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.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Unstuck – Banda Pt 2

Yep, we were stuck. Elysium wasn’t going anywhere. Mike on Natsumi stopped by and we connected an extra line to a winch. With him cranking and me using the windlass all we did was pull the bow down. We wouldn’t pull the bow under but we would at some point break the chain. Time for more help.

I hopped in the dinghy and headed to shore. There I found Nellow (A dive master and guide in Banda) and hired him to dive the anchor and free us. I was thinking tomorrow, he was thinking right now. Not to put off what needed. I said… OK.

Nellow slipped into his wet suit, grabbed his BC, tank, regulator, weights, and his dive computer. We hopped into the dinghy and off we went. On the way over he said he wouldn’t dive below 35 meters. Our anchor is close to that limit. . There is no Nitrox on Banda and no decompression chambers. We arrived at the boat and he was the show. Like a fish returning to the water he was in and heading down before I even tied the dinghy up. Like ghosts, the bubble from his regulator floated to the surface. Undulating and creating etherial shapes. He was down for a bit and we could see the chain being pushed and shoved. Five minutes and he came to the surface, said we could pull in some and he needed a hammer. We had snagged and globbed onto a sunken steel ship. Working back and forth the chain cut into part of it and that is what now lies free. We pulled in a bit more. He told me that we had also wrapped the chain around the wreck’s bow a few times. He would need to use the hammer to knock it off and free it. He went back down and we could hear the pounding on the chain. We were not free yet. We could see him rising to the surface following the bubble trail. He made a safety stop and we waited. At the surface he told us his computer was beeping at him and time to head up. He needed another tank. Back in the dinghy, back to the dive shop, he grabbed another tank and we sped back to the boat. There he rested.

At 30 meters or so one can’t work without decompressing. Luckily we were less than the 35 meters, not much and he was an excellent diver. Thirty minutes later he was heading down again. He asked us to ease the chain out so he would have more to work with. Banging away seemed to work. A few minutes later he was again at his safety stop and when he popped to the surface he said we were free. We hauled the chain and anchor in. Whew!

We wanted to pull it up so we could move to the Maulana Hotel. We still planned to do that as the wx seems to have moderated in expectation of the SE trades beginning. We headed across the harbor, dropped the hook and passed lines ashore. Nellow again dove to check the anchor. He made sure it was clear and sat point down on the bottom. You’re good; he said. Lines tied ashore we adjusted Elysium’s stern and settled in.

I loved being here. We could enjoy the waterfront activity, have easy access to the hotel restaurant, and not worry about swinging around on the anchor and snagging on other trash on the bottom. I marked in Zulu Waterways exactly where the sunk boat was. No need for other cruisers to snag the same thing. If someone wants to attach a chain mooring line to it; well, it will be solid and better than the concrete moorings that are used throughout Indonesia.

Elysium with Volcano Ipe in Background

On the Spice Island town side there was a constant parade of Indonesian ferries. Additionally two cruise ships came through. Thus the tourist board in Banda put on a show. Kora-koras went out with their 20 odd crew dressed in full regalia from the time of Dutch colonialism. They sang and created quite a show. We watched as the tourists were brought ashore next to us and were herded like cattle towards various tours. A quick trip to the forts (there are two here), the church, the museum, and maybe some went across to the plantations. It was like watching Disney at work, keeping them hydrated, fed and entertained.

The week went by without incident, the wx benign. The greatest effect was from tidal current. One night the winds blew from the N; not strong but pushing us back into the little wood dock. I checked the anchor and made sure we had some tension thus keeping our stern away from the dock. All looked good. Until it wasn’t. Around 4 am I woke up. I went up on deck and saw that we were about 1 foot from the dock. We ought to have been about 10’. The boat was bouncing from the small chop off our starboard beam and we kept inching closer and closer. I started the engine which got W/ up immediately.

The hotel night security came out and helped to push / keep Elysium off the dock. W/ put the boat in gear but the lines ashore were holding us. Unfortunately we had coiled the lines on the boat and that created an issue casting them off. It took me a minute to free our port line and in that time we “tapped” the dock. Just tapped it, Once free I cast off the starboard line and we motored away from the dock. Next step pull in the anchor. Once up it was decision time. Stubborn me, I wanted to stay. W/ wanted to return to the other side. I didn’t want to get anywhere near that underwater wreck. We tried once to drop the anchor off the hotel and once the wx abated we would again connect to the shore. We dropped it in 90’ of water and all it did was slide around. We weren’t holding. We picked it up again and headed across the bay. With navigation lights on, our deck light on and the AIS on we idled across the bay. We were waiting for enough light, waiting to choose a better spot.

A couple days earlier True Blue V had left. I was hoping to get close to their spot. They didn’t wrap any coral nor a wreck. As the sky lightened up we dropped the hook in 25 m of water. If we needed Nellow again at least he could dive that. Anchor down and we’re secure. I had charted where the wreck was and we were closer than I wished. Mike on Natsumi told us TrueBlue V was over a bit farther and N some. We discussed it (W/ and I), she wanted to stay and I was afraid of swinging around and connecting with the wreck again. The safest thing was to move. We did. The anchor came up fine and we dropped it where we thought True Blue V was. There we sat for a couple of weeks.

It wasn’t perfect. We had more wx events. Nothing huge, just uncomfortable. I had our AIS on anchor watch, had our chart plotter map the paths we took as we swung back and forth on the anchor. At night it would look like we were close to one of the local fishing boats or close to shore. I watched the depth sounder and we were never in less than 50’. Although 50’ from shore it was still 35’ deep.

The winds in Banda harbor are often fluky to say the least. We were on the lee side of the volcano. One day / evening the winds were blowing strong out of the W. But, on the lee side of the volcano the winds reversed. As they blew over the volcano they came down to the water and back filled.

After a couple of days in a better spot but not exactly where I wanted to be we moved the boat. Farther away from the wreck but closer to shore and the fishing boats. On anchor we swung up and down the shore and stayed away from the local boats. We also varnished.

Signature Finish Over Epoxy

For the last 9 months we’d been sick of our epoxy / varnish job. It was smooth but the epoxy which we had been told would last 5 years and look beautiful didn’t. There were places where the bare wood was showing through. That and seeing that the white epoxy (people call it blush), we weren’t happy. Actually, we were really, really upset by it. As an experiment we tried the Signature Finish top clear coat. W/ was leery. As a test we only coated one item. A dorade box. We first washed with soapy water, rinsed and dried. Then we used denatured Alcohol to prepare the surface. Tape the areas we didn’t want varnish on and used the Signature Finish top coat. It looks fantastic! We watched for a few days and everything still looked great. Even after rain, it still looked great. That gave us a new lease on our teak coatings. We began to coat the rest of the boat with what we had left of the Signature Finish.

In the midst of this I had volunteered to read at Mita and Alisa’s home school. I was reading aloud children’s books in English. The four children from 3- 6 years old were already bi-lingual. Unfortunately, my 3rd time I had to cancel. Somehow, I came down with a cold, flu, or allergy. In the am I had a fever. Not a high but enough to know I did not wish to risk others getting sick. I hit the meds we have on board. Hit them hard. When I was feeling like doing something; anything, it was varnishing or prepping to varnish. I could tape and apply. W/ could wash, rinse and clean with Alcohol. It worked, while I recovered we were able to varnish the rest of the teak on the deck. And finally, FINALLY, Elysium looked good again!

It is amazing how when the boat looks good we feel good. My temporary respite from being healthy was over. However for my mom it was just beginning. She; at 97 years old went to the hospital. In Critical Care. Things weren’t looking good. There are times when cruising isn’t anywhere near to what the magazines tell you. This looked to be one of those times.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Banda Pt 1

A brief rest and we put our dinghy into service. Dropped it down, installed the motor, fuel tank and connected; we’re ready to go…. to explore a bit. We swung by Natsumi and four of us tooled over to the dive resort. They had a dock. We met Nellow (a most valued go between for cruisers and a dive master) and strolled down the frontage road. Mike was really looking for more beer! 🙂 Of course, neither W/ or I would turn one away. We stopped in at the Maulana Hotel. They had beer, so we sat a spell.

We were now a target for individuals feeding off of tourists. No matter how much we try to fit in, there is no way we do. First; we are white! A dead give away in Indonesia, second we talk funny (English), and third we carry a back pack. One of the local tour guides (Mann ph 62 822 3850 8726) joined us. He tried hard to sell us an island tour. He bragged about the things we would see and what we could do. The prices he quoted seemed a bit… funny. If we paid individually it would have been less than if we paid as a group. His English was a wee bit broken and he didn’t understand; all we wanted to do at that moment was have a cold drink and chill out in a beautiful place. We never used him for a tour. Honestly, I understand from those that did he was good. The Maulana Hotel uses him frequently. It is just that first contact put us off.

After Mann we met the owner of the Maulana; Mita. And the experience was the opposite. She was friendly, not pushy. She was welcoming and not selling.. Although we were already buying! 🙂 She spoke excellent English She made our stay in Banda a great experience. We understood the ATM was intermittent here (not always with money) and we were concerned that we could run out of cash. Mita said we could use Wise; transfer funds to her account and use that to pay for drinks and food. Too, she helped us keep our phones by accepting funds and adding the money to our Telkomsel account. She arranged for massages for us and others; we short term rented a vacant room for a small fee. We found it a pleasure to work with someone not pushy and willing to help.

Looking for a working ATM, Mike on Natsumi discovered Cilu Bintang. The other “resort” on Neira that catered to off island guests. He too had tours to the islands. Mike liked him and he wasn’t pushy. Six of us signed up for a tour to the plantations, with lunch following. A few days later we met at Cilu Bintang and began with an overview of what we would do and see. There we met Denny our guide. Off to the boat for a trip to the plantations. We had a brief stop at the only Christian church on the island and found tombs inlaid in the foundation. The boat was a 20 minute ride across the S. channel. The south channel was verboten to anchoring for cruising yachts. Not that we would want to with the winds blowing from every direction.

BloodStone where contracts were to be bonded

Denny lead us to the sacred well where women couldn’t drink or get water. The water was said to be excellent. W/ and I didn’t try the water. I not wanting to be struck by lightening due to my lack of faith in any of the 4,000+ religions on Earth. 🙂 W/ couldn’t because; duh, she is female! They gather the Nutmeg when it drops from the tree. The seed removed and dried out.

From there we continued up the hill to the Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Almond plantations. We passed a cemetery with Muslims and Christians graves. And even still segregated; Christians on one side and Muslims the other. Sad how beliefs follow us into death. The plantation was eye popping. Nutmeg trees 100’s of years old, huge beyond belief. They reminded me of the Redwoods in California. The biggest difference is in the base. Nutmeg trees have a base kids would love to play around. Here however kids work… for their families.

Cinnamon is harvested by gently cutting a strip of bark and drying it. Grinding occurs once dried. The Almonds are a bit different from those in the US. They are softer. Here they dry them and. then grind into flour for cooking. And to finish the tour of the plantations we took a motor scooter ride around the rest of the island visiting several more forts. As fun as that sounds; it wasn’t easy on the tosh!

Wendy with her driver

Lunch was a mix of Indonesian fare. A smorgasbord. Everything was excellent and there was plenty of food. We met a couple from Ambon and had them out to the boat for a tour a few days later. Actually, she was Indonesian and he from the UK. They met as pen pals years ago and as time progressed so did the relationship. She worked for the World Health Organization at the time and he was a tech guy in the banking field; thus could work most anywhere. It is always eye opening how people navigate the life work balance.

A few days later we did a snorkel; island tour of Rhun and Ai. People brag about the coral here. Yes it is beautiful. So is it in Fiji, in French Poly, the Galapagos, the Cook Islands, Panama, etc. Honestly, everywhere we’ve cruised the coral is awesome. And I can’t say one place stands out more than another. A “10” is a “10” no matter where you are.

Again after our day touring Cilu Bintang hosted the group for dinner. What a great way to end the day. We enjoyed the food there so much W/ decided to take an Indonesian cooking class. I went to fly the drone. However; when I returned I ended up enjoying what they made; Fish Ball soup. Much like a Chicken soup with a fish base instead of chicken and more onions and ground up almonds. It was….. very …. good.

Volcano Api, Banda Spice Islands

We were lucky, the weather on tour days was excellent. On the off days it wasn’t so nice. We had varying winds up to 20 kts with intermittent rain. We were waiting for the change of the trades. According to the guides winds this month will change from NW to SE. That would put our anchorage on a lee shore. Not what we wished. That being; we looked to pull the anchor and move across to the Maulana. There we could drop a bow anchor and tie the stern to the shore. The SE trades would keep us easily off the shore. We would use less petrol getting to the town proper and have a great view of Volcano Api.

As we float about I had been hearing our chain over coral on the bottom. I thought we would pull it up slowly to free it. I pulled in 25’ and we were snagged on something. As the tide went out I pulled more chain in and planned on letting the rising tide and the float of the boat break the chain free. In the middle of the day the bow of the boat rose, we heard the chain break free and we could retrieve more chain. I retrieved another 50’ and again we were stuck. Again as the tide went out I kept pulling the chain in. At low tide the chain was taught. At high tide the bow of Elysium was a foot lower than normal and the chain was tight as a guitar string. We heard it break free once but then nothing. I couldn’t haul anymore in. Two more high tides went by and we hadn’t moved. We now have a perfect mooring! But, we weren’t interested in leaving our anchor and 120+ feet of chain here. Time for Plan B.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

To the Spice Islands

It was only an overnight. We planned on leaving early afternoon. The weather looked benign, the seas about 2 feet, the lightening chance was high. The weather models predicted little to no problems for us. Hmm. That was my read. We left in the afternoon wanting to clear the coast by nightfall. We’ve noticed that the Fish Attracting Devices (FADs) don’t extend much beyond 25 miles offshore. They are not always lit. Actually, they are rarely lit. If we time it right, we will be able to see any FADs in limited light as we reach Banda. On paper it was all perfect. On paper.

Our fiends on Natsumi followed an hour later. A nice bonus, we could chat on the VHF during the passage. In the beginning we cruised along at 6 ish knots. Then a cross swell appeared. Nothing over 2 feet. So the prediction was correct. The issue however was roll, pitch, roll, roll, pitch, roll, repeat. To say motoring was comfortable would be a lie. It was very uncomfortable. With wind we would, we could have had a good ride. There was no wind, zero, nada, zip. So we bounced, rolled, and pitched in every random order one could think of. Mike on Natsumi told us he was thrown across his boat into a winch. Luckily he didn’t break anything, bruises only.

One great thing about our boat is that moving about we always have a handhold. The saying “one hand for you and one for the boat” was paramount that evening. We never got use to the movement, yet we knew that it wasn’t going to last forever. In the morning we would have the comfort of an all around protected anchorage in the Banda (Spice) Islands.

As evening wore on we had a lightening show off to our NE. Our wx software actually included that event. What it didn’t include was the exponential growth of the system. We watched it grow larger, and larger, until it finally reached us and passed over us. Rain came with the thunder and lightening. Luckily it wasn’t a driving rain, not a frog strangler, just a good down pour. The rain, meh, the lightening we don’t like. Every time it struck I checked the distance from the boat. I never counted all the strikes. All the shafts of light that lite up the sky. If someone put a gun to my head to estimate, I would say 50-100. The closest one was 300 meters or so. A few others 1-2- km away. The rest further out. We never had a flash bang. That is when the lightning and sound occur at the same time. Four to five hours later the storm had abated and Banda appeared on the horizon.

Our Automatic Information System (AIS) indicated a cruise ship entering the harbor followed by Natsumi. An hour later we entered the harbor. Time to find a place to anchor. We spoke with Mike on Natsumi and he was anchored in 140’ of water. I didn’t like that depth. We went over to the E shore to look. Other cruisers had indicated we could drop a bow anchor and tie up to shore. One place had a large bouy we could tie to. Nothing looked good.

There were several local boats around the large bouy. Squeezing in there was not in the cards. Anchoring off the Maulana Hotel at this point wasn’t looking good either. There were heaps of people out front all watching the show that Banda put on for the cruise ship. That plus a small local western breeze made the shore a lee shore (pushing up onto the sea wall). Not good either. Back to the W side where Natsumi was.

True Blue V partially hidden, Elysium in Middle and Natsumi alone on the right.

We cruised around for a bit watching our depth sounder and decided on a spot between Natsumi and shore; in 110’ of water. Yuck. That is deep, really deep for a cruising boat to anchor. I dropped out 225’ of chain and we held. The boat stopped, and we too. Time for a snack and nap. Later in the day we’d head to shore. A new place to explore, new people to meet, new food dishes to try, and maybe a tour or two of the Spice islands.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long