Kuching Goes to Bali
Kuching goes to Bali
We left Dili at 6:45 am having checked out both of work and Timor-Leste the night before. The Immigration fellow was charming and thanked us for having helped the country during our years of work with the UN. TL continues to be the easiest and most pleasant check-in/check-out we have experienced.
The boat was a shambles since we'd been working at a hectic pace and having farewells in the evening. We spent the first hour and a half having breakfast, clearing up and making sure we could locate essentials- passports, boat papers, crew lists.
The sky was clear and the wind light from the north-east - spinnaker time. Up it went and up it stayed until almost 6pm. What a glorious first day! We had a four knot tide with us all day so despite 7-8 knot winds we had a speed over the ground (SOG) of 8 and sometimes even 9 knots and we were able to make a course within 10-15 degrees of our waypoint. We also had the pleasure of seeing a whale mid-morning and towards sunset we saw a large pod of dolphins making wonderful spinning leaps out of the sea.
We had our first reminder of being a little rusty in seamanship as we tore along at 8 knots, D. was setting the fishing line and I was indoors when I heard shouts. We hadn't kept an adequate watch and were about to run into a fishing net. A quick wheel to starboard collapsed the spinnaker but allowed us to slide along the edge of the net and we carried on with a slightly guilty feeling that our negligent watch keeping had made that fisherman's day a little more difficult.
As the sun set the wind died and our wonderful tide assist also diminished so it was time for the port engine and getting ready for the evening watches which were uneventful but beautiful. There was no moon so the stars and Mars were brilliant and the phosphorescence flashing as the boat cut through the water was a magical sight that made us smile and think of my friend Mike who would have been saying "I wonder what the rich people are doing tonight?".
Our second day began much as the first with the spinnaker up just after sunrise. The day was beautiful but unfortunately the wind died in the early afternoon and we were back to motoring. We did some calculations and decided we should call into Ende on the island of Flores to take on additional fuel just in case the fine calm weather prevailed. Having made that decision, of course the wind came up but surprisingly from the southwest so we beat to the west for a couple of hours until it came around onto our nose. Now motor sailing we realized we would be off Ende at about 2 am. None of the alternatives seemed appealing so we slowed our engine revs and planned to approach Ende in the early morning.
The approach to Ende on the south shore of the island of Flores was dramatic. As dawn broke we motored by an active volcano and along the edge of its towering slopes to find a busy harbour. The shore was already packed with people at 8:30am and boatloads continued to arrive for the Saturday market. We were, of course, an object of curiosity and, to our good fortune, this brought us Harus within minutes of the anchor being down. Harus was able to take D. directly to the diesel shop-a few 45 gallon drums on the beach. We bought diesel and were on our way within an hour. Of course the transaction was straightforward! We paid R380,000 for 145 litres although we actually only received a bout 110 litres. D.'s arguments about the maximum capacity of our containers were not successful but considering the price was about 50 cents less per litre than we paid in Dili and the fuel was good quality and so easy to acquire we left Ende happy. Harus received $2 and a packet of cigs for his trouble (no we haven't taken up smoking and I know its vaguely unethical but as they were Marlboro they were better than currency hereabouts).
The exit from Ende was complicated by the fact that the entire bay near the town had been filled with fishing nets between the time we arrived and left. We couldn't see a way through the maze but finally made it guided by the fisherman guarding the nets.
We motored and motor sailed most of the afternoon in light winds/.Late afternoon we put the spinnaker up and were running so well (4-5 knots SOG in 7-8 knots of wind) that we persuaded ourselves it would be alright to leave it up past sunset (yes, we know we shouldn't and don't try this at home folks!). We had sundowners on the trampoline admiring our spinnaker which was saving us from the motor and assuaging our worries about fuel supply. The spi stayed up until midnight when the wind finally fell off.
We arrived in Rinca early afternoon and took a mooring buoy on the east side of Nusa Kode in the Lehok Uadadasami channel. There were two large dive boats there on the Rinca side of the channel also on mooring buoys and a local fishing boat sharing our anchorage.
We took the dinghy over to "Adventurer" to ask about dive sites and seeing Komodo dragons. There were 7 Americans on board diving the area. They recommended Cannibal Rock and we did a quick recce snorkel to see if we wanted to dive it. Visibility wasn't great but there was a superb coral garden and a multitude of fish. Given the visibility we decided not to use our dive tanks and to be satisfied with the snorkel (we plan to get a compressor but meanwhile have 2 filled bottles for emergency anchor clearing etc.). We also snorkelled over to the shore on our side of the bay which proved pretty uninteresting.
D. went to ask the fishermen if they had any fish. "Besok" he was told which means tomorrow (shades of manyana!). A little later one of the fishermen came to visit. It turned out he wanted to buy sugar which we happily gave to him. He sipped a beer which he pronounced to be bitter!! (close but no prize - it was Lager) and after an awkward discussion making use of the dictionary he excused himself and took his sugar and the better part of his bottle of beer and a packet of cigs back to share with his mates.
The morning was gorgeous. The anchorage was as still as a lake and we watched sea eagles, lesser eagles, herons, and egrets fishing on the shore near our boat. We searched in vain for a Komodo dragon but left without seeing one although the Americans had assured us they were there. This gives us an excellent reason to go back on a diving and dragon-sighting expedition.
A mostly motoring day and night followed although we started off hurtling through the tidal rip between Rinca and Komoda islands under spinnaker. Great fun until the wind direction changed. We switched to main and genoa for a couple of hours but by afternoon were windless. An abortive spinnaker run that lasted just long enough for sundowners on the foredeck was a welcome relief from motoring but then we were back at it through the night.
Early morning (4 am) L. was on watch when Kuching was approached by two boats without navigation lights traveling one behind the other about 500 metres apart. They were visible as they had orange lights in front of their cabin structures. As the first boat approached Kuching it shone a spotlight on Kuching and then changed course to come across Kuching's bow. L. interpreted that as a hostile act as it should have crossed under the stern. The boat then turned back towards Kuching and shone the spotlight again. L.'s heart rate leapt and she called for D. who leapt out of bed to assist. The other boat was approaching and shone a spotlight toward Kuching as well. It appeared we would be caught between the two of them but after a few minutes it was clear they were resuming their course to wherever they were going. In the end, it was probably simply an issue of the on-coming boats not knowing the rules of the road and taking the wrong evasive tactics. Pause for thought for us though on our pirate tactics (which we won'treveal on the web!).
Another similar day and a night and we found ourselves in the early morning in the not uncommon position of being in the right place at the wrong time. We were close to Bali but could not get make enough miles that day to get to the enoa Harbour entrance at the crucial slack water time. Having missed the last daylight slack water we would have to stand off for 10 or more hours through the night. As the strait that passes the harbour entrance is a major shipping lane where the currents can run up to 8 knots we looked for alternatives and found an anchorage in Teluk Blongas on the southwest end of Lombok
Teluk Blongas was a delightful anchorage with a dramatic rock pinnacle guarding the entrance. We anchored on the west side (8°52.580 S, 116°01.418) close to the entrance. The east side of the bay is filled with buoys for shellfish farming and there are several structures thoughout the bzy for the shellfish farm workers. We passed a lovely afternoon reading in the hammock with a breeze blowing to keep us cool as we rested up for a pre-dawn start to our traverse of the Lombok strait and morning arrival at Benoa Harbour entrance..
We love it when a plan comes together! Our crossing of the Lombok strait was under spinnaker often making only 2 knots against the tide but a thrilling ride through the overfalls. We motored south of Nusa Penida and across to the entrance to Bali Harbour which was a circus of activity - crashing surf to port and starboard and a four lane highway in the channel with frequent speed boats pulling all sorts of inflatable items with tourists clinging to them. Yikes!
We made it!
Now lest you think that this has all gone too swimmingly - some of the things we didn't admit to above:
- Developing a "spiffing" spinnaker technique involving hoisting straight from the bag - only to find that we (alright D had crossed the sheets inside the bag - we think we may patent the resulting "Spirinnaker"!
- A new methodology for picking up mooring buoys:
o Stand fearlessly on the foredeck boat hook in hand whilst partner edges neatly up to buoy under one engine (port had suddenly developed loss of cooling water).
o Notice that there is no pick up rope on buoy and the height of the cat's deck makes it unlikely that you can hook the mooring chain.
o Miss the mooring chain (*$%).
o Watch in admiration as buoy slips neatly in tidal stream down Starboard hull.
o "Eureka" as you leap elegantly aft on the stbd side and triumphantly grab the buoy from the "sugar scoop" where it is easily reached.
o Request earnest (!) assistance whilst contemplating imminent closer association with buoy from aqueous perspective. Receive prompt and unruffled same from partner in form of rope which she threads adroitly through mooring shackle. Tie fastest bowline to date and (assisted by neat astern work from same unruffled partner) haul line forward to connect with mooring bridle. What do you mean clumsy- we meant to do it like that!
- And finally (for now) - how to enter plot and execute a perfect harbour entry.
o Enter way point in good time
o Lay off course - estimate ETA, monitor distance to go and other GPS info assiduously etc.
o Keep close watch for salient geo-physical features (harbour entrance - duh!).
o Overshoot (deliberately) first of two entrances - think better of it and reverse course - battle against tide and triumphantly round corner to admire the magnificent spread of ..the wrong harbour (well only just - it was the next one honest - Vasco eat your heart out!).
Note: October 14th: After a delayed return we set off tomorrow on the Singapore leg of our journey. We're not the only late season sailors which is comforting - we will set off in company of 3 other boats.
'Til next time!
Can't imagine where this month has gone! We've been spending the weekends testing sail and anchor systems - okay - sailing and anchoring away from the port. Everything checks out especially the spinnaker! We did have rewire the remote for the windlass as the through deck fitting failed and we couldn't remove it due to rust. We wired the unit through the hatch which actually works better as it will force us to keep in out of the weather so it won't corrode. We would be in serious trouble without the windlass as we use it to haul up the main as well as the anchor. With L. having a weak shoulder and D. currently experiencing tennis elbow it could be a truly unfortunate event to have a non-functional windlass!
Still no sign of our CAIT for Indonesia. We are getting anxious as the days tick by but have our fingers crossed it will materilize before September 1. That gives us 20 days to get to Singapore where we'll catch a flight to UK for a 3 weeks and then return to finish the sail to Thailand. That's the plan but as D. is fond of saying "A plan is the basis for change."
Not much left to do but provision and take on water and fuel. We have had a couple of cruisers through heading for Darwin who have had difficulty getting fuel in Indonesia. One was flatly refused fuel in Kupang while the other had the price doubled between ordering it an delivery. It could well be the result of the fuel shortages the country has been experiencing so we are taking that into consideration. Fortunately being a sailing catamaran we usually don't need a lot of fuel. Unfortunately we're heading to an area of fickle winds and strong currents. Sailing skills will be tested!
Back at work on Monday after a great weekend aboard. L. spent most of the weekend doing hourly exercises for the shoulder and learning how to get around on a boat with only one functional arm. Actually get about on the boat is the easy part - getting on and off the boat is the hard part. D. spent did a bit of boat maintenance. The generator connection to the charging unit had failed and needed to be rewired (second time but at least a new reason) and he put in a u-bolt which will allow us to lock the aft starboard locker where we store the genset. Getting ready for Indonesia.
Sunday evening a voyager pulled into the harbour. Ziegfried and partner on the HR 40 (I think). They've been cruising in Indonesia for 14 years and had been in Dili harbour 23 years ago only 3 years after the Indonesians occupied the country. He said they were not made welcome! They're looking forward to looking around as they were made to leave after two last time and were escorted everywhere by the military.
We learned today that our potential crew member has had to pull out so we are definitely on our own for our departure to Bali and beyond. Fortunately L's shoulder is healing quickly and she already has a lot of mobility back. Soon the strength training can begin!
We sent off the application for our cruising permit- CAIT. We have to have it in hand to sail so hope we can get it in the next 4 weeks.
Ready to go home and have sundowners with the voyagers! Hope you're enjoying your evening - sunset picture to follow!