Malcolm and Glynis of Pacific Crossing fame had kindly agreed to give us a weather forecast for this voyage as we have lost our French meteo man so we felt very reassured by this and better prepared for the forthcoming voyage .
On the morning of our departure we waited for a very pleasant Torres islander to come and check the fridge , he found nothing wrong so we were relieved but still continued to use the other fridge for the journey but we had a back- up if needed. We weighed anchor at 11.30 with a strong tide running against us as well as a strong wind, very typical Torres Strait conditions .Once round the reef between Horn Island and Thursday island we headed out past Thursday island doing 11kts over the ground through the Normanby Passage to the Arafura sea . We passed the final departure gate between two lights at 14.00 and we were on our way to Indonesia .
Across the Arafura Sea
We had an excellent start with a pleasant easterly wind across a flat turquoise sea. The sea built up a little as we got further out and we had to jibe our way along to keep on course but this was easy as we only had the big jib and no mainsail. The sunsets were wonderful as were the dawn, such as are only seen at sea so we really appreciated their beauty as they may be amongst the last we will enjoy.
We had no moon initially but wonderful starry night skies and we managed the usual watch system uninterrupted by crises. We had a visit from dolphins , always a great pleasure, and we continued our way west jibing to make the best course . The wind began to die by13th October and we had to start to make calculations about speed to arrive in Saumlaki in the Tanimbar Islands in daylight .This was our chosen port of entry into Indonesia, we had submitted numerous forms before departure which we hoped would speed up the process but as we discovered this was in vain .We also had the added problem of not wanting to stay in Saumlakia for the weekend waiting for the offices to open on Monday. Although Indonesia is a Muslim country the office hours are the usual western ones,so we decided to spend Saturday 13th October resting at sea floating along at about 2kts with just the little jenny out .It was a very relaxing day but there was a certain amount of sail flapping so much so that the shackle on the foot of the little jenny shook off and had to be replaced. On Sunday at 03.15 we started the motor as the wind did not appear and we needed to reach Saumlaki by dawn which we did and were happy we had not made a dark approach as once in the bay there were several substantial fish aggregating devices (FADs) almost certainly unlit. We were looking for the anchorage recommended in the pilot book but we discovered that the charts are inaccurate and while searching for the recommended anchoring spot and simultaneously avoiding a small vessel we ran aground ! Luckily the motor came to the rescue again and we anchored in 17m further out!
We spent the rest of the day refuelling so we could replenish the empty jerry cans with diesel for the next leg and trying to assess where to go ashore. The recommended spot was at the Hotel Harapan Indah but we could not see it easily from the boat with the binoculars .However our problems were solved when we had a visit from Higi who said he would help us the next day with processing our papers and getting diesel and provisions; we were to meet him at the ferry pier at 09.00 the following morning Monday 15th October .
We arrived on time for the meeting armed with all our documents and our boat stamp which had languished in the nav.table for the last 5 years but we thought might be useful here .We could not really see a suitable place to land the dinghy so we sheltered under the ferry pier as it was already quite hot and then we saw the friendly wave from Higi’s friend who showed us where to land ; on an unwelcoming pile of rocks up a wall to the road to the ferry! I had doubts about getting up and even more doubts about getting heavy diesel filled jerry cans down but there was no choice .We were guided to the Quarantine office about 10 minutes walk away and the scruffiness and untidiness of the town really shocked us after the cleanliness of Australia . We spent 4 hours in the quarantine office while various officials tapped on the computer and shuffled paper. There was no air conditioning or fan so it became quite warm for everyone. The immigration officers arrived with their computer in a neat black box and copious pieces of paper were produced, it was then that boat stamp really came into its own as every piece required the Baringo stamp! Higi had already arrived in the office and he came with two officials to inspect the boat where there was more form filling but all done with good grace thankfully and more surprisingly without any money changing hands. Higi then took us to get mobile phone Sim cards and then for a much needed lunch and cold beer. He then organised a friend with a car to try and get some diesel but it seemed the garage was reluctant to sell it into jerry cans but Higi promised to fix it the following morning through his uncle. We had a little tour of the south part of the island including a visit to the rather bizarre sculpture of the first baptism in Saumlaki .Obviously successful as it remains a predominatly christian island .
We finished with a little shopping in the market which was quite squalid with broken glass on the floor and children running around barefoot. Australia seemed like another planet. It was a hot and frustrating day but Higi was very kind and helpful especially with the endless zeros of the Indonesian rupiah which take a little getting used to and made all the difference . We finally got back to the boat and Higi promised to deliver the diesel for us tomorrow morning at the ferry pier at 09.00.
The next morning the diesel was there waiting for us but 25 litres short, Higi had been unable to buy all we wanted but still 85Litre was better than nothing . After negotiating the rocky slope with the jerry cans maybe just as well we only had one full 25litre one ,we left them in the dinghy as we had also been told by immigration that we had to check out of Saumlaki before we left . We were not expecting this and another stint in the office was certainly not appealing.
So the day started with another interminable wait in the office but I asked Higi to take me shopping while John stayed in the office oven but at least today he had the phone to entertain him. That saved a little time although the paperwork was not complete when I got back . Just as we thought we had finished Higi said we had to go to the harbour master’s office, our hearts sank but luckily this visit was quite quick and again no exchange of money .Finally back on board we loaded the outboard, hoisted the dinghy, which we are keeping on the foredeck, and finally weighed anchor at 13.00 .on Tuesday16th October .
Saumlaki to Lombok 16th October – 24thOctober 2018
We were pleased to be on our way again but the Saumlaki sojourn had certainly been enhanced by Higi’s help .The first two days into the Banda Sea were motor sailing , there was no wind as we passed the islands of Babar ,Sermata and then the channel south of Wetar and North of East Timor. The islands are very high and mountainous and usually there were the lights of villages visible at night but we kept offshore to avoid fishing vessels and FADs .With so much motoring we stopped every morning to check the engine oil and gave the instruments and Poppy the autohelm a rest .One evening the instruments went haywire as did Poppy and we wondered if this was due to overheating so we instituted the rest period every day. Luckily after the well-tried and tested remedy of switching off and on again the instruments recovered and the spectre of hand steering to Singapore retreated for now at least! There was a slight problem with the circulation of the coolant in the engine so each day we had to pump out the coolant from the reservoir and return it to the radiator but the reason for this for the moment eludes us. We finally found some wind south of Wetar but it was accompanied by lightning and an unpleasant black wall behind us which brought increasing wind but we also added the motor to the sails to escape as quickly as possible as the sky was alarmingly alight for several hours .
The next day it was calm again and we refuelled with 120Ldiesel along the north coast of Alor and calculated we should have enough fuel to get to the marina in Lombok where refuelling was easy .We did not relish struggling in another dirty Indonesian town searching for diesel . We decided we would take advantage of any wind if it came and indeed it did that evening with 30kts for a while but calming and changing direction so we could use it in comfort and make a good course .Somehow during this wind the little jenny sheet got stuck around the jammers on the mast .Luckily John noticed the strange angle of the sail just before dark and we released it as tightening the sail in such a strong wind around the jammer might have damaged it with disastrous consequences. We were not so lucky in another way as we had left the forward hatch open under the dinghy in the calm weather and as the waves got bigger some of them came into the forward cabin under the dinghy and soaked the bed with salt water! One thing John obsessively tries to keep out of the boat. The wind died the next afternoon but we were north of Flores now so making progress and the mixture of sailing and motoring continued as did our fuel calculations and how to arrive in Lombok in daylight.
On the night of Sunday 21st October we had a very strong wind so neither of us had much sleep and we could only assume this was a land breeze of grand proportions because the islands are so high ,and usually the wind reduced by mid- morning . It was a long time since we had sailed close hauled into such strong winds but the reefing system worked well and Baringo perhaps enjoyed it more than we did. We had a quiet day but again at night the wind came up to 40 kts and for only the second time in the circumnavigation we put the third reef in the mainsail..This seemed a lot for a land breeze but there were no storm clouds and it was not forecast so we could not think of another explanation .By the morning of the 23rd October we were feeling quite tired and not relishing the prospect of another rough night so we started to look for anchorages. Luckily Claire from the convoy days had given us some anchorages and one of hers on the NW of Sembaya just fitted the bill so we headed for it, not far off our route and the right distance for us to reach the marina in Lombok the next day . There was not much depth information about the anchorage on either Navionics or I -sailor but at least we knew it had been tested by Claire so did not feel too worried. It proved to be a pretty deserted bay but what depths were on the electronic charts bore no resemblance to reality ,in fact we though the depth meter was broken but it was just the error of the charts . After two attempts we found the premier spot and had a wonderfully calm night to catch up on sleep.
A 04.00 start was needed to reach Medana Marina ,we had half a tank of diesel so felt secure with that but no sooner were we out of the peaceful anchorage than the winds started at 30 kts ,presumably the last of the night’s land breeze which we were very pleased to have missed . We sped along the north of Lombok a dramatically high volcanic island and I went below for a short rest after the early start only to be called as John had the very scary and unpleasant experience of seeing a snake coming from the deck into the cockpit! After realising he was not hallucinating we set to finding a way to kill it ,we had no choice. Luckily it took refuge in the halyards and remained stationary and John did the deed with the end of the wooden oar which we had ready as self defence against boarders . Had the snake got below on board life would have been extremely tricky. We had recently read of the tragic death of a young British man from a sea snake bite so this one was not a welcome visitor and we could only suppose it had climbed up the anchor chain. Sea snakes are some of the most venomous in the world. The wind as usual died by the middle of the day but revived again as we approached the marina and we were motoring during the afternoon into a 30kt headwind presumably a sea breeze this time .There was confusion again with the electronic charts but I- sailor was the most accurate, in fact the marina was not mentioned at all on Navionics and the AIS signal from one of the yachts in the marina was in a different bay! All very confusing but we could see all the masts so used eyeball navigations to get in. We had a few attempts at securing the mooring buoy in the strong wind but were tied up before dark and happy to be there and in addition we had received a welcome e-mail from the marina manager.
Medana Marina 24th October -28th October
This proved to be a real haven from the world of 30kt winds, short sharp waves and ceaseless motion. The bay was very calm and we received a lovely welcome from Soria when we went ashore next morning. Nothing seemed too much trouble, the diesel was ordered and laundry taken away and coffee produced in the Sailfish café ..bliss . While in the café we saw another boat coming in and amazingly it was “Intrigue” from Hong Kong although now under an Australian flag. So we had many happy reminiscing chats over the next few days ,accompanied by the local beer. The first afternoon we loaded our jerry cans now full of diesel on board 190litres in all .The rest was coming the next day in the marina’s jerry cans and we would put that all in the tank .The next day we had an excellent breakfast in the sailfish café to fortify ourselves for the unpleasant job of refuelling the tank .We had to decant the diesel into 20 litre jerry cans first as we could not carry 35 litres so it meant two journeys and filling the tank is slow using the Baha filter .This is vital as the fuel is quite dirty and certainly looked very different from the clear golden liquid we had used in Australia .We did not manage the task in one day and John had decided to go alongside the next day to have the boat cleaned which proved a good decision as we managed to spill more diesel than desirable during refuelling .We could then fill up the tank from the remaining when we were on the pontoon . It had been an exhausting hot day.
On Saturday 27th October we went alongside early in the morning before the wind picked up and finally finished the refuelling with the help of one of the marina staff which made it much easier . After another delicious Sailfish Café breakfast we went to the capital of Lombok Mataram with a driver and were rather shocked to see so much earthquake damage from a series of tremors that had affected northern Lombok in august .Piles of rubble where houses should have been and many damaged dwellings covered in tarpaulin, our driver had lost his house and was living in a tent with his family. Repair work was underway but it looked like a long process. We found everything we needed in the quite westernised supermarket and returned with the provisions. We decided to stay alongside as the wind was now strong and we did not want to waste time trying to pick up a mooring buoy . So we had a pleasant evening in the bar catching up on Hong Kong people and places and meeting the other sailors staying here . Medana Bay marina can be highly recommended for any other cruisers reading this.
We plan to leave on Sunday 28th October for Nongsa Point Marina Batam Island.