Our check-in at Kupang with all the Indonesian officials went quite well. Tons of officials to see and papers and stamped documents to give and get, but it all went pretty smoothly. A few people who got here early (before the officials could figure out how to proceed with their masses of paper) ended up having a more difficult time than those of us who arrived on the expected days. The officials were pretty serious about their paperwork but most were quite friendly. Those who came to inspect the boat seemed to be quite hungry and thirsty, but it did not take much to make them happy.
The harbor is not clean and the place we land our dinghies has filthy water – particularly at low tide. There are a group of “boat boys” who have managed to commandeer a going rate of 35000 rupiahs a day to help with dinghies (about $3.50). This is a very high price for Indonesia, but unfortunately, once a few cruisers agreed to this, the price seemed to be set. The service, is however, really nice to have as they are very helpful and they lift the dinghies up and out of the water for you when you arrive and bring them safely up the beach, and then they carry them right back into the water for you when you leave and even push you off. It’s so helpful. They will do it as many times a day as you want for that set price per day.
All the prices have been jacked up very high for us cruisers – but compared to Australia things are still cheap. Bananas are under $1 for a big bunch compared to the $2 each piece that they were in Australia. A delicious lunch out will cost you anywhere from $2 to $4. Mark finds the most delicious restaurants and impresses everyone with his knowledge of Indonesian culture and food. Almost all the people we have met have been very happy to meet us and the kids are full of smiles. We just love the food here… it is so tasty! There are a few dishes that I remember vividly from our time spent in Indonesia nearly 30 years ago. I was afraid that they wouldn’t be so good after so many years, but they are still amazingly tasty.
Fuel…. This has been a bit of a headache. It was promised that fuel would be available for all the boats – many of whom are greatly in need of it – and I think everyone eventually got what they needed, but it was not easy. You have to get your fuel only from some guy down at the beach and he apparently did not grease the wheels well enough at the sole fuel company of Indonesia (Pertamina). Some people were promised fuel delivery to their boats and waited an entire day or more without anyone showing up. Others were promised fuel if they brought their jerry cans to the beach, but also had to wait a long time, or go with less than they were promised. The price of fuel doubled for a short while from the original price that was posted, but I think that too many of the sailors refused to pay (thank goodness) and the prices suddenly dropped back to what was promised.
We managed to get some fuel today after making friends with one of the very nice ladies from the tourist office, who is welcoming the boats here. Mark told her he was interested in eating Indonesian fried chicken and she immediately offered to take us to a good restaurant using the government automobile ( a super nice air-conditioned SUV). It was a fantastic meal and on the way back she asked us if there was anything else we wanted or needed and we mentioned fuel and she whispered that she could help us get some. An hour later we had 60 liters of fuel delivered to the dock. Today we got another 60 liters so we are all set – just a tiny bit short of full.
The other boats on the rally are a uniformly nice and very friendly group. There are about 75 boats here with us. We know lots of them from our trip up the coast and lots more from being in Tipperary Waters Marina. We continue to meet new people every day and we feel we really are lucky to have such a great group with us.
The rally organized a big festive welcome dinner last night and everyone came. There were some speeches and thank you’s and then a nice buffet dinner and a bit of Indonesian music and then they suddenly started playing really loud rock and roll and jazz and blues . One of the singers was dressed head to toe in a hijab, but she was belting out rock and roll like a pro. Then our tourist agency friend turned up on the stage and started belting out songs like Aretha Franklin. It was pretty amazing. At first I was disappointed because I had wanted to see and hear Indonesian music and dance, but then all the cruisers started dancing and we joined in and had a great time. They are having a second welcome party tonight but we are too exhausted to go.
The sail here from Darwin was very good – on average. The first day we had light winds and seas that we could sail with a poled out spinnaker on one side and a poled out genoa on the other. The wind slowly died late in the afternoon but then came up briskly and on the beam (from the south) just at sunset, so we rushed to take down the two headsails and reset our sails. The wind became light and right from behind late at night, the waves became steep and from three different directions, and the boat started to roll uncomfortably. We reset a sail on a pole but every few minutes the sail would collapse as the boat rolled and then come back with a jolt that shook the rigging. I hate conditions like that. If the seas are uncomfortable you should at least be able to go fast. We wound up motoring for most of the second night as the shock loads on the rig made me uncomfortable. Dawn brought some relief – the seas became more regular and the wind picked up a bit. As the sun rose, we reset the spinnaker and genoa on poles and hoped for the best. What we got for the rest of the journey (about 25 hours) was as nice of a sail as one can possibly have. Conditions became perfect – plenty of wind and swells so rounded and well spaced that down below in the boat you thought we were still sitting in the marina. Plus, dolphins kept stopping by for a quick visit to leap for us and then dart off. At one point, Laura called me down to the head (bathroom) to check on a squeaking noise. When I went down to check she came up to the cockpit and discovered the source of the noise – small whales were around the boat squeaking to each other. Just before sunset, a big pod of dolphins decided to put on a 30 minutes exhibition of synchronized swimming and jumping. The night was clear and full of stars and the ocean was glowing with phosphorescence. So a glorious day 3 more than made up for a crummy day 2 and was more than enough to make this a very good passage overall.
It is very nice to be back in Indonesia after so many years. I had nice chats in Indonesian with the Port Captain and the Customs guy, who invited me for a beer, with people in the street, and with the mother-and-daughter restaurant proprietors. After all those years of Indonesian language study, and all the time that spent in Indonesia mostly many years ago, it is nice to find out that I have still retained my language skills.
Tomorrow (Saturday), morning at 0830 we will go through the lock of the Tipperary Waters Marina, drop to sea level, and enter the waters of Frances Bay to begin a 474 nautical mile (878 kilometer) passage to the city of Kupang on the island of Timor, Indonesia, as part of the Sail Indonesia 2011 Rally. Approximately 110 sailboats (and two power boats) from all over the world are participating. You can check out the web site at http:\\www.sailindonesia.net. Our trip takes us on a course of about 285 degrees true through the Selat Roti (Roti Strait) and the Selat Semau (Semau Strait) to an anchorage in front of Teddy’s Bay, Kupang.
We have been working hard getting Sabbatical III ready to cruise Indonesia. I had some navigational equipment fail, so I ordered new equipment from the US three weeks ago. That has not arrived. So a few days ago I ordered similar equipment from Sydney with a promise of next day delivery. There was a problem at the Sydney airport Wednesday night that backed up flights badly and it only just now (Friday afternoon) arrived into the Darwin airport. I cannot get it though because it is a public holiday in the Northern Territories as today that marks the start of the 3 day “state fair.” Realizing that neither of my orders would arrive in time, I have cobbled together something that works with help from an electronics shop, some creative wiring, and some soldering. It looks ugly but it works. Another vessel that has to stay behind to repair their rudder will bring my equipment to me in Indonesia when they depart in about 4 to 7 days.
Other than that, Sabbatical III is in excellent shape and full of provisions, fuel, and water. We have really enjoyed our stay in Darwin and have met some great people. We are looking forward to getting underway again and to the start of our 3 month trip through the Indonesian archipelago.
Just a brief summary of our trip up the coast of Australia from Scarborough Marina, Queensland to Darwin, Northern Territory: May 4 to June 29, 2011
We sailed about 2,174 nautical miles over 57 days. Total of 334 hours of sailing at an average speed of 6.5 knots (7.5 mph). We dropped anchor at 24 different bays and harbors (including 3 marinas) – with time spent on shore hiking and sightseeing at 13 of these. We only swam and snorkeled at two places due to the abundance of crocodiles and lack of clear water in most places. The” Great Barrier Reef” did not live up to its reputation and we have started referring to it as “The Pretty Good Barrier Reef”. Maybe it was just a bad year here due to a big cyclone and lots of rain earlier in the season. Maybe we are just spoiled after 4 years of snorkeling in so many unspoiled islands across the Pacific. In any event, despite our inability to get in the water, most of the coast of Australia was very interesting to see; almost totally uninhabited with mile after mile of beaches, sand dunes, scraggly trees and some pretty impressive hills. Just a few towns here and there with lots of miles of land off limits to all but the Aborigines. We had some of the best sailing of our trip because the barrier reef cuts off most of the ocean swell so that one can sail along on smooth seas and there are steady trade-winds pushing you along in the right direction. Great fishing as well.
We befriended at least 25 couples on other boats on the way – almost all of whom are going to be part of the rally to Indonesia leaving Darwin on July 23rd. (About 100 boats currently signed up for the rally)
Looking forward to spending the next 3 weeks here in Darwin – enjoying the luxuries of living at a marina – unlimited power for lights and fridges, easy access to stores, and lots of opportunities to walk and visit with other sailers.