16/10/2011, 01 19.973'S:127 38.226'E, Laiwui - Pulau Obi
Sunday 16th October Laiwui - Pulau Obi
We were up early again this morning to make sure we would arrive at Pulau Obi before dark. Making tea to the early morning call of the mullah is becoming a pleasant ritual, made even better when the voice emanating from the Mosque at Labuha revealed a surprising baritone with a unique style. Early morning is the best part of the day in the tropics, cool and very still. We got away quickly, motoring (again!) up the bay, with a reasonable tidal assist of 1.5 k helping us along. Once out of the bay what we thought was the ripple of wind turned out to be the E-W current mentioned in the sailing notes, and for the first time since leaving Davao our boat speed was faster than our speed over ground.
The easterly promised by the GRIB files was nowhere in sight, but Skip Tone kept hopefully furling the headsail in and out (bit annoying for a girl trying to have a quiet read!) As we finally passed Tanjung Maregarango on the South West corner of Pulau Bacan the easterly kicked in and with full sails up we cut the iron topsail. Dolphins appeared again at the bow, turning on their side to look at us, will upload some photos as soon as we get reasonable internet access.
Today was a watermaker day - we run it every 2-3 days depending on water usage and whenever one of the tanks runs dry. We have 2x 100 litre tanks, and have really appreciated the convenience of having an onboard watermaker. It saves the hassle of getting water to the boat, worrying about the quality of the water, and also means you can stay at remote places longer. The water is very soft - bath gel, shampoo and dishwashing liquids go a long way. The only down side is the loss of minerals, the water never seems to quench your thirst, and is very tasteless. Most of the bottled water we have come across in the Philippines and Indonesia is actually reverse osmosis treated as well, unless specifically noted on the bottle as being mineral water. Ellen (Holiday Ocean View Marina, Davao) mentioned a friend of theirs needed to supplement his fluid intake with electrolyte drinks. Tony M developed quite bad leg cramps despite the prodigious number of bananas we were eating, so I wen t on the hunt for electrolytes. I found a product called Pocari Sweat(Ion Supply Drink)in the supermarket in Ternate. Even if it is placebo, we seem a lot perkier since drinking a glass of it each day.
Watermaking days also mean a bit of handwashing. By the time we had entered the Selat Obi proper, our smalls were fluttering in the sun. Nothing left to do now but read a book. I have just finished John Kennedy Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces", and have started Joseph Conrad's "An Outcast of the Islands" - already Ternate has been mentioned three times.
Highlight: The sunset that kept on giving - sunset was 6.16 and the show went on till at least 7.30pm.
Cruising Notes: Arrived Laiwui 5.30pm after losing the easterly wind once in the lee of Pulau Bisa - motored up the bay taking heed of the Sailing Notes and keeping closer to Pulau Bisa to avoid the reefs on the north shore of Pulau Obi. Turned into Laiwui at the compass bearing of 170, anchoring east of the pier as suggested, in 14.5m. Good holding in mud, peaceful night.
15/10/2011, 00 38.121'S:127 28.711'E, Teluk Labuha
Saturday 15th October After a wonderful sleep-in (till 7.00 am!) we made a slow departure from Firefly Bay, pulling anchor at 10.00 am. We had thought we would just motor (sail? hopefully!) a short hop down to the next of Chalky's recommended anchorages as the next day would be long with an early start to get across Selat Obi to Pulau Obi. These 4.30am sailor starts get to you after a while.
However we made good time down through the Bacan Channel with an assisting tidal current of nearly 1.5k in some places. Another bonus, the weather reports were looking favourable for anchoring at Labuha, a reasonably large port catering to the vessels trading in the Moluccas. Forecasts were for mild easterly winds - apparently it can get rock and rolly in a S'Wester, so we decided to go the extra 10nm south to Labuha, which would give us a better start on the Sunday.
As we left Pulau Kasiruta behind us to the north, boat traffic increased and little settlements began appearing. The distinctive calls emanating from the mosques drifted out to us as we motored by. The imposing form of Gunung Sibela, the mountain near Labuha, appeared, along with the rain showers/thunderstorms that seemed to be an inevitable part of our arrival into any new anchorage. We felt somewhat 'at sea' without Chalky's words of wisdom, GPS positions, or his mud maps. The binoculars left on the boat by Dave (US mil spec!) were put to good use identifying the various markers noted in the NGIA sailing directions, although I looked in vain for the two distinctive trees allegedly growing 1 m south of the Customs Pier. We puttered south anyway, to where 3-4 small Indonesian vessels were anchored. Weaving through them, we stopped the boat and dropped the pick, obtaining good holding first up and seconds before the rain came down! Time for a late lunch and a cup of tea.
Cruising notes: Arrived around 2.00 pm - used the information provided in the latest National Geospatial Intelligence Agency Sailing Directions (Pub. 164) and MaxSea charts with satellite overlay - spotted the reef marked by the tree at the NE of the bay despite warnings that reefs in these passages do not show clearly by discolouration. Motored inside an anchored fishing platform, folllowed the curve of the bay at the 15 metre mark around south of what looked to be the Customs wharf. Final anchorage in 6-8 metres (water so murky couldn't see the bottom) beside long rock wall, about 300 metres south of the radio towers and 30 metres north of a small bridge over a little creek. Could not identify the other two 'distinctive' trees mentioned in the Sailing Directions. Maybe they have been cut down :-(
15/10/2011, 00 26.988'S:127 16.328'E, 'Firefly Bay' - Pulau Kasiruta
Friday 14th October
After the excitement of crossing the equator at 8.00am the day settled into a hot muggy motor sail down to the channel running between Pulau's Kasiruta, Mandioli, and Bacan (pulau means island in Bahasa Indonesian). We had originally planned to go back out to sea and around the islands, but once again good old Chalky came to the rescue with his earlier advice that the channel down through these islands was navigable and worth a look. He also mentioned a lovely secluded un-named bay that they had stopped at after earlier pulling into another anchorage and finding the over-exuberant attentions of the locals a bit overwhelming. As we were feeling hot and tired and a little anti-social, it sounded perfect.
In the Philippines the locals called out 'Hey Joe' whenever they saw us - presumably from GI Joe and the American presence for so many years. If I had time or energy I would call back and say, "we're not American, you should say Hey Mate, we're Australian", eliciting shy giggles. Here in Indonesia everyone calls out 'Hey Mister' no matter what your gender. When you are on a boat, that startling call from a local who has just paddled silently up beside you in their dugout canoe is usually the first indication that you are about to have a boatload of visitors.
Later that night Chalky's 'name' for the bay became obvious, all along the shore little fireflies shone and glittered. The binoculars gave an even better view. Down in the water the bio-luminesence mirrored the shoreline show, with bigger fish clearly visible flashing under and around the boat.
After a night free from local curiosity, we were a little alarmed the next morning to hear the drones of several small boats coming into the bay. However, despite their curious glances, the locals just motored straight past us to a small landing, where they disappeared into the forest. The noise of chainsaws soon interupted our pristine peace... time to move on to the next anchorage!
Cruising notes: Small hut on northern arm of bay, with white polystyrene markers showing fishing nets or edge of coral, we kept close to them but to the south and had 15-18 metres most of the way into the bay. Anchor dragged at first drop, needed to retrieve and nose into the bay a bit further - ended up 30m away from clearly visible coral in 13 metres. Tony snorkeled over and checked coral out and set anchor alarm on GPS to minimum. Very peaceful, still and calm anchorage - had a great sleep! When we pulled up anchor next morning, bottom appeared to be black muddy sand over rock.