15/08/2008, Selat Solor
Yesterday we left Lombarto and the boats dispersed in all directions. The day before had been long and gruelling and the farewell ceremony running until midnight. As we drifted off on a flat sea in magnificent conditions we elected to go below Adonara Island rather than back up the same passage we had come in on. This took us away from the fleet and just ourselves and a couple of other boats motored slowly off in this direction.
Conditions were calm just a wiff of breeze right on the bow so as the day progressed we ran first one motor to chill the fridge and freezer and then the other to make water, the first since leaving Darwin, and to make a steady and slow passage away from Kawula across Selat Lamakera or the Straights of Lamakera towards Selat Solor. We were in no hurry and in these conditions speed, time cruising all merged into one with no pressure to be anywhere or get anywhere. As we cruised along the coast close to Adonara Island we passed many villages, new houses getting built including a large modern house with a tiled roof, something we had not seen in Indonesia before.
The trip down Selat Solor was quite spectacular with the current against us, then with us, then swirling and the same again. I now have the currents and tides fully worked out here, you stand facing your nose in the direction you want to go and the tide and current will then flow from that direction! Progressively the breeze predictably came in, conveniently the wind dies off every night and comes in mid morning. We set the headsail and motor sailed on through the Straights. Inter- Island ferries ply the Islands loaded with people, motor scooters and whatever else. Often overloaded and poorly trimmed we pass several of these in each direction. A larger ship is seen from time to time that goes to the major ports presumably with people and cargo. Of course then there is the small and smaller fishing boats here and there setting nets or line fishing. It is necessary to keep a constant lookout for floats and nets.
We passed a fairly new port type complex with a new building. Constantly dotted along the Islands are villages on the coast and villages right up to the top of the hills and mountains.
At about 2.30 we chose a destination to anchor up for the night just before Selat Flores and headed towards it. How nice it was to be away from the crowd, although it was great being with them at the time. Our good friends Jenny and Peter on Tiaki were tracking down this path as well and we notified them of our destination.
Arriving in the bay we had chosen we sounded the area as the water throughout Indonesia is very deep from hundreds to thousands of meters and much to deep for anchoring. Close to shore we found 30/40 metres and even closer, we are talking a hundred metres or so we found twenty and below so anchored up. A little later Tiaki joined us and two Kiwi boats went past to round the point only to find the water too deep for anchoring so came back and we gave them a position in front of us.
The wind then died down to a flat, calm and beautiful anchorage and we call congregated on Charmar for sundowners which continued on until about 8.30 under a full moon on dead calm water. Is it just so serene and beautiful to be out here. The surrounding islands and patches on the hills light up as the villages with electricity showed themselves. Fishing vessels went out to do their thing and the occasional ferry, one all light up (although no nav lights) and quite loud music (was it a bemo ferry) looked just like a dinner cruise boat only it continued past down the straight so must have been a ferry.
We are off a small village but yesterday evening the "dad's army" or cadets were drilling and marching left, right, left right, whistle whistle whistle!!! This morning at about 5 they were up at it again. This is a very small village has a large concrete landing dock from days gone by, a few motorcycles and the omniprescent kids although we did not go ashore here, revelling in some quite time and the great conditions.
This morning there is a breeze coming up and we will head off through Selat Flores after debating the tides and currents last night. As a fairly narrow passage there could be a strong tidal run here. Again the conditions are good.
Coconut groves line the coast, the country is a bit dry and parts burnt off on the steep hillsides.
The sailing areas we are in at present are superb with sheltered and protected waters between the islands with the odd passage back out into open waters as we break free from island areas.
The country and waterways are quite different than I anticipated and pictured. We should have expected but there are villages everywhere.
It is now 7.30 and we depart at 8.00 for the Selar Flores which should be interesting so we will be off and readying now.
08/08/2008, Kalabahi - ALOR
Today still in the Fjord at Alor Island anchored at Kalabahi. This is a smaller town although there are 175,000 people on this small group of islands with various regions. Interestingly some live by the sea and others in the Highlands. The boys we were talking to last night who are training to be English School Teachers walk 35 kms to get to the University from the highlands where their families are farmers. They had never been on a boat before and wanted to come and see Charmar. To our surprise they were a little afraid in the dinghy. We had assumed with the beautiful waterways and the tiny and big kids and adults that are constantly plying the waters in the tiniest of dugouts through to traditional fishing boats and Sampans that they would all be water- babies - but not so - the farmers do farming and the fishermen do fishing! The littlest of kids paddle out to our boat in the littlest of dugout canoes to sit on the back steps and wait for a talk or a chocolate. They have a great method of flick rolling their dugouts to bail the water out if they capsize or are capsized by their mates or crew!
Last night the Gala dinner had some wonderful performances with traditional music by the school children, traditional dancing in costume (pity I can't get photos on at the moment!) and singing and dancing.
Today we did the tour and went to the Museum and then to the highlands to a traditional highland village without power or any "modern amenities" where they and we danced and enjoyed their traditional lifestyle before we walked back down not exactly trusting the bus that didn't quite make it to the top. Then on to Mali Beach for a "Bento Box" lunch and more music from the local elementary school which was just wonderful using their traditional instruments with enthusiasm and gusto.
After that out to an area which I am not sure where it was exactly (didn't have the GPS with me!) where we planted trees that will have our names on a plate on them, Sandlewood. So it tramping through Indonesia in years to come look for the tree called Chris White and the one called Dianne White of Charmar in the Memorial Forest! There were giant Sandlewoods in this forest some 500 years old and 50 metres high with a circumference equal to a curtain fig. I guess we did this for our Carbon Sequestration or maybe just to replace the enormous amount of paperwork required to enter and travel in this country. Some people are still stinging from having our boats impounded but it really was not a problem. Personally I think it was just a sure way of keeping us in Kupang for four days minimum!!
We have a couple of more days here and then will press onto to Lembata on Pelau Kawatu about 80 miles east after passing a couple of other island and probably doing battle with the fierce tides and currents that prevail in this area. Despite all sorts of software and planning there has been more talk on the radio about the currents but few have been able to benefit from it and I think more luck and chance than science, but it certainly slows you to a snail pace when against and turbo charges when it is with you. Coming in here we had 9 knots plus with one engine just ticking over! (We also had 1.8 knots earlier with one engine running normally - which is NOT a fast way of getting anywhere. Still can't beat sailing with the fresh breeze where we get 9+ knots and better.
Still signing hundreds of kids exercise books with our names and residence - thanks teachers what a good idea!! Some have a little English but it is easy to lose them by asking their age etc. Nevertheless the Country clearly has a policy to teach all Children English and except for the remote villages many people speak a little or quite good English and there are many English speaking local teachers and many more studying for the task with a five year course.
We are still overwhelmed by the hospitality and friendliness and the effort made to make our stay rewarding for us.
Monday today and we are in Kupang. I have found a wifi internet connection and thought I would upload some photos. Well after an hour over lunch and a Bintang beer or so I have one photo on, I thought I had three so sorry about the lack of photos but the internet is just tooooo sloooow to do this. Yesterday we attended to some cleaning up and other things and finalised our immigration paperwork and boat release forms - 4 copies of everything we could find and several rubber stamps later and it was agreed we could be released and "maybe tomorrow my friend will come and take the impounding sticker off your boat".
So today we went to the local markets after travelling round the town in Bemo Bus (this is a small van with a guy who hangs off the side and solicits business. It has 1000 watts of music booming inside and out (it doesn't need a motor other than to power the sound system which bounces it along the road with the base, it has many aerials and at night flashing neon lights all over it, and stickers all over, (Lachie eat your heart out) the driver peers out between sticker with hand on the musical horn which talks to the other drivers as you weave your way around the traffic and myriad motor bikes. Well we finally got to the local markets, great, and then we went to the local mall which was great as well. Even had KFC which was empty, but with Bird Flu not our choice either!!!
This afternoon, yes, "my friend did come to the boat, and he, the customs man, was green seasick, but he did allow us to remove the sticker impounding us and we have gave them some treatment with seasick bands, they got their colour back and we took them onto the next boat.
Thought I would do a quick Blogsite and email check but, hey, the speed is so slow forget that. Only one picture on the Blogsite and time to go. Couldn't even attach to the email.
Tomorrow we may move onto Alor, but we are in cruising mode now so difficult to rush anything, we'll just see what the day is like.
Alor looks like a good anchorage but we'll probably do a day sail up the coast from here, anchor somewhere for the night, and then across to Alor the next.
Would like to be there for the celebrations, tour and an agricultural festival they have.
In th meantime it has been great mixing with these wonderful people here and exploring the local area.
29/07/2008, Nearing Timor
Again yesterday we sailed all day just under the MPS or Spinnaker doing maybe an average of just four knots with a breeze of variable 6 knots plus or minus, VERY light, getting up to a couple of puffs of 8 knots momentarily during the day. Nevertheless a great and relaxing day on the water with very flat seas. Same as the days before at 1900 or around 7.00pm the little wind that there was dies out to nothing. Dinner at the table as if we were in a marina, quite unusual when out at sea. So last night we ran one motor at low revs from 7.00pm until 6.45 this morning. (lucky diesel or "sola"as it is called is only about half Aussie prices at about 80/90 cents per litre). I was hoping not to buy any however we have used a bit already and will use more before we stop at Kupang.
So it looks like another lovely day with a nice sunrise, calm seas and light, very light breezes. We are ambling along with the MPS now and should reach Kupang probably sometime tomorrow all going well.
We have in company about five other boats in the same vicinity so we have been keeping each other company and watching out for each other. During late yesterday and last night we passed several fishing boats in close proximity and a gas well platform. It is a small world one of the boats with us just recognised another boat that they had sailed with three years ago but didn't know they were here, and a kiwi boat motored past us night before last and they had sailed at Paremata where Dianne sailed and knew "Scotty" from the Mata Club, Dianne's brother. There are a few Kiwi boats here and quite a few from US as well as a smattering from elsewhere. Norbert who we helped out of Bayview Lock is from Austria and sailing by himself, now on the homeward bound legs of his circumnavigation.
The ocean bottom here also has an interesting profile with some shoals (shallow water) and areas where it drops from 50 metres to 250 metres and back up again. But there is no impact on the surface.
It has been rather too light and slow for trolling although we have had the line limply out a couple of times I think the lure would not be attractive to any smart fish!
Fannie Bay with the Fleet on Friday
24/07/2008, Fannie Bay
We finally escaped from the Marina on Wednesday night. Friends from Tiaka Peter, Jenny and Patrick came over for Pizza and to help us out at 9:00pm.
With less than three inches either side and some flat fenders we had acquired we managed to reverse through without damage and make our getaway. It took then a couple of hours to motor around to Fannie Bay.
Yesterday we fuelled up and completed more preparations and today we clear customs.
The wind generator has really worked, there has been a lot of wind here the last few days although it drops off at night (why we left the lock at 9.00pm). Not as bad as the east coast though which seems to be getting a flogging.
Tomorrow we have offered to go and help a single hander from Austria on a large Lagoon cat escape from Bayview Lock, as we did. It would be impossible to do it yourself without damage.
We are pretty much ready to go, although there is still 100 things we could/should do, but that is always the way.
Due to leave the lock this morning but cancelled out due to the wind, which would only exacerbate the 10cm freeboard we would have to get out! Pretty much loaded up with the groceries etc, still have to get the diesel tomorrow (if we get out of the lock). Most other plans on track.
Yes - comment came from a guest on board many years ago - What is that?"; "it's a wind generator" -- with a look of mild amazement, "Does it really work?'
Busy days here, amazing how much you have to do when you go away to do nothing for a while!
Water pumps to fx; fenders to get (thin ones for the lock exit on Wednesday, dash here, dash there, fix that, put the sail on, liferaft, oops nearly dropped it into the water, paddle canoe, roll up the old sail, between all that attend to some log books and sailing instruction for past participants. Doing nothing is not really nothing!
Back on Board in Darwin. Preparations continue. The Wind Generator is installed. It didn't generate much wind it is pretty calm here. A power winch still to fix, a genoa to put on, water to fill etc etc. A beautiful moon here tonight after a dramatic sunset. Great weather and conditions for the "crossing" if it stays in.
Final preps are still underway with a full day work in Darwin last Sunday and now lots of paperwork getting submitted for visas, permits, clearances etc etc etc. However we are getting set to go and this time next week we will be attending to final documents and "getting the covers off" as we fuel up and start to attend the briefings and so on. In the meantime Kirsty our daugther will be getting four teeth out and "Mum" will go and spend 4 days with her to help out over this period.
Not much to update, Charmar's wind generator tower should be ready this week for a bit more amps top up; a new battery coming, some minor changes to wiring and final preps taking place. Not much to say but there still a few little jobs to do as we finalise arrangements.
Charmar is currently having a layover in Darwin. On 19th July there are briefings and functions over the following week in relation to the Rally and then a departure on the 26th July for Kupang.
Time for some maintenance and servicing over the next couple of weeks as we prepare for a possible departure.
17/06/2008, Bayview Marina
Today we have been going all day cleaning and sorting and washing and cleaning and servicing - its midnight and time to knock off
THERE ARE MORE PHOTOS UNDER PHOTO GALLERY to the right - for those interested click on it and then the Cairns to Darwin Folder and there some photos of events and places on the trip
Today we managed a booking into Bayview Marina for the layover. So off we went, farewelling Brad from Townsville on our way past as he is leaving for Indonesia tomorrow. Bayview is a marina in a lock around inside the inner harbour of Darwin. The people who we booked with didn't know how to get there from Fannie Bay so we set off and it is the furthest Marina up a long run of Mangrove Creek. Anyway an interesting passage as we slalomed through the yachts anchored and moored in the very narrow channel. Sometimes a port and starboard buoy close together with boats moored between them and then passing through rows of front and end moored boats until the end of the creek is near! Then we see the lock an interesting manouvre away.
Now they know our beam, 7.24 metres, and they said they take boats to 7.25 metres and welcome Rally Boats. Anyway to cut a long story short the marinas here are all basically run off the back of real estate agents who look after the adjoining properties and units. It would be fair to say I think that the Marina part of the business is just a nuisance to them, they don't understand it, nor understand boats - and probably don't care.
With the narrow entrance they had not allowed for the barnacles and oysters that were growing profusely on the entrance to the lock and narrowed the gap by more than the tolerance allowed as well as presenting an abrasive surface. It was just impossible to get in without a few scratches on the oysters.
The old timers told us, AFTER we were in that, that you only go in on the top of the tide so your boat is above the oysters. Well we could have done that as it was only a couple of hours till high tide - but the "Marina" office instead of telling us that urged us to go through asap. They could have even had a couple of plastic curtains to hang down over the oyster clad entrance, OR if they really cared they would keep the oysters OFF, but any way we are in and tied up. Not looking forward to the exit.
So today has been cleaning, flushing bilges, cleaning engines and carpets, hose down etc.
Of course before we could get into any Marina we had to get treated for Green Mussel by a shot of steriliser up all sea inlets and then left to stand for 14 hours.
So if going into a Marina in Darwin make sure you understand the implications and DON'T rely on the staff to help or provide any advice OR indeed to be able to even tell you where the Marina is. A brief description of the complexity of getting through the moored boats in the narrow channel would also have been good!
Anyway, here we are all tied up and half cleaned up and plenty to do tomorrow!
15/06/2008, Fannie Bay
After rounding Cape Don we still had some ninety miles to go to get to Darwin. What a massive waterway this is behind Melville and Bathurst Islands and has some great channels leading down into Darwin waterways.
With careful planning one can "run" the tides down into Darwin and pick up possibly several knots of boat-speed. As we were out there and had not anchored up we decided to continue on regardless, although we did calculate and plot the tides, we did find that "without careful planing" there is still a chance of picking up the tides!!
We sailed on under good breezes and just about where I had predicted we would be crossing shoals the water might get a bit rougher - of course the sea calmed out, the wind dropped, try the main - not enough breeze, try the MPS, the wind dropped further!! We started in calms and it seemed we were destined to finish in calms so late afternoon the iron topsail was set, with just a knot to fill the MPS until that died out and we motored the last 40 miles to Darwin arriving and anchoring at Fannie Bay at midnight. Still if you have to motor, it is not bad at ten knots with a couple of knots of tide giving a 'free-ride' on a mirror surface.
This leg was a 600 nautical mile straight sail through from Seisa at the tip of Cape York, and completed the 1,000 mile trip from Cairns. From Seisa across was 4.5 days. It was a nice moonlight night, fortunately, and the approaches are easy, and made easier by locking in behind a small ship on the AIS to take a few shortcuts.
The Darwin Sailing Club could be heard kicking on last night. It is just about time this morning to go and investigate.
14/06/2008, Cairns to Darwin
Andrew joined Charmar undertaking the Yachtmaster Inshore program and gaining sea miles and night experience. Experienced all conditions from flat calm to strong winds and clocked up some useful miles. A good part of the Charmar crew!
14/06/2008, Cape Don
After a great night sail with smooth and gentle seas and 20 +/- knots of breeze we had a good sail, good night and for those sleeping a good night sleep! We covered some good distances. Again we are only sailing under Genoa, last night we gybed twice the first sail change for several days!! There is certainly something to be said for sailing downwind. This morning is a beautiful sunrise as we head for and then round Cape Don, the crossing of the Gulf and Arnhem Land now complete. As we round Cape Don we start heading down towards Darwin - about 80 - 90 miles to go in protected waters and bays. We go down behind Melville Island and below Bathurst Island to pass through Clarence Straight and then down to Darwin. Conditions are excellent and we should be close to Darwin tonight all going well! Haven't seen another boat for days - indeed haven't seen anything much for days but we are in sight of Cape Don now. Coastwatch called up again last night but we couldn't see or hear the aircraft anywhere. Apart from that just passaging on! This is about our fifth day without a stopover so we have made fairly good time, but it would be good to visit the many bays and anchorages across the top of Arnhem Land so we have that for another day! Many of the boats are still waiting to cross the Gulf and a number are going to Gove and working their way around via Elcho Island and the various day stops.
13/06/2008, Arafura Sea
A good and friendly sail all day yesterday with reasonable time, but we are sailing for comfort not speed. Last night was ok, about 2030 the autopilot packed it in and we thought that was the end of it. It was extremely difficult steering conditions running square in a rolling sea that became quite choppy, some think the worst night out so far. However in an effort to detect the problem it seems it was only a weak connection of the power cables and oh how fortunately it came back to life by about 2300 so the night became much better although a slapping sea did not provide for much relief. Today we are cruising on across the top of Arnhem Land but well out to sea. We haven't seen a boat for days and only the buzz and radio call from Coastal Surveillance last night to know that there are people out there. We are well out of the sight of land at least 60 miles offshore crossing a straight line from Cape Wessel to Cape Don around New Year Island. Today is pleasant although our boat speed not all that good as we sail under genoa alone in around 20 knots of wind. For the crew onboard this leg is the equivalent of sailing half way to New Zealand! This morning called customs in Darwin to report a vessel having some problems out near Ashmore Reef, about three hundred miles from us so we cannot offer assistance, but via a series of radio relays through Sheila Net on 8161 we satphoned their plight to Customs Darwin who relayed it to Canberra where it is being followed up.
All well and we should be nearing Darwin waters late tomorrow night after doing a full all nighter again tonight - Friday 13th.