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'

No comments: