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Mico Verde

 

Belitung to Singapore
October 15 - 19, 2007

(Steph) The next six days we steadily made our way towards Singapore. From Belitung we motored for two nights and three days (we only had enough wind to sail for one hour the whole time). We stopped at the island of Kentar, just after we'd crossed the equator back into the northern hemisphere. It was a pretty stop, but we didn't get off the boat.

 

The next day we did about 25 miles further and anchored off of Mesanak island before lunch. There was a bit of a breeze from the NW (on the nose, of course) so we thought we were being smart by anchoring on the south side of the island to get a little shelter from the wind. Around 1400, a huge rain squall moved through. We got out in the rain and took showers. Drying out back in the cabin, a HUGE swell started moving in from the SE, about the only direction from which we weren't protected. Woj made a call out on VHF to see if he could pick up anyone, and amazingly a yacht called Amoenitas came back. They were out in the squall that had created this swell, and were currently motoring into 44-knot headwinds. We never saw the wind, but the swell made the anchorage untenable.

We looked at the chart, and amazingly there was an anchorage only a mile away that looked well protected from the swell. We motored into the swell and dropped the hook behind a small island off of Mesanak. Amoenitas had made it there just before us and were happy for a rest. We ended up buddy boating with them the rest of the way to the Singapore Strait.

The next day we made about 30 miles to Bintan. We anchored off of a navy wharf, which we usually would avoid. But they didn't seem to notice us. Woj was a little nervous about our fuel levels, so we put the dinghy in the water and went off in search of fuel. The navy guys turned out to be nice guys, and helped Woj fill the jerry jugs.

The next morning, we headed to the north coast of Batam, the last island in Indonesia before Singapore! We could actually see Singapore across the strait which was absolutely filled with tankers, freighters, and other giant, boat-killing vessels. We anchored off a small island and spent the rest of the day enjoying our last Indonesian nasi goreng and cold beers with the crew of Amoenitas.

 

October 19: crossing the Singapore Strait! We were both pretty nervous, but in the end it wasn't so bad. We stayed out of the shipping lanes and made some miles west, following the coast of Batam. When we reached the narrowest part of the shipping lanes, at which point they were only two miles wide, we went for it (not before looking both ways, of course).

We didn't have to do very much dodging of giant vessels, and before we knew it we were on the other side of the shipping lanes. Piece of cake! The worst part was the anchorages designated for all the ships. We would think one was at anchor and then all of a sudden we'd realize he was actually moving, or pulling up the anchor right as we were passing by within 100 meters. Around 1400 we pulled into Raffles Marina, relieved, tired, happy, and ready for a cold beer. Hello, Singapore!

 

Indonesia Overview

Indonesia is an extremely diverse country with 240 million people spread out over 13,000 islands. No matter what religion -- Muslim, Christian, or Hindu -- we encountered, everyone was warm and welcoming, and delighted that we were there to visit. With the Bali bombings of 2002 and 2005, and the "do not visit" recommendations of several countries' governments, Indonesia has earned a bit of a reputation as being a country full of bin Ladens. But we can't encourage you enough to come to Indonesia and see it for yourself. By yacht, we saw so much of the country that most people miss by only visiting Bali or Java; every place we went had something of merit, and was unique.

While we were there, the BBC announced that the Indonesian government had borrowed 1 billion dollars from Russia that would go towards defense. We saw a lot of other things that could benefit from that billion dollars. The poverty of the islands, especially those furthest from Java, is pretty stark. Public sanitation (except in the biggest cities) and municipal water are non-existent. Many people live in rudimentary shacks, and subsist on the vegetables in their gardens and the few fish left in the empty sea. Children are lucky if they can afford school, and the schools that are there don't seem to offer much. Mention the word "Internet" and you receive uninterested stares. Previous cruisers have taught many of the coastal communities that yachts are full of goodies and ready to give away clothes, books, food and more, so a lot of people expected us to give them hand-outs, too. But with a little encouragement, they learned that we'd rather trade than treat them as charity cases, so I hope that cruisers that come after us can keep up that ethic.

The sailing in Indonesia was different than we've ever experienced; we put more hours on the engine in three months than we had in three years. SE tradewinds allegedly existed, but we rarely saw them unless we were 15-20 miles offshore. Closer to shore, where we spent most of our time, was marked by extremely predictable wind patterns. A light offshore breeze would come up in the morning and stick around until 1000 or so, when it died down to nothing. In the afternoon, around 1500, an onshore breeze would come up. The wind was so light that we carried our 150% drifter the entire time, and were thrilled when it would stay inflated. But when we did get a little wind, it was a delight to sail -- very little swell meant for some of the most idyllic downwind runs we've ever had.

Before we left Darwin, we were feeling pretty burned out and considered stopping our cruise there. But Indonesia held enough promise that we decided to give it a chance, and we're glad we did. It's a place of beautiful reefs, stunning volcanic scenery, calm seas and lovely people. We only made a dent in all there is to see there, and we already have a list of places to see when we go back some other day.

Belitung
October 11 - 13, 2007

(Steph) The next morning we went ashore, having made contact with a guy named Marwan who said he'd help us make arrangements to check out. We saw some friends who had checked out the previous day. Cruisers being cruisers, they were eager to tell us how long and tedious the check out process had been and expressed doubt that we'd be able to check out so close to the Ramadan holiday. Did we ever mention how much we enjoy that type of cruiser? Anyway, Marwan introduced us to his assistant Mr. Beno and a translator, Miss Krishna. They drove us all over town, visiting customs, immigration, a place to make copies of all our paperwork and finally, the harbor master. We were officially checked out and it was only noon! It couldn't have been easier.

Beno and Krishna were eager to stay away from their office jobs for the rest of the afternoon, so they offered to take us on a tour of the island. We visited the northern beaches of Belitung that are dotted with huge granite boulders. They really are breathtaking, but unfortunately we didn't have our camera with us. They took us to a restaurant with a view to the sea. Beno couldn't eat or drink due to Ramadan, but Krishna took us up on our offer of lunch because she was menstruating. We accepted that information with grace and had a lovely meal.

The next day we took on fuel and took a walk through the city at Pandan. This was the first place we'd been in all of Indonesia that felt really ... well, Chinese. First of all, apparently a huge proportion of the people who live on Belitung are of Chinese decent. And the market looked a lot like markets you see on TV. It was pretty filthy and was extremely hard to move through. Packed with people, we could only move with the prevailing current. We also stood one or two heads above everyone else. I've never felt so claustrophobic before in my life! Woj found the case of beer he was looking for and we hightailed it back to Mico.

Karimun Jawa to Belitung
October 8-10, 2007

(Steph) We were ready to hightail it to Singapore. But we still had about 500 miles to cover, and the "transitional" season had started up. October is a period of pretty unsettled weather between the dry and wet seasons, bringing a lot of squalls that feature lightning, thunder, strong winds and lots of rain. I was particularly eager to avoid as much of this weather as we could -- a lightning strike could fry all our electrical equipment, which would mean a loss of our GPS and electronic charts. Woj tried to placate me by reminding me we could always use celestial navigation. That may be true, but considering the last time we took a sun sight was probably before we crossed the equator the first time, that didn't calm me much.

Next stop was Belitung, where we hoped to check out before the end of Ramadan when the immigration, customs and harbor offices would close down for about five days of holiday. Our first day out was a nice, downwind sail until about 0200 on the second day. The wind died down and we started up the motor, which became virtually the only way we could move ourselves through the water for the rest of our time in Indonesia.

I relieved Woj at 0400 the second day. About 15 minutes after he had fallen asleep, the power went out. All the power. This had been a recurring problem for a while, and we thought we had solved the issue. Obviously not. This meant our autopilot was down, and we had no GPS, among all the other inconvenient things like no lights or refrigeration. Woj had to pull out all his wiring equipment and go at it for about an hour and a half until he finally came up with a bandaid for the system. We hoped it would last till Belitung. Before he resumed his pleasant dreams off watch, I pointed out a huge bank of dark clouds that had made themselves apparent at sunrise. They covered half of the horizon, and it soon became clear that they were definitely coming our way and it was not just a 20-minute squall line.

Around 0730 the rain came. Around 0800 the lightning and thunder started. The wind came with it, too, but never got to more than 15 knots so that was somewhat of a relief. As Woj was changing into his foulies, I managed to slam his right thumb into the turtle hatch, probably shattering the bone at the tip of the finger. He howled in pain for a long time and while I was concerned for him and very apologetic, I was also afraid we would be struck by one of the lightning bolts coming down around us. He made me feel better by telling me he'd probably have to get his thumb amputated when we reached Belitung. Eventually the worst of the storm moved away from us, but it rained steadily until about 1500.

We arrived at Belitung the next morning, and proceeded up the western channel to Teluk Pandan, the main port. Yachts don't usually stop in Pandan as it's fairly industrial, but we wanted to be close to the harbor master in order to check out promptly. The harbor is actually the mouth of a river, so as usual it's got moving sand banks and some really shallow spots. A squall blew over as we were trying to follow in the channel markers, but we managed to see them well enough to keep going. At one point, the bottom got shallower and shallower until we realized we had just touched bottom! As far as we could tell we were still in the channel, but we were clearly sitting on sand. We hobby-horsed off the bottom, and with a touch of embarrassment we called in to any other yachts that were already in the anchorage. Luckily, we had a few call back who gave us some waypoints that got us safely into the harbor.

Pandan is mostly fishing boats with a dredge or two thrown in. It was extremely calm and was a nice place to rest after three days at sea.

Karimun Jawa
October 4-7, 2007

(Steph) We arrived in Karimun Jawa in the morning, happy to see there were only about 15 boats there despite the fact that it was an official rally destination. Many of the boats in the fleet had instead gone to the Kumai River on the island of Borneo to hang out with orangutans. We had considered that option but were really ready to be in Singapore at this point, so decided to bag Borneo and go back via airplane some other day.

Karimun Jawa is a sleepy island that is part of a marine sanctuary. It was different from any other of the communities we'd encountered, in that the island is relatively small and has a small population as a result. There was not busy, bustling villages spread throughout the island. Just the main village that was very well planned and organized, and was extremely quiet at any time of day. KJ is close to the continental shelf of Asia, so the fishing is much better here than in other parts of Indonesia (have we mentioned that even the most avid fishermen in the fleet were catching no fish throughout all of Indonesia? We have one friend that caught a few, and no one can figure out what magic mojo he used). The fishing is so good here that they actually export what they catch. We got to taste some of the local mahi mahi and a few other big pelagic fish while we were there.

We hadn't expected any rally events, but they had managed to pull together a tour of the island and a gala dinner. The tour was quaint -- first they showed us a cashew tree, then a jompu fruit tree, and then a mango tree. After that, they gave us lunch and took us out to a small private island to snorkel.

 

It still being Ramadan, there weren't many restaurants to visit during the day, but we did manage to find a place run by one of the few non-Muslims on the island. This woman probably made a killing in the week or so the rally boats were there. We found cold drinks and some really good food -- she would ask how many people were eating and would just bring out course after course of excellent food. After a few cold drinks, spicy jackfruit soup, a bunch of prawn sates, fried chicken and some fresh mango we'd pony up our $3 and walk out fat and happy.

One of the cruisers organized a day for a few of us to go talk to a school. He didn't get many volunteers, so Woj decided to help out. I went along to take pictures. A few of our crowd got up and talked about where we're from (geography), abalone shells (biology) and exercise (PE). Woj got up to talk and was quickly waylaid by our translator, and ended up talking about the fishladder at the Hiram M. Chittenden lock in Seattle. We had managed to get the kids right before they started a week-long vacation for the end of Ramadan, so they were pretty fidgety. It also didn't help that the concept of a fish ladder was probably completely incomprehensible to them. Finally, one of the cruisers pulled out some balloons and held a contest for who could blow the biggest balloon. That's really the way to go, in the end. Balloons mean FUN in any language.

Bali to Karimun Jawa
September 29 - October 4, 2007

(Steph) We left Bali in the afternoon with the intention of doing two overnights to the island of Bawean. We didn't have much wind, but boy did we have some swell! The wind eventually came up, reaching about 20 knots. The swell came from all directions and was pretty huge, and very uncomfortable. Apparently it was influenced by the full moon. Both of us were seasick for the first time in many months.

In the morning, though, we finally passed through to the Java Sea where we had a lovely day of light downwind sailing. It was one of those magical days that don't happen often enough. Flat seas, a good wind angle, a decent speed, light traffic ... We caught up on reading and just enjoyed the sail.

We reached the island of Bawean the next morning. We had planned to anchor on the SE side of the island, but as we started entering we noticed that the chart didn't match up with what we were seeing at all. We knew there were a lot of very shallow patches of sand around, and not wanting to risk going aground, we proceeded on to the north side of the island. We anchored there for a rest of a few days, never venturing off the boat.

We departed Bawean for Karimun Jawa and had a nice day of sailing. In the late afternoon the wind went right behind us which was a bit frustrating because we historically haven't sailed dead downwind very well. But we decided to try taking down the jib and sail only using the main. It worked brilliantly! In three years of cruising, we'd never tried this technique. We were making 6 knots in 15 knots of wind with only the main. The one downside was that the swell was pretty big so we rolled around quite a lot. But the consolation was that other boats out there with us were just as uncomfortable in the swell as we were. 

During the night on Woj's watch, he spotted what looked like a container ship that had changed course and was coming towards us. He hailed them on the VHF, and they responded back. It turned out it was an Indonesian warship. They quizzed Woj on all our details, our last port, our current destination, and more. We usually try to stay under the radar of the local military. Oh well, all was to their satisfaction this time!

Kuta Beach and Ubud, Bali
September 26 - 27, 2007

(Steph) We hired a driver with our friends from Billabong and Island Sonata and drove down to the southern end of the island. We spent the day sightseeing: we stopped at a waterfall, a Hindu temple on a lake in the highlands of the island, the botanical gardens and a Hindu temple carved into a rock off the coast.

Kuta beach is a legendary surfer beach and is a huge tourist destination. It's also the location of the Bali bombings in 2002 and 2005. Apparently the tourist industry is still struggling, and you can find hotel rooms for a song. We got a loft room at the Hard Rock Hotel, and enjoyed the huge pool before heading out for a night of dinner at McDonald's (yep, we're high rollers) and shopping. We finally bought Woj some decent clothes, as almost everything he owns has been worn down to rags.

The next morning I got up for a walk on the beach and in search of Krispy Kreme donuts. We had seen a group of Japanese tourists with a box of a dozen donuts the night before, so we knew they could be found somewhere in Bali! I gave up and headed back to the hotel, just in time to run into Chris from Billabong, who was out in search of same. I wished him good luck. A few minutes later I ran into John from Island Sonata, also in search of same. I told him which direction Chris had taken so they wouldn't duplicate efforts. Eventually Chris found the KK, so we piled in the car and headed there for two dozen before starting our trip back north.

 

We stopped in a town called Ubud, famed for its artisans. Another few hours of shopping and we were about ready to keel over. Woj and I bought a few small shadow puppets from one woman. After going through the usual bargaining motions, we finally came to a price we agreed on. When I handed over the money, she proceeded to walk around the shop and touch the money to several items of merchandise. I assume it was for good fortune. I also managed to find the perfect straw hat. I'd been looking for one for over a month, since my last one blew off my head and went overboard.

Laden with a few more souvenirs, we piled back into the car for the last few miles back to Lovina. Our driver stopped at a temple, thinking we'd like to visit it, but upon seeing we'd have to climb a bunch of steps to reach it, we declined. We felt only a little guilty.

Lovina Beach, Bali
September 20 - 25, 2007

(Steph) Lovina Beach is a quiet area on the north coast of Bali. The entire island could be called a tourist destination, with resorts ensconced over the entire island, and colorful, flower-adorned Hindu temples and shrines decorating every square inch. Lovina is a sleepy community with a few small hotels, restaurants and shops. It was a great place to unwind. We enjoyed sampling the local fare, visiting swimming pools, bargaining with shopkeepers for mementos, catching up with friends, and ticking off a few boat projects.

On my first full day I signed up for a spa day -- a full body massage, exfoliating scrub, and facial. I've said hundreds of times, upon entering an anchorage, that I want a massage, yet I never get one. In Bali, it would be a crime not to get one. They're reasonably priced and the masseurs at the spas are trained well. It was an amazing, relaxing morning. We met up with our friends from Moose, whom we hadn't seen since Kupang, and had a great lunch with them. Woj and Duncan spent the rest of the afternoon matching each other beer for beer, while Irene and I did a little shopping. My spa experience was so good that I talked Woj into going for a massage the next day. It was his first massage ever, and to have it in a setting like Bali -- what a treat.

Balinese food doesn't resemble the cuisine we'd encountered yet in Indonesia -- it is far more sophisticated and varied, and was really a wonderful thing to discover. We didn't prepare one meal on board Mico the entire time we were there; we felt like we were missing an opportunity every time we considered preparing our own meal! I took a cooking class with my friend KT, and I'm looking forward to preparing some items from our menu. Unfortunately, I need either a food processor or a huge stone mortar and pestle, so there won't be any Balinese feasts onboard Mico. But I'll be keeping our class materials with me to prepare someday when I have a full kitchen at my disposal.

While I was in cooking class, Woj took a tour with Duncan and Irene to see some of the Hindu temples scattered around the island. It would be very difficult to see them all, as there are hundreds. But just a few were definitely worth their while.

The rally dinner and show was held on the beach in front of the anchorage. It was extremely professional with amazing dancing and wonderful food. Unfortunately, it was pretty much open to the public so most of us cruisers were outnumbered by locals and other tourists that crashed the event. We eventually gave up trying to enjoy the show and met some friends at a bar for a few drinks.

Lombok to Lovina Beach, Bali
September 19 - 20, 2007

 

(Steph) We left Lombok at sunrise, around 0600. Our plan was to make a run across the Lombok strait, the most notorious strait we would encounter throughout Indonesia. Ripping currents and strong winds are a regular feature. We timed it so we'd get a northbound current, giving us an extra push to make it as far north on Bali as we could get that day. We'd anchor for the night anywhere we could find on the coast, and then make up the rest of the miles to Lovina on the 20th.

 

It didn't take long for the wind to come up. We had the full main and the yankee up, but we decided to put in a reef pretty soon. Woj asked me if I thought we should put in one or two reefs. I decided on one, because sometimes I feel like we're a little undercanvased (ahem). Well, of course, on this particular day, two reefs would have been a very good idea. We eventually did put in the second reef. Winds reached up to 25 knots and were on the beam the whole way. The current helped, too. We had covered 25 miles before 1030!

 

But as soon as we reached the west side of the Lombok strait and started heading north off the coast of Bali, the wind died and we had a knot of current against us. It was a slow progression the rest of the day. We ended up dropping the hook just off the NE coast of Bali around 1730 that afternoon. Locals approached and at first we were a bit leary -- we weren't in the mood to deal with people asking us for things. Two young men were extremely friendly and spoke English well. They asked us where we were from, and one of them said, "Welcome to Bali!" When he said that, it really sank in -- we had sailed to BALI! Amazing. Who would have thought we'd come this far?

 

The anchorage was pretty exposed and very rolly. We woke early and motored the remaining 15 miles to Lovina Beach, the anchorage designated as the Bali rally stop. We put the boat away and headed to shore in the afternoon. Thus began eight days of rest and relaxation!

 

(wojo) For most boats the 80 miles from Lombok to the rally anchorage in the N of Bai is a challenge in the light winds. If anyone wants the lat/lon of our stop drop me an email.

Singapore
November 27, 2007

(Wojo) We've had tons of response from our loyal readers about the videos from Indonesia. So much so that we exceeded our maximum bandwidth on the site on the 15th of the month (we should have used YouTube)!

Here's a compile of all the videos if you might have missed 'em!!

Sumbawa to Lombok
September 12 - 19, 2007

(Steph) The next five days were a series of day hops, just trying to get us to the western edge of Lombok island where we could relax for a few days, anchored off a resort. We motorsailed most of the time, as was typical, with a little bit of wind to sail in between Sumbawa and Lombok. I've listed each place we stopped in case anyone cruising Indonesia in the future is interested, but most of these places were just a place to sleep at night.

Day 1: Motorsailed to Kilo, on the N coast of Sumbawa. A ton of kids came up to the boat asking for books. We handed out pencils and a few picture books we could spare. They gave us back a bag of fruit they call jompu. We didn't like it that much, but it was the thought that counted. One of the few places in Indonesia where locals traded with us. The anchorage was very calm with no swell.

Day 2: Motorsailed to Kananga, on the N coast of Sumbawa. We wanted to try to get the mooring ball that was off of Pulau Satonda, an island just a mile or so north of Kananga because it was reported to be much more protected than Kananga. It was too deep for us to anchor there. Unfortunately, faster boats made it there first so we didn't get the mooring we'd hoped for. We settled on Kananga which was okay -- a bit rolly but not the worst we've experienced.

Day 3: Motorsailed a quick 25 miles to Gili Medang, just north of Sumbawa and east of the strait between the islands of Sumbawa and Lomboc. A great spot -- we arrived before lunch and had the place to ourselves for a few hours. Turquoise water, snorkeling all around, shelter from weather and swell, and quiet locals. Some locals came out and dropped some buoys around the reefs. At first we though they were netting fish, which always bothers us. But when we went snorkeling, we found that they had dropped the buoys to mark the reefs for us. We like to think they are doing their own part to conserve the reef from yachties and their big anchors. The reef was not very healthy with very little living coral, but we did see a few different types of fish we've never seen before, including TWO lion fish!

(wojo) One of the memes among many of the new Aussie cruisers I noticed was the fact that given a choice between a slightly deep sand spot to anchor versus a shallow spot right on top of the live coral they always chose to anchor on live coral. I would even here them on the VHF complaining to their friends again and again that they'd fouled their anchor and would have to depart later.

Medang was actually one of my favorite, albeit brief, stops in Indo. For a short time we had it all to ourselves until a flotilla of Aussie yachts came in and anchored as close as physically possible given the rules of the universe to us. I'd even deliberately parked us with only a foot of water under the keel thinking that at least the monohulls would need to find another spot in the ample bay which was nearly one mile wide. In the end the first Aussie monohull nearly went aground as they tried to put their hook down right in front of us. (Now back to Steph ...)

Day 4: Had a pretty good sail most of the day, owing to the wind and current ripping through the strait between Sumbawa and Lombok. Gili Lawang is a small island just NE of Lombok, right next to the strait. Our original plan was to gunkhole a bit further west off the coast of Lombok so we'd have a shorter hop the next day, but the NE swell was huge and we quickly scrapped that plan. Racing against 5 other yachts, we aimed for the tight anchorage inside the reef of Gili Lawang. Other yachts passed it by, thinking it looked a little too tight, but our friends Billabong and Island Sonata were anchored there and assured us there was room. We were happy to see our friends whom we hadn't met up with since Kupang, over a month before. We pulled in, dropped the hook, decided the reef about 10 feet off the stern was far enough, and met up with our friends for ice-blended daquiris. What an unexpected treat!

(Wojo) I can echo Steph's sentiment about Lawang. I had made a bad call earlier in the day in thinking we'd just be able to find a rolly spot for the night before heading out again but it was completely untenable. When we finally decided to back track to head to Lawang in the strait my heart sunk when I saw two cats and a monohull trying to race us in ... Being inexperienced cruisers however they managed to psych themselves out completely in attempting a short reef pass into the lagoon. One of the best nights sleep we'd had in a week's time!

Day 5: Motored into light headwinds, finally reaching our destination on NW Lombok. None of us know what the name of the bay is called, but it's just east of Teluk Kombal. Our friends on Moose had recommended the bay as being very calm and protected, and home to a welcoming resort and friendly and helpful locals. All of the above was true -- our first day there about five boats anchored. By our fourth day, there were about 45 boats anchored. Good news travels quickly in the fleet!

We spent a few days luxuriating in the pool and eating good meals and cold beer off the boat. I went with friends into Mataram, the main city, which was pretty uneventful. It was during Ramadhan, in which Muslims don't eat or drink during the daylight hours, so most restaurants were closed. The KFC was the only place we found open, and they were only serving food to go. We had to get our food and then eat it standing up outside the restaurant, all the while feeling guilty that everyone else around us couldn't eat! The highlight of the trip was a drive through a forest that is home to a ton of troops of macaques. We pulled over and had a good time giving out peanuts to the monkeys. I had a granola bar that one monkey jumped up and stole right out of my hand -- I guess I wasn't distributing the treats fast enough! Woj rented a scooter with our friend Chris the next day, and they spent a few hours getting up close and personal with the monkeys.

 

Bima, Sumbawa Island
September 11, 2007

(Steph) Bima was our first rally stop since Lembata. We hadn't planned to attend the rally events, but we did want to connect with the rally organizers to hand over our visas to get an extension. Unfortunately, it took three days to process all our paperwork, so we weren't going anywhere. But as usual, we made the best of it, and ended up having a great time.

Bima Ben Hur

Our first day we made it into the city with the favored local transportation, a Ben Hur. A Ben Hur is exactly what it sounds like -- a cart that is pulled by a horse. They aren't as magnificent as the chariots in the film they're named for, but they're still a fun way to get around. We were dropped off at the local fruit and vegetable market and plunged right in. Immediately, the town crazy lady attached herself to us. She was yelling and singing loudly, and followed us around. A number of people approached us and tried to communicate to us that she was nutso by drawing their forefinger across their foreheads. I finally turned around to her and said sternly, "Pergi-la!" This means "Go away!" We learned that phrase in case we ever needed to ask anyone to leave the boat, but so far hadn't needed it. She finally left us alone and we quickly finished up the rest of our shopping. The Bima market was one of the more hectic markets we'd been in, and somehow I kept leading us through the fish area, which is never a pleasing olfactory experience.

The next day, Woj and I split up. I went into town with some friends. Woj's birthday was the next day, so I wanted to find him a birthday present. My idea was to buy a new digital camera. I shopped around town and eventually found one store that had a selection of three cameras. I bought the one that had the best description of its features -- actually trying out the camera would have been out of the question. I ended up with an Olympus. While I was shopping, Woj was approached by a man and his son on a motorcycle. The man introduced himself as Iksan. He was an English teacher at the local business school, and asked Woj if he would come talk to his class the next day. He and his son also invited him home with them, so Woj hopped on the back of the motorcyle and zoomed off to his home. His wife runs a little convenience store, and they live in a pretty big apartment over the top of the store. They have a pet monkey that played with Woj for a bit.

Iksan and his family at their shop

The next day, on Woj's birthday, with new camera in hand, we made our way to the school. We were early for our session, so Iksan and a colleague gave Woj and I a ride to his house so I could meet the monkey. We learned quickly that the monkey does not take to females -- she reached out to take my finger and then tried to jam it into her mouth and take a big bite. She also tried to jump at me with a wild scream, but being on a leash, she stopped just short of scratching out my eyes. After that, I was happy to just observe her from afar while she ate a piece of bread. A duck waddled over to her and she fed the duck some of her bread -- Iksan told us that they were friends. We were then taken to the regent's palace, where he keeps deer in a pen. The guards there were happy to show us the deer. It was funny and weird to see these guys with machine guns slung over their shoulders lovingly petting the deer.

Iksan's fearsome little monkey deep in thought  ...

Everyone loves a petting zoo!

We returned to the school for Woj to do his thing. I was under the impression that I would just watch and take pictures of Woj talking to the class, but I was immediately recruited to also talk. In the end, we were each shuttled to about three classes each, to talk and answer questions for about 10 minutes. I talked very high level about our travels on the boat, and about the work I used to do. The questions I was asked were what my hobbies were, my age, what kind of music I liked, and whether I had children (which, when the answer was inevitably no, the person who asked would always apologize -- were they sorry they asked because it was embarrassing or painful for me that I didn't have children? Or were they giving me a sympathy apology, like "I'm sorry you don't have children; what a waste your life must be ..."). Woj got questions like "How can we make Bima an international cultural destination?" Funnily enough, the gender ratio at the school was about four girls to every one boy, yet it didn't occur to any of the students that I might have some ideas about how to boost tourism.

    

 

Having fun with the kids at Iksan's Business School in Bima

That night we attended the gala dinner with the rest of the rally. We were transported to the regent's palace via Ben Hurs. Having consumed a few Bintangs (local beer) before dinner, Woj got the idea that because it was his birthday, he should be allowed to "drive" the Ben Hur. He climbed up on the driver's seat where the guy happily handed over the reigns. I'm not sure why, but I wasn't in his Ben Hur, so he took off running with a bunch of other cruisers in the back, screaming all the way. It became a one-man race as he got the horse really galloping through the streets, dodging cars and trucks, and making wrong turns.

The poor horse was frothing at the mouth by the time they all arrived at the palace. The dinner was good, and the entertainment was very professional with some interesting dancing and singing we hadn't seen before. As we filed out of the palace to head back to the harbor, the Ben Hur driver who had let Woj drive before came looking for him. He had enjoyed the experience of the big white guy driving his horse so much that he wanted to do it again! This time I got in the cart (probably because no one else would dare), as did our friends Chris and K.T. Woj insisted Chris try driving, so Chris took us back to the harbor. The poor horse probably died in his stable that night.

(Wojo) A birthday blasting through downtown Bima half in the bag in a chariot with five screaming seniors in the back - priceless.

Singapore
November 19, 2007

I couldn't resist taking a little time out from our Indonesian updates to remind you all that things are done a little differently in Asia. While at the gym yesterday Steph and I were watching the Asia News channel between sets when we came upon the following story ... The Modern Toilet restaurant in Taiwan.

Guests are treated to dining on actual toilet seats and drinking from port-a-johns and, well you can figure out the rest from the pictures below. During the segment on the restaurant one interviewed diner was quoted as saying "...we had to come here since we have never before eaten on toilets, not even at home!"

NW Komodo Island
September 8, 2007

(Steph) We moved a few miles down the track to another reportedly good snorkeling spot. Our friends on sy Tradition pulled in behind us and we invited them over for a drink to celebrate the fact that we'd come halfway 'round the world. Some friends had told us that we had passed the halfway mark somewhere around Fiji. We don't know what formula they used, and were somewhat skeptical, but any reason for a party, eh? Roger and Julie brought over a bottle of champagne that they'd been looking for an excuse to open, so we had a lovely evening in a beautiful setting.

Mico's Komodo Island Anchorage

We had tried snorkeling that day, but couldn't find a spot that was very impressive. A lot of local fishermen were in the area, both diving for lobster and putting nets out. It's really heartbreaking to see these guys working so hard, and trying to catch anything they can from a national park. I'm sure it's illegal to net or fish there, but because there's no money, there is no one to patrol and monitor the fishing activity. One of the lobster crews tried to sell us a lobster that was only about 10" long. It was so small, I don't know who would be interested in buying it. The idea of conservation is just not a concept here -- if one guy doesn't take the lobster, another one will, so everyone might as well look out for himself!

Gili Laut, off of Komodo Island
September 5, 2007

(Note that these are a couple of shots we've shamelessly stolen from our friends on SY Blue Sky since our camera was still out of commission at this point)

          

(Steph) Our next stop took us to an anchorage off of an island just north of Komodo. Reportedly, we'd be able to snorkel with giant manta rays. As we entered the bay we could see the wingtips of a few mantas, so we dropped the hook, threw the dinghy in the water, and went off after them. While Woj manned the helm of the dinghy, I jumped in and got to follow a giant manta ray around for a minute or two before he sped off. Absolutely incredible. We looked around for more mantas before deciding they had moved on, so we went in closer to the reef and snorkeled around a bit more. We saw a good variety of clownfish guarding their families amongst anemones.

 

Our plan was to try to snorkel with mantas again the next morning and then head out in the afternoon for another stop just seven miles away. But when we heard friends from Blue Sky and Sunburn on the radio, we decided to stick around for another day with them. We ended up staying another two days, having beach bonfires and potlucks every night and enjoying some good company. On our last day, after several snorkeling sessions without catching sight of any mantas, we were both determined to find one. I manned the helm and stood up in the dinghy while Woj swam around with his snorkel. When I thought I saw one, I sent Woj off through the water in that general direction. I was right! He swam around with one that got spooked and darted away. But just a few minutes later, I thought I could see another large, dark object approaching in the water. I directed Woj towards it, hoping it wasn't some giant tiger shark. Lucky for him it was another manta. He approached it head-on, looking deep into its giant mouth. It swam around languidly, watching Woj curiously, so Woj got a long look at this guy.

Rinca Island, Komodos Group
August 26 - September 1, 2007

Bonus!!! Here's a link to a video we shot while on the island ...

(Steph) Three islands make up the official Komodo National Park, one of which is Rinca. We had been told that Rinca was the island with the best opportunity to see Komodo dragons, and were recommended a tour led by the park officers. Locals on Flores had also recommended Rinca, because the dragons on Komodo are "lazy." I guess we liked the idea of a non-lazy dragon or two, although after seeing the size of these things, lazy may not be so bad!

We timed our departure from Bajo with the currents that had reportedly been wreaking havoc on the boats ahead of us. We heard stories about boats getting spun 180 degrees in eddies, and having to drop anchor in the middle of a channel to avoid getting swept backwards while a 10-knot counter current finished its run. Woj figured out the currents pretty well, so we had no trouble catching a favorable current when we needed it, or making a transit at slack. We made it to Rinca by the early afternoon and were able to join some friends for a sunset tour of the island ...

READ MORE!

Labuan Bajo, Flores Island
August 26 - September 1, 2007

(Steph) The next day we decided to try to make a long day hop all the way to Labuan Bajo. We were still ahead of the rally, but had enough boats in company with us every day that we were eager to make a few more miles and maybe get ahead of them, too. An uneventful day of motorsailing saw us into the harbor at Labuan Bajo where we dropped the hook in the late afternoon. It's a very protected anchorage from almost all directions, and was very calm. The two downsides are that Bajo has a bit of a reputation for thievery, and that we had to share the anchorage with many moorings that are used by the SCUBA diving charter fleet. Most of the fleet are really gorgeous, traditional-looking Dutch ships. But they are big and being on moorings, they don't swing like those of us on a hook. When the current shifted, we sometimes found ourselves swinging uncomfortably close to a few of these guys ...

READ MORE!

Teluk Reo, Flores Island
August 25, 2007

(Steph) We left Riung intending to do three day hops to reach Labuan Bajo, the western-most stop on Flores where we'd jump off to explore the Komodo islands. Our first stop was going to be a calm anchorage called Lingeh, tucked up behind a reef. Flores is a really long island from east to west, and there aren't that many great anchorages there -- most of them are pretty exposed to swell from the north or east, so we thought the reef at Lingeh might give us a little protection. But we had been sent a text message from friends who had stopped there a few days previously: "Were visited from over-curious locals. NOT COOL." So we were expecting a bit more of the same hello-mister, seven-kids-to-a-canoe, five-canoes-hovering-while-you-try-to-drop-the-anchor kind of place that we'd encountered in many other anchorages ...

READ MORE!

Riung, Flores Island, Indonesia
August 23, 2007

Bonus!!! Here's some video we shot while trekking in Riung.

Our guides Yadron and Si-mon

Owner of their religion, town and Kopi plantation Mr. Yusef

Mysterious village high in the hills on the North side of Flores island

(Steph) We anchored at Riung, a lovely village that is surrounded by a lot of small islands and reef, making it very comfortable away from swell and with good snorkeling to boot! We pulled in with a few other boats, and we all got together that first night for a meal on shore, the first restaurant Woj and I had visited since Lembata. Riung has a nice floating dock for tying up dinghies, which was a first for us in Indonesia. Upon arriving at the dock, we were greeted by enthusiastic teenagers, which is pretty standard in most places we've been. But the kids here must have a good English teacher, because they immediately sparked up conversations with us about where we're from, what are our names, where else in Indonesia have we visited, and on and on. What a refreshing change from the constant cries of "Hello mister!" that had started to grate on our nerves. The kids accompanied us to the restaurant and then said goodbye for the night. Our meal was pretty standard fare, which consisted of very peppery (as in ground white pepper) chicken soup, fried chicken, sauteed greens, and chow mein (or as they call it mie goreng). With the exception of the restaurant we frequented three times in Kupang, we've found that most restaurants serve the same dishes. But at an average of $3.00 a person, which includes a beer, who's complaining?

READ MORE!

Pulau Besar, Indonesia
August 16, 2007

(Steph) Well, the elusive SE trades kicked up today, on the only day we've tried to go southeast. We left Gedong with a number of boats heading for the next rally destination of Maumere, on Flores Island. We had been a bit ambivalent about meeting up with the rally again so soon, but all the anchorages we could have stopped in before Maumere were extremely exposed to the 20-25 knots of SE wind that were with us most of the day. We decided to try to reach Maumere because it seemed like the only option. But upon rounding the northern point of Pulau Besar, an island 10 miles to the north of Maumere, we were met with 20 knots on the nose, confused seas, and 10 miles to go before sunset in 2.5 hours. We radioed our friends on sy Sandpiper who were a few miles ahead of us, and they reported they were making 2.5 knots under engine and reefed main, and were afraid they wouldn't make it in before dark. We decided to bag the idea of making Maumere that day, did a 180, and headed for the calm anchorage on the north side of Pulau Besar.

A reef blocks the entrance to the small bay, so you need good light to steer through it. Unfortunately, when we reached the entrance it was 16:30, and the light was terrible. Woj was very nervous about going in, especially since the one boat we recognized in the anchorage and called for any advice had confused us even more. I told Woj I would take complete responsibility, which I guess superficially made him more comfortable, and I climbed up the ratlines and managed to guide us in safely. After a long day of upwind sailing, we were happy to be in a calm anchorage.

Many boats had taken refuge there for the same reason we had and departed the next day to make the last 10 miles to Maumere, but we were quite happy with an empty anchorage. We hung out there with fewer and fewer boats until we were the last one left! Unfortunately, it blew pretty hard our entire time there, so we didn't end up snorkeling the reef. Even in a constant temperature of 90 degrees, if the wind picks up it can get chilly when you're in the water. We watched movies, read books, made pizza, and generally relaxed in our own private sanctuary during those days. We decided to skip Maumere altogether and get ahead of the rally, so we departed after three days with the intention of making day hops until we arrived in Riung, a favorite stop of 2006's rally participants.

Teluk Gedong, Flores Island, Indonesia
August 14, 2007

BONUS!!! Here's some footage we shot during out brief stay in Gedong.

     

(Steph) We left Lembata a few days ago after having been there eight days. Much too long in my opinion, but it was a nice break for Woj, who likes to tuck in snugly with a few locals and really get to know a place. Finally, we were off! We stopped for an overnight stay in Sagu Bay on Adunarra Island, where we jumped into the water for the first time since we'd arrived in Indonesia. We were happy to discover that the water was warm enough to swim in for hours. I checked out the nearby coral and reef fish, while Woj went to work on cleaning the bottom. Somewhere between Lizard Island, Australia, and here we had acquired a white, calcified, reef-like organism that covered the entire bottom of the boat. It honestly looked like a coral reef had germinated and taken root. We had definitely noticed that the boat had been moving much more slowly through the water after we left Darwin, but we attributed that to the weight of full water and fuel tanks, and three months' worth of provisions. Woj got to work with a scraper, but this was definitely a job that might have to stretch out over a few more anchorages.

 

The next morning we were off for Gedong, a bay that sounded like a nice spot for snorkeling. Having left Lembata near the end of the rally events there, we were definitely feeling the crunch of traveling in company with 50+ boats. The pressure for finding a place to anchor was on, and we don't like that, especially since we're usually one of the slower boats. But we arrived in Gedong and found a place to squeeze in -- we anchored on a very small shelf with a stern line leading to shore, and with coral bommies almost immediately behind our stern. It was a bit nerve-wracking, and we kept a close eye on the weather for the two days we spent there.

But the anchorage really was lovely -- friendly locals for whom we got up a collection of school supplies, good snorkeling right under the boat, and monkeys on the shore at sunset! All of us cruisers got together for a dinghy raft-up, in which we all took our dinghies out to the middle of the anchorage and tied ourselves to each other. Snacks and drinks were passed from dinghy to dinghy, and it was a great way to meet cruisers that we hadn't yet met. In fact, we met a couple from England who know our singlehander friend Jeanne, and who cruised with her and her late husband George in the 1990s.

 

 

Lembata, Lomblen Island (Indonesia)
August 7, 2007

Today we were awoken promptly at 0430 by the call to prayers from the local mosque. This was followed at 0600 by incredibly loud Indonesian rock music blasting from the local restaurant as they were perfecting their sound system in preparation for the rally yachts arriving today.

We had an appointment to meet with Mr. Dion (Minister of Tourism for Lembata) to pick up 100L of fuel and water. He's been extremely obliging and helpful in navigating our way around the village. After making a few phone calls he informed me that I'd need to get a few other boats to participate in my fuel run so I made an announcement on channel 16. An hour later I was picking up diesel ("solar" in Basan) on a moto-scooter at the depot. The fuelling process consists of a couple of drums of diesel fed by pipes in the wall and ladled by hand into your jerry jugs. The fuel seemed to be OK wrt cleanliness. My friend Kenta on sy Blue Moon claims that this fuel is 50% more powerful since it is industrial grade - who knows?

Water here was easy and cheap to obtain. We picked up about 25 gallons of drinking water to fill the tanks for about $5 US.

Bonus!!! Here's some video we shot and narrated while in Lembata.

Lembata, Lomblen Island (Indonesia)
August 5, 2007

After a brief sanity stop in T.G. Liang Meah for two days we arrived in Lembata (stop #3 in the rally). Coming in was not the easiest thing we've ever done (Steph claimed it to be more challenging than the Tuamotus) since we were making 10 kts in the 25 kt NW wind and had 3.5 kts of current with us. It looked quite treacherous coming in since we had to avoid a big reef and many fishing pots. The first spot we chose was too far in the center of the bay and we rocked and rolled violently 'til some friends on sy Tagora told us about a much better spot near the main wharf (at 08 22.206' 123 24.479') and they were spot on! The anchorage went from one of our worst to nearly tolerable in minutes once we pounded through the 5' swells to drop the hook again.

The next day we took a trip to the local market and were escorted by a young lady from the dept of tourism.

Kupang, Timor Island, Indonesia
July 28, 2007

Welcoming ceremony in Timor

(Steph) We aren't in a Western country anymore, Toto! As my first introduction to Asia, Kupang has not disappointed. It's a hopping city with tons of young people speeding around on mopeds, people packed like sardines into minivans called bemos (the locals' version of public transportation), and sidewalks teeming with kids (and adults, too) yelling to every pale-skinned person they see: "Hello, mister!"

Our first day we wandered around exploring, just to see the place. We kept a sharp eye out to avoid the myriad giant holes in the sidewalk that drop down 4 feet to an underground drainage system, and also looked for a decent restaurant. After an hour or so I thought the restaurant might not exist that I would trust, as most places just had a few pre-made dishes sitting in a window where I presume one takes whatever-it-is to go. But we finally happened upon a very clean, airy restaurant that looked decent. We walked inside, and through sign language managed to communicate that we wanted the waiter to choose something for us. He brought about 20 small plates to the table, each with a small portion of a different dish. I finally had to gesture to him to stop -- this might have been a sampler platter that someone at TGIFriday's might consider a Hungry Man meal, but there was no way Woj and I would be able to finish all the dishes.

We began to sample away, and soon found that most dishes were better than tolerable -- they were delicious! Several different curries, some great potato cakes, an egg omelet, a few variations of chili sauces ... we should have taken a picture, but unfortunately we were too hungry to pause for a photo. Near the end of our meal, a guy hopped off his moped and walked into the restaurant with a long pole balanced on his shoulder. On either end of the pole were tied about 15 squawking chickens. He walked through the restaurant and into the kitchen. A minute later he walked out, chicken-less. Hey, at least we knew the meat was fresh!

We ended up eating there two more times over the course of our stay in Kupang, bringing friends. We eventually figured out that we are not obligated to eat every dish brought to the table, and that we only pay for what we eat. But it was a really fun way to explore Indonesian cuisine. There was one dish in particular that we couldn't identify, and had our friends try as well. It looked like a fried elephant ear -- literally -- and was kind of chewy, with very little flavor. We saw locals using it as a way to scoop up food on their plates. None of us were big fans, but we were all really curious to know its origin. Eventually, we figured it out: it's called paru, and it's fried beef lung. Ack!

As part of the rally, we also had two days of tours scheduled. They were really wonderful tours where we got to see what village life is like in several different villages on Timor. We saw some dancing, were given several gifts of ikat, were served some incredible food, and saw some amazing natural scenery. All of it came at a high price of loooooong bus rides (8-9 hours each day) with very few bathroom breaks, but most everyone were good sports about it and agreed the tours were worth the suffering.

 

Kupang, Indonesia
July 28, 2007

Making Ikat in Timor

 

Speech from the chief of the village - note the red lips from Betel Nut

Village kids in central Timor

We are now considering ourselves to be royal Monkeys after the past two days of touring the island of Timor. Everywhere we visited we had a police escort in front of our little bus clearing all traffic and were followed by three ambulances!

Sad news from yesterday -- one of our very good friends was walking the mean streets of Kupang and broke a leg badly and had to be rushed to Aussie for an operation ... we also managed to kill our nice new digital camera coming out of the surf line in front of Teddy's so don't expect any new photos for some time -- we are starting to make some videos, however (at least 'til we kill that camera too).

Native "beehive" huts near Boti in Timor

Kupang, Indonesia
July 25, 2007

Village men at welcoming ceremony in Timor Timur

After nearly five days sailing from Darwin Mico is safely anchored in an astounding 80 feet(!) of water off Teddy's Bar in Kupang. The winds were very light and fickle as predicted so the iron genny was used in spades.

All I can is -- at least we made it out of Australia! Aussie was very good to us and everyone we met was friendly but it was really not one of our best cruising destinations. If you make it across the big pond on your own steed someday you may find that your experiences will be markedly different from ours so I won't go off on too much of a rant. The distances between cruising grounds, for coastal cruising, were pretty massive. If I did it again I'd charter from Airlie Beach to the Whitsundays for two weeks and then just sail straight from Vanuatu to Darwin.

We packed an amazing amount of work into our last two weeks in the Duckpond with the fishing fleet. One afternoon Duncan from Moose and I packed 500 liters of duty free fuel into a loaner car during the hottest part of the day. Later, I took a journey with Dick, former captain of Crusader, all over Darwin trying to get our second propane bottle filled. If you can get your gas bottles filled in Aussie you can get them filled anywhere in the world (if you need advice send me an email - I now know every trick in the book for getting this done). If you make a stop in Darwin I highly recommend contacting the lockmistress Erica and berthing in the Duckpond (not Cullen Bay which charges $250 for a two-way lock in/out).

BTW - did we mention that we took the big plunge and FINALLY HAVE REFRIGERATION onboard??!!! OMG what a difference in quality of life ... We decided to go for a drop-in unit, because several friends we know have refrigerators they've used for years that are low power and that have been reliable. We had several brands to choose from, but went with a Waeco because it fit right into the ice box, with no retrofitting required.

On the Monday before our departure we even managed to pick up our Lazy Cradle / Stack-packer from UK Sails in Sydney, BC! It only took about three months from ordering to arrive -- not bad considering our usual luck with the mail. It would have cost a fortune to ship the round battens (14' long) so we just picked up a couple of new ones at a sail loft here. It looks really good and we're happy to finally have a new cover for the mainsail.  I enjoyed using the lazy jacks on the passage over, too -- it was very easy to take down the main and it made reefing easier.

We pulled into Kupang with the last 10% of the 100 yachts that left Darwin as part of the official rally. We even managed to let 'em know we were coming by using the new Sat phone. We arrived around noon and called the rally committee to get our name on the list of yachts ready to clear customs, immigration and quarantine. There was a pretty big backup but the local officials pulled together and by the next morning nearly everyone was cleared. Our visit by the five officials was pretty smooth except that the young customs officer immediately got seasick after sticking his head in only about two lockers and I escorted him out into the cockpit to take the air. No request for 'oleh-oleh' (bribes) only briefly hit up for booze as the quarantine officer departed.

When we were finally official we hit the bar at Teddy's for some sundowners with the usual grotty-yachtie crowd. The beach in front was completely packed with at least fifty dinghies. The local lads have constructed a co-op and for about $2.50 a day they keep an eye on your dink. Can't say that they do the greatest job however. At some point some kids were merrily jumping on our tubes and blew out all our old patches - result - returning home late one night to a completely flat dink and a 1/2 mile trip to the boat (we hitched a ride with a friend and took the dink back by tow). The "beach" used for landings is also pretty nasty consisting of mostly very jagged rocks and much broken glass. There's also a tenacious shore break near low tide.

Festivities kicked off shortly after we arrived with a dinner with the mayor of Kupang held at the new mall on the other side of town. It was also our first introduction to the favorite pastime of Indonesian higher-ups -- incredibly long speeches in Basan!

 

SV Mico Verde