seen since leaving
lot cheaper. Australia
That night we had a BBQ and feasted on Angus steak and a great salad.
A message from Mike and Marilyn our diving friends from
Yap which we spotted on
the notice board during our tour of Sam’s.
We saw it M&M…!!! We were a week late but it was still there and a nice welcome for us…. Thankyou!
Our great outlook with the small rock islands in the background
Sam’s wharfs – quiet during the day but after 4pm and before 9am its packed full of dive boats and a hive of activity.
Lorelei in the background on our mooring 2nd from the right
After a great nights sleep we walked the length of town exploring the
and enjoyed the sites. township of Koror
Our first impressions of
were great. It
was certainly much bigger than we expected - in physical size, population and
services. Pal au
The population is an eclectic mix of local Pal
Pilipino’s, Asian’s (Japanese, Korean and Chinese are all here in numbers), US
ex-pats and loads of tourists.
The main town of
a busy place and all around the outskirts there are scores of resorts and
accommodation from budget to 5 star with loads of diving operators and tourist
activities. The place seems to be all about tourism. Koror
Ironically we went to the tourist Info centre and they were totally useless. They had next to no brochures or maps in English and couldn’t answer one single question we asked on basic land and water based tourist activities on the main island and down at Peleliu. Hopeless!!!
Just one of the dozen+ smaller dive shops around the main township
That evening our friends Christian and Christine (C&C) off the yacht Thor returned to Koror and we c
aught up for dinner
and planned our next few days of activities, which mainly revolved around scuba
Scuba Diving in
The Scuba Diving in
is fantastic! Pal au
Whilst it is some of the best diving in the world, the diversity and range for all levels has made Pal
au the world’s most
popular diving destination.
It has a varied mix of amazing coral reefs, deep walls, big fish action, macro and over 50 WW2 wrecks and planes.
Most of the wrecks are Japanese as the area was occupied by them during WW2 until the
May 1944. Pal US au was the scene of
some very fierce battles with huge loss of life, ships, planes and equipment.
The fierce fighting in the area to the south at Peleliu was made well known by
the TV mini-series
"War In The Pacific"
"War In The Pacific"
Whilst the wrecks are popular, it is “Blue Corner” the world’s best known dive spot that is
star diving attraction. Pal au
comes in a close second. Famous Jelly
With a fantastic forecast of a week of be
weather (followed by a week of terrible weather – but more on that later…), we
unpacked the scuba gear for our first dives in .
We woke to find very clear viz under the boat so we decided on one of the
closer dive sites - The Pal au . The limestone cave system is in a rock island
cove only 50m from Lorelei’s mooring with the entrance in only 7m depth. Once
inside though it goes deeper and you can explore many different chambers. Don’t
be fooled by the bright photos – inside is pitch black without a decent light. Chandelier
In a few of them you can surface and look around. We went with C&C and we all thought it was fantastic.
Christian, Lisa and Christine in chamber No.4.
On the surface in Chamber no.3
That afternoon we went around the corner and went to dive our first Pal
auan wreck – The Japanese Amatsu Maru. This massive
450m long tanker was a fuel ship used in WW2 until it was heavily bombed by the
in the Desecrate 1 air raid. It is intact and upright but is deeper than most
Pal US aun shipwrecks and lies in over 40m
depth with the deck starting at 27m. This combined with normally limited
visibility makes this a challenging dive. The entire deck is covered in black
coral trees and inside is very silty so deep penetration is not recommended.
We did however explore the pumphouse and the forecastle areas inside.
Overall we thought it was average and probably won’t dive it again.
Left: Note Lisa behind the black coral trees. Right: A Lifeboat Davit
In stark contrast to the Amatsu Maru, the next day we dived the Chuyo Maru and thought it was absolutely fantastic. It is a 90m long army cargo ship that sits upright and fully intact in 36m of water. There are lots of relics, areas inside to explore, loads of schooling fish, reasonable viz and colourful coral formations.
For Lisa the most exciting thing was the coral encrusted bridge, derricks and masts which were home to all sorts of critters big and small.
On the first dive she found a Saw Blade Shrimp – a first for us both.
aul was trying a new adapter for the camera and took
the unit with no camera inside or strobes to do a pressure test.
It didn’t matter, with the wreck being in a protected bay only 5 minutes run from Lorelei, we could do it any time we wanted.
The next day we went back and did it again and were set up with macro lenses, determined to find Lisa’s little shrimp (which was 4cm long…) talk about finding a needle in a haystack!
But we did find them (2 actually) and lots of other small little critters to photograph.
Lisa’s little Saw Blade Shrimp
Note the long arm from another species of shrimp coming
down from the top of the photo
With the spring high tides the next morning, we were able to transit though a normally very shallow pass and take a shortcut though to the main harbour to dive The Helmet Wreck.
Passing one of the many resorts in the area
The Helmet Wreck is surrounded in mystery as it was only found in 1990 and still has not been identified. It is full of Japanese army surplus but is not Japanese built. The engine for its time was a super modern triple expansion engine and way overpowered for the vessels size.
There was no coal in the storage area indicating she was not being used at the time although the holds are full of surplus.
One of the 3 holds is full of Japanese Army Helmets hence the nick name.
We had actually heard that bomb disposal experts were in Pal
and had surveyed the wreck and were starting work the next day to clear the
wreck of some of the 100’s of Depth Charge Mines that are packed into holds
No.2 and 3.
We wanted to dive it once before they started the work.
Lisa holding a rifle with ammo clip still installed
The cylinders in the crate next to the bottles are artillery shells.
The remains of a light
Left: The piles of stacked Helmets give the wreck its nickname
Right: Just some of the depth charges
A pile of depth charges. Note the large cracks in the casings and stains from the substance leaking out…
A workbench and large vice in the engineering room next to the engine room
Lisa in the Engine Room
Sake bottles on the bow
Lisa found this bowl with a great emblem stamped on it
That arvo as we were talking to the manager at Sam’s, we discovered the reason for the Depth Charge removal is not for the explosion danger as we just assumed, but bec
ause some mines we leaking a toxic substance that
was very bad for divers and their kidney’s. Many of the dive operators had been
refusing to go anywhere near the wreck bec ause
of the dangers.
Oppps...!!! But it was excellent and we can’t wait to do it again….
The next day was April 1st – April Fools Day.
It didn’t start so well as sadly we went over to Thor to say our final goodbyes as they were leaving to sail to Indonesia and then onto South Africa for Christmas. We were all very sad as we had become close friends and had been in contact on and off since Kosrae.
It won’t be the last time we see them. They have plans, we have plans, and in the future they might just overlap somewhere, somehow, sometime….
That morning someone must have been playing an April Fool’s joke on us and stole or moved the large Ryuko Maru shipwreck. We searched for an hour and couldn’t find it or the 90m long landing barge that was also close by. Hmmmm – hopefully they’ll return them tomorrow…
On the way back through the pincers to our favourite back-up wreck, The Chuyo Maru, we stopped at a few sea caves to have a look. One is called the
for obvious reasons. Gun Cave
aul jumped out of the RIB at one cave he nearly
stepped on a venomous Sea Snake that scared the hell out of him.
Kayaking though the
Rock Island is also very popular in
and like the diving, is rated as some of the best Kayaking experiences in the
world. Pal au
We did many kayaks around the area but the channels and small bays though the rock islands and definitely the highlight.
Taking some snorkelling gear to see the smaller wrecks, planes and caves in the shallow bays is also recommended.
Just one of the dozens of smaller wrecks in the
We saw loads of these Pitcher Plants on the overhanging rock edges
After nearly a week of wrecks, wrecks and more wrecks we decided on a change and went to do our first reef dive.
It was to be the lighthouse Express Dive site in the main channel.
It can be a drift dive but we did it at 9am right on the top of the tide and did it as a static dive.
The dive book says it’s a good macro dive which for us was a severe understatement!!! It was one of the best macro dives we have done. There was loads to see and for over 90minutes we both clicked away with the cameras.
Now that’s a camouflaged fish & one of Lisa’s shots
It was that good we decided to do it again the next day, and the next….
A very small and unusual Soft Coral Crab
In stark contrast to Yap we have rarely eaten out so far in
. Pal au
Yap the rest aurants
for lunch and dinner were cheap and the groceries in the supermarket limited
and expensive so eating out was a viable option on a near daily basis.
The grocery stores however where huge, cheap and packed full off lots of variety & yummy goodies that had us making things we have not been able to cook since leaving Australia and New Caledonia.
So for us the obvious choice was to enjoy the change and eat in.
We used our BBQ more in the first 10 days then we had used in the past 18 months.
One funny exception was the Little Beijing Rest
that we went to for lunch one day. It had great reports and looked authentic but when we got closer to the front door
we could hear heavy rock music to the likes of Linkin Park and Lisa’s favourite,
Metallica blaring out from inside.
That settled it - we were eating there for sure!
The food was great and so were the Chinese owners and staff.
The owner’s wife even dropped us into town after lunch.
Tropical Storm Peipah
As we sailed through
we entered Typhoon Alley, a line running from au Japan
down through Pal
and onto The au .
All the way across Lisa (who had done all the research) was explaining to P
aul (who had done no research) that typhoons in the north
are a lot different from cyclones on Australia’s East Coast as they can develop
in Typhoon Alley 12 months of the year unlike back at home when there is a
definite 5 month season only.
aul was like “Yeah yeah whatever, we’ll be in the
area in peak cruising season when the risk is at its lowest. We’ll be fine…”
Well Lisa was right and P
aul was wrong (which
is fairly normal) and in the first few days of April, reports started coming in
about an intense tropical storm in Chuuk and heading our way.
The HF radio sked each morning had reports from the yachts still in the storm’s path. Two boats were at Woleai Atoll (Including Aussie friends Steve and Selina on Westward 2) which we know was very exposed as we were there only 6 weeks ago. They had a lively few days on board as the storm passed over.
Friday 5th April.
As it headed towards
it started to
intensify and things got serious very quickly. It now had a name “Peipah”. The
reports were on the web every 6 hours and we made contact with Alan, The
Lieutenant Commander of the local Australian Navy Base who also kept is
informed via email. Pal au
It was however still great weather in
was to be OK too. For P Pal au aul the swell
The forecast with the wind speeds for
blue Pal au
Saturday morning P
aul was up at 5am and
breaking out the surfboards for a trip to West passage with 3 other guys.
Ron is a local man and is a boat captain for Sam. He lived in
for many years and is a big wave
surfer. He owned the boat and was nice enough to invite P Hawaii aul
along. Also on-board was Remy, a Swiss Dive Guide and Glenn, a Kiwi working
with the local government.
We loaded up Ron’s boat and headed to well-known local surf break West passage. His boat had a 200hp motor with a crazy race propeller. The boat could barely get onto plane and at slow speed it cavitated and made all sorts of noise. Once the speed increased the prop would dig in and the boat took off across the water at 60+mph. Ron was driving with a grin from ear to ear and yelling out to us “ She’s just like a Big Red Ferrari!”
Sadly Ron’s reports of 6-8ft pumping waves was a little too early and it was only small, but at least we got wet and cased the place out for next time.
On the way home we trolled through the passage and got 5 fish in less than 10 minutes.
When Remy dropped P
aul back off at Sam’s at
noon it was a hive of activity and was shocked at the scene around him. All
diving operations ceased, staff were cutting back trees, boarding up windows
and sandbagging. The dive boats were having their sun covers removed and many
boats converged in the bay Lorelei was in and started to tie up to the moorings.
Many yachts had reversed back into the rocks and tied into the trees on the
shoreline. Those in the middle dived on their moorings and attached extra
strong lines to secure their vessels.
The forecast had changed – and for the worst!
Sandbagging the roof at Sam’s.
That afternoon we stripped the deck of anything that would fit downstairs or in the cockpit, and double roped down our kayaks, paddleboard, BBQ, etc…We stripped our RIB, bridled it up close to the back of Lorelei and filled it with water so it was too heavy to flip. We figured it was safer there then on the davits, and probably better for the davits too.
We dragged out our super heavy mooring rope (that had never been used) and P
aul dived on the mooring and shackled it on.
It took us half a day but we were prepared as best as we could be but were pretty nervous with reports showing winds up to 70 knots expected.
4 x 20mm and 1 x back-up 32mm rope to secure Lorelei
That should hold us OK...
Our Kayaks double roped down, covers off the hatches and all locked down
That should hold us OK...
Our Kayaks double roped down, covers off the hatches and all locked down
Late that arvo it was very hot and humid with no wind and an eerie calm had settled over the bay. There was no noise from any animals or birds as they must have been in hiding.
The sunset that evening was spectacular.
That night it was not too windy but it poured with rain.
Sunday was reasonably calm during the day with only light winds and rain but it was still on track to pass right over us.
By 4pm the forecast was that at midnight it would cross
and about 20nm south of where we were in Koror. Pal au
The winds were due to start increasing at about 6pm.
We sat up that night like it was a New Years Eve countdown.
6pm – no wind. 8pm – still no wind. 10pm still no wind.
What was going on???
By 11pm we had a few mild gusts and the trees on the peaks were certainly moving but it wasn’t 70 knots. Not even close.
So we went to bed….
Monday 4am we got some rain but woke at daybreak wondering what all the fuss was about.
A quick look on the net revealed that it had slowed down.
That day it blew a little and poured rain all morning and we filled our 1000L water tank in just 1 hour.
Bailing out the RIB – which we had to do many times
In a crazy bizarre twist we actually had a rougher night that night than the previous one but it was still more than manageable.
On the Tuesday the weather looked reasonable so we ventured out to do some shopping.
Half way to the shops it started bucketing down with super heavy rain.
Within 30 minutes the roads were flooding, the drains just completely overflowing and people were frantically sweeping water out of doorways.
To get back to Sams we had to wade through calf to knee deep racing water in many large sections.
As we write this, Easter is only a few days away and we are excited to have Loren, our Aussie friend from
Yap to come and join us for
We are going to leave Koror and venture down south to the
Islands for some Diving, Kayaking, a visit and a pig out on Easter
Chocolate!!! Jelly Fish Lake
Should be a blast - if the weather gets better…
So that’s it for Episode 24 and a much shorter blog posting than normal.
The reports of terrible internet for us here at Koror are incorrect and we have fantastic service onboard Lorelei and at a reasonable price too.
So we will endeavour to make shorter and more regular blog postings in the future.
Look out for the next Episode in just 2-3 weeks’ time.
Enjoy our newly overh
auled blog site too.
Lots of new pages about Lorelei’s history, our sailing adventures onboard our catamaran Purrana from 2000-2004, fun times on Moreton bay with friends and lots more to come particularly about Scuba Diving.
Have a safe and Happy Easter Everyone.
aul and Lisa Hogger