Gebe- An Odd Place

Finally, we had a sail up! Sadly, the motor is still on. (

We’re heading to Gebe. Once we passed out of Raja Ampat waters I dropped a fishing line in. A few minutes later we hauled in a Rainbow Runner. At least that is how it seemed. Food for a few meals. Sweet.

Had we chosen to go around the N end of Gebe we could have sailed and not motor sailed. We had thought, I mainly, that rounding the S end and then coming up the lee side would be an easier, safer way to approach the anchorage. Passing the southern tip we had good internet for 20 minutes or so. Telkomsel says the island has data only with the SIM card. Don’t believe it! But the town was another story.

Finding a decent yacht anchorage in Indonesia is NOT easy. Rock and coral bottoms abound. A lot of the bottom (up to 30 m depth) with coral heads and most really deep, 20-30m (around 70’-100’). For a yacht anchoring, we need a long chain rode. If the chain catches on something on the bottom I will have a difficult time recovering it and the anchor. I was lucky at Kawe. I won’t always be that lucky.

And more than loosing the chain and anchor, it is next to impossible to replace it in Indonesia. The cost of receiving yachting goods in Indonesia usually equals the cost of the goods. Customs plus shipping. Indonesia dos NOT recognize “Yacht in Transit” declarations.

So , we look to anchor in somewhere between 10-20 meters. To complicate matters more, the underwater geology is like the above water geology. Steep slopes. Anchoring near shore with the amount of chain needed in deep water will, with squalls, put us dangerously close to shore. Or worse case up on the shore. Neither of which we wish for.

We found a spot near the main wharf. That spot lead to an uneasy night. A squall came through and we were closer to shore and a pier than I was comfortable with. But, we did survive. The following day we launched the dinghy to take a look-see. We had only planned on two days here and then moving on. Mother Nature does not like sailors making plans.

We tooled around the next am looking for a parking place for our dinghy. As we passed the main wharf the harbor master waved us over and wanted to see our documents. Ah – ha! I had thought ahead and took photos of them before we even got in the dinghy. But, those were not good enough. He wanted to see the originals. I think he really wanted to see the boat. So we hauled him to the boat and he checked our docs. Of course all were in order. And we told him what we needed in supplies.

He said he would help and that he did. He showed us where to tie the dinghy up and escorted us into town. There we bought more supplies. He begged off and we made our way back to the boat on our own. Odd for us, we didn’t feel the welcome here we had other places. However, there was an interest in why two white people were walking around town. This is a mining island. I had wondered why there wasn’t any yacht reports about it.

After hearing that only a few yachts visit, later that day another yacht (Songlines) pulled in. A rarity according to the Harbor Master. They anchored on the other side of the harbor away from the town. One more squally threatening night pushed us to move too, to the other side of the harbor. We stayed well away from the half dozen barges moored and actually found a spot in about 15 m of water that seemed to have good holding. I was closer to shore than I wished, but the wx the last couple of days indicated that no significant winds would blow out of the east. That evening we invited Lindsey and Sharon over for some sea stories. Earlier we had told them where to tie the dinghy and they even found a restaurant they liked. Still, we didn’t return to town. Songlines left the next day heading to Sarong. We decided to head to the S bay where another mining loading point is. There we could prep for leaving the following day. Also as we had good internet going by the S side, we hoped it was in that harbor.

The bay was calm and we found a nice quiet spot inside the reef. Barges wouldn’t be getting close. They couldn’t fit between the reef nor over it. Sadly when we passed by the two southern bays I thought both had good internet. This one doesn’t. Looks like the Iridium Go satellite network will be getting a work out. That and we’ll do a lot of reading.

The next day didn’t look good for leaving. Nor the following day, nor… Well, you get the idea. We stayed there longer than we wanted. Most of a week. We were hoping to head WSW and the winds were blowing WSW. They were not strong, but strong enough and out of the west. Winds alone wouldn’t have been an issue but it was the seas that they create. This results in constant spray and the boat pausing; not comfortably, as we crash into each of them. Tacking wasn’t in the cards. Currents here can make tacking to windward unpredictable. To make the miles we needed to begin at night. Had we tried to sail and tack, once we add in the weird currents we could have turned a 12-15 hour trip into a 48 hour one. Again, not to our liking. We would wait. For sailors; patience is really a virtue.

After finishing another couple of the Lucas Davenport books, making water, lazing around, we felt we had a day to make hay. I mean head towards Labuha. Morning broke and instead of the usual one barge in the harbor there were three. One was hanging off a tug and floating in the center of the harbor. We had our track in through the reef so we could follow it out. And that barge was blocking our path. W/ with my urging got closer to the barge than she wants and we squeaked by. I say squeaked by but we were a good 10-15 m from it. Clearing the barge we made our way out of the harbor.

And we didn’t make hay in the direction we wanted to go. The winds were down but the seas still up. Bouncing along with spray in our face all night was not in our future. Plan B. We headed back the coast towards town. We arrived at Gebe after two more hours and the anchor spot we had, that we liked was now close to a barge hanging behind a tug. I chose a spot I thought was far enough away. The barge being close to 200’+ , then include an ocean going tug another 75’ or so plus the line securing the barge and any anchor rode out, that thing will circle close to one kilometer. That is a hell of a lot of space.

We moved further from town to avoid a Barge Tug combo

We seemed ok at first. Then the tide switched. And here the tide overrode the wind. The barge started swinging and missed us. I watched closely. As the day wore on I was concerned when the tide switched again it would swing differently and take us with it. We moved. First to the city side by the wharf. Dropping the hook and attempting to set it, was pointless. All the anchor did was slide around on the bottom never digging in. Back across to the other side. We moved even farther away from where I had liked and dropped the hook in 15 m of water. We caught on something and I felt we were secure in this weather and far enough from the barge, tug setup.

We waited two more days before the wind and seas again looked settled. Then, as the Sun set we picked up the anchor and headed WSW. The seas were more benign, the only wind we had was what the boat made and we were happier. Not great as we were burning diesel but we are now on a slight schedule. We need to get to Ambon for our Visa renewal. On our path Ambon is about 300 nautical miles away. We’re doing our best to avoid night sailing. Labuha is 1/3 the way and there I hope to add some diesel, pick up some fresh vegetables, and connect back up to the world.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long