19/10/2011, 03 22.929'S:127 07.286'E, Masarete - Pulau Buru
Thursday October 20 Masarete - Pulau Buru
It's a Wednesday afternoon, about 3.00pm, and I can't help thinking about friends and colleagues in Brisbane. Around this time at work, many are looking for that afternoon tim tam pick up, wondering about the wisdom of another cup of coffee so late in the day, or furiously finalising a ministerial brief, due COB. We too are looking for a chocolate lift, an Orange Kit Kat, to give us an energy boost until the anchorage. Here we were in another choppy sea, with 20-25 kt winds and waves to 2m, kicked up by the clash of wind and current. Never again would I feel restless at my office desk, right now it looked like a pretty good place to be!
The previous night, (Tuesday, one loses track of time so easily!) we had sailed/motored across a large part of the Ceram Sea. The predicted easterly had kicked in again and we had managed more than 50% sailing time. After dealing with a 30kt squall and brief rain shower at 1.30 am that sucked up all the wind, we reluctantly fired up the diesel. With the autohelm taking care of the course, Skip was happy and even had some sleep, while I did the graveyard shift, 2.30 am - 5.00 (all that practice with early mornings feeding babies comes in handy eventually!).
Even though we had had a good run, we were both feeling a bit tired, and instead of another overnight, thought we would pull in to Pulau Buru, a former prison island which had been opened up to visitors 9-10 years earlier. It was not on our CAIT (Cruising Permit) but we weren't planning to go ashore, (the dinghy was all packed up for the sea crossing anyway) and figured we could explain we needed a rest if asked by any authorities. Even so, it would be another tight arrival, ETA 7.00 pm!
And now here we were, heading straight into the teeth of a consistent wind, as it rushed towards the thunderstorm building to our stern. As advised by the Sailing Directions, showery weather occurs frequently during much of the year in the Ceram Sea, and the direction of the wind is much affected by the islands. The Selat Manipa (Manipa Strait) has strong currents, as we were finding out, with some small boats preferring to use the Selat Kelang to the east when continuous winds caused a high sea. Would we be considered a small boat, should we have taken the other strait?
The chocolate perked us up, and we decided to head on to Masarete, even with the after dark arrival. Rounding Tanjung Karbau seemed to take forever, but finally we were in Teluk Kayeli, and the winds started dropping. With GPS and Max Sea to guide us we motor/sailed slowly towards the Kayeli Roads, looking for the mud/sand anchorage promised by the sailing directions. We turned parallel to the shore, and in the rapidly fading light we could just pick out a jetty and Indonesian boat - no jetty noted in our guide! Skip Tone wanted 15 metres, but with what sounded like excited yelps coming from the shore, I lost my nerve and asked him (politely, he is the Captain after all)to settle for 20 metres. The reassuring pull of the anchor grabbing at 7.10 pm and the silence as I cut the diesel signaled another safe harbor reached.
Cruising Note: Drying reef on E side of the Kayeli Roads Bight well marked on Max Sea and our GPS, but not visible due to late arrival - final anchor in 17m - nice calm anchorage, no drag. Jetty extends out approx 50m at eastern end of the bay. Not shown on our current satellite photos.
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 :-(