SE Asia: Indonesia
Date: January 30, 2008
We left Batam this morning around 1100. We went to the fuel barge and Geoff "negotiated" a price for diesel we were willing to pay. Claire wants everyone to know that there were 5 well-cared-for dogs on the barge. Three of them were put in a pen and could only watch us. They were not happy. Neither was Claire, she wanted to pet them all.
Right now we are skirting the shipping lane on the Indonesian side, looking for a quieter place to cross. We have our eyes on a spot farther away from Singapore. We are heading to Langkawi, Malaysia. If all goes well we should be there on the 3rd or 4th.
Singapore is an interesting place. We took a ferry across to Singapore from Batam and stayed in a hotel overnight. It was a complete tourist excursion. Um, they shop a lot in Singapore. We would ask people what we needed to see, and they would tell us about shopping malls. We walked around town looking at buildings and we would pass shopping malls. We went down to the underground transit train, the MRT, and we passed underground shops. We did go to one shopping complex and we bought a scientific calculator for Claire, so we fit in, I guess. Otherwise we went to Chinatown and went to a museum there. We wandered around the shopping stalls set up in the street. Chinese New Year, or more properly the Lunar New Year, is a very big deal in Singapore. We bought some red lucky charms and hung them on the boat. We went on a Singapore Duck Tour, not unlike the exotic Wisconsin Dells experience we enjoyed with friends. The duck tour drove past the Singapore Merlion. We took many pictures. We were told that if we didn't have any pictures of the Merlion no one would believe we were in Singapore. We tried to sit down and get some drinks in the restored Raffles Hotel, but we were stopped at the door. The doorman told us that there was a dress code and apparently we didn't pass it. That was lowering, considering that earlier in the day we were at a business office meeting one of Phil's colleagues and we had dressed nicely. We went to an Irish Pub instead.
We picked up our Christmas presents, thank you everyone. And in a few days, Happy Lunar New Year.
Date: January 25, 2008
Location: 01º 04' N 103º 56' E, Waterfront City Marina, Batam, Indonesia
We are securely tied up at a dock at the Waterfront City Marina on Batam. We all must have been very tired because this morning we sort of missed going in to fetch our guide. He came out to us. Claire noticed the voice talking to us through our cabin windows first. Our guide was in his skiff right next to our boat. We all stumbled around getting clothes on and pulling up the anchor. We woke up quickly passing over some nice 11 foot deep spots on our way in. I'm happy that now we have a track to follow to get out of here. The marina is mostly a dock with security guards and nice local people. There are some cruising boats here but no sign of any yachties. We got settled in and found showers at the hotel right next door. Then we took Alex to an ear doctor for an infection and went shopping for new food. We treated ourselves to A&W for lunch, root beer floats in frosty mugs!
We are back on the boat now relaxing to Singapore radio stations. I found one station that was broadcast in English. DJs seem to be the same the world over. We listened to one pull a phone prank on some poor unsuspecting woman. She was a good sport and did receive a lovely gift in return for her discombobulation. The DJ called up a school and asked if he could enroll his child. The polite woman who answered explained that it was not the enrollment period and told him when he could enroll his child. The man explained that he heard that the school was the best at everything and that he was eager to have his son attend the school. The woman, still being very polite, gently told the man that his son could not attend the school because it was an all girl's school. The DJ persisted, maybe if his son grew his hair long, or the man could do service for the school like paint the buildings. The DJ even offered to make a generous donation to the school. The woman politely but firmly kept telling him that his son could not enroll. Finally the Dj asked if they had considered making the school boy and girl? The woman laughed and said no. The DJ relented and explained who he was and the woman laughed more nervously this time, but seemed happy to get her gift and rid of the DJ.
We plan to take the ferry over to Singapore on Sunday, sightsee, spend the night, and then on Monday find Phil's colleague and return to Batam.
Date: January 24, 2008
Location: 01º 05' N 103º 55' E, anchored just south of Sekupang, Batam, Indonesia (across from Singapore)
So close and yet so far away. Last night I crawled off to bed around the time Geoff and Claire found a string of fish net floaties to avoid. They successfully found the end of the string and escaped. They also found an excellent area to putter around in until daylight. They woke me up so I could have a turn or two running the little track they made up. It was restful. Shortly after daybreak Geoff and I edged out into the Singapore shipping lanes. Hoo boy! There are a lot of VERY BIG ships running loose around here. And tugs with barges. And coastal freighters. And navy ships. And even a few crazies in small fishing boats. In short, if you can imagine a kind of boat I think it is out there in the shipping lanes. Thankfully for my blood pressure, we did not cross the shipping lanes, we only traveled along the edge. If we can't find a ferry to Singapore from here we may have to play Frogger and go across the shipping lanes, but we'll see.
Right now we are anchored in a shallow patch right next to an even shallower patch complete with fish traps/stakes and grounded barges. We arrived at Nongsa Point Marina on the island of Batam at noon today only to discover that it is closed while undergoing major reconstruction. We talked our way into tying up at an unfinished dock while we gathered information. We were unsuccessful at talking our way into staying for even the night. When the marina is finished, however, it looks like it is going to be beautiful. But, we could not stay. They friendly people at Nonsga Point called the other marina on Batam for us. So off we went. Ah ha. Our 1998 guide book says the entry to the marina is clearly marked. Clearly, someone needs to do an update to the guide book. We followed the channel markers as far as they went, which wasn't far enough. We crept closer to where we thought the marina should be while watching the depth dip into the mid to low teens. For fun, we were coming in on a falling tide. We tried unsuccessfully to hail the marina on the VHF. Things on the boat were a little tense. Finally we dropped anchor in 15 feet of water next to a line of fish stakes and here we are. Claire and I took the dinghy over to where we could now see the marina. As we were going over we discovered that the well-marked channel consists mostly of red and green painted sticks added to the tops of the fishing stakes. We found some marina guys and settled that tomorrow morning on a rising tide near high water a guide will come on our boat and help bring us in. They were willing to try coming in on tonight's high tide, but we declined their offer.
We plan to eat chocolate, watch George of the Jungle, and unwind. And then we'll see what tomorrow holds.
Date: January 23, 2008
Location: 00º 11' N 103º 53' E at 1200
This morning at 0944 we crossed the equator back into the Northern Hemisphere. We've been trying to pay attention to the water swirling down drains ever since, is it going clockwise or counter-clockwise? We toasted our crossing with Cokes and Bintang, and we ate some Indonesian cookies. This equator crossing was a lot more low key. I was wondering if we are now entitled/required to pierce an ear a second time, or acquire a larger gold earring, but I was told that only the first crossing is an excuse for frivolity and so no good traditions have built up regarding subsequent crossings. We still need to find Adventure Bear a gold earring, though. I think it would complete his salty look.
We are expecting to arrive off Batam Island around midnight tonight. After all this I'm not even too phased about tootling around in the dark near the shipping lanes for hours until daylight. We've got a full moon and plenty of fuel.
Date: January 22, 2008
Location: 01º 39' S 105º 00' E at 1200
We made it through the Bangka Strait. The guide book suggested anchoring for the night, but we didn't. Mom and Dad spent the night dodging fishing boats, and their sticks, and playing chicken with tug boats. Alex and I helped for a bit, but we eventually went to bed. While we were asleep Mom and Dad had some trouble getting around this one ship that seemed to be moving very slowly. They took the ship's stern and as they passed it found that it was anchored, no wonder it was going so slow. All in all it wasn't that bad. Dad says that we will cross the equator tomorrow. We haven't decided on how to celebrate yet, but we are sure that it will involve cookies and juice.
Date: January 21, 2008
Location: 02º 59' S 106º 15' E at 1200
Today at 1530 we passed the light on Nemesis Shoal. We celebrated by having tropical fruit juice and gummy bears. We toasted Nomad and Nemesis Shoal. In a cool piece of coincidence, as we raised our glasses, the chart plotter beeped to alert us to the fact that we had arrived at our Nemesis Shoal waypoint. Nemesis Shoal was the halfway point for the circumnavigation Geoff's family took on Nomad in 1975-1977. I had been talking about using the old charts and Ed wrote us about the original sighting of Nemesis Shoal light. I'll share his notes -
"From our old log. Half way at 0752 December 16, 1976. Passed Nemesis Shoal buoy and had a half way toast. 452 days, 21 hours, 20 minutes, 15,749 miles from Nyack."
Of course now we have to calculate where and when our halfway point for the trip will be. Probably somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Maybe we can tweak it to be close to the Maldives.
Date: January 20, 2008
Location: 03º 02' S 106º 26' E, anchored off Toboali Village, southern Bangka Island
Sometime yesterday we decided to stop for fuel and this was a place a friend found for us on a map, not a cruising guide, a road map. We tried looking for it in our digital copy of a 1998 cruising guide to this area, but it wasn't listed as an anchorage. Now that we're here I can tell you it's not a protected anchorage, just an open roadstead off the fishing village. We're about a mile and a half off shore in 25 feet of water. But until tonight's squall arrives it's been pleasant.
Sorry Jeanette and Mary, but Claire has a new Gramma.
We anchored out here not wishing to creep any closer to shore in shallow, muddy water. We got ourselves settled and then we sat. We were hoping innate curiosity would lead someone in a boat to come out to see us. Geoff said that if no one came out by 1230 we would drop the dinghy and go in to shore. I didn't feel like taking the dinghy off the foredeck etc. etc. for a 24 hour stop. I sat in the cockpit and sent "you want to come see us" vibes at every boat that came near. Most just waved and kept going. So what if they had a small boat full of fresh fish in a net that they wanted to deal with on shore, I wanted a ride. Eventually my thinking paid off. A small boat with two small men in it came close enough for me to gesture them over. They spoke enough English for us to explain that we wanted to buy solar (diesel). They took Claire and Geoff and our 4 jerry cans to shore with them. What a boat. It was about 20 feet long and must have had at least a foot and a half of freeboard. Geoff and Claire and the driver sat behind a little box structure that served as a shelter. The other guy perched on top and offered directional tips. Hours later all four returned with 23 smaller jerry cans full of diesel, our 4 jerry cans still empty and 6 five liter things of motor oil (don't ask about that today). Geoff and the guys filled our tanks and the guys went home.
What were they doing for hours? They beach landed the craft and walked into the village. The guys took Geoff and Claire to one of their houses. Then, as Claire puts it, "Dad ditched me." Geoff took off on the back of a motor bike while Claire got to be the object of local attraction back at the house. Almost every kid in the village must have found his/her way to the house and crept up to Claire. They didn't talk to her, but they would whisper things. If she looked at them they would all be quiet. A very nice woman kept shooing them back a couple feet, and it would work for a while, but they'd eventually creep back. The very nice woman was named Ati and she told Claire that she would be her Grandmother. So there you have it, Claire has a new Gramma. Claire has also now been photographed on innumerable cell phones and asked by her new friend Dion, if she had ever considered marrying an Indonesian man. Dion, who is about 8 by the way, is a good guy, he was not asking for himself, but on behalf of a 20 year old friend who then smacked Dion and smiled at Claire sheepishly. When Geoff got back to the house he couldn't find Claire for all the people. On leaving the house, the kids followed them all the way to the beach and they had to shake hands with everyone. Choosing anchorages by road map sure gets you to some out of the way places.
Tomorrow we plan to be up bright and early to start going through Bangka Strait. I hope no one sets fish nets at night in the channel. More on that another time.
Date: January 19, 2008
Location: 03º 46' S 106º 51' E at 1200
Last night we were into the chocolate, tonight it was the canned peaches. I think our spirits as well as our appetites are improving. Geoff is not affected by boat motion, but the rest of us sure are. Poor man. He'll rub his hands together and ask what's for dinner only to be greeted with basilisk stares and be handed a package of crackers and the peanut butter. He'll quietly eat them, but he much appreciates a return to the living by his on-board chefs. Last night the kids made pizza. Tonight it was hot dogs and beans. We're recovering in stages. We're only about 400 nm from Batam Island where we plan to check out of Indonesia. Batam is across the shipping lanes from Singapore. We're almost there!
Date: January 18, 2008
Location: 05º 28' S 108º 20' E at 1200
Right now we are going across the gap between Java and Sumatra. It is not near really, we are farther up in the Java Sea, but we can feel a few effects. At least I'm sure I can. We put up the jib and are not exactly on a bee-line course to our next waypoint off Bangka, but the ride feels better and we have better boat speed. We are not smacking into the waves so much. I can see the moon tonight. Yippee! And we went wild and had an entire Cadbury chocolate bar for dessert, so what with moonlight and chocolate I'll be more than ready to spot any fleet that's out fishing tonight. Last night both Geoff and I passed two mystery things on our watches. From the distance we thought they were platforms. They had a goodly number of very bright lights. Apparently I got closer to mine than Geoff did to his. I woke him up because I couldn't figure out what it was doing. It was just rocking like a boat, but not going anywhere. We stared at it as we passed. It had a pointy end, like a boat, and it rocked, like a boat. If it walks like a duck... I guess it was a boat. But why all the lights? And why not move? I wish there was a place you could look up stuff like this. I was at position this-and-such at this time and I saw this thing behaving in this manner - what was it? Maybe I'll have a better time making up a good story.
Date: January 17, 2008
Location: 06º 47' S 110º 10' E at 1200
We left Semarang this morning, had to do a quick fuel filter change in mid-channel, and are now underway heading for Singapore via Bangka. Semarang was an interesting stop. We bought diesel. The guys brought it down to the jetty we were tied up at in 200 ltr drums. The drums were in a big cart that got pulled by one of the ubiquitous scooters. One of the guys hand cranked the fuel pump to get it out of the drums. Six or so of his closest friends helped supervise. We were the main event all day long. We had a pile of boys practically crawling into the boat through our main salon hatch in an effort to talk to the girls. Eventually Geoff shooed them away and we closed the hatch.
Geoff and Claire went into town to look for some dinner while Alex and I stayed on board. We moved fenders as the tide changed. And we watched people on scooters drive down the road past the boat, slow down as they passed us, whip out cell phones and snap a picture, get to the end of the road and turn around. The best scooter passing occured at dusk. Alex and I were out on the bow watching fenders and people. One of the scooters came by. The person on the scooter (who we couldn't see clearly because it was getting darkish) slowed down, waved and yelled, "Hi Alex!" Alex and I just looked at each other. The mystery person then disappeared into the water police/pilot compound, so we figure it was one of the officials. And ALEX is a name they recognize, so they tend to remember her. Geoff and Claire somehow managed to wander into a ritzy gated community for the upper crust of Semarang. The guard was more than happy to call a cab for them and recommend a restaurant somewhere else. No one in the restaurant spoke any English. They got by with guessing and pointing at the menu. Trying to order food to take away for Alex and me was beyond pointing and pantomime, so Alex and I made our own fried rice.
The sky was hazy all morning which I see as an improvement.
Date: January 16, 2008
Location: 06º 57' S 110º 25' E, Semerang Harbor, Java, Indonesia
Ah, tied up to something stable, temporary bliss. We are in Semerang, Java getting fuel and rest. Tomorrow morning around 0730 we plan to head out again aiming for Bangka. Geoff found the chart with Nomad's track on it, so we'll see how much of it we end up matching. Sorry, last night things heated up about the time that we like to try and send e-mail, so getting a message out didn't happen. I'm trying to find a pattern in the squalls if only to get a handle on what to expect. I'm thinking mornings seem lighter and the afternoon builds to something good for the evening and night watches. But Geoff just laughs and says they're squalls. Last night I spend oh, maybe 15 minutes or so under a starry sky. And then a squall rolled in. I could have cried. Okay, maybe I did, a little. I was counting my chickens before they were hatched. And I'm now wondering what the people who named their boat Squall were thinking.
Date: January 15, 2008
Location: 06º 42' S 111º 58' E at 1200
Well, right now the wind has come up again, but this morning the sun peeked out from behind the clouds and the seas were down. It was restful. We have decided that Semerang would be a lovely place to take a break and buy diesel. Geoff says Nomad stopped there, so I feel it is kismet we go too.
This morning I got the kids to help me watch out for little boats and their fish thingies while Geoff napped. I was making my way between the pilot anchorage area and a restricted zone surrounding a gas platform. I found the anchored tankers no problem. But in order to avoid the the little Indonesian fishing boats who appeared to view the tankers as fish attraction devices, I needed more eyes. The girls each grabbed some binocs and watched off one side of our boat. It is nice to see the binocs used for viewing things other that neighboring boats in anchorages. Although, gathering information of all kinds is important. Anyway, we avoided all boats and also missed their stakes topped by flags. I'm not sure what they're for, but when you find some poles there are sure to be boats nearby. I went below to get my tea this morning and I think I gave some poor fisherman a scare. I came back up to see that I have missed one set of poles by mere feet. He was in his boat coming quickly from another set of poles. Poor guy. I do better more fully caffeinated.
Date: January 14, 2008
Location: 06º 50' S 113º 47' E at 1200
A quick message today. We came out from behind the protection of Bali and its neighboring islands and found yuck. Back to loads of wind on the nose and fighting current while being rained on. We're hugging the coast. Hopefully we'll see some relief in a few days when we get near the end of Java. Right now we're clawing for every mile. Bleah.
Date: January 13, 2008
Location: 07º 38' S 114º 49' E at 1200
I'm furiously knocking wood with all of my appendages as I prepare to write about our first day out...no I can't. I just can't "speak" it aloud. But we are a boat full of happy people so far.
Last night brought out the lightning that I had cheerfully not thought about while we were in the marina. I watched the show for about an hour and a half and then passed the watch on to Geoff. He put the light to good use. Apparently one flash illuminated a Fish Attraction Device, or an F.A.D. as we can sometimes find them on the chart. We thought they were permanent structures. We did not take into consideration the ingenuity of native fishermen. We think they built this floating model. Geoff said it looked like a teepee made of bamboo stuck on top of a raft. Fishing boats were around it. When I'm not harboring unkind thoughts toward the fishing boats that are out at night I'm admiring their nerve for taking some of these little things out in less than ideal conditions. We were really impressed with the little boats with a sort of inverted triangular sail that were working around Lombok. A bunch of them would fish together. Alex & Abbas told us that was one way they tried to keep each other safe. I guess staying closer to shore was not an option.
Right now we are crossing a submarine exercise area. I'm having mental visions of subs in spandex doing aerobics to old disco tunes. Or subs in tank tops and ankle weights pumping iron in underwater gyms. We had the option of sailing over an explosives disposal area, but it was out of the way, so we passed up that golden opportunity.
Date: January 12, 2008
We left Bali this afternoon and began our passage to Singapore. Oh please oh please, keep your fingers crossed for a good trip. Right now it is about 1730 and things are okay. I'm just anxious I guess, because I'm prone to believe most stories people tell no matter how implausible. And yachties are all very good story tellers, especially at the bar with a couple of beverages in their system. The yachties at the marina in Bali are all set for the season, so they are inclined to view anyone who is moving with some suspicion. We almost fall into the Completely Nuts category of cruiser because once we get to Singapore, then a few days later it's off to Thailand and then we plan to cross the Indian Ocean. This season. Oh well. We're enjoying seeing a lot of things and places. Hopefully we'll meet people in Thailand who are crossing the Indian Ocean this year as well. Then maybe we won't seem so odd. As I think about that last sentence, um, no comment.
Date: January 9, 2008
Today we were tourists. We found a taxi guy to take us around to all the necessary spots. We started out at a Barong Dance theater. We saw a traditional dance performance complete with live music and gorgeous costumes. The story was the basic good vs. evil plot line. It turned out for the best in the end. The style of the dance was very un-western however. Small hand (and even finger) gestures and eye movements were important.
Then we were taken to all the tourist artisan shops. We did buy some things, but not a lot. We just enjoyed prowling the showrooms like museums. Next we went to a restaurant overlooking a volcanic crater lake. It was a rainy day today, what a surprise, and a bit chilly up on top of the mountain. Alex pointed out that all the other tourists were eating outside. It was us and the locals inside. We've acclimatized! After lunch we went to ride elephants. That was a treat. Alex and Claire even got to sit behind the elephants' heads and "drive." Phil, we're really sorry, but after your glowing description of the fun you had, reinforced by the yachties here, we skipped the monkey forest.
Oh, and we got caught in a traffic jam for a political rally. Elections for the regional governor are coming up and a goodly number of a particular candidate's supporters got out on their scooters to meet at the soccer field. We watched scooters and trucks full of people go by for at least 20 minutes. My favorite was the kid standing on the hood of the flag draped truck. He was only second to the kid standing up on the scooter seat behind his friend who was driving. Where were their mothers?
Claire and Geoff have found a possible kite boarding beach. Alex and I will look for shopping. Diesel and provisions? Tomorrow...
Date: January 6, 2008
Location: 08º 44' S 115º 12' E, Bali International Marina
WE'RE IN BALI!!!! The third time's the charm. Thank you for all your prayers, clover gathering, candle lighting and rabbit's foot rubbing. We're sure that's what did the trick. And the last 30 hours have been rain free. Our cup runneth over.
We left yesterday afternoon allotting 24 hours to travel the 50 nm to Bali. By 0230 we were only 5 nm out. Geoff and I actually had to entertain ourselves going up and down Selat Bedung waiting for daylight. This would be the first time I was happy to be in that situation. The sky was clear and I looked at the stars. We watched the crescent moon rise and were thinking good thoughts about the boat, sailing and each other. We entered the channel this morning and made our way to the marina where we tied up in an empty space. The marina has a holiday today to celebrate their 14th anniversary so no one was in the office or answering the VHF. A very nice cruiser named Jeff helped me out. We'll sort out a shower key and water and power tomorrow.
Oh, yachties, I remember those from the Pacific. We've finally found some other boats. It's kind of cool to be the only boat around, I felt very adventurous. But it can be a little lonely too. Since we tied up here I've been pouncing on anyone who walked too slowly past our boat. We've found people we met in the Galapagos, Antonio and Hazel from Sora Alice. They are traveling with their friend Sean on Finnegan. And we've met Jeff AND we met the parents of a 15 year old girl. Elaine (mom) and I are going to get the girls together later. It will be nice to have new people to try my stories out on.
Date: January 5, 2008
This morning Geoff & Claire went to talk to the Lembar Port Officials. We couldn't clear the port unless we officially checked into Indonesia, something we haven't actually done yet. So Geoff rode around on the back of a motorbike while someone drove him hither and yon finding the proper authorities and copy shops. He had to go all the way to Mataram to the closed Immigration Office to get a signed piece of paper stating that the Immigration Office was closed. You'd think that wouldn't work for a closed office, but it did. He got the signed and stamped piece of paper. So now we have our green book and I'm hoping it may make checking in at Bali easier. Speaking of Bali, we left this afternoon at 1430. The trip is about 50 nm. We hope to be in tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed.
Date: January 4, 2008
Location: 08º 44' S 116º 04' E, anchored off Lembar, Lombok
So, does anyone have any idea why God doesn't want us to go to Bali? Yesterday we left Awang on Attempt Number Two to reach Bali. If you recall, we ended up in Awang because we were getting beaten up on Attempt One to reach Bali. We left Awang around 0900 and were making good progress until night fell and the current increased. And then we got squalls. And then the current increased some more. And then there were more squalls. And then the sun came up and we were crossing Selat Lombok and the current managed to increase to 6 kts. I'm taking for granted that you understand these currents are unfavorable, read "beating into them." Once it became clear that we didn't have enough fuel to make it to Bali we backtracked to Lombok and aimed for the harbor the ferries operate from. Ferries must use diesel. We're anchored now right behind a row of ferries. Geoff and Claire are out getting diesel and Alex and I are making pizza.
We'll try to go to Bali again tomorrow if we've finished loading up on diesel. Cross your fingers, light candles, find four-leafed clovers, rub rabbit's feet, do whatever it takes, clearly we need extra help.
Date: December 31, 2007 & January 1, 2008
You get two days worth of info because the propogation last night was terrible and someone kept breaking in JUST as our message was almost finished sending.
From Tuesday about Monday -
Yesterday was our big sight-seeing tour day on Lombok. We started bright and early meeting Abbas at the wharf at 0700. We walked the short way into the village and waited for Alex to arrive with our car & driver. We are learning more about the guys slowly. Abbas, who is 22, is the youngest of 17 brothers. He explained that there were three mothers. I think having six or so kids is quite an accomplishment. He got a cousin to watch our boat for us because we were going to be gone all day. What else, Abbas has a girlfriend who is working in Arabia. She's been gone for two years but should be home soon. Alex is married and has two kids. Some relative of his drove us around in the nice SUV on our excursion.
Our first stop was at a waterfall with healing properties. If you bathe in the water, the water is supposed to turn a different color depending on your ailment. The idea is to stay under the water long enough for the water to run clear. The water was very cold. We stuck our hands under the water directed out from a spigot. Other people were washing. We walked around the grounds which were lovely. A band was setting up for New Year's Eve festivities. Rocker Indonesian teens wear black t-shirts, tight jeans, leather bands and sport spiky haircuts. The kids were gathering at 0900 to hear the beginning of the bands. Alex got us some traditional food, rice thingies & sates, and while we were eating them some of the bolder rocker kids came over to talk. Our Alex seems to be the main attraction. It could be that she wears bright clothing, funky glasses, jewelry and is an attractive girl. And she'll wave and say hi. Claire would prefer to hide. So the young rocker guys were stuck talking to me while watching Alex.
Our next stop was at an important Hindu temple whose name I can't recall. It was built by an equally important king who used to make a pilgrimage up the volcano every year in order to present offerings to the gods. When he got too old to make the trip, he built this temple to resemble the lakes etc at the top of the volcano and would climb a set of stairs to ascend in order to make his offerings instead of climbing the mountain. The grounds were lovely and calming. And there was a public swimming pool. While temples and swimming pools don't necessarily sound like a matched pair this pair makes sense. The temple ground have all these pools, so one was opened to the public for swimming. The public pool was not, however, the one situated near the king's summer house from which he could watch the beautiful girls bathe.
After the temple we went to the monkey forest. We bought a bag of peanuts at a shop in town. When we got to the top of the mountain we just pulled over to the side of the road and honked the car horn. Monkeys came to us. We were leery of them at first, but these were polite monkeys. They took the peanuts from our hands, but didn't invade our personal space. They left our hair and clothing alone. We liked these monkeys.
After all of that touring, we were hungry. We ventured into the tourist zone. We went to Sengiggi which has a beach and lots of hotels and cafes and pale people. I think I heard Aussies. We had a good lunch that was not so spicy. Alas, some of our western palates are not used to the chilis they like to use here. Geoff and Claire are liking the spicy food, but Alex and I keep flaming our lips. The tourist town let us eat heartily on watered-down Indonesian. After lunch we walked to and then down the beach. A couple of girls came up and asked if they could pose for a picture with Alex. One of their friends took the shot on a cell-phone. The girls stayed and chatted. Their English was very good. They made me a little homesick for my students. Aiiee, missing students?!! The girls were outgoing, bouncy & happy, (and close to being Philipino)like some of the kids from San Jose. They explained they came down to the beach for the day with their friends. I asked if I could take their picture and their friends started edging over, so we told them to get in the picture too. I am now the proud possessor of a photo of a bunch of Lombok teens with our girls on Sengiggi Beach. Everyone is laughing. The hotel on the beach had music playing. The speakers started blaring Dancing Queen and the girls started singing. Alex could join in and that made their day. More laughing.
Our last stop was a Mall. Alex and Abbas kept telling us it had a McDonalds. We didn't dine there. We bought s few needed items of clothing and some groceries and headed back to our village. On the way we began what became The Quest For Beer. I think we stopped at a mini market in every village between the big city of Mataram and our little village of Awang looking for Bintang beer. We would stop, Geoff and Alex would hop out, and come back empty handed. We even stopped at Alex's family's house. They didn't have any spare Bintang's either. New Year's Eve is not the time to try to buy Bintang beer. Finally they found A bottle.
We brought our hard won Bintang back to the boat. We watched movies until midnight. Wished each other a Happy New Year and promptly went to bed. Tonight we have been invited by the village chief to come to town for the evening celebration. We will be loaned sarongs and head bands. We know there will be dancing and don't really know what else to expect. It should be fun.
Now from Wednesday -
We went into town at 2000 only to find out that the dancing was cancelled because someone in the village had a little too much to drink and started a knife fight. We went back to the boat and started watching movies. About 2230 Abbas paddled his canoe out to the boat to tell us the dancing was back on. We declined the invitation to return to shore. I felt poor spirited, but I'm getting too old to grab the gusto after 2200. Right now we've got the guys on board and we are playing cards. If the weather is good we plan to try to leave for Bali tomorrow. It's about a 90 nm trip. I refuse to guess when we'll arrive in Bali. We'll let you all know.
Happy 2008 to you all!
Date: December 30, 2007
Today, more of the weather story. Would you believe that our 30 year old boat is not exactly water tight? Shocking. At least it took more than just rain to create this, it took pounding waves and driving rain. Today we spent time pulling out wet things and trying to dry them. We have bedding and textbooks and games and rugs and stuff hanging inside and outside of the boat. The kids are sleeping in the seatee now that those cushions are dry while their cushions dry out. Okay, technically Claire's bunk is dry, we've just got stuff all over it. The girls are really broken up about the textbooks. Uh huh. Luckily the books look like they'll recover. Unfortunately, Claire's guitar had a toolbox smash into it and the body is dented. It still plays, but the sound is different. I wonder if we can find a guitar repairman in Bali. And Geoff gets to rearrange the forward cabin/area once more because that's where everything jumped the most.
But enough about nastiness. Tomorrow we're going sight-seeing with Alex and Abbas. I think we're going to see the volcano and its caldera and waterfalls. I think we'll also see some place where the people do traditional weaving. And then we're going to the big city, Mataram looking for temples. And Alex is excited to show us the monkey forest. Last night they came out to the boat with some freshly caught fish for us. They stayed and drank Bintang beer and talked. Geoff and Alex got into a big discussion of alcohol. We figure these guys are probably not strict Muslims. Geoff was telling them about smooth scotch and Alex and Abbas started telling him about palm wine. Palm wine is made from coconut. Today Geoff returned from shore with two bottles of wine that Abbas' family makes. The rice wine (not Sake!) is 20% alcohol and the palm wine is maybe 5-6% alcohol. We've spent today looking at it. The rice wine is in a glass bottle with a used metal Coke bottle top stuck on it. The wine comes down from Mataram in jerry cans. The palam wine is in a plastic water bottle. Neither of us wants to be the first to taste it.
We are enjoying their company even if we are mostly a business proposition. They're fun to talk with; they are young and lively and interested in all kinds of things.
Oh, I forgot to tell you something yesterday. In our day out and about, we saw the traditional mode of transport, the horse cart. A pony-sized horse pulls a two wheeled cart that carries people and things. We were feeling very touristy and hired one to take us to the open air market, but all the locals use these so it wasn't that touristy after all. The horse had bells on its harness so it jingled as it moved. These things were everywhere. School was out and it was raining, so the kids walking home from school were hitching rides from people heading to town. One cart went by with its male driver surrounded by about 6-7 teenage school girls. He did not look like he was suffering.
Date: December 29, 2007
Location: 08º 53' S 116º 24' E, anchored off Telok Awang, Lombok
Mom, we are all fine. I didn't get a message out yesterday because we were all either sleep deprived or demoralized and in some cases, both. We found even rottener weather after Geoff sent the last message. The seas were large-ish and we were bashing into them. The winds were on the nose. We found 2-3 knots of current against us which made sailing into it a lesson in going backwards. We used up loads of fuel going absolutely nowhere. Ah, but we needed to do it in order to prevent going backwards, which at one point was starting to look like the smart thing to do. Somehow, in the midst of all this Geoff got inspired to look through the charts to find a possible place to hole up in. He found the place we are at now, Telok Awang on Lombok Island. Lombok is next to Bali, to the east. We are SOOOOO happy to be here.
When we pulled in this morning at daybreak there were little fishing canoes all over the place. We dodged them and worked our way into the anchorage. We had a moment's pause when the speed boat with the guy carrying a machine gun came out to see us. But as it turned out, they were the police and they couldn't have been nicer. They spoke about as much English as we speak Indonesian. They checked our paperwork and told us we were okay, waved and headed back to shore. They were back in about 15 minutes with a couple of guys, Alex & Abbas, who spoke English. Alex does things for the yachties who come here. Funny, most of the other yachties come in June. Abbas confirmed that the 2 - 3 knots of current is normal, but not on the chart. Being the only boat in the anchorage meant that we had Alex & Abbas all to ourselves. They got a truck and rode us in to a town to buy more diesel. Then we went to a traditional market and bought fruit. Then they found a place for us to have lunch. We enjoyed satays and fried rice. On our way back to the boat I kept taking pictures out of the truck window. He stopped at a rice paddy because I was trying to take a picture of the women at work. He knew them. They invited us to try planting. The girls were too shy to try and apparently planting is women's work so Geoff declined as well. Men work the roto-tiller. So I tried. Um, I was slow. The women laughed. I wonder if they will go back and redo the ones I planted.
We have arranged for a car and driver for Monday. There are interesting things to do here and friendly people. We'll stay for a few days and then go to Bali. Tomorrow we sleep.
Date: December 27, 2007
Location: 09º 02' S 117º 42' E at 1200
A quickie note today. I'm holding the computer with both hands and holding on to the boat with my toes. Darn if we didn't find wind, directly on the nose. Double darn. Oh, and these things, waves and swell, I believe they're called, we haven't experienced those since we left the Pacific. Boy were we spoiled. So now the boat is, ah, what's the word... pigeon, pilsner... Pitching, that's it. And to top it all off we have about 2 or so knots of current against us. Sigh. We've let go those beautiful visions of getting in to Bali tomorrow. Wish us luck for the day after.
Date: December 26, 2007
To celebrate Boxing Day, we left Labuan Bajo and are heading to Bali. We left just before noon, so I'm not bothering to give a noon position. We decided to go south from Labuan Bajo. We're hoping to avoid inconsiderately directioned wind. However, our choice of route meant we had to deal with some strong currents between and around the islands. We liked them going TO Rinca and Labuan Bajo, but do not have such favorable opinions going in this direction. We're through all of that now and off the coast of Komodo and heading westish. We are building plenty of character because it is, surprise surprise, raining. On the bright side of all the rain, the terrain is reminding me of the Bay Area in winter. We're watching the hills get greener every day.
If anyone has access to eggnog PLEASE have some for me. I'm partial to the stuff with or without rum. Believe it or not, Bintang beer was a poor substitute.
Date: December 25, 2007
Merry Christmas from this side of the date line!!!
Last night Alex and I found Christmas Eve mass at the Catholic church up the hill. We still don't know the name of the church. Fewer people speak English here than other places we've been, so we're having to be more creative in our word choices and more expressive in our gestures. Charades should be a requisite for foreign travel. We tried two other churches before we found Mass at the big church. First someone told us to go to church No. One. That one turned out to be Protestant which wasn't really a big deal except that there was a Catholic church available. So on to St. Angela, church No. Two. We thought we hit the jackpot, there was a nun in a shortie veil sitting on the step, but they weren't having Mass last night. Sr. told us to go up the hill to find the big church. So Geoff found us a taxi/mini-van (Mexico was a good training ground for hailing these) and off we went. Geoff and Claire went back to the boat. The harbor master seemed to think that boats left untended after dark were open invitations for "visitors." By the time Alex and I got to the church, people had spilled out of the doors and down the steps. Men were setting plastic chairs out in the dirt lot in front of the church. A nice man gave us two and we settled in. We couldn't see into the church at all. We could sort of follow the service on the loudspeakers by listening for the breaks in prayers and keeping track of the standing and sitting. Today we all went back to the church and got a look inside. I was pleased to see a lovely creche in front of the altar.
Our Christmas Day started with presents and cookies. Santa found us in Labuan Bajo, so we had gifts. We also had cinnamon rolls, but I didn't start them until about 1000, so we had them for lunch. This afternoon we went into town, saw church and had Christmas Dinner in a restaurant. We had prawns and fried rice and fried noodles, and drinks for four people. The entire dinner cost around $12.00. This evening we plan to frost cookies as we eat them and watch a Christmas movie. And drink Bintang beer.
Tomorrow we'll leave here and start on our way to Bali. Now that we've got more fuel it is possible that we might see some favorable wind. At any rate, we hope to be in Bali in two nights.
Date: December 23, 2007
Location: 08º 29' S 119º 52' E, anchored in the harbor off Labuan Bajo
We moved. We left Rinca this morning and went to a nearby village on the island of Flores called Labuan Bajo. There was not that much to do beyond the hikes on Rinca. Wandering around by ourselves was not a good idea. The ranger and the guides for hikes had a healthy respect for the Komodo dragons which we adopted. And the ranger did not seem anxious to entertain us for 5 days. We also wanted to replenish our fuel supply and the crew REALLY wanted to be on land for Christmas. Labuan Bajo filled all our needs. We arrived at noon today in time to hear the call to prayer being chanted from the mosque. The island of Flores itself is predominantly Christian, but not completely. I've seen a couple of churches with crosses on them and stained glass windows with saints, so I figure I can find Catholic Mass to celebrate Christmas.
We are the only cruising boat here now. We were talking to one of the tour boat guys in the anchorage at Rinca. He's from Labuan Bajo and he was proudly telling us about the cruising rally from Darwin that stopped in Labuan Bajo last year. He said there were between 100 - 200 yachts all over the harbor. Ah, that was then and this is now. We felt a little out of place walking around town today. Everyone was very friendly and said hello, but they all watched us. I guess we don't blend. The young men seem especially interested in saying hello to the girls. Perhaps they are happy to have an opportunity to practice their English. Geoff needs to start looking larger and paternal.
Tomorrow we get fuel and make Christmas cookies.
Date: December 21, 2007
Location: 08º 39' S 119º 43' E, anchored at Rinca, Komodo National Park
We arrived and anchored. As we were anchoring a water buffalo walked out of the mangroves and waded into the water. We dropped the dinghy and went ashore. While we were waiting for the ranger, we walked around a little bit. We stopped wandering after we discovered a Komodo dragon resting underneath a house in the ranger compound. It was about 7 feet long and sturdily built. It eyed us, but appeared was too lazy to want to move. Claire was sure You could go up and touch it. She emphasized the YOU and not the Me in that statement. When the ranger returned we arranged to go on a short walk this afternoon and a longer hike tomorrow. On our short walk we saw 4 Komodo dragons, two Komodo nests, birds and a viper. After all that wildlife in an hour's walk we can't wait for tomorrow's hike. Alex just reminded me that I completely forgot to mention that there are monkeys all over the place. Phil, we know how much you love monkeys. I think these are Macaque Monkeys. We saw one monkey mom with a baby clinging to her belly as she walked. It was almost cute, for a monkey.
Date: December 20, 2007
Location: 09º 20' S 120º 45' E at 1200
Oh, starting about the time I decided to shower on deck this afternoon, we began the build-up to this evening's quite immodest squall. Harrumph. You already know my feelings about the wet season. The rotten thing gathered friends and produced chop and rain and winds from undesirable directions. Why, we even had to tack. Claire and Geoff were tracking it on radar. Alex and I asked them how much longer until we would be out of it and they laughed. Apparently the clouds were still building. A good thing has come out of this annoying squall, some father/daughter bonding. Claire and Geoff hung out on the driver's seat fortified by cocoa-laced coffee for two hours. They decided to check wind direction. Each one leaned outward from where he/she was sitting on the driver's seat to look out from under the bimini. They looked like orange-fisherman's-foul-weather-gear clad bookends. Claire got the final words for the log book; Outwit, Outlast, Outplay. We beat the squall, it died.
Good news, a booby just floated by on a bamboo log. In keeping with Polynesian tradition, all we need is for the booby to land on the water and the chop should calm down. Tell that to the contented booby riding on bamboo who doesn't want to get his tail feathers wet just to please me.
Date: December 19, 2007
Location: 10º 06' S 122º 36' E at 1200
I think I am suffering from S.A.D. Squall Affective Disorder. Okay, okay, I understand that this is the wet season. I even get that the wet season may just involve rain. Sigh. But my mood and outlook are definitely not improved by constant cloud cover. I spend my days watching the squalls build and work myself into a tizzy of anxiety lest one of them catch me unprepared with hatches open and flapable things exposed. I exert a lot of nervous energy taking down and later putting up shades, opening and closing hatches, and unzipping and re-zipping the dodger windows. The family thinks I'm nuts. They just watch and shake their heads. Now I know how Chicken Little felt. Of course I don't want a squall to come and prove me right. I'll settle for a clear day and night. Clear nights are important. I like stars. I like the moon too. Hopefully we'll be in Rinca after two more nights.
Oh, I almost forgot some trivial geographic knowledge that we can share. Last night (semi-cloudy with lightning in the distance and low dark clouds, but no rain) we sailed between Timor and Roti. And so we left the Timor Sea and are now in the Savu Sea. Knowledge is power.
Date: December 18, 2007
Location: 10º 45' S 124º 39' E at 1200
There's not much on today. We got a modest squall. It brought loads of rain but very little wind, so even with the motor on we only zipped up to 5.6 kt speed over the ground. It was a change to be pelted with so much rain that we couldn't see very far ahead of us and yet to be upright instead of heeled over. It cleared, but now as we are passing Timor the clouds are gathering again. I was whining to Alex about being tired of clouds and rain and lightning, but she only came back with some platitude about rainbows. Bah. Cheerful child.
Date: December 17, 2007
Location: 11º 17' S 126º 34' E at 1200
Last night I saw a lume on the horizon. I asked Geoff if maybe it was Kupang? Since we were more than 250 miles from a place about the size of Neiafu, Tonga, he doubted it. So what was it? We checked the charts and didn't see any land things. Ah, but there are oil wells out here. This afternoon we passed one of them. Near the platform that had big tankers docked and loading up, was a very tall cylinder with a huge flame coming out of the top of it. From our at least 6 miles away it looked like a candle. That would be the source of my midnight lume.
The bird that joined us last night was all the kids' doing. It looked like a tern of some sort. They spotted it circling the boat on their watch. Claire invited it to stop in. Around 2100 on Geoff's watch it did. It landed on the bow pulpit and hung out there until daylight. It's still really hot, but I was told in no uncertain terms by Alex that I was not to go off the boat for a swim. Geoff was asleep when I proposed going for a dip, so maybe if I try when he's around it'll go over better. Or I'll wait until we're anchored. I still don't want to meet box jellies. And last night Claire saw a shark swim past the boat. Yup, swimming elsewhere is sounding better and better.
December 16, 2007
Location: 11º 51' S 128º 50' E at 1200
I've have two thoughts to share today. We're back in relatively deep water, almost 200 feet! We've seen dolphins again, some more of the little guys. We had four playing around the bow of the boat. Whenever we see dolphins we get excited and stop what we're doing to watch them. On closer inspection, the girls noticed that four of those playing around our bow were all damaged in some way. One of them was missing half of a tail fluke, one had a deep notch in his dorsal fin and other similar injuries. As the girls watched them move around the bow, they saw a large group of somethings swimming deeper in the water, below our boat and below the four. As time went on, the lower group swam closer to the surface. There were at least 20 or more in the group. The lower group never really got close enough to for us to see them clearly, but they were the same size and shape as our bow-playing dolphins. We decided that the four beat up ones were the bold scouts and they were protecting the pod by offering themselves to whatever was on the surface. We waited for the pod to need to breathe, but they had good lung capacities and we didn't catch them near the surface. After a while, all of the dolphins were gone.
My second thought is a project for the internet inclined. The girls and I went on an all-day tour of Litchfield Park. We cravenly left Geoff to sweat out diesel repairs. Our guide, Louise, loved to talk and tell stories. One of the things she was telling us was about a popular Australian pop? group that was commissioned to write a song to promote tourism. I think the group's name was something like the weird scared boys, but what someone should look up for me is the song itself, "Come to Australia, You Might Accidentally Get Killed." In the song the guys run through a list of creatures and events that could be fatal. Hhmmm, incentive to visit? The reason I was thinking about the song today was because I was hot and was eyeing the almost-flat calm waters for a dip. I was considering lowering the swim ladder and dragging alongside the boat. What stopped me was the thought of box jellies. Toxic little beasties that were all over the Top End. I wonder if they get out into deep water. I may have an update for you if it remains hot and non-windy.
Date: December 15, 2007
Location: 12º 27' S 130º 49' E at 1200
Today we left Darwin and are now heading to Indonesia. Plan A has us going to Rinca to see the Komodo dragons and then on to Bali. Plan B has us stopping before Rinca to get more fuel, and then going to Rinca and then on to Bali. There is little wind except when a squall comes through. I've spent over a year trying my best to avoid squalls. It feels a little strange for me to be getting excited - in a good way - at the possible approach of a squall. I still, however, don't like lots and lots of wind. I prefer a modest squall.
Our leaving today was fairly unexciting. First we had the last minute call to the credit card company to tell them that yes, that was indeed us in Australia charging large amounts to diesel mechanics. As long as we had them on the the line we reminded them that we would be in Indonesia next. Then, at the fuel dock, we had to fuel in a hurry because a big charter cat, one of those large, motor-driven, ferry-like things, needed to come into the unobstructed, open space we thought looked perfect for fueling too. We finished fueling and moved down the dock and tied up to a fishing boat. Why didn't we just leave? Because we had the last minute hunt for the diesel mechanic to bring out a cap for our cooling tank. We never did find the mechanic we were looking for, but Geoff found his partner buying prawns on a fishing boat near the fuel dock and we got our missing part. The first mechanic is possibly in hot water because neither his father (the owner of the shop) nor anyone at the shop could reach him. All anyone knows is that he was at a party last night. We figure he'll wake up and remember that he was supposed to work on Saturday, turn on his cell phone and find all our messages sounding increasingly more frustrated and less understanding.
But all in all we had a good time in the Northern territory. Everyone was extremely friendly and helpful. Aussie Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi!