Friday, September 19, 2008

Busy Bali

It's been a busy week, fitting in as much as possible before Ina's departure, with a brief stop in Gili Air and a whirlwind tour of Bali.

In Gili Air we rejoined the cruising fleet and were gently eased into the Indonesian tourist world. Gone was the celebrity status of being the only boat in the anchorage, instead we were another tourist to target - "hey mister want to buy sarong, necklace... maybe later". Still tourist infrastructure brings some benefits such as lounging on the futons on the beach bars in Gili Air while watching the sun set. Amongst other delights, Barracuda was on the menu, a little frustrating given that we'd rejected the couple we'd caught a few days before - at least I'll know for next time.

From Gili Air we headed to Lovina on the the north coast of Bali. Barely had the water settled around the anchor than we were off into town searching for scooters to hire. We had a great few days, exploring inland for a change, relaxing in Ubud and finally heading down to Sanur to meetup with Brenden and Lisa, some friend's with a Rival 34, who we'd met in the Caribbean and are now working in Bali.Ina flew back to France on Monday night. Perhaps I've been sailing for too long, but to me it's almost inconceivable to be back in Europe in less than 24 hours when it'll take me nearly a year before I arrive home.
I'm still apprehensive about leaving the boat unattended at anchor overnight and in our haste to explore ashore we hadn't found anyone to mind Kika in our absence. Clearly the worry was playing on my subconscious as one night in Ubud I awoke in a panic having dreamt that we'd dragged ashore and was even more convinced when I saw trees out of the window, imagining I was seeing them from the boat. Only after I raced over to the window to inspect the reef I was convinced we were resting on, and instead saw rice fields, did I slowly return to the reality. Still I was nervous as I arrived back in Lovina, scanning the anchorage until I spotted our mast - exactly where we'd left her five days before.
I think I'm missing a trick. While I'm waiting for new crew, I'm busy fixing all things that broke on the trip - isn't that the crew's job?...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Rincha to Gili Air

With Ina's imminent departure from Bali in mind we reluctantly weighed anchor after a couple of days in Rincha. Next stop Gili Air - a small island in the strait between Lombok and Bali.

Unfortunately predicting the direction of the currents in the area remains as opaque as ever and we spent the majority of the first day fighting our way against an unfavourable current up Sape Strait, between Komodo and Sumbawa. Finally by late afternoon we'd escaped the strait, and with help from the tide, a gentle breeze and smooth sea cruised along the northern coast of Sumbawa. One of the benefits of a flat sea is there's little chance of spray and we took advantage to organise a DVD night. Balancing the laptop on the upturned fish box while we wedged ourselves either side on the cockpit seats.

After spending weeks not seeing other yachts it felt like the rush hour with, at one point, four other yachts within sight. After being overtaken by spinnaker flying boats, I was shamed into digging out the cruising chute and experimenting with the rig, adding the cruising chute to a poled out genoa and full main. Having negligible swell makes a huge difference in light winds and with all the sails we could raise pulling together we managed to make 5 knots+ in light airs.
Last night we caught a tasty looking Barracuda. Unfortunately Barracuda sit high up the food chain and tend to accumulate ciguatera in their flesh.However the toxicity varies with location. In some areas people eat barracuda with impunity, in other places they won't touch them. Without local knowledge it's impossible to know if it's safe to eat. We decided to keep the fish but delayed the decision for a day as we still had some fish cakes left from the night before.This morning just as I was about to wake Ina up for her watch the fishing line starting running out. We'd caught a small tuna. While I filleted the tuna, I put the line out again and quickly had another small tuna on the line. This happened three times, giving Ina an extra hour in bed, and giving us another excuse not to eat the barracuda.

Fresh fish is welcome as provisions are running perilously low. We've run out of onions, have one aubergine, a couple of wilting stringy green beans, half an Australian cabbage and three sweet corn. The sweet corn look as though they've been encased in resin and it's not clear if they're edible or meant as table decoration.

Another great benefit of the easy sailing is the chance to spend extended time in the galley. Today's feast was sashimi followed by sushi rolls and tarte au citron.
Ina's discovered it's possible to make ricotta cheese from powdered milk which holds out the promise of a mango cheese cake tomorrow. Can't wait...

Gili Air (10th September 15:30): S8°22.0' E116°04.98'

Monday, September 08, 2008

'x' marks the spot in Rincha

A friend, who had cruised extensively in Indonesia, enthused about the wildlife in southern Rincha and I vowed to visit the 'x' Mike had marked on our chart all those months ago in New Zealand. We dropped anchor at the mark and found ourselves off a coral fringed beach within a steep sided channel between a small island and the southern coast of Rincha. The wildlife lived up to our heightened expectations. First thing in the mornings monkeys arrive on the beach, foraging for unseen delicacies. Followed by some feral pigs who meander carefree along the sand. The monkeys vanish just before the Komodo dragons arrive. As the Komodos make their slow progress across the sand, smelling the air with their flicking tongues, the other wildlife disappears for the day, leaving the beach to the sunbathing dragons.
Finally in the evening, after the dragons disappear for the night, deer arrive in the woodland just beyond the beach and the monkeys reappear.

Rincha not only offers fantastic terrestrial wildlife, the coral was some of the most varied and vibrant we've seen. Part of the reason is a mixing of nutrient rich cold water with the warm tropical sea, resulting in refreshing, but rewarding snorkelling.
The only downside to the anchorage is at dusk the wind picks up, funnelling between Rincha and the small island "protecting" the anchorage. And it blows: 25-30 knots+ throughout the night. Around 2a.m. I went outside for a pee and in my befuddled sleepy state I noticed something strange about the dinghy but couldn't immediately work out what. Finally it hit me, it was the wrong way up. Fortunately we'd removed the snorkelling gear and the fuel tank the night before, but suddenly I realised the oars, seat and most importantly the outboard was still there. Disaster. I roused Ina and together we flipped the dinghy back the right way up and took off the outboard. I'd learnt the resuscitation routine when our old 2hp went for a swim. Take out the spark plugs, drain the water from the cylinders and fill with oil, turn the engine over a few times, then return to bed, trying to sleep while imagining all the places the salt water could have penetrated. In the morning, Ina headed off in the canoe, and amazingly found the two oars, wedged between rocks on the beach. Meanwhile I cleaned and dried the motor.Our old 2hp motor was never the same after it's drowning - sounding more like a bag of rusty nails than a refined Japanese 2-stroke. I feared the worst but when I reassembled it, it started and seemed as good as ever. The dinghy seat remains somewhere in 20m under the anchorage. If only I had air in my dive tank....

Rincha (7 September 12:30): S8°47.18' E119°40.21'

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Maumere to Tatawa Besar via Batu Boga

After a manic morning making the final rounds of the port officials, replenishing our water and diesel supplies and for Ina booking her flight back to France, we eventually escaped the busy town Maumere and set sail for the short hop to Batu Boga.

Ina again took on the captain's role. The downwind sailing in the strong SE wind was less of a challenge than the windward-beat into Maumere but we still had to thread our way through the off-shore reef north of Maumere, holding our nerve as the depths dropped below 3m, but thankfully emerging unscathed.

The anchorage in Batu Boga was less than 25 miles from Maumere but couldn't be more different; a perfectly protected anchorage nestling in Frisian spotted hills with a couple of huts ashore and shared with a couple of fishing boats and the first yacht we'd seen since our landfall in Nemberala.
The perfect antidote to Maumere. Perhaps we were desperate for a chance for someone else to talk to, as we didn't waste time putting the dinghy in the water but swam over as soon as the anchor was down to meet the Ulla and Peter from Sweden on their yacht Lovina for a great evening exchanging Indonesian experiences.

Ina's flight is out of Bali on 15th September which forced us to focus on how to spend the remainder of the trip. We decided to spend time in the area around Komodo and a few days in Bali. With the decision made, we set off for an overnight sail to Komodo.The sail to Komodo was uneventful, though enlivened by a large school of porpoises who lazed around with us for a few minutes.
The light wind encouraged us to be more creative in the galley; Ina perfected her bread-making skills with some yeast Ulla had provided. We also attempted to make the most of the oddly shaped cuts of meat we'd bought in Maumere, the highlight of the day - a pressure cooker version of coq au vin.The light overnight winds meant that we weren't going to make our chosen anchorage off Komodo before nightfall, but with the bay dotted with islands it was easy to locate an alternative. By 4p.m. we were anchored and drift snorkelling past stunningly vibrant coral with dinghy tied around my waist.Worth a mention were the first couple of turtles we'd seen in Indonesia, and grids of long spined urchins. After painfully stepping on an urchin in the Carribean, I'd kept my distance, but studying them in this strangely regular grid formation they were stunning, dotted with varied coloured florescent spots and appearing as alien mines with lights indicating their clock was ticking...

Batu Boga (3 September 17:30): S8°27.65' E121° 56.6'
Tatawa Besar (4 September 15:00): S8°30.46' E199° 42.79'

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Checking into Maumere with Aladin

For the afternoon sail from Pulau Besar to Maumere we changed roles. Ina became captain for the day and I was relegated to crew. Ina quickly developed a management style of her own. Gone was the gentle suggestive style of the former captain - "perhaps we could adjust the sails". Instead orders were issued with disconcerting authority and expected to be obeyed instantly. Still with the wind blowing from Maumere, Ina quickly adapted to windward sailing and appeared to be a natural as we tacked into the setting sun, while I while raced to keep the sails in trim.

We'd chosen Maumere to check into Indonesia as we'd heard reports of problems with corrupt customs officials at the more usual port of entry of Kupang. However we'd only heard that it was possible to complete the official paperwork in Maumere from another sailor in Darwin; noonsite makes no mention of it. Another cause for concern was our cruising permit. I'd applied for the cruising permit on arrival in Darwin. Weeks passed with promises of the permit arriving the following week, until we lost patience and set-off with the expectation that the permit would arrive prior to our check-in. We arrived in Maumere without the anticipated email attachment. Fortunately we'd taken the precaution of a little Photoshop work on a friend's permit, but felt uncomfortable using a forged permit, even if it was only a temporary measure.

Aladin was to be our contact ashore, acting as an yacht agent to help navigate through the official arrival process. As we dropped anchor I pondered our first problem, how to find Aladin in the bustling town before us. I need not have worried. He found us, paddling out to greet us in a leaky dug-out. With our provisions running low and looking forward to a change of scene, we'd promised ourselves a meal out. However Aladin insisted we should stay onboard until we checked-in but on seeing our disappointment organised a take-away of gado-gado, fried chicken and rice. Our first dug-out food delivery.

We were both up early the following morning to clean the boat, hide the remains of our local produce and make another futile email check for our cruising permit. By 8.30 Aladin arrived and sent me ashore to ferry the six officials back to the boat; two each from customs, immigration and quarantine. Despite what felt like loosing my body weight in sweat - it was hot and I wasn't looking forward to Indonesian jail - by the end of the morning we had stamps in our passports, had declared we had no monkeys on board and that no one had died on the recent passage and been "given" an impressive looking 50 page ship health book to note any deaths and quarantinable diseases. For the first time our ship's stamp was almost a requirement, adding legitimacy to the crew list, stores list, medicine list and disease list.

Finally we were free to head ashore for a celebratory meal and Bintag or two...

Maumere (1st September 17:00): S8°36.7' E122°13.1'

Monday, September 01, 2008

Pulau Besar

After another early, but thankfully uneventful start, we made our way along the north coast of Flores to Pulau Besar. The landscape is becoming more dramatic; a more mountainous interior giving way to steep cliffs plunging into the sea.

Pulau Besar is a small fishing village, with stilt houses arranged around a mosque and fish drying on nets between the huts. Heading ashore we were greeted by Amin who after initial greetings took off at a cracking pace, beckoning us to follow him. After 10mins out of the village and through a banana plantation, we started to wonder where we were heading. Questioning Amin he wrote on our notepad "Urung Detung" sounding suspiciously like "Orang-utan". To confirm our suspicions, Ina drew a picture of a monkey which just seemed to add to the confusion. After another 5 minutes, we came to "Urung Detung", a small village and the tour commenced. Today's tour consisted of a trip to the well and a stop at a seemingly random spot in the town where the villagers poised for photos. Charming, but again frustrating with our limited ability to communicate.

A highlight of the trip was the discovery of a new fruit - gambou (sp?). It looks a little like a small thin red pepper/large chilli, but has the texture of an apple, with the juice and taste somewhat similar to a peach. A welcome change from papaya and bananas.

We arrived back at the fishing village with our guide asking if we could print a photo of him. Unfortunately the printer onboard isn't functioning, but instead Ina drew Amin, gathering an intrigued crowd to watch the portrait emerge.
6am we were woken up by the mosque's loudspeakers. Not by the usual call for prayer but instead by early morning techno blasting across the village. Could the change in melody signify the start of Ramadan or the perhaps the local teenagers had taken-over the amplification system.

It's hard to pull ourselves away from these wonderful anchorages each day, but we need to push-on as Ina has a plane to catch back to France from Bali in mid-September and there's still over 400 miles to go...

Pulau Besar (31st August 16:35): S8° 26.7' E122° 24.5'