15/09/2008, Java Sea
At 1915 last night a red ball, looking like a giant hot air balloon, grew from the horizon almost directly behind us, the east. As it grew and then rose above the horizon the full moon turned orange and then yellow and stayed with us for the night until near 0700 this morning when a red sun raised itself lazily from the same position; almost as the moon and long and guiding reflection on the water directly in our path westerly dipped away slowly.
At 0900 yesterday a light breeze started to fan the flat sea that was threatening a hot, tropical and still day. In consultation with Kassoumay on radio we decided to take advantage of the light breeze and flat seas and make our next move, one of 165 nautical miles, an overnighter at least and maybe more with the very light conditions.
We both weighed anchor and set sail, motor sailing the north westerly route until a little after what would normally be lunch time when we set the MPS and Main and managed a very pleasant sail with modest breezed on a flat and calm sea for the afternoon, The two boats crossed each other from time to time as we made our way along the same waypoints. Very pleasant sailing, or moreso getting about, reading a book, doing some tasks, and the boats saililng themselves in the idyllic conditions. As the day turned to night it made little difference in the bright moonlit evening with the flat seas visibility was excellent.
Nights ago we were in pitch black conditions, in choppy seas with ships, local boats, unlit boats, fish traps, fads, fishing boats, islands, rocks and reefs and so on. Ironically sailing in Indonesia is full of contradictions and contrasts.
Tonight we are on the flatest of seas, from horizon to horizon - north, south, east or west there is nothing to be seen. The flat but dimpled water with the light breeze just ruffling the surface extends as far as the eye can see for all points of the compass without interruption, without anything else being there. This is one massive pond from horizon to horizon in any direction.
Seemingly in the centre of this universe two catamarans are sitting on the water criss crossing occasionally and it almost seems like they are stationery and the ocean is moving under them. It appears a little surreal in these conditions.
After sailing in waters kilometres deep just metres from shore, along the side of rugged and steep coastlines and islands, passing by the volcanoes and the aftermath of the land movements that created this archipelago we are now sailing it seems on a vast pond that is constantly 34 metres deep, not just for a short distance but for hundreds of miles, constantly 34 metres deep and no sign of any land or rocks or life. Yes eventually we cross a shipping lane and several ships are moving south and north across or behind our path, and eventually we see a fishing boat or two, but in reality we are pretty much out here by ourselves - somewhat unique with the boating traffic in Indonesia and the myriad fishing vessels that ply the waters miles and miles from any location or village or settlement.
We motor, we sail, we put the MPS up, we take it down and we motor sail in our effort to keep up an average of 6 knots, Sometimes we are doing 8 knots sometimes down to 3 calling us to start one or the other of the motors so we get in before dark today. And the day delivers more of the same. The main and the MPS until 0930 now we have a motor running as well. Kassoumay has slipped a little way away from us but we touch base every six hours and can still pick them up on Radar.
It is hot and tropical as we are getting close to the equator, in a day or two we should cross the equator all going well.
In the balmy conditions we have all read a number of books, and of course the chores of keeping a vessel going, eating etc is easy as at times it seems the vessels are hardly moving and yet we are maintaining our averages.
15/09/2008, Palau Nangka
Yesterday was a day of relaxation and rest, we had a snorkel across some great reef areas identifying some unusual occupants, baked bread, and watched a dvd loaned to us by Kassoumay, Master and Commander which seemed very appropriate watching the sailing clippers with the ocean horizon as a backdrop to the left and right of the screen, gave it real identity.
This morning we were to head off but are "glassed out" with the water as flat as a mirror and at this point no breeze at all. We will stay unless it pipes in which it may do as it is still early.
Our location is Palua Nangka which is an unoccupied island, with a great reef surrounding it, and a small offlying cay covered in coconuts, the classic tropical island scene. The islands are tropical and green, with Nangka having steep and rainforest covered sides - almost jungle, and the cay just a cover of coconuts. The interminable fishing boats come in at night and go in the morning and the occasional boat, totally covered in cut trees or greenery comes in, stops for a short break, and heads off again. Who knows where they come from and where they are going to??
One of the lasting images we will have of Indonesia is the boats, everywhere there is boat traffic and small boats plying their trade.
Coming on the last leg Dianne was at the helm in the pitch black of night when she noticed a small light, she called me up only to identify that there was a small boat only about 50 metres in front of us, it steamed around in a circle as we also changed course to avoid it and as soon as we went pas they turned off their light to completely disappear into the darkness once again.
Well a stunning morning here, we have just been on the rally radio net and they are in 25 knots of breeze and we are in flat calm. Some boats up at Kalimantan seeing the Orang u Tangs which would have been a good trip also, but we will reserve that one for a later date.
Our next leg is 165 nautical miles so an overnighter - and we would like a fresh but not strong breeze to knock this over quickly.
Today we will leave if the breeze freshens in, if not more snorkelling and exploring and maybe a dive.
14/09/2008, Palau Nangka
From yesterday's blog you would know that we were in ideal sailing conditions through the previous night, comfortable, speeds of 11, 10, 9 knots consistently, running at about twice the speed we had planned for the passage, beautiful moonlit night, flat seas - oh how idyllic it is to sail in these conditions!!
But the Ocean is a hard taskmaster and as we near the equator and the opportunity to meet King Neptune himself he takes the opportunity to remind us it is not always like this! Coming into yesterday morning the wind continues to whip up, the seas get lumpy, and wind gets "harder" - not that the wind strength is a problem but it is 'hard wind' - rain squalls and lightning appear in the distance to the east and to the west.. As we contact the vessel travelling with us, and they started at midnight so are a fair distance behind as we expected them to catch us we find that they have been through two squalls with high winds and rough conditions.
We see squalls up ahead so we put a reef in the main, we get the squalls, it blows a bit but not excessively only about 25's, but it comes from the front and the conditions deteriorate so we furl the genoa and set the staysail - a smaller headsail. I get the lens knocked out of my prescription sunglasses in the process, of course it disappears quickly! We sail on, our companions are no longer catching us. They get rain, we get the deteriorating conditions.
Yesterday was grey and miserable and not a comfortable sail.
As we go into nightfall we plan and replan our destinations and waypoints to get to an anchorage and tucked in safely for the next morning - Sunday morning.
Early evening although it is very dark out because of the cloud we can see a black, very black, very very black area on the horizon that reflects black on the water in the light of lightning flashes. We see it on the radar, a large rain squall - it is a rain or rain and wind squall? We keep our reduced sail but try to sail around the west of it as it bares down on us, and we were sailling towards the centre of it. It catches us of course and rains, and rains and rains - torrential. The decks needed a flush with fresh water, this is the first good fresh water wash since Darwin marina! We sail up and down in it almost hove to at times, fortunately the wind in it is only about 10 knots. It is dark, very very dark, about as dark as being inside a cow's belly! We detect a track out and sail, motor out the back of the squall - we let our companions know as it is heading directly in their direction about 20 miles down the track, they are wresting with the conditions and a young family and some seasickness on board.
We agree our next destination to be our original planned destination but we are almost a day in front of our planned arrival in daylight hours, by sailing very slowly (which is sometimes easy) we will get to it by daylight but not too much earlier. Our companions will travel just a bit faster and catch us. We leave all reefs in and just the small headsail, the wind has dropped - since we entered the squall - and the seas are now flat and comfortable so it is quite comfortable just dribbling along with a light breeze and calm seas. We make some water for a couple of hours running one engine to keep on track in the now fluky breeze.
Towards sunrise we are proceeding towards our anchorage, we would not attempt to go into without daylight and we are just a little concerned that there may not be enough light. We see our companions right back in the distance, so now we have visual contact. The anchorage is inside an extensive reef on a small island in about 25 metres so is quite a deep anchorage. The anchorage bay does not show on the charts electronic or otherwise! With the chart offsets here, even with known waypoints, we would not go in without the greatest navigation aid known to man - a good eye and sound visibility!
CÚst bon! we see a boat leaving, a yacht, it is good. We call them up and they have anchored there overnight so they give us some tips on entry and where to anchor and we bid each other well. We try to raise our companions on the radio as they speak fluent french (they are from France after all!) and would have been able to communicate easier but we cannot raise them. This is a bonus that we have further waypoints!
We see a local boat go in fishing, another bonus, we go in from the north and enter a channel through the coral reefs which are quite visible now. We motor on seeking a reasonable anchoring spot and end up almost back out the other end of the channel almost where the French boat indicated they were anchored.
Our companions come in the other end of the channel, at our now expert advice, we were in there and could see the reefs clearly now!!!
They anchored nearby and it was clean up time, pancake time and for a well needed sleep for a few hours!!! Into the hammock I go.
In summary we did this passage in eight hours less than predicted as a conservative estimate, we had winds of up to 25 knots which is is not bad but tough sea conditions, we had mostly favourable currents, we had boat speeds of up to 11.3 knots which is good, we had calms - our average for the passage came to 5.63 knots - a slow passage but in some ways a quick passage! Yes your right that is confusing - just like the seas were confused. We had some great rain squalls. We had fantastic lightning shows, (we had no lightning strikes - a statistic we like to keep!).
I think maybe we will have a day or two here before we press on, the next leg is a fairly long one also and it would be good if the weather stabilised a little first.
As for the area, just beautiful, a couple of local fishing boats plying the waters - heh but everywhere there is salt water in Indonesia there is a few or a few thousand boats fishing it it.
There is small island looks like a cay covered in coconuts a short distance across - about three times as big as Green Island, there is a small rocky islet adjacent to our anchorage surrounded by reef, there is plenty of reef - the island is high sided but not mountainous, lovely sandy beaches, can't see a village but there could be one - there usually is. Imagine the Whitsundays a thousand times bigger with every island and outcrop having villages and settlements!
The ocean is a hard taskmaster at times and for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction - just when you might start thinking you have found the perfect sailing area there is a reminder that it can give you a serve as well!
12/09/2008, Java Sea
We took a walk across Kalimanjawa , through coconut groves and along the southern beaches this morning and left at 1700 for the next leg a trip of about 220 mile. We had three channels we could go through southern, via Selat Bangka next to Java Island, Central - the obstacle course, or Northern through open water. We elected the northern to get the better sailing angle and avoid the Java Coast where the last couple of nights we had seen fantastic lightning shows and some cloud action and squalls. Java is very steep and no doubt a generator of this type of activity at this time of year.
We set off into a forecast of 15 knots. The Java Sea so far has been very kindly with excellent sailing conditions. It is very shallow compared to the areas we have been travelling in where the depth could be 200 metres within a stone throw from shore and thousands of metres (kilometres) just off shore. The Java Sea is about 60 metres depth (so we are close to land - 60 metres straight down but that is the only land we are near!) We have had 12 - 17 knot breezes and generally favourable currents that give us 7 to 8.5 knots of boatspeed in great conditions and it is a beautiful moonlight night here until about 3.30. There is quite a bit of commercial traffic including some ships and tugs towing dumb barges.
Interesting laying back in the cockpit with the stars above and reflecting that we started from Darwin with about 130 boats, along the track we were travelling with a pack of ten to a dozen or less and now for the final third of the trip we are in company (and great company they are) in Kassoumay also a catamaran. All three experiences have been good - the full pack and all the formal occasions, welcomes, trips, functions etc and the exploratory sailing alone where we are the only boats in the area and it is obviously quite a novelty for the locals to have sail boats near and around their islands!
Some of the water across from Darwin and the shoals is quite shallow, the waters around Eastern Indonesia are very deep and whilst the nearby Islands - mainly Java - are very steep the water here is relatively shallow. We will sail through the night, tomorrow and tomorrow night before reaching a suitable destination to anchor but it is great conditions and good passagemaking sailing at present.
11/09/2008, Pulau Karrimujawa
From the last entry yes we did arrive at Palua Bawean and a wonderful anchorage it was. We arrived and went for a walk up to the village. It was quite a way and quite steep at places along a single lane road but what a quaint village. It was interesting that many of the houses were having work done to them, they were of a very high standard and many were fully tiled all around and tiled facades, stainless steel gates, immaculate and tidy. The usual number of small shops but of a very high standard. What a beautiful community. Then there was the rice paddies and farming land on very fertile ground, many kites were flying high in the air some very big ones, the people were well dressed and so friendly and nice. One chap stopped and told us about the Island, he and others "work offshore" this generally means the oil and gas rigs. He also had a house on another island but loves Bawean and always comes here! The population is about 40,000 and they are building an international airport at present for the future. The diving is great and the island a great place. And it is - is lush, steep, good farming. all the boats (and there are many many) are freshly and brightly painted. The fishing boats were stopping to give us fish. A fantastic anchorage and a great place.
Yes we did get Paul the autopilot back from leave of absence. On the more mundane side I pulled out the Autopilot controller and sure enough there was a fuse blown inside it. I replaced it with a spare I had and put it all back together and wired it back in! It worked ............for a minute. The problem is that if the fuse blows it requires all the wiring to be disconnected and the controller unit to be removed to get to the internal fuse. So this time I jockeyed up a wire to the fuse connections and put a blade fuse outside the unit that I can get to easily. Paul the autopilot has been working diligently since.
Now we are sailing in company with a family on Kassoumay, a Lagoon 47 cat, and delightful company they are. They are faster than us so we leave earlier and then end up chasing them to the next anchorage.
We enjoyed the stop over at Bawean, and morning tea on Dutch Touch, but left at about 2.00pm in the afternoon for Karrimanjuwa about 140 miles west. These island are located away from anything else in the middle of the Java Sea. There are few groups of relatively small islands. We set the MPS and Kassoumay a main and jib and for the whole trip we were only about 6 mile from each other until dawn. The Java Sea has been a pleasure to sail so far. We had a wind square behind at 12 - 15 knots during the mind it blew up to some gusts of 20, to 25 too much for the MPS but we were making good time at 8 - 9 knots in good conditions. Just before dawn at about 5.30 we picked up a rain squall on the radar about 12 miles in front on our course. We thought it prudent to take down the MPS which we did in the dark and put up the Genoa and continued on. The squall blew away but the wind had veered so we needed the Genoa anyway and just sailed under it with about 20 mile to go. The wind then started to die out and our speed dropped from 8++s to 4. Kassoumay in front reported the anchorage unsuitable so we both went another 12 miles to a further island and are anchored in a nice little bay.
Two fishing boats with three boys (about 20 y o) on and gave us some fish, that didn't want money just a gift, so they came on board, had a coke and chocolate and we gave them some small gifts. They stopped for about an hour communicating (they didn't speak English and we didn't speak Bahasi) but with the Lonely Planet guide we had some fun and then they left and went back to their village on their two traditional boats. It was great.
Nice coral here in the Bay and there is a lot of reef around these islands which are picture postcard style.
If we think we have the only reef in Australia we are going to be for a shock, there are fantastic reefs and corals here for snorkelling and diving, very cheap holidays, and a number of international airports currently under construction. It is going to be a holiday destination of the future there is no doubt.
Tomorrow we will head off on a long leg of about 280 miles probably over two nights.
08/09/2008, Pulau Bawean
If nothing else sailing in Indonesia is rarely boring! We left Bali headed for Maselembo Besar Island but yesterday morning early after the radio sched @ 0730 arranged to meet with another vessel travelling north west, in fact one from Mossman, at Pulau Bawean some 120 miles to the west but directly along our course out. In fact we were going to go there from Bali but thought we might go and dive MB first. So we dog legged and headed for Pulau Bawean. We had been sailing through the night and this would extend our passage to another full night at least. The wind was fitful but blowing at 16 - 17 knots from square behind so we sailed through the day just with the genoa. This wasn't all that great as though comfortable we had tide across sea and slightly lumpy conditions and weren't making all that good time maybe just 5 - 6 knots. We felt like we should be going faster.
Those that read yesterday's missive will recall that Paul, our autopilot, had unexpectedly decided to take a short (we hope) period of leave or maybe just went AWOL. Maybe it is just a fuse (we hope) but we have to pull the unit out as it has two fuses inside it to check and as we rely on the autopilot also as the rudder indicator which is very important to us it is difficult to do whilst travelling and also there is the risk of damaging something in the process with the movement so we will wait until we are at anchor and then check and maybe fix it (we hope). It is a long way to hand steer to Singapore!
Anyway as is the way with Indonesia, late in the afternoon the breeze is on the cusp of being too weak for just the genoa (headsail) but the gusts are too strong for the MPS and there has been a lot of cloud action on the horizons during the day and we hadn't wanted to risk putting the MPS up which can be a cow to get down if the wind strengthens unexpectedly. But around early dinner time and just before dark the wind slows to 8 - 12 knots and the boat speed slows so it is time to put the 'big fella' up.
That's great we pick up boat speed to now 6 - 7 knots and occasionally little bursts of more! It is good to be hooting along a bit faster to our destination. It was going to be lunchtime tomorrow arrival and now it is reasonably early morning with the extra speed. On in to the night we go.
It is a very pleasant night, the moon is bright lighting up the water, and the seas have calmed, the breeze is very pleasant and just nice for a night sail under spinnaker or MPS. We often don't use this sail at night when short handed as it is a handful to get in if blowing.
Around maybe 1100 Dianne is at the helm and calls me up as she has seen something flash by on the Port side. An inspection reveals that there is a white buoy trailing along not far behind us! I guess we have finally and inevitably picked up one of these fishing buoys. Further inspection reveals a bamboo pole with a rag attached trailing out from under us. I pull the bamboo post up from the stern but whilst I can pull it up I cannot dislodge it, pull the buoy up and few hundred metres of nylon line but cannot dislodge the bamboo pole stuck under the boat. Also notice something else dragging in the water below us, it is night of course. Well we have to stop the boat to see what we can do about this so we set about dropping the MPS, to do this we start the sock coming down over it, unfurl the genoa to blanket it to make it possible to pull it into the sock and then drop it and refurl the genoa. Just want you want to do at midnight! Anyway once stopped we are able to dislodge the bamboo pole and a large foam float that was the other item dragging under water. What a relief I was not looking forward to the other option of a midnight dive to see what it was caught on and to cut it free!!! Certainly not boring.
These fishing buoys and poles are very commonplace, along with FAD's, nets, lines and boats! However through the day we had not noticed any FAD's or buoys in this area as we were in the middle of the Java Sea and at least 50nm from land or islands but maybe this was just a stray free floating one as it had no anchor or other equipment on it. Anyway we put it back where we found it, glad to be rid of this unwanted passenger, and back on track without a swim. We reset the Genoa for the rest of the night for an easier sail and carried on a little slower but for an easy ride through the rest of the night. Tuesday morning we can see Pulau Bawean, about 25 miles to go and our anchorage all going well. Will probably have a night here before some long long treks north west>
07/09/2008, Java Sea
Left Bali yesterday morning, conditions were calm and we motored all day heading for Maselambo Besar Island in the middle of Java Sea. We were able to start sailing early evening which was a relief. At about 2200 the autopilot decided to take a short holiday so we have had to steer manually throughout the night and this morning continuing - we will check him out when we get to the next anchorage hopefully by tonight, but progress is fairly slow at present with the breeze right behind us and just the genoa up.
All ok though. Nothing else to report.
05/09/2008, Lovina - Bali
We left Gili Air Island at about 3.00am, it was my intention to leave any time after 3.30am but Dianne woke up, looked at the time on her phone, it was 3.00am so she got us into action forgetting her phone time was an hour fast! Anyway all for the better we headed off away from Lombok and across the Strait where the wind picked up to 20 knots and we were cruising at 8 - 9 knots just with the headsail which is very comfortable. Getting towards 7.30am we did the radio sched and reported our great conditions, we are about 5 days ahead of the majority of the fleet at present, and then within the hour the wind had dropped!
As we approached Bali Island there were hundreds, possibly thousands of sailing outriggers, known as spider boats, they leave the beach just before dawn to go fishing then return mid morning. It is a beautiful picture with the coloured sails dotting the waters, some way out and Bali's mountain rising out of the sea as a backdrop. We sail through clusters of these boats returning to shore and have to weave our way through them. The ones we get close to seem very happy and friendly, with huge pearly smiles. I cannot believe how many of these craft there are as we sail around the coast, beach after beach after beach is crowded with these craft. It was quite an obstacle course dodging these boats and the numerous anchored rafts known as FADS(fish attracting devices), pleased we were doing this in daylight.
Finally dropped our anchor at Lovina Beach around 3.00pm and went ashore to be accosted by many hawkers selling their wares. Tourism has taken such a down turn in these once popular holiday spots since the bombing it is quite depressing. The people are so desperate to sell you something, anything they are in your face all the time, this area is the worst so far that we have been at, it is not comfortable to see people so desperate to turn a $. Beautiful quite night in the anchorage here.
Up in the morning it is Saturday now, we have a couple of guys giving the bottom of the boat a scrub and the fuel man has gone with our jerries to fill them up - more Solar! We have been using more than I like but the conditions here are very flukey for sailing with some great sailing and some calm weather. Comes with approaching the equator I suppose. However winds here at this time of year are supposed to be South Easterlies!!! Time after time the wind comes first from one direction then from the other then calm then blowy each day!
But Bali is Bali, aimed at tourists, not really our scene but still a lovely place with cheap and cheaper holidays here at present. Some aussies and europeans around and some tourists are staying for a month and longer, I guess at only $'s per night it is cheap enough.
Girls doing a bit of shopping this morning, we were going to go but it is dead flat this morning, we will be moving on as soon as we have a breeze and it will be passagemaking from then until we get close to Singapore.
Interesting technical point for anyone using Navitronics Charts - they are not accurate in this area, again we have an offset of 2000 feet. The Navitronics Chart has us parked well up on the beach, in fact in the middle of a hotel - this is quite disconcerting when you are used to GPS/Plotter positions being spot on but is a warning as to the accuracy of electronic aids to navigation! We have reported this to Navitronics who advise it "may take some time to correct".
05/09/2008, Lovina - Bali
Sometimes along the way we have had, usually young guys, come over on their fishing dorries and ask for a drink, today we passed through 100's or maybe 1,000's of the beautiful little sailing fishing boats, a simple hull with two outriggers and a Balinese style sail. They really zip along and present a beautiful picture on the water with their colourful sail. One tail ender coming back passed by the stern and indicated he would like a drink so we flagged him over and he came along side and we threw him a cold coke. Instead of just disappearing off into the distance he came back around and offered us one of his fresh fish in return! Some simple acts do restore your faith in human nature................
05/09/2008, Lovina - Bali
Just a general note. For the next ten days from tomorrow we will be going back to HF Radio email and Sailmail have asked us to keep messages short and concise and limited where possible for this period or until we go back to satellite or terrestial. Thanks Chris
Gili Air and its related two other islands were just half hour drift from Lombok, we actually came through the narrow reef bounded channel here on the way to Teluk Nara two days ago.
We came across this morning. A bit of Green Island, a bit of Low Isles - a reef and snorkelling and diving, and a small village of locals - Heh what a place to live!
It is a place for relaxation - has number of accommodation places (just like Fiji in style) on the beach maybe $15-$50 a night. Many little great local eating places.
Deliver clothes and pencils etc to local school.
Relax, relax, relax for tomorrow we head for Lovina on Bali Island and then start a very solid slog of 1,000 nautical miles to Singapore as Kirsty's visa only last till about 21st!
Arriving in Lombok of course we hit the beach and decided to go for a walk. Many cars pulled up to see where we were going and we eventually succumbed and took one to Sengigi Beach which we though was 5k but turned out to be about half hour drive! Did the internet, added the PHOTOS now there under Photo Gallery -Indonesia. We went to a Sengigi restaurant for dinner which was great but the whole tourist strip was very quiet I think we may have been the only customers and at ab out $18 for the three of us including a beer it must be hard going. Travelling there were numerous resorts and properties for sale and some with the "bancrupqt" sign as well - since the Bali bombings this area has suffered terribly - it has been a tragedy for the Australians involved and also the local population!
Caught a taxi back, were a bit concerned about how much it might cost but it was all of $6 and eventually found the path back to the beach where our dinghy was!
We had met a Texas couple moored nearby on the beach on our arrival and they were negotiating with Mohamed who runs the moorings etc (He is 25, runs the moorings, arranges tours, arranges for Solar and water, and in his spare time sells fine pearls from the nearby pearl farm and goes to the local Lombok Uni! - has a bright future and knows quite a few cruising Aussies that call into Teruk Nara a great anchorage). Anyway they were doing a day tour the next day which we joined them on in a "private car" and Mohammed guided us and took a driver. We did cover a lot of Lombok which is lush and green on the northside, they grow rice and get two crops a year, in the south it is much drier and they get only one crop and many failures. Each family has a cow, nor for milk but to work the land and pull the ploughs etc. They rotate paddi's with two years rice, then peanuts and corn or other crops.
We went through a large village market and then started climbing the steep hills of Lombok *highest about 3,000m* through great rainforest where the trees are preserved. We are told every Indonesian is to plant one tree. Many mahogany and teak! As we approach Monkey forest monkey's provide a guard of honour lining the road on both sides. We stop and feed them peanuts - it IS true monkeys love peanuts - and they are gentle and kindly monkeys unlike in some areas where they snatch and steal! A bit like people I guess!!
We go on to a pottery village where the whole village is involved in making some great pottery, and then onto a traditional village where all the women do weaving in the traditional style. It is 60% of their village economy from weaving. The girls cannot get married until they learn to weave - weaving takes a great deal of patience so maybe good training for marriage. When they can weave they get married at about 17 - 19 - the men are a few to ten years older frequently. It may take three weeks to six weeks to weave a Sarong that might sell retail for about $40 to $50 - work out the hourly rate - they weave for about 7 - 8 hours per day every day. Each family has a cow for work and the usual village lifestyle, cooking huts, sleep platforms and low roofed, earthern floor (mud with manure) and thatched or short grass roofs - these are very cool and you replace the roof every five years. Kisrty learned some weaving so can now get married - one of the guys selling the woven items actually suggested he should be the one to "love" her! See photos!
We had lunch at Kuta beach on Lombok (not the Kuta on Bali) and then on to the ex King's Summer Water Palace which was very interesting and has great pools (where the Harem used to swim with a viewing platform for the king) now public pools - Lombok previously had a Balinese King.
Back after a long but rewarding day we were going to go back to Sengigi but saw Island Time and a family we knew in the bay so called over to say hello and were pretty tired so then turned in!
Lombok is beautiful, green, many resorts that are struggling due to the collapse of tourism, mountains, hills and forests, beautiful water and reef, pearl farms.....they have just started an international airport to be completed in maybe 5 years time! A bit slower than Dubai but then the economies are poles apart!
Lombok is great, Teluk Nara a great stopover and anchorage and a lot to do. Would have liked to have stayed longer!
01/09/2008, LOMBOK - North West travelling South West
Bima, well this town at first glance perfectly fitted the non flattering Lonely Planet description. A Mudhole in the wet and a hot dustbowl in the dry that will frazzle you. After a walk up and around town we were frizzled which is just one stage past frazzled! More like a scene out of a cheap low budget western representation of a Mexican Village. Goats wandering the littered streets, a typecast 17th century port with old and small dilapidated warehouses from the Port, lining the street to the civic centre. A small market, an amazing number of shops and goods for sale.
Tried the internet cafe, the power is off for the afternoon so that is a no go!!
This Port used to get all the tourist boats from Bali on their way to Komodo and Rinca. It is certainly a great harbour with several of the Bima Schooners in and a couple of mid sized ships.
But meeting interesting people and impressions then change, Johnny came to our boat as interpreter for the local support guru, Johnny used to work in Bali, he is a shoemaker by trade and can handle sewing machines and like equipment. Sine the Bali bombings and devastation of the tourist industry he has moved to Bima and runs his trade there. Today he is helping "Mr Bram", now he is a real happy go lucky guy, he supplies us with Solar or diesel at a slightly high price, but ok as he provides excellent service including putting it in the tanks. His wife owns a small coffee outlet in a row of about a dozen identical "shops"at the busy little Port. Mr Bram has five girls. He also makes sure we are catered for but doesn't speak English thus Johnny helps him out. When we were walking the streets another guy "Mr Chappy"who is a mechanic from Java and is head of the local "Scooter Club" now lives in Bima but has lived in Bali and other places and speaks good English. Scooters are Vespa's including modified. He also rides a motorbike of 75 cc which is the typical local transport. The biggest bikes are 175cc. Now he comes down to the wharf also.
So we have Bram, keeping an eye on our dinghy etc, Chappy and a friend of theirs who works on the boats, mainly cargo now going from Bima to Makasar to Flores and back. So after some negotiation we charter them and their bikes to take us on a little tour. I get to ride in front on Chappy's bike. So we cycle up through the town (good little supermarket, not big but comprehensively supplied) and we do a little trip around town, up to a lookout where the tombs of the first and second sultan of Bima, they introduced the Muslim religion to the area. A great vantage point to see the town, the harbour and Port, the fish farming, and along the coast and back to the farming land. One of Chappy's protege's turns up on a Vespa with a Sidecar looks like ex WW2, with three 13 years olds. They can get away with riding scooters without a licence. Down from the hill we ride through some local farm land and past a quarry where predominantly women and some men are digging out rocks and breaking them with hammer and chisel into uniform sizes. They obviously also live on site as they have sleeping platforms and their meagre possessions there. The farmlands are rich and good, chicken and egg farming also. We come across a festival of children and you people doing sack races, soccer and sports. It is Sunday, and they day before the Muslim Ramaden starts. During Ramaden they fast all day from sunrise to past sunset. A number of restaurants are already closes as they do not open during this month. We ride on around the town and down to the beaches, there are mosques, temples, some massive houses and new properties side by side with traditional village style houses.
In Bima the population is Indonesian, Chinese and Arabic. There are Arabic mosques as well. Apparently everyone gets on well.
The town is undtidy, very very untidy - litter everywhere. Mr Chappy confides in me that the Scooter Club have an annual clean up day of one street and he is disappointed that people will not keep it tidy. The creeks and drains are crowded with litter which must wash out to sea causing the volume of rubbish in the sea.! It is ironic that the rubbish in the streets and drains is not recognised but many of the houses are spotlessly clean and well kept, and many of the women especially and immaculately clothes and presented and obviously take pride in themselves and their houses, but it never translates to the public area.
Heading back through the suburbs --- look out a mob of cows crossing, now a goat, oops just missed those startled chooks! Chappy says, 'be careful" and we get back into the town traffic which is a few cars, many motorcycles and a lot of horse drawn carriages characteristic to this area that race around town with people and goods as well as the hand carts. Well they are much better than Bemo Buses but I couldn't get the girls on one as they thought it was too mean to the horses! The stout little horses are also an icon of this area.
Riding in the traffic is something else, the rule is mix and merge, there are actually some traffic lights here but nobody notices them, see a break- GO. They don't have to wear helmets but many do, we don't have helmuts. Chappy says a number of young boys get killed in the traffic on the bikes but it is not dangerous out of town.
Going back to the Port Dianne is stopped at security by the Harbour Master who wants all our papers. So we go back to Bram's shop for coffee but the Harbour Master pursues us to go out to the boat now. I take him out with the self appointed agent for me and friend of Bram. We have much trouble explaining how Kirsty is there but is not on the cruising permit and someone on the permit who is not here! Big problem says the Harbour Master. I copy off a heap of documents for him and find Kirsty's passport which of course I also copy for him. With a wad of paper in his pocket, fees for the night and a payment for the agent who also takes away our garbage but is very helpful all is well so we head back to shore.
We go looking for dinner but with Ramaden starting tomorrow that is futile so return and eat on board.
Off at 0600 Monday morning with about 160 miles to Lombok we first start motoring out the long entry to Teluk Bima about 10 mile. Then we sail, then we use the MPS, then we sail with the wind forward of the beam, then with it behind, then we gybe, but all in all we have a bit of motoring, and bit of good sailing, and a bit of slow sailing which seems typical of a days sailing in Indonesia. Probably about 6 hours motoring for the day. As night approaches the wind again boxes the compass and we start with a wind behind us but very light. Now the sun comes up here and is light at 0600 and it goes down and is dark at 1800 (6:00pm). By 8 we have a building breeze and soon 20 plus knots. Through the night it blows hard wind at 20 - 25 knots, mainly from the beam or abaft the beam but we have, ALL night, a 2 to 3+ knot tide or current against us and against the wind causing a steep and uncomfortable chop and the feeling that the wind is much stronger. We are also in very open water as we cross a massive bay and pass islands but also we want to be out in the shipping channel to avoid nets, FAD's (fish attracting devices), small unlit boats etc. We pass a number of ships, we put a reef into the Main, in the early hours we also reef the genoa by furling. We don't really want to go this fast but it is good to make up the miles. Our speed through the water is 9/10 knots but across the bottom against the current it is 7 - 8.5 sometimes 9 knots. It is not until after daylight as we start to round Lombok Island that we shake off this adverse current and the water settles a bit.
Next trick is that at 0630 the wind is gone, the sea is flattening, by 0800 we are motoring again! A good things Solar is so cheap!!!
Not a great night but we have covered over 100 nautical miles overnight so can't have everything.
Now we are heading into Lombok which is adjacent to Bali Island. We are going to an area where there is three small islands and will anchor up. I have been up all night so will probably take a break there. Should be good snorkelling and diving off the islands it is written up well. Then maybe tomorrow we will head off to Bali either north or south not sure yet, another day another decision.
Most of the fleet is now back at Labuhan Jobe where the formalities start today - Tuesday 2nd. But we must press on as we have decided to head for Singapore and find a marina before returning to Cairns beginning of October. Now we have to start thinking about timelines again!
29/08/2008, Gili Banta - South Side
This morning we took a walk on Komodo early morning without seeing much, would have liked to rouse up the pigs that were on the beach last night. Also took a run around the beaches and mangrove, the reef went right up to the Mangroves in places and the water was crystal clear. Returning to Charmar we noticed one of the traditional sailing ships coming into the bay and it took up the other mooring. They are beautiful vessels and this one was obviously a dive charter with two dual outboard tenders to take the divers to the choice spots nearby. We sailed off our mooring down the bay under a light breeze starting the engines to get through a rather narrow channel between Komodo and an adjacent Island about where we started snorkelling yesterday. Passing through here was done with great care as the chart area we are in obviously has an offset of 900 feet south and 900 feet west, but we do not know exactly what it is. This means that the chart on the plotter is slightly misplaced and our position is not the longitude and latitude the GPS determines so we do a bit of eyeball and manual navigation going through here although I have determined what I think the chart offset is and programmed it into the plotter - but it could be wrong!
The channel is deep but narrow and we go through it and then head off for Gili Banta Island about 15 mile off. The wind stops then comes from right in front so we motor again, we have done quite a lot of motoring in the last week! Across the passage and we pick up a tidal run of about 3 - 4 knots which is running against the wind so the water becomes quite confused and choppy with eddies and whirls and flat spots. As we head to Gili Banta it also has a very narrow channel and entrance and we wonder whether the chart offset still applies. As we get into the bay with the use of Radar and eyeball we determine that the offset is no longer relevant it applied only to Chart Area 3756 Labuan Baho, Rinca and Komodo, but now we are off that Chart. Interesting exercise and reminder that GPS and Plotter positions are not always reliable and if we had followed it implicitly would have ended up on the "bricks".
Tucked into Gili Banta it is approaching low tide so we go and do a drift snorkel, interesting but no where near the quality or intensity of Komodo. Then a beach walk which really puts one in a state of depression - again coming across here the water whilst very clear is full of rubbish - the same again - plastics, bottles, bags, bags, bags, containers, foil packs, packaging and of course numerous left thongs, shoes and more plastics. This beautiful bay, probably more than 50 mile from any major town or population, unoccupied except for us and a couple of local fishing boats of traditional type, but the beach and land behind the beach is covered in this sea dumped rubbish. It would take a team weeks to clean it up. Now I don't blame the sea for spewing it up back onto the beach, after all it came from the land, but where does this end. It seems to me it is a compounding problem as the influence of the west and the companies who can turn a dollar from making plastics and containers and wrappers that are not ecologically friendly are now dumping this product into these highly populated areas with no regard to the impact it has on our world. Just as and similarly as smoking is extinguishing in the western world the companies put their energies into promoting these known damaging product into third world countries and communities where we seen kids of 8, 9, 10 smoking cigarettes. Of course the companies say it is not, "THEIR fault" they only make the product they can't regulate where it ends up, but in pursuit of the holy dollar they continue promoting the product, pushing it and delivering the death and suffering it causes on these unsuspecting individuals and communities to replace the market it is losing now in the educated world. We are doing the same with rubbish. I haven't been to sea on major trips now for a number of years, I think maybe the last was 6 years ago but I just cannot believe the change in the state of our oceans over that time. If it continues, and I see nothing happening to mitigate it, then we will kill of our oceans and condemn them to be one giant rubbish dump! What can be done?
Seeing what is happening here certainly gives one an appreciation of the impact of littering, and of the horrendous liability we are building up in the world with packaging and plastics that are finding their way into our oceans and they just don't break down.
Cape York was a little the same with junk on every beach and place, but not as bad as up here where the currents and tides seem to capture the rubbish and swirl it around in an every day increasing quantity.
Such beautiful areas, what original and rugged countryside, what reef and corals equivalent to the Great Barrier Reef, but what a place to turn into a rubbish dump of world proportions! We cannot blame the local population, much of this product comes from the west!
This morning up at 0600 to be at the Ranger Station at 0630 for the 5km wildlife walk! The anchorage was so peaceful it would have been easy to sleep in! But off we went with walking shoes and found our ranger. The "long" walk was a supplement to the short visit yesterday with maybe a dozen of us taking part. It was great and of course we saw many Komodo Dragons, deer, monkeys and various sorts of trees. The Komodo incubation period is about 8 - 9 months and the young Komodo's spend the first couple of years in trees so their mothers don't eat them. They are cannibalistic and also eat other dead Komodos! The Komodos mate at this time (and we can assure you of that having caught several in the very slow act!) and then Mum plants the eggs in huge nest mounds they build with various "dummy" holes so predators are put off. They are not exactly pretty or cute by our definition but seem to like their own company. A komodo can eat 50 kg of meat in a sitting; they share their food, but only eat maybe every few weeks or once a month - a bit like a land based croc. They will eat Monkeys, Deer, Goats, Pigs and even take down a Buffalo if they want a good feed! All are native to Rinca.
There are not many birds on Rinca because the Monkeys take the eggs. They also eat land crabs and catch them by putting their tail down the crab hole, when the crab snaps onto it they flick the crab out and eat it for lunch - cunning criters.
We then returned back to the bay late morning having taken in our fill of wildlife and packed up to go to North East Bay on Komodo Island where we had to motor all the way in flat water and no wind but strong swirling and eddying currents, We passed by many numerous islands, reefs, cays and atols some occupied by sailing ships that are so picturesque and are used for tourists. They are real traditional style ships. As somebody said in Labuan Bajo if you wanted to make a pirate movie you could go straight to that town, traditional sailing ships, working old fashioned docks, fish markets, myriad small craft with pop pop motors or paddles - mostly outriggers, and a main street that would do a pirate movie proud! A few modern day pirates selling pearls and carved Komodo's, blankets and woven material just to set it off as well.
Any way back to Komodo - we arrived just after lunch and took one of two moorings in the bottom of the beautiful little bay. Another perfect anchorage! Surrounded by land and Islands on all sides.
We went for a drift snorkel starting at one of the channels into the bay and snorkelled for a couple of hours with myriad fish, turtles, rays, corals soft and hard - as good as! The water temp at 31.5 is not that bad for swimming either. Along the beach we see pigs but we haven't been ashore yet. There should me more Komodo's and no monkeys on this Island - we can hear birds chirping in a mangrove area not far from the mooring.
Tonight we are the sole occupants of this enchanting bay, have planned to leave via a narrow coral lined channel tomorrow heading north west, but only a small trip to a small island where the diving and snorkelling is also said to be great - we shall find out and report back!
27/08/2008, Rinca -
Kirsty actually arrived in Labuan Bajo yesterday and of course we were there at the local airport to meet her at 1100. Some of our "friendly" peal, rug and dragon salespeople were also there doing business with the people arriving and departing!
So we spent the afternoon doing "the rounds of Labuan Bajo" went in the dinghy up to the Eco Resort where some other boats are moored, did the shopping and considered the next day - would we go on a tour to Rinca or go ourselves - stay posted to find out>
Had dinner in Labuan Bajo in the "main strip" again three of us with beer, fruit juice and three courses we spent about $12 --------- a shower of rain and a run down the main street, into the dinghy, over to Charmar to close the hatches, and then of course it stopped. Rain is unusual here at this time of year and the Islands are classically dry.
Turned in early! Awakened to the tim tum music of the traditional hanging cymbal, flat bells that are played at all events. Hard to describe you will have to wait for the photo but they are round about 18 inches across and they hang several from a cross bar and beat them with a soft padded mallet which gives a classic ping/pang to the music. They are used everywhere and can be used as a dowry in some communities. One chain of thought says they were introduced by the dutch. Anyway my guess is that it was practice for the welcome ceremony to be held 2nd September here.
At 0600 we were up and had decided to make our own way to Rinca and the Komodo National Park and World Heritage Area. We are heading out as the fishing fleet is heading in, quite large timber vessels with massively extended outriggers and cross beams - wider than Current Sunshine the widest and fastest tri in Australia! The outriggers are attached to a frame across the boat of timber about 4x2 and very extensive. It is calm as all mornings with a light breeze freshening as we go. An exceptional area we are surrounded on four sides by Islands large and small, navigating through rocky atols, coral cays and beautiful reefs. Just this small area is equal to or better than our Whitsundays or Sailors Paradise. Large traditional style tourist charter sailing ships work from this harbour and are a beautiful sight as they come in and out.
We have the tide with us so steam and then motor sail out with just the port engine running which also tops up the fridges.
Through and between reef, cays and Islands we pass some very interesting villages, one with many boats that looked like a huge marina from the distance. The land is dry and some area rocky and harsh, others soft sandy beaches and swaying palm groves, through reefs the water is deep between the island and reefs, at least 80 metres and much deeper. We travel into a bay which would be a perfect anchorage and then move onto the bay with the ranger stations for Rinca. As we weave between the reefs into a deep bay we see the jetty and anchorage which is superb. Monkeys playing on the beach complete the picture. Here there are Komodo dragons, buffalo, goats, pigs and Cobra snakes.
Our first encounter with a Komodo dragon is right at the jetty where one lies in the shade of the rocks. We walk down the trail through the harsh country with monkeys playing in the trees nearby to register at the Ranger Station and pay our dues. It cost about 540,000 ruppia or $80 and the entry fee is quoted in $US at $15 per person. The ranger says, "You only pay for two, one stays here", referring to Kirsty and then says, "what is your name mother-in-law", well now he thought he could handle dragons! but did he get lesson! Great sense of humour. And off we go to meet the local buffalo and see some giant dragons, at least as big as a large croc. This area with its unique animals and harsh environment is quite similar to the Galapagos Islands in many ways. Now these dragons will kill and eat a buffalo and the occasional monkey who forgets to keep a lookout! Goat is one of their favourites. There is about 1100 dragons on Rinca.
Also here there are a number of local boats from Labuan Bajo, one unloading bananas has to chase the monkey off the wharf - so monkeys DO really like bananas.
After our brief walk we have a shower, but the country is so dry here it must be quite unusual at this time of year and the monkeys go a bit crazy. Back down to the bay the water is calm, and although it is overcast we cruise around the edges in the dinghy and there is good coral reefs, fishes, squid etc - looks like a good place for a snorkel tomorrow, and we might go out to one or more of the reefs we encountered on the way in as well, they were bright and beautiful as we motored in.
Tomorrow we will go for the wildlife walk at 0630, hoping to see more dragons and wildlife of this area, but happy to give the Cobras a miss. Our park permit also covers us for Komodo Island which we will also visit as we go, it is very close by and their is good swimming, snorkelling and diving with Manta Rays, dolphins and coral reefs and drop offs.
Apologies to Lucky, the adjectives do really describe a fascinating and contrasting landscape and fascinating culture. Villages built on the water, seafarers, beautiful sailing ships, fishing "contraptions" dugouts and outriggers that ply the waters with small motors and some with paddle. The country can be harsh, steep and volcanic. The wildlife is equally as hardy and diverse. Dolphins, whales and reefs, cays and beaches, rocky outcrops, deep bays and well protected anchorages, tonight the water is mirror like in the fjord in which we are anchored. Sometimes we are anchored at open bays but so far, touch wood, not many bad anchorages and some just great!
Tomorrow up early, later maybe to Komodo Island or maybe just snorkelling the reefs here.
25/08/2008, Labuhanbajo - west Flores
We continued from around the top of Flores Island yesterday, then took a "short cut" east of Saraya Besar Island to navigate through some fairly narrow channels between large expanses of colourful reef and the Island noting some great anchorages and passing by close to pristine beaches, palm tree shorelines, rocky outcrops and on the other side colourful coral reefs extending for miles. The channels were quite navigable and it was great going through them. Between this Island and Flores was quite a small channel also and the tide was running with us so then we decided to go in close and enter Labuhanbajo harbour from the north rather than the longer southern path. This would get us in at around 1600 and good daylight rather than 1750 and it is getting dark here at about 1800 - we are quite close to the Equator.
An interesting trip in as we pass steep rock islands close by but still in 40 metres of water! and make our way around to the harbour. The water traffic is increasing and as we round into the harbour we note a large rocky area protruding from the water but not shown on the chart! Good that it is low tide and we can see it.
In an anchored in a fantastic harbour by 1630. What a busy place! There are small ships and hundreds of little local ferries and dugouts plying the waters - reminiscent of Venice with busy wharfs and a plethora of water borne traffic. Some great tourist vessels here, sail/dive boats and some of the traditional style and well appointed.
Just before dark we decide to do a sorty to land to check it out! Launching the dinghy I find out why we have noses - it is to protect your eyes when your hand slips off the winch handle which spins under the weight of the dinghy to land a square blow right on the bridge of the nose! Golly gosh I say that smarts!! A little bloody later we go to the Harbour, have a quick look around and return. The wharf is crowded with hundreds or thousands of locals catching ferries and the local boats.
Flicking on the TV and scanning the channels we found that the one channel has what turned out to be the closing ceremony for the Olympics - wasn't it great? This is the only bit we have seen but it was fantastic. Thanks Lucky for the updates and yes I will be claiming from Tourism Indonesia!!! Incidentally they have set 2008 as the year to visit Indonesia - not sure if the rest of world knows about it though!
Today, Monday, had bit of an easy morning and went into town - a four minute dinghy ride - at about midday for what was going to be a couple of hours. Found a real mini mart (the local supermarket) that had all the things we are used to even electronic registers. Upstairs was a clothing floor and on top of that, yes an internet cafe we had heard was quite good. Tried it out, got to load half a dozen photos so there are some now on the blogs and on the gallery at book Indonesia - but don't get too excited - when we went to load the second six we crashed the internet cafe!!
Wandering nonchalantly back down the main street we were accosted by pearl selllers but enjoyed checking out the local shops and quite apparently this area is impacted by tourism (mainly for Rinca Island and Komodo Island where the Komodo dragons live and the great diving areas nearby). Stopped at a street stall for some pastry wrapped fried bananas, and then some of then some Tofu and sprout rolls that are lightly fried (there is a photo of us eating these on the footpath at Maurmere a previous stop. Then another batch of the tasty banana fries.
Wandering down further there are some hillside "restaurants" on balconies overlooking the busy little harbour and the surrounding islands and headlands - absolute picture postcard views. As we go on there is a property on the other side of the road with much work happening to its rendering and steps up to, the sign out the front says Yacht Bar and Bistro so we must go and have a look. Up the stairs we go, "buy some Pearls?" - "no thanks not buying anything today", and there is half a dozen yachties who had done the same thing. They are anchored in a bay a couple of miles away and had "chartered" a local boat to bring them to town for dinner. So we all went off to another restaurant for dinner. Robert and Tina were moored adjacent to us in Bayview Darwin - it was good to catch up.
Great meal again, fish for me - snappper cooked with tomatoes, garlic and accessories and served on a hot platter and for Dianne vegetables with a peanut sauce - another expensive night out with a Bintang Beer cost us about $7.
We see the others back to their "limo boat" where the driver was dutifully waiting and make our way back through the wharfs, past the open fish markets, out to our wharf and back to Charmar.
Kirsty finally managed to get on a flight and is in the air now headed for Bali. Next challenge is Bali to Labuhanbajo. There is one seat on the plane tomorrow at 0900 but we can't call her to tell her and seats on Wednesday - four left at present. There are three small airlines that fly here, again because of Rinca and Komodo and the tourism. Also from here buses and Bemos head out to all areas of Flores Island so it is something of a transport hub, as can be seen from the busy port.
We seem to have made a friend who is now following us everywhere, he is going to sell us pearls and a Komodo dragon carved in wood if he can but we have told him we are definitely buying nothing today. He needs to sell it to help his sister at school, he comes from Komodo Island. Not too sure about the story but he is a nice guy.
We are growing to like Labuhanbajo, our impression today is much better than last evening, but I guess in the dark, with a recently smashed nose, been up all the prior night sailing it did deserve another chance!! Tomorrow we will go up early and try to smash the internet again - this one almost works! Somehow here you can also buy prepaid cards for 3G that connect locally to the internet at local rates - great concept but try to ask for it in English!