Yep, after 6 years abroad we bit the bullet and returned to the US. Commuter cruisers have it a bit easier. They cruise for 6 months at a time. But 6 years. Whew.
After close to 24 hours in the air we landed in New York and were found by my nephew’s father in-law in a pack of cars. Truth be told: W/ had the greatest desire to visit family and friends. I’ve been of the opinion that they could visit us! That never seems to work out well. The only visitors we’ve had in 14 years of cruising have been one of my life long friends, Mike; and my mom. Both visited us twice! And Covid struck another friends list. Jim and Sue had tickets to Oz when the pandemic hit. Happily they didn’t lose any money and sadly they didn’t get to see Oz.
Anyway; after completing medical checks in Kuala Lumpur we made the two stop trip to NYC. Clearing in to the US was a non issue. We are after all US citizens. We left the plane and thankfully had wifi. I contacted my nephew. He was our ride. They were near and expected to arrive by the time we had exited with our luggage. Picked up our bags and attempted to contact my nephew again. Either the network was overloaded or the airport doesn’t have free wifi at the terminal entrance. We’re now in a pickle. A big one.
They knew what gate we were at; International arrivals. But the people. Whew! It was like we had been dropped in a can of living Sardines. We looked around hoping to see my nephew. We didn’t see him. W/ stayed with the gear while I looked for a phone card kiosk. Didn’t find one. Looked around for my nephew at the doors. Didn’t find him. I returned to W/ and told her I was going to do a sweep. I walked the length of the terminal inside then headed out to the pickup area. Wall to wall vehicles is all I saw. I wasn’t expecting to find them but maybe; maybe, he would see me wandering. As I made my way back to W/’s terminal exit weaving in and out of the cars, my nephews father in-law (FIL) starts yelling at me. Whew! He said he was looking for a tall guy and saw me wandering between the cars. Together we headed back to my nephew’s vehicle. Once located. Steve (FIL) and I headed back to the terminal; found W/ and hauled our gear to the truck. We have arrived. Tired and safe. Next I need to get a gun! We are after all in the US of A. Just kidding.
SIM cards tomorrow! At T-Mobile we pay $50 / month per phone. In Indonesia the cost was much less. And of course as we don’t expect to be dirt dwellers for long we are stuck with the pre paid plans. As far as internet for the computer and tablet, most every place we hang / friends families, AirBnB’s, or hotels have wifi.
The final order of business; was wheels. I researched while in Indonesia. There I narrowed it down to a Hyundai Tucson Limited with grey interior. There weren’t many around. I was scanning the Eastern US. Found one in Tennessee but lost it by a day. That set us back another few days. One was listed near by but then the dealership said it wasn’t certified and they would send it to auction. Found another in Western NY state. Bought that. Rented a car one way. Picked it up drove it back to our nephews. It has all the bells and whistles; meaning all the safety features I wanted. The learning curve is steep. After all, we will be doing another Eastern US circle.
Buying it was easy. Getting it registered and licensed and insured, that’s another issue. We have a lease on a place in Vermont so that is our new “temporary” abode. Back to Vermont twice to get the details taken care of. Finally with the Vermont license we discovered one more “Gotcha”. An inspection. After driving to Vermont the second time and getting the state paperwork completed, I needed an inspection. Damn! One more trip back this time. Maybe not. We will be returning here around the holidays for our families gathering. We can get it then.
Insurance: that was another thing. We’ve been traveling out of the US for 6 years straight. During that time we’ve owned two other vehicles. We bought one in NZ, insured, drove, no accidents and sold it. Same in Australia. But the US insurance market doesn’t care. If you don’t have continuous insurance they want to reach further into your pocket and get more gold. What can we do? With the crazy drivers in the US we need insurance. So I empty my pockets, bit the bullet and sign up.
And for those wondering where I’ve been with my blog; I’m not sharing the general life minutia in the states. I’m limiting the posts to how / what a cruiser could experience. Till then…
We came to Bali: 1) To find a real Dermatologist for the cyst on W/s neck, 2) to hang with our old marina mate Dan on Vagabond, and 3) because of its reputation as a great tourist place. We found a good dermatologist and surgeon, and W/ had the cyst removed. Dan finally returned from his world tour by plane and we did a few touristy things. I plan to expand on tourist Bali in a later post.
The hard part was ahead of us. Leaving Bali. We had a comfortable moorage in Bali. We were way, way back in the harbor – out of the swell. We were however near the intermittent burning of the dump. Too we were in line with the garbage floating in and out of the harbor with the tide, and we were in a very nutrient rich basin of water. So much so, that with 3+ weeks of growth the prop was covered with barnacles. How do I know? I snorkeled to clean the prop. While in the water I scanned the growth on the hull and thought “not bad”. Boy was I wrong.
We left at 6 am on an outgoing tide. Motored through the harbor missing some of the permanent sunk wrecks and out through the pass. The day looked great with a light SE breeze. A fellow cruiser suggested sliding up along the Bali coast and then cut over to Gili Air. We were going backwards. We don’t like going backwards, but – the only good Marina near by is back at Lombok. Exiting the harbor we turned north. And we stopped. Not because the engine wasn’t on, not because we couldn’t fill the sails with wind. Because the current was running S along this coast. There are no chart books covering currents in the strait. The app “Windy” displays currents. Our experience is that Windy’s data must be gleaned from the fiction section of the library. The info here never really bores out.
We don’t like pretending to move. So …like any rational person we changed our destination and thus course. We turned E and motored. East was heading into the breeze but it wasn’t enough for concern. However the confluence of the current and winds put our boat speed at about 3 kts. With this engine speed we ought to have been running at 6 kts. But; BUT, we were moving toward our new destination.
As we approached the N side of Nusa Penida. we picked up some speed and the southerly wind swell broke up. We still had messed up chop. In this area there are many fast boats (tourist boats) they create a constant chop. By this time a half the day had passed and I worried about making our new mooring by nightfall. We did have a track out of Gili Gede. That was good because the pearl farms there have a huge amount of bouys floating between the islands. Each bouy supports hundreds of oysters.
We didn’t travel any faster the last 1/3 of the way. Every time we hit 5 kts of speed over the ground I was excited. Nearer sunset we were entering the sounds by Gili Gede. We worked our way around the oyster bouys, keeping an eye on the track we made when leaving. Eleven plus hours after we left Bali we picked up a mooring. But, it was still light outside. We made it, in the light, with no big drama.
The following am we dug out the hooka gear and I grabbed my mask and fins. W/ scrounged up old gloves, a scraper, a green scratch pad and wash rag. I was going to clean the bottom. And wow! Did it need cleaning. After 3 weeks in Bali we had the beginnings of a new reef. The boat bottom was one of the reasons we didn’t make great time. I guess I ought to have cleaned the bottom in Bali. But… the water was so dirty. Here in Gili Gede the water is clean and clear. Tomorrow we head up to Gili Air. A few days hanging with heaps of tourists, then head the last 3 nm and haul out at Medana Bay Marina.
The anchorage / mooring field is like living in an industrial zone. My first impressions are that Indonesia has done an excellent job of creating a split personality tourist destination. The Yin and Yang. The Good and Bad. From the cruising perspective; mine, the cruising part is bad. We will see if that lasts and how long it lasts.
In Labuanbajo from the boat we could get to the city proper easily. Here the city proper is difficult to get to and to even find. Obviously there was NO city planner. A western concept. There are tourist areas and then the Central Business District (CBD) and the rest. Getting to shore is challenging. Dinghy access is problematic taking into consideration the tides and dockage. Where there is dockage there is a great deal of traffic, the majority is tourist. There the high speed boats take groups of tourists. They transit to some of the (other) beautiful Indonesian islands.
Bali is schizophrenic. The tourist stuff is… well … very nice. The resorts, the restaurants, the beaches. We’ve not yet been to the monkey jungle, the waterfall(s) or the rice paddies. What we have done is acclimate ourselves to the harbor, transportation, supplies and medical. W/ needed some skin checks and she’s cleared all those. We found a dermatologist that was excellent. The Dermatologist recommended a surgeon for the growing cyst on her neck and that’s been taken care of. We’ve learned to use private cars and the Gojek transportation system. They have few if any public transports like Bemos here.
I close my eyes when in traffic. Hold my breath during low tide in the harbor and continue to look for Peanut M & M’s. Traffic for westerners is exciting. Much like a video game with few if any rules. The one rule I believe is: don’t ever hit anyone. A good rule. But a scary rule. To cross traffic I hold up my hand and begin walking across. They have cross walks here but they don’t seem to mean anything. As I walk cars will either stop and let me pass or move so as not to knock me off my feet. Some motorcycles will stop; the majority will flow like water around. In a car it seems no one uses mirrors. With the adage of “Don’t hit anyone” they only care about what is in front. The line in the road is a guide, not a rule. It is crossed whenever there is little or no opposing traffic. Bikes and cars will move to give room to any and all comers. At stop lights (there are a few) cars leave room on the outside of the road so bikes can all move to the front. Some cars will leave room in front of them so bikes can work their way around everyone to the front. In the 10 days here I’ve not yet seen a bike even touch a car or another bike. Two were close but not touching! While riding in the Gojek (their taxi) and only a few centimeters away is a bike traveling paralleling us. A FEW CENTIMETERES! As room ahead opens up they zoom off. At intersections cars turn on their 4 way blinkers and ease into the intersection. There are no STOP signs. The only vehicle with priority is the one in front. If you ease forward and get in front then you may cross. All this time bikes may be passing in front, behind and beside you.
Yesterday I watched one bike pull up beside us. She (the driver) was talking to herself the whole time. I don’t know if she was praying or telling herself to stay alert. As we reached an intersection she pulled ahead and I never saw her again.
The harbor is; well the best way to describe it, a mess. With rain and tides rubbish is picked up from the shore and ends up in the harbor; all floating by. Not a time goes by where as I’m going or coming from the boat I need to avoid floating plastic in the water. Only a few things I’ve not yet seen floating; condoms, baby diapers and dead fish. Maybe I’m not observant enough! Yesterday Dan on Vagabond was slowly motoring and the engine grabbed ahold of a T shirt. At low tide the area smells of rotten eggs. As I dinghy to shore I see bubbles rising from the bottom. The water is always dirty. Mississippi River water is cleaner. The two docks we use to reach shore usually have water access. During King tides we’ve had to push through the mud to reach water deep enough to float the dinghy. As we use the oars to push through we encounter a plethora of obstructions. Not coral. I doubt coral could grow here. And yet on the one dock there are always fishermen. They catch fish that are about 10 cm long. I don’t imagine they eat them, I think they either sell them to the fisherman that go offshore in the spiders or use them as bait.
While this is to be the “dry” season we’ve had heaps of rain this last week. So much so that one day we need to use the generator to charge the batteries. No Sun for three days depletes our battery bank. Looks like today I will need to run it again for an hour.
Before we head out we hope to add a layer of varnish to our exterior wood and see a little of the tourist Bali. Dan on Vagabond has been here over 6 months and knows the places to go. We’ll use him as our tour guide. Dayat (a local Indonesian waterman) has already shined all our stainless. An excellent worker. We expect to use his assistance as we go about the varnish job. But right now we wait. During all this we went to a travel agency and have tickets back to the states. We’ll head first to Kuala Lumpur (KL) and get our annual medical checks completed. They are extremely thorough in KL. After that we fly to NYC via Doha: I say “yuck” and W/ cheers. Not against me but for heading back to the “Land of Instant Everything”.
We decided to take a couple days off. Off from daily moving. The Book of Lies (Adam Scott’s Cruising Guide to Indonesia) had a suggestion. Ironically, this one panned out. There was a cut in the reef and a protected pool in which to anchor. We wove our way in and anchored off to the edge in plenty of water. A local fisherman had dropped his pick in the middle and appeared to be taking a nap! What a life eh? 🙂 Thus we were constrained a bit.
That afternoon we dinghied to the small beach for a look around. There were some unused park facilities. Westerners might well say dilapidated. That was about it. I flew the drone for more practice time. We nosed around a bit and then dinghied back to Elysium.
The following day we did some dinghy exploring and tooled over some lovely coral. We thought a cool swim would be a great afternoon activity. However we never did find the same beautiful coral patch. Next time I’ll take the GPS with me. All that sounds like work. Adventures are in the discoveries, eh? We dinghied to where we thought it was, jumped in and I towed the dinghy while W had freedom. Exploring at her leisure. There were a lot of tropicals, beautiful corals and no editable fish. I didn’t see one fish over 20 cm. How Indonesia can continue to survive as a fishing economy is beyond me. Everywhere we travel there are heaps of fishermen with their nets out. Night and Day. We swam about 1/2 way back to Elysium then decided to take the easy road. Jumped in the dinghy and motored back. I checked the entrance to our anchor pool and back on the boat we went. Clean up and do what cruisers do, rest, read, nap. The afternoon was a breeze. 🙂
The following day another cruiser pulled in. We had a great evening sharing stories and watching the Sunset. He was heading back to Australia (the hard way) stopping to surf along the way. We will be heading to Medana Bay wanting to check the haul out facilities and marina. That is a rare place in Indo. A marina and a place to haul out. We expect to haul there and then return to the states for some R n R. Not that we don’t have any R n R on board. But being in the Land of Instant everything with family and old friends (no pun) is simply a different way to fill the soul.
Some names are even funny to the locals. We stopped at a place called Fak Fak and even when the locals said it they had to chuckle. Now we’re heading to Badas expecting a comfortable anchorage. And we did get that. However the town wasn’t within walking or dinghy distance. This is an active shipping port.
We moved deep into the harbor and a local waterman suggested where to anchor. Not one to argue with local knowledge we heeded his advice. After all, we can always move. The depth was manageable, 5 meters and calm. We didn’t yet know about Mossies (mosquitos). We settled in, W/ dug up lunch, I set the forward awning and our waterman stopped by in his tinny (small aluminum boat). Introductions were made and we invited him aboard. We asked a lot of questions. Not all the answers were to our liking. We needed to hire a car to get stocked up on our stores and find a market. His daughter would take care of our laundry; of course we would pay her, and he could dispose of our garbage. We hoped in an environmentally acceptable standard. That doesn’t always happen in developing nations.
The following am we had a car. We picked up Borak (our new Indonesian friend) at the boat he was working / living on. With his directions we headed to where we would meet the car. By Indo standards it was expensive. Initially he asked how much we had been paying and that seemed fair. Then he said he could get a car… for double that price. We hedged. We ended up paying 50% more than usual. In the end we paid 300,000 Rp for two hours. Not wanting to leave the dinghy at the waterfront Borak suggested he take it back to his place. We would call him when we returned.
The Grocery was well stocked and a long way from the harbor. The majority of our consumables we were able to find there. Of course, I’m still having an issue with sweets! So far, everywhere we’ve been in Indonesia I’ve not found Peanut M&M’s. I have found Toblerone; but not here. I have enough I hope, to make it to Bali. I often tell people I don’t have a “Sweet Tooth”, I have “Sweet Teeth”!
After the grocery we hit the fresh market. W/ was able to find the veggies she wanted and our driver assisted in some of the money translation. It worked out well. Back to our drop off place, call Borak and unload our goodies. That evening Borak returned with our Laundry, nice and clean with minimal perfume. It seems that in Indonesia the majority of the laundered goods have been washed in a heavy perfumed soap. We gave him a a nice tip for his time, advice, and extra money to cover the Laundry. He was happy, we were happy and ready to retire for the evening.
Both nights as we were heading off to our berth the fishermen came out. They had a light on the bow of their small boats to attract fish. Then they laid out their nets. Each night there were three such groups. They spent all evening enticing fish with the light, surrounding them with a net and hauling in their catch. They were quiet. As there were not Mossies that found us, the ports were open and we could hear anything happening outside.
In the am they would be pulling in their final catch and head to shore. With all the fishing I am actually amazed there are any fish left. Like any liquid, I guess when fish in one area are caught others move in to replace them. Some in the government / scientific community recognize the problem. Indonesia is being overfished. Of course Indonesia has a lot of people to feed. The locals have told us that their grandfathers hauled in fish that were a meter long. Their fathers hauled in fish that were smaller; say 50 cm long (about 2 feet) . Today, whenever we see fish drying, fish caught; generally they are all less than 30 cm. Banda had a conference (the Spice Islands) while we were there. The focus “Over fishing”. Education is important. People must eat. In the years to come there will be a huge question for Indonesia to answer. How to feed a population that lives on dwindling fisheries?
We picked up the anchor and slowly motored out of the harbor. Rounding the bend and heading along the coast towards Lombok we came across the day fishermen. Every km or so they had nets strung across the reef. These fishermen and their nets went on for as long as we were on the coast here. As we crossed to the Island of Lombok we passed out of the net mine field.
The straits were getting to be more knowable. Every strait here has unpredictable currents. Every one! Depending on the tides there is a N or S flow. Depending on the bottom configuration there are often whirlpools and eddies. Large enough that Elysium’s shoved off course by 20º or more. As we reached Lombok we saw a large area of standing waves. At first we were not sure what was happening. Charts in Indonesia are not accurate. Reefs extend farther out than charts show, Islands may to be off by not only meters, but a mile or more. We changed course and approached cautiously, staying in deeper water.
I climbed up on our mast pulpit to get a better view. I saw no shallow water. Here the water is so clear that the water color will give me a good indication of the depth. All deep water. We kept going. Our trusty Perkins kept us chugging along right through the chop. We were paralleling the N shore of Lombok. The majority of fishermen were gone and we motored to an anchorage suggested by the Book of Lies (Andy Scotts Cruising Indonesia Guide). For once he was right.
I can’t say spot on. Those familiar with cruising guides in the Caribbean would know the difference. Caribbean guides have bearings for an approach, depths along the way, and lat/long for anchorage’s and ports. All the Book of lies has are positions and all too often something isn’t right with them. So often the bottom isn’t correct or the anchorage isn’t safe in this season. But; we listen to; read, all information and learn to be leery of some. We made it into a beautiful, calm anchorage, surrounded by reef, and dropped the hook. Later we would explore a lovely beach that was off the bow. A fisherman was repairing his nets in his boat. We settled in for a few days. I looked forward to flying the drone and getting some new images of the Anchorage.
Next stop is where we expect to haul Elysium. We’ll stop there and check it out. We’ll make sure she’ll be safe and then on to Bali. There we will secure our plane fare back to the states. It’s time to line up our Ducks and stop juggling. We are still not sure exactly how everything will play out. We just know from experience that it will.
This is how we store our dinghy when anchored. We haul it up on Elysium’s hip. Years ago we tied it to a cleat and let it drag astern. Then one night in the Bahamas it went missing. I detailed that adventure here. Since then we find it more secure this way. W/ cranks it up on the halyard while I hold it off the side. Once in position she secures the halyard and I finish. I tie a stern line to the ladder chock, pull the plug on the drain (in case it rains) and then snug up the bow line. We secure the dinghy in three places. Nothing is “perfect”. Since we’ve been using this method we’ve not had any further issues with anything missing or with the dinghy. While not impossible for someone to “borrow” (steal) the engine it wouldn’t be the easiest. So far so good.
From Labuan Bajo to Medana Bay in Lombok was ugly. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t any bright spots. There were. It means that sailing in Indonesia is; well, not sailing. A half dozen times or more we put out the sails. We covered a few miles under sail. However as I’ve mentioned before; each island has its own wx system. The morning starts with a light offshore breeze. Around 10-11am the breeze dies and as the day progresses and the land heats up an onshore breeze fills in. Then we’re looking to anchor for the evening. Traveling at night is a serious no-no in Indo.
Hell, even during the day there are hazards. We were traveling along the coast of Sumbawa. There are heaps of fishermen with nets out. By heaps I mean every km or so there was a net strung across the water. Nets 500 meters long or sometimes more. We had done well avoiding them by staying farther offshore. We came upon a fisherman up ahead. He was slapping an oar in the water. We’ve seen that before. They do that to drive fish towards their nets. Then as we got closer he began to wave, like a madman. We had no idea what he was waving about as his arms seemed to be all over the place. About a boat length in front we saw the floats for a net. I wasn’t worried. We had gone over nets before. The advantage of a full keel boat. But before we were sailing. Now we were powering. All seemed to go well till I noticed the net had caught on the shoe of our rudder. Obviously I hadn’t cleaned all the barnacles off. More than that, my fishing lure too caught something; you guessed it, the net. I was afraid we had wrapped the prop. Others have told me that they had reversed the prop and the net would unwrap. Don’t try it! It didn’t and most likely made it worse.
All this time the fisherman was paddling over. He too wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy, W/ wasn’t happy. The only good thing was there isn’t any wind, the Sun is shining and the water warm. I donned my swim trunks, got my dive mask and fins. In I went. I couldn’t unwind the net. It was firmly tied / wrapped on the shaft and prop. The only option was to cut if free. The fisherman was hanging out, hanging onto our dinghy. He had already freed the lure we had and given that back to W/.
W/ handed me a filet knife and I set about cutting the part of the net wrapped around the prop and shaft. A few dives later we were floating free. I got back into the dinghy (we had been towing it) and removed my gear. The fisherman hung on. He indicated he wanted money to repair his net. I felt a little wronged. Little floats one can barely see on the water. No discernible end and a wild fisherman waving his arms in every direction. Such excuses I can make! W/ brought up 200,000 Rp and handed him the money. For a cruiser, that isn’t much money. For him fishing was his livelihood and we had made his life more difficult. I can’t say he was happy. I can say we weren’t. He did seem satisfied and let go of the dinghy. We started up the engine and continued our trek west.
The majority of anchorages on the N coast of Sumbawa are open roadsteads. Any serious winds from the N puts a boat on a dangerous lee shore. There are not many choices here. Fortunately this time of year the winds are light and at night they blow offshore. So we don’t worry. One such anchorage we had the hook down and W/ was preparing Dunch (Dinner and Lunch at the same time). Something large banged on the boat. We both scramble up on deck. A mid-sized Bagan bumped into us. The winds and tide had changed. I had anchored a 100 meters away from him thinking we were safe. They had more anchor line out than I thought and they were sitting away from the island. I was able to push them free enough that there was no more colliding. W/ started up the engine and we moved farther away. Damage. A little. A small nick in our paint on the hull. We were lucky we were aboard, the winds were light, and it was daylight. In the middle of the night that would have scared us silly. We didn’t take a break till we hit Moyo.
Moyo looked like a good anchorage. Protected from N winds around to the S. Only open to the W and SW. We anchored in 15 m of water and with the light afternoon onshore breeze we drifted nearer the reef. The anchor was doing its job keeping us in deep water. We set up the dinghy and went exploring. We walked the village. Smaller than a town. Checked out a Covid closed dive resort. Discovered there was not any Laundry Business and looked for a place to get a nice cold drink. We checked out one place that looked inviting only to discover they didn’t sell beer. With our mixed up Bahasa and their hand signals we were directed down the road; really much closer to a path, to a restaurant. There we found a cold beer and great view of the harbor and if we stayed long enough; the Sunset. And as so often in our travels we were lucky.
An Aussie ex-pat with his daughter hanging out joined us for a chat. He had just built a place on Lombok with his Indonesian wife. And he said…. he had a great meal at the restaurant a couple doors down. Now, we’re not one to turn our backs on any place that has good food. We were getting hungry and the beer alone wouldn’t quench our hunger . So…. We wandered over.
The cats and the restaurant’s 6 year old daughter took a shine to us. She worked it so she could climb up onto my lap while we checked out the menu and ordered food! She sat there playing with her phone. On the front of the menu was a lovely picture of a waterfall. Another tourist; Chinese this time, wandered over. He had an electronic device that translated English to Chinese and visa versa. There we learned that he and his partner had this am returned from the waterfall. The one in the picture, and it was well worth visiting. The manager of the restaurant could arrange a trip. The device was cool. We need to get one. It made communication much easier. Anyway, we arranged for the following day to visit the waterfall. Our food came and I wriggled enough that my lap mate decided she had had enough. She wandered over to another tourist looking for more lap time.
The following day we had lunch at Mary An and then began our tour. Our guide took one motorcycle plus W/ and I took another. I was glad he had W/. The trek to the waterfall was not on a smooth, well paved road. Even a path would be an optimistic assessment. Some areas were paved with cement, others stones and many areas eroded. A four wheel vehicle wouldn’t have an issue. The motorcycles worked well but not fast. I tried to follow W/ with her driver, weaving between ruts, the side of the road and a few places of smooth pavement flying down the middle. But, I couldn’t look around. I had to watch the road. Forty minutes later we came to a stop; the parking lot! Parked the bikes and began to walk.
A story circulated that Princess Di visited this place. The rumor was she would walk up above the falls and bask in the shallow pools – san’s clothing. I rather doubt this last part as this nation of majority Muslims is quite conservative. We walked up to the upper pools and waded through the cool water enjoying the emerald green water color. The forest here is cooler than at the beach and we enjoyed this place. Next time (as if) we would being some food, maybe a bottle of wine! 🙂
Hiking downstream we arrived at the waterfalls where the main action was. There were several falls from about one meter to five. Under the five m falls was a pool of water asking for a swim. Our guide jumped in and I followed. I didn’t jump. The water was cool. The depth unknown and my training with water was never to dive or jump in water of an unknown depth. I don’t and I didn’t. It was about 3 meters deep and in the middle and was a bit over my head. We (our guide and I) swam to the falls, climbed up the rocks and sat behind for minute or two while W/ took some pics. I was told there were fish here but never did see any. I don’t believe any were food.
As we exited the pool to dry off a slew of tourists from a Liveaboard arrived. 15 or so. They strolled in as I was getting my new drone out for pictures. We hung around till they tired of the swim. I got ready to fly the drone to the middle of the pool and take a few images of the falls itself. The rocks with the water cascading over them would have made a wonderful pic. Notice the tense of the sentence! The drone was up and I manipulated it towards the middle of the pool, about 4 m above the water. As I was about to snap a pic it took off! I wasn’t doing anything! Shit! It flew towards me and then lurched into an area bounded by three large trees. Water is deadly to drones. Trees not much better. This one does not have any avoidance circuitry and if it hits a tree ; well, I won’t be able to repair it. This was only the 3rd time flying. Losing it here in Indonesia; where it is not easily replaced, including how not cheap it was, was frightening. My heart was racing. I quickly moved to where it had paused in the middle of the tree triangle. I reached out my hand, held the joystick down for landing and landed it on my hand. It was only the second time I had caught my drone. And I was lucky. It didn’t end up in the water, it didn’t hit any trees and I wasn’t injured by the propellers. Enough of that. I put the drone away.
A few more pics with the phones and we headed back. The ride down the mountain was as exciting as the ride up. Weaving in and out of the track I only high centered a couple of times needing to help the bike with my feet on the ground. We caught up to the truck carrying the tourists from the Liveaboard as we arrived in the village. The road / ditch / path turned into an easier ride and we finished where we began. A couple of drinks to cap off a great day, then back to Elysium.
At the dock there was chaos. Our dinghy had moved. We didn’t mind. It is better if they move it than work around it or damage it. The town was getting new electric poles. With one vehicle and many men they were removing the cement poles from the delivery boat. They already had several poles off but were having difficulty with the last one. The tide had come in. The pole needed to get it onto the pier, off the boat, onto a cart and moved to the storage place. 20 or so men were guiding the pole; plus the truck pulling. As the cement pole moved off the boat some the boat would rise and create a problem. The trucks wheels would spin on the sandy cement pier and work would stop. A new discussion with many chiefs and no Indians ensued. They would go to plan C, and then to plan D etc. During one of their brainstorming sessions we worked our way around the activity and into the dinghy. On the way to Elysium we heard a cheer. I’m sure the pole was off now.
On Elysium we discussed where to next. A place called Badas! Interesting. We needed some supplies and a calm anchorage. This anchorage had turned on us. The winds were fine but a swell had begun to work its way into the anchorage. We were starting to roll from side to side. We DO NOT like rolling. Tomorrows trip is only 25 nm. The restaurant owner had actually said we could order supplies from Badas and have stuff shipped the following day for 5,000 Rp / box. However Badas was on our way and we prefer to choose our own supplies. Badas here we come.
Labuan Bajo is an interesting place. A bustling city described by the international media as a “fishing village”. 🙂 We arrived at the beginning of the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) summit. Had we been aware of the event when we left Banda we may well have waited. For us, events like this get in the way of our traveling enjoyment. However it was eye opening the amount of security, the number of officials and the pomp that Indonesia put on for this group. Everywhere around Labuan Bajo there was enhanced security. Roads were blocked, many re-routed, new black vehicles; many electric, accompanied by support vehicles were everywhere. We watched a practice run with the motorcades and hotel. Generally as white tourists here we seem to have a great deal of privilege . Only once were we asked to stop while a motorcade went by. In the end, the interruption to our cruising life was not enough to dissuade us from enjoying this “fishing village”.
Labuan Bajo was filled with tourists. The harbor was filled with small local boats; I say small, but they are often 100’ or more. More like mini cruise ships. They have accommodations for up to 30 guests +/_ and with 25 crew, chefs, spas, and dive facilities aboard.
We enjoyed the few moments of pageantry we came across. As usual for us, we didn’t stick around for more. We explored the town a fair bit, tried new restaurants and were denied entry to one of the tourist lookouts. The representatives here for Asean had that all to themselves.
As we so often do we learn about where to go and what to do from other cruisers. One such place was an Italian eatery; La Cucina. We liked it. Air Conditioned, fair prices and good food. That goes a long way in our book. After a couple of visits we were sitting across from another tourist… eating alone. We invited her to share some stories as we all ate, initially she refused preferring her own company to ours. 🙁 After a couple of small talk questions we discovered that she too is a sailor; and a new one. As we finished our meal she joined us for some sailing stories. Here from Germany; she’s in the midst of working on her medical degree. But; she and her boyfriend / partner, just purchased a sailboat and were planning on some sailing adventures. More stories, more laughter and it was time for Ice Cream. After which we invited her to our boat for a peek into the cruising lifestyle.
Three days later we brought her and her traveling companion to Elysium. A slow dinghy ride. We picked their brains about Germany, Europe, the events effecting their lives on the other side of the world. Luisa and Anouk; her friend, probed us about the cruising lifestyle and life in America (which we know little about as we’ve been gone 6 years). Culture shock is in our future.
Visiting new places is ok, checking out environmental wonders exciting; but what we love most is meeting and sharing info and ideas with people. Luisa and Anouk were the frosting on our time in Labuan Bajo. The discoveries of things in Germany and even what they had seen as tourists in the land of the Komodo Dragon helped provide directions to our adventures. They had finished a 3 day Liveaboard cruise (scroll down to see the real Indonesia cruise boats). We had already decided we too needed to see the Dragons. Their time there confirmed it. As for Germany, too cold isn’t in our cards. We have discovered we’re warm weather sailors! Sunset passed; photos taken and we traded more stories. As the evening wore on I dinghied them to shore where they summoned a taxi back to their abode in town. What a great evening. In the am we headed off to see the dragons.
First stop was just that, a stop in another Indonesian anchorage. And I was happy this one wasn’t deep. I don’t like anchoring in water deeper than 15 m. If something happens, retrieving the anchor is a real pain. And, I like this anchor. I don’t want to loose it. Even though I carry 5 anchors, many for different bottoms and situations, this one; a Spade, is our primary anchor.
The following morning we headed to the Komodo National park, a Unesco World Heritage site. A great bay; well protected, soft bottom, and not that deep. We headed ashore to suss out the situation and pay our fees. The park headquarters is new and only been open a bit over a year. The anchoring fee was $100,000 Rp / night and the park fee for W/ and I about $500,000 Rp. We had heard from others before us that the Dragons were more active in the morning. We arranged to arrive at 7am the following day.
There we met the rangers who explained where the Dragons were and a bit about the purpose of the park. Three rangers guided us to the museum entrance where we met Win (his western name-we would have difficulty pronouncing his given Indonesian name) our actual tour guide. Groups have a max of 5 people and we were lucky, it was only W/ and I. We had our own personal guide! And, he was good. First we forgo the Museum part till after the walk and dragon spotting. Dragon details are fascinating. Dragons can smell food (blood and stool) up to 2 km away. This includes females during menses. Women at this time of the month carried a “dragon stick” on the hikes. The sticks we guess are to keep the dragons head away. They had a notch that would appear to surround the dragons neck or mouths(guessing here as we didn’t see one actually used). And it is only myth that Dragons breathe fire! Sorry 🙂 . They don’t move fast for any distance choosing to slowly stalk or wait for any prey to wander close. And when close (a couple of meters) they strike. In one second they can attack up to 5 meters. Exactly why all the rangers expected their group and themselves to stay 10 m away.
I watched as one tourist attempted to get closer with a camera. The tourist knelt down and began inching closer to the dragon. The ranger reached down and firmly grabbed his forearm as a parent would a child’s. That tourist was not going any closer. Kudos to the ranger keeping people safe!
People can survive a bite; if treated quickly. Some people have actually died. I’m not talking about in history, I’m talking about recent history. Dragons are lazy hunters. Often they let their prey come to them. Then in one second, they leap and bite. Their bite is what is deadly. While the bacteria in their mouths are quite dangerous too, it is the saliva that does the work. Any bite that draws blood will continue to bleed. Their saliva has an anticoagulant in it. Thus any person, deer, buffalo, (all part of their diet) will bleed to death. So the dragon waits. Or follows, knowing that it will not be long till they can have a good meal. They eat everything. Everything! They will grab a head and then roll much like a crocodiles or gator. Once the animal is beheaded they break the skull and swallow everything. Bones consumed as well. The calcium is then deficated and the white colored areas around the grounds identifies where they have been. Much like sharks, teeth are lost and regrown as they age. Our ranger found a tooth on the walk and he showed us. We asked about keeping it as a souvenir but that was verboten. Although I understand we can buy some in Bali. We left the tooth.
After the walk; an hour was suggested, we spent two; we visited the Museum. There we heard about a couple of rangers who had been bitten. Both survived with immediate medical attention and time. One took over 7 months for a full recovery. Scientists use an identical technique in capturing and restraining Dragons as they do with Alligators and Crocodiles. There is a lot of similarity between those three animals. All apex predators. At the end of our time with Winn we invited him out to the boat when work was over.
I went to the dock to pick him up about 5:30, after prayers. There I met the engineer for the property. His English wasn’t the best so he went to their housing and gathered up another ranger. I was escorted to their living area to pick up Win. They were not wanting me to be alone in the Dragon area. I respected that wish.
I am always intrigued by the inner workings of any place. At their living compound they had internet. But in the park; very little. What surprised me was that the park has the infrastructure to have good cell phone access. Seems to me it would be a huge safety issue. And the rangers said during Asean, when the elite from the Pacific islands were around, the internet was strong throughout the park. Once Asean was over it was shut down again.
I brought Winn and the engineer out to our boat. More stories, more shared experiences. We get to see a slice of each other’s culture. We showed them our home and while showing off our aft cabin (where we sleep) Winn apologized. We didn’t understand. He said that in the Muslim culture the sleeping quarters of the couple is very private and the public (guests) are not invited to that area. Hmm. Here we’ve been in Indonesia for 6 months and we’ve never heard of that taboo. We too apologized for subjecting that to him. A beer got us past any discomfort and in the cockpit we talked of the park, dragons, and our futures. As the moon rose over the mountain I returned them to the dock. We picked up the dinghy, we store it on Elysium’s hip, and hit the sack. Tomorrow we would begin heading West to Bali.
It was time. We’ve watched the weather. We’ve downloaded the various models way more than any sane person. Our friend Dirk likes to say Analysis Paralysis. A disease very common in cruisers. We said our good byes to those friends on shore, had Meta, Anwar, Lisa, Durango and Fella out to the boat. We wanted to show them we’re not living a “crazy” life.
In the a.m. we pulled the anchor and tooled out the N channel. The only channel we could get out. We were lucky, the anchor came up with out having been caught on anything new. The dinghy was secure on the davits, the electronic autopilot was connected. The sails were ready and the winds for all intents was somewhere out of the E quadrant. That was what we wished for. We were heading due W hoping to end up in Flores; Labuanbajo to be exact.
Clearing the N shore of Banda we were greeted by a large pod of dolphins. If we had to guess there were over a 100. W/ said she heard a tail slap from a whale. The lava flow on the N shore of Api was receding on the horizon as I added sail. The engine was off, the autopilot on and we settled in for a nice ride.
No matter what the weather models say, it seems Mother Nature has a different idea. The winds for the first day were fine. The sea state was not. While the models said the seas would be under a meter, they do not take into account the multitude of directions they come from. Those who paid attention in High School physics understand that wave crests and troughs are additive. Thus two seas from different directions that meet, if one is a meter and the other a meter we now have a two meter crest. And if one trough is a meter and the other a meter we have a two meter deficit. Add to that that nothing is consistent. Not today. Up, down, all around, the motion was not fun. Elysium didn’t care. We did.
Fortunately, before we left W/ prepared ahead several meals. Meatloaf, grilled chicken strips, and hard boiled eggs . We won’t starve. As uncomfortable as the first day was it passed without incident. Day two provided some adventures.
Squalls were developing around us. Those in front; no problem. We’re not fast enough to catch them. The winds were just aft of the beam (a good thing). With wind from the SE. squalls N are not an issue either. Those behind or SE of us raised the anxiety meter. On day two into three we had a squall pass through every few hours. Yuck. That encompassed reducing sail, closing up and practicing patience. Waiting for it to pass. Somewhere in day two day we had two squalls pass us; one immediately after the other. The first was mean with winds in the 30 kt range and the second a little milder with winds in the 20+ kts range. As they passed we set the boat up again for the gradient winds we’d been having; 10-15 kts.
Unfortunately those winds didn’t hang around long. Somewhere between around day 3 they went on vacation. We didn’t even have a chance to use our light air sail, and there isn’t a sail for no air! I misspoke. The no air sail we refer to as the “iron genny”. The diesel engine. So on it goes and again we are speeding towards Flores. Speeding, yeah; 5-6 kts.
The seas left over from the squalls and those created by the land masses around are bumpy. As the day wears on we look forward to them easing. The islands in Indonesia are quite big. Not only big… HUGE! Many larger than states in the US or countries in Europe. Each island creates their own local weather. The land sea breeze. The sea breeze doesn’t affect us this far offshore. The land breeze the islands create do. Not the winds. The seas. As the winds blow off the island they create waves. The waves travel across the variou seas in Indo and end at another islands shores. With those waves, with the waves created by the squalls and by the gradient winds we again had a bumpy ride.
Dave would say unlucky and Wendy might say luckily; no wind was the main course for the rest of the trip. Dave would love to have sailed and W/ doesn’t mind the iron genny. As the day wore on the sea state eased and our only issue was hearing the constant drone of the diesel. Out here; 25 miles offshore we didn’t have any FADs (Fish Attracting Devices) or Bagans (the local HUGE lighted fish traps Indonesians use). Yet on the morning of day 5 we were nearing shore.
And shore is where the fishermen are. On my watch; late night early a.m. (of course), I saw several lighted Bagans ahead. Hopefully none are on our course. Since we started the iron genny we have been using the electronic autopilot. That unit connects to the wind vane. To adjust the course one of us must leave the cockpit. The person crawls aft and pushes the button as many times as needed to ensure we miss the obstruction. At night that entails waking the other person. We don’t leave the cockpit at night alone. Never! During my watch we missed every bagan and I didn’t need to wake W/. On her watch we were getting closer to shore and the Bagans increased in number. W/ had me up several times.
On the morning of day 5 we were close enough to land to get a cell signal; internet. I contacted Natsumi who had already beat us to Labuanbajo. He suggested a good place to anchor: off the Silvie Resort. Great! That spot shortened our trip by a few hours. At this point; hours matter. Otherwise we would have had to round the island off of Labuanbajo and anchor off the town. It was a good thing we didn’t to that. In front of the town were heaps of Liveaboards (like mini cruise ships) coming and going all the time. Plus, as we were in the area long enough I never saw the water in front of the town…. calm.
Anchored, we breathe out the stress from the transit and like warmed ice cream we melt to any comfortable area. Time for some Rest and Relaxation.
Cruisers exist outside of life. It seems that way. In our heads we know people go to work, they celebrate events, they vacation, marry, divorce, die; but as cruisers those events seem like ghosts in the night. Days become weeks, months become years and we move from one location to another.
There are times the outside world knocks on our Utopian (some would think that) room: Taxes, Bureaucracy, Mother Nature.
In Banda there were many individuals getting colds, or flu. People getting sick. While on the boat I am rarely sick, yet somehow I joined the Banda ill. I had a low grade fever, and lacked energy. After close to 3 weeks I was telling myself that I was now well. Physically well. Then I received an urgent email from my sister in the states. My mother had been taken to a critical care unit in the hospital.
Fortunately in the 21st century we have the internet and Apple’s FaceTime app. I contacted my sister. She was in the hospital with mom. Mom was not looking good. The hospital had run some tests, she had Covid, she had pneumonia, she was struggling to breathe and had a breathing tube. She was on multiple drugs to ease any pain. At this point mom wasn’t communicative. No Duh! I wouldn’t be either.
I left the phone on and connected to the internet so if there were any changes my sister would reach out. Three hours later she did. The Dr was going to remove the breathing tube from her. Mom was teetering on the edge. I spoke with her. She knew me. She knew my sister. My sister spoke with her. We all gave our love and pledged our support. Mom closed her eyes and rested. I tried resting too.
A couple hours later my sister called and we teared up together. Mom had passed; 97 years old. A life full of hardship and adventure. Many wonderful moments, many sad. A life well lived. If I make it to 97 I hope I am able to say the same. A life well lived.
Out here in paradise we often become immune to what others are going through. The day to day. Oh; cruisers have a day to day; many similarities and so many differences; enough that we often forget what all those friends and families back home feel, see, and do every single day.
I am in the Banda Islands, Indonesia. A very remote place. There are two flights per week in and out and they are fully booked a month out. If there is an emergency on the island those people get priority and someone gets bumped. Two guests of the island got bumped and they hired a long boat (fast boat-not what you would think) to take them to an island better connected to the outside world. The trip was expected to take 4 hours. The wx wasn’t looking good. They were young and invincible. They went anyway. Everyone on the boat was needed to bail water out of the boat simply to stay afloat. They made the trip in 9 hours. The trip was to take only 4! Luckily they lived to tell about it. Not everyone does. Last month Banda lost a fisherman. Never found the boat or him. Returning to Florida would take me a week if everything went perfectly. That plus leaving the boat in Banda would be risky. My sister and I decided that I could best help with what I could through email and FaceTime.
I attended the funeral by FaceTime. Spoke with many of my relatives I’ve not seen in decades. Thanks to my sister who had the app working on her iPad I was able to watch. Partaking would have been too much. Watching was enough.. for me.
When the weather improves we will move to Bali (we expect it to take about 6 weeks), haul Elysium out for safe storage and fly back to the states. By then, mom is in the ground. Life for many will be back to the routines people craved. And then I would be able to find some closure. She is buried with my Father (who passed when I was 4) in Iowa. I will visit them again, as they once were.. together.