Thursday Island to Saumlaki, Indonesia

July 28th:We caught the 8:00am ferry over to Thursday Island where we cleared customs, posted our books for our tax returns to the accountant, picked up parts Paul and Tracy had sent for Stormvogel, and some grocery shopping. The fresh food hadn’t been put out by then so it was a very limited supply. Eggs are $10 a dozen for normal caged eggs!

July 29th: Heidi and I took our duck over to Horn Island and did a rubbish drop and then walked to the Ibis Supermarket for last minute supplies. We got lovely strawberries and some vegies. We got back to the boat by 9.15am and I quickly made a Russian Salad and a Chicken Curry for the passage. We upped anchor at 10.30am sharp for Indonesia. There were about 10 vessels leaving at the same time.

July 30th:Ddidn’t sleep very well, the first night of a passage is always difficult to settle. I hate it when the swell is up, it always seems much worse in the dark. The noise of the waves is awful. I can’t sleep in the bed when I am off watch, I just crash in the pilot house lounge. Robbie has no trouble sleeping in the bedroom. Eventually you get to the stage where you sleep because you are just so tired. We passed one big fishing trawler in the night, well the lights were huge, and we could see them for miles before and after passing it. We had tried to radio the vessel to see if they had long lines or nets out but we never got a response. We have now separated from the other vessels and are in a group of 4 consisting of Oda, Stormvogel, Boffin and us. We still have radio contact with Mediterraneo.

Well this turned out to be a really bad night. Robbie saw some marks on the radar, and then we saw lights and it turned out to be a whole grid pattern of fishing nets. They had strobe lights on them and were definitely showing up on the radar with a strong signal. We made a decision to turn South to go around the nets. However this turned out to be a very stressful passage with many nets, lights and some big fishing factory boats. We thought that one of the boats was at the end of the nets and headed towards it to pass it and get back to our rum line. However, as we got closer we saw that he was pulling nets into his bow and laying them out of his stern. We turned around and decided to go all the way back to our rum line and then head further North to get around them. Oda ended up getting caught up in two long lines, which luckily he managed to get free from. We heard that Diamedea got caught in the nets and was anchored to them for half an hour. They managed to get going again but still have nets caught on their keel.

July 31st: Both so very tired neither of us got any sleep last night. We are now behind schedule and will not arrive into Saumlaki until late on Saturday night. This is not ideal, going into a new anchorage in the dark. Especially in Indonesia with random fishing nets, unlit boats and bamboo fishing traps everywhere! The weather has been OK, around 17-20 knots of wind all day and 1.5-2m swells but not too close together so they weren’t too bad. We heard that there are 35knot winds forecast for Saturday which is not good. We downloaded a weather grib file, but this does not show winds of that speed. Fingers crossed. So far every passage we have made has ended up with really rough weather and seas for the final leg.

August 1st: We both ended up getting some sleep (separately of course). We have a watch roster of around 3 hours but we don’t always rigidly stick to this. The weather has been really good winds between 15 to 18 knots today and the swell only 1 metre. The customs plane flew over us this afternoon but didn’t call us on the VHF. They would be on the lookout for boat people trying to get into Australia. Not as Sam posted on Facebook “Look out Indonesia I hear there are boat people (us) coming your way!”

We had the rods out and got a double hook up. Unfortunately one dropped off as Robbie was trying to get it in the boat, but we did get one lovely Yellow Fin Tuna. More Sashimi coming up, but will have to be tomorrow as I cooked roast pork for dinner and also made a big pot of pumpkin soup to use up the pumpkin I had. Pumpkin, sweet potato, onions keep really well. Unfortunately salad stuff doesn’t keep so well.

August 2nd: last day of voyage today, we will arrive in Saumlaki tonight. Yay, for some reason this seems to have been a long haul. We caught up with Stormvogel so we are now travelling together again and Boffin is a few hours behind us, and Juffa is a few miles ahead of us. We got some good current going with us towards the end and we were getting 8 knots. We arrived at the entrance to Saumlaki at around 7.00pm and we circled for a bit until Oda and Stormvogel arrived. It was very dark, there were a lot of clouds around and it was trying to rain. I went on the bow with a torch and we had the spot light ready. We knew there were about 6 big fish trap structures on the entrance in as we had received an email with waypoints and hints about the entrance from Elonnisa and Alamacantar. Southern Star led the way in and it was tricky to see much. Robbie was relying on the radar and the waypoints to navigate in, at one stage he could something on the radar that looked like another fish trap but it was actually a boat going out. If every vessel had A.I.S. it would be so much easier. Thanks to the help from Diamedea and Alamacantar showing us in with torches we finally got anchored up at 8.45pm. What a relief! Night anchoring is not the ideal, but due to the 7 hours delay with the fishing nets we had no choice. We always try and arrive in daylight but things happen. One of the other yachts, Yindee Plus, decided to heave to and stay out from the entrance and they entered once it was daylight. David invited us over for a drink on Alamacantar so we popped over for “one” drink and ended up having “one” too many! Was so good to relax though.

August 3rd: Woke up excited to be in another country, this is now number 4. We are not allowed off the boat until customs and quarantine have cleared us in. We had a contact to call on the VHF to organise this and we were told that they were at church this morning and would be out soon. Meika and Stefan came over and we had Sashimi for lunch. It was lovely. Eventually around 4.00pm I saw the boat coming out and gave them a wave and they came straight over to us. There were 7 men, 5 in very official uniforms. We had been warned that the quarantine guy likes to ask for a bottle of whiskey. We gave them a NZ cap each and a beer. The quarantine guy asked for another one and that was all they had. He had a look through the boat and a few cupboards, I completed their paperwork and we were done in about half an hour. We then went in the duck into the Hotel where the rally participants were meeting for sundowners at 5.00pm. The hotel has a huge deck over the water and it’s very pretty with lovely timber tables and lots of flowering pot plants. It is 40,000 rupiah for a Bintang beer, which is a big bottle and that’s $4 Australian. The wine is Jacobs Creek at $90 a bottle!!! No thanks, or you can have Jack Daniels for $90 also. It’s so hot that it’s a nice change to have a cold beer. We walked a short distance down the road with Meika and Stefan to a Seafood Restaurant which they had already eaten at and recommended. It was lovely and clean and the owner and her son are just lovely. We relied on Stefan to order our meals and he ordered Nasi Gorgeng (chicken and rice), and a seafood dish and Kan Kung which is a little like Spinach and they do it in garlic and some other flavouring and its beautiful. Robbie and Stefan actually went into the Kitchen and watched them cook it. The meals are also only $4 each. It’s cheaper to eat out than to buy the food and cook it.

August 4th: Today we participated in a visit to a local village. It started off a bit slowly, we had to meet at 10:00am and there were about 40 of us ready to go. Unfortunately they were not organised and only had one minibus that sat about 12 so we had to wait for an hour and a half for the other buses to turn up. Then off we set, complete with a police escort car at the front with sirens and flashing lights the whole way to the village which took about 30 minutes. It was hilarious, we felt like royalty. I found out later that a week earlier a village on the way to where we went had blocked off the road and were causing grief, hence our police escort. They had a welcome dance for us by the local women and then a few speeches which all had to be translated. They had one of the local women weaving a length of fabric with an old hand loom. It was fascinating and the fabrics are lovely, quite colourful and with a small pattern. They had a lot of their carving on display and also 3 men gave a demonstration of their carving techniques. We brought the most beautiful Boat and a hand weaved cloth. They then provided a substantial lunch consisting of rice, chicken, fish, vegetables and bananas. The fish was very HOT and SPICY. The bananas here are just so sweet and really beautiful. There was some dancing and the local ladies all came and grabbed some of us to get up and dance with them, very funny to see Peter who is twice their size being manhandled to dance by two tiny Indonesian ladies. It was a sight! David from Diamedea also was ambushed into dancing and he is also very tall and the local ladies were in hysterics watching him. (We also found it rather amusing)

August 5th: Started the day off with breakfast on the fly bridge. It’s a very windy anchorage and quite roly today. Thought we would do some cleaning and jobs on the boat but we got a call on the VHF at 10am to say there was a school visit organised and there were only a couple of people turned up. So we shook our tail feathers and got organised and raced into the pier. The Indonesian local government had organised the school tour. They had about 25 kids mainly girls, with their drums lined up. We had the police escort again, sirens and flashing lights and we all marched through the town, for about a kilometre to the High School. We had a few speeches, from the Principal and a translator. They had some students from another nearby island do a dance and it was stunning. The girls were in very beautiful costumes and the boys too. The girls all had the most beautiful feathers in their hair, which turned out to be whole birds, beak and all! We then had a tour of the school. They have 300 students ( this took a bit of investigation as every time I asked I got a different figure, some said 1600) 19 teachers – who all wear a military style uniform! Very smart but they would be hot. The biggest thing I noticed was that the teachers are allowed to SMOKE in the classroom!!!! I was shocked at this, could not believe my eyes. Anyway we had a tour through the I.T. lab, 18 computers. The Industrial lab, they had a vehicle chassis with motor and gearbox etc., looked like something from Mad Max, a motorbike frame and chassis, a few other things. These students are all taught about maintaining a vehicle. Then we went to the wood working room, they had some lovely timber cabinets that they make and sell to the public. The timber is beautiful. The equipment was very basic and had some WH&S issues. Our students at HSHS are very spoilt compared to these kids. The next stop was the “Fish” program. Basically a very small hospitality department, but they have just converted a room to a “restaurant” that is due to open next week and it looked lovely. The fish program has a fish dryer and some basic kitchen equipment in one very small room about 12m square. We had a chat with some of the teachers who could speak English. They are such lovely, friendly people and the students were all so enthusiastic to see us, it was lovely. We said farewell and got dropped into the T-Sel head office in town to organise our internet. This was a mission, and we could buy a sim card but not a dongle and it took about 45 minutes to get the sim card sorted then we walked back into town to buy a dongle. The school kids were all walking home by this time and they were coming up to us with their hand outstretched and would say “my name is…..” and so we would say our name is Jo, and then they would say “my name is Dellis”. It is very refreshing to see such friendliness, and openness from teenagers!

Went back to the boat keen to get up to date on emails and contact everyone, however, it is so slow it took all night to receive our emails. The phone now has data but no credit so will need to go and sort that out. We can’t use visa they only have MasterCard. Luckily we got lots of cash in Cairns. Tried to get on Facebook and it took half an hour to open up, I got one comment done and it dropped out and I can’t get back in and that’s at 5.00am.

August 6th: We had organised for some of the Engineering students from the high school to come and see the boat and engine room. Robbie and some of the other cruisers went and picked up the students and teachers. We had suggested 10 students and one teacher but we got 5 students and 7 teachers. We gave them a tour of the boat, split into 2 groups I did the electronics and fly bridge and Robbie did the engine room. They loved it and were very impressed, except one poor lad got seasick which was a shame. Robbie did 3 trips in the duck and got them all back to land safely and we raced in to attend a skippers meeting that had been called to discuss the rally program from hereon in. Some of the boats are going to skip the next destination, Moa and go to Banda Islands instead. We are going to stay with the schedule and see what happens. Robbie nominated me to be the net controller on a Tuesday. This is a daily schedule on the SSB radio where the rally fleet all check in on the SSB radio at 8:00am every morning. There is a net controller and they decided to have 7 controllers who all do one day a week. EEK – this is not my forte and I could have kicked Robbie. Bit like having to speak in front of an audience, definitely not my favourite task! Robbie and I went for a walk through town and had a quick look in the supermarket. It was OK, mainly cleaning products and personal products. The markets near the pier cover all the fresh food. Complete with Roosters tied up by one leg at the front of a lot of stalls. I found out today they are fighting cocks. L At least it is kinder than Vanuatu, there they trussed the poor chooks up and they couldn’t move.

We went to lunch with Per and Elizabeth to the Seafood restaurant again and we ordered Nasi Goreng again and I ordered chicken and noodles which was lovely. Robbie ordered the fried bananas with cheese, and he and Elizabeth went into the kitchen to watch them cook them. Per told them Robbie was a famous Australian Chef on TV every Friday night! Anyway these fried bananas are to die for! I don’t usually like cooked fruit but these are GOOD! They are dipped in a mixture of 90% plain flour, 10% rice four mixed with water into a batter. Then deep fried in very hot oil for 1-2 minutes until golden brown, Then grate cheddar cheese over top and a drizzle of condensed milk all over it. Yummy. A local at the table next door had a lovely looking dish, looked like chocolate with ice and cream on top. Per asked what it was and they said peanuts so he ordered one. Well, turns out to be beans in ice. It was awful but funny. We walked back to the hotel but the tide was out so we were stuck there for a few hours until it comes back in. It is very very shallow. We sat and chatted with some of the cruisers, there is always someone different to talk to. Michele and Mariette were there and they are from Luxenberg, Adrian a young Australian lass who lives in NZ but is crewing on Escape for the rally, she was really interesting to chat to, she is an outdoors adventurist and currently works on the white water rafting at Turangi. As soon as the tide started to come back in we made our escape back to the boat. Was a bit tricky and at first the duck wouldn’t start and Robbie discovered a big nylon sack wrapped around the prop. It was a slow trip across the shallows but eventually we hit deep water. The harbour is littered with ship wrecks, some just sticking out of the water, some a lot out of the water. It’s quite sad. The markets are all along the Western side of the harbour, prime real estate but it’s a real eye sore really. There is not good facilities for yachties with no real docking. The Hotel has some timber steps leading into the water but when the tide goes out you are stuck there. The pier across the harbour has a very rickety set of steps going into the water but it is surrounded by big, rough rocks and is a killer on the ducks. One of the few recommendations we are suggesting is that if they want cruisers to come here they need to provide some docking facilities. (The Indonesian Government officials are really keen for us to spread the word and they want more cruisers and tourists to come, they have asked us to provide feedback as to how they can improve things)

August 7th: Bit of a laid back morning, went for a coffee on Stormvogel and Peter gave me the run down on being the net controller, and also, shared his expertise on preparing photos for the website. The program he uses is awesome and once we get decent internet I will download it and start using it. We then went into town with Oda and Stormvogel and picked up our clearance papers, then did some shopping in the markets, brought tomatoes, cucumber, beans, Eggplant and Bananas. Robbie went and picked up the 6 dozen eggs (2 dozen each) we had ordered from our favourite restaurant, except the 6 dozen turned into 6 trays, which each had 30 eggs, so we now have 60 eggs to dispose of. The fun things that happen when dealing with another language. We all had lunch at the Hotel, with another few yachties. Getting the meals that you ordered is a lucky dip, more often than not you receive something quite different from what you ordered, or, sometimes you don’t receive a meal at all. The food is quite nice when you get it. We have fallen in love with the fried bananas with cheese. We bolted as soon as we had eaten as we did not want to get stuck again with the tide going out.

Did a few chores and some paper work ready for my net controlling. A spreadsheet with all the boat names and skippers name and columns for Yacht position, course, speed, sea conditions and comments. As the boats do not all stay together they can be spread out over a few hundred miles we record the position of each vessel every day.

We watched a movie called Black Rock and went to bed. Well when we got to the bedroom we could hear a “slap, slap” noise of water, it was a very loud sloshing sound. Oh no, this brings memories of Peter and Heidi’s near sinking adventure, it all started with them hearing a “slap, slap” water noise when Peter went to bed. So long story short, we pulled up the carpets, and the flooring, and lifted the bed. Robbie inspected and undid all the vents on the water tank which is where the noise was coming from. It was really loud. The anchorage was very, very, roly and the boat was tipping from side to side quite badly. After two hours we decided it was air in the water tank, because the top of the tank steps down and up, and has 4 separate breathers. The air couldn’t get away quick enough with the rolling of the boat and hence was making a loud noise as the air was travelling from one high point in the tank to another high point. The tank is basically right underneath our bed. We eventually put everything back together and did manage to get some sleep. We had an early start the next morning for our journey to Moa Island so needed some shut eye.

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