Saturday, August 30, 2008

Tanjung Gedong

The days are starting to develop a pattern. I'm up with the sun and by 7.30 I'm itching to head-off having been awake for a couple of hours while Ina blissfully sleeps on. As I mentioned in the previous entry, this isn't a problem on a boat - at least I thought not. With a gentle breeze blowing out of the anchorage, I decided to let Ina continue to dream while I silently edged the boat out of the anchorage under sail. All went according to plan, until having assumed we'd cleared the coral I engaged the wind-steering and went down below to study the course for the day. Suddenly the depth gauge alarm started bleeping frantically. Even a record-breaking leap from chart-table to helm wasn't enough to save us from the crunch and jarring stop, which finally roused the sleeping crew. Together we rocked the boat, and with judicious use of the engine, bounced off the bottom and finally silenced the alarm. Fortunately a later inspection revealed little more than a few scratches in the anti-fouling. Once we were clear, Ina seemed somewhat gratified that if I'd waited for her we wouldn't be aground.The wind also seems to have developed a pattern. Fickle morning winds in which we valiantly attempt to sail disappear by mid-morning when we give-in and start the engine. We motor until early afternoon when a decent breeze develops.

Today's anchorage came with a welcoming party.Initially two naked boys in a dug-out canoe met us, followed by four clothed men in two more dug-outs. The men invited themselves on board and after quickly exhausting our Indonesian, seemed content to talk amongst themselves, examining equipment on the boat and then debating it's purpose. In a role reversal, one of our visitors had a camera phone, and proceeded to take pictures of the visiting tourists and their boat.Finally with all equipment examined we were free to make the trip up the hill to the village. Our tour included the recently revived diesel generator, village meeting house/dispute resolution centre and the chief's hut. However our search for fruit other than bananas or papaya was unsuccessful.

The stony beach concealed hundreds of small snails clinging around the sides of the pebbles. The snails relinquish their grip just before your foot touches their stone, making an unusual percussion accompaniment to beach walks. Despite the potential for "bon fruit de mer" the snails remained uncollected.

Tanjung Gedong (30 August 16:00): S8°04.6' E122° 50.7'

Friday, August 29, 2008

Tidal confusion in Selat Boling

5.30am: I tiptoed out of bed, raised my head through the companionway and surveyed our new surroundings. From Ina's perspective, this was ridiculously early. The scrub-covered hills plunging into clear waters would still be there at a more reasonable hour.

Lying beneath our keel were photos taken directly from the pages of a coral reference book. 18 miles north lay our next anchorage. Confident that we would easily cover the distance in the afternoon, we spent the morning snapping the occupants of the well-populated reef.
Unbeknown to us, we were about to enter the turbulent waters of Selat Boling Strait. Sucked in by the fierce tidal race, our Rival 38, full sails straining with the wind, propeller flailing the dark waters faced a tireless opponent that eventually spat us free. Adding to our perilous afternoon, menacing fine fins cut the surface at the heart of the race. On closer inspection some fins turned out to be dolphins, while the more sinister ones revealed themselves as hungry marlin.

Making negligible progress against the race, we gave up the fight and headed for a closer anchorage, anchoring off the town of Lembata just before dark.

The following morning, just after dawn and feeling a little like fugitives we sneaked out before most of the town had registered our presence.One of the great things about travelling by boat is that there's no frustrating wait for others to prepare themselves for the day ahead - you can head off while the crew slumbers below. Not sure Ina saw it like that as the 6am sound of the engine pierced her dreams. I was determined to beat the race and my calculations indicated that an early start could surprise the sleeping tide. Not that there was much chance of more sleep, with the pre-dawn call for prayer hailing across the water, fishing boats preparing for the day ahead and the tropical light filling the cabin.
Without the drama of the previous day we made reasonable progress through the strait and negotiated the coral obstacles at the entrance to our new anchorage. We anchored between a couple of islands and a pearl farm, with a view of three smoking volcanoes. As we drifted slowly around the anchorage under sail, we were joined by a local fisherman, who clasping our toe-rail, seemed intrigued by our activities looking for a suitable anchoring spot. It's frustrating how little we can communicate. The people we've met are so friendly and warm and "good morning/afernoon/thankyou/my name is/what is your name..." or games of Pictionary and mime only go so far.

Ina's still to overcome her fear of "friendly" reef sharks and was a little perturbed when our fishermen friend confirmed the presence of sharks in the water. However an extensive snorkelling survey of the area, revealed a large barracuda, and a couple of rays, along with stunningly clear water, varied coral and a diverse population of reef fishes, but no sharks
Lembata (28th August 17:45): S8° 22.09' E123° 24.64'
NE Anadunara Island (29th August 10.45): S8° 14.65' E123° 19.56'

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Passage to Lamakera Straits

It's been a trip of two halves. We started from Nemberala with a decent 15-20 knot SE trade, anticipating a straight-forward, fast overnight sail to cover the 150 miles to the Lamakera Straits. Initially the conditions were perfect; a calm sea and a strong wind allowed us to make good-time. By mid-afternoon the sea had started to build and Ina suffered from an upset stomach - not sea-sickness - we suspected our fish lunch which we'd bought in Nemberala, then again it could have been the large quantity of birthday cookies consumed, though unlikely as I would have suffered a worse fate.

I finally seem to have cracked our power generation. I think it's important to mark the rare moments when you feel you're one-up on the seemly endless maintenance a cruising boat requires. The cause of my elation was the battery monitor still pegged at 100% capacity after a couple of days in harbour. I fixed the wind-generator and resited the solar panel in Darwin, which along with the highly insulated fridge I built in New Zealand and LED lighting seems to allow us to generate more than we use - that is providing the sun shines and wind blows.

Back to the trip. The wind increased at dusk and after some procrastination we decided that for the sake of a more comfortable night we (I) should put a reef in the main. The moon is making a later and less significant appearance at night which added to the challenge of working the lines at the mast in the dark - but I enjoy that kind of thing. While I was groping for the reefing lines a wave broke over the bow and deposited some of its contents around the mast. Now, this might sound like I'm heading towards some tale of pulling through while bravely battling against the elements, but you'd be wrong. Instead I found myself transfixed by a stunning, luminous, blue streak which the wave had deposited on the main-sheet; I've never seen such vivid bioluminescence at such close-range out of the water before. Stunning.

Inevitably after reducing the sails the wind-dropped through the night, but nocturnal lethargy meant I only got round to shaking out the reef when our speed dropped below 2.5 knots; "the wind might pickup again", being my poor excuse for inaction.

Our near silent progress (drifting) the next morning was broken by the "put-put-put" of a local fishing boat in the distance. After a few minutes it was noticeably louder and a few minutes more it was clearly heading for us. Thoughts of pirates momentarily filled my mind, but it was a small fishing boat with an engine that sounded past its prime. With our engine on, we could easily outrun it. They pulled alongside us and cut their engine. Peace again. Perhaps I was still unnecessarily apprehensive, and not as welcoming as I could have been, which probably contributed to the shortness of our encounter. They repeated something in Indonesian sounding like "flat flat", I responded with "salamat pagi" - good morning - and we all looked a little bemused as they drifted behind us in their brightly painted boat. Shame, I'm sure we could have made more of the meeting, even perhaps trading for some more stomach-churning fish.

With our speed not much above 2 knots and still over 70 miles to go to the anchorage we decided to motor until the wind returned. Unfortunately the sea remained calm all day, almost without a ripple. At times the darting of the flying-fish across the surface of water was almost the only disturbance.

Despite the best efforts of the engine, we clearly weren't going to make it to the anchorage before dark. Just before dusk we could make out the outlines of mountains on the islands ahead. According to the chart and the description in the pilot book, the anchorage was large and clear of obstructions so we decided to try for a night entry. Using radar, the chart and night-vision we finally dropped anchor in the bay just before 10pm, anticipating daylight to discover our new surroundings

Anchorage off Kamula island: S8° 30.5' E128° 13.6'

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

First taste of Indonesia

Nemberala proved to be a perfect little anchorage, set in a coral break, backed by a small town and frequented by fishermen, surfers and sailors. I'm still surprised by how different cultures and countries can be. Darwin is less than 450 miles away and yet could be on a different planet altogether - then again somehow the "David Beckham" brand seems to transcend the cultures. Another striking difference is in the design of the fishing boats:

We spent a couple of days in Nemberala, catching up on sleep, celebrating Ina's birthday with our friends from Lasse and taking our first tentative steps in Indonesian.
Strange to find oneself once again struggling to communicate with only the basic greetings mastered - still with a bit of inventive mime we discovered a cave (not that we were particularly looking for it) and the way to the Tuesday morning market.

After trying unsuccessfully to haggle and even resorting to borrowing Neils and Lisa - the blond Lasse children - to try for better prices we eventually replenished our vegetable stores and decided to head north towards the island of Flores.Nemerala: S10° 52.9' E122°49.13'

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Nemberala, Indonesia

Around 8am this morning we dropped anchor in the coral break at Nemberala, Roti, Indonesia; almost 6 days out from Darwin. Longer than the anticipated 4-5 days, but just short enough to arrive in time for Ina's birthday on Monday.

I feel far more exhausted after this passage than after completing longer voyages. Perhaps the conditions were sufficiently varied, not to allow us to adjust to passage-making, in combination with the last few nights threading our way through the local fishing fleet, not to mention the farewell party on the night before our departure. Whatever the reason, I'm looking forward to an undisturbed night's sleep tonight.

Yesterday just before sunset we caught up with Lasse and much fun ensued, taking video and photos.... now that's entertainment.Slightly disconcertingly the chart covering this area contains the following warning:
Piracy warnings are transmitted daily by the Regional Piracy Countermeasures Centre (RPCC) at Kuala Lumpur
Do the staff of the "Regional Piracy Countermeasures Centre" enjoy the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films? Perhaps they'd be concerned about the glamorisation of the pirate life. They could fight back with a drama documentary - 24 hours in the life of the "Regional Piracy Countermeasures Centre"; a cross between 24 and Baywatch. Perhaps it's already been filmed. Just hope we won't be needing their services.

Position in Nemberala anchorage: S10° 52.9' E122°49.13'

Saturday, August 23, 2008

From one extreme to another

After a day of fickle winds a 20-30 knot SE trade set in during the night. What a change. From sedately working our way across the Arafura sea, we now find ourselves on a crazed roller-coaster ride. A steady 15 knots, would be ideal but it's not to be. Not sure Svetlina's enjoying this extreme as much as the other, I guess French cuisine will be on hold for a day.

The increase in wind has led to an alteration of course. Originally we planned to anchor in an anchorage in the north of Roti but with our increase in speed it would mean we'd have to slow-down or heave-to overnight for a daylight arrival. Instead we've altered course for an anchorage in the south, which we should make by early Sunday morning.

We left Darwin a few days after full moon and have had wonderfully bright nights. However as the days progress, the moon is rising later, making for a dramatic contrast between sunset and the seeming increasingly dark night.

We passed over a shoal/bank last night which I think separates the shallow - less than 100m - Arafura sea from the deep - 1000-2000m - Timor Sea. It seems to be a rich fishing ground as suddenly a line of white lights appeared on the horizon. It made for an unusually challenging night - winding our way through the local semi-lit fishing-fleet. Talking of fish we caught a series of three small tunas, which Svetlina insisted I returned to the ocean, so they "could enjoy more life and learn not to bite hooks" - another misconception shattered - I thought anything that moved was considered fair-game by our continental neighbours.

Position @ 07:15 (GMT+9.30): S10deg 57.9' E125deg 02.9'
Distance to waypoint (channel between Roti and West Timor): 104
Daily run: 109

Friday, August 22, 2008

Slow going

We managed 26 hours without resorting to the engine, but finally gave in at 6am this morning when there wasn't enough wind to stem the current. The forecast has promised a decent SE trade today, but no sign so far. Still at least the sea is calm enough to allow us to sail in the feeble breeze. The sails still empty and fill as we roll on the swell, but not in the nerve jarring way I've suffered from on other passages.

It looks like the 4 day passage I predicted will turn into at least 6 days, but there's enough to keep us diverted with French lessons, fishing, dolphin visits, attempts to fix the autopilot and radio chats with Lasse.

Position @ 07:00 (GMT+9.30): S11deg 27.7' E126deg 49.8'
Distance to waypoint (channel between Roti and West Timor): 213
Daily run: 73

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lethargic sailing

The wind continues to tease us, one moment strengthening and momentarily increasing the boat speed above 4 knots, only to quickly ease and continue our wallowing at 2-3 knots. The good news is that the direction is constant; we've escaped the land/sea- breezes of Darwin for a weak SE trade.

Overnight the wind died completely and we motored until the early hours, overtaking Lasse just before midnight. I thought I'd fixed the electronic autopilot in Darwin, but sadly not. I only use the autopilot when there is no wind for the wind-steering and we're under motor. With no automatic steering, we had to manually steer through the night; huge relief when the wind arrived around 4am and it was possible to go to the toilet without the boat turning back towards Darwin.

The forecast is showing more wind towards the end of the week, so hopefully we'll escape the lethargic conditions, before they overcome the crew.

Caught the first fish of the trip last night - a three meal tuna. We'll need to focus to finish the tuna and lamb before they go off.

Position @ 07:00 (GMT+9.30): S11deg 40.5' E128deg 03.6'
Distance to waypoint (channel between Roti and West Timor): 286
Daily run: 93

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

285 degrees to Indonesia

It's been a busy few days, starting with a two day trip around the Kakado National Park (see photos in previous blog entry), final provisioning of fuel, water and food, then a dash around Darwin starting with the Indonesian consulate, via Australian customs and finally back to the boat, just in time to escape Fanny Bay with the last of the tide.

Fortunately the sights in the National Park were sufficiently diverting that I forgot to worry about leaving Kika uninhabited at anchor. My lack of concern proved justified, as when I tried to raise the anchor for my 9.30 appointment at the fuel dock, the windlass managed only 10m of chain before some unseen obstacle pinned me to bottom. I've been spoilt since leaving New Zealand as one of Charlotta's fortes was diving on jammed anchors. However help was at hand and with Graham from "Nomad Life" letting out chain to relieve the tension as I dived repeatedly into the murky water until I'd freed two weeks worth of chain knot circling an old abandoned mooring post.

A big welcome aboard to Svetlina, who on our first night out cooked a delicious lamb roast with gratin dauphinois. It looks like her French cuisine should make sure the Kika galley continues to raise its game. If nothing else I'm enjoying my new sous- chef position; helping with the menial tasks while the maestro(a?) provides the vision and execution.The wind so far has been "light and variable" - read "frustrating and slow", still it's great to be off again with landfall in Indonesia more anticipated than normal; friends already there have been sending enthusiastic reports back over the last couple of weeks.

We left 3-4 hours after Lasse and Ariel who are both smaller than us. Ariel are off to South Africa but we've booked a reunion next August in Falmouth. Lasse are heading to Indonesia so the race is on - just hope for some more wind...

Position @ 07:00 GMT (+9.30): S12deg 06.7' E129deg 34.3'
Distance to waypoint (channel between Roti and West Timor): 379

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Waiting for Indonesian bureaucracy

Enjoying Darwin while waiting for my Indonesian cruising permit and visa...

Searching for crew

The search for new crew continues loose one crew may be regarded as a misfortune; to loose both might have people questioning if normally amiable Nick turns into some kind of Captain Bligh at sea.
Apologies regular readers for the recycling.

If you're a potential new crew reading this have a look at the message Charlotta wrote to you. You might want to have a look at the archives; July, June, May to get a better idea what life is like on-board the good ship Kika.

Mata'irea famous throughout the Northern Territories

Our Vanuatu to Darwin sailing rivals and friends Sten and Danika on Mata'irea wrote on their blog, about a problem the Indonesian rally had with customs in Kupang.
The local paper, "The Northern Territory News" ran the story on page 3 quoting liberally from Mata'irea's blog: (click scan for a readable version)I'm still amazed that our blog entry about the confiscation of our Whangarei market garlic had been reprinted by the local paper in New Zealand.

Video uploads

I've been taking advantage of the half-way decent internet connection in Darwin to upload some videos:

Water music from Gaua Vanuatu
Those of you reading this in Europe, if you're quick you can catch the water music performers on the 12th August in Zaragoza, Spain at the UN Water and sustainable development expo. See in context in the blog entry from Gaua, Vanuatu

Some video we shot of the Duogons in Lamen Bay:

Some reedited video of us sailing from Tonga to New Zealand:

See in context

A video I created to thank Isabelle for organising my birthday celebration:

See in context