We entered the Sail Indonesia Rally last year, having been enthused by Wal & Robyn's accounts of their travels in 2006/7. 135 boats entered the rally which left Darwin on 18th July.
Left Darwin Sat 18th 11:00am with the
fleet, although many boats left a day or two earlier. The start went well, but
the wind soon died and we motored through the night. The first decision was
whether to go east or west of Melville Island. Needless to say, we chose the
wrong way and went west. The wind came up about 4am and we sailed quite nicely,
until we were doing 7kts+ in lumpy seas so we decided to shorten sail to a more
comfortable 5.5 - 6.5kt.
This was OK for a while, but the wind shifted ENE instead of ESE, so it was quite tight, in fact we had to bear away to the west to make any speed. Meanwhile the seas were building, so it became quite bumpy. We continued all day (Sunday) this way, and calculated that at that speed, we would arrive in Saumlaki Monday night about 8 - 9pm. We had heard from others who arrived earlier that there were lots of fish traps and pearl farms in the entrance of the harbour - not a nice entrance in the dark.
So on Monday we slowed down to about 3.5 - 4 kts but still arrived near the
entrance about 4:30m Tuesday. We stooged around with about 6 other boats for a
couple of hours waiting for daylight. The traps, etc weren't too bad, and
we found our way to where the other boats were anchored - fairly deep at 14m. It would have been around 9:30 by the time we anchored, and waited for Customs and Quarantine. Confusion reigned, as promised by the organiser in Darwin. Customs and Quarantine eventually arrived around 6pm, so we could go ashore to the Gala Dinner. Some people had been trying to organise a water taxi service to avoid the long dinghy ride to the jetty. That only lasted one trip when they ran out of fuel and had no money to buy more! So quite a few disappointed, disgruntled people were left on their boats. We bit the bullet and took our dinghy in, about 30 minutes. There were some newly constructed steps above the big concrete blocks where Judy could alight. I then went to the end of a long line of dinghies, threw the painter up to Judy, then clambered from one to the other before getting ashore.
A bus took us to the hotel where the dinner was being held. There were rows of seats in the middle of a large room, with tables carrying various dishes down the sides. We collected a plate and proceeded to sample the food on offer. All quite tasty but not sure what some of it was. Various speeches and presentations were made, including oldest woman to May from Wavesweeper. Some musical interludes, and traditional dancing made up the rest. After all this excitement we had to wait for a bus, return to the jetty and retrieve the dinghy. We made it OK, it was all part of the experience.
Wednesday was Paper Warfare day. Even thought Customs and Quarantine had been and we had some paperwork, it wasn't the end of the story, oh no!!! First we had to see Immigration and get our passports stamped, then on to Quarantine to get a Certificate which cost Rp 110,000 or AUD20. Later we found out that we shouldn't have paid, and we got our money back. Then onto Customs again to collect our file which we have to carry, then to the Harbour Master for a clearance out. While there I discovered that I didn't have a copy of the Registration Certificate. Luckily, Customs had a scanned copy and printed it for me.
All this took many hours, and for what!?!?!? Thursday was wandering about Saumlaki centre, a ragtag collection of buildings, shops, markets with a constant buzz of motorbikes, scooters and taxis. Nothing in the way of large stores, and they all seemed to sell the same stuff more or less. We had lunch in the hotel's restaurant which had a deck over the water and steps where a dinghy could tie up. This became our preferred landing site but the tide had to be watched as it dried at low tide.
Friday we went on a tour arranged by one of the yachties. We missed the official tour because of the paper work. This tour consisted a taxi (minivan)with just enough seats for the eight of us and a 'guide' whose English was adequate. He took us to a village which has many carvers, keen to sell their wares. The carvers came out with the woodwork! We declined to buy. Next was a stop at a moonshine factory where they ferment then distil juice from coconut palms. Then onto someone selling pottery and woven baskets, all missable. The final stop was to a large Catholic church with a statue of Jesus, about 5m high, arms outstretched as if to dive from the edifice, hideously ugly and ill-proportioned. Also around the church were statues of Mary and a crucifixion. We were then taken back to town for lunch at another hotel. Here I discovered that my phone was missing from my backpack. I wasn't 100% sure that I had put it in, so didn't press the point too hard with the guide, but I guess the driver may have taken it when we were away from the taxi.
Today we left the anchorage and came around the corner, only about 17NM on the west side of the island, quite sheltered. We will probably take in a few more anchorages along the coast before setting off to Nila, a volcanic island about 120 NM north, then to Banda, another 120 NM, then a futher 120 NM to Ambon.
Spice Islands, Ambon and Wakatobi
Bandar are the original Spice Islands where nutmeg and cinnamon were grown under Portuguese and Dutch colonial rule. The old fort and cannon are reminders of these times. The islands themselves are very pretty, with great diving and snorkelling.
Ambon however is not so pretty - in fact downright filthy! The rubbish floating down the harbour greeted us in rafts. The sail Indonesia officials managed to move out all the fishing boats from the harbour to allow us to tie up Mediterranean style to the wharf. They also arranged for water and fuel to be delivered there. Here the rally split again - those who were continuing north to Sail Bunaken in Bitung and Manado (north Sulawesi) and those who decided that it was too far to go. We were in the second group and headed west to Wakatobi in SE Sulawesi. Needless to say, Ambon was not our favourite place to be, and we left after the main group headed north. Wakatobi was 150NM so just over a day from Ambon.
Wakatobi was an interesting stop. The local committee had organised for moorings to be laid for us, but unfortunately they were in very deep water with short or too long ropes. As a result, boats lifted the mooring blocks on a rising tide and then floated away, or they sailed around in great circles around other boats. We were on 4 moorings in one day! Nevertheless the committee went to great lengths to look after us. One event was the local Independence Day march. About 20 yachties took part as a rag-tag group who straggled along, much contrasting the polished marching of the other groups. The next day we were invited to view the official ceremonies in the parade ground. That evening we were invited to the Regent's residence to take part in further activities.
From Wakatobi we went to Hoga Lagoon with
fantastic snorkelling. From there to Flores Island, 3 days and 2 nights.
Day hopped along Flores to Labuan Bajo, the gateway to Komodo National Park. Missed the Official Events (OE) in
middle Flores as we had to get to Labuan Bajo by 3rd Sept to put our passports
in for visa extension. We were then early for the
LB event so went to Komodo for a few days then came back to meet Greg and Janise on Windchimes and Peter and Donna on Two Up. The OE was great, really good entertainment. Picture
12th Sept. We are now in The Komodo National Park;
basically 2 islands, Rincha and Komodo. There are actually more dragons on
Rincha, but no villages. On Komodo Is, there is a village and a school, and
unfortunately a chid was taken by a dragon in the school in February this year.
The dragons are quite similar to a goanna, but much bigger and stronger. They have brought buffalo and horses to the islands (as well as the pigs and deer that were there), to provide prey since they stopped feeding the the dragons about 15 years ago. We went to the ranger station and took a 2 hour walk where we were protected by the ranger with his forked stick! We also saw a dragon lying in ambush awaiting a buffalo, deer or horse to come down to the waterhole to drink. They only have to bite the animal to have a future meal The saliva in their mouth has about 30 very toxic bacteria, which will cause the animal's death in a couple of weeks. As dragons have a highly developed sense of smell (up to 5 km) they then go and feed, The largest, strongest dragons get to eat first. Not nice creatures, so we kept a careful lookout when we walked on the beaches!
Greg and Janise on Windchimes had some bad luck. We left Ambon with them, but they had to turn back when their gearbox packed up. A new drive plate had to be sent from Aus. They will be in Labuan Bajo early next week, so we will return there to meet up with them. Wave Sweeper, from CCCA have been with us but won't go back with us. We have finally been able to slow down and do some cruising. The tight schedule has meant pushing on instead of 'smelling the roses'. This has been the complaint of all the cruisers as the extra 700 nm in this year's rally has been squeezed into the previous years' time frame.
The weather continues to be hot, usually around 30 degrees, with water temperature 29 degrees! Snorkelling has been patchy, some great coral, but sometimes the clarity has not been so good. In this anchorage we expect it to better.
30 September 2009 We have now arrived in Lovina Beach, North Bali after crossing the Lombok
Strait. I hope that you have been checking the Winlink site for our tracks.
While this isn't Kuta it still is a tourist area with all that implies. I guess
I really only saw 10 money changers in a 20 minute walk! Lots of restaurants,
and a German bakery/deli selling bread (of course), cheeses of all kinds, Big M
chocolate milk and tomato juice, among many other delights.
We did a couple of overnighters to bypass Sumbawa and arrived in Medana Bay on NW Lombok. Night sailing is somewhat fraught - lots of fishing boats or floating bamboo structures without a light of course. They really made a big effort at MB for the yachties, putting in moorings and a floating dinghy dock. Its all part of a future marina/residential complex. Again, some
boats went through early or didn't even go in. There were around 40 boats for the OE which had good food but the entertainment was lacking ... While there we did a day tour with a local guide which was interesting, Greg and I hired motor-scooters and went for a long ride to a waterfall - lots of fun. Its ages since I was on a bike and forgot how nice it is to ride through the countryside, seeing the sights and smelling the um-m-m smells.
Tomorrow we will partake of a day tour arranged by the local organisers. Lots and lots of stalls set up selling clothes, food, drinks, you name it ... After that we resume the paper warfare to get our visas extended once again. This time, as its the 2nd extension, we need more photos and a thumbprint!
From Bali we head north to Kalimantan. There are a couple of OEs which we may or may not go to before Kumai River where the tangorangs (Claire's word) live in the National Park. Its a three day trip up the river which sounds good, although we have been warned to take our own warm clothing, bedding and pillows. From there we check out of Indonesia and head on to Singapore for a few days then Malaysia for another rally.
Lovina Beach to Kumai was about 400NM, so we had a couple of stops at two anchorages on the way, then an overnighter to the entrance of the Kumai River. There were many rally boats there, and many had already passed through. We were quickly met by Adi who offered to get us fuel, water and arrange the boat and crew to go to the Tanjun Putin National Park. We joined Jeff and May from Wavesweeper on one boat while Greg, Janise and friend Megan took another. The trip up the river was very interesting as we saw lots of oil palms at the mouth give way to rain forest as we ascended. On occasion we spied proboscis monkeys, birds, but no crocodiles. Our first stop was at Station No 3 where we met several orangs who lived around there. We were then taken to the feeding platform about 15 minutes walk into the jungle. There were quite a few orangs there, being fed milk as the bananas had run out. The big alpha male Tom made an impressive entrance as he emerged from the jungle and made his way onto the feeding platform. Inferior orangs scattered while Tom settled down to have a feed. There was one female who didn't go, she was 'interesting' to Tom, so he shared the milk with her.
Later she left and climbed a tree near the spectators. Tom climbed another and tried to get across to her. He shook the tree violently until it crashed to the ground, nearly hitting some spectators. After that excitement we made our way back to the Ranger station. The bananas had arrived and were being unloaded and stored. While we were watching this, one of the females, know either as 'Princess' or "Trouble Maker" came up to Judy and embraced her, firmly, insistently, trying to get her to come with her. The rangers rushed in with bananas and managed to entice her away. Later we were told that 'she bites'.
The next day it was raining, so we sat outside Station 2 and waited for it to clear. Finally we went to have a look but the rain kept the orangs away. After lunch we went to Station 1 where we waited, and waited while the tour guides whistled and hollered trying to get the orangs to come. Eventually they did come, we could hear their progress through the trees. It was a small group of a female with baby and youngster, and two males. They fed on bananas for a while, then disappeared into the forest.
Our return to Kumai was just after sunset. As we moved along the river back into the oil pals, we saw hundreds of fire-flies, lighting up the palms like Christmas lights.
While in Kumai we had the official welcoming ceremony (in the morning) then a tour of Pangkalan Bun. In the afternoon we saw a kind of tug-o-war, except it was in a long canoe with two paddlers at each end. The paddled like buggery, trying to get the centreline of the canoe past the judges. Naturally, some cruisers had a go, some won, some lost. Later that night we were taken to watch a game of "Fire Ball" which is soccer played with a fiery coconut and bare feet! We were invited to have a go and of course we accepted, but not the bare feet bit. I can tell you that kicking a coconut with the toes (inside a shoe) is very painful, and I lost the toenail as a result. However it was a lot of fun. See more pictures at http://picasaweb.google.com/MeridianofSydney/Indonesia2009
From Kumai to Belitung was 280NM which we did non-stop, leaving 5am Sunday 18th, arriving 11am Tuesday 20th. We had a mixture of no wind, plenty of wind and shifting winds. The anchorage in Belitung was quite bouncy with a brisk breeze blowing, but it soon settled down. This was the venue for the Rally finale, and also a local festival, so there were many stalls erected for the locals. The local committee arranged for a tour of the island and a stop in , entertainment, a farewell dinner and concert. Everyone really enjoyed their time here.
All too soon it was time to go. We had to be in Malaysia by the 30th October for the start of the Sail Malaysia Rally up the west coast. This was a further 400NM to be covered in less than a week.
Belitung to Singapore
We left on the 26th October and of course there was no wind, so we motored along at around 4.5 to 5kts in flat seas. We were heading for Nongsa Point marina on the island of Batam, south of Singapore. The next day after 27hrs of motoring, and about 50NM south of the equator, I noticed the oil pressure was down a bit. This is usually caused by low oil level, a result of oil leaks. I put some oil in and it came up a bit. I tried some more oil (different) and the engine slowed down, then stopped! Bugger! Absolutely locked solid, it wouldn't start. We called our friends Jeff and May who were about 3NM away, and they came to the rescue. They then proceeded to tow us about 250NM over the next three days and nights (with an overnight anchorage in Singapore) to Malaysia.
See some photos at the Google site: http://picasaweb.google.com/MeridianofSydney/