08 July 2017 | Dili, Timor-Leste
02 July 2017 | Ambon, Indonesia
08 June 2017 | Sorong, Indonesia, at anchor on South Side of Doom Island
06 May 2017 | Royal Belau Yacht Club mooring, Malakal Palau
05 May 2017 | Malakal, Palau
05 May 2017 | Malarial, Palau off Sam's Tours
13 April 2017 | Royal Belau Yacht Club, Malakal, Palau
12 April 2017 | Royal Belau Yacht Club, Malakal, Palau
15 March 2017 | Rock Islands, Palau
14 March 2017 | Coffin Anchorage, Rock Islands, Palau
13 March 2017 | Fish Net Anchorage, Rock Islands, Palau
04 February 2017 | Malakal, Palau
21 December 2016 | Malakal Port, Palau
15 November 2016 | Anchored off Nusa Island near Kavieng, PNG
08 July 2017 | Dili, Timor-Leste
By Barbara on a gorgeous sunny day
As I was making lunch today I kept thinking I heard voices laughing and speaking American English.
I went out on deck and saw the nearby moored dive boat decorated with balloons and full of young people. One asked if we were from Seattle and how we got here.
They are the US Peace Corp volunteers gathered in Dili to celebrate several of their birthdays. They are normally living one-by-one with families in villages scattered across Timor-Leste and working on various aid projects.
One came aboard Complexity for a visit and we were invited aboard their boat for hamburgers. It was fun to hear about their work and answer their questions about life on a nomadic sailboat. They shared info about life in Timor-Leste, how to get around and what to see and do.
More Luck Than We Needed!
02 July 2017 | Ambon, Indonesia
By Barbara in unsettled rolly weather
We had gone to bed early with the boat tied up to a mooring just off the Amahusu Hotel near Ambon. For non-mariner readers here is a brief explanation about moorings. We and most cruisers usually put their own anchor down when they want the boat to stay in one place. It is attached to the boat with a chain or rope rode. A mooring has an anchor or very heavy object on the bottom with a line fastened between it and a float on the surface. Boats pick up the float or a pennant to the float and secure their boat to the mooring instead of using their own anchor. It is generally easier to pick up a mooring than to anchor. Often, as was the case here, moorings are used where the nature of the bottom makes setting an anchor securely difficult. Moorings, as is the case here, also allow more boats to be secured in an area. Moorings are often provided in ecologically sensitive areas to minimise damage to sea grass or delicate coral.
We rested well until the wee hours before dawn when we started rocking and rolling in a bigger and intermittent swell. The currents here are strong and shifting. The bay is open to the sea and funnel shaped so waves get reflected from one side to the other. The winds were gentle except for the bullets from the prevailing SE trades that kept diving over the peninsula sheltering us from the weather. I tried to sleep a bit more without success and then gave it up.
I am an early riser and have a habit of checking the boat first thing any time I get up. I quickly realised that we were half a nautical mile from our mooring position. Thankfully we were in 400 feet of water with no nearby obstacles apparent. I woke Jim up immediately. The light winds and current had carried us parallel to the coast further into bay but not aground or into anchored objects. Though it was raining hard, I could see the dark Amahusu Hotel in the distance to the west of our position at the time. Yikes, how could that have happened?!!!
We had turned off the chartplotter the night before because we were on a mooring and the weather had been dark and rainy. The solar panels were not quite keeping up with the electricity usage aboard. Unless in a marina slip, I always like to have an anchor alarm set. I set and tested an anchor alarm on Drag Queen, an iPhone app, before we went to sleep. I also double checked to be sure my phone was on the charge cable and charging since the app takes lots of battery power and likely would drain it before morning. I had looked at the app first thing as I was getting out of the berth and saw that we were 2750 feet from our "anchor", my first inkling that something was wrong. There had been no alarm sounded. I confirmed the situation within seconds by looking outside.
After I woke up Jim, I grabbed a flashlight and ran forward to check status of mooring. Our lines and the mooring ball were still attached to the boat so I surmised that the line to its anchor had parted. I found Jim some gloves and he pulled what was left of the mooring and it's barnacle encrusted line onto the deck before starting the engine to be sure it did not foul our prop.
As soon as Jim started engine the low oil alarm went off. He quickly killed the engine and went below to trouble shoot. He had changed the oil last evening but neglected to put in the new oil, so NOT like my hero engineer. I watched the boat and got the anchor ready to drop in the event the bottom came up while he put oil into the engine. We were very happy when it started promptly with no problems. By that time the depth had changed from 400 feet to 130 feet and I could no longer see the hotel. A quick look at the chartplotter indicated that the current had pushed us back down off the hotel.
As soon as the engine started and we had control of the situation I checked Drag Queen to figure out why the alarm had not sounded when we were fifty feet from our mooring position. I quickly decided that the problem was the "Do Not Disturb" setting being active on my phone. We have used that feature for years to avoid being awakened by the many alerts and noises various iPhone apps make. Do Not Disturb does not disable other alarms so I did not even consider that it might for Drag Queen. I set up some test scenarios and sure enough, that was the problem.
We took down the cockpit shelter for better visibility and motored in the rain until first light since the mooring balls are black and there are unlit fishing structures among them. We picked up another mooring while we regrouped but it is too close to the concrete sea wall for this first mate so we will probably move again. We worked together calmly and methodically. We'll have breakfast then decide where to settle.
It is clear from looking at the line that the failure resulted from chaffing of the line where it was fastened to the heavy weight on the sea floor. See the bit of blue line in the picture. We spoke to Bernie who is involved with the local sailing community when we took the float and line to him ashore. He said that the committee planned to pull and service all of the moorings, including replacing lines before the Darwin to Ambon race fleet arrives in August. They will also be adding more moorings to accomodate 24 boats.
The second mooring that we picked up in front of the hotel seemed to have too long a line. It offered enough swing to bring our boat much too close to the concrete walls extending from the hotel. It also allowed our boat to swing rather too close to one of the local longboats which was on a nearby mooring. When we picked up the pennant it was rotten and went to bits. We then grabbed the mooring line itself.
After breakfast we moved to yet a third mooring east of the public pier and just out from the red and white telecommunications tower at approximately 3 43.335 S 128 8.754 E. It may not be exactly there depending on the current and wind at the time. The third mooring seemed to be in newer condition with just the right amount of swing in all tides. The pennant was in sound condition. Bernie said that all of the moorings are of the same age and materials but thought that maybe the one that parted sending us adrift had been missed in the last retrofit.
We noticed that some of the moorings are on lines that are too short during high tide. They submerge partially or completely. Other mariners should be aware of their presence, maybe below water level if seeing a spot that looks like enough space to anchor and swing. You would not want to get your anchor hung on the mooring weight on the bottom or your rode fouled with the mooring line. We noted the issues with line length on the moorings, some too long and some too short to Bertie. He will supervise retrofitting of the moorings by checking the depth of each spot and making the line the proper length. The ones in the mooring field now were all cut to the same length which resulted in some being too long and some too short for their depth.
Bertie and the rest of the sailing community at Amahusu Beach are very friendly and committed to enhancing ammenities for visiting yachts. It will be good for the cruisers to work with them as they learn the ropes. They have learned a lot and will learn more as more yachts stop and use their facilities.
It was a scary experience, because we could have severely damaged or lost our boat or damaged the other boat in the mooring field or the unlit fishing structures anchored all around. We were not too worried about our personal safety since we could have easily swam or walked to shore had we run aground. Experience, if it doesn't kill you, is what you get when things don't go as planned. The following in no particular order is what we learned from our predawn exercise.
Mooring Lessons Learned
IT PAYS TO ALWAYS HAVE MORE LUCK THAN YOU NEED!
Trust your own ground tackle. You never know the design or condition of a mooring. We are not divers but if we were, checking a mooring is smart before you depend on it to secure your boat.
Set anchor alarms even on a mooring, but if on a phone be sure the phone sound is not turned off and that "Do Not Disturb" is not set. We usually set an anchor alarm on our chart plotter.
Think about giving at least a gentle tug on the mooring as you would to verify an anchor is set.
Have lights and gloves ready. We did and it saved precious time.
Acknowledge requests to do something, even better, repeat what was asked so you are both sure the request was heard correctly.
Turn on the engine after oil changes or other work to be sure all is ok and ready to go (literally) before moving on to other things.
Have an alternative anchorage planned and route ready on the chartplotter. We were very tired when we arrived in Ambon and skipped this practice so we stood off the mooring field until dawn.
Have the wheel steering area ready use when you go to bed. We had some gear stowed behind the wheel and wet towels pegged to the wheel under the cockpit shelter since it was raining. In this case, we had a bit of time to get our act together, but we might not be so lucky next time.
Last Day in Sorong
08 June 2017 | Sorong, Indonesia, at anchor on South Side of Doom Island
by Barbara in calm weather
As an early riser, I was already awake and had finished my coffee around 4:30 am when the calls to prayer from nearby mosques on Doom Island began. The music is unlike anything I have ever heard live. The singers are broadcast through loudspeakers from the two nearby mosques. I stood out on the deck listening to the music under a cloud-laced full moon that cast slivers of light on the gentle ripples around the boat. I have no concept of the actual words being sung, but the music conveys a longing for connection to an eternal mystic being. The roosters began crowing after the singing ceased just before 5 am. The sun won’t be up for another hour or so. Since it is Ramdan, muslims will not eat or drink anything after dawn. I imagine families on the nearby island having a meal before a day of fasting.
We have finally completed all of our clearance paperwork into Indonesia. It took three days including yesterday’s task of securing our outward clearance from the Harbormaster’s office at the Port of Sorong to depart for Raja Ampat on our way to Ambon. It is hard to believe that each of the four offices (Health/Quarantine, Immigration, Customs and the Harbormaster) we had to deal with took a half day of our time! The process is made MUCH easier by the efforts of John, a local who lives on Doom Island. He has a small business helping organize what cruisers require including reservations for water taxis, car and driver, information about the clearance process, fuel deliveries and laundry services by his wife. We were very grateful for his help and glad to pay him.
When exploring after we cleared in we used the yellow minivan private buses serve as a transit system and run all over town. It was a bit of a challenge communicating with the drivers, but Google Translate was amazingly capable of helping us get our message across. We had a charming “conversation” with some university students using the app on my phone. We walked a bit, but it was very hot and quite dusty. The sidewalks are raised much more than in the USA or Australia, but I was glad as it gave you a little more security from the traffic.
It was fascinating to see the city of Sorong from the car and a few walks as we traveled back and forth from the offices to the boat. There were many beautiful mosques, churches and temples. The street were a scary chaos of all sorts of vehicles, especially motorbikes carrying all kinds of people including whole families and people holding infants in their arms driving the motorbikes. We did not notice any traffic signals or signs, everyone just nudged their way in and out of traffic. There was quite a bit of horn tooting to warn of close encounters. No wrecks occurred during our travels. We did see some cross walks, which were not available when we survived the adventure of crossing busy four lane streets on foot.
Lines at the petrol stations were very long. Enterprising people have set up racks all along the road and sell petrol or gasoline from two liter bottles. They are right next to the traffic lanes. We could envision a very bad time if someone crashed into one of the little stands.
We walked by a shop that sells minarets for mosques. They are quite beautiful.
Jim made a stop at the ATM outside the grocery store while I went on in to get started. I slipped upstairs first to the department store to find a birthday present for him. Despite having searched for a present for him for months in Palau, I was still empty-handed. We don’t need much and have very little room for anything extra on the boat. It was interesting to see shop mannequins wearing traditional muslim clothing. Prayer rugs and beautiful head scarves were on sale. The line to check out was very slow. When I went back downstairs I found a very irate Jim who was on the verge of calling the police. He had searched the store for me four times and imagined I had been kidnapped.
We restocked our supply of fresh fruits and vegetables from in the local grocery store. We were surprised to find a big assortment of very expensive Washington apples and Florida oranges. We indulged in just two apples as special treats. As usual, we bought the fresher and cheaper local produce. The entrance to the store was crowded with big and some ginormous baskets with assorted gifts wrapped in see-through plastic and tied up in ribbons. One was a set of Tupperware like containers stacked up higher than my head! They were for Ramadan.
Island Time hosted dinner for us and the La Cardinala crew aboard their beautiful spacious cat to celebrate Jim’s birthday and wish their son, Ari, farewell. He was flying back to Australia to his first job after finishing his naval architect coursework at university. He has been sailing with his parents since he finished school last December. We wish him the best as he starts drawing boats for a living! All three boats contributed food so we had more delicious dishes than we could eat.
Yesterday we also made the last of three unsuccessful trips across Sorong to the Raja Ampat Tourism Office to buy our permits for exploring the islands. We were very frustrated that the person who sells the permits and makes the passes was out sick. None of the three people in the office was able to issue the permit. We had found the office closed on Monday, which was a regency holiday, when we first called at the office. We returned on Wednesday and found the office open, but no one was present who could sell us a pass. The people who were in the office told us to come back the next day after 9 am. I took them at their word and against his instincts, Jim agreed to make yet a third trip to the office for our permit. He got to say, “I told you so” though not with much pleasure given that we were unable to achieve our goal. We did not want to call at Waisai, the regency capitol of Raja Ampat, where the permit may also be purchased, as it is significantly out of our way.
A million rupiah is roughly $75 US dollars. It always makes us laugh to walk away from an ATM with millions in our pockets. That said four glasses of ice tea at a local hotel cost $145,000 rupiah. I have not yet got my head around how much we should expect to pay for various items and services in Indonesia. Each ATM is in an air conditioned phone booth like space.
I have to admit I like the toilets in the ladies restrooms very much. The hand wands to refresh yourself are not quite as sophisticated as a bidet but definitely get the job done. Jim felt slighted as the spray hoses are not provided in the men’s washrooms.
There are no reasonable or safe places to leave a dingy ashore so we have been using water-taxis that pick us up at the boat. They are traditional long boats powered by outboard motors. It has been interesting to ride in them. You can’t stand up inside. You duck walk to your seat. The “ferry terminal” where they load and unload passengers is busy and crowded. They have to nudge their way in among the other long boats. When the water is rough and waves are coming over the bow the crew pull down a plastic sheet that is held in place with boards and tires on a rope. You get on and off by walking on a board ramp from the bow. We traveled back and forth with the officials to inspect our boat on a long boat we had hired for the day. The skipper and crew did not speak a word of English but we managed with lots of smiles. We were quite fond of them before it was all said and done. brought 20 liters of diesel to the boat in large plastic jugs and helped manhandle them around as Jim siphoned the fuel into our tanks and jerry jugs. The water taxi travel was interesting, rather efficient and worth every rupiah.
We had planned to pull up the hook and leave Sorong at 6 am today, but while doing his engine checks Jim discovered a frayed alternator belt that he wants to replace before we depart. We need to delay until early Saturday as the first leg planned is 50 nautical miles. We want to depart just after first light so we can get the anchor down at the other end of the passage before dark. On the plus side, our friends on Island Time shared their knowledge of Raja Ampat and Jim is busy downloading a bunch more KAP files from Google Earth.
We’ll miss our Australian friends aboard Island Time and Italian friends aboard La Cardinala when we sail on tomorrow morning. Hopefully we will see them again out there somewhere soon. We expect to see La Cardinala in Raja Ampat. Island Time will be sailing to the Philippines soon.
This is a quick brain dump of our time in Sorong. I’ll write a separate piece for our friends who are interested in the minutia of the clearance process. The pictures are not very good since they were snapped on the fly with my phone, mostly from moving cars and boats, but I thought you might enjoy seeing Sorong.
Water Tank Is Full
06 May 2017 | Royal Belau Yacht Club mooring, Malakal Palau
By Barbara on a rainy calm morning
Our water tanks are full. We feel rich with all of the fresh water aboard.
It was satisfying to turn on the meters after a night of rain and see a full water tank indicated. We have in the past relied upon marina water from municipal water systems or our onboard water-maker to fill our boat's water tanks.
We have not been at a marina or dockside anywhere since September 3, 2016 when we departed Scarborough Marina in Australia. In remote places, like where we are now in Manakal, Palau, local people rely on harvesting rain from their roofs into big tanks. More than once locals have kindly allowed us to carry rain water in jerry jugs by dingy back to the boat. We did so in Ghizo in the Solomon Islands once and have done so in Palau.
Drought conditions occur in Islands in this part of the world. It did in Ghizo and also Palau. Last year Palau had a severe drought and had to import drinking water. Much of the lush foliage on the rock islands turned brown and some plants died. Koror had tried to draw on water from usually unused municipal wells to see them through the drought only to discover the water from the wells was contaminated. At the present times new municipal water system, a gift from the people of Japan, is being installed in Koror. The streets have been torn up to install the new water mains during our time in Palau. Even municipal water supplies can run low in times of drought as my wise Aussie friends know. It is good to manage and conserve fresh water what ever the source.
Our good friend, Lee Youngblood, noted that it has only rained twice in Seattle this winter, once for 30 days and again for 45 days. Jokes aside, Seattle and other West Coast US communities rely heavily on snow melt from the mountains into lakes for municipal water. Due to warming conditions less precipitation falls as snow in the region and the smaller snowpack melts sooner in the year leading to water supply difficulties later in the year. There is conflict between thirsty cities, farmers who irrigate crops and society's commitment to leave enough water in the streams for the annual spawning salmon runs and other ecosystem needs. Water conservation is important even in regions of temperate rainforests.
Our two 5-gallon water jugs weigh 40 pounds each full. It is a bit of work rowing ashore for water, walking to the sometimes distant water source, carrying the full jugs back to the dingy, hoisting them aboard and pouring them into the opening on the deck. We have a big dedicated funnel for transferring water from the jerry jugs into the water tank fill. Our onboard tanks hold 100 gallons so it would take a bit of time and effort to fill them by jerry jug if we needed to do so.
Water-makers are notoriously fussy and prone to failure, though ours has worked faithfully most of the time since we installed many years ago. We have friends whose water-maker died in a remote location. They had to take their boat to a very rough cement dock that was designed for big ships under adverse wind conditions to fill their onboard water tanks. At times they ran very low on water aboard. Friends here in Palau have been struggling to repair their water-maker for months before leaving on their next passage. They are almost to a decision to buy a new water-maker.
We did not even own jerry jugs for water until cruising in the Solomon Islands. I have always squirreled away emergency drinking water in bottles sowed in obscure spaces on the boat. Because the anticipated need to stretch our fuel and water supplies I wanted to carry extra water on our long passage from Papua New Guinea to Palau. We expected extended light air traveling conditions and an adverse current much of the straight line 1100 miles of the trip. In fact we knew we would not travel in a straight line for lots of reasons. We knew right off the bat we would have to motor north through calm conditions to find winds. The calm squally Intertropical Convergence Zone near the equator is wide in the Western Pacific especially in early winter. We carry enough diesel to motor around 600 nautical miles.
Our onboard reverse-osmosis water-maker depends on electricity and diesel fuel to generate the electricity to force sea water through a very fine filter or membrane with a high pressure pump to make fresh water. We don't run it if there is much in the way of particles in the water around the boat which would prematurely clog the prefilters and the membrane. Water-maker membranes have to be changed from time to time and are expensive, They would cost in the neighborhood of $800 if we bought them from the manufacturer of our water-maker. In remote places the membranes simply are not available. Shipping is slow and expensive. Storing lots of 40-inch-long membranes aboard a 36-foot sailboat is also difficult due to limited space.
The water-maker is an electricity hog. We usually run the engine while we make water which in areas with abundant cheap diesel fuel is not a problem. Our water-maker produces around 15 gallons an hour. We are often cruising in areas where diesel fuel is not available and others where it is expensive, contaminated and has to be transported to the boat by dingy in jerry jugs.
We though long and hard about modifying our big sunshade to harvest drinking water. Many cruising sailboats do so. In fact it is not unusual for boats to also harvest water from their decks. They simply make a dam around their water tank fill and let it run off the decks directly into their water tanks. I don't even want to think about drinking water from a walking surface. We and others walk ashore on surfaces that are sometimes appallingly filthy with substances that I will kindly leave to the reader's imagination. We catch rain water from the sunshade for laundry and other non-potable uses. The trouble with the sunshade is that it is always up and usually has splotches of bird poo on it. The sunshade is big and hard to clean as it is made of Sunbrella fabric. Also the sunshade also serves As a big umbrella to allow us to use the cockpit and coachroof as a cooler living space. The shape needs to be a bowl to harvest water not the current tent shape.
So, after too much waffling about why we made a rain harvester here is how it works.
We bought a 10-foot length of snowy white vinyl that will be easy to inspect and clean. We cut it to fit onthe foredeck and hemmed the edges. Grommets were installed along the hemmed edges and a slot was sewn into each end for a pvc pipe to be used for support if necessary. Lengths of shock cord were threaded through the grommets on the long sides to make it more of a bowl shape. A drain fitting was installed in the middle to a 15-foot length of hose that runs to the water tank. The fitting from the hose to the water tank fill prevents dirty deck water from entering our drinking water tanks. Another shock cord holds the drain down even if there is wind along with the rain as is often the case. There is room
to walk on the foredeck beside the water catcher. I often use that space to rig a clothesline. The rain catcher clips on so is easy to put up and take down. It folds up for easy stowage when not in use.
A side benefit is that the rain catcher shelters the hatch over our berth so we can leave it open in the rain unless there is also a lot wind. We have not done so yet but the rain catcher is designed to be deployed high enough to shade a hammock hung between the mast and forestay.
Even though our boat has a lot of high tech systems we like having low tech very simple backup methods for those that are essential. When visiting ashore at home, we are enchanted by the wonderful water systems. It is magic to simply turn a handle to get all the clean drinking water you want! Life is different on a cruising sailboat in more than the obvious ways.
Hurrah! It is raining again, just in time to replace the wee bit of water we used to wash breakfast dishes.
Note to readers who imagine cruising on a sailboat in remote places is a glamorous full-time holiday, it is often a lot of hard mundane work. The other times make the extra work worth it.
Cinco de Mayo Video
05 May 2017 | Malakal, Palau
Too Much Tequila Last Night
05 May 2017 | Malarial, Palau off Sam's Tours
by Barbara on a glorious sunny morning
We won a bottle of nice tequila, Tres Generations Anejo, at the Royal Belau Yacht Club annual Cinco de Mayo Celebration last night. We won second best for food. Everyone brought a Mexican dish to share. We brought Chicken Enchiladas and roughly used Karen Nelson's recipe and Mexican Corn. We used fresh local hot chilies. I always have Jim handle them since they burn my skin to a fair the well. He did a beautiful job roasting the chilies on the BBQ grill, peeling and chopping them for me. Baking the enchiladas turned out to be a bit of a chore because the oven on the boat kept going out for reasons not known. I had to watch it like a hawk. Yes, that is a rather hot task mid afternoon aboard a boat in the tropics. The corn was cooked on the grill so did not contribute to the interior inferno! People from international cruising boats, locals and Sam's Tours staff joined in the Cinco de Mayo celebration. A good time was had by all. We ate too much delicious Mexican food and drank WAY too many margaritas with friends. We were happy to wake up to a beautiful rainbow and no hangovers!
Footnote to the lessons learned from experience file: The skipper really must wash his hands before taking a piss after cutting hot chilies. Yes, someone learned a valuable but painful lesson from experience! Don't ask.