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

Cruising Indonesia

I’ve been remiss in discussing the challenges for cruisers in Indonesia. In 14 years of cruising Indonesia has been the most challenging. The list; not yet complete, is: Visas, anchoring / anchorages, charting, currents, provisioning,,.boat supplies.

I know in many of my blog posts I’ve alluded to the visa situation. Every two months we need to check in, in person at an immigration office. Our sponsor sends paperwork, and then we… pay. Indonesia’s new president addressed the corruption issues by changing the payment scheme. No more “bribes”. We get a bill, travel to the nearest bank / deposit kiosk, pay the bill; get a receipt and boom. Finished. Return back to immigration give them the receipt and if our paperworks is good we get a new stamp. The issue for cruisers is that the immigration offices are not in every city. They are 200 -500 nm away. Day hoping equates to about 10 days of moving re anchoring. Some cruisers move that fast. We prefer not to. But two things a cruiser can’t argue with; bureaucracy and Mother Nature. The 2 month turn around means we miss many of the wonderful villages and people. Maybe that is what the country wants; I don’t know their mind.

Anchoring: Bring lots of chain and a good working windlass. We’ve anchored in 100’ of water a few times now. The depth contour often goes from 100’ to 3’ in less than a boat length. Then 3’ to zero in half a boat length. The islands are so often steep and the contour in the water is the same. Bring long lines. In Kawa we would have been wise to work our way into the bight more and tie to each shore. In Pef True Blue V actually did that in one bay. In Banda Neira we stern tied to shore while not far off the bow our anchor was in 75 ‘ of water. It still wasn’t good enough and we moved back to an anchorage that was 30 meters deep.

Charts: I have not disovered any electronic or paper chart in Indonesia that is (are) accurate. All have glaring errors. However the detailed (sonar) charts from iNavionics are a little better. Combining charts with with a satellite image program, that combo is best. Of course, the best navigation tool in restricted or shallower waters is your eyes. In Raja Ampat we almost ran the boat up on a reef traveling 6 kts. The chart indicated 30’ of water. The eyes said less. I climbed up on the mast pulpit and we were able to stop the boat less than one boat length from the reef. At that time I didn’t have any working satellite imagery. It would have shown the shallows where we were. I have it now and when ever near any land use it. But that too can cause issues, cloud cover, bottom color etc can threw off what is there. Use your eyes!

Currents in Indonesia may be non existent or extreme. So extreme they create standing waves. And while you have an ocean going boat those waves can break right over / into you. All the charts indicate is “caution”. Not why, not from shifting sands, or tides, or currents. Only caution. We’ve come across currents up to 6 kts in places I never would have guessed. Give yourself time to make the next anchorage and hope currents are with you not against you.

When we left to cross the Pacific we loaded up on food supplies. Who knew that where ever there are people there is food! Across the Pacific we always had plenty of places to re-provision. We’ve had that too in Indo. The difference is that in Indonesia the vast majority of food is produced in Indonesia. The country has high import duties and food stuff from outside Indonesia is costly. Especially for the Indonesian market. If there is a specialty food you want make sure you have plenty. Vitamins, over the counter medication, Pork and chocolate are a few of the most notable in short supply at least in Eastern Indo.

And finally boat supplies. If it is not a general hardware, motorcycle part it will be very costly to get it here. It is possible, not economical. DHL seems to be the best and only reliable importer. Stupidly, I didn’t buy a spare spray nozzle for the sink. Our old one started leaking. I tried to fix it. That repair lasted a day and then it began to leak again. Need to get another.

While our inventory indicated we had an extra boat fan, the inventory was wrong. Two of our fans bit the dust here. So, I ordered four fans and two spray nozzles. I ordered from the states. I ought to have ordered from Australia. Shipping would have reduced the total cost. The bill to get them here plus the import duty ended up double the price of the goods. We were lucky. We shipped them to one of the marinas we med moored at. Ayn (Wiik’s Marina most valuable assistant) was nice enough to pay the cost of the duty (we reimbursed her). Later she forwarded them again to Ambon where we were. Even if you don’t think you will need a part, get one or two extra anyway. What you save in the end will more than make up for the initial cost of any spares.

With all that, Indonesia is a fascinating country to cruise in. The beauty immense, the people helpful, and the children most adorable. Indoneisa is a huge, and I mean HUGE country to cruise. Plan accordingly.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

To the Spice Islands

We broke this passage into two days. We had wanted to move around to the bay on the other side of Ambon. However, after further reading and looking at charts this indicated a small problem. It “may” have some underwater mines. The chart indicated that all surface movement was ok. But anchoring “may” be a problem. We’ve known of other boats that have anchored there and didn’t get blown up! Yet there was no reference to the harbor being cleared ; we chose to avoid it.

It meant a longer …. motor. Saparua was the next potential stop. And it worked out to be an excellent choice. In the SE trades I don’t believe it would be comfortable. In this season it was very nice. We anchored on sand in less than 10 m of water. What a treat! Additionally, the town was a “Christian” community. That meant for us, no call to prayer 5 or more times / day beginning at 4 am all the way up to 9 pm. We have not figured out the timing and even why the calls to prayer. I understand, as we get to the larger heterogeneous communities the call to prayer has volume and time limits. Here however, volume seems to be equated to piety.

Saparua Market
Fresh Chickens
Fresh Chickens

We explored the town and picked up some produce from the market. I looked for a spot I could fly my new DJI Mini 2 drone. In Ambon W/ had talked True Blue V into selling us theirs. They had purchased it before they left and never opened it. Craig could always get a newer one when they headed back to Aus as was their current plan. So finally, I had a drone.

The fort overlooked the bay and imagining where the soldiers hung out, how they ate, where they slept gave us pause into what life was like 100 years ago. This area was a major player in the international economy. All due to the Spices; Nutmeg and Cloves found in this area of the world. Wars were fought over the territory. Thus the forts, forts all over.

A couple days later Mike and Dani on Natsumi arrived. Mike talks to anyone and everyone even while not speaking Indonesian. And he does learn a great deal. He arranged a tour for the 6 of us. So we hitched our wagon to his and Lucy was our tour guide. We ran down one side of the island, back up and across to the other.

At one end we stopped at a potters shed / shop. They made heaps of plates, bowls, cooking pans and shipped them to places far and near. W/, who had been wanting a Dutch oven since Oz found a great one for a modest price. I’m waiting for some awesome meals now!

Then we traversed back to another town where honored is the man who started the rebellion against the Dutch. Taking control of the island out of the Dutch empire and gaining local control. He started and they won. His home is still occupied and the owner of the historical place is; you guessed it, was out fishing. Thus the inside tour wasn’t happening.

At lunch we headed off to a local restaurant. Honestly, very little of Indonesian food is comfort food for me. Bintang, the local beer, being the closest. 🙂 I had some Crispy Chicken and Bintang while W/ was the adventurous one.

The park with the Freedom Leader and my drone practice field

We were lucky, Montezuma has not yet visited us in Indonesia. Then again, we are quite cautious in our culinary adventures. With the tour over I set about playing with the drone. Some youTube videos gave me a bit of confidence. Gave me a game plan. Losing or breaking the drone on my first outing was not in my future. W/ and I hung in the soccer field and I played with it on a short leash.

Then I took some pics of the fort and the monument to the rebellion leader. Tomorrow we prepare and leave for the Spice Islands

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Ambon Pt 2

Anchored in Ambon by the University

We let our sponsor / agent know we were here now and we would await the paperwork. We tied the dinghy up and introduced ourselves. Mr. Gino’s job included the dock, boats, and construction of the new academic building. He is quite worldly; having received his Phd in the US and completed post graduate work in Europe. For us; he spoke English. We found the grocery he told us about. There W/ almost passed out. We’ve not seen one this well stocked for months. We also needed a laundry. While cruising I am the laundry machine. That is for clothes and small towels. The big stuff, bath towels, blankets, and sheets all go to laundries, when available. And there are several here. Following Google maps we didn’t find the laundry. Seems the mapping of all things Google isn’t perfect. With charade backing and some props we asked a few people where the laundry was. One young girl actually led us to it. Leave it and return in 3 days. Bingo. Life is good.

In the next couple of days Natsumi arrived followed by True Blue V and later Wild One. Tales were told, discoveries shared and new people met. Thru Johnny Ambon and a local restaurant owner we contacted Ivan. He had a car and spoke passable English. All of us used him. We scouted around town. Discovered an Ace Hardware store that must the largest in the world! Additionally he took W/ and I to Telkomsel.

Phones and Internet in Indonesia are oft times frustrating. First, on our boat a phone is not considered a part of our equipment. For us it is also part or our safety. But, Indonesia is hard nosed when it comes to phones. Only phones manufactured in Indo or have had duty paid on them are good to go. They control this through the IMEI number. If your phone IMEI number is on the list you get service. If not there is no connection to phone or data in Indonesia. When we arrived and purchased our first phone card the agent registered the IMEI number. We didn’t know or understand the 3 month limit. In Labuha we discovered this. Both phones stopped working. There is no Telkomsel office in Labuha. Our only alternative  was to buy Indonesian phones. We bought the Oppo A57’s. A nice alternative to the Apple phones but a tad bit clunky. Of course we’re not comparing Apples to Apples. 🙂 We used those phones and the data connection till Ambon.

In Ambon I went to the Telkomsel office and got a new registration for my iPhone. Again, I understand they can only do this twice. Our second three months will be up when we reach Flores and we’ll be back to our A57’s. The photos’ are not as good. The alternative is to carry the A57’s and iPhones. Use the A57’s hotspot and then the iPhone will get data and we can take and post photos. The iPhone will not be functional. Two days to get both phones up and working.

Ruja Indonesia dessert
Ruja an Indo dish of Peanut suce, sugar and fruit

While we mucked around with the phones we did some tourist stuff. Ivan, the driver we cruisers hired took us on a road trip to another fort on the N side of the island. The Dutch were fond of their forts. We had lunch at what we called the Presidents restaurant. Sari

The President of Indonesia was said to heat here

Gurih. We understood the President of Indonesia once ate there. The food and company were excellent.

We also did the typical “cruisers in town” stuff. A movie theater was playing “A Man Called Otto”. Four of us went and with subtitles in Bahasa I learned a few new words. A good movie by the way. We hit the mall, and there I came across the largest Ace Hardware store I’ve seen anywhere in the world. About 3 x’s the size of the largest Walmart in the US! Multiple

Great Smoothie
An Awesome Smoothie

Making Sagu
Making Sagu

floors and you would be hard pressed to see from one end to the other. I came across an exceptional smoothie place that necessitated daily trips. Added some diesel fuel. Filled in our boat stores. Received some much needed boat supplies thanks to Ayu at Wicks’ in Sarong and Johnny Ambon here. 

And our real reason for being here: Visa stamps. Our Agent Raymond had sent the paper work to Herman. We had planned on anchoring by Herman’s home but as I said earlier the anchorage in this season was not safe. Herman met us near our boat and we set off to the Immigration office. We arrived in the “Open” time but the officials were moving their lunch time forward. The official out front suggested a return at 1:30 pm. As cruisers we don’t argue with government officials. We grabbed lunch and were back when they reopened. There was some concern that we had never “met” our sponsor, Raymond. In another office Herman was asked to contact him and after much discussion it seemed likely we would get our new stamps. Come back in two days. And we did. Ivan was our driver the second time and we went to the office only to be told that the paper work on one of the visas was wrong. Raymond would need to send the correct paper work. Oh shit! I really, really hate runarounds and hate when the master key is on another’s plate. We contacted Raymond and he said he would correct it and send the correct letter. Lunch again and I called Raymond to see if it was done. After all; we were paying for this! Raymond said he couldn’t send it through to the immigration office and sent it to Herman. We were not with Herman. I asked him to send it to me. He did using WhatsApp.

Everyone in Indonesia loves WhatsApp. A couple of minutes later I had it and back to the Immi office we went. Immigration said they hadn’t received it yet, I showed them my copy and they forwarded it off my phone to theirs. Printed it and took all the paperwork to the supervisor. An hour’s wait and finally, finally everything came back ok, we had our stamp and were good to go. It seems that Raymond and the Ambon office have a few wrinkles to work out. But; that isn’t our problem, not anymore. We have the stamp and are good for two more months. Yipee!

Johnny ended up with the master key for Ambon. He knew everyone that yachties needed and could connect with any locals that would make our stay memorable. One day the city of Rutong was hosting their sister city from the Netherlands in a full day party. Working with the Ambon tourist office, Johnny got the cruisers invited. An hour and a half ride to Rutong on the south side of the island dropped us off  just as rain began. A slight drizzle doesn’t deter much in Indonesia. A band played while people mulled around. A wee bit later we were off to the church for a brief; not brief, service honoring their sister city. Yes the mayor of the sister city and his entourage were here. After which we attended a gathering of the major families to welcome the new guests. Of course I took part. I was now considered a member of this community. Tied up with a drink called Sopi, an alcoholic wine that is more like a spirit. Being welcomed into the community entails will not letting anyone starve, anyone go without clothing, or housing. And you cannot date or marry anyone from the community. Of course W/ already has that restriction on me. 🙂 The idea is that then one would be marrying their sister or brother! From there to the beach head.

At the beach everyone ate. In typicial Pacific Island, Indonesian culture; guests ate first. Between food and entertainment I went exploring.  I found where various families share in harvesting the Palm trees to make Sagu. A base for many of the meals. They sat me down and let me try. It wasn’t easy. 

The community acknowledges the color differences in people. The skit wasa parody on that difference. All the small children were all watching; enthralled to the max. Phones and tablets couldn’t compete with what their elders were doing! W/’s other seat mate was fluent in Bahasa and English. He explained bits to us as the play went on. 

One of the cast wanted to sit with “the white” people. They had given us (not just the cruisers but the sister city group too) a tent for shade and to guard against further rain. There was an argument

I want to sit with the white people

that he was too dark to sit with the white people. The main character came up with a way to be… white. He dumped flour on his head. By all appearances that was to be the end but I had a different idea. I went up to the stage and offered my seat to him! The crowd loved it and he went with it. He came and sat next to W/. She had a new friend, and he bragged that he was 76 years old! 

Lenda, Dave’s dance partner

We danced, yeah I was dragged onto the dance floor by Lendia, a lovely tall Indonesian women who earlier I had mistaken for being from the Netherlands. She was taller than 99% of all Indonesians, males included. A real rarity. There again I discovered why dancing and I don’t mesh well. Foot movement for me is learned via sport, keep moving my feet, fast. Dancing seems to be feet moving slowly. My feet would not slow down and while I was frustrated a wee bit, others found it funny. W/ was one! 🙂 

Ambon’s time was ending. We had our visas updated, boat stores added to, new experiences filed away, and we were ready to move. We’d heard a lot about the Spice islands and were keen on visiting them. Our next adventure awaits.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Ambon Pt 1

We’ve made it. Not exactly where we intended. But better.

We sailed there. Rounded the corner heading into the harbor and started the motor. Around the corner I had located a small bay I thought we could spend a day or two. But NO. As we came into the larger bay, I noticed a SW swell had an open invitation. A night of rolling was not in our cards. We moved on. On to where our Raymond (our sponsor) had suggested we drop the hook. A couple hours more motoring wouldn’t matter. I had marked it on the chart. We pulled into that anchorage and it too was not going to work. First it was deep. 100 feet deep 100’ from the shore. With any W or N winds we would be kissing the shore. Not what we want. We moved on. The guide (the one I believe makes a better cruising dream book than an actual guide) suggested right in front of the town. We motored through there. It too was not good.

Not another bridge. Any avid reader of this blog knows that I don’t like going under bridges. No matter how high they are the mast always look like it will hit! And this bridge didn’t have an air draft mark on the chart. Nor any placards on the water. I checked the nautical charts and publications and found an air draft listed as 30 feet. It was greater than that. I know other sail boats have passed under. We would; hopefully too. I’m thinking it was an error and the mark ought to be 30 m. Quite a difference. Further we had a Zulu Waterways report that the inner harbor was dirty. Yuck. We hoped at least calm.

Ambon Bridge, Indonesia

We cleared the bridge fine. My heart rate backed to normal. And the individual that said the bay was dirty. It wasn’t. We expected a pleasant night at anchor. The following days were for reprovisioning, exploring, and completing our immigration paperwork. That night we spoke with Mike on Natsumi and he suggested we contact a bloke named… Johnny Ambon. Not his real full name but for yachties that is the one he knows we can easily pronounce. Mike had suggested him and I contacted him on FB. He called 30 minutes later and we picked up some good info on where to put the dinghy and who to contact hiring a taxi. We didn’t know it yet. He was the catalyst that made our stay in Ambon exceptional.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long


We left early in the am. To see the small fishing huts villagers use we need daylight. The trip south again was mostly by motor. We had a sail up for a few short bursts. Nothing long term. The dinghy was on the davits and the Tiller Pilot was running the wind vane; minus the wind.

We set self steering up this way because 1) it was cheaper and 2) still to this day I don’t like any of the wheel steering autopilots. We had purchased a Raymarine wheel steering Autopilot once but sold it in Tonga to some friends that were in desperate need. The Tiller Pilot works fine. When there is no wind and we run the engine any power drain is irrelevant.

We’ve avoided all the fishing shacks and are getting closer to Ambon. Rounding the point we slid into the harbor. Here we found a place with no coral and a mud sand bottom. And, it was only 10 m deep. The first order of business, relax, we’re in a good place. We’re planning to hang here a few days. From this point on we are in easy range of Ambon. My anxiety level has dropped … considerably.

In the am we dropped and outfitted our dinghy. It is not like backing the car out of the garage. We ease the dinghy down missing the wind vane, put the plug in so it doesn’t fill with water and release the lifts. Then, secured we are able to lower the engine down, secure it, add the fuel tank and hose. Once complete, we are ready to go. Luckily, the water was flat. Launching and outfitting the dinghy was easy.

That evening a group of HS boys swam out to the boat. We weren’t that far from shore but still… far enough. In their limited English and our almost non existent Indo we discovered that they are on the swim team in HS.

Swim Team comes out to great us

No females. And as I think back we see very few women swimming. In Sarong at the Marina / Hotel, women would get in the pool and wade around. But as for swimming, none. 🙁 As the Sun sets the guys return to shore. Night was comfortable and the sleep good.

We motored to shore and there were heaps of motorcycles wanting to take us around. They are mini taxi’s, called Ojeks. Two of them assisted us in finding a spot for the dinghy. We hired them to take us around for some errands. Faddle was the main guy and he had some limited English. Enough that we could get across what we need to do. We used Faddle every day we were there.

Faddle and Dave

While completing the first days tasks I spotted a Tennis court. Seemed like it was in good shape and we stopped to check it out. With Faddle’s help we discovered that play begins around 3 pm. I set about to see if I could get a few games. At 3 pm I was at the court. Not courts. And there was a maintenance man cleaning the leaves off. I waited. I hit a bit on the small wall. I hit some serves. I hit some forehands and backhands down the court. And I waited. By 5 pm no one had shown up and the maintenance man wanted to lock up. Disappointed, I called Faddle and he took me back to Elysium.

Namlea Market

The last few days were adding to our supplies, picking up our laundry, and a little sight seeing. We ate at a lovely restaurant and had what is best described as a seafood boil. We ordered Crab and the restaurant covered the table with paper. When the meal arrived they dumped everything on the paper.

We picked through for the goodies and enjoyed some delicious seafood. But, for me, it wasn’t my stye. I’m not a finger food person and the work to pick a crab; is well, work.

Faddle photo bombing our Seafood Fest

Beach N Side Namlea

Faddle took us to a smallish hill overlooking the town and harbor then we swung down to a lovely beach. Faddle really, really wanted to show us this beach. After 14 years cruising I am beached out.

We see them all the time, we spend a great deal of time on beaches and one more was a bit so -so. It was lovely. It was to me; just another beach. Back to the harbor and boat we went; there preparing for our last leg heading to Ambon.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

To Ambon

We left Labuha in the dark and planned on multiple day hops. Sad that Indonesia requires the two month check ins. Sad because we would have spent more time in a village or two along the way.

We arrived, anchored, slept and left again the next day. We happened upon another mining island. Unbeknownst to us. With enough fuel we were again motoring. Around the west side of Obi I had spotted a couple of good looking anchorages on the charts. As we headed down that coast a HUGE industrial complex peeked out from the bay. Getting closer several barges came into view. Oh-oh! Not again. After having been at Gebe and in Raja Ampat; two extremes in Indo, this came as a surprise. There was no sign on the charts nor any in Zulu Waterways from other cruisers. There is now a notation, I put one there. We thought one of the bays I identified would be fine.

They weren’t. The first bay had a barge leaning on the shore, a reef extending out to the middle and a local fishing boat anchored. They anchored where we would have liked to be. We went to check out the second spot. It too was filled with commercial craft and several local boats hanging around the S shore. We motored in getting a closer look and found it was way to deep. We turned around and went to check out the third bay. The S shore was lined with barges, the river feeding the bay which usually has a good place to anchor was deep and didn’t feel right. Then there was a wharf for commercial loading too. We’d been motoring back and forth now for about 45 minutes. Time to decide.

Many of these are on the W side of Obi

We were only staying overnight. We went to the first bay and dropped the hook in 25 m of water. We sat a bit close to the fishing boat. The winds were not expected to change. What wind there was was slight. And I thought the current would be the primary mover. Later that day one of the commercial boats left. That helped. The locals on the fishing boat kept an eye on us and we on them, making sure the boats stayed apart. We survived the day and the evening. The next am we pulled anchor heading south.

Again the motor was on. Fishing lines out. No luck on the fish, none either on the winds. We rounded the point and came into Namlea. We were close enough to Ambon now, one or two days away depending on how hard we wanted to work, that we could spend some time here.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long