Badas, For Real

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.

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

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


The path from Gebe was uneventful. We couldn’t make it to Labuha in one day so as the dark gave way to the dawn we looked for a place to anchor. Songlines had told us of a lovely quiet place. The problem with pre covid info is that some areas have seen a dramatic change.

As we pointed Elysium towards our chosen anchorage a city of bouys came into view. Hundreds of them littered the fairway. Weaving through them might be dangerous. Our prop could wind up one of the bouy lines, stopping the engine. We would then be slaves to any currents. Sails could help but that would be no guarantee towing a bouy and anything connected to it. For a boat, land is NOT our friend. We stayed on the fringe of the city of bouys and found a spot to anchor on the edge of a reef. I dove the anchor to ensure it was in a good spot. And as winds and tides change I wanted to keep Elysium off any coral bommies rising off the bottom.

We were secure, relaxed, and recovering from the night passage. Late in the afternoon an Indonesian war shipped contacted us. They wanted our yacht info. No problem. But the first radio officer I couldn’t understand. After a bit of back and forth a second officer with better English asked us several questions. With all in order they moved on. In the am we were off again, motoring. 🙁

The next anchorage looked very comfortable; on the chart. Again one of our sailing friends had said how nice it was. We found a spot, dropped the hook and rolled. Side to side. While the sea didn’t have white caps there was a swell working its way straight into the harbor. For one night we could tolerate it. If we were here longer we would put out a flopper stopper.

Morning again, the engine started and off we went. Not waiting till breakfast was over. The roll was not fun. We nibbled on the way. Today we would reach Labuha, connect back to the world, get fuel and some fresh food. I had two fishing lines out and it was quiet.

No Sailing Today
No Sailing today

As we approached the final turn to Labuha we hooked a fish. A big fish. W/ reeled in the second line and I grabbed the one with the fish on it. I increased the drag and he kept ripping more line out. I fought it, brought some line in and he ripped more out. At one point he had all my line ( well over a 100 meters) and I felt like he would break it and be on his way. I was able to real a little in and he pulled out less. I reeled and he pulled. But, I was making progress. He was getting closer to the boat. A couple of times he jumped trying to free himself and I saw him. We hooked a sailfish. Wow! As I worked him closer to the boat I saw how big he was. My size. Not good. But, exciting. 45 minutes later he was a couple meters off the boat. There was still some fight in him.

After W/ had reeled in the second line she had slowed Elysium to a crawl. I’m not sure who was winning, the diesel on the boat or the fish pulling us backwards. It didn’t matter.When he was near the boat both of us knew he was too big to attempt to get aboard. W/ grabbed a camera; sorry it didn’t capture him close enough to the surface for an honest photo. She also grabbed a scissors to cut him free. He was still alive but real, real tired. Damnit, I was losing one of my new favorite lures. No way I was going to retrieve it. W/ cut the line. Our excitement ended, ever so slowly the sailfish swam off. We increased our throttle heading again towards Labuha.

In retrospect, and for next time. W/ will get the spear gun and when we get it close enough I can spear him. Then together we can get him aboard. Now I know some of you might be thinking what would we do with all that meat. We would take a slab for ourselves and give the rest to the Indonesians. We were only a few hours away from the town and that would have fed a lot of people. Plus making some new friends. But I was full of adrenaline and not thinking. Anyway, we now have another story to tell.

Off the Town Dock Labuha

Labuha ’s Anchorage wasn’t the best. It was open to all points West and North. However, this time there was zero wind and for 4 days we had a comfortable anchorage only bothered by the five times a day call to prayer. We’re actually getting used to much of it. But here, one Mosque had some bad speakers and the sound from it was ear shattering. And, all the Mosques have loud speakers. Quite often we have 3, 4, or 5 Mosques speaking at once. On top of the LOUD chanting none of them are synchronized. Many off set by seconds or minutes. On top of that, after the calls to prayer there appears to be some “wailing”; not pleasant.

As we were preparing to head S towards Ambon the following day, a new swell emerged and began rolling us side to side. Not fun. Again, we could put up with it… for a night. At 4:00 am the Mosque with the bad speakers began the call to prayer. Time to go. Awakened from a sound sleep we chose to leave; now. We picked up anchor and headed out in the dark with our boat lights on and a handheld spot light.

The local fisherman don’t have lights on their boats. But they all carry a spot light. If they see or hear a boat coming their way they shine a light on them. We shine one back indicating that we know they are there. Once acknowledged, all is good. Two hours to go and we’ll have light. The engine is churning over doing its job and the sails still furled. The Sun breaks the horizon. We need to get to Ambon for our 2nd visa renewal. Time marches on.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Kawe – Equator Island

There are other islands and land masses that the Equator passes through. This island is on our path and I had a desire to straddle the Equator, standing in both hemispheres at the same time. In Fiji I straddled the International Date line having one foot into today and the other into yesterday. Who knows, it could have been one foot into today and the other tomorrow. I guess it depends on perspective. 🙂 Nothing miraculous happened. Not lighting, no moments of wisdom, I didn’t rise up to the heavens, nor was I sucked down to the nether world. It was only something I wished to do. And for a few moments I stood there.

After leaving Pef we motored; yes again, north to Kawe and anchored in the Northern Hemisphere. We hadn’t had Elysium in the N. Hemisphere for 8 years. Cruising in Raja Ampat we would cross the equator a couple more times.

It was an easy motor until we reached the water between Equator Island and PNG. There we experienced the most current against us we’ve had in our travels. I had hoped it was temporary and caused by a large bay emptying into the passage. It was not. About 4 knots against us making our forward progress the speed of a baby’s crawl. What ought to have taken one hour required 4 more. All the time listening to the drone of our motor.

We arrived behind True Blue V and attempted to drop the hook in 5 meters with what the cruising guide written by Andy Scott described as a sand mud bottom. I don’t like that this guide has been wrong more than right. 🙂 The anchor slid around the bottom like it was on concrete. When I raised it to re anchor I snagged a piece of coral.

Two years earlier a Croc was reported to be hanging around this anchorage. I wasn’t keen on entering the water to free the anchor. We didn’t see the Croc and as luck would have it we broke the anchor free and I hauled it aboard. We moved to deeper water on the other side of True Blue V.

Kawe Anchorage
The bottom all through here is like concrete

There again I felt we had dropped the anchor on concrete. But this time I had enough chain down such that I felt the weight alone would act liker a mooring. There was no wind blowing through this bay. And we did hold for a good 24 hours.

The following day True Blue V left for Wayag and we hung around. There was an Equator marker on another chunk of land here. That was the place I could be in the N and S hemisphere

Position Marker
Marking where the Equator passes on Kawe

simultaneously. After breakfast W/ and I would head over in our dinghy.

It wasn’t perfect, the weather. A swell was beginning to roll in and finding a place for the dinghy ashore was a bit of an issue. We were not planning on spending much time here. A quick trip to the marker, some photos and back. Where we left the dinghy with a building swell could be problamatic. W/ didn’t want to climb up to the marker for her own “ah ha” moment. It was then back to the dingy and back to the boat.

As the swell began building, launching the dinghy was a bit tricky. We needed to get it out to deep enough water, drop the engine, start the engine keep the bow into the waves and avoid any breaking water. I pushed and pointed it off shore while W/ jumped in. As one almost breaking wave passed under us, I jumped in dropped the motor and pulled the cord. We got it started in time and were moving away from the coast and marker. It was close. But; we made it. Back to the boat for a lovely afternoon. It was not to be.

At the boat the winds started building and cresting over the Western side of the harbor. We set the anchor watch and I used various markers on shore to watch for dragging. We moved, but not a lot. And we were moving down the middle of the fairway. We would stop, swing, move a bit repeat. At some point it appeared we stopped moving. We could hear the chain dragging across the “fake” mud sand bottom. That meant is was a hard coral bottom with some bommies here and there. Finally with the boat stopped my anxiety went down. Anxiety was not zero because tomorrow we planned head over towards the high lite in Raja Ampat, Wayag. I knew a bottom with some coral could mean a problem raising the anchor.

Now to be fair, we’ve been in many places that had coral bottoms. And while we don’t like to anchor in coral there are times it is impossible to avoid. Had I been a bit smarter I would have stayed near the narrow end of the harbor and tied lines to both shores. But I wasn’t and here we would pay the price. Usually as we raise the anchor the chain can get stuck on some coral pieces. We wiggle the boat, heading left or right and 99/100 times the chain pops off and we continue to pick it up. We were in 50’ -60’ of water and things were going pretty well. We had a brief scare and the chain broke free and I continued to bring it aboard. All until the last 20 m (60 feet). I tightened the chain up and W/ inched the boat forward and backwards. She moved the rudder to starboard and then to port. Nothing seemed to affect what we had caught on. Now we have a problem.

Yanking on short chain is a sure way to break something. I’m not interested in breaking anything! And I don’t want to break the chain and leave our anchor and chain there. One thing left to do. Get wet. Yuck!

In the past I might have been able to free dove to 20 meters but I’ve not been diving much and 20 meters is a long, long way down. We did think ahead a few years ago and purchased a hookah unit. That is a compressor that allows us to dive one atmosphere or around 10 meters deep. We can then hang around down there for long periods of time. I usually use it when I clean the boat bottom. At least I can get down far enough to see which way we need to go to untangle ourselves. We haul out the system and set everything up.

I get my mask, fins and snorkel on and jump in. W/ passes me the hose with the regulator and away I go. Hand over hand I go down the anchor chain. Now I’m not worried anymore about a possible croc hanging around. I don’t know if Crocs like bubbles or if I could keep the anchor chain between it and I. In the end I doubt I would even see one coming. Crocs can be sneaky. But, crocs are now not my major concern.

I use the chain to descend and at about 10 m I see how we are stuck. The anchor is laying on the bottom but the chain has sliced a nice groove into a piece of coral that hangs out like a petal of a flower. It is an effective chain hook. No matter which way we pull, the chain hook seems to be holding. I surface and discuss with W/ what I saw. We can’t move the boat any direction as it will still be in the coral chain hook. I’m not happy but I’m getting some boosts of adrenaline.

The plan: I’ll dive to the limit of the hookah. Take one last good breath and free dive the last 10 meters or so. There I’ll try to pull the chain out of the coral chain hook. I do that. I fail. Returning to the surface exhaling all the way. I exhale all the way because I was breathing compressed air at 10 m. The last thing either of us needs is for me to get an air embolism. Why I didn’t stop at the regulator and slow down I don’t know. Again we discuss the situation.

The next thing we choose to do is to run a line down and around the anchor. Then put it on a winch and haul the anchor off the bottom. We hope pulling on the anchor will free the coral chain hook. W/ digs out an old halyard and hands me the bitter end. The halyard is about 45 m. She lays out line so I have enough to run down around the anchor and back up to the boat. I slowly descend along the chain again. At 10 meters I leave the regulator and free dive the last 10 meters, run the line through the anchor and back up to the surface. If you have never been 20 meters underwater just know that it is a long way down and up. At the surface she takes the bitter end and runs it back to a winch. She cranks on the line putting tension on it lifting the anchor off the bottom. I grab the my regulator and descend to see the results. I’m not down long. As she lifts the anchor off the bottom the weight of the chain is no longer locking it into the coral chain hook. I can’t believe it, the chain simply falls off the coral and we are free. I ascend and; she would say yelling, tell her to hit the switch to retrieve the chain. Once the chain and anchor are well off the bottom I swing back aboard to finish the job.

We were lucky there was no wind or significant swell running into the harbor. The rest of the retrieval was routine.

Moving again W/ and I alternated packing up, putting stuff away and moving to our next Anchorage. Wayag! The top of Raja Ampat.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Weird Day

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

In the corner of Waterfall this view greeted us.

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

Notice in the chart we were aground when we anchored!

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

Indonesia Charts
Following a chart in Indonesia can get you into trouble

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.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long