We had anchored in a lovely cove down in Waterfall Bay. We had taken our dinghy here when we visited earlier and checked out the waterfall. Since we have our new immigration stamps we are free again to travel. On our way N we figured, hell, let’s
stop there for the night. The anchorage was perfect, calm, 30’ feet deep with mud bottom, and full of jungle sounds. All followed by a magical morning.
We started off to Pef but chose instead to head to Gam. Some cruising friends were there. It wasn’t really out of our way N. It would give us a couple of days to catch up with them and chill out on the hook.
Traveling Indo by yacht is not an easy adventure. First off, charts are not accurate
and second currents are outrageous. We would often be traveling 9 kts and then other times 4 kts. That without changing any engine speeds! We could be heading 170 degrees and 5 seconds later the current would push us around to 150 degrees. While that was not dangerous if you were paying attention it could be trouble if not.
Where ever reefs or shallows were I generally gave them a wide berth. Usually 1,000 ft or more. However in traveling to Gam there were some areas to weave our way through. One weave didn’t work as planned. The chart indicated we had plenty of room W of the reef. 40’ of water. I don’t worry when we have 40′ of water below us traveling at 6 kts. Six knots doesn’t sound all that fast. Not until you understand you have a 36,000 lb boat sliding through the water. It is NOT like stopping a car on asphalt. More like stopping one in snow or ice.
The water looked a little green ahead. Green water is shallow water. Bright green water is shallower water. Brown green water is super shallow water with coral. I
climbed out of the cockpit and jumped up on the mast pulpit. This gives me extra height to see clearer into the water. With my height and polarized sunglass my eyes leapt out of my head! “Wendy – REVERSE! She heard something but wasn’t sure. I yelled a second and a third time. By the third time she had the propellor spinning backwards and the boat was slowing. Not stopping quick enough. I yelled more, MORE. And she increased the throttle.
I had seen what first appeared to be a log or two floating in the water up ahead. Upon closer inspection both were parts of coral piercing the water surface. We need 6’ or almost 2 meters of water to float and move. Any less than that will cause damage and a huge headache. As we slowed I saw a huge coral boulder off the bow. When we had finally stopped I thought from the bowsprit I could touch it. W/ still had Elysium in reverse and we began backing away from a near disastrous morning. W/ said the depth sounder indicated we had 2’ under the keel when we finally stopped. In one boat length we would have been hard aground. And on a falling tide! Whew that was close.
We made our anchorage about noon as a nice tropical rain cooled things off. As luck had it we were in line with a cell tower and in 25’ of water over a coral sand bottom. I put out close to 100’ of chain and an 80 lb spade anchor. The weather has been rather benign the last couple days. We were hot and figured that while here we would put up our awnings. We ate lunch, then went to visit cruising friends on True Blue V. We had another nice tropical rain and chatted about how” not” easy cruising Indonesia is; the charting and the two month immigration check ins being the biggest PITA. In some immi offices one can complete the paper work in an afternoon. In others it takes three days! As for the charts we shared some of our “not fun” moments.
After a bit the wx took on a mean, ugly look. Tropical showers be damned, this was going to be a mess. Our awnings were up. We chose this moment to run back to our boat and run we did. As we reached Elysium the tropical rain turned torrential with winds to match. We were going to lift the dinghy out of the water and as we did the wind struck. Anchoring in sand and coral is not the best. As an aside, it is next to impossible to find large sand / mud patches for anchoring in. As I said the weather had been benign but not now. The boat started dragging. Fortunately no yachts were behind us. And any shallow water / land not threatening. We waited and watched. The anchor caught something, the boat turned to the wind as it ought to and all seemed good … for the moment.
The dinghy was bouncing on the side and I decided ease the lift a bit. The line slipped and the dinghy flipped sideways. It had never done that before. (Later checking the engine did damage our paint a wee bit). The wind and waves didn’t help. I was able to right it and readjust it. All the while W/ and I cold and wet. I pulled down our forward awning while W/ managed the helm. We were ready to re-anchor, if needed. The wind switched again and we yanked on the anchor from the a different direction. The boat swung sideways (indicating that the anchor did not hold ) and we started off again. Time to pull the anchor in.
While W/ worked to head the boat into the wind I used the windlass to wind up the anchor and chain. Fortunately we had water room. But, I had to go below twice to knock the pile of chain down. If we have a lot of chain out when we bring it back aboard the chain likes to stack up in the locker. Once it reaches the top of the locker I can’t bring anymore in. I take a boat hook, run below; soaking wet, and knock the stack down. Then back on deck to haul more in. I needed to do this twice while W/ was attempting to keep the boat into wind and driving rain. We were both soaked. W/ was getting cold.
With the forward awning down we had better control. The dinghy was secure. I took the helm while W/ went below, got a towel to dry off and put on dry cloths and rain gear. After which I dried off and put on my rain parka. While W/ was getting ready, I moved the boat to a new spot. Using the other boats and the depth sounder we identified a place upwind and closer to the reef. Thankfully, one of the things we had wanted in a boat was a good size engine to push her when needed. The 85 hp Perkins lived up to its billing. In 30 kts of wind with a full awning up I was able to maneuver her to a new location.
As W/ came back on deck to take the helm I went to the bow and released the anchor in 30’ of water. Let out 100’ of chain and felt the anchor bite in, swinging the boat into the wind. I let out more chain and secured it at about 175’ of chain with a 20’ snubber on it. That ought to do it. We are now, again, secure.
Of the four boats in the anchorage, two dragged. Ours was one that had to re-anchor to get a solid connection with Mother Earth..
And that is how this day in the life a cruiser went.