A Different Perspective
17 August 2019
Out here, you tend to get adopted and for a week, back in Debut, which already seems a long time ago, we were Oppie's adopted children. Oppie and her family came on board and made this video for her audience. It's another tour of the boat but from a different perspective.
Putt Putts and a Passing Fad
16 August 2019
When I was a nipper and too young to get a full time crewing job, after sailing my model yacht on the boat pond for an hour or so I'd often wander along the prom to go and see what mischief a nine year old could get up to. It was Largs in the sixties, a small seaside town for the infirm, populated, to my young eyes, by people who must have been over a hundred years old. It hasn't changed much. Anne was brought up there. Anne and her three sisters but even "the Rich girls" as they were commonly known, couldn't put a dent in the age demographic.
Back on the prom, if you had a shilling, which I seldom did, that was a weeks salary at my school holiday pig farm job, you could hire a "putt-putt" for an hour, a twelve foot, wooden, clinker built dinghy fitted with a single cylinder petrol engine which made a distinctive "putt-putt" noise - which became the generic term for the vessel to all the punters and NEDS, (non educated delinquents) who came down to Largs from Glasgow for the day.
The putt-putts, which would nowadays feature at classic wooden boat shows and cost twenty grand new, would be driven around the bay by all and sundry, no skills, no life jackets and from the NEDS, no payment as they'd keep the boat out all day then ditch it on a faraway beach when the petrol ran out.
Which is what we worry about here. Navigating around here is just like a giant Largs Bay in the sixties. With sunshine. Putt-putts everywhere, all out fishing in relatively large seas, relative if you're in a hollowed out log, with only an additional ten inch plank gunwhale stopping you from getting swamped and a single cylinder putt-putt nineteen whatever engine to get you the ten to twenty miles back to shore. These intrepid fishermen set out shortly after the four fifteen morning call to prayer and for an hour, there's a stream of them putt putting past us on their way out to sea. There's not much sleeping goes on between four fifteen and six.
Once out in the briny, they fish somewhere close to a rectangular bamboo FAD, a fish attracting device, or as we know them, a BAD BOY. A Bow Attracting Device. The damn things are everywhere. Most anchored anywhere out to maybe two hundred metres, others in deep ocean, which sometimes isn't necessarily that far from land, drifting with the tides. It's all very local and part of the cultural experience. It's just a bit nerve wracking when you're surfing at fourteen knots in the pitch black.
09 August 2019 | Diversion
One thing we're all getting used to out here in Indonesia is speeches. All in local language and thus unintelligible, punctuated only by "Wonderful Sail to Indonesia", the only words that let us know we are in fact, in the right place. All are long. Some longer than others. Some of epic War and Peace proportions. It's the local politicians' opportunity to show their faces and talk to the rabble, and claim some or perhaps all the credit for the infrastructure funding and improvements that arrived on the back of the preparations for the arrival of the gringos, us, the rally participants.
In Tifu village, we were all lined up on our blue plastic chairs listening to the struggling translator welcome the fleet and tell us what plans they had for us - apart from eating them out of house and home.
My ears pricked when I heard we were going to see the Village People. I didn't even know they'd reformed. We were told to be ashore for five in the morning to catch our bus to take a tour into the mountains to see the sunrise. Now, firstly, we've all seen our fair share of sunrises and second, five AM, after some night sailing just wasn't on our radar, but then, our collective conscience kicked in, as patently, they'd gone to so much effort we couldn't say no and most signed up. Well, half of us. Earlier in the day we'd walked up the road a bit and I just couldn't imagine a bus getting down it, let alone up. A Land Rover or a mountain goat perhaps but no way a bus. And on an island with no paved roads and where travel between villages is to risk one's life travelling in an open long boat with a well thrashed forty horse Yamaha at the back making the only difference between a safe arrival and an unplanned mini-cruise of the Indonesian archipelago, I couldn't actually believe the promised bus existed.
And it didn't. "Bus? What bus? No. We go in these trucks" said our guide. In an instant, about a third of our group melted away into the early morning dark, heading back to their still warm bunks while we, the intrepid explorers, climbed into and onto a fleet of beaten up pickup trucks. Four inside, five or six perched on the back initially sitting all macho on the sides of the truck before common sense and freezing bones prevailed and all made like sardines on the inside of the open box. Those travelling First Class had a comfy wooden bench. Economy, simply a plastic tarpaulin to sit on. And so, off we went to see the Village People and a sunrise above the clouds. We never did get above the clouds, instead riding through them in a soaking, chilling mist-come-rain. We'd nabbed first class seats and other than the bone jarring ride did OK. Those in the back only got mild hypothermia and nothing a decent chiropractor couldn't fix. But oh, how they moaned.
After over two hours plugging up dirt tracks, slipping and sliding on the mud did the drivers give up trying to make progress. So did we. "Enough" we said. "We go back". Undeterred and plainly ignoring our pleading, pointing and hands being drawn across our throats, the driver leant on his horn in a modern version of jungle drums. Much to our surprise, in response, out the jungle, came the sound of drums in reply.
OK. A final effort and off we trudged up the wet mud and rock track, the Australians apparently wearing only "thongs" or "strap ons". Talk about being separated by a common language.
Nearly an hour later we reached a bunch of bamboo poles stretched across and closing the road. Diversion -> -> ->. Now we were on a foot path through the dripping jungle. We really were getting the authentic native living experience. And we were getting pissed off as well not to mention soaked through.
And then, finally, the Village People - and not a cowboy or Indian in sight. Just the welcoming hordes of adults dressed up in the formal uniforms of the village elders and immaculately dressed school kids and us, looking like we'd been dragged through a muddy hedge backwards.
The village was located up the mountains aeons ago to harvest nutmeg and we were told we were the first tourists to ever visit the village. I'm not entirely sure that was a compliment but we were made very welcome with a formal traditional address by the head man, a few speeches and endless amounts of cake and sweet tea. Anything you like as long as it's loaded with sugar. The people here are so happy to see us, everyone grinning widely, their few remaining teeth stained red from beetle nuts as the adults chew their way to a tumour. The poor kids have yet to hear of The Happy Smile Club and indeed, a tooth brush. Consequently these poor kids teeth are simply rotting in their gums as they happily suck on lollipops and other confectionery that is as readily available as dentistry is not.
A quick run around the village, picked our own carrots from someone's veggie patch and trudged off back down the track for the return trip........via another two villages, two welcomes, two speeches, two cream teas, two thousand hand shakes and selfies.
Indonesia promised to be an experience and, while not everyone's cup of over sweet, cinnamon tea, it's delivering.
Indonesia Video - Part 1
30 July 2019
We're Not Rally People
30 July 2019
"We're not rally people". That's a phrase you'll hear from quite a lot of cruisers. For whatever reasons rallies just don't suit their mode of cruising. It's understandable. Sixty boats all rolling into an anchorage for ten, destroying the peace and quiet and worse, blocking the route to the bar. However, for some, to my mind, it's perhaps a bit of a snob thing. They're much too experienced to join in with the riff-raff, amateur sailors who need a rally to hold their hands and escort them from A to B...... although I'll bet most were still tinkling with carburettors on their ageing Royal Enfields and yet to set foot on anything that floats when we'd already been sailing and competing for donkeys years. (I've been wanting to get that off my chest for a while).
Anyway, my point is, I never wanted to come to Indonesia and I wasn't much fussed about joining a rally. To my mind it would just be an Asian version of the Caribbean where, in my experience, cruisers are viewed by the locals as targets, or a "mark" as the scammers would call it, eyed as prey and fair game. Heading north to Japan and Alaska seemed tempting and although much harder, it would eliminate months of being screwed by local rip-off merchants.
It was therefore all a bit confusing when after soliciting the opinions of those that had gone before to hear my mental image was at odds with their realities. "Best experience of our circumnavigation " said Phil and Norma (www.sailblogs/member/philandnorma). "Amazing" said Sven and Lisa. "You'll love it" said Tony. "thousands of years of history".
What was I missing? What were they missing? Surely it was just St Lucia with curry? "Hey mon. That's my rock you're tied to and costs $25". I really didn't need any more of that.
Well, in the end, Japan was a long way, they get cyclones and other scary stuff. Alaska is cold, has bears and I don't know I can do cold anymore, so off we went, joining the westward cruiser migration to Indonesia. With a rally.
Now, we've done rallies before and in addition to easing the way through customs and immigration, what you also get is fast-tracked to the cultural hot spots and events. You can find these yourself, even stumble on them as we did in Fiji and Vanuatu but, on your own, you can easily miss them, usually by dithering around in the boat or hanging out in bars simply unaware that up the street there's the Festival of Whatever going on. I'd heard that the Indonesian tourist board did a good job of ensuring the rally was timed to coincide with local events. What I didn't know was that we would be feted from dawn to dusk and treated like visiting royalty. You simply had to be there to believe it.
Pretty much every street and village is adorned with flags. Giant posters saying we're in town are mounted at every main junction across the two principal islands. A dozen English teachers are given a week off to act as liaison officers. Children and adults alike have been practicing song and dance for months to perform for us, mothers having spent the same amount of time sewing their kid's brand new costumes. The port had its first new tarmac in a long time. The public loos were re-tiled and painted. And then, imagine - the main highway out your town, population, sixty five thousand, is cordoned off for two or three hours, schools are temporarily closed and the city council gather, firstly, to walk you and hundreds of following locals down one side of the dual carriageway to a school to be given a formal Indonesian welcome. Next, back out into the road where a thousand school children in their best uniforms line the highway, we to walk in procession with the elders a mile down the road, shaking hands with everyone turning at the roundabout to walk up the other carriageway heading for the local memorial park to be entertained and fed copious amounts of seafood and local delicacies while the stage is filled with dance and music. Filled to bursting we are then coached back to the port where the appointed boat "valet" and his team of little helpers brings your dinghy to you. All this yet we've spent so little our consciences are somewhat troubled about how little we seem to be giving back.
The Regent, the elected head of the Kei Islands, formally welcomed us at the events each day, the last of which was the Gala Dinner on the beach at Web village where again, we were treated like rock stars. Our own tented sit-ooterie and tables groaning with food. Welcome speeches, dance and music performances and after many hours, ending, incongruously with Auld Lang Syne. Friends for life.
Words fail us in trying to describe our welcome. So I won't keep trying. Check the Gallery and/or Facebook for pics and lastly, if you've ever wondered about visiting Indonesia but hesitated, go for it. It's wonderful.
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)
Queensland - A Well Kept Secret
16 July 2019 | Our Neighbour Catching Some Rays
Nobody told us about cruising Queensland. But then, it is getting a bit out of the way. Unless you're from Queensland that is. It does have its own pilot book though, but with page after page of terrifying descriptions of bar entries that only hardened fishermen and lifeboat crew would attempt and, if like us, you come from waters where one step too far on your annual summer paddle will have you in hundreds of feet of freezing water, it's all a bit daunting.
It's got Southport bar, famous, at least to me, for the YouTube video of a catamaran being surfed, as opposed to surfing i.e. "surfing" implies one is in a degree of control, which this guy was absolutely not, being surfed across the bar, spray flying and ambulances waiting. It's also got the "Mad Mile" where boats have been pitch-poled and waters where a decent pair of waders would easily get you to the pub from your anchorage several miles offshore. And my personal favourite - overhead cables. "I'm pretty sure you'll get under. No problem mate". And so, perhaps like us, I think many foreign cruisers skip the Queensland coast and just hit the main harbours and perhaps just make a dash for the next hot stop; New Caledonia or Indonesia perhaps. I mean, Joshua Slocum only stopped three times.
But then, saved by that joy of cruising, meeting other folk who know the lay of the land, and who have for many, many seasons, been there and done it. The walking, talking Pilot Books. We first met these guys out in the Pacific and have been on their coat tails ever since; Scott and Rachel from Tasmania, Bill and Tony from Queensland and Sydney respectively who have been up and down this coast for decades, pointed us at all the great places. And there's been loads of them.
The backwaters and creeks of Fraser Island.......assuming you survive the Mad Mile. Maryborough, one of Queensland's earliest ports where many of the early settlers first clapped eyes on their new home. Maryborough was a trading town shipping timber, wool and coal back to the motherland. It is also the birthplace of Mary Poppins. She even has her silhouette on the pedestrian crossing lights.
Lady Musgrave island, a reminder of mid Pacific being just a ring of reef with a small island at one end.
Dunk Island, named by Lieutenant Cook after the Earl of Sandwich, First Lord of the Admiralty. (Did his mum tell him not to dunk his sandwiches at tiffin time?"). Sadly the bar and allegedly the world's best burgers were wiped out by Cyclone Yasi in 2011. "Oh! Didn't we tell you about the cyclones. And the sharks. And the crocs?". Beautiful, secluded and sheltered Pear Bay. The list can go on and on.
Cassowary and chicks in Mourilyan, strangely walking the streets and gardens in a tidy little sugar port on the Moresby River. Strange to see these giant chickens walking the streets as there's supposedly only 1200 or so of these birds left in the wild. Although I have to say, hardly surprising given the carefree way mum took her chicks across the busy road.
All along the Queensland coast there's a backdrop of mountainous coastline and it's a bit special knowing that not only are you following in the wake of Bill and Rachel but also Lieutenant Cook.
The sad news is that we’ve reached “The Tip”, the very top of Australia and, in ten minutes, we up anchor and, say goodbye to Thursday Island, Queensland and Australia, leaving behind so many good friends. The bad news……….we'll be back!
Next stop, Indonesia.
Shake Down Round Tasmania in an Outremer 51
16 July 2019