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