To Indonesia in Fishnets
23 July 2019 | Debut, Indonesia
It was time to move on. More because we didn't have the millions of dollars you need to have as an ageing foreigner to retire to Australia than the draw of going sailing again. We quite liked it here.....or there now, as we've just landed in Indonesia.
Australia has a lot to offer. Not much in the way of quaint, centuries old towns or cities but plenty of ancient monuments - Dame Edna and Kylie for example.
Our last stop in Australia was in Thursday and Horn islands in the Torres Strait, the site of much strife and anguish during the last unpleasantness when upwards of twenty thousand Australian and US service personnel formed a first line of defence. Today, the island's have reverted to their traditional owners, the Torres Straits Islanders and it really does have an island feel, about as far away from the bright lights and sky scrapers of big city Australia as you can get. It's more Tonga than Australia, but without the pigs walking around. This is that last stop before you fall off the edge of the continent and as such, it's a "bucket list" destination. Folk drive the five hundred miles or so of rutted and corrugated dirt roads north of Cairns and Port Douglas to visit the Far North, "The Tip", then jumping on the ferry or taking a plane hop from the mainland on to the islands where the cafes and stores service the tourists and locals most of whom are employed by one of the fifty or so government agencies that operate in the islands. Fifty! I tried making up a list but couldn't get past ten; health, pensions, employment, roads, transport, airport, schools, tourism, customs, immigration. Remember, that's fifty agencies in an area with a collective population of a few thousand. You've got to give it to these bureaucrats, they sure can create work.
A few days on Thursday Island, inventively named by Captain Bligh as he rowed past it on a Thursday..... having called the other islands, Monday Tuesday Wednesday.... helped ease us back into laid back island life and set us up for the next few months here in Indonesia where things are more simple. Like building regulations for one. The twelve officers from Customs and Immigration have yet to arrive so we are stuck on the boat but from here, I can see we are definitely in a single storey environment. Concrete and glass have given way to corrugated iron and plywood. Riviera and Sunseekers given way to pangas and rusting fishing boats.
We were among the last to depart Thursday Island and plotted a big banana course to stay as close to Australian waters for as long as possible and avoid the problems of the inshore fishing fleets off Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. Smart move as it turned out. The morning SSB Net reported night watches spent dodging fishing boats and their mostly unlit nets. Over a hundred of them at one point. Unfortunately, yet predictably quite a number of cruisers spending an unhappy hour or four in fishnets - if you get my drift. One poor crew was netted for over seven hours necessitating a Pan-Pan which brought the net owner to the rescue, manoeuvering the family's very large fishing hulk within feet of expensive, shiny fibreglass in a pitching ocean in the pitch black. The fun you can have in the middle of the night.
We must confess to feeling a bit smug listening to these tales of woe every morning, in deeper water sixty or so miles away from the trouble and strife.....right up until ten miles out when we found ourselves slowing to standstill. We'd been watching a red and white flashing light on the dark horizon for a while and it clearly signalled trouble. Prudent yachters as we are we dropped the main and lifted our water generator and dropped the boards a bit further. If you're in the know, these lights probably signal whether to turn left or right. Or just turn back. We weren't in the know and went left. Ooops. Some dinghy start line tricks helped us back out the net and after a few minutes we slipped away and by noon had negotiated our way through the unmarked reef and were anchored and unconscious by lunchtime.
A few hours later we were woken by the call to prayer, the first of many and anchored where we are with a mosque on either side, we get it in stereo. We were really here.
Then later, incongruously, the still of the evening was filled firstly with the sounds of Whitney Houston, Neil Diamond and the like, giving way to assorted Rap Crap, doof-doof music, presumably as the night wore on and the audience demographic changed. This went on 'till about 02:00 and for a few hours we could have been in Ibiza or Majorca. Until the morning call to prayer kicked off, the two or three different mosques competing for the airwaves and I guess, worshippers. Hardly time for the local yoof to get some kip.
(More pics in new Album)