1995 Darwin to Ambon, Indonesia

DARWIN TO AMBON

A photo-journal of a sailing voyage from
Darwin to Ambon Island, Indonesia
19th Darwin to Ambon Yacht Race
July 1995
01 Area Chart
Above: Chart of the voyage area.
01 SV Jasmin Left: The 45 ft ketch Jasmine

Crew: Don – Owner/Skipper *
Marge – Wife *
Clark *
Sean *
Darren *
Russ Swan
John (joined later at Barba Island *

* Names have been changed due to possible privacy concerns of the individuals concerned.

Mon 10/7/95
1900 hours: Attend briefing with skipper Don at ‘The Tank’ in Darwin High School. The briefing covers the race start, finish, customs, immigration, immunisation, health risks, OTC and race communications.

Thur 13/7/95
Crew get together at DBCYC – Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht Club to clean Jasmine’s hull.

03 SV Jasmin on the polesLeft: Jasmine on the careening poles at DBYC with working party.

Fri 14/7/95
Collect duty free grog and complete customs formalities at the Darwin Sailing Club.

Sat 15/7/95
0800 hours: Meet Don at DBCYC and crew are ferried out to boat. Move out of Sadgroves Creek about 0900 hours very carefully and find HMAS Woolongong ringing a bell. Really thick fog over Darwin. Worst I’ve even seen in the harbour. It lasts right up to about 1100 hours.

1100 hours: Large number of boats still coming around from Fannie Bay. Race postponed to 1200 hours. Fog is lifting and some clear patches starting to show. Find the Indonesian warship at the other end of the start line.

06 joining the fleet 07 Mark and Gavin
Above: Coming out of Sadgroves Ck into Darwin Harbour. Sean standing at the bow. Above: Clark and Darren at the stern.
08 Darwin Wharf on foggy day 09 SV Young Endeavour
Above: The Wharf Prescint in Darwin Harbour partly shrouded in fog. Above: SV Young Endeavour being helped away from the wharf by a tug.
12 SV Sojourn 13 fleet underway
Above: SV Sojourn with its red sails. Above: Sean with big cheesy grin. Fleet is underway with140 yachts taking part including about 90 to Ambon and 50 to Bali.

1200 hours: Set MPS sail in very light airs. Have to start motor to avoid drifting into the Indon warship. Takes a long time to tack out of the harbour.

1533 hours: First position report at 1223S, 13048E. A lot of the fleet ahead of us. Many have already retired from the race and motoring in the Rally Division. Wind from NW at 10-15 kts. Steering northerly.

1830 hours: Made 11 miles in last 3 hours. Position 1212S, 13047E making 6-7 knots at times and passing several other boats as we sail.

1900 hours: Tack to port trying to get a SW heading.

1930 hours: Unable to get progress westward and find ourselves back at the 1830 hours position. Don decides to retire from race and enter Rally Division. Motor started. Set course for waypoint 5 nm – nautical miles clear of Cape Fourcroy. Seas slight. Wind approx 10-15 kts.

Sun 16/7/95
0030 hours: Position 1203S, 13025E. Have made 24 nm in a general NW direction. Bright moonlight. Have passed several more yachts who are still trying to sail rather than use the motor. Seas smooth.

0430 hours: First sighting Cape Fourcroy light using binoculars. Seas smooth. Wind about 5-10 kts. Lots of other yachts about indicated by their navigation lights. Count 13 in our area alone. Pass several and have to dodge around a couple.

1200 hours: Position 1135S, 12953E. Beautiful day getting 6 kts at times under sail. Seas slight. Winds easterly.

Mon 17/7/95
O’night: Seas remain slight. Some small swell. Beautiful sailing under ¾ moon and getting 6 kts. Clark catches a trevally on a trailing lure. He’s been trailing a lure since early yesterday. Auto pilot plays up in the early hours. Has to be turned off and start hand steering.

0900 hours: Getting around 4 kts on a beam reach. Promised south-easterlies don’t eventuate. Wind pretty fluky between north and east. Depth drops off to about 160 fathoms at the 10 degree latitude line about 12 nm from here. We are currently in 34 fathoms.

p.m. Good sailing. Wind from east at 10-15 kts. Very light spit of rain once or twice.

Tue 18/7/95
O’night: Sail all night at times averaging 7 kts. Easterlies gusting to 20 kts. Auto pilot packs it in again and put us back to manual steering. Boat hard to steer and requires concentration. Only has wheel steering and is slow to respond. All of us are over-correcting and making harder work of it than it should be. Don giving lessons as we come on watch on how best to maintain a straight course. Making excellent time. Enjoyable sailing.

a.m. Passing lots of boats whilst under sail. Start motor only to charge batteries. Making fairly good time. Hard work steering though. Taking 1/½ hours turnabouts on the wheel with 2 persons on watch at a time.
15 Dolphins

Right: Lots of dolphins seen, often in large pods.

0900 hours: Sermata Is on port beam at 30 nm. Too far away to see anything of course.

1245 hours: Position 0752S, 12922E. Babar Is to starboard. Very mountainous looking about 10 nm away. We’ll be coming back here later. Still getting good easterlies.

1400 hours: Clear the island of Sermata and Babar. Wind drops off so turn on the motor for a couple of hours.

p.m: A little sea bird decides to visit for a while. It stays within hands reach of the helmsman’s position for several hours before leaving. Don finds him dead in the dinghy up on its davits later on. Seeing the occasional school of flying fish skimming over the dark blue of the sea. Dolphins also occasionally visit and play around the bow. At night they can be picked out by their phosphorescent wake in the water. Some big ones amongst them. Still making excellent time getting 6-7 kts under sail. Auto pilot only working with lots of grinding and grating noises.
18 Little Visitor
Left: A little visitor who sits shaking and twitching. Eventually dies up in the dinghy.

2400 hours: Have been under sail for several hours. The volcanic island of Tuen is abeam. See some lights ashore. A large boat maybe a ferry of some sort on our port side heading easterly towards Tuen. They seem determined to keep their course although we legally have right of way according to the international rules. It keeps blasting its horn and flashing lights at us. We end up having to take a 360 degree evasive action.

Wed 19/7/95
0700 hours: Have been back on the motor and its surging between 1700-1800 rpm. Radio sked is due. Several boats reporting positions within 10-20 nm around us. Have achieved 40 nm since midnight averaging 5.8 kts. Wind and waves pushing us along. No headsail. Wind still around easterly. Change to sail after the radio sked and speed jumps to about 7 kts. Ambon is 155 nm NNW. Some light rain and local squalls about.

1034 hours: Spend the morning dodging a large rain squall. It passes across our front. Winds veer to NE forcing us to close reach and lay off our course more to the NW. Feeling relaxed, sun shining, seas slight, making 4.5 kts. Boat has been opened up to air it out, music tapes going, the smell of steak cooking on the stove, cold coke in hand… life’s just a bitch!

p.m: Great sailing for the rest of the day up to 2100 hours. Large squall appears as an inky black blot against the night sky. No moon and hard to see what’s happening out there in the night. Put a precautionary reef into the mainsail and set it up for a second reefing if it is required. Unfortunately there is no internal compass light and no working torches left so have to use the cabin light to steer a compass course. Squall moves around a fair bit. Thought we had outrun it by 2400 hours but it just gets bigger. Being forced on a northerly bearing by the south-easterlies gusting rather heavily. The course we want is more to the NW.

2400 hours: Gusts get worse. Seas not too bad but sloppy and making the boat pitch and yaw hard. Can’t see the sea from inside the wheelhouse. Keeping 2 man watches taking ½ hour turnabouts on the wheel again. Keeping a staggered watch system of 2 hours on, 3 hours off. Everyone tired and getting a bit irritable. Steering groove very narrow from due north to 330 deg. Have to err on the northerly side to keep up speed and prevent back-winding of sails.

Thurs 20/7/95
0500 hours: Winds abated. Now getting only about 3 to 3.5 kts. A big come down from the last few days. Steering groove still very narrow for the conditions.

0700 hours: 13 miles off course out to starboard. Unable to make any course in a westerly direction. Course to Ambon Harbour is 329 deg True. Can’t get much lower than 340 deg True. Elect to drop headsail and use motor. It takes a few moments as batteries are flat. Am a bit worried but then Don pulls out a small Honda generator. Motor finally kicks into life. Shake the reef out of the mainsail and find a top section seam has come apart. Pull mainsail down and secure it. Raise headsail and motor-sailing. Still unable to get a direct course to Ambon. Plan is to continue north and east of Ambon for the moment and see what happens later in the day.

0800 hours: All the boys have run out of smokes. Some of them rolling Lipton teabags and smoking them. You have to be desperate. Averaging about 4.5 kts in the last hour with motor off and sailing just with the headsail. Wind veering again and only getting 351 deg True but above 5 kts by 0830 hours.

1300 hours: Motor dies. Continue to try making Ambon on headsail. Achieving 5 to 6 kts but not able to get a direct approach to harbour entrance. Darren climb into engine compartment getting covered in diesel and oil. Finds the fuel filters are dirty and blocked. The reason for the surging revs now explained. Clean the filters, bleed the air from the motor and eventually get motor going again about 1500 hours. Pull down jib and put up the MPS sail which Don calls the ‘big fluffy one’. Getting 6 kts.

1630 hours: Turn into Ambon Harbour. The boys have been having quite a little party all day. Some tempers getting a little short. Harbour very misty and overcast looking. Clouds covering the hills.

20 Ambon Harbour entrance 21 The Western Side
Above: Approaching the harbour entrance to Ambon Island. Above: The western side of Ambon Harbour.

1800 hours: Cross finish line and anchor in the designated Customs quarantine area. Race Control making arrangements with Customs. The boys getting a bit impatient to get ashore. Don goes to bed and stays there. Customs eventually comes out about 1900 hours.

19 Armahusu map
Above: Ambon Island showing harbour entrance from the south.
24 the finish line 26 anchored boats
Above: The finish line opposite the Tirta Kencana restaurant. Above: Boats already anchored stern-to the shore outside the hotel and restaurant.
28 centre-north of anchorage 32 southern side of anchorage
Above: More boats to the northern side. Above: Looking to the southern end of the anchorage. Tirta Kencana restaurant centre left with green roof.

1930 hours: Clear customs. Pull up anchor and move to another spot. No moonlight and can only make out things against the back drop of the shore lights. Shore is steep-to being about 70 ft deep just 100m offshore. It then drops to around 150 ft then another 50m or so further out. Most boats have dropped anchor in 15 to 25ft water and run a mooring line from stern to shore. Very strong tidal current about 2 kts and a fairly large tidal range has to be considered. Boats everywhere. Unable to find a spot between boats and a bit off-putting groping around in the dark. Drop anchor in 46ft water and try to run a line to a large catamaran tied to shore. This is unsuccessful so instead set a very heavy Danforth stern anchor out.

p.m. It seems like ages but finally get ashore. Don and Marge stay aboard. Help a couple of blokes back to their boat while Sean, Darren and Clark disappear, probably into town. There is a welcoming ceremony under way involving traditional dancing and singing. Costumes very glittery and colourful. It’s really something to watch. Dancing is skilful and entertaining with the drums and shouts of the dancers. Get a lift back out to the boat leaving our dinghy ashore for the troops.

Fri 21/7/95
O’night: Anchor drags during the night. Stern anchor had lifted and now hanging straight down. Wake Don and replace the admiralty anchor with a danforth anchor out the front.

0800 hours: None of our crew has returned to the boat. Anchor drags again. Were fiddling with this when one of our crew (no names – no pack drill) turns up in a boat loaded with Immigration people aboard. Seems he had gotten into some sort of trouble ashore and Police were called, who eventually handed him to Immigration. He goes back with them to shore to get our passports stamped. In the meantime we pull up anchor to look for a better spot.

0900 hours: Swim ashore to retrieve the dinghy since no way of knowing how long our man will be. Try to fit into one big gap but some Canadian bloke sets up a big stink. We even hear his wife tell him to shut up. This bloke had set his anchor and mooring lines so loose that his boat was drifting from one side to the other as the tide changed. Effectively he was taking up 2 spaces and he seems to think it’s us that’s inconsiderate. Have to anchor offshore using the Danforth as a stern anchor again.

Approx 1030 hours: Go ashore. Find our crewman asleep on the rocky shore with his head propped on a log. Unable to wake him so recover our passports off him. Catch a bemo into town. Bemo’s average cost is Rp5000 for the 5 km ride into town from Amahusu where the yachts are moored. Exchange rate is 1545 Rupiah for $1.00 Australian so the bemo ride costs around A$3.25 but may cost Rp10000 (A$6.50) depending on the time or type of transport. An alternative would have been a public bus costing around 300-400 Rp (A$0.20) but it’s harder to find your way around and get where you want to go. At least with the bemo’s you go where you want to get off most of the time.

Don and Marge book into the Wiyaya Hotel for Rp40000 a night (A$26.00) for a double bed room with no hot water and one towel. Don is bare footed so the staff present him with a pair of thongs at no charge.

1130 hours: Go to Halim’s Restaurant for lunch with Don and Marge. This is a well known yachties haunt connected with the Darwin-Ambon yacht race. If you have a meal there you get a T shirt free. Meals are quite good and reasonably priced. Have lunch and we get our T shirts. Manager’s name is Lucas. Walk around town looking at shops and markets.

35 Halim's Restaurant 37 Ambon market
Above: Halim’s Restaurant. Sign reads, “We proudly to welcome for all yachtmen & supporters to the 19th Darwin-Ambon International Yacht Race July 1995. Welcome Visa & Mastercard, Manager & Staff, Halim Restaurant”. Above: Part of the Ambon Market. Watch where you walk. Found a half fish underneath my shoe at one point. Not a particularly hygienic area to walk around in.

Approx 1500 hours: Return alone to Amahusu. Chat with some blokes from other yachts. Watch a bit of beach volleyball. Don and Marge came back to check on Jasmine.

38 beach volleyball 40 fishermen's huts 2 of 2
Above: Yachties playing volleyball against some of the local children. Above: A fisherman’s hut on the shore adjacent to Jasmine’s anchorage.

1800 hours: Don, Marge and I go back into town for tea at a restaurant. Don has the biggest plate of chilli mudcrab I’ve ever seen and can’t finish it. Forget the name of the place. Excellent meal. Do some night shopping. Return alone to Jasmine. Find two of our crew aboard dead to the world. Can’t find the stern anchor. It looks as if the rope has snapped just shy of the bollard so the Danforth is gone. Find out later that Clark had cut it loose when the boat was dragging towards another boat. Clark stays ashore in a hotel after this as he’s due to fly out to Darwin on Monday to start work Tuesday. We see him from time to time over the weekend at the Tirta Kencana hotel at Amahusu which is also the race finish line.

Late p.m.: Sean, Darren and myself aboard. Anchor drags again. Laying alongside Sea Urchin 2. We pull in some scope and the anchor appears to take hold. Stay up for a while to make sure then go to bed. Decide to re-anchor in the morning as unsure how much anchor chain is actually still out there.

Sat 22/7/95
0730 hours: Weather this morning overcast and drizzling rain. Wind freshening at times and from different directions. Make cuppa tea for us all but never get to finish it. Anchor starts dragging without catching. Fend off Sea Urchin 2 and continue dragging towards Kowhai. Go to start the motor but the key is missing. Finally find key and manage to reverse away from trouble. Pulled in the anchor with a view to go to another spot but can’t seem to get boat into gear. Find out later that too much haste in changing gears had snapped the propshaft shear pin, so temporarily we have no forward or reverse gear.

Boat drifts back down onto Kowhai. Try using the dinghy to pull Jasmine clear but the way the boats are facing, plus the fast wind and tide is making it very difficult. Can’t seem to get Jasmine moving and the dinghy just slides sideways back and forth trying to pull her away. Crews of both boats lining the rails trying to keep them apart, which isn’t a real problem at this stage.

0850 hours: Go ashore and collect Don and Marge. We were to take a city tour for 4 hours starting 0900 hours but have to leave it. John, the skipper of Kowhai comes out to his boat just after Don gets aboard Jasmine. By this time it’s getting difficult to keep the boats apart as they swing around in the breeze and current. Some damage is being caused to Jasmine’s stanchions and to Kowhai’s boarding ladder and deck. However the angle of both boats has now changed allowing Don a more direct pull with the dinghy to get Jasmine out into clear water. Drop the anchor in about 70 feet of water to take stock.

Don and Darren made a makeshift shear pin and put it into place on the propshaft. Batteries are too flat to start motor so the generator is used to recharge the batteries. All this takes some time and the anchor starts to drag yet again towards another boat named Millenium. This time it’s not a problem because by this time there is just enough charge in the batteries to start the motor.

We move to the other end of the line to a point about 300m on the northern side of Tirta Kencana. After some mucking around due to wind and tide manage to drop anchor in around 70ft of water and get a mooring line onto a sturdy tree ashore. All repairs are finished to Ron’s satisfaction. Throughout all of this Don has kept his cool which is more than a lot of others would have done. Takes the news of the loss of the danforth very well but is annoyed about not being told earlier about a broken paddle which he could have replaced while in town. Fair enough too. Galley is cleaned up and Marge gets some clothes washed.

1300 hours: Marge, Don and Darren go ashore. Sean and myself stay aboard. Sean has hurt his back and is confined to bed. Notice the stern mooring line snagging on some rocks at low tide so attach a float to the line to keep it clear.

p.m.: Easy day aboard. Keep company with Sean, read a book, tidy up boat a bit, have a sleep and keep watch on mooring line. Boat starts swinging to and fro so take in some stern line. Cook supper and clean up. Rain continues and at times quite heavy. Everything at least damp if not saturated.

2100 hours: Go ashore and find rest of crew socialising in the Tirta Kencana restaurant.

2230 hours: Everyone returns to boat and goes to bed.

Sun 23/7/95
0630 hours: Bow anchor dragging again! Definitely closer to shore maybe 25m off the beach in about 40 ft of water. Still raining on and off, sometimes heavily. Today is supposed to be the ‘sail-past’ where boats do a lap of the harbour. Decide against going. Still got the mainsail to repair.

1200 hours: Rain continues hard all morning but eased off a little while ago. Several yachts had collected some locals and took off up the harbour for the sail past. They are returning now.

1300 hours: Go to town alone in a Bemo to Halim’s. Caught a becak which is a pedicab/tricycle thing to the Mardika Hotel. Becak prices varied from Rp1000-Rp4000 (A$0.64 to A$2.60) depending on the individual. It pays to set the price before setting off. These things are great fun as they skid around corners, ringing their bells while the riders abuse other riders. It’s even funnier at night with no lights whizzing through traffic, if you like that sort of thing. The hotel room costs Rp50000 (A$32.00) for the night and this gives me no hot water, a TV, a pedestal toilet and even a roll of toilet paper. The Indon method is to just use water.

p.m.: Have a quiet night. Take a cold shower and shave. Go to Halim’s for supper and back. Walk along the shops and markets on the foreshore, watch TV which is mostly Indon news, read a book and fall asleep by about 2200 hours. Excellent sleep being dry and free of anchor worries.

Mon 24/7/95
0730 hours: Get a taxi to Amahusu and meet up with Don and Marge. Head out on a hinterland trekking tour. Our guide’s name is Debbie. She’s almost thirty, skinny as a rake and speaks both Dutch and English. This costs each of us Rp65000 (A$42.00).

Still raining heavily. Take a bus to village of Soya up in the mountains. From there we walk along rainforest and jungle tracks to the mountain village of Ema where Don finds an old coin. Then head down to the coastal village of Hukurila. Apparently we’re quite a curiosity here with many of the locals following us as we walk around the village. Very friendly though like all Ambonese. Distance all up is about 10 km. Lots of the track back is steep both up and down in places and get saturated with rain. Can’t see too much because of the low cloud and mist. Have lunch out of a cardboard box consisting of 2 slices cucumber, 2 slices tomato, 1 cold fried egg, cold fried rice, chilli sauce and a small chicken wing plus tea/coffee.

42 with tour guide at Ambon 44 Ema Village
Above: Debbie at left, Marge and Don taking a breather on the track. Debbie got a local to cut our walking sticks, which turned out to be quite handy. Above: Ema Village.

43 entrance to Ema Village
Left: Entrance to Ema Village.

1700 hours: Don decides Jasmine is too close to shore and we spend the next 2 hours trying to get the anchor and mooring line right. Wind and tide again causing problems but finally get it set. Have dinner ashore at Tirta Kencana restaurant. Not a very impressive meal and Don’s disgusted. Crew of Raucaus sing a song which explains the name of the boat, and a local lad sings a love song in English to the male skipper of his fishing boat. Return back to the boat. Rain still drizzling at times. Everything damp.

2200 hours: Go to bed while the crew party on board.

Tues 25/7/95
0600 hours: Awake to the familiar crunching noise of the anchor chain slipping. Weather has fined up a little bit but still a bit of drizzle at times. Wake Don up and spend about an hour resetting anchor and mooring line.

0830 hours: Go ashore with Don and Marge. Meet our guide Debbie again and head off on a city tour costing Rp32000 (A$21.00). Visit Ambon Museum, Australian War Cemetery, an orchid garden and a couple of high points overlooking Ambon. The war cemetery is funded by the Australian Government and is beautifully kept. The museum is in my opinion a small yawn. Lookout is okay and we’re able to get a reasonable view of Ambon.

45 Ambon War Cemetery 47 Ambon War Cemetery
Above: Parts of Ambon War Cemetery with its beautifully kept gardens. This is the resting place for 604 members of Gull Force which was an Australian Force sent over to try and prevent Japanese occupation during WW2. The cemetery is the original site of the Gull Force Barracks and subsequent Prisoner of War camp.
53 overlooking Ambon to north 52 overlooking Ambon to south
Above: View north from above Ambon city. Above: View south from above Ambon city.

51 statue of ancient Ambon heroine
Left: Statue of a famous Ambonese heroine who resisted the Dutch with her father Pattimura in the early days of occupation around 1600. She fought for three years, was captured at 19 years of age, and starved herself to death in prison.

1400 hours: Finish tour in Ambon city. Time to start our clearance procedure to leave Ambon. Head for Immigration first then to the Harbour Master, then Customs then Quarantine in that order. This all takes about 2 hours to get cleared to leave Ambon and requires several photocopies of our documents. Do some shopping alone and meet up again with Don and Marge at Halim’s. Find out Lucas is giving one carton of Aqua bottled water to each boat so we get a carton.

1800 hours: Return to boat. Pick up some fresh clothes and go back into Ambon alone. Stay in the Wiyaya Hotel. They want to charge Rp50000 but beat them down to Rp40000 when I told them there were still a lot of boats out at Amahusu. No hot water or toilet paper. Take a shower and have dinner at Halim’s again. Return to hotel. TV doesn’t work very well so read a book and fall asleep around 2200 hours.

Weds 26/7/95
0800 hours: Return to boat to the news that Sean has decided last night when he was under the weather to leave the boat and return to Darwin. His gear is collected and taken ashore. Something about homesickness. There had been dramas with the anchor again at dawn apparently. Seems the mooring rope had to be cut so that the boat could be manoeuvred clear of the shore. Lift dinghy onto davits and tidy up the boat preparing for sea. Sew up the mainsail which takes about 1 to 1.5 hours. Two of the local lads come out to us in their dugout canoe and climb aboard. They give us a bit of a hand with things.

1130 hours: Lift the anchor and get under way. One of the lads doesn’t want to get off so we have to turn back to make him jump off and swim ashore. We didn’t know it at the time but Sean was waving us goodbye from Tirta Kencana as we sailed out. Headed for the north side of Ambon in a clockwise direction.

1730 hours: Passing between the small islets of Ela and Hataia on the western corner of Ambon, position 0339S, 12754E. Two boats looking comfortably anchored on the SE corner of Ela Is. Beautiful days sailing. Temperature about 27-28 deg celsius. Cool slight to moderate breezes 10-20 kts and getting between 4-6 kts. Do some washing. Shame to see lots of human type rubbish including plastic bags in the water. Plenty of other stuff like palm fronds etc which also threaten to block a salt water intake.

1800 hours: Wind falls away so we drop the headsail and continue under motor for the rest of the night. Unfortunately there is only one large scale chart but does not cover the whole area between Ambon and Seram islands. Lovely night. Stars are out and nice breeze. Slight seas. Following the rhumb line to waypoint. Lots of phosphorous in the water.
55 fish trap
Left: Lots of unlit fish trap structures like this between Seram Island to the north and Ambon Island to the south. They’re a real navigation hazard and a careful watch has to be kept especially at night, because people sometimes sleep on them.

Thurs 27/7/95
0100 hours: Reach our waypoint which is at the edge of our chart and in the middle between Seram and Ambon Islands.. Pitch black and overcast. Breeze freshening at times. Unsure of the best way to go as have no further charts of the area. Don decides to continue on. Later there are lots of lights around and it’s not clear which is the proper gap to take between them. Darren remarks that there is a lot of ferry activity in the dark up ahead. Don tells us that he’d almost driven ashore at one stages. There had been lights ahead which he’d thought were boats, but by the time he realised it was a house, he had to reverse back as he did not have enough room to turn about. We end up returning to our waypoint and travelling back and forth until daylight. Wise move.

0800 hours: Now very overcast. Lots of rain squalls around. Rounding the NE corner of Ambon. Just passing what looks like a ferry terminal to Seram Is. There is a small low lying sandy beach island to port which would have been an unlit hazard at night.

1130 hours: Reached SE corner of Ambon and clearing the channel between Ambon and Seram. Turning port along coast of Seram towards Bandar Is under sail.

54 leaving Ambon with Seram Is. at right

Left: Leaving Ambon with Seram Island at right.

1300 hours: Very slow going. Getting about 3 kts on easterly tack. Pass through a rain squall and get about 6 kts for a while as a result. Speed slowly drops off.

1400 hours: Tack onto a southerly course. Getting better time at 3-4 kts.

1500 hours: Wind dropping. Losing ground back to the NW. Lost about 2nm due to the current set. Headsail and mainsail down and motoring. Clawing our way on course 117 deg True to Banda Island getting 2 to 2.5 kts. Seas very bumpy probably as a result of that last rain squall.

1730 hours: Still crawling away about 2.5 to 3 kts at times. Only made 7 miles last 3 hrs. Seas getting a bit bumpier if anything. Wind abating. Very overcast. Lots of rain squalls around especially towards land. Looking back can still see the channel entrance between Ambon and Seram.

2000 hours: Sky still overcast and drizzly. Sea is alight with a very pale green luminescence. It’s almost like a brilliant moonlight night but there’s no moon or stars. Can see enough around the boat to do things without torches. Very pretty but a little eerie.

2200 hours: At least make it onto a chart on which we can plot a position. We are now 35 nm ESE from Ambon and 83 nm from Banda Island.

2400 hours: Emerge from under clouds into a starry night. Still squally and dark off to port. Clear patch only lasts 1 hour before closing in again. Slow going around 2 kts under motor only. No sails up.

Fri 28/7/95
0800 hours: No change. Still plodding along under motor. ‘Norm’ the auto pilot functioning without its usual complaints of crunching noises when sails are up. Steers a wobbly course though 30 to 35 deg and sometime more. Still overcast and rainy. Banda is 56 nm away.

p.m: Rest of day the same.

Sat 29/7/95
0100 hours: First sighting of Suanggi light marking a 348 ft high lump of rock. It’s a relief when you see these obstacles are marked at the correct place on the chart and the light is actually working. Looking for the Banda Island Group.

There are about 6 islands in the group but the main ones are Banda Besar, Banda Naira and the volcano island of Gunung Api. The three of these are very close together. They are also part of the famous Spice Islands of yesteryear with its supplies of nutmeg and cloves.
56 approaching Banda Islands
Right: Approaching the Banda Island Group. Gunung Api in the centre is an active volcano with its head in the clouds. Banda Naira is to the left. Banda Besar is in the background.

1100 hours: Harbour entrance Banda is 5 nm away. Overcast day but no rain.

1300 hours: Rain squalls moving across the group of islands. Heading towards the western entrance between Banda Besar and Banda Naira. Taking it easy and feeling our way in.
57 dutch fort
Left: Part of the old restored Dutch Fort Belgique originally built in 1611 can be seen at right.

1530 hours: Find the anchorage in the eastern channel on Banda Naira just across from the volcano island of Gunung Api. Crew of Zanzibar are just leaving and advise over the radio to look for a fellow named Leo for a place to stay, have our meals and get some washing done. There is a stone seawall where homestay places are built. Yachts are moored stern-to and crew can live ashore at these homestay places right behind their boats. It’s a great set-up for visiting yachts, and the harbour is beautiful and sheltered from the SE trade winds.

58 homestay Laguna InnRight: The homestay Laguna Inn.

1630 hours: Some people whistling and clapping at us to tie up at their small jetty. Get a couple of lines ashore and secure boat just off the jetty. This place turns out to be named the ‘Laguna Inn’. The manager agrees his name is Leo and promptly shows us to a table. Fetches Bintang beer and coke. Takes our meal order as we have to order ahead for dinner and shows us to our rooms. Darren stays aboard. Cold showers again but a proper toilet and toilet paper.
62 Jasmine and Gunung Api
Left: SV Jasmine moored outside the Laguna Inn homestay with active volcano Gunung Api in the background.

p.m.: Go for a look around town. Climb up and walk around the restored Dutch ‘Fort Belgique’ originally built around 1611. Check out the markets and return to Laguna Inn. Sit on the seawall and watch all sorts and sizes of tropical fish and other sea life swimming around. Just like a big salt water aquarium. Sea Cadence arrives in the harbour. Have dinner. Sit around chatting for a while then go to bed. No TV.

65 old guns

Left: Ancient guns just laying about on the sides of streets.

Sun 30/7/95
0830 hours: Have a cup of strong black coffee for breakfast. Milk is very hard to get in Ambon and Banda. Mostly it’s condensed milk. Beef is very expensive and there is little of it. Lots of rice and fish and vegetables. Nasi Goreng with chicken is common. Make arrangements with one of the staff named Barkley for his mother to do the washing for which he charges Rp30000 (A$19.00). Head out to the boat but slip on the jetty steps. Fall painfully onto the stair risers on my thigh then into the water. Crawl back up to the jetty and lay there for pain to subside for a while. I was in my last set of dry clothes so hung out my shirt and shorts and limp around in a towel for a while.

0900 hours: We all pretty well got fleeced last night. Don and Marge paid Rp80000 (A$52.00) and I was charged Rp60000 (A$39.00) for our rooms. Darren paid for the Bintangs, cokes and meals all up costing him around Rp120000 I think. The Bintang was around Rp2000 per bottle more than anywhere else. By now I have a big painful bulge on my thigh. The bruise hasn’t come out yet but it’s quite stiff and painful.

a.m: Darren gives me a dry shirt and I walk dry my shorts. Barkley acts as our guide and takes us to 2 museums, one of which shows the history of the place and the other dedicated to the visit of an Indon President named Bung in 1972. We chekd out the government offices although they are closed being Sunday.

64 massacre paintingAbove: A large painting in the local museum depicts a massacre of some 42 people by the Dutch and Japanese in the early days. Note the heads at top right. Apparently the Dutch killed off all the original inhabitants and brought in other islanders as slaves.

Go to the local market and do some shopping. The Indo’s look at you with a blank stare when you ask for silk material in any textile type shop. Return to Laguna Inn and have a big bowl of soup for lunch.
61 Ambon ferry
Left: The ferry which comes from Ambon on Sundays. A lot of Dutch tourists. Not surprising considering the history of Dutch occupation.

p.m: Lazy afternoon sitting around and chatting. A big ferry from Ambon arrives. It takes about 9 hours which means it must do about 20 kts or so. It’s full of Dutch tourists. Villagers from outlying communities come to town to check. It’s a big event. Apparently some of the passengers are visiting relatives on the island. Not surprising I guess considering the long history of Dutch occupation. Lots of people around but activity dies down drastically late afternoon. Beautiful day. Lots of sunshine. Can clearly see the peak of Gunung Api. Some small amount of steam coming out of it.

Later on the boys get a small supply of Bintang and we troop over to Ramona for a visit. This is a ketch around 55 ft owned by people in Darwin. Don and Marge seem to know them very well. Very pleasant and relaxing for a while. This is where we learn about the real Leo who has a homestay several doors down from Laguna Inn. The skipper from Jodi-Ann also comes over for a little while to say hello. Jodi-Ann is another ketch about 65 ft and about 60 ton. It has a 200 hp power plant and does charter work. The skipper would be early to mid 20’s, blue eyed, blond and muscular. Bet he’s a killer with any lady charterers. Jodi-Ann is filling in time waiting for the owners and are planning some diving around the islands tomorrow. The diving is supposedly excellent and gear can be hired from a hotel just a few doors down.
63 boats stern-to
Right: Boats moored stern-to the shore. Jasmine bottom right with Ramona top right and Jodi-Ann centre top.

Approx 1930 hours: Go down to Leo’s and although we have not made an order for dinner, he pust together a really nice meal, mostly fish and rice for us which all up costs about Rp28000 including the Bintangs and coke. Return to boat. Even though we haven’t done all that much today we pretty well all crash at 2200 hours.

Mon 31/7/95
0630 hours: Crew up. Have cuppa. Collect Barkley in our dinghy and dinghy across to the volcano. Today is climb the volcano day. Gunung Api is an active volcano which is 2150 ft high and last erupted in 1988. It took a week to evacuate some 7000 people from the islands.

66 Banda NairaLeft: Banda Naira as seen from the first rest-hut on Gunung Api.

0910 hours: Start the climb. Quite hectic and lots of work. Day is overcast but clear. There are wooden steps going most of the way. Seems like thousands of them and probably are. There are four rest ‘huts’ though mostly broken down but at least provide a seat. See Ramona leaving the harbour for Babar Island from the first hut. From the last hut our guide refuses to go further saying only 200m more but no steps and dangerous. The view from this hut is fantastic. Don and I push on.

The 200m felt like 500m. Climbing is mostly hands and feet stuff over loose rubble rock. Feels like we’ll never get there. We quickly enter into cloud and rain. Visibility is considerably reduced. The track is quite steep and the footing is a treacherous ankle breaking kind.

68 atop Gunung ApiRight: Don at the top of Gunung Api. We thought this was the crater but it was just a depression. The actual crater rim is further to the right.

Eventually the bush thins out and we find the top. It’s very wet and rainy up here. Lots of sulphurous rock around and every now and again there is a warm spot where steam is coming out. You risk getting your hand scalded if you stick it too far into one of these holes. We go up to the crater rim and peer tentatively over the loose dirt but can only see a white void. The rim looks pretty unstable consisting of what looks like a raised dirt lip with a direct straight drop on the other side. We don’t hang around the rim long.

Approx 1130 hours: The trip down is a lot easier but find ourselves skidding out of control at times. Learn that if you stick your foot under your bum it’s not quite so bad. You can skid along and try and grab some hand holds. Reach the midway point about 1200 hours and the bottom around 1230 hours. Motor back to the boat to change clothes and dry out.

1330 hours: Crew go ashore for some lunch and Bintang. I stay aboard a few moments to update this journal. Come ashore to see Jodi-Ann weighing anchor and take off out to sea. Probably going out on a trip the skipper had been talking about yesterday. Find Barkley and settle up. He wants Rp10000 (A$6.50) per person for guiding us up the volcano but doesn’t charge for Marge who didn’t go all the way. Can’t find the crew anywhere. Don and Marge said they were going to do some shopping for fresh vegetables but aren’t at the market. Come back to the boat to wait.

1800 hours: Go ashore to look again. Can’t find them. Search all known spots. Think they must have found some other hidey hole somewhere.

1830 hours: Jodi-Ann returns towing Ramona back into harbour. Ramona had gone about 10nm and the propeller shaft shear pin had sheared off and the prop shaft had fallen back jamming the rudder. Grab our dinghy and help Ramona secure lines to shore. Don, Marge and Darren are on the Jodi-Ann. It appears Ramona hadn’t been able to work out what the problem was, and fearing something worse had contacted Darwin Radio (OTC), who telephoned the Laguna Inn who got a message to the ‘red boat’ (Jodi-Ann) to come and help. Valerie Taylor from the shark documentaries was on Jodi-Ann and had asked our crew to come and help as well. They had called out to me apparently but I hadn’t heard them due to a continuing problem with an ear infection.

1930 hours: Have dinner with crew at Leo’s again. Mike, the skipper of Ramona working on his boat. He later comes ashore and gets a stainless bolt from Jodi-Ann to act as a shear pin. He returns to his boat and get the problem fixed after that.

2200 hours: The troops go over to Ramona once more for a social gathering. Two 4lt bottles of Bundy rum come out of Gavin’s stock and go over. Back in January this year I had decided to give up the booze so to avoid temptation go back to Jasmine, have a read and go to sleep. Later learn that Darren swapped some Bundy for some bacon and steak.

Tues 1/8/95
0800 hours: Everyone up. Some a little seedy from the rum. A couple with sniffles from the wet mountain climb yesterday. Clean up the boat a bit. Overcast day but fine. Some small blue patches in the cloud.

0900 hours: Crew head to shore to shop for fresh veges. Several more boats arrive including Sundancer from Bunbury.

1115 hours: Dinghy up. Lines cast. Anchor weighed and leaving Banda Harbour.

70 Russ and Gunung ApiRight: Russ onboard Jasmine . The western side of Gunung Api shows where the lava flowed in 1988. Note the black lava rock shelf at its bottom left.

1230 hours: Good sailing at 6 kts. Some rain coming around Gunung Api. Getting a good look where the lava flow had burned everything. ‘Norm’ can’t hold the course on sails and we spin around. Have some trouble with a sticking solenoid but finally get the motor started and back on track. The solenoid continues to give us trouble for the rest of the trip.

1400 hours: Rain clears. Some sunny patches. Course 183 deg True to next waypoint about 200nm away. Waypoint is between a lump of rock called Nil Desperandum and the volcano island of Nila. Nil Desperandum is only 6 ft high, about 1/2 nm wide and is not lighted. Hopefully it’s accurately marked on the chart. Nila is 2550 ft high about 4nm in diameter and extensive reefs on the northern side. Only getting about 220 deg True but that’s okay. Reaching 5 to 5.5 kts and good sailing. Plan to motor overnight using ‘Norm’ to get back to our waypoint rhumb line. About 8nm SSW of Banda in about 2000 fathoms of water.

1530 hours: Squalls around. Pattering rain. Winds pick up and seas bigger. Taking some greenies over the front. One goes right over the wheelhouse. Drop mizzen sail and reef mainsail. Lots better and still getting around 6 kts.

2000 hours: Weather moderates. Stars come out. Moon shining. It’s been reasonable sailing and the mizzen is raised again. Tack a couple of times. Course required 183 deg True. Easterly tack unable to get above 090 deg True. Southerly tack unable to get lower than 220 deg True. Have dinner then takes down mizzen and headsail. Start motoring with mainsail sheeted on course 170-178 deg True to get us past rhumb line then get a good days sail tomorrow. Taking it easy at night as usual as there are only 3 of us watch-keeping. Find another rip in the mainsail at the first reefing cringle.

Weds 2/8/95
0800 hours: Slow going overnight making 2.5 to 3 kts. Back on the rhumb line. Sails back up. ‘Norm’ at work again. Cloudy but a nice day. Moderate winds about 20 kts. Lumpy seas very rolly poly. Climbing around boat instead of walking. Rip in the mainsail is bigger but stable since at least 0100 hours.

1100 hours: Change to hand steering. Going faster about 5 kts but laying off our course to the west. Very bumpy.

1130 hours: Catch a dolphin, the fish not an actual dolphin for tea. I don’t have any but I’m told it’s delicious.
72 dolphin fish
Left: Don holds out a dolphin fish. These live in the open water and tend to hang around anything that is floating on the surface.

1500 hours: Seas slight. Sun shining. Sails down and motoring at about 2 kts. Heading eastwards again as we’ve gone too far west under sail.

1800 hours: No change. Nice to relax. All get some sleep. Position is 27 nm to the waypoint to clear Nil Desperandum rock. There’s about another 70nm to Babar from there.

Thurs 3/8/95
0700 hours: Uneventful night. Very, very slow going. Only made 13 nm in last 9 hours. Motor off. Headsail up. Mainsail being saved because of the rip. Getting around 5 kts. Overcast day and quite blowy. Seas big with some really big swells hitting us. Nil Desperandum restricting our options on a way to go. Still 7 nm from our waypoint. Very frustrating.

0900 hours: Getting too close to Nila. Tacking port to the NE. Big waves hitting us abeam.

1000 hours: Tack southerly again.

1100 hours: Course made good 195 deg True at 5 kts. Position is 10 nm south of waypoint and the southern end of Nila is 5nm to starboard. Finally free of it.

Late p.m: Good sailing all day. Sun coming out at times. Seas around 2m to 2.5m. Making course between 210-220 deg Magnetic. Plan is to go past Babar and tack back sharply to the NE.

Fri 4/8/95
0400 hours: Tack port. Direction to next waypoint 069 deg True. Getting 070 deg True at about 5 kts. Looking good. 30nm to waypoint.

0500 hours: Wind shifts. Have to change course to 055 deg True. Moving northerly away from waypoint again. Getting around 4 kts. Autopilot ‘Norm’ gets caught on a wind shift and doesn’t react in time. Sails get back-winded and we do a 360 deg turn causing our trailing fishing line to wrap around the propshaft. Tedious trip.

1130 hours: Overcast day. Position 10 nm NW of Tepa, the main village inside Babar Harbour. Sail down and motoring at 2 kts. Very slow going. Covered 28nm since 0400 hours.

73 approaching Babar IsRight: Approaching Tepa village on Babar Island. Good anchorage here.

1610 hours: Anchor off Tepa village. It has taken almost 5 hours just to motor into the harbour. Pull up and chat with crew of Rampage on our way to shore. They had arrived a little earlier than us. They are all looking pretty buggered and trying to catch up on sleep. One of the crew named Martin has cut his lower leg and it’s become infected looking all purple and angry looking. Marge who happens to be a nurse, went aboard later and had a look at it.

75 Tepa Village main streetLeft: The main street of Tepa village. Robbie’s place is the two-story building on the distant left.

Sea Cadence is also anchored up. Get ashore and meet up with her crew. We had spoken to the skipper earlier on the radio and he’d been ashore to organise some cold Bintangs and a couple of rooms for the night as there is no hotel on the island. It was through them that we met a local man named Joseph. Joseph organised things and translated for us. He likes to practice his English which is very good and he even has an Australian accent, being exposed mostly to Aussie yachties. He doesn’t ask for any payment but accepts any gifts or donations for his services. He makes a living otherwise by teaching English at Rp500 a lesson and making rubber stamps. He keeps his own vegetable garden and fishes sometimes. Our group and some of Sea Cadence group have a few Bintangs, coke and peanuts at the back of Robbies.

Robbies is one of the shops on Babar. The building would be the largest in the village and from the boat we thought at first it may have been a hotel. Apparently Robbie is trying to get it set up as one. In any case we sit out the back where Robbie supplies the Bintangs out of a really old model fridge. Joseph shows us where we can wash without charge, so we all take a wash and freshen up a bit. His wife Anne, his daughter and a niece turn up looking for him. They join us for a couple of soft drinks.

1900 hours: Joseph takes us to our homestay house and introduces us to the family supplying the rooms. Our host’s nickname is Chung and his wife’s name is Mary. Rooms are clean and we have access to washing and toilet facilities which seems quite okay use. The rooms cost Rp10000 (A$6.50) per room for the night.

76 homestayRight: Chung and Mary’s homestay.

1930 hours: Joseph escorts us to the restaurant although you wouldn’t recognize it if you weren’t shown. We sit in the ante room for about ½ hour talking to the locals who leave before it comes time for us to move into the next room for our meal. The food is different but tasty and filling. It consists of black fish chunks (tuna or mackerel), a cold soup, 2 bowls of vegetable and noodles, rice in coconut oil and ordinary rice, very hot chilli, fried eggs and boiled eggs. It’s really nice and cost about Rp20000 (A$13.00) which fed 4 of us plus Joseph, his daughter and niece.

77 mandi 79 restaurant
Above: Typical Indonesian bathroom with toilet. Washing is done by dipping a pannikin into the tub to wet yourself down. The toilet is a squatting job. Above: The restaurant.

Anna waited outside. There was still some food left over. The old lady thinks it’s a big joke when we tell her she’s a good cook and chuckles away for some time. After that we head off to bed. Unfortunately there is a TV in the street right outside our lodgings which blasts out at full volume and a large crowd of locals gather to watch. I’m pretty tired anyway and manage to drop off to sleep despite the din.

Sat 5/8/95
Pre-Dawn: Lots of locals moving around already. They seem to have the same early rising habits in Ambon too.

0800 hours: Pay for the rooms and leave for the markets with Don and Marge. They buy some coconut oil for cooking and some vegetables including a mystery root which has a rough bark appearance. Probably a cassava. Anyway it turned out to be quite bland. Vaguely tastes like a sweet potato when cooked in a stew. We visit the local shops and do some shopping. Buy some material, T-Shirt and a carton of Marlboro cigarettes. The carton costs Rp20000 (A$13.00).

Also get a couple bottles of the local coconut wine which is poured into Bintang bottles out of a water dispenser at Rp2000 (A$1.30) a bottle. They seal the bottle with pieces of plastic bag and rubber band. Believed to be 50% proof. Darren comes ashore and fills a water jerry with local water for emergencies. We later used the water in cups of tea and coffee and no one got sick. The local Harbourmaster named Idress (?) catches up with us to go to his office for clearances.

0900 hours: Head to boat via Rampage. Martin says his leg is much better. John Smith from Rampage comes aboard with us for the trip back to Darwin due to personality conflicts on that boat. Don, Marge and Darren return ashore to see the Harbourmaster. John and I set a second reef in the mainsail to cover the rip and generally potter about getting the boat ready for sea.

1300 hours: Dinghy and anchor up and secured. Under way again. The boys have had a couple of final Bintangs ashore after the formalities. Our next waypoint is Cape Fourcroy which lies SSE of Babar Island. The plan is to go clockwise around Babar and head as far east as possible to get a reasonable angle on the wind direct to the waypoint without having to tack. It’s positioned right on the 130 deg longitude line about 5 miles west of the cape.

1400 hours: Coming around north of Babar under full sail. Nice day but overcast. Good breezes with some gusts getting 6-7 kts. Seas still smooth. See a pod of dolphins maybe 60 or more. Some of them leaping completely clear out of the water.

1700 hours: Going well getting 5-6 kts and wind gusts. Approaching Dawere Island. ENE of Babar and will pass to its north. Dawere is on the 130 deg longitude line. Any progress east from here is a bonus but being forced a little northerly as well.

Sun 6/8/95
O’night: Good sailing all night between 4-6 kts. Have been hand steering with the usual 2 man watches pulling 2 hours doing ½ hour turnabouts on the wheel, then 3 hours off.

0500 hours: Reach a point about 60 nm east and 35 nm north of Babar Island position 0720S, 13037E. Course to our waypoint is 186 deg True from here which we think we can achieve. Can’t go much further east anyway because of the Tanimbar islands to the SE. Tack starboard and getting course 190 deg True which is reasonable.

1430 hours: Overcast day with slight seas earlier today. It’s now cloudy with good sunny patches. Sea still slight. About 35 nm east of Babar and 7 nm south of Tepa village latitude, so we are actually making progress towards home.

1500 hours: Cross 8th latitude. Average 4 kts since tacking.

81 hard slogLeft: Fine weather sailing needs to be enjoyed while it lasts.

1800 hours: Nice afternoon, sun shining. Take down mizzen sail then later the mainsail.

1900 hours: Turn ‘Norm’ on and using headsail only. Getting 6 kts beating to windward. Nice day’s sailing.

Mon 7/8/95
0630 hours: Cross 9th latitude. Expected a sunny day but not to be. Overcast but fine. Getting 4 kts on headsail alone. Still on autopilot. Seas slight and good comfortable sailing. Going a bit too far westerly though. Have done 68 nm since the 8th latitude making an extra 8nm as a result of being forced to the west. Hoping for a wind shift more to the east later otherwise will have to tack back. Position is 8 nm to the west of our waypoint longitude 12952E and 24 nm west of our rhumb line. Babar Island is 60nm to the south. Good progress overnight though.

0830 hours: Wind and seas pick up and seem to be building. Getting 5 to 5.5 kts.

0915 hours: Hear a loud bang. Headsail halyard has snapped at the coupling swage dropping the sail. Set up a rope halyard and raised sail again. Recover remains of the wire halyard.

1200 hours: Seas still rising. Waves as high as the boom or even higher at times. Some big greenies going clear over the wheelhouse. Wind has swung around to a favourable 175-185 deg True. It only lasts a few hours.

p.m.: Heavy seas all afternoon. Sea Cadence reports changing to storm sails. Occasional waves thumping the boat and others breaking over the boat. Look out cabin window to see a boiler about 10ft away level with my eyes just before it thumps the boat and breaks over it. The sea is alive with breaking crests. Spray being driven from the tops of them like sleet. Probably 3m or higher seas and 30 kts wind at times. Boat handling okay though and no cause for concern.

1930 hours: Cross 10th latitude. Also cross the deep drop off from 180 fathoms to about 80 fathoms a few miles back. Seas have moderated but still lumpy following today’s flow. Very few white horses about. Good sailing. Brilliant moonlit night. Sea Cadence has been behind us to the NW about 17 nm for most of the day. They are now tacking eastward.

Tues 8/8/95
0900 hours: Cross 11th latitude. Made progress steadily overnight. Wind picked up again and got a bit bumpy in the early hours but has moderated since. Cloudless day. Continue to get occasional small wind shifts which allow a more southerly course of 180-185 deg. Mostly we are only getting 190-220 deg True and steadily moving westwards. Position is 35 nm to the west and 50nm to the north of our waypoint. Listen to Darwin Radio issuing a strong wind warning for our area but as he said, we probably already know about it anyway. Seas to about 2.5m at the moment. Expect to be in the Beagle Gulf tomorrow morning. Plan to tack port hoping to get an easterly course towards Aspley Strait between Bathurst and Melville Islands.

1300 hours: Wind drops right off. Flags starting to droop and losing speed. ‘Norm” unable to cope with the slow speed. Raise the mainsail and mizzen getting about 2 kts. ‘Norm’ put back to work.

1500 hours: No change. Creeping along at 2-2.5 kts. Beautiful day. Sun shining and no clouds. Cool breeze what there is of it. Done 8nm last 3 hours.

1530 hours: Start the motor. Dip the tanks to make sure we have enough fuel. Heading direct for waypoint.

1700 hours: Loud grinding noise from engine room. Check reveals the shear pin has come out. Stop the motor and put up the sails again.

1800 hours: Sails down and drifting while repairs are being made. Drifting on 305 deg True at 1.7 kts. Interesting tide run for this area. Heard an emergency signal over the radio. Listen to Darwin Radio report the barge Kepple Trader has capsized with 2 persons on board vicinity 1415S, 12857E which is SW of Port Keats. Vessels in area requested to assist. Too far away from us. Learned later that one person was saved. Never found out about the other but understand was lost.

1900 hours: Repairs complete. Raise the headsail and off again.

Weds 9/8/95
0100 hours: Level with our waypoint but 50nm too far west. Average course made good last 5 hours was 212 deg True. Wind has shifted more easterly last 15 mins so should get a more southerly course. Radar reflector decides to abandon ship and drops from the mast over the side to King Neptune. Still got about 40nm south before we can get a run at Aspley Strait.

0300 hours: Cross 12th latitude at longitude 12902E. From near Babar our intended course to waypoint was 186 deg True. We have averaged 199 deg True putting us off course by 53 nm. Distance between the latitudes in a direct line was 240nm due south. Haven’t calculated the actual distance travelled but it will be much higher. Darwin is 95nm directly ESE at this time which is where the wind is coming from.

0600 hours: Beautiful sailing overnight. Brilliant moonlight. Average 5 kts and even getting a few eastings back on course 170 deg True average. Moon has gone down and it’s pitch black. Lost my cap blown over the side in a gust of wind.

1000 hours: Still pushing steadily in Beagle Gulf on a southerly tack to clear a couple of shoal areas when we tack easterly. Seas and winds built up. Boat being pummelled a bit heavier than anything previously. Spray being blown strongly from the tops of waves. Long foam streaks in the water. Activity choices are sleep, read, sit around, keep watch or sleep again anyway. ‘Norm’ doing all the driving which is a big break and so keeping watch means just that. Only one person on watch at a time needed.

1200 hours: Still a beautiful day, not a cloud in sight. Tack to port and getting 025-030 deg True. Unfortunately too far northerly for our purposes but can’t be helped. About 110 nm WSW of Darwin getting around 4 kts on headsail only.

82 Beagle Gulf sunsetRight: Beagle Gulf sunset begins the last night at sea.

1900 hours: All sails set. Got 24nm in the last 7 hours on course 022 deg True. Strong current pushing us westwards. Very light variable winds in the late afternoon.

1930 hours: Start motor. Drop headsail. Steering easterly under motor, mainsail and mizzen. Beautiful night. Full moon, no clouds, slight seas. Motor temperature a bit high so top us the heat exchanger with some of our limited remaining supply of drinking water. Virtually no food left.

Thurs 10/9/95
0200 hours: Make excellent progress due east. Motor starts surging badly so filters are changed again. Dip the fuel tanks and find the fuel level low so stop the motor. Will have to sail from here on until we reach Darwin.

0400 hours: Large wind shift to the east forcing us up to 050 deg True average. Seas getting lumpier. Getting 7-8 kts at times.

0630 hours: Fine day, big seas again. Heavier than anything else so far probably due to the relatively shallow water and wind against tide effects. Some waves very short and sharp.

0830 hours: No change. Take down mainsail for an easier ride. If we can get far enough east and if the wind stays the same we might get a southerly tack into Darwin Harbour sometime around midday.

0930 hours: Being forced onto a northerly course. Tack starboard trying for a south easterly course.

1130 hours: Travel due south for a while with the current pushing us back. Wind starts to veer allowing us to come slowly around in a big arc towards Darwin. Course now 175 deg True. First sighting of Australia in the Charles Point area. Have picked up the incoming tide change and getting around 7 kts.

1330 hours: Wind still veering. Charging along getting 130 deg True since 1130 hours. Now on course to clear Charles Point and have a direct line to Darwin Harbour entrance. Winds have abated during the morning. Sea is choppy, wind 15-20 kts or less at times but continues to drop.

1430 hours: Contact Customs on VHF Ch16 who instruct us to go to Cullen Bay pontoon. Start general boat tidy up and filling in paperwork.

1630 hours: Have an excellent run into the harbour across the top of the Cox Peninsula getting between 6-7 knots. Have to wait for a fishing dinghy to get out of the way and then tie up to the pontoon for Customs. Rampage still miles out to sea and apparently having problems with their rudder, engine and broken cap shroud.

1645 hours: Customs bloke comes aboard followed a little later by the Quarantine guy.

1745 hours: Formalities completed. Cast off the pontoon and leave Cullen Bay.

1830 hours: Moor up on Don’s mooring in Sadgroves Creek. Boat secured. Go ashore for a couple of drinks with crew. Good to be ashore!!!

Lessons Learned:

1. Don’t motor directly into wind and waves if progress is going to be too slow – say below 2 kts.
2. Conserve fuel and collect rainwater when you can.
3 Take plenty of fuel filters and engine spare parts.
4. Get fuel in Ambon from the navy and strain all fuel before putting into tanks.
5. When beating to windward, if the boat is laying over too much try using just the headsail only. It should make for a more comfortable ride and shouldn’t lose too much speed. It might increase the pressure on the helm though.
6. Consider trying a big tack e.g. 100nm or so especially if wind direction likely to be constant.
7. Carry plenty of strong mooring line and good anchors.
8. Make sure all hatches and portholes are watertight.
9. Carry covers to keep the rain off when moored.
10. On coming home from Indonesia tack east at every opportunity e.g. calmer seas or favourable breeze.
11. Don’t carry packets of food. Keep it all in sealed plastic containers otherwise it can be invaded by pests such as cockroaches or weevils.
12. Carry a small portable generator.

THE END

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