Saturday 17th January 2009 - Auckland, New Zealand
At the beginning of last year we were in Columbia and a quarter of the way around the world - now we are more than halfway around. I think we need to slow down!
The last couple of weeks have been spent getting things organised so that we can go off traveling for a few weeks. Most of the Kiwi's have now dragged themselves back to work after the holidays and most of the stuff we needed to schedule is organised. Our sails are at the sail makers and will be sorted out while we are away along with a new sail cover and re-stitching of the spray hood. It is amazing how things fall apart when they are out in the sun for so long. It is not just boat stuff either - our shorts and t-shirts are dropping to bits. Good excuse to go shopping for new clothes.
I have managed to source a new timing belt for the engine and found a guy who is going to make a new propeller for us.The existing prop is too small after we fitted the new gearbox which has different gear ratios. We also had to change our gas bottles - they would not fill our old UK bottles here because the fittings are different and the bottles were old and rusty. (In Tonga they were not so bothered - they filled them by holding the bottle on the ground and using some cardboard with a hole ripped in it to create a seal!). Of course things are never straightforward - the local bottles are too tall for our gas locker so I had to saw the tops off and then paint them. We also had to fit new regulators and hose, but that is all done now and we have gas supplies again.
We also have wheels! We have hired a car from A2B rentals - the cheapest we could find. It is a rather bland and boring Toyota Corolla. A2B kind of sums it up really, but for us it is quite exciting to be able to get around so easily again.
On Monday we'll be off on our holidays! We're taking our small tent and sleeping bags but we might book into an hotel on occasions when we fancy some comfort. We plan to travel around the South Island and see a bit more of the North Island on our way down there. We will probably give the bungy jumping a miss but I (Nige) am really looking forward to going Zorbing. (if you want to know what this is, you can find out here - Zorbing).
We are booked to haul out for maintenance and anti fouling on 9th March at West Park marina, so we will probably be away until the end of February. Will try to do an update while we are away and hope to have some photos of our adventures to upload.
Sunday 8th March 2009 - Auckland, New Zealand
We spent five weeks traveling around New Zealand and it is a spectacular country - see the photos of our trip for some examples. We camped almost every night with a few exceptions and most of the time we were warm and dry in our tent - only got really wet in Picton when it rained heavily all night. Fortunately the "Top 10" campsites that are all over New Zealand are quite sophisticated and there was a laundry where we could dry our wet clothes.
Our trip started in Waitomo where we visited the glowworm caves, and then on to Taupo, Napier and Wellington. In Wellington we stayed in the "Downtown Backpackers" lodge so we could be in the town centre - went out for a few beers and a curry! We took the ferry across to Picton on South Island and stayed in Nelson, Nelson Lakes (Department of Conservation campsite here and swarming with sand flies -biting little b*@%^*ds!), Hamner Springs, Greymouth and Arthurs Pass. Arthurs Pass is quite high and here we stayed in a cabin with an electric fire - it was really cold and Al refused to camp! Our next stop was Christchurch where we stayed with our friends John and Deb Hodge and their daughters Natalie, Lucy and Sophie. We last saw John and Debabout fifteen years ago in the UK. So we had a few days of luxury in Christchurch and it was then back to the tent in Oamaru where we got really cold as we sat outside waiting to see Penguins returning to the shore at dusk. We continued south to Dunedin, Invercargill and Bluff which is right on the southern edge of New Zealand before heading north again to Te Anau. From Te Anau we drove out to Milford Sound for the day - really spectacular scenery. Next was Queenstown, then Wanaka and Franz Josef to see the glacier and then Picton to get the ferryback to North Island. We decided that Wellington was our favourite city and so we stayed another night - this time in the rather expensive (compared with camping anyway) Novotel. It was carnival weekend and everywhere else was fully booked, but the town was buzzing and we had another great night out. Just one more stop on the way back to Auckland and that was in Rotorua where we saw the hot steaming ponds and bubbling mud pools. And, Nige went Zorbing!
We are now getting the boat sorted out and there seems to be lots to do. Sail repairs, canvas repairs, life jacket servicing, life raft servicing, engine servicing, re-galvanizing the anchor chain - it is non-stop activity here! We have also had to buy a new Zodiac RIB - the sun had affected our old dinghy so much it was starting to disintegrate. Most of the work is done now and tomorrow we leave Bayswater marina and head to Westpark marinawhere the boat will be lifted out. We will then be anti-fouling, polishing and replacing the propeller. We hope to be back in the water in about week and then we will start making our way back north to The Bay of Islands where we will stay for a few days before heading off to Australia.
Sunday 29th March 2009 - Opua, New ZealandThe haul out at Westpark marina went really well apart from motoring up there from Bayswater with 30 knot headwinds. Despite the weather we arrived on time and motored straight into the slings of the waiting travel lift. Fifteen minutes later we were safely ashore. We got all our jobs doneand ten days later we launched again and as the weather forecast was good we sailed overnight back to Russell in The Bay of Islands.
After three nights anchored of Russell we moved a couple of miles up river and picked up a mooring ball outside the marina in Opua. There is not a great deal here, but we can get WiFi access on the boat so we can keep an eye on the weather forecasts for our planned trip to Sydney. At the moment we plan to leave on Monday 30th and we have faxed the 72 hours notice of leaving form to customs. A couple of days ago the forecast looked horrible and we thought we might be stuck here for another week. The latests forecasts are looking better, and if they stay like that we'll be on our way in the morning.
Thursday 30th April 2009 - Sydney, AustraliaWe set off from New Zealand as planned and had a rather rough and windy ten day passage across the Tasman Sea arriving off the Australian coast just as it started to get dark. We decided to heave to for the night so that we could enter Sydney Harbour in daylight and also to avoid the overtime charges that Customs and Quarantine would charge if we arrived outside working hours. At first light we had clear sunny skies and very light winds so we motored into the harbour and caught out first glimpse of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge as we rounded Bradley's Head. Our first stop was customs in Neutral Bay - very efficient and no charges at all. Half an hour later and we were off across the harbour to Rushcutters Bay where we were met by the Quarantine inspectors. They took away our fresh fruit and vegetables and charged us A$240 (about £120!). Anyway, they were very nice about taking our food and our cash and we were quickly on our way to find a mooring.
After a few phone calls we managed to contact Hamish at The Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron - we had been given his name whilst hauled out at Westpark Marina. Hamish called one of his guys and as we motored back into Neutral Bay a launch appeared and guided us to a mooring ball. After sorting the boat out and having some lunch we went ashore to check in with the office. It was the Thursday before Easter, most of the office staff were not around and we weregiven a guided tour by Andrew McIntyre who is the CEO of The Squadron. Andrew was wearing a suit and tie whilst we felt a little under dressed for the rather posh surroundings in our shorts and t-shirts. From our mooring here we can dinghy into the Yacht Squadron pontoon and from there it is a ten minute walk into the rather nice suburb of Kirribilli where there are a cafes, shops and restaurants. We can catch a train from Kirribilli into central Sydney, but most times we walk across the bridge which takes about 20 minutes and there are great views of the harbor and the Opera House. What a great location!
The day we arrived in Sydney, Al's sister Fiona and her husband Simon arrived from the U.K. for three weeks holiday, so we have had a rather busy time. Lots of sight seeing and, of course, lots of late nightseating and drinking. One of our first nights out together was to watch the Australian National Brass Band where Simon was playing as a guest from the UK. After the concert we went out to a pub near their hotel in Chinatown and stayed there so long we missed the last train back to Kirribilli. This meant a late night walk through Sydney and across the bridge to arrive back at the boat about 4:00am. As we were walking home across the bridge there were numerous people going the other way - obviously just going out for the night - Sydney really is a lively city!
Simon and Fiona went off to Melbourne for a couple of days and while they were gone we wandered over to Darlinghurst to see if we could find somewhere for them to stay when they returned. We had a pie at the famous Harry's Cafe de Wheels (very nice!) and then our search was called off suddenly at 4:00pm when it started to rain. We took shelter in the nearest pub and then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening pub crawling. We happened to be on Oxford street which is Sydneys gay area, so there were lots of very lively bars around. We rounded off the evening with dinner at Betty's Soup Kitchen - this is actually a proper cafe/restaurant and does not serve down and outs.
On returning from Melbourne, Simon and Fiona checked into an hotel near The Rocks and just a short walk from the Harbour Bridge. The Rocks is one of the oldest parts of Sydney and proved to be a great place for meeting up to go for a few drinks and dinner. We sampled a few of the well known pubs including The Nelson, The Hero of Waterloo and The Australian Hotel, but our local was definitely Sydney's oldest pub - The Fortune of War. Many pleasant hours were spent in there.
We did plenty of other touristy type stuff. Alison and Fiona went to the Zoo in Darling Harbour to see the Koala's and the Kangaroos. We all took the ferry from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay where we had fish and chips at the famous (in Sydney anyway) Doyle's Restaurant. We took the bus back from Watsons Bay and went back to Sydney via Bondi Beach. Our biggest trip was on the train to Katoomba in The Blue Mountains where we stayed for three days in a town house. The Blue Mountains are a World Heritage site and have amazing scenery to view when the weather is fine. Unfortunately we timed our visit with three days of cloud, rain and fog so we did not see as much as we hoped. Katoomba itself is a strange town and appears a little down at heel. It would be a good place to go if you wanted to get tattooed, have a lot of piercings and hang out with similarly decorated people all day. Despite this, we had a good time there and finally managed to see the Three Sisters and the amazing view from Echo Point on our third attempt. Our first two visits were abandoned due to driving rain with visibility of about 10 metres and we returned disappointed to the town house to empty the water from our shoes!
After returning to Sydney we took another ferry trip out to Manly. This is a pleasant suburb of Sydney that lies between the harbour and the ocean. We had a walk along the beach which we though was much nicer than Bondi Beach. This was followed by lunch in one of the seafront cafes and a wander around the street market. The following day Simon and Fiona were due to fly back home so we spent the evening in The Fortune of War followed by a Pizza in a really nice Italian place just up the road. We met up again the next morning and wandered over to Harry's Cafe de Wheels so that Simon could have one last pie before they left for the airport.
It is starting to get colder here now - down to 10° at night so it is time for us to start moving north. We have booked on to the "Sail Indonesia" rally which leaves Darwin on 18th July. Normally we would not join a rally but the paperwork required to get an Indonesian cruising permit is complex and the rally organisers will arrange everything for us.We will also go to places that we would not usually visit, so it should be interesting. We really need to be in Darwin by early July so this means we have to cover about 2500 miles in two months. It should be possible but we cannot afford to hang about. We have been checking the weather forecasts and plan to leave on Monday and head up to Coffs Harbour where we might stop for a couple of days. After that we will head up to Brisbane - it should be a bit warmer there. We would like to stop there a week - after that we'll focus on getting to Darwin in time to join the rally.
Friday 29th May 2009 - Airlie Beach, Australia
Before leaving Sydney we had a great night out for my50th birthday (Nige isnow officially old!). We went to a Thai restaurant in Kiribilli called Stir Crazy.The food is great and it is BYO like many restaurants in Australia so we bought a bottle wine from the off-license next door (Ingoldsby Chardonnay - very nice, must remember that one).
We set off as planned on 4th May and did a two night passage up to Coffs Harbour. We knew there would be a current against us (the east Australian current) but at times it was a lot worse than we expected. We were sailing at about 5.5 knots through the water and making about 3 knots over the ground - gruelling! We managed to arrive off Coffs Harbour just after dark - we have a habit of doing that. We had phoned the marina during the day and reserved a berth so we knew there was a space for us. We do not usually enter strange ports at night, but as the entrance is well lit and there was a good moon, we decided to go straight in. Everything went smoothly and we were safely tucked up in the marina in time for dinner and a bottle of wine - very pleasant.
We had been planning to go to Brisbane next but the more we studied the charts the less sensible this became. Brisbane is on a river which flows into Moreton Bay. When coming from the south we would have to pass around the outside of Moreton Island and then sail about 35 miles back into the bay before we reached the river. The alternative would be to negotiate the shallow creeks whichprovide shortcuts into the bay. To do this would mean working the tides to ensure we had enough depth and would also take quite some time. Eventually we decided that, as we had just spent a month in Sydney, we would give Brisbane a miss. So, we filled up with water and fuel in Coffs Harbour (and had a very good Indian) and set off for Mooloolaba which is about 50 Nm north of Brisbane.
In Mooloolaba we anchored in a sheltered lagoon up the Mooloolah river. The small town is a popular tourist destination and also has a sizeable fishing fleet. We had the best fish and chips we have had for ages in one of the fish restaurants that are clustered around the fishing fleet wharf.
Our next passage was another overnighter to Bundaberg. The town lies 10 Nm miles inland on the Burnett River. There is a marina just inside the river mouth but we decided to go up the river to the small marina in the town centre. The trip up river was just like being back on the River Trent in our river boat. On arriving in the town we were waved into an alongside berth at Midtown Marina. Bundaberg is not at all like Sydney. It is surrounded by farmland and is particularly known for sugar cane and the famous rum they produce from it. Much of the seasonal work done in the fields is carried out by backpackers. There are numerous backpacker hostels, one of which is in the old police station where you can sleep in the cells. We gave that a miss and stayed on the boat. The town is fairly small but has some nice colonial style buildings. One of these is the Old Bundy Tavern where we spent an enjoyable Friday night.
We left the marina in Bundaberg on Sunday 17th May and motored down river to anchor just before the port area and near the river entrance so that we could leave for Lady Musgrave Island later that night. We set off about 2200, following the flashing red and green channel markers out into Hervey Bay and then set sail north once more. The following morning we negotiated the narrow passage in the reef and anchored off the Island in the lagoon. We had been told it was a beautiful Island with the lagoon completely surrounded by reefs. Unfortunately when we were there the weather was not good - it was cloudy, raining and the wind was picking up. It was not a nice place to be, so the following morning we set off again for the Whitsunday Islands - probably Australia's best known cruising ground.
En route we stopped at Pearl Bay (sheltered anchorage, nice beach, trees), Refuge Bay on Scawfell Island (sheltered anchorage, nice beach, trees), Thomas Island (sheltered anchorage, nice beach, trees) before anchoring off the small town of Airlie Beach. After a couple of nights sheltering from strong winds we headed out to the Islands to spend time with the numerous charter boats. We stopped in Luncheon Bay(sheltered anchorage, nice beach, trees) for lunch and then picked up a mooring ball (free!) in Butterfly Bay (sheltered anchorage, nice beach, trees - I think you get the picture by now) for the night. The next day we motored into a strong headwind (we do not normally do this, but when you are in charter boat land you have to do what they do!) and spent the night in Nara Inlet. Whilst there we had a brief trip ashore to look at some aboriginal cave paintings - interesting.
This morning we had a great sail back across The Whitsunday Passage to Airlie Beach and the plan is to have a night out on the town before setting off for Townsville on Sunday. At the moment it is not definite as we have conflicting weather reports. The Aussie Met Office forecast is for SE20 - 30 knots (which is not good) and the grib files are showing SE15 - 20 knots (which is good). Will have to keep an eye on developments.
Saturday 11th July 2009 - Darwin, Australia
The weather was kind to us, so we left Airlie beach as planned and headed north. Our first stop was Townsville where we stayed in the marina for a couple of nights. Not much to report about Townsville, but we did find a few good pubs on our tour of the town. Continuing our trek northwards we stopped at Herald Island for a night. As we left the following morning we heard on the VHF that the RAAF would be conducting live firing excercises later that day and these would be centred around Herald Island - good job we were on the move! We had further overnightstops at Orpheus Island, Brooke Island, Mourilyan Harbour and Fitzroy Island before anchoring up river in Cairns. The anchorage in Cairns proved to be a long way from the town so we moved into Marlin marina where we spent the next week. From the marina it was a short walk into town and as Cairns would be the last major town before Darwinwe spent our time stocking up on provisions. Of course we had a few nights out in this lively tourist town.
By the time we left Cairns we only had a couple of weeks left to reach Darwin. On the way to Cape York (which is the north east tip of Australia) we stopped at Lizard Island, Morris Island (sandy beach with a single palm tree - just like a cartoon desert island) and then Margaret Bay. We left Margaret Bay to sail overnight to Cape York and had timed our departure so we would arrive at the Albany Passage and be whisked through this narrow channel with the tide behind us. That was the plan anyway - the reality was the tide was against us so we crawled through at 2 knots even though we had 25 knots of wind from behind. Once through the passage we stopped for a night at Possession Island and the following day set off for the 750 mile passage to Darwin. We had light winds most of the way, but we made slow but reasonable progress until we reached the entrance to the Van Diemen gulf. There are very strong tidal streams in this area. As we entered the gulf the tide turned and the wind died completely and we started going back wards with the current - we do not mind sailing slowly, but going the wrong way is quite depressing so we finally turned the engine on and motored into the gulf. The wind remained virtually non-existent all the next day and we planned to anchor for the night off Cape Hotham so that we could get through the Clarence Strait with the tide the next morning. Just as we arrived at the anchorage the wind picked up from the North which would make the anchorage uncomfortable. We quickly checked the tides and figured with the fresh northerly wind we should make it through Clarence Strait before the tide turned against us. This time we got it right and we were soon out of the gulf and only 20 miles or so from Darwin. Of course, night was now upon us and we arrived at the anchorage at 0100 and had to anchor in the dark. To avoid crashing into any of the unlit boats in the anchorage we anchored a long way offshore and then the following morning re-anchored as close to the shore as we could. The tidal range here is about 8m, so calculating the depth to anchor in is quite important if you do not want to be left high and dry when the tide goes out.
We have been here a couple of weeks now and have got used to the long dinghy ride ashore - about 3/4 of a mile, and dragging the dinghy up and down the beach. We are glad we fitted wheels to the dinghy before we left New Zealand. We have been busy provisioning and getting our visas, paperwork, malaria tablets and various other bits and pieces sorted out for Indonesia. It has not been all hard work though - we had our usual night out on the town (lots of good pubs here) and we had a great day trip to the Kakadu National Park with Geoff and Trudy (Stream Spirits, fellow Brits). The trip to Kakadu set off at 0600 so we had to get up at 0430 so we could get ashore in time to catch the bus. Slept most of the way there but saw loads of wild life and aboriginal paintings when we arrived. The Crocodiles were great but I would not like to meet one paddling along the beach.
Today is our last day here and we will be going ashore to clear customs and get water to top up the tanks. The Sail Indonesia rally leaves tomorrow at 1100, so we'll be off - along with 150 other boats, so that should be quite interesting.
Internet access in Indonesia is supposedly not very good, so we are not sure when we will be able to do another update, but will try to do one before too long.
Wednesday 9th September 2009 - Labuan Bajo, Indonesia
At last we have reasonable internet access. We were able to upload some photos yesterday so now it is time for a few more words.
Indonesia is very different to anywhere we have been so far. The people are extremely friendly and keen to help wherever we have been. However, there is a lot of bureaucracy involved when checking in/out of the country and also individual ports. Many things are totally disorganised and at times are chaotic! Time has little meaning in many places, so when we ask when something starts, or how long it might take we have learned that the answer will probably be wrong and is likely to be different each time we ask. Despite these irritations, there are some great places to visit and we are enjoying our time here.
After leaving Darwin our passage to Saumlaki took 3 nights and was uneventful. We anchored with about 100 other rally boats in the large bay and waited to be visited bycustoms and quarantine. They eventually turned up as it was getting dark the following day. This was our introduction to Indonesian bureaucracy. Lots of forms to fill in, copies of every conceivable document and we were able to use our new rubber stamp (a lot). The next day we went ashore and visited customs (again), quarantine (again), immigration and the harbour master. Each time we had to queue and the whole process took most of the day. At last we were finished and we retired to the local hotel for cold Bintangs (local beer - bintang means star). Whilst chatting with Geoff and Trudy (Stream Spirits), we compared notes on what bits of paper we now had. They had checked in a day before us and thought they were finished, but they did not have all the paperwork that we did. This is very common here - the requirements one day are not always the same the next day! Anyway, this unfortunately involved yet more visits to the authorities for Geoff and Trudy. We are now used to this happening and are learning to be patient and tolerant - well we are trying anyway.
There were some free tours arranged for the rally participants but we missed these because the check in process took so long. However, we werequite happy to wander around the town where the local children were quite unused to foreign visitors. Everywhere we went it caused great excitement - the children would rush out of the houses shouting "Hallo Mister" (it did not matter if you were male or female), and they would follow us around and want to talk to us. Most of them speak a little English and always want to know your name and where you are going. It is fun to start with, but does get tiring after a few days. This is what it must be like being a "celebrity" back in the UK.
Our next stop was a quiet anchorage in Selaru - nothing there, so the next day we set off for the Banda Islands. This is a really nice place with islands that appear to be part of a giant volcanic rim. We stayed here for 4 nights and had a great meal at the Mutiara Guest House - courtesy of Abba and his family. The following day we went on a tour to the nutmeg plantations on the neighbouring island. This was also organised by Abba who seems to be the local entrepreneur. This was an interesting day and was our first trip in one of the traditional Indonesian wooden boats. They would certainly not pass European safety regulations, but we all made it back safely. The stop at Banda was not organised by the Sail Indonesia Rally, so everything seemed to go smoothly - hardly any chaos at all!
Ambon was next on the itinerary and we arrived here on 2nd August and tied up, Mediterranean style, stern to the large jetty of Ambon fishing port. They had moved all the fishingvessels out of the way for us.Much had been organised here for the rally. There was a parade of military and police units on the quay and welcome speeches by local dignitaries. We went to a gala dinner hosted by the Governor of the province and there was a special visit by Mr Freddie Numberi - the Indonesian Minister for Fisheries and Foreign Affairs (I think) - a very important person anyway.
The town of Ambon was a couple of kilometers away but just a few minutes and 2000 Rupiah (about 8p) on the local Bemo (bus). Like most of Indonesia there were some quite nice buildings in the town but also many ramshackle places. There was a large shopping center with a supermarket that was quite well stocked but the market was where most of the locals shopped. The stalls spread out over a number of streets and down dark side alleys. There was mud and puddles underfoot and hessian sacks overhead to provide shade. It did not seem too hygienic, but we bought tomatoes and cucumbers and there were no nasty after effects from eating them.
After Ambon we sailed further north to Bitung which was the location for the Sail Bunaken 2009 festival - the largest maritime event in Asia this year. The rally organisers were very keen to get as many yachts there as possible. We had our rally fee (Aus $500) refunded and got a free slab (24 cans) of Bintang just for turning up. We also have more free T-shirts and hats than we know what to do with - will probably give them away to some of the poorer islanders. There were more speeches and traditional dancing and another gala dinner - more free beer aswell! There were also some free tours organised. We went on one to a national park - it was supposed to leave at 0900 and return at 1200. We did leave only 30 minutes late, but we were 3 hours late getting back and consequently absolutely starving. We did see a few monkeys in the jungle though.
We spent about a week in Bitung and by now had had enough of the organised festivities and gala dinners so we decided to move on and stay away from therally for a while. We set off on 19th August to head south towards the Wakatobi Islands only to return to Bitung about 4 hours later. Our return to port was due to strong headwinds and rough seas - better to try again the next day. We did leave again the following day and then had a very tough trip down to Wakatobi. The winds were against us for the first four days, then we had 24 hours with no wind and finally a quite nice sail with wind on the beam for the last two days. Due to tacking back and forth battling against wind and sea we spent 7 days and covered about 650 miles to travel the 400 miles from Bitung to Wakatobi. We also broke a couple of strands on the babystay (which was only renewed in Tahiti) and a large bird landed on our wind speed/direction indicator bending the vane. It now reads 30 degrees off to one side. The joys of sailing - more things to fix!
In Wakatobi we were led into the lagoon by Gino (Wakatobi Information Center known as WIC), and picked up a mooring. Even though we were now ahead of the rally itself, there were a number of boats already there. Unfortunately, as it was Ramadan, the local restaurant was not selling beer, so that was not too popular. There was also the traditionalMuslim call to prayer emanating from the mosques at all hours which does not help a good nights sleep. So after a couple of nights we decided to leave and motor round to the next island of Hoga. All was going well until we were rounding the headland at the end of the island when - bump, bump, bumpety bump - we were on the reef!!! One minute we were in deep water and the next we were aground. Fortunately, after much revving of the engine and reversing and turning we managed to drive the boat back (bumping along the reef again) into deep water. Phew! do not want to do that again.
We arrived in Hoga without further incident and a dive under the keel showed no real damage done - just a few scrapes in the anti fouling. In Hoga we did some snorkeling on the reef - very nice with lots of colourful fish. Wehad a beach party with the other boats in the anchorage and a meal in the beach restaurant. Al had two meals ashore but I had to miss the second one (40th anniversary of Keith and Sue on Baccus) because of a bad cold. I stayed aboard and had a cup-a-soup.
After Hoga we sailed further south to Bone Rate where we anchored for a couple of nights to wait for wind. Did not do much there, but the snorkeling was good right under the boat. There then followed an overnight passage to our current location in Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores - good winds to start with but we had to motor the final 20 miles into light headwinds.
Labuan Bajo is not quite as off the beaten track as our previous stops. There are other tourists here - backpackers, divers and visitors to the nearby Island of Komodo to see the famous dragons. This has its advantages - we went to the Corner Cafe where we had pizza and chips! Indonesian food is OK, but a diet of Nasi Goreng gets a bit tedious after a while. The Corner Cafe also has good WiFi so we are catching up with our emails. There are banks here so we can get more cash and reasonable shops to replenish our supplies. We found margarine, real orange juice in cartons and toilet rolls - it is very exciting! As with everywhere else we have been so far in Indonesia there is no fuel dock where we can get diesel and water - everything has to be carried to the boat in jerry cans. However, here we have our own boat boy - well two actually - Roy and Mohammed. They have a long traditional wooden boat with a single cylinder diesel engine that they start by hand. They have taken us into town in their boat (interesting experience), brought us diesel, water and organised our laundry. They have also tried to sell us souvenirs but we have resisted this and they have now gone away to think of more ways to make money out of us. They are coming back tomorrow to take us into town, so we'll see what the latest scheme is then!
We will be here for a couple more nights and then move on the Rinca and Komodo to visit the dragons - more about that in our next update.
Saturday 14th October 2009 - Bali, Indonesia
We left Labuan Bajo as planned and sailed down to an anchorage by the ranger station on the island of Rinca - only a few miles away and one of the best places to see the Komodo Dragons. We had already paid our national park fees and this includes a guided walk with one of the park rangers. You are not supposed to go ashore and walk around without a ranger as the dragons are dangerous - they sometimes kill and eat the local fishermen and one or two tourists have disappeared aswell! Even with the ranger present we did have one dragon running menacingly towards us - apparently we were standing near its buried eggs. We moved quickly on and had a really good walk up into the hills seeing loads of monkeys, deer and a few large water buffalo.
After a couple of nights in Rinca we sailed across to Komodo and had a look at an anchorage on the offlying island of Gili Lawa Laut. There were quite a few other boats there but it looked quite exposed to the swell so we carried on a little further to anchor in a large bay on Komodo Island. This proved to be a good decision as the next morning most of the boats left Gili Lawa Laut after having a rolly and sleepless night. We also carried on westward and spent the next night in a bay on the south side of Gili Banta where we spent a pleasant evening with fellow Brits Ian and Leslie on Tapestry. The following day we moved on again and sailed overnight to Medang - quite a tiring passage with periods of no wind followed by periods of 30 knots on the beam. We only spent one night in the quiet anchorage on Medang before continuingto the next rally stop at Medana Bay on the island of Lombok. We were there ahead of the rally festivities and decided to stay a couple of days on one of the free mooring balls. Medana Bay is the site of a new marina - so far they have the mooring balls in place and a shower/toilet block (western style toilets rather than the hole in the ground type - makes a nice change). We had laundry done by the ladies from the local village. The first night we were there all the yachties had dinner (Nasi Goreng - made by the ladies from the village) in the large barn that serves as the marina office, bar and restaurant. The next day was the end of Ramadan so almost everything closed down for a couple of days. We decided to move on again - just a few miles this time to the island of Gili Air where we picked up a mooring ball behind the reef.
Gili Air is quite touristy compared with the places we have been lately. There are no cars on this small island but you can walk around it in about 2 hours - or take a donkey cart. Thereare a few hotels and a number of bars/restaurants that we could walk to along a sandy track beside the beach.Quite a nice place to chill out for a couple of days.
Our next destination was Serangan on the south east corner of Bali. We knew we would have some quite strong currents with us so it might be possible to do the trip in one day and still arrive with enough daylight to get through the gap in the reef. As it turned out we had strong headwinds to start with so we made slower progress than we had hoped. Rather than risk arriving off Serangan at dusk we decided to spend a night in Lembongan. We motored though some very strong cross currents and small whirlpools to get into the bay and anchored between two very large tripper boats from Bali. The anchorage was very busy with jet skis, parascenders and people being towed behind speed boats on inflatable bananas! Lembongan is the place all the day trip boats from Bali go - not at all like our previous anchorages in Indonesia. Fortunately all the tripper boats leave at about 4 o'clock and after that peace returned to the bay. The next morning we left Lembongan - being whisked sideways at 9.5 knots by the current and made the short trip to Serangan.
The approach to Serangan is rather daunting -from offshore all that you can see to start with are the waves breaking on the reef. We had the entrance coordinates from boats that had arrived ahead of us and as we got closer we could see the gap in the reef and the small red and green bouys marking the channel. Once inside the anchorage we called TC Marine and they sent out a boat to help us pick up a mooring. We saw the boat come past us and head out to sea looking for us! Another local guy saw what was happening and he came out and showed us which mooring to pick up - this turned out to be Mande - a local entrepreneur who can arrange fuel, water, transport, laundry, boat cleaning etc. etc.
We have been here in Serangan for three weeks now and have been enjoying the civilisation and sophistication that is quite different to the Indonesiawe have seen so far. Bali is a predominantly Hindu island and the temples are far more ornate and colourful than the mosques that we have seen elsewhere. Lots of tourists visit Bali and many expats live here. There is a lot of traffic and the roads are quite chaotic with cars buses and thousands of motorbikes weaving in and out. Serangan itself is fairly quiet but it is only a short taxi ride to Denpasar, Sanur or Kuta where there are large supermarkets and loads of lively bars restaurants and nightclubs - particularly in Kuta.
We have had a busy time here and been on a couple of trips around the island. On our first trip we went to Ubud and Badugal with fellow yachties Geoff and Trudy (Stream Spirits). We visited a temple that was being decorated for some festivies (seems to be happening all the time) and stayed in a nice hotel with air conditioning and a pool in Ubud. We had lunch in a restaurant on the rim of a volcano, visited the famous rice terraces and stayed in a Lodge in Badugal where we were the only guests - great rooms and a large lounge upstairs with dining table, large screen TV and a pool table.
Our second trip was up to Lovina on the north coast where we stayed in a beach front hotel with pool and air-conditioning again (could get used to this luxury). The main reason for this trip was to get our visas extended. Lovina is one of the rally stops and we had been told it would be the best place to get our visas extended. This turned out to be completely wrong - we were only staying there two days and it seemed like the process was going to take about five days. We abandoned our visa extension plan and just had a relaxing couple of days.
The visa extension problem has not been the only frustration. We had a new babystay shipped from England - it took four days to make it and ship it to Bali. It then took three weeks to get all the paperwork sorted and get it out of customs without paying the 1.2 million Rupiah import duty. Fortunately we had some help from Oka who works for the Sail Indonesia rally - made many phone calls and trips to the airport to help us. On one occasion she took me to the airport on the back of her motorbike so I could experience at first hand the difficulties in dealing with Indonesian customs. I do not want to do that again - deal with Indonesian customs or ride on the back of a motorbike through Denpasar!
After our trip to Lovina we discussed not extending our visas - we have until 18th October on our existing visas, but in the end we decided to try again in Denpasar. Once more we had a lot of help from Oka and from Turman who works for the fisheries department in Jakarta. Turman provided us with a sponsor letter and also persuaded immigration to process our applications quickly - it still took five days, but that was better than the original 10 day estimate. We had to make three trips to immigration in Denpasar and pay 265,000 Rupiah each. Trip one took about three hours and we had to fill in numerous forms and get copies of passports and various other documents before submitting our folios of documents and passports for processing. Trip two was for photographs, fingerprints and signature scanning and this also took about three hours. Trip three was to collect our passports and visas - this took about two hours while we watched our folder being moved from one official to another for authorisations, stamps and signatures. At last we got our visa extensions - we can stay in Indonesia for another 30 days! Bureaucracy has gone mad in this country.
Other highlights in Bali have been a visit to David and Lucy's house in Seminyak for roast beef and yorkshire pudding. We first met David on his boat Ullyses in Panama and then again on the Sail Indonesia rally - he lives here in Bali and also took us to the Queens Tandoori for a great curry and for some expensive beers at the Hard Rock Cafe in Kuta.
We are about ready to move on again now. We are going to Carrefour in a few minutes for lunch in the foodcourt and to get some provisions. The plan at the moment is to set off at first light tomorrow morning and head up to Kumai to see the Orang-utans. It is about 400 miles but we might stop a couple of time on the way.
Wednesday 4th November 2009 - Batam, Indonesia
Our passage up to Kumai took four days and was fairly uneventful - we stopped once on the way at an anchorage on the island of Kangean and arrived in Teluk (Bay) Kumai just before dark. It was too late to go up the river. We were about eight miles offshore but the sea was calm andonly about 10m deep so we dropped anchor and slept for the night. It is quite strange waking up in the morning and being at anchor with no land in sight. The following day we motored about 15 miles up the river to the town of Kumai where we dropped anchor again. There is not much to the town itself but this is where all the river boat trips into the jungles of Borneo (Kalimantan in Indonesian) start. The following morning we were woken by Adi, one of the tour organisers, who had come out to see us in a speed boat. He was very efficient at getting us 80 litres of Diesel so we decided to ask him to arrange a two day boat trip for us.
It turned out to be a really great trip. Our boat was called "Meze Luna" and we had four crew to look after the two of us - Yahya (Captain), Rio (Crew), Achiel (Cook) and Yepy (Guide). We also had a guard who stayed in the cockpit of Strummer all the time we were away - never had so many staff before! We spent most of the day on the top deck under the sun shade and at night we slept there on a mattress with a mosquito net over the top. We had great food prepared by Acheil which we ate at the dining table! We set off early in the morning and started up one of the small tributaries - soon the jungle was getting more dense and the river was getting smaller. We saw various birds and a few monkeys on the way up river. After a couple of hours the skies darkened and a torrential downpour followed. It was fine under the sunshade and our crew fitted side panels to keep the rain out. The rain eased and we continued up river until we came to an obstruction - a huge clump of reeds had been washed away from the bank andhad drifted downstream until it stuck in a narrow part and completely blocked the river! We sat at the dining table and had lunch while our crew hacked and pulled at the reeds with rope and an anchor. Eventually they managed to tug the clump of reeds to one side and we made it through. Shortly afterwards we arrived at Camp Leakey which is a rehabilitation centre for Orang-utans (People of the forest!). The rain came back again but we still saw plenty of Orang-utans - in fact some of them came to shelter under the roof of one of the camp buildings with us. They are really entertaining and we watched them for ages.
That evening we had a great candle litdinner with a chilled bottle of Chardonnay. We had also brought some cans of Bintang beer but we gave these to the crew. They might be Muslims but many of them like a drop of Bintang! After dinner the table was moved away and our bed and mosquito net was set up. We drifted off to sleep listening to the sounds of the jungle.
In the morning we had a breakfast of toast and scrambled eggs as our boat started its way back downriver to one of the Orang-utan feeding stations. The weather was better and we spent another few hours wandering through the jungle watching the Orang-utans. It is not just one way either - they seem to like watching what we are doing aswell. We had another great lunch as we continued on downriver and arrived back at Strummer late in the afternoon.
A couple of days later on 25th October we set off downriver to start the 550 mile passage to Nongsa Point marina which would be our last port of call in Indonesia before heading on to Singapore. We were already a bit late as far as the weather is concerned as we were now in the transition season between the SE Monsoon and the NW Monsoon. This meant that we could expect fairly light winds as we moved north to cross the equator. The first 24 hours or so were fine and we made good progress sailing along the south coast of Kalimantan. As we started to head north up the Karimata Channel the wind slowly died away and we decided to motor - we still had about 450 miles to go.
We were hoping the wind would pick up again but the grib files (weather forecasts that we get by email) were not showing any significant winds in the foreseeable future. Time to start working out if we have enough fuel to motor all the way there! Initial calculations showed we might just have enough if we could average 4 knots at 1700 revs - but then again, we might not. Various options were considered - we could divert to Belitung where we knew we could get more fuel. We had decided to do this when the wind picked up and we sailed for five hours before we had to start motoring again. This gave us the confidence to continue on with the hope that we would get more periods of wind. It didn't happen - in fact it got worse as we encountered strong currents against us and our speed dropped to 3.5 knots. Did the calculations again - still not conclusive. Some time later we decided to divert to Dabo on the island of Singkep - 80 miles to the west of our position but we would be able to get fuel. We would also have to deal with the harbourmaster and produce copies of documents again so it was not a place we really wanted to go. About half an hour after turning west a line of squalls and thunderstorms passed us and were followed by 16 knots of wind from the north west - plenty for sailing but no good for going north west to Nongsa Point. What it did allow us to do was sail all night towards Dabo. At daybreak we were only about 10 miles away and we had not used any fuel. Do the calculations again! Maybe we can make it now (maybe we can't). The thought of dealing with paperwork and officials in Dabo was enough - we decided to continue through the channel between Singkep and Lingga and then north again on the west side of Lingga.
We were now well off our planned route but slowly getting closer to our goal. We continued to motor in flat calm seas and made our way carefully through a narrow pass just south of Abang Kecil in the dark. There was a good moon providing some light but we still used the radar and the depth sounder to make sure we were on the right track. We had had a good day and night and our fuel situation was beginning to look OK. By morning we were turning into Selat Riau to make our way up the east side of Batam island. Then - strong winds on the nose and really choppy seas reduced our speed considerably. We nipped into the lee of Pangkil island and dropped the anchor to wait for things to improve. We were quite close now but decided to head for Pulau Buau to anchor for the night - we could then cover the remaining 15 miles the following day. That plan didn't happen either! We made our way into the anchorage and headed into an area shown on the chart between the 10m and 5m contours - should be a good place to anchor. We motored slowly in with Al on the bow - she saw weed on the surface and thought it looked quite shallow. Too late - BANG! we hit something - shit! The boat heeled over to starboard and I slowly turned that way and we floated back into safe water. Not sure what we hit, but it is not on the chart. Fortunately we have a solid iron keel so no real damage done. We decided not to hang around to find any more hidden obstructions and continued on towards Nongsa Point. We should still have time to make it.
We called the marina and they had a space available for us. I checked the fuel level but it was now below the bottom of the sight tube - that means less than 25 litres but we should have enough to get there. I checked the water trap in the fuel line - dirt in the bottom! One problem with running the fuel so low is it slops around and disturbs dirt at the bottom of the tank. The filters should cope with it but if it gets too bad they clog up and the engine stops. Just one more thing to worry about.
Anyway, we did make it into Nongsa Point marina without further problems - we were very pleased to be here.
We have been here a few days now and we are completely relaxed. This is a posh resort marina with a nice pool, a bar and restaurant and Wifi. It is still in Indonesia but a place where the Singaporeans come on holiday - it is very civilised. Al has done all our laundry and lots of cleaning. We have full tanks of diesel and water again and I have cleaned out the fuel system, replaced the fuel and oil filters and done an oil change. All seems well again (apart from the leaking crankshaft oil seal - I'll worry about that later) - happy days!
On Friday we'll be leaving Indonesia and heading over to Raffles Marina in Singapore so that is about the end of our Indonesian adventure.
Monday 7th December 2009 - Raffles Marina, SingaporeOur trip across to Singapore was fine but extremely busy with merchant shipping. There were also numerous tugs pulling barges of gravel and other materials - mostly it seems for reclaiming land to make Singapore just that bit bigger. The barges are quite slow but it pays to keep well out of their way - not always easy to do in these confined waters. We had a good current with us most of the way along the Singapore Strait but then against us as we made our way up the Johor Strait to Raffles Marina. We arrived around 1530 leaving us plenty of time to clear customs and immigration.
The marina is very nice with a pool, a gym, a bistro, a restaurant and a bar but it is quite a way from downtown Singapore. There is a free shuttle bus to the nearest shopping mall and the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) station. The whole transport system in Singapore (as with most things here) is very efficient so it has been quite easy for us to get around. There are also loads of Taxis if you miss the last train home. It is quite expensive to taxi all the way out to the marina as we found out a few times during our stay here.
Shopping and eating are the big things to do in Singapore - there are huge malls all over the place. We wandered around a few but did not buy much - trying to save money. We'll be in Malaysia/Thailand soon where things should be cheaper. We did however do lots of eating (good job there is a pool and a gym atthe marina so we can try not to get too fat). There are food courts all over serving a variety of Chinese, Malay, Indonesian, Thai, Indian, Korean and other types of food which are generally inexpensive and great for a quick lunch. There are also McDonalds, KFC, Burger King etc. which we avoided but they are very popular with the locals. Then there are food stalls and various restaurants in China Town and Little India. We had fried frog in China town one night - probably will not bother again. We decided to give the fish head curry a miss (there is a large fish head in the dish with one eye looking up at you), but we did have some great curries at the Masala Hut just off Serangoon Road.
Of course we also managed to fit in a few pubs and bars - Harry's Bar at Boat Quay is probably the most famous. There are a number of pubs and bars on Boat Quay and Clarke Quay alongside the river. It is touristy and quite expensive but we had a couple of nights down there. We spentone night there with Steve Bowles and his friend Mike. Al worked with Steve in Southampton before we left England and it was quite a surprise to get an email from him saying he was working out here for a month. That was another late night - fortunately Steve had a spare room in his apartment so we were able to avoid an expensive taxi fare home. A couple of other late nights were spent in The Prince of Wales - an Aussie backpackers bar in Little India where they have live music on Friday nights - had to get a taxi home from there twice.
We also had some unexpected stuff to do here - our insurance was due for renewal at the end of November and the insurers decided we should have an "out of water survey". This means that in addition to paying for the insurance we have to pay to have the boat lifted out of the water and also pay a surveyor to write a report on the condition of the boat. We decided to get this done straight away as there is a yard with a travel lift at Raffles and there are a couple of surveyors based in Singapore. Fortunately the survey was good and according to the surveyor Strummer appears to be in sound condition - quite a relief!
Our time here in Singapore is almost over. We'll be heading over to Puteri Harbour in Malaysia. There is a new marina there and it is much cheaper than Singapore. We plan to leave the boat there and fly up to Bangkok for a month. Our Yachty friends Dave and Emma (Five Flip Flops) have left their boat in the U.S. and are staying in an apartment there for a few months. They offered to check out apartments for us - the one they found was better than theirs and it was cheaper, so they are moving into the same block. We first met Dave and Emma in Almerimar, Spain and we have met up again in the Caribbean and Venezuela. It will be great to see them again and we are expecting a fairly exciting Christmas and New Year!