Last evening, a storm full of wind but no rain descended on the anchorage shortly after sundown. As is our normal, we'd already removed our outboard motor and hoisted Puff alongside the boat out of the water. She was safe should something like what was coming should come along and we like the feeling of security that nothing can happen to our cherished dinghy. Without it, life would be a whole lot harder.
As the storm descended, we went out on deck and simply pulled her over the lifelines and dropped her on deck, now really safe and out of harms way. Should something happen in the anchorage or to our mooring buoy or line, we were safe to go. Many of the other boats here in the anchorage just leave their dinghies on lines behind their boats. Ever since Mexico, we had done what we just did. We even do it in calm weather. We have about a 3/4 moon but with the cloud cover, it wasn't the easiest thing to see around the anchorage but with every one running their anchor lights it was easy to keep tabs on all the boats in the mooring field. These moorings are new. Really new. Like two weeks old new and have never been tested in a big blow. Twenty to thirty knots is just an average wind for a storm so not that big a deal. The bad thing is that who ever placed these moorings, put them much to close together. With the current that passes through here during the tidal shift, we can get currents of over 4 knots easy. Toss in an opposing wind and it can get a bit crazy. Then, add in darkness and the fun begins. As we sat in the cockpit watching a show on the computer and watching the boats around us, we heard a call over the VHF radio from Carissma( a big catamaran) to Chakira(another big catamaran) about their situation. Chakira had come into the anchorage apparently just as the storm was hitting and dropped their anchor about where we had put ours the night before. Carissma was beside us then also. They were now concerned that Chakira, on anchor, would swing and come to close to them and perhaps hit them. Now, we know Lee and Bob on Chakira, having met them way back in French Polynesia and having spent two months with them at Oceanview Marina in Davao. It's a big boat with an even bigger anchor. Where they had dropped it was a field of coral bommies that their anchor would easily catch on and hold like a rock. They were not going anywhere. I called Lee and let him know of our time there and all seemed well. As of this morning, Chakira and Carissma were not really that close to each other. Not sure what happened but all seemed just fine as the sun came up.
This storm came in spurts. It blew to 20+ knots about 2000 and then slowed down for a quiet night, or at least most of it. About 0400l, it came back and we went right back to the 20-25 knot winds where it still is now (0700). The current is still flowing through the anchorage and the wind is still blowing. It's going to be an interesting day.
Do you like to row? Does anyone really like to row? OK, it's good for the back and arms but hey, God gave us the outboard motor and I'm quite happy to use mine. With that being said, here is another part to bring along with you if you are heading out from anywhere. At the end of your gasoline fuel line is a fitting that connects the fuel line to the motor. The fuel outlet on the hose has a piece on the inside of it that seals the clip onto the motor fitting. We've had our motor about 5 years now and have used it hundreds of times. On with the clip, off with the clip over and over. As we were preparing to leave Davao City last week, I looked at the end of my fitting and found a big chunk out of the inner circle of the seal so that with that gone, there was little chance of it actually sealing. The repeated on and off had taken a chunk out of the seal. Now air could get into the lines and the flow of fuel would be interrupted. My engine would run and then falter then run and then falter. When we got to Tarakan in the Indonesia, it ran fine. Now that we are at Derawan, it had a heck of time running. When I went ashore, I was greeted by Mr. Humphries, the local organizer of Festival Derawan. He turned us over to his assistant(John) who looked at the fitting and off we went into the small town on Derawan. He placed some calls to locate the part but had no success. We finally ended up at his house where he actually had the part in an outboard motor part bag he has. We took the fitting back to Puff(our dinghy) and it fit perfectly!!! We were saved!! SO--if you are heading out anywhere from where you are, go get one of these parts and stick it away where you always know where it is. Your dinghy is your car and with no engine on it, it can be a LONG row back from shore if you get that far. You never know when you will need it, but in time, you will.
Now, about the last 24 hours. We got to Derawan yesterday about 0900 and grabbed the last buoy in the harbor. Most of the other cruisers had set out on an excursion to the mainland. Griffin II gave us instructions on where and how to enter the anchorage and even told us of a buoy off their stern that was still available. We snatched it as quick as we could a a couple more boats were due in. We were a bit close to a catamaran off our stern but we stayed on board and watched all day since the occupants of the cat were on the excursion. We'd heard tell that they had chased off other boats that had taken the buoy as they felt they were too close. They returned about 1800 and promptly told us we were too close and that we had to move!!! The Sun was due to set in less then 15 minutes and there were no other moorings to be had. I was all for staying since we had not come even close to them during the day but Tracy made the decision that we would drop the line and try and find a place to drop the anchor. Off we went searching with me on the radio asking if anyone in the anchorage had a clue were we could drop the hook. One cruiser asked what was going on. Why were we moving. I explained to him what had happened and he blew up. "If the other person feels you are to close then he can move. You stay right where you are." That's easy to say over the radio but not to the persons face and we were already underway. We went to the front of the anchorage and closer to shore and found a spot that was just 15-20 feet deep with coral bommies on the bottom and dropped the hook there and pulled back and it set fast and hard. We were set for at least the night. Tracy decided the spend the night in the cockpit on "anchor watch" with the anchor drag alarm on. There was a catamaran next to us(about 150 feet) that called out to us over the water when he returned to his boat asking us what we were doing. I explained the situation and he seemed puzzled that we had moved but satisfied that Tracy was going to be on anchor watch and we would move in the morning.
About 0700, the man from the boat that had demanded that we leave showed up along side to apologize and point out that some boats were already leaving the anchorage and we now had our choice of where we wanted to be. We finished our breakfast, pulled up the anchor and took off for an available buoy. Just after we grabbed it and settled in, the boat in front of us called over that the buoy we had grabbed swung very close to another boat beside us and that the previous boats had "kissed". Man, what the heck is going on here. Does no one want us in their neighborhood. I even checked my deodorant(still working). We dropped the lines and headed off again for another buoy and grabbed it. This time, no one complained!!! How refreshing. We plopped Puff into the water and lowered our outboard and took off for shore. (insert the braking down portion of this message).
When we were checking in with the Master of the Harbor in Tarakan, he has advised us that we needed to check in with the Master of the Harbor in Derawan and get our paperwork stamped by him that we had gone there. John, the man of the day that had the part we needed for our motor took us to the office and we got the paperwork all stamped. Apparently we were the first boat of all that have come here that has actually gotten the paper work properly stamped and signed. A rule is a rule as far as we are concerned. Our paperwork was now done. John took us to a local restaurant for lunch. I'd asked him where he ate. A very attractive building with different food to choose from. It even had menus!! Tracy got "Shrimp and veggies" while I opted for fried chicken with rice. Can't go wrong there. When it came it looked great. Mine came with a sauce on the side that looked like red chilis. I washed my hands as Robbie had showed us the day before and then went at it. Rice first, then a taste of the sauce. Not bad at all. In Muslim countries, it is forbidden to use your left hand when eating. Ever tried to get chicken off a bone using only one hand? Not the easiest thing but it can be done. I stripped it clean and put it with my rice then poured the chili concoction on top and mashed it all together with my fingers. I was becoming a native!!! Hey, I neve even liked playing in the dirt when I was a kid and now I was mashing my food with my fingers and getting it to my mouth the same way. I was becoming one with my food. It was great. Just the right amount of spice in the mix. I think the owner of the restaurant was amazed that I actually ate it and how I ate it. It brought a nice sweat to the top of my head. A sure sign of great spices. Tracy's shrimp lunch was also great and we both told the owner/chef how much we loved it. They even had cold Cokes!! John stayed with us through the meal but didn't really want to eat with us but did finally have a big bottle of water and a dish of rice with fish wrapped in banana leaves that is cooked in an oven. We don't understand what it on the menus but each comes with pictures so choosing is easy. The total price--$94,000 rupia--about $8.50US. That fed all three of us and included drinks. Tracys was $25,000 rupia, mine $35,000 rupia. The rest was three cokes and a big bottle of water. It sure tasted great and we're sure going back again.
Once back at Zephyr(only a couple of stalls) I cut the fuel line and installed the new fitting. Tightened a hose clamp and let her rip. The engine ran for a good 20 minutes with no problems. Solved!
About the anchorage here. There is a tidal flow that just can't be believed. It's got to hit 5 knots!!! The mooring buoys at the front of the boats are dragged under water as it rushes past our hulls. It does this for 10 minutes and then stops. Then it does it again. This goes on and on and on. It does slow down during slack tides but then simply reverses and goes out the other way with all the boats reversing position in the anchorage. No way would I go swimming in water like this. You'd be swept away in a matter of moments and there would be no way to get back. The wind always opposes the current so it can get really strange in the anchorage. You'd need to tie a line to your body to stand a chance. I think I'll stay onboard or take a dinghy ride to a nearby beach.
Let's start with yesterday in Tarakan. We headed ashore in Puff(our dinghy)about 0745 and found one of the local wharfs that have many of the local boats that go to all the different islands and villages in the area. We tied off to a beaten up wooden jetty post next to a half dozen other boats(all from the same company) and climbed over them to get to a set of rickety stairs and up to the main wharf. We'd gotten numerous text messages on our phone from Robby Chakiras(station chief for Customs) as to where to go and a text message to show people along the way to get directions. I asked a driver for one of the local hotels where Customs was located and he gave us directions. We stopped a few times as we headed in and showed each person what Robby had written and they pointed us along the way. We finally met up about an hour later. He greeted us warmly and gave us each a big bottle of water to drink. Boy, it sure tasted great. He presented us with our completed Customs papers(all the info had been put into their system by the event coordinator).
We waited a few minutes for his car to be ready and two other Customs officials to join us and off we went for the Master of the Harbor's office, Immigration, and Quarantine. The Master of the Harbor wasn't ready for us so we took off for Immigration. They opened up the offices just for us since we were part of the rally. WOW!!! What service! A few minutes later, we were off for with all the forms and our passports stamped. On to Quarantine were again, they opened again, just for us. We gave them some copies of our papers and a few minutes later we were again set to go. Back to the Master of the Harbor where Tracy was advised to just sit out in the office while he conducted business with me. Women were not allowed in his offices. Again, I gave him the papers he asked for and we were again ready to go. As I left, one of the agents in the office asked "Do you eat pork?" I answered "yes, but very rarely". He wanted to know in a round about fashion if I was Muslim. What I told him made it clear that I was not as eating any form of pork(yes, even bacon) was forbidden. We then headed for the dock where Puff was, stopping along the way at an ATM to get some money. Tracy and Robby stayed at the car while I took the other two Customs officials to our boat for inspection. They opened numerous drawers and door and then we headed back to shore. We dropped the two other agents off at the Customs Office and then Robby took us to a local veggie market as well as a grocery store. What a change from the Philippines. Far more developed but none of the big shopping malls. BUT--Tarakan doesn't have 3.5 million people on it's island. Robby then took us to lunch at a local restaurant that specializes in food from the Sumatra region of Indonesia. Robby is from there so he told us and showed us what all the different foods were. They brought at least 25 different dishes of food to the table so we could choose what we wanted. It was GREAT!!! Some spicy and some not but a great selection of food. Best food at a restaurant I've had since we left Palau. Spicy but just enough to be great. There were several dishes of fish, chicken breasts, beef, eggs, chicken liver, chicken legs, veggies(like Indonesian spinach) and more. All were in some kind of sauce as rice is served with the meal. THere were four small bowls of water on the end of the table. These were for washing your hands before you eat. Now, I'll admit, I'm a prissy eater. God gave us a fork and a reason to use it--eat!. Well, not in Indonesia. We watched as Robby made his choices of dishes and then poured them onto his rice and mashed it all together with is hands. He then grabbed a handful of what he had combined and lifted it with his fingers into his mouth. I'd gotten a fork from a container on the table but quickly left it there and did the same. Wash my hands, choose my dishes( beef for me that has been cooked for at least 4 hours or more according to Robby). It was all spicy and very flavorful. Not to hot(with spice) but just right. Soft drinks were not available(Muslims rarely drink them) so "iced" tea was ordered. Here's how its made. Make the tea with hot water, add lots of sugar and then dump in a bunch of ice to cool it. Too sweet for Tracy so she grabbed a bottle of water that was sitting on the end of the table. As I said, it was one of the best meals I've had in a long time. Price for all three of us-- $134,000 rupia or about $12.00 US. One thing that came of the meal was that I got to discuss the Muslim religion with Robby. We discussed the things I had read in the Koran(have my own copy in English)and what was the truth about the Muslim religion and what was not the truth. It was facinating to me as I have been trying to learn more about it for quite some time. I hope to be able to sit down with an Iman at one of the mosques and get more information about it. Robby then dropped us off at the dock again and we took off for Zephyr after thanking him profusely for all his help. We both knew that had we not been involved in the rally, it would have taken far longer(sometimes days) to get through what we had gotten through in a matter of hours. Indonesia welcomes with open arms, cruisers from all over the world. They don't see us as boat lice but an easy way to help the economy. We spend money and sometimes, lots of it. Our anchor as up and we were off by just after 1400 for the 87 mile trip down to Derawan.
It took us three hours to get out of the harbor(under motor) and then start heading southeast(still under motor). I came on watch at 1900 and since we still had the engine running, I fired up the radar again. By 2130, I saw a blip on the radar screen out about 6 miles. Closer too us(about three) was what appeared to be a fishing boat. At the time, we had our sails up trying to get what we could from the wind and with the engine going we were doing about 5 knots. We just kept getting closer to the blip and now I could see that the fishing boat was a bigger mother ship with lights strung all over it. Again, I could see the blip of the big ship out now 5 miles and getting closer but no blip for the fishing mother ship though his lights were getting brighter. On we pushed and I could now see another boat on the horizon, about were the big container ship seemed to be on our radar. But still no sign of the mother fishing ship. Suddenly, it got clearer and the fishing mother ship was the container ship I was seeing on the radar screen!! It was that big that it had looked to be to be so much closer while in reality, it was miles away from us. PLUS--IT WAS STOPPED IN THE WATER!!!!! I didn't think boats that big ever stopped in the water. As I looked at the radar screen, all the blips on the screen were stationary. No one was moving out there. We'd entered the "Twilight Zone" section of the ocean where boat stop at night!! It was time for Tracy to take over the watch so when she came on deck, we dropped some of our sails and headed off again under motor.
We arrived at Derawan about 0900 and got the last mooring buoy in sea of other boats. How lucky is that! While we are a bit close to another boat, it's close to 100 feet deep here so anchoring would be tough. We were in by 0930 and attached to the mooring ball. They put the moorings so close that since the harbor is affected by both tide and wind, the boats drift all over the place. Sometimes closer to each other and some time farther apart. Just about all the other cruisers have gone on an expedition to mainland so there isn't too many people here. As we neared the harbor, I put out a call to the anchorage asking for info on where to enter and about the mooring buoys. Chris on Griffin II came up and and gave us all the info we needed. The field was just about full and there were more boats still coming. Not sure if everyone from Davao is even here yet. We think we are about 3 boats missing. Chris from Griffin II came over in his dinghy(he's right next door) and helped us get hooked to the mooring ball right at the ball and not at the end of the tag line where most attach their mooring lines from the boat. We're now in, safe and sound and from what Chris told us, there isn't much happening in the next couple of days so we can get some rest. The free fuel isn't getting here till Wednesday he says or so the rumor has it. That's just fine by us. In this last voyage, we figure we actually sailed about 24 hours of an 8 day trip. Our tanks are probably about half full plus, it's probably time to change the oil again as I did just before we left the marina at Samal Island. Tracy is below getting a nap and I've now finished this post.
09/13/2013, Celebes Sea
We are motoring like crazy heading for Tarakan, Indonesia. Yeh, I know, I wrote about us heading for Malaysia but we have again changed our minds and are still trying to catch up with the rally. Hey, 200 liters of free fuel is a BIG incentive. We've had to motor most of the way to get here and free fuel is a nice perk. Getting here so late, hopefully we will still get some of it. We expect to pull into Tarakan(north of Derawan) about sundown tonight. We've had so little wind for the last two days, it's been motor, motor, motor. We got slammed by a nice squall early this morning and that washed off a bunch of salt off poor Zephyr.
It's been either hot and sunny or cloudy and nice. Heck, it even got cool enough I had to put up one of the side panels the other afternoon as the breeze we were getting at the time was down right cool. Probably only about 80 degrees.
We have been in contact with the organizer of the rally and he has given us the names and phone numbers of the Harbor Master and head of Customs at Tarakan so we can call them as we enter the harbor. The rally gave each of the boats a free SIM card for our phones so we can make calls when we are in town. It's going to prove important to us. The offices all close about 1700 and we won't be there in time but perhaps we can make an appointment to get checked in early on Saturday so we can take off for Derawan. It's about 70 miles south of Tarakan.
As I have said before, most times, our plans are written in Jello. This is simply another case of it.
Last night as Tracy went of watch at 2300, I was greeted a short time later by a blip on our radar off our starboard(right) side. We had the engine running so the radar can get turned on, plus it was night when it's important to know what is around you. I could see the lights in the distance, about 6 miles away. As I watched the screen, it was coming our way. Suddenly, there as another blip. This time, again off the starboard side but about 6 miles ahead of us. I watched the ships as they came on and on. As I watched the one just off our starboard side, the lights on it slowly changed configuration as the ship turned. One minute, I was looking at the ships port side and the next, right at his bow! In the end, I saw his starboard lights and knew he was going to pass us on our stern. Suddenly more blips showed up, most off our starboard side. I grabbed our FLIR(night vision scope) and watched as they came on. Each time, slowly changing course to pass us. Some in front and some behind. One was about a half mile off our stern. That's a bit close for comfort. Now we were motoring so I had not only our navigation lights on the top of our mast burning, but our steaming light on the front of the mast that visually tells other boats that we are motoring. We also have a radar reflector attached to our mast that ships I have talked to over the VHF radio have said we looked as big as a freighter. OK, now we have ships coming from the port side. I'm in the middle of a shipping freeway!!! It's pitch black as the moon has already set so it got a bit unnerving to say the least. I tried repeatedly to call each of the ships on our VHF and only one responded to my calls. A Frenchman! He advised me of his course and that he was going to stay well away from us. In the end, at least ten ships passed us in about two hours. The closest--a half mile. The farthest-- about 5 miles. Tracy didn't see any when she came back on watch at 0300! I got to have all the fun!?! It may be a big ocean, but sometimes it gets a bit crowded out here.
We pushed and pushed and pushed our engine and made it into Tarakan just and I do mean just before Sunset. It set at 1814 and we had just finished setting our anchor at that time. We were in safe and sound. We had a bit of wind earlier in the afternoon and hoisted all the sails as soon as we could but it just couldn't keep us at the 6+ knots we needed to make it here in time. So, even with all the sails up, we still ran the engine to give us that extra push we needed to get us here. As we closed on the last 10 miles miles, we were joined by a small cruise ship as it was heading in off our port side. She looked close to us but was in all reality, well over 8 miles from us. So, on we pushed not giving up any speed to get here.
As we neared the harbors entrance, I grabbed our phone and installed the new SIM card that Festival Derawan have given each of us and got it installed. Surprise, I've never installed one in a phone before, let alone taken an old one out. Maybe you can teach an old dog a new trick. The instructions were in many languages, none of which I understood but I finally found a small section that said how to send an SMS to a particular number and it would register the new card. I figured that out and we were up and running. Dr. Aji, that set up the rally had gotten me the phone numbers of the Harbor Master as well as the head of Customs. All I had to do was figure out the correct numbers. He's given them to us with national area codes. I got rid of those and added a "0" and the beginning of the number and I had it. I called both and one was always busy so I sent him(Head of Customs) an SMS about us and then called the Harbor Master's Office. No one spoke English. Maybe just a bit but not enough to get a message through. I again, sent them an SMS. Over the course of the next hour or so, we got it all set up for us to meet with them in the morning. Reports tell us that it only takes about 7 hours to get it all processed. Guess we will see.
Once we passed the buoys marking the entrance to the harbor here, it's a LONG 18 miles before you get to the main wharfs and a place to anchor. That's a good three hours more of motoring. Not fun. It seemed like it was the longest 18 miles we have ever gone. It went on and on and on. Just as the Sun was setting we made it. Snacks all around and then we are heading for bed.
I'll let you know how checking in goes tomorrow. Once that is done, we have to set off again for Derawan. We will make the end of this rally if it kills us.
09/12/2013, Celebes Sea
We started the engine about 1800 last night and it is still going as I type this at 1500. We have not had a breath of air since it died off. We each have a fan pointing at us as we sit in the cockpit at least keeping the air moving in the shade of the dodger and bimini. The ocean looks like a large sheet of dark blue velvet slowly undulating below the hull. We see the occasional flying fish and lots of fishermen and their boats. A couple have come over to trade fish for what ever we will share. Last night, it was a can of Corned Beef and a can of soup. Today, it was a five pound package of beef we picked up at Costco just as we left the US. It's vacuum packed and still within date so they should really enjoy it. A brake from fish. We tossed in a can of Vienna Sausages too boot.
We have a small oil leak down in the engine compartment. Nothing serious but I keep watching it and checking the oil absorber pad I keep on the floor of the room. I pulled it out today and replaced it and added some oil to the engine sump just to make sure it has plenty. She just keeps humming along and we are thrilled with that after the rebuild earlier this year. Still a bit of smoke from the exhaust but she has not faulted once. I did make sure to close the gate valve to the exhaust yesterday when we had about 11 hours of sailing wind and were doing a good 6-7 knots for most of the day. Unfortunately, it died off and we are moving along using our diesel supply. I checked it a while ago and we were only down about 25% of our supplies so we have plenty but Zephyr was built for trips like this. We hold over 200 gallons of fuel.
So, it's HOT and windless and we are greeted by fishermen as we go along. We have had to stay alert to the floating mooring buoys that we keep passing. They are out here by the hundreds, many with boats tied up to them. Not sure what holds them in place as the water here is well over 1,000 feet deep and that's a lot of line to use on a buoy. We had one pass us as we passed it. It was making good time heading east as we were heading west south west. No clue what was propelling it but it was making good time.
Meals have been great. Breakfast is cereal for Tracy and I have "Breakfast Crackers" from Fiji. I still have a bit of a supply thanks to Terry and Christine on Teka Nova. They brought me a big case of them when we met up in Pohnpei. Lunch, the big meal of the day, might be a sandwich(tuna or chicken salad) with chips, or perhaps Bruschetta on garlic and Asiago cheese toast from S & R in Davao. We do splurge and each have a can of cold coke from the bottom of the frig. God, it tastes good especially cold. I was so used to the cold cokes at the marina and ice aplenty as the marina had a freezer for use of the cruisers so they could keep what they bought at the stores frozen with out working the freezers on board to death. A great thing for cruisers that I'd love to see at other marinas. Dinners are more snacks and a drink or a jug of water. We are downing lots of water out here to keep ourselves hydrated and don't go out in the Sun unless we have too. The "kids" are below decks stretched out as far as their bodies will let them trying to stay cool also. Blue does come up on deck in the early morning and early evening but Shoeshoe doesn't come up on deck at all. We keep the cockpit door closed at night to make sure neither goes over the lifelines at night chasing bugs.
We keep hoping for wind as the day passes. The weather grib files I downloaded earlier told of 8-10 knot winds from the southeast but so far, no good. We keep pushing south west for our next destination.
Tracy just spotted a huge pod of whales off our port about two miles away. All we can see is their top fins as they brake the water surface. Dozens of fins, up and down in the water. It's fine by me if they stay over there.