Slow Sailing

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Shrinking the Diving Bucket List

18 September 2015 | Labuan Bajo, Flores
From Sail2Indonesia Rally 2015

From Sail2Indonesia Rally 2015

From Sail2Indonesia Rally 2015

Greetings from Komodo, for us, the best of Indonesia so far! The diving has been absolutely world class. We're feeling so much happier.

We did the trip over to Labuan Bajo, which is at the western end of Flores where we are now, in 4 hops. One anchorage was just a pit stop, in front of a power plant & small village, but it was quiet in the visitor department and the roll drove us out early in the morning. Then we headed to Riung, which is a little backpacker type town in the center of the "17 Islands National Marine Park"- we wanted to check that out. Riung is a rally stop but since we were ahead of the rally, we were too early for any of the festivities. It was nice enough in the town but nothing was drawing us to spend more than a couple of hours there doing a few errands and then share a happy hour at a shoreside place with the boats in the anchorage. Jon got some fried squid which was yummy. We do believe we saw some rally prep in the litter area, since the waterfront had been picked up and was looking pretty spiffy. The best part for me was seeing the construction of a brand new pesar (produce market) for the local people to sell their goods in a nice place for once. They had already made the sign using a common technique of making a cement frame that was made to look like pieces of wood. It was government funded and looked like it was going to be really nice.

We are ever so grateful that we have a fast dinghy (although it seems to be aging a lot this season) because we spent the entire next day in the water snorkeling, just moving from one island to the next in the park. We didn't do all 17, but we did a few and were pretty waterlogged by the end of the day. The thing about it though was we couldn't really tell it was a park. There was the usual snagged fishing line & submerged trash under water and fishermen traipsing over the shallows with their nets. The reef had a lonely feel and what fish were there looked depressed. That made us really worry about Komodo- another designated marine park.
From Sail2Indonesia Rally 2015

So we blasted out of Riung the following day, glad to have stopped and had a day of swimming but looking for something more and headed to Lingeh Bay. It is one of those anchorages that the cruising guide describes like this: "With white sand beaches, clean water, good snorkeling and a small, quiet village, Lingeh is just one more stop along the way in the tropical paradise of Indonesia." Well sign us up, we're there! Four of us pulled in close together. I can definitely see how the village would be quiet because we hadn't even gotten the anchor down before the canoes started materializing from everywhere paddling at full speed. Suddenly, no one was home in the village, they were all circling our boats asking for things. We all started doling out items only to be asked for more by the same people minutes later. The kids were taking apart the pens and sticking the colored post-it style paper I gave them on each other rather than using them to do what we westerners think is so desirable for a kid- to draw or write something. They ask for a pen because it is a word they know, not what they actually want. It made us think about what we bring with us. We all became a little bit hesitant to leave our boats to go snorkeling because there was no sign that anyone was going to head for home but some of us did steal away for a little bit to at least check out the reef. We were snorkeling around near a little beach near the point of the bay and I picked my head up like I enjoy doing to listen to the birds on shore. And there were monkeys on the beach! We'd read that they are in the area and come down to the beach in the late afternoon to look for food along the waters edge and there they were. Very nice. Peter & Lynn on Sunchaser reeled in a big mahi that day so we all had fresh fish for dinner which was great. We have been dragging lines all over but nothing edible has been snagged on our hooks yet. We'll keep trying!
From Sail2Indonesia Rally 2015

The last hop before Labuan Bajo was a stop at Sabibi Island. It was another unexpected great sailing day. This is so funny- the cruising guide says: "The island is uninhabited and very quiet and secluded." Well sign us up! The four of us boats get in there and try to find a spot where we won't damage any coral. It was quiet for a few minutes and then..... oh no, 2 motorized local boats show up selling trinkets. Buying something was the only way to get them to leave you alone. We now have a very Chinese looking bowl that was reportedly made in Komodo. Then they spent the night on their open boats in the anchorage. Not quite the place we were imagining spending an extra day. We did a couple of good snorkels but then headed out the next day for where we are now.
From Sail2Indonesia Rally 2015

From Sail2Indonesia Rally 2015

Labuan Bajo is the gateway town to Komodo National Park, home of a fantastic, true marine park and the Komodo dragons. It also has some western input so there are a few good restaurants, tons of dive shops and a definite reef appreciation feel. It also has a gritty, smelly feel that Lonely Planet describes as "romantically ramshackle" but we didn't notice any romantic urges while we were in town. Though we did have an awesome pizza dinner that first night which was sooooo nice. We also set up some diving for the following day. We went with Uber Scuba, recommended by friends who had had a great time and you get a discount if you dive for 3 days. This would be a splurge for us but we are here in SE Asia primarily for diving and Komodo has some very strong, cold, downward currents to avoid.

From Sail2Indonesia Rally 2015
From Sail2Indonesia Rally 2015
From Sail2Indonesia Rally 2015

Over the next 4 days (we took one day off for a breather) we did 9 dives in the park on the Uber dive boat. It heads out for the day into the park and you do 3 tanks at different sites.We did these with Jan & Rich along with 3 other couples we've been traveling with so we had friends and we met some new people too. Over all the years that we've been diving, we have never seen so much life. The things that have been on the wish list for years have finally been sighted, more than once. We saw numerous frogfish, seahorses, flamboyant cuttlefish, blue ringed octopus, a type of mandarin fish, new nudi's, multi colored leaf scorpionfish, mantas, turtles, sharks, ghost pipefish, striped regular pipefish, pygmy seahorses, a box crab and our favorite- a rhinopia scorpionfish. This guy has personality! After the first day, neither us nor Jan & Rich could sleep because we were so excited about what we'd seen. The reef was so balanced and the fish were big and unafraid. Then we did another 2 days with more great scenery both above & below the water. Some dives were drift dives with a fair amount of current including Shotgun Reef where you blast through a cut at one point like a shot, others were pretty coral reefy dives on pinnacles and some were CLEAN muck dives. On our surface intervals we were fed pretty well as we warmed up in the sun. The divemasters were experienced and enthusiastic which made diving all the more fun. On the day we did the muck dive, they really hit the jackpot with one cool find after another. Our divemaster was so chuffed to see the rhinopia & a pair of ghost pipefish that we hung out at 70 feet for more time than expected and he actually ran out of air! He came over to me and asked for air which took me several seconds to understand because I thought he was asking me if I was out of air! So we got to buddy breathe which is good practice since I haven't ever had to do it. But we first went over arm & arm to the coral head where he'd just found TWO frogfish- we took a good look before carrying on to the surface. What a great dive. On the way back at the end of the day, we had over an hour to decompress and lounge in bean bags watching the sunset from the upper deck of the boat. The topography of the area is beautiful with sun scorched mountainous islands and beautiful blue water. It was so exciting to pull up to a new dive site and see the top of a pinnacle, a rock with a keyhole in it, a beautiful channel between two islands or a quiet anchorage with a white sand beach behind the reef. And you knew that when you descended, it was going to blow you away.
From Sail2Indonesia Rally 2015
From Sail2Indonesia Rally 2015

So that's what we've been doing. It was nice to have a break today and get caught up on boat chores but tomorrow we're headed into the park with our boat to do some diving on our own in a few safe spots and also we still need to visit the Ranger station for the hike to see the Komodo Dragons. For some reason I am very excited about this. We plan to do that muck dive again too!

It's a funny thing how you can't know things until after you do them. You can do all the reading and listen to what everyone tells you and get a picture in your head of what you think you want, but in the end you have to make your own way and then figure out what was best for you. We had our minds set that we wanted to glimpse the more remote part of Indonesia- the far east and that we wouldn't like the western part as much because it is more built up. But now that we've been moving through, we see that what we most like to do needs to actually be there- the mountain or the reef or some man made creation like an historic temple (coming up soon!). There needs to be an infrastructure to be able to get to it and there needs to be people who care about taking care of it. Along the way, the locals we meet & talk to, the experiences we share together and the things we learn make it complete. So we're thinking remote isn't necessarily the answer for us. Not to mention it can be hard to find here.... And being able to get a great piece of pizza isn't a bad thing either. Three cheers for Labuan Bajo and Komodo National Park!

From Sail2Indonesia Rally 2015
Vessel Name: EVERGREEN
Vessel Make/Model: Tashiba 40 Hull #158
Hailing Port: E. Thetford Vermont
Crew: Heather and Jon Turgeon
Hello! We are Heather & Jon Turgeon of S/V Evergreen. We started sailing in 1994 on our first boat, a Cape Dory 31, then sought out a Tashiba 40 that could take us around the globe. It has been our home for 19 years. We've thoroughly cruised the East coast and Caribbean and just completed our [...]
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