Passage Report No. 14
22 August 2008 | Flores, Indonesia
A CALL for CREW
Sahula would like a crew from Bali to Singapore. Applications are invited. Email the skipper on email@example.com Departure from Bali on 25th Sept or from Karimun Java on 6th October. Passage is via Karimun Java, Kalimantan (Borneo), Belitung and Batam. Arrival in Singapore late October or early November.
Alor to Lembata to Flores
Anchors aweigh to the calls to Allah on a beautiful, calm, misty Alor fjord. Early morning fishers in fragile canoes wave farewell. A fair wind and current sends the fleet past Pantar Island to Lombata. The skipper feels an affinity.
Sahula with all sail, surfs the swells, then it is calm under the lee of nascent Kadang volcano. In fading light there is only time to follow the fleet to anchor in Bularin Bay over coral bombies ensuring a noisy night of dragging chain.
Sahula again surfs the morning swells. Village canoes greet the morning. Theirs is the precarious fishers life, from villages clinging to the skirts of the brooding, sulphur steaming cone of Lewotolo volcano.
A reminder that this is the land of fire. The chart denotes "gas" or underwater volcanoes that may create oxygenated water that would deny a vessel buoyancy.
A brisk sail into Lewoleba, "capital" of Lombata island to anchor amongst the fleet. The fleet has grown to include the Roti and Lombata bound group direct from Kupang.
The locals are a "water" people. Shore side houses extend precariously over the shallow bay on a forest of spindly timbers. A low tide the children reclaim their soccer "field."
In Darwin, Indonesia's traditional wooden boats are museum exhibits. Here they support the fishers daily bread. They line the shore. Children in dugout canoes, larger craft, home to fisher families; speedy, long narrow colourful "day" craft; of large elegant trading ships with impossibly sky bound, curving bowsprits and blue, yellow, red sailed canoes, form a continual fleet. Motors (1 cylinder, no muffler) clacking, they seem to only have full speed.
The skipper, a passenger with three lively youths in a passing canoe, can rebut their seeming instability.
A traditional shipyard (a beach at low tide) in Kalabahi, crafted boats and repairs using mainly hand tools to cut and pin with wood plugs and steel nails. Timber strakes are caulked with bark. Aluminum dinghies or outboards are not seen in any port.
A visit to the wharf provides a tour of three large traditional trading vessels. The conditions are basic in the extreme. Inter-island commerce relies entirely on these craft.
Indonesian marine society is a living Darwinian "museum."
Another wonderful welcome. In the morning, we are ushered through a symbolic thatched gate by traditional warriors offering food and kava. Then after dances, we're invited to board various trucks and motorbikes for a tour led by warriors mounted on six small but tough horses. For 2 hours our parade is welcomed by massed school children and locals on a tour throughout the city and environs. The spontaneity is touching.
Well meaning but inappropriate, is the dance by the infant children of a catholic school. Guided by nuns they came dressed in silken costumes of a USA drum marching team and in tight teenage colourful tops and shorts. Their "western" dance serves to highlight the grace and beauty of traditional culture.
The Vice-Regents evening dinner reception displays the local dances of warriors, beautiful graceful children and women. The skipper and others are invited to join in the traditional dances. One involved footwork between swift moving bamboo poles, inelegant but...the skipper ankles survived; others were games involving a bow and arrow; a version of touch, all to great local delight and applause. Another wonderful evening.
Differences between the island cultures are becoming clearer. Nothing evidences it more than the weaving. Alor work is colourful, Lombata darker, all is the result of long hours by village women. Their price seems woefully inadequate.
Three hours bounced over mountains, in a bus-cum-truck, had us in Lemalera whaling village. Brave villagers hunt whales, in a traditional version of "Moby Dick," from wooden long boats with an iron tipped bamboo harpoon. They're exempt from the Whaling Convention because some 25 whales a year is not considered a threat. A three hour "bounce" back to attend another evening of marvelous cultural events and dancing. Three hours rest and....
It's called Ipu Lewatolo. Its cone, at 4754 feet, seethes steam and sulphur. It's tantalising, a challenge and close. Two Germans, Tomas and Klaus, and skipper, were "bemo'd" away at 0400, were on its slopes at 0530. Gonnar, the guide (not a name for inspiration!) rapidly moved through the jungle, grasses and treeless summit rocks. The summit cone bulged with yellow steaming sulphur fissures and ash. The "old" summit edges, with white ashed, dry lakes below, provided an awesome moonscape and beyond, superb island vistas.
It was not all go, Domin, from a village high up, offered to provide refreshments. We found him up a tall palm trunk, slashing coconuts down to provide sweet juice. He promised similar on our return. Later, a banana tree sign said, "This coconut for Mr. David and his friends - From Domin." Generosity knows no bounds.
The fleet enjoyed to short day to Kroko Island. An off lying small sand cay, crystal clear water, and fleet drinks to the sunset and the moonrise. Ipu Lewatolo bade fair well, the orbed moon rising precisely behind its summit. Life is good.
Indonesia's living nature seems solely people. It is their sounds that fill the air, not that of wildlife. There are no large flights of seabirds. The seas are mysteriously quiet. Underwater diving reveals few fish. On land as well, the lack of wildlife; birds, animals and even insects, means a surreal silence. Perhaps the land and seas have none of life's sustaining nutrients. In the dry season the islands are impossibly dry. More likely it is the huge imbalance in favour of human needs. Every bay is a myriad of fishing floats and nets. Fishing using explosives ensures devastated reefs.
The dry season also ensures few mosquitoes. Sahula is fully gauzed and fastidious use of repellant at dusk and dawn, reduces the odds of malaria.
Sahula's crew is ill from some lapse in dealing in local food and water. Fortunately, there are three fleet doctors. Soon she is well. Similar illness is afflicting many in the fleet. There is one reported case of malaria.
The doctors also assist locals seeking help. Generally the locals seem fit and healthy. They are a small, slim, people, free of obesity. Their diet of rice, vegetables, meat and fish is repeated in numerous forms.
In Rally ports Sahula's crew dine ashore. Meals average around three dollars or less.
Sahula is finding bays using "101 Anchorages in Indonesia" and reports of past voyages. It is an aspect of fleet sailing that Sahula is never alone. The advantage is reports on, exposure, reefs and deep water conditions.
All anchorages intrude on some village life. Some inhabitants, youths in log canoes, ask for "gifts;" others trade tropical fruits and vegetables for T shirts, pencils or exercise books. Crews are sensitive to the material poverty. Their charity would seem almost pointless were it not for the flashing smiles. Well mannered, generous people are order of the day. Security is not an issue.
Maumere is the administrative centre of Sikka regency. The official welcome is marvelous. The program is similar but the content quite different. We are welcomed outside by the Regent, local headman and dancing women. The skipper, as fleet representative, is presented with a local Ikat (weaved scarf) by the Regent. Traditional dances are noticeably livelier than previous welcomes. We are told that traditional dances are evolving to include more modern choreography. The skipper and fleet are soon whirling deverishes. Then, a unique touch, a modern play is acted, to great local and fleet amusement. It is clear the male has been unfaithful and reluctantly regrets his transgression. A marvelous meal, beautifully presented, more dancing sees the night out.
Next day is a boat race and evenings include cultural events. The setting sun, through palms, background to a beach "bbq" at the Sea World Resort, ends another day.
Lorraine (crew) flies out to Australia. Sahula is quiet. It has been three lovely months. Sahula is now "1 POB "(one person on board) till at least Bali. She may return in Phuket, Thailand.
It is said that "cruising is doing maintenance in beautiful places." The truth rings as Sahula's automatic electronic self steering refuses to work. It is the only major repair so far. The skipper finds new skills. The fleet rally to assist. The system is useful as the skippers extra crew especially when using Tanya (the motor).
Another day before leaving for Mausambi, Ende regency, a full day's sail.