1998 Darwin to the Tanimbars, Indonesia

A photo-journal of a sailing voyage from
Darwin to the Tanimbar Islands Group, Indonesia
August 1998

001 location
Above: The Tanimbar Islands are located 300 nautical miles almost due north of Darwin, NT.

Introduction

In September 1997 the Sailing Vessel (SV) Lowana IV left Darwin on a sailing trip to Indonesia. The yacht visited Kupang in Timor, passed through the islands to the north and returned to Darwin via the eastern end of Timor. She covered some 1278 nautical sea miles (2364 km). It was a successful, interesting and memorable trip but typical of sailboat cruises, it was marked with its own particular problems.

004 lowana iv
Above: SV Lowana IV is an 8 tonne, steel cutter-rigged sloop, with a beam of 3 metres and a draft of 1.2 metres. Her motor is a 2 cylinder, 25 hp Volvo diesel. She was built in New Zealand in 1979 and received a total refit in 1995. She carries 4 crew comfortably and is a solid seaworthy vessel, with many international and Australian coastal cruising trips under her keel.

There were two that stuck out. One was a problem with official paperwork causing subsequent delays. The other was a distinct lack of ability by the boat to point up into the strong easterly winds. This was a result of having to remove pre-existing bilge keel fins from the underwater hull. Unfortunately these two things meant less actual sailing, less time to relax at places and look around, and more motoring.

The lesson was learned. Lowana IV would no longer attempt to cover a lot of ground when there is a limited timeframe. It was resolved that future trips to Indonesia would concentrate on only one or two groups of islands, and spend more time relaxing and exploring.

Much work ensued over the following year. Fellow yachties on the internet from all over the world provided copious ideas and opinions as to causes and effects of the boats poor ‘pointing’ ability. Gradually by trial and error the boat was properly trimmed and balanced. It required the addition of 400kg of lead, together with numerous adjustments to the alignment and rake of the mast to match existing sails.

On the day that the Ambon Race sailing fleet left Darwin in 1998, Lowana IV was there to see them off. To our delight the yacht sailed as close as 40 degrees to the wind, achieving over 4 knots in 10 to 15 knot winds. She was even able to continue to make way as close as 30 degrees to the wind! This was a vast improvement.

The stage is now set for another trip in 1998. This year Lowana IV will be going to the Tanimbar Islands group, and may also go to the Kai Islands group further north if time permits. The Tanimbars are situated roughly 300 km to the north of Darwin. There are 62 islands in the group providing ample opportunity to explore and requires only a short open water voyage to get there.

002 route
Above: The route taken to and from the Tanimbar Islands.

The following is a photo-journal based on notes taken in diary form by myself, the skipper of the vessel. It contains events and incidents of interest from trip preparation to return home as well as some navigational data, sailboat cruising notes and other information that might later be useful.

Crew:
Russ Swan – Skipper
Delma Swan – Registered Nurse
Martin Langdon – Self Employed (decd.)
Ann Sanotti – Registered Nurse

003 crew
Above: From left – Russ, Martin, Delma, Ann (seated).

End Jun 98
Crew members finalised. An application for a sailboat cruising permit called a CAIT is submitted to Peter Dermoudy, the Commodore of the Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht Club -DBCYC. He then submits the application to appropriate agents in Indonesia. We also need to get Visa’s since we will not first be visiting an area where there is an ‘Immigrasi’ office. But first we must get the all important CAIT. And unlike last year, this time it must have all the proper rubber stamps!

Last years application had been sent to agents in Jakarta, so we decide this year to send it to the Bali agents instead. The cost of the permit is A$350.00. With this permit we should also receive a ‘Sosial Bedaya’ letter, a sort of sponsorship letter. Very handy to have when dealing with Indonesian officialdom.

Early Jul 98
Take the life-raft in for servicing only to have it condemned. Seems the oxygen valve has failed and the raft will not inflate. Nothing wrong with the raft. Just the valve. No spares available and this particular valve is no longer manufactured. Dealer will not use a different type of value. No time to start looking around to acquire another valve. Consider options. Decide to bite the bullet and buy a new raft.

13~24 Jul 98
Bring the boat onto the careening poles at DBCYC. Add 400 kg of lead to the keel at the appropriate places. Some new shelving is installed and some instrument electrical work done. A persistent engine oil leak problem is sourced and fixed. Add extra insulation to freezer box. Some minor chipping and painting makes the boat look a bit prettier.

Fri 24 Jul 98
Take boat off poles and out to her usual mooring up Sadgroves Creek. Spend half the day tuning the mast and standing rigging again.

Fri/Sat 24~25 Jul 98
Delma, Ann and myself over-night onboard Lowana IV in Fannie Bay, Darwin Harbour. In the morning motor around with the Ambon sailboat racing fleet to the race starting line, and then sail out with the fleet of about 50 yachts to see them off. Some incidents at the start. One yacht slams into a Navy Patrol boat at the start line. Another goes aground on a sandbar off Emery Pt. Lowana IV’s performance has improved seriously better. Excellent!

Week 1~Aug 98
Check with Peter Dermoudy re progress of CAIT. He states there have been delays for CAIT’s through Bali taking between 6 to 8 weeks to come through. He doesn’t know when we might get our permit. Shades of last year again.

Some excess bitumen putty used when installing the additional lead to the top of the keel has made its way into the bilges. The putty is starting to block up the bilge pumps. This is removed and bilges degreased. Awful job.

Mon/Tue 10~11 Aug 98
Bring the boat back to the careening poles again. Clean and antifoul the hull.

Engine oil leak still persistent. The usual diesel mechanic comes back to fix it. Horrible grinding noise in engine turns out to be a bearing in the hand crank assembly. He’s able to fix this overnight with no drama. Also fits a vacuum gauge to the diesel fuel inlet line to give a visual indication of blocked fuel filters. Pretty handy when using Indonesian fuel.

Have to call an electrician back to finish his previous work. Pretty hard to get this bloke to turn up. There’s a setback with the refrigeration. A blockage in the system is preventing flow of refrigerant. Will look at this later.

The new life-raft arrives. The initial idea had been to repack the new 4 man raft into the old 6 man container and add extra rations, water, flares and emergency gear. This won’t work. Existing deck chocks have to be modified to fit the new plastic life-raft container, which is surprisingly flimsy compared to the old solid fibreglass one.

Purchase a new stainless steel BBQ. The deck canopy is put in for recutting to fit properly and our Australian flag is also repaired. Find some holes in the side of our small fibreglass dinghy. These have to be sanded down and fibre-glassed over. Some other minor repairs and painting of the dinghy completed.

Install new batteries including a 130AH solar ‘house’ battery. Am using a 90 AH wet cell battery as the primary ‘start’ battery. Check the solar panels for proper connection and operation. Minor problem – the autopilot ram motor is broken. The two small brass connecting pins at the back have broken off flush. Unable to connect electrical wires to it. We’ll just have to hand steer. Do some more work on the freezer box.

So much still to do. The list seems endless. Every job seems to be turning out to be both complex and time demanding. Take the boat back out to her mooring.

Thu 13 Aug 98
Take a fridge mechanic out to the boat. He replaces a blocked filter/drier and re-gasses the system. He convinces me to install a pressure switch rather than keep relying on gauges that have a tendency to leak and cause system failure.

Peter Dermoudy advises that our CAIT is approved but has not been received back yet. Later that evening all the crew gather together. Fill out Visa application forms, discuss food requirements and make plans.

Fri 14 Aug 98
CAIT and Sosial Bedaya arrive from the agent in Bali. Visa applications passed into the Indonesian Consulate in Darwin. Cost of Visa’s is A$100 per application. Processed Visa’s expected back by Tuesday next week as Monday is Independence Day, a public holiday over there.

Sun 16 Aug 98
My wife Delma sorts out existing food stores onboard Lowana IV while I tidy up the pieces of gear into some semblance of order after all the preparation work.

Mon 17 Aug 98
All crew take boat to Cullen Bay Marina. Final preparations e.g. loading and stowing stores will be carried out here. We are given a handy berth just inside the lock gates. Turns out to be the marina owner’s private berth. Some small mix up over rates but the owner agrees to the price quoted by the Cullen Bay office. It cost A$120/week. Crew elects to share this cost, agreeing that final preparations are best done here than by having to travel back and forth by dinghy back out on the mooring.

005 berthed cullen bayRight: Lowana IV berthed at Cullen Bay.

Fridge mechanic arrives and fits a pressure switch to fridge compressor. This switch theoretically allows the compressor to cut in or off automatically whenever the engine is running. Supposedly it will keep the fridges at their maximum coldest while the engine is running, and we shouldn’t lose any more gas due to leaking manifold gauges.

After the fridgie leaves I install the stainless steel BBQ to the starboard aft rail, connect a ‘T’ valve at the gas bottle and a freezer temperature gauge on the galley wall above the freezer.

Tue 18 Aug 98
Some more bitumen putty is found in the bilges. Clean it out. Dirty bloody horrible job. Put emergency spares in aft engine compartment e.g. storm boards, tiller, bulky or heavy engine parts and other ‘might be useful’ spares. Also sort out remaining boat stores and locker stowage. Put up a list of where everything can be located. Two new life-rings are produced courtesy of Ann and fitted to the side-rails. I’m grateful but a little concerned at the extra expense for Ann.

Pick up passports and Visa’s from the Indonesian Consulate. No problems there. Delma and Ann go shopping for non-perishable foods.

Wed 19 Aug 98
Morning: Go to start engine to run the fridges. Engine coughs and kicks. Loud bang and water starts gushing out of the engine block – unmentionables here... This is a major setback. Contact the mechanic. He’ll come down later. Sit down and sort out the many marine charts. Go to the doctors to obtain a supply of Doxylin 100 (Doxycycline) tables. These are for malaria prevention but have side effects. Also want an emergency malaria treatment course and prescription antibiotics to put into ships stores, plus a Doctors Certificate to authorise possession of them. The Indonesians are very particular about drugs.

006 broken motorLeft: The engine with the cracked cylinder head block removed. The alternator is hanging loose at the front. At the top right is the new vacuum gauge fitted to the diesel fuel filter.

Afternoon: Our mechanic comes down after lunch and confirms one of the cast cylinder blocks had cracked. After some searching eventually finds a new one in Adelaide. Arrangements made for it to be overnight air freighted to Darwin. Estimated cost about A$1300.

Groceries arrive at the boat. Delma and Ann pack it away. All vegetables and fruits are individually wrapped in newspaper and slung into netting in the forward berth area. Worth taking the effort. We were to throw some of these away 5 weeks later as no longer required, even though they were a bit sorry looking.

A different lifting and securing system for the dinghy up behind the boat is worked out. The system proves to be a much quicker and secure method than previously used.

Delma checks and selects a number of cassette tapes for the trip in the evening. The ‘Lombada’ is first on the pile. Bob Marley is second. Go to bed in an anxious frame of mind thinking about the motor.

Thu 20 Aug 98
Morning: Lots of running around by everyone fixing up last minute personal details. Do some shopping for ships stores e.g. fuel/oil filters, grease, light globes, fuses, glue, shackles – the list is exhaustive. Delma and Ann do some more shopping.

1600hrs: The mechanic arrives with the new cylinder block. The barrel turns out to be undersized by 30 thou/inch. It’s only now I recall that oversized barrels had been fitted during the engine rebuild just two years ago. No matter. Work starts changing the old piston over and fitting the new one, which comes with its own new barrel.

1630hrs: Eldest daughter Karen comes down to say goodbye. Delma finally turns up after shopping.

2000hrs: Installation of engine finally is completed. Should have been done earlier but had to spend an hour looking for an important dropped bolt. Even cleaned the bilges out again to try and locate it. Finally found it mysteriously caught up under the engine. While the mechanic is here we install some asbestos lagging to the exhaust elbow so as to prevent burns when working on the engine, and reduce engine compartment heat. Run and test motor. Seems okay. Turn on fridges. Eutectic tanks are getting colder. Seems okay.

2030hrs: Youngest daughter Lydia and her boyfriend, and some of his family arrive at the boat to say goodbyes. Have some farewell drinks. Last minute tidying up.

2115hrs: Finally get away from the boat for the night to get some well earned rest. Feeling tremendously relieved. We’re going to make it after all.

Fri 21 Aug 98
007 getting fuelRight: Taking on fuel. There are about 20 containers of extra fuel and water lashed down around the boat.

0630~0700hrs: Down at the boat. Some more squaring away of gear. Getting ready. Everything seems to be okay.

0700hrs: Head out through Cullen Bay lock with 3 other boats. Motor across to the fuel bowsers to get duty free fuel. Take on 120 litres of diesel for A$58.00. Duty free stores arrive and are taken on board.

0800hrs: Customs arrive and give us our clearance. No problems.
We are now free to leave Australia.

Start of Trip

0830hrs: Leaving Cullen Bay Pontoon and heading off. Engine hours noted at 500 hrs. Reset the Sumlog at zero sea miles.

0900hrs: Unpack the duty free stores and stow them away. Position the fuel & water jerry’s to trim the boat and lash them down on deck.

1130hrs. Clear of Darwin Harbour at 12 nautical miles (nm) equalling 22 km. Incidentally 1 nm = 1.85km. Royal Darwin Hospital can be seen easily on the horizon to the east. We’ll be going through the Van Dieman Gulf, past Cape Don then north to the Tanimbars from there. Intend to spend our first night at anchor to get everybody settled in. Heading towards the Vernon Islands to the north of Darwin for our first anchorage. Conditions are calm. No wind. Flat sea. Motoring to recharge batteries which are down a fair way.

008 girls on helmRight: The girls on their first stint at watch-keeping. Ann on the tiller. The blue bag at left is the BBQ.

1200hrs: There’s a problem with the fridge compressor. It’s not switching on and off anymore. Find a thin copper tube connecting the pressure switch to compressor has broken off clean at the suction terminal and all the R134 refrigeration gas has escaped. On advice from the fridgie it had been decided to leave the spare gas at home and thereby save some stowage room, so we won’t be able to re-gas the system.

Further investigation shows that the thin tube had been tied to the water cooling pipe from the exhaust manifold. Vibration of the engine has subsequently caused the break. You would think a fridge mechanic would have known better. Skipper is not happy, especially considering the expense of the installation (unmentionables again….).

From now on there will be no refrigeration and we will probably have to throw out most of our cold stores e.g. milk, meat, cheese, dairy products. BUT – it’s not what happens … it’s how you handle it. We all agree not to talk about it or complain about it anymore. Nothing more can be done.

002 route

Above: The route taken to and from the Tanimbar Islands

1715hrs: Anchor at the entrance to Leaders Creek in the Vernon Islands area. Posn: 12 degrees 09.37’S, 131 degrees 09.26’E. Engine hours 508.6 hrs. Log distance travelled 33.1 nm. No sailing done today. Wind was right on the nose all afternoon and a bit gusty at times. Settle down for a nice evening aboard without the rigours of keeping a watch on the first night with new crew.

Evening: The girls use the new BBQ for the first time and cook a lovely dinner on it. Cook up as much meat as possible. The BBQ is a great investment. No pans to wash! Will be leaving the freezer lid closed and only open it on an absolute minimum to try and conserve some of the cold stores. We actually didn’t lose too much at all by doing his, mainly margarine. After dinner went to bed about 2100hrs. Early start tomorrow.

Sat 22 Aug 98
0400hrs: Early rise to catch the outgoing tide. Need as much help with the big spring tide run (about 5 metres) to clear Cape Don in case the wind blows up strong in the afternoon. A wind against tide situation is usually not very pleasant especially in that area. Cup of coffee or tea as applicable. Take the shade canopy down.

0515hrs: Anchor up and underway. Heading 030 degrees True to clear Cape Hotham. One ship out in the channel heading east. Breeze about 10 knots. Seas calm. Slight swells later around Cape Hotham.

0650hrs: Sunrise over the cape. Conditions nice. Near the first GPS waypoint. The GPS satellite tracking equipment takes all the labour out of navigation, but the prudent sailor will always double check using more traditional methods. Making good time between 6.5~7 knots motoring. Wind right on the nose. Unwilling to attempt sailing anyway as it would mean tacking and having to cover more distance. We need to cover as much ground as possible within the next 12 hrs to stay with the right tides. Running with a spring tide pushing us.

009 punching wavesLeft: Punching into waves under motor out in the Van Dieman Gulf. The sails are ready to hand when the opportunity comes to put them up. So far the winds have been from directly ahead.

1115hrs: Reach Abbot Shoal buoy midway in the Gulf. Wind exactly on the nose at about 10 knots. Very choppy seas all morning so far due to wind on tide. Will not be able to make it through the gulf in one tide now. Approx 30 nm covered though and getting between 4.5~5 knots on average speed over ground. Still getting tide assistance. Reasonable run all considered even if it’s been a bit bumpy. Ann sights our first dolphin near boat.

1200hrs: Turn northwards. Position is a few miles north of the Abbot Shoal buoy. Sails put up for the first time as the wind comes around the bow. A single reef put into mains’l but still underpowered. Set up full mains’l and #1 jib. Motor sailing close hauled to the wind on 020 degrees True between 5~6 knots. Want to clear Cape Don in case the stronger inshore head-winds kick in later this afternoon.

010 staysail upRight: Martin and I setting the staysail. There are three sails – mainsail, jib headsail and staysail in between. There is very little wind as can be seen by the surface of the sea.

1400hrs: Change direction again to due north. On course for Saumlaki in the Tanimbar Islands. Still got a little way to go to reach Cape Don. Seas have dropped. Now slight. Wind has dropped to gentle puffs and has backed further. Change headsail to genoa. Tide is turning against us (Low Water Darwin – 1252hrs).

1445hrs: Change to full sail only and turn motor off. Wind has backed sufficiently to put up a goosewing rig with the mains’l and jib positioned alternatively each side of boat. Wind coming from astern. Getting around 3.5 knots. Bugger all breeze. Not complaining. It’s better than having strong headwinds in this area. Beautiful day.

011 bowline 012 on the bow
Left: Martin finally learns how to do a bowline knot after 25 years or so of sailing. Above: Ann standing at the bow. Motor-sailing and getting more assistance from the wind. The boat motion is smooth through the slight seas. The staysail has been taken down. The bucket lashed to the staysail is used for washing…both decks and people.

1600hrs: Beautiful sailing until now though only averaging 3 knots. Wind slowly dies away and tide starts pushing us backwards rather than just slow us down. Back to motoring. Situated 7 nm to the east of Napier Bay on the eastern end of Melville Island. The girls have made some bread on the BBQ. Smells absolutely delicious. Seas slight.

1930hrs: No shipping seen all day. Speed over last 3 hrs averaging between 2.5~3 knots. The slower speeds attributable to the head current of the incoming tide. It gets stronger the closer we get to Cape Don. Tide is slacking now though. Log and GPS speeds read about the same. Tide must be nearly ready to turn again (High Water Darwin – 1820hrs). Cape Don light can be seen to starboard coming up almost abeam. Everything looking shipshape. Secure for night travel and open water. Draw up a watch-keeping roster. Seas calm. No wind to speak of. Set GPS waypoint for Saumlaki.

2030hrs: Wind coming up again this time from the NW and freshening. Sails put up. Motor off for the last time until Saumlaki. Speed up to 4 knots. You beauty! Cape Don light now abeam to starboard. Goodbye Australia.

Sun 23 Aug 98
O’night: Absolutely beautiful sailing overnight. A good introduction and a good start. Wind gradually came around to the SE and we maintained a speed of around 5~6 knots. No moon. Boat handling a pleasure. Seas slight at first to moderate later on. No one getting sick although one crew with a slight tummy upset from the Doxycycline tablets.

Heading to Saumlaki is 350 degrees True. Actual heading is due north on the compass to allow for leeway. The front hatch was found to be leaking. Martin got doused and stared in bewilderment when I asked if much water came in. Cushions and bedding sopping wet. After that a piece of stainless flat bar used in the right place firmly dogged down and sealed the hatch. No more water ingress problems.

0600hrs: Boat starting to buck around and hitting up to 7 knots. Still have the #1 jib up. Wind is turning easterly (from SE) the further north we travel. Getting a beam reach with corresponding waves on the beam. Wind is freshening so will have to power down and tighten up the sails. Put a reef in the mains’l but still a tad overpowered so put in a second reef. Boat sitting more upright after this. Speed drops to a more comfortable 5 knots and sometimes 6 knots. Seas with some swells up to 2 metres or maybe 3 metres at times. Bit rolly polly.

0930hrs: Rocking and rolling along around 5.5 knots. Occasional large wave gives us a good slap or sends solid spray into the cockpit. Very refreshing! Lovely day again. Wind drops suddenly. Take out the 2nd reef in mains’l to pick up some speed, however as a cruising boat we’re not racing anybody or trying to prove some point. We could easily achieve much higher speeds if we want to.

Our reefing actions this morning pretty much set the style for our trip. We spend more time trying to slow the boat DOWN rather than speed it UP. Our aim is comfortable sailing or at least as comfortable as we can make it. Overall the sailing conditions are quite good for open water.

1600hrs: Still powering along. Winds variable. Averaging speed around 5 knots up and down in the 2.5m to 3m swells. See birds working schools of fish in vicinity of 9 degrees 50’S, 131 degrees 33’E. Almost at the Australian Fisheries Zone (AFZ) coastal limit.

1900hrs: Pass the AFZ and in international waters. Located approx 110nm north of Cape Don. Have completed about 120nm since changing to full sail last night not yet 24 hours ago. Making very good time. Pretty much an uneventful day. Enjoyable sailing.

2030hrs: Wind freshening again. Take down the #1 jib and put up the #2 smaller jib. Still have the 2nd reef in the mains’l. Seas quite lumpy on the starboard beam. Occasional large waves coming through.

Knockdown

Mon 24 Aug 98
0400hrs: Located 155 nm north of Cape Don and 45 nm from GPS waypoint. The waypoint is positioned at the entrance to Egron Strait. This is at the bottom of Yamdena Island which is the biggest and main island in the Tanimbar group. Our objective Saumlaki is the provincial capital and it’s 10 nm further on from there. Seas very lumpy. Some are quite sharp faced and hit the side of the boat with some force. They’re coming at us at an awkward angle causing Lowana IV to pitch and yaw hard as they go through. Fair bit of water coming aboard and going out the scuppers.

0500hrs: My turn on the tiller and can hear a loud ominous rumbling noise coming but can’t see anything out there. A rogue wave slams into the side of the boat and causes a particularly hard roll as it passes beneath. Lowana IV lays right over on her side and the mast dips into the ocean, then rolls again as the wave passes through and dips the mast into the ocean on the other side. Luckily I’m the only one on deck and hang on. Alarmed cries coming up from down below.

Temporarily lose bearings as the boat rights itself. Can’t see the water and unable to clearly read compass. Disorientated for a short moment but that’s about all it takes. Wind gets behind mains’l and it gybes. Mainsheet knocks over the BBQ with a loud bang as it slams across causing the entire boat to judder. Get the boat back on course without further ado. Everybody’s adrenalin going. No one seems to feel tired anymore …

0530hrs: Mains’l taken down. Running under small jib only. Take up new course of 340 degrees True to bring the waves in more from the starboard aft quarter. Boat still yawing heavily but not as hard as before. Down to a sedate speed of 3.5~4 knots. Much more relaxed sailing in the darkness when you can hear the waves but can’t see them.

0900hrs: Located 26 nm from GPS waypoint. Wind has moderated slightly. Mains’l with 2nd reef put back up and making 4~5 knots. Breeze comes in bursts of 10 to 15 mins before a lull. Large sets of waves come through regularly causing boat to pitch and yaw fairly heavily still, giving the helmsman some work to keep her on track.

1245hrs: Located 9.5 nm from GPS waypoint. First sighting of land low on horizon in a smoky haze. Capt’n Russy wins a double coke.

1330hrs: Indonesian flag and Quarantine flag raised to crosstrees.

013 raising flagsLeft: Russ and Ann preparing to raise the Indonesian and quarantine flags to the crosstrees. Boats visiting foreign countries are required to fly their national flag as a courtesy. A quarantine (all yellow) flag is also flown to signal authorities that you require clearance.

1530hrs: Nice easy run into strait. Have passed the headland of Pt Asutubun and Saumlaki town is in sight 5 nm away up the harbour. Some small craft around. Get a sun shower in the form of a very slight spit of rain.

014 end in sightRight: End in sight. In Yamdena Strait proper and heading towards Saumlaki which is the provincial capital of the Tanimbars. The town can just be seen ahead from here.

1550hrs. Final turn to Saumlaki. Maintaining same tack with the sails. Not necessary to even adjust them. Sailing all the way in until final stages of approach when the motor will be turned on.

1750hrs: Depth sounded the anchorage and select an anchor site. Drop the anchor and get it set in. Motor off and canopy up.

Anchored Saumlaki: 016 off saumlakiPosn: 7 degrees 58.62’S, 131 degrees 17.33’E. Saumlaki is located on a harbour at the bottom of Yamdena Island. We anchored in 20m depth of water at a point 300m north of the main cement jetty in front of the main township. The fringing reef is very wide and necessitates anchoring a long way out from shore. The anchorage has good mud holding. It gets very windy most days out on the water where you might hardly feel it in town.

Total sea miles from mouth of Leaders Creek was 241 nm. Total distance Darwin to Saumlaki 274 nm through the Vernon Islands. Actual travelling time 2.75 days including time spent checking and sounding both anchorages. Engine hrs at 525 hrs. Total trip engine hours so far are 25 hrs.

Right: Lowana IV lies at anchor off Saumlaki. The change in the water colour indicates the fringing reef all along the coast.

Evening: Square things away. The lady crewies present the men crewies with a solid gold tinfoil toy medallion and pretty ribbon for our safe arrival. They later provide further reward with a lovely dinner. More deck covers have to be put up as another rain shower comes through over the top of us. Just enough to dampen our mattresses on deck ready for bed. Never mind. That’s cruising.

Tue 25 Aug 98
017 undercoverLeft: Waiting on deck for a morning shower to pass through before going ashore.

Morning: Everyone had a great sleep. The girls put on freshly cooked damper for brekky. Another shower comes over but it doesn’t last long and there isn’t a lot in it. Relax on deck enjoying the sights. Some debate about a black object in the water drifting out towards us. It’s a dead pussy cat which unerringly passes right alongside casual as you please. Welcome to Saumlaki. The water no longer looks quite so inviting for a quick swim.

018 pussycatRight: One of the locals floating out to give us a welcome. Poor dead pussycat …..

1200hrs: Seek out the Harbour Masters Office ashore with Martin. Give that official copies of everything. He’s friendly and we don’t encounter any problems of any kind. He’s the only official we could find. There are no ‘Immigrasi‘ in the Tanimbars.

We didn’t visit the Police but a couple of nights later a man comes to our hotel in civilian clothes and talks to us. He claims he’s a policeman but doesn’t provide identification nor does he ask for any papers. He just makes enquiries about who we are and our intentions then leaves us. No more is said.

Take a quick look around the local streets. Find the Harapan Indah Hotel where we’re going to stay. Leave Martin ashore and go back out to the boat for the ladies.

1430hrs: All ashore at the Harapan Indah. Stunningly beautiful solid timber furniture and fittings throughout. It has a timber boat deck built out over the water. From here we can see Lowana IV out beyond the reef. Care has to be taken negotiating the reef but it’s generally passable from about mid tide.

019 hotel deckLeft: Coming in by dinghy to the boat deck at the rear of the hotel. Quite a handy facility. You can go directly to and from your own boat from here.

As mentioned before the winds can be quite strong in Saumlaki Harbour yet seem so mild on shore. It’s often deceptive looking out from the boat deck. There is not much land between the harbour and the east coast of Yamdena Island to absorb the full brunt of the 20~30 knot trade winds with which we travelled here. I was a bit concerned about leaving the boat unattended, fearing that she might drag her anchor onto the reef. As it happened she never moved an inch.

1530hrs: Take a walk and a look around. Martin stays back at the hotel re-acquainting himself with Bintang beer. Check out the market place and shops. Feeling hungry as haven’t had lunch yet.

020 old and new 021 downtown
Above: The newer and traditional boats. Lowana IV can be seen at anchor beyond the reefs in the background. It’s actually closer than it looks here. Above: The main street of Saumlaki. Taken during a ‘siesta’ in the hottest part of the day when most people tend to go off and have a little nap somewhere. The Harapan Indah hotel is the yellow and blue building about midway along the left.
022 around town 023 markets
Above: Typical side street. Above: Part of the marketplace in the town proper. The fruit and vegetables are generally of a very good standard.

Try out a little restaurant named Sido Hampir which becomes our favourite place to eat. Order some white rice, gado-gado – vegetable salad with a coconut cream sauce which is very nice. Total cost including 6 cups of aqua – water, peanuts and chips is Rp13700 (almost A$2.00) for three people.

025 restaurant familyRight: The family that owns the Sido Hampir Restaurant make us welcome. The owner at left provides excellent meals and a very clean standard. The lady on the right and behind Ann is Corrie. She’s works at the hotel and is our tour guide.

Notes:
(1) Currency: The currency is called the Rupiah. The exchange rate at the time of our visit was Rp6090 to A$1.00.
(2) Local Wages Comparison: Jamie is a Steward at the hotel. He works 7 days a week for 12 hours a day. He does not work hard though. His wages are Rp100,000 a month (A$16.40).

After the meal we walk up and down the main road past the hospital and power station and back.

1830hrs: Return to hotel. Have some more drinks with Martin out on the boat deck and watch the sunset.

2000hrs: Padang restaurant for dinner. These places are fairly common throughout Indonesia and serve Sumatran dishes. You don’t order as such. They place everything on the table and you eat what you want. At the end they come and count up what you have eaten and charge you accordingly.

The food is usually quite good but like any restaurant there are good and bad. Tonight a full meal for 4 of us cost Rp40900 (A$6.71) including Bintang and coffee, which was awful. Martin is very entertaining with the kids in the shop who are delighted by his antics especially since he can talk in their language.

2200hrs: Return to hotel, have a quiet chat and go to bed.

Wed 26 Aug 98
Morning: Some of us have a lovely sleep in. Quick breakfast then make arrangements for a day tour to Sanglia Dol, a village up the east coast. Our guide is Corrie, a young lady who works in the Merpati Office at the hotel. She speaks quite reasonable English. Our bemo driver Abing later proves to be a competent driver over the somewhat less than smooth road.1100hrs: Set off on our tour. Martin stays behind. Interesting trip up the coast. Scenery is spectacular looking out from the crests of hills. The road is dirt and often washed away from recent rains.

026 coastal view 027 coast road
Above: The scenery from the crests of hills going up the eastern coast of Yamdena is really good. Some of the hills are quite steep. Above: Part of the coastal road over the hills. Just as well the driver hired some hands to come along…they were needed to push us through the bogs.

028 new churchLeft: Another coastal village on the road to Sanglia Dol with a church being built. The majority of people are christian and the most substantial building in any village is it’s church.

After a long and rough ride we finally arrive at the village of Sanglia Dol where we are to view the allegedly famous ‘stone boat’ and the stone staircase. We’re taken to sit in the house of the Headman who doesn’t show up. The stone ship is sitting in the middle of the village but we’re informed we cannot take any photos of it until we’ve walked the stone staircase leading down to the beach. Custom apparently demands this and it’s bad luck to take photos first.

029 stone stairsRight: This stone staircase built hundreds of years ago reaching up from the beach to the village on a plateau above.

The stone staircase is huge being fairly steep and 50 metres long. It reaches up some 30 metres from the beach to the cliff top where the village is perched. We all line up and walk down the staircase to the bottom. Check the beach. Look at another small stone boat which is still functioning as a water well, although nobody in their right mind would drink the water. We return by another less conspicuous stone staircase to the village.

Throughout the Moluccas region there was once a megalithic or Dongson culture. The status of the leaders was confirmed by rituals and the erection of megaliths (stone objects) as lasting signs of prestige. In the Tanimbar Islands they took the form of a ship in various villages. The villagers believe the stone ‘ships’ represent the vessels in which the village founders arrived here. A stone ship once served as a meeting place for ceremonial dances and rituals for their gods and ancestors. Sanglia Dol holds some of the areas best remains.

030 stone shipLeft: A stone ship built hundreds of years ago by the ancestors to this village. It signifies how the villagers came here and was used for ceremonial rites, some of which were fairly boisterous apparently.

The Tanimbar Islanders from this region were once head-hunters and it’s believed the practice continued even as late as WW2. Perhaps even the parents of these villagers may have been collecting heads.

With this in mind and having seen the stone ship and stone staircase, we stand around getting ogled at by all the villagers and feeling a little uncomfortable. Not really given to smiling at visitors these people. Do some of them actually have filed teeth? The ladies endure a constant succession of hard pinching by the local kids. To check how tender they are? I look at the girls and get a vision of fried chickens walking about.

This is the sort of place where you might look once then move on. Interesting in its own right but not riveting. It really needs a good guide with lots of background information to make it particularly worthwhile. Corrie isn’t up to it and the visit turns out to be a bit of ho-hum especially after the long ride to get here. But it is a pretty place with a picturesque shoreline. Population is about 1000 people, all Catholic religion … now.

Afternoon: After Sanglia Dol we visit ‘Mama’s Farm’. Mama is the owner of the Harapan Indah Hotel where we are staying. She’s a wonderful hostess in a beautiful home in a tranquil setting. The house has a wide verandah, very high roof with no ceiling and has solid polished hardwood timber throughout.

031 clucky nursesLeft: One of the staff presents her newborn to the Ann and Delma. Lots of clucking ….

We’re made welcome and served battered banana, battered sweet potato, fresh pawpaw and bananas and a very tasty coffee. She gives us some fresh eggs and asks the Australian name for chicken. The Indonesians in our group break into peals of laughter when told we call them chooks due to their chook-chook sound. Seems ‘chookie’ means ‘fart’ in Indonesian slang.

The conversation is pleasant and entertaining. Even more so when Ann happens to mention how she loves pawpaw. Stunned quiet for a moment then more hilarious laughter. The locals call this particular fruit papaya. Pawpaw in Indonesian slang means ‘pussy’ … yes THAT pussy! Ann’s face matches her red shirt.

032 chatting

Right: Mamas house. The roof is high with no ceiling, sensible for the tropics. Beautiful hardwood timberwork throughout. Mama is on the left and Mama’s son-in-law at right. Corrie is the second on the right.

Mama says she loves Australian white rice so we resolve to make up a small parcel out of ships stores. We will use Indonesian rice for a change anyway. After leaving Mama’s we make a quick stop at the village of Ilngei (pronounced ill-nee-you) to check out the beach which is supposed to be good for swimming. It might be considered to be okay at high tide but looks less than inviting at low tide to me.

033 ilngeiRight: The village of Ilngei. Picturesque setting and the usual big church. Village houses as seen in the foreground tend to be just small square places.

Nearer to town Corrie takes over the driver’s seat, misses a couple of gears but doesn’t miss a motor cycle on the side of the road. This is much to the disapproval of a man in a blue shirt. Abing seems more concerned about the marks on his tyres which are only a slight improvement on his spare tyre, which would look out of place in a garden retaining wall.

1800hrs: Back at the hotel we have a drink with Martin on the boat deck enjoying the dusk. He tells us about his day going out to the boat and bringing the #1 jib ashore for patching since it had sustained some minor rips. He’d also taken a look at the BBQ and found it didn’t need any repairs after having been banged about out at sea. Good news that.

1830hrs: Take the dinghy out to Lowana IV to check the bilges and anchor. Put more grease into the stuffing box (propeller shaft seal). Collect fresh clothes and gather our dirty laundry for washing ashore. Everything else on boat seems okay. Set the night anchor light and return to shore.

1900hrs: Make our way to the Telephone Office and unsuccessfully try to phone our families at home. Don’t know why but just can’t get an overseas line. Will have to try again tomorrow. Return to the Sido Hampir restaurant for dinner. Just the terrible trio Ann, Delma & Russ. Full meal for three people of white rice, gado-gado again, daging-sapi – beef, fish and squid cost Rp 27100 (A$4.44). It’s very tasty.

2030hrs: Take a walk to look through the shops. Start to buy some rice but notice that there’s wildlife active in it so put it back. Buy some mossie coils. Some kids chase us up the street playfully squirting water at us.

2130hrs. Return to hotel. Martin’s gone off to play snooker in one of the many pool rooms around. Quiet chat and drinks before bed.

Thu 27 Aug 98
0730hrs: Another lovely sleep-in with the aircon on. Glorious day. Served coffee and toast out on the boat deck for breakfast.

034 boat deckLeft: Delma taking breakfast out on the boat deck. Lowana IV can just be made out in the background between the two table umbrella stands.

1000hrs: Visit the Telephone Office again. Lines to Australia available. Manage to make some phone calls to respective families and let them know what’s been happening. No problems once we work out how to use the equipment.

035 castnetterRight: A young bloke out castnetting for fish in the shallows near our boat deck.

Later on Ann is given lessons in dinghy handling going out to the boat over the reef. Top up main fuel and water tanks and bring empty containers to shore. Back at the hotel Martin & Jamie use ‘sticky-back’ to patch the #1 jib. Take the sail to one of the local tailors to sew it. Explain in laborious detail what is required. The man agrees it can be done.

Afternoon: All crew have lunch with Corrie at the trusty Sido Hampir. Corrie arranges a bemo for refuelling of diesel jerries, and also to take Delma and Ann to visit the local hospital. As they are both nurses they’re keen to have a sticky beak and see what’s what.

When they arrive at the hospital they’re told to sit down and wait. There’s some confusion as to why they’ve come to the hospital since they aren’t sick. It’s eventually sorted out and the local nurses get all excited. Apparently they haven’t had any other professional visitors before, or at least international ones. Much cuddling before racing away to get dolled up with their lipstick and makeup. Indonesians never seem to miss an opportunity for a photo! The hospital itself is very basic. Cement floors and rusty metal chrome beds but could be considered clean by some standards.

036 nursesLeft: Some of the local nurses pose with Delma and Ann at the front door to the hospital

Meanwhile the bemo driver takes me to the benzine station to refuel the diesel jerry cans. The price per litre is unbelievable. The driver must have got it at the price the local drivers pay at Rp550/litre (about A$0.09). The 2 x 20 litre jerries are refuelled for the grand sum of Rp22000 (A$3.60). The bemo driver charges me Rp5000 but is given Rp6000 (A$0.98). All up the whole exercise for 40 litres of diesel cost Rp28000 (A$4.59).

Pick up Delma and Ann at the hospital on the way back to hotel. Mobs of curious people standing around out the front and surrounding the girls.

1645hrs: Return to the tailor to collect the sail. Job partially but nearly completed. Some patches still not done. Seems he had broken his machine and he hasn ‘t put in the zig-zag pattern or used strong thread as requested. He lost on all counts and so on principle I just paid just the Rp5000 (A$0.81) he quoted, no more nor less and lucky to get it. The sail might be serviceable but we’ll just have to wait and see, otherwise we’ll be patching it by hand ourselves.

1730hrs: Delma gets the dinghy lesson this time going out to the boat. Dinghy handling you would think is pretty basic but they apparently account for more yachty deaths in one way or another, than any other cause. Take out the #1 jib and the full fuel and water containers. The kero hurricane lamp used as a night anchor light has sprung a leak and now unsafe to use. Turn on the mast top anchor light and return to shore.

Another yacht and a good sized motor cruiser arrive in the harbour. The cruiser is MV Idlewise. Meet the crew on the boat deck of the hotel. Skippers name is Errol, his partner Clare and crew are Rick and Lynn. Details regarding the yacht not known at this time. Idlewise is waiting for a break in the weather before attempting an onward trip to Gove as it is direct to windward from here. They stay the night aboard their boat and we don’t get to have much more to do with them. We heard later that one of them did an ugly Australian act one morning. The ladder had not been dropped down to the water ready to climb up onto the boat deck and staff were abused. The hotel staff had supposedly been quite offended.

1845hrs: Delma and Ann return from the market with rice and some coffee lollies. They also bring a new but smaller hurricane lamp for Rp8000 (A$1.31) but it might be a bit too small.

037 market ladyRight: Lady selling melons at the local market.

Evening: Meet the crew of the other yacht SV Farr Star. It’s a 36 footer and is going back to Darwin. People on board are Dennis (owner), Annette (wife), Russell (son) and Tracy. They join us for an excellent meal at the hotel of battered garlic prawns, eggplant in coconut curry sauce, sago bush leaves in coconut milk, baked whole fish with another lovely sauce, fried noodles, calamari and white rice. This is followed by fresh pawpaw. Lovely.

The meal cost the grand sum of about Rp30000 each (A$4.92). A very nice sociable evening. Dennis provides us with some information about the Tanimbars west coast and in particular Wotap Island. Head off to bed with a wobbly but otherwise contented belly.

039 hotel dinner 038 hotel cooking gear
Above: Dinner at the Harapan Indah Hotel with the crew from SV Farr Star Above: Nothing fancy about this kitchen gear. Just these two items are used to cook up a lavish meal consisting of several succulent dishes.

Tomorrow we’re heading out to the nearby island of Adaut.

Fri 28 Aug 98
0730hrs: Another lovely morning out on the boat deck of the hotel. Have the usual coffee and toast. Everyone has some last minute things to do.0900hrs: Visit the Harbour Masters Office and get our clearance to proceed to Tual in the Kai Islands. Buy a couple of buckets to replace one lost at sea. One of them is made out of old car tyres and quite useful for having a wash on board. We later find a hitch-hiker in the form of a live tick hiding in its creases. Delma does some last minute shopping (again) at the market.Pay the hotel bill which amounts to Rp618000 (A$104.50). This includes 3 days and nights, double room, TV, aircon and attached mandi. Cost Rp75000 (A$12.30) per night. It also includes last night’s meal, all breakfasts and laundry. The laundry cost Rp61000 (A$10.00). Last but not least all the drinks for 3 of us has been put onto our bill as well adding another Rp309000 (A$50.70). We sort the last one out separately.

Saumlaki-Adaut

1230hrs: Everybody is back on board and stowing all our gear away. Pull the anchor up and get underway. Sailing initially with the just the #2 jib and still getting 3.5~4 knots down the harbour.

040 up anchor1 041 up anchor2
Above: This series of photos were taken from the top of MV Idlewise as we pull up our anchor to depart from Saumlaki for Adaut. Above: Anchor is up. Motoring and starting to put up sail. Martin on the bow connects the jib halyard. Ann is moving the sail to the off-wind side. Delma is ready to hoist and winch up the sail.
043 up anchor4
Above: Heading for Adaut village. Under sail now with motor off and just using the jib. We’ll put up the mainsail shortly. In the meantime we’re getting up to about 4 knots and rapidly pulling away. To the right is one of the many fish traps.
Chart_4_Egron_Strait
Above: Egron Strait separates Saumlaki on
Yamdena Island and Adaut village on Selaru Island

Today we’re going to check out the little island of Nustabun at the harbour entrance. If the time and conditions are right we’ll go for a swim and snorkel. Call up Idlewise and Farr Star on radio Ch16. Exchange farewells and wishes for safe and speedy voyages.

1300hrs: Mains’l up with a 2nd reef in and getting up to 5.5 knots. Boat handling and trim very good. Wind fairly strong at approx 20 knots. Great sailing.

1400hrs: Reach Egron Strait and the open water between the islands. Change course west and follow the coast staying well offshore due to fringing reefs. Lovely day. Clear water.

1530hrs: Take the sails down near the north of Nustabun Is. Motor around the north and west sides taking depth soundings and checking the coral reefs. Beautiful white sand swimming beach with clear green water around it. This place is said to be excellent for snorkelling and diving.

1600hrs: Decide there’s not enough time to stay. Having looked at it don’t wish to anchor overnight here anyway. Sails put back up and head for an overnight anchorage off the village of Adaut to the south.

044 approach adautLeft: Approaching Adaut Village on Selaru Island to the south of Saumlaki. Martin and Delma keeping a lookout as we near the coral reef, and also standing by ready to anchor up when we get closer.

1730hrs: Take the sails down and motor into anchorage. Plenty of activity on the water with several tiga-rowas – dugout canoes with two outrigger hulls and sporting lateen sails.

Anchor off Adaut village, Selaru Is. Posn: 08 degrees 07.51’S, 131 degrees 06.63’E. Adaut village is situated on the northern side and eastern end of Selaru Is. Selaru is located directly south of the main island of Yamdena. Drop anchor in 13.5 metres of water to the NE of the main stone/rock jetty. A wide coral reef fringe must be negotiated to get ashore. Seems to be good holding here. Anchorage is quite sheltered from ocean swells but the land is flat and low and it could get windy. Prevailing winds hold us off shore.

Distance Saumlaki-Adaut via Nustabun Island was 15 nm. Mostly sailing except for the start, a bit around Nustabun and approaching Adaut.

1830hrs: Sundowner drinks well underway. Martin makes me 2 x non alcoholic Coca-Cola cocktails complete with pips. They’re quite nice. BBQ set up again ready for work. Delma calls over a dugout canoe and buys 8 smallish fish for Rp2000 (A$0.32) for dinner. Another bloke comes out and invites himself aboard. This chap is deaf as a post and speaks at top volume to compensate. Have to ask him politely and with gestures to leave so that we can eat.

045 adaut village
Above: Adaut village with imposing church at centre left.

046 fish sellerRight: This chap was fishing when we arrived at Adaut. Note the outrigger system. There are no sails with this one, he just uses a paddle.

Evening: Lovely meal of fish cooked on the BBQ with mashed potato, sweet corn and pumpkin. Locally grown banana and pawpaw desert soaked in Cointreau follows. The BBQ saves a lot of mess and there’s no heat in the saloon area from galley cooking.

After some discussion we decide that the village looks interesting with its huge church so decide to stay at least for tomorrow. Delma says she’d like to go to a service at the church on Sunday. Find out from local fishermen that there are Catholics and Protestants here. No Moslems.

Moon getting bigger and lighting up the bay. Small surf can be heard running on the reef in the background. The whole scene is just horrible … will just have to stay to Sunday to see if it gets better.

Sat 29 Aug 98
0730hrs: Morning cups of tea/coffee. A couple of sleepy heads. Another lovely looking day. Check the new hurricane lamp being used as the ship’s night anchor light. It’s still alight and a third full of kero still. It’ll be okay. Casual breakfast of eggs, tomato & onion with pita bread and pumpernickel bread.

Morning: Sort out boat cash kitty. The kitty is a pool of money kept on board for all purchases involving the boat and all crew e.g. food and other consumables such as fuel. The money from the market shopping comes out of the boat kitty. There is still A$174.00 in the kitty. Should be heaps.

Chap named Lambert comes out in a reasonable sized boat powered by a 15 hp Yamaha outboard. After introductions and a chat we make arrangements to go with him to a nearby island tomorrow for a picnic, swimming and some snorkelling. Find out from him that the church service starts at 0900hrs. We’ll go to the island after the girls return from church.

1315hrs: Dinghy ashore for a look at Adaut village. Immediately the centre of attention especially from the kids. Must be more than 50 following us around at any one time with the majority hanging around the girls. Martin and I get the leftovers.

048 village children 049 street escort
Above: The first wave of kids to escort us. There are many more to come later. Show a camera and they’ll line up faster than Jack Flash. Above: Being escorted into the village.

A local guru – teacher named Annette comes up and takes us literally by the hand to meet the local dominie – pastor or priest of the local church. Eventually we work out that the priest must also be the village Headman. We’re politely shown to chairs where we sit and stare at each other seeking to make small talk. We ask for permission to walk around the village which is freely given.

047 pig styLeft: These little structures house the pigs and are built out over the high water level. The high tide washes away the droppings and any mess.

Check the local church out. It’s turns out to be the Protestant church and from the boat it looks rather imposing. Close up it has a rather obvious lean to it and shows a bit of wear. A couple of rusty old bomb cones hang from a tree outside to serve as a bell. Quite effective anyway. Later check out the Catholic church which is a bit of a walk out past the school yard. Nobody at home. Looks a bit dusty inside. The village itself is quite clean. Not especially prosperous looking but not poor either. Probably can’t spare much but. Very friendly place.

One of the villagers has been adding extensions to his place and is in the process of laying the formwork in cement, which he’s mixing out the front. Amidst a gaggle of curious villagers we’re invited into this chaps house where he tells us that 10 people live here. He seems unperturbed that his house is now famous with about 30-40 people peering through every crack in the place.

It’s nice and cool inside but we have to take our leave. Much hand shaking and step outside except that Delma, looking everywhere but down walks onto some of his cement formwork. No problem though. He’s quite friendly about it. Time to get back to the boat.

1530hrs: Local fisherman sell us 18 fish for Rp5000 (A$0.81). Don’t bother bargaining at that price.

1550hrs: A couple of youngsters pass by in a tiga-rowa out the back of our boat. They’ve capsized it and are losing items drifting away with the tide. The wind is making it difficult for them to get it upright again. Martin and Delma jump into our dinghy and rescue 2 bunches of bananas, 2 logs, a canoe seat, a bailing bucket and a rubber thong while the boys get their boat back upright. This takes some doing and they drift off some distance before succeeding and paddling back to us.

1600hrs: Ashore at a nearby beach for a swim. Typical tropical island scene. What seems to be white sand is actually more like coral shale and ground down sea shells. Coconut trees towering above the foreshore. Water is crystal clear and cool. Some villagers walk past. We make arrangements with one of them to meet us at the jetty later on to buy a bunch of green bananas. Have a lovely swim.

052 bathingLeft: Ann doing a bit of snorkelling at a nearby beach.

1830hrs. Martin and Delma dinghy over to the stone pier. Our man with the pisangs – bananas hasn’t shown up. A villager obligingly goes to fetch him. Meanwhile Martin sits cross-legged on a large rock. Loses his Joe Cool when it’s discreetly pointed out by a villager that he’d forgotten to zip up his fly! Poor Martin. No wonder they’d been giggling and tittering so much. Martin had been thinking this bloody villager was just being a bit overfriendly or hopeful when he kept pointing at his crutch. Anyway our banana man shows up. Purchase over 2 dozen big sized green bananas for Rp4000 (A$0.65).

They return to Lowana IV and we set about having dinner. Fresh fish again but baked in the oven this time. Delicious but lots of small bones.

2200hrs: Amazing how tired you get even when not actually doing very much. Villagers could be heard singing away on shore. Real party goers this mob.

Listen to the High Seas Forecast. It’s 10-20 knots, slight to moderate seas, S to SE winds. Pity anyone south of Sumatra in the Indian Ocean though. Forecast is 30 knots with rough seas. Start to use the radio and find the tuner not working. Looking at it later the antenna had shorted out at the thru-deck insulator. Burn marks on the painted deck. So now we’re out of direct contact with the outside world. We can receive broadcasts but not transmit. Observe that this antenna had also been ‘professionally’ installed as well.

Sun 30 Aug 98
Early Morning: Cereal for breakfast. Chap comes out in a tiga-rowa to deliver a note from the local priest formally inviting us to a baptism and marriage service at 0900hrs. The note has been written by a High School teacher by the name of Mr Lololuan.

0845hrs: Delma and Ann set off on their first adventure in the dinghy by themselves. Martin and Russ busy themselves around the boat. One of the main jobs is to check stores in the aft lazarette for dampness.

1120hrs: Delma and Ann still ashore. Have checked for water ingress through the lazarette – aft hatch. It had not been properly secured down tight when we were at sea but the stores in there are found to be only slightly damp and are laid out for drying. Maybe a bucket of seawater had worked its way past the hatch and down into the bilges. Also clean the cockpit. Put holding ropes onto our new buckets and drown the newly discovered stowaway tick in the rubber bucket.

Note: Not finding it very difficult at all without refrigeration. Cold drinks would be nice but we’re making do okay. No fresh meat except for canned and dried stuff. Not missing the chops and steaks yet. Also not missing the necessity to have to run the motor twice a day whilst at anchor to keep the fridges cool.

Ashore: Delma and Ann are met ashore by a bevy of local boys who guide them in and tie the dinghy to the jetty for them. Ever mindful of the local sensibilities they put on sarongs over their shorts, but the westerner legs impress the boys no end. No doubt imagination’s running wild.

The girls then meet Mr Lololuan who becomes their unofficial guide and interpreter. They’re guided to the church front door and paraded through the congregation numbering literally several hundreds of people and seated right at the front row. This apparently isn’t good enough. Six bright pink plastic chairs (only the best will do please) are then brought out and arranged to face the congregation. Almost mortified our damsels have to sit there sticking out like sore thumbs facing a sea of grinning faces.

It’s a big day. They sit through 75 baptisms (yes… 75!) and we don’t know what become of the marriage ceremonies. Our voyage is blessed for a safe return home and the girls felt that this was genuine. Afterwards they’re invited for tea and bikkies at Mr Lololuan’s, and try to keep a straight face while drinking the highly sweetened tea. It should be observed here that both sugar and tea is not high on the girl’s most favoured list.

050 baptism music 051 baptism
Above: The church band and choir. Above: Just one of 75 baptisms in progress at the Sunday church services. The Dominie (priest) is surprised when Ann doesn’t have enough film to take photos of them all. People are packed in everywhere…literally hundreds of them.

Later at the jetty the duo prove what tarts they are when they remove their sarongs to get back into the dinghy. In doing so they flash their lily white thighs and shorts much to the delight of the 12 year old boys looking on.

054 fishingLeft: Trying my hand at a spot of fishing. No bait so using lures. Didn’t try very hard and didn’t get anything either.

1300hrs: The boys on the boat by this time are getting peckish and starting to wonder how much they will have to pay to get the girls back. With not a lot else to do we fetch the jack-lines and lay them out. Check them to ensure sufficient shackles and serviceability should they be needed back out at sea (jack-lines are safety lines shackled fore and aft as required).

1330hrs: The little red dinghy with two familiar figures appear around the end of the stone jetty and heads towards Lowana IV.

Afternoon: Our man Lambert has not arrived to take us to nearby Nuyanat Island as arranged yesterday. We have lunch. Starting to feel sleepy so instead get motivated and repack the aft lazarette. Pull out the snorkelling gear and dinghy over to our nearby beach for another swim.

As we climb out of the dinghy there must have be a hundred or more children with teachers having Sunday School under a big tree. Each one carries a little package of lunch. Lots of simple but spirited religious singing. The noise is deafening from so many kids each trying to outdo the other. There’s actually two groups each singing in total disregard to the other and clapping separate time, but overall it creates a wonderful event. The two groups consists of older and younger members. All so friendly you wouldn’t believe it.

053 picnic2Right: A Sunday school picnic on the beach. Dozens of kids and the noise is deafening. The group in the front are the younger ones.

The younger class suddenly surrounds three of us with an impromptu singing session. Ann chases them around the beach to much excited giggling and screaming. Virtually no brattish behaviour. Gradually the teachers get them back into their classes under the big tree.

We then walk further up the beach. We swim and snorkel over the reef. Some very pretty fish and corals. Another family group of about a dozen people come down and sit right on the beach in front of us. Lambert shows up later and sits down too but isn’t saying much. Eventually we make another arrangement to go to Nuyanat Island tomorrow. He tells us he doesn’t like to swim around here because the locals use the beach as a dunny. Exit water …

Back to the boat musing that we didn’t really see all that many locals down that end of the beach anyway … was there?

1800hrs: Buy some more fish from the ever present local fisherman in their dugouts. Cost Rp3000 (A$0.49). Our rubber bucket employed in the serious business of drowning our landlubber tick has somehow done a deep six into Davy Jone’s locker carrying it’s unwelcome cargo with it. Still have the handle but. Having sundowners.

1900hrs. Some more sundowners. Most of crew getting frisky on whisky. Fish with coconut curry for dinner followed by creamed rice and sliced mango.

2200hrs: Listen to the weather report. Still the same though seems to be moderating slightly here.

Mon 31 Aug 98
0430hrs: Someone hailing the boat from a small boat nearby. Martin’s firm voice booms out brooking no argument tells him to go away … or similar words to that effect..Dawn: The village seems to have partied most of the night. Possibly to do with all the baptisms. It’s now awake with all sorts of noises; music, chainsaws, chooks you name it.0830hrs: Boat slowly wakes up. Lambert turns up 1½ hrs before his 10am appointment. Have breakfast and coffees. Settle on a price with Lambert. He wants Rp30000 plus Rp10000 (total A$6.56) for his son who will come along to help with the boat. The price is all inclusive but we agree privately amongst ourselves to give him more at the end of the day.056 day trippingLeft: Boarding Lambert’s boat. Lambert at rear. Slight stale fishy smell but not that bad.1000hrs: Everyone climbs into Lambert’s boat and we start heading over to Nuyanat Is. Uneventful 10 min trip. Tide’s in but the water is shallow along the beach. A bit of exploration is in order so we walk along the beach around the circumference of the island. This takes a couple of hours beachcombing along the way.057 rowed ashoreRight: Lambert’s son made to do all the work poling the boat into shore. We’re not allowed to help.At the western end Lambert shows us a gravesite nicely laid out and framed with stones. It’s well kept with sea shells at its head. He tells us this is the grave of 3 Australian soldiers from WW2. He doesn’t know how they died. The grave is located next to the shore in the middle of a small camp regularly used by local fishermen as an overnight stop. Quite a well established and well used place. Beautiful spot. It’s touching to think that the locals have maintained this grave after all this time.058 delma on beachLeft: Delma in amongst dead trees washed onshore.1300hrs: Feeling hungry so sitting under a small palm frond roofed shelter we have a picnic of damper, salsa, rice crackers, tinned tuna, fresh fruit and lollies. Lambert and his son join in.1400hrs: Feeling sleepy but the fleas and the ants chewing on the remains of someone’s past fish meals persuade us to leave our little hut and sit under a tree on the beach. Everyone to their own devices but mostly reading and snoozing.059 picnic ashoreRight: Relaxing under the shelter for lunch with the local friendly fleas and ants.1630hrs: The tide has gone right out and not much water to swim in. The troops grab some shampoo and wash their hair while sitting in what water is available in little tide pools. Everyone is freezing cold when they get out.055  lad sailingLeft: A standard tiga-rowa used in the Tanimbars. These have a different design to other areas in Indonesia. Note the raised section on the hull. The material for the sails is pretty much used everywhere. It’s the sort of plastic stuff that shopping bags and carry bags are made out of.1700hrs: Back on Lowana IV Lambert is offered Rp50000 (an extra Rp10000). He promptly reneges on his original price wanting an extra Rp30000 for the boat as well. Great care had been taken this morning to ensure the boat and everything was included. It’s annoying, not for the money but for the principle of it so we give him Rp60000 (A$10.00) and refuse to give him any more. He then starts asking for apples and lollies. He’s firmly shown off the yacht. The frick!A youngish man comes out offering to sell us some weaving’s. He asks a ridiculous Rp500,000 which is refused under the normal conventions of bartering. A counter offer of Rp90000 is made which he in turn refuses. He returns to shore.1800hrs: Now we have another visitor who wants to exchange an Australian 20c coin for Rupiah. No one is much interested but Martin gives him Rp1000 anyway to get rid of him.He then proceeds to stick around the boat as persistent as a bush fly. That in itself isn’t a problem but the sharp points on his outriggers are butting with the waves against the fibreglass dingy and Lowana IV’s hull, and it’s causing me some concern. He can’t be persuaded to leave by words, gestures or grimaces. At least not until a certain skipper directs a couple of choice and well known Indonesian words at him, at a volume sufficient to ensure he would hear if he were deaf. He then paddles away with feigned dignity and doesn’t look back. Today seems to be smarty pants day!1840hrs: Martin washes our impressive collections of sea shells. Have some quite large clam shells amongst others. Each of the girls has almost collected enough shells to make an entire dinner set. Girls are cooking tea. No fish bought today so we’re having a dried meat dish instead. Looking forward to it.

Evening: Some sundowners. A little less enthusiastic tonight. Lovely dinner of mince and pasta. The girls experiment with a damper made of bicarb soda, capsicum and olives. Ahh … no comment …

2200hrs: Listen to forecast. No messages for us. Variable SE winds up to 10 knots for our region.

Tue 1 Sep 98
0830hrs: Boat slowly coming to life. No ‘up and at em’ today, more like ‘crawl and look’.

0900hrs: The chap with the weavings yesterday returns. He’s obviously been consulting the actual weaver ashore since he’s now happy to sell both pieces for Rp90000 (A$14.75). These weaving’s are original hand woven material made of cotton which they spin and dye from natural colourings. While not expensive by our standards it’s actually quite a handy sum by theirs.

Can’t blame them from trying. You will often be quoted a price in Indonesia which on the face of it, by western standards sometimes seems quite reasonable. One must always keep in mind the average wage here, what constitutes a fair price and what the local cost of living actually is.

When looked at in this light some of the initial bids can be quite outrageous. Our crew was mindful that if westerners simply pay out the first or even second price asked, even if they think they are getting a reasonable deal they will spoil it for those who follow. And the prices forever will be seriously inflated whenever a new visitor appears.

1000hrs: Breakfasting. Check charts and pilot books for navigation and anchorage details. Today we intend to head off to Olendir Harbour on the northern side of this island. Reasonable length sail. Just a gentle breeze at the moment. Glorious day. Seas calm. Quick swimmies beside the boat. Some local boats sail past. Looks like they are having a race.

060 sailboat raceLeft: A couple of local sailboats having a race past us accompanied with much shouting. Note the load of people on power boat centre photo.

1030hrs: Square everything away. Turn key to start the motor and it coughs. Oh no! Shades of Cullen Bay again!

Decompress the cylinders then spin the motor which pumps out the best part of a cup or more of water out of the #1 cylinder via the air filter (unmentionables here from the skipper). This is the same new cylinder installed by our diesel mechanic before leaving Darwin.

Get all the water out of the cylinders and re-lubricate them. Start the motor as normal. Big gush of rusty water spews out of the exhaust (unmentionables once more …. ) Not good. The salt water has probably been sitting in the cylinder barrel for the last couple of days!

Test compression. No problem with either cylinder so at least we don’t seem to have any cracks in the block this time. The cause is either going to be a leaking gasket seal or the water has back-siphoned when the motor was last turned off. The seacock allowing cooling seawater for the motor had been left open so this is the most probable cause. The siphon-break system allowing air into the system must have failed although it seems to be functional.

Am highly reluctant to pull the motor down to have a look for two reasons:
1 – The motor seems to be running okay now and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
2 – None of us are diesel mechanics or even pretend to be unless absolutely necessary.

Think it over. I’m fairly sure it will be okay to continue our journey with the motor. It seems to be happy enough but am not sure what, if any, long term damage is being done by continuing to run it. Would really appreciate a second opinion.

Have no radio transmit facility so cannot make a Radphone call to our mechanic back in Australia. Decide my best option is to return to Saumlaki, have a chat to the mechanic on the phone and decide options from there. If we actually do need a diesel mechanic we should be able to find one there as well.

Raise and secure the dinghy. During the process half the skippers fishing rod goes overboard into 15m of water. Gone … This is NOT a good day. At least the end with the reel manages to stay on board. Skipper is NOT happy today.

Adaut – Saumlaki

1105hrs: Anchor comes up clean. No mud. Turn the boat towards Saumlaki. Motor sailing at this time due to headwinds. Wind is ENE and travelling close hauled.

061 nustabun againRight: Nustabun Island.

1430hrs: Drop the anchor off Saumlaki. Uneventful trip motor sailing the whole way. Motor seems to be working just fine with both cylinders functioning fully.

Distance Adaut-Saumlaki 14.6 nm. Total motor hours 531hrs to date.

1500hrs: Lower the dinghy and Martin and I motor over to the Harbour Masters Office. Closed. Office hours 0800-1300hrs. Good hours for that job! Head off to the Telephone Office. Unable to get through to the mechanics mobile phone number. Leave a message on his home answering machine that we will call back again tonight.

1700hrs: Leave Martin at the Harapan Indah hotel. Take a cold drink out to the girls and on climbing back aboard find they’d been busy. They’d bought 16 fish for Rp3000 (A$0.50, cleaned them and are now baking them.

1830hrs: Everyone ashore for a mandy, a drink and for me to make my phone call to the mechanic. Meet Martin at the hotel who decides he wants to stay ashore for the night. Talk to Ronnie. This is Mama’s daughter and runs the hotel. She speaks very good English and tells us there is a very good mechanic with a workshop nearby if we need him. She said he works on all the fishing boats and coastal trader boats and is considered to be quite good.

Dusk: Sit on the hotel boat deck admiring the sunset. Water is completely flat and still reflecting everything perfectly on the water. Picture postcard stuff. Lovely setting.

1930hrs: Ring our mechanics home number and speak to his wife. He’s in Perth. She gives me a couple of numbers to try. Manage to contact him in Perth. His opinion re-enforces mine that it’ll be okay to keep going, but adds I should keep an eye on the oil for any water. He suggests as an afterthought to re-torque (tighten) the cylinder head.

So we go on. We will need to watch the oil and compression and we will turn off the sea cock every time with the motor. And we must check the cylinder barrels for water each time prior to starting motor. We subsequently had no hint of problems or any sign of water in either cylinder.

2000hrs: Inform the crew at the hotel that we’ll be continuing the trip tomorrow instead of going home. They greet the news with enthusiasm. Delma and Ann want to do some shopping for a few things before we go.

2045hrs: The terrible duo return to the boat. Get the fish warmed up for dinner and watch the Indonesian news on the TV. Later we sit in the bright moonlight in the cockpit enjoying the lights reflecting on the still water of the harbour, drinking hot tea and chocolate before going to bed.

Wed 2 Sep 98
0730hrs: Tap, tap, tap on the hull. Our watchdog Martin who normally sleeps up on deck is ashore. Climb wearily out of bed thinking some canoe might be alongside. No one. There’s a bottle of Bintang floating alongside the hull occasionally giving the hull a light tap.

0800hrs: Almost completely still today. The sun has some bite already.

0900hrs: Hear a ‘cooee’ outside. Strange call for an Indonesian to use. Look outside a porthole and a young Aussie bloke named Anthony is sitting in a dugout with an Indonesian friend. Invite him and his mate aboard for coffee. He’d been in the Darwin to Ambon Race and has been island hopping on his way home.

His mate comes from a village on the Tanimbars west coast but Anthony had met him in Ambon. They’d only just arrived in Saumlaki last night on a coastal trader from the village. Seems a nice fellow and he really appreciates the coffee. Seems to have been living a little rough lately and looking for a trip back home to Australia. Of course we can’t help him.

We find out later he stayed for almost 3 weeks and left just 2 days before we got back here. The inter-island ferries and airplane services are not all that reliable here.

0930hrs: Girls take off to shore while I check the motor. No sign of any water in cylinders or in the oil. Starts good. Sounds good. Worries allayed somewhat. Everything looks fine motor wise.

1030hrs: Crew comes back with Martin. They’re carrying little cakes for the skipper for breakfast. Get a couple of small paint-brushes for Rp1500 each so that a small hole in the fibreglass dinghy can be repaired later on. Hoist the dinghy up. Stow away gear. Finish the washing up. All shipshape again.

1055hrs: Anchor clear of bottom. Start heading out of Saumlaki Harbour once more but this time heading for Olendir Harbour on the north side of Selaru Island.

Saumlaki – Namtabung

Chart_4_Egron_Strait
Above: Area map showing route from Saumlaki to Namtabung

1120hrs: Good work by crew in getting underway. Change the #2 jib for the genoa. Shake all reefs out of the mains’l. Motor off and under full sail at 4 knots. Glorious day. Wind puffing and variable mainly from ESE. Boat gliding comfortably through the water. Feeling the bite of the sun though. Will just have to sit in the shade of the sails when not taking a turn on the tiller then. Life’s tough.

1200hrs: Approaching southern side of Nustabun Island before doglegging to the our right (westwards) to pass between Nuyanat and Anggormasa Islands. Olendir Harbour is situated on the northern side of Selaru Island towards the middle.

1400hrs: Passing between Nuyanat Is and Anggormasa Is. The latter looking a bit like a crocodile from a distance. Roughly 12 miles to go. During the last couple of hours we have used the time to run out the anchor rope and mark it with cord at 10m intervals. This is to work out the ratio of anchor rope to depth of water when anchoring.

061a under sailRight: Leaving Saumlaki. Looking aft from the bow. Head of the staysail is in the foreground and the tip of the headsail can be seen at the top of the photo. Radar reflector under crosstree top right. Mast has steps for climbing to the top … if necessary.

Wind has been variable both on and behind the beam. Try to goosewing the sails but not able to keep the headsail filled on our course. Averaging 4 knots. Roughly half way there. Breeze fades in and out. Glorious sail.

1430hrs: In clear waters and try goosewinging sails again. Immediate results up between 5~5.5 knots. Wind coming off port quarter.

1500hrs: Off Pt Torimtubun which is the NW point of Selaru Island heading west.

1530hrs: Wind follows us around the coast as we turn SW keeping a good 5 knots. Just magic. Haven’t had to touch the sails.

1600hrs: Reach our waypoint. Some careful navigation required now as extensive offshore reef areas here. Sails down and motoring in carefully at 3 knots. Heading towards the village of Namtabung. Water in the main channel quite deep at 22m.

1630hrs: Sneaking in towards shore carefully watching the depth sounder in 20m depth at 1.5 knot to maintain steerage. All crew up front with polaroids reef spotting. Depth sounder shows bottom coming up at about 70 to 80 degree angle… FAST! No time to reverse. Put motor into neutral and slam the tiller hard over. We turn tight to starboard in our own boat length but immediately in only 1.5m of water. Order all crew to the rails on starboard side quickly as the boat draws just 1.4m draught. Complete the turn, straighten up and start to head back out to deeper water. Keel bumps on the reef once then the rudder touches and we’re clear. Whew!

1700hrs: Have been heading further east into the harbour where the bottom shelves more gradually. Will have to anchor further away from the village but that suits us anyway. Take great care circling the chosen anchor site taking soundings. Anchor down and set it.

Big bushfires to the east and lots of ash coming down on us. Sure we can smell a pigsty somewhere. Quite strong. Chainsaws going ashore. Nice enough spot though. Reminds me of Masson Point in Turnbull Bay back in Bynoe Harbour west of Darwin. Flat and low country. Will wait and see whether we go ashore tomorrow or take off somewhere else.

Anchor off Namtabung village, Selaru Is. Posn: 8 degrees 07.83’S, 130 degrees 57.14’E. Namtabung village is situated on the SW side of the harbour. Anchored in 22m of water. There is a wide fringing reef all along the shore, but which indents slightly on the northern side of the village allowing closer access to the village.

Caution: There is an uncharted and unmarked shallow reef standing alone and running parallel with the shore from Namtabung some distance easterly. This is the one which surprised us despite having 3 pairs of eyes wearing polaroids on the lookout.

Particular care should be taken here as there is no discolouration of the water to indicate reef, particularly at High Water. This is usually the case where reefs jut straight up from the bottom as is so common in Indonesia.

To get closer to Namtabung you should approach at Low Water and aim to the right of the village as you approach it, and come around the side of the above shoal. The ideal method would be to have a dinghy out the front leading the way in.

Total engine hrs 533.8hrs. Completed 25 miles in 6 hrs. Wind hardly ever above 10 knot but got a tidal push heading west through Egron Strait.

1745hrs: Temperature is 29 degrees celsius, barometer 1005hp. Erect the canopy and start making sundowners. All in all a bloody great days sailing. Very pleasant and easy. Tape of “Fine Young Cannibals” playing.

1800hrs: Tiga rowa comes out with 4 men aboard. One climbs on and introduces himself as Higins. His English is pretty good. He says he worked in the Tourist Commission at Ambon for 3 years and knows several yachts from the annual race there. Amongst others he knows are Our Philosophy and Enigma from Darwin.

062 higins and coLeft: Higins on deck making his sales pitch.

Higins tells us the bushfires are lit to hunt pigs and that there are many pigs here, which explains the offshore aroma. He says the lighting of fires to hunt pigs is traditional. Higins’ 3 companions came aboard and sit quietly in the cockpit. All adult men and friendly though little or no English spoken.

Higins is an agent for some Dutch company which sounds like a tourism thing. He is currently staying at Namtabung with his family and is having some problem with his wife and not allowed home. He shows us his name printed in a Dutch magazine as an Indonesian contact. He is trying to build up a diving business and is in partnership with some other partners in Ambon. Higins reckons there is excellent coral diving and snorkelling here.

Seems there is lobster, crabs, pawpaw, seashells, sweet potato, limes and even ICE available here. We hope he isn’t just saying ‘yes’ to every question he’s being asked. Higins promises we’ll have a party tomorrow ashore. He offers to guide us around in the morning and give us lunch. He asks if we can bring some cassette tapes ashore for dancing tomorrow night. Also loads of sopi available (an alcoholic drink made from coconut). This village has around 1000 people.

We ask him about the 3 Australian soldiers buried at Nustabun Island. He tells us they had been killed by Japanese aircraft. The story changes a bit but eventually it seems they were actually airmen who got shot down over Selaru Island. They’d then been collected by local natives and buried at Nustabun. Selaru apparently had been a very large Japanese airbase in WW2. The Japanese probably used the airfield as a base from which to bomb Darwin and other places across Northern Australia.

Dusk: Higins and his mates depart leaving us buoyed up for events tomorrow. Have a lovely dinner of stew consisting of lentils with desert of fresh pawpaw and long-life cream. We’re all full as a goog.

60 namtabung sunsetRight: Looking past the mast shrouds at a typical sunset as the sun goes down over Namtabung village.

2130hrs: Fall asleep waiting for the weather broadcast.

Thu 3 Sep 98
0800hrs: Boat comes reluctantly to life.

0900hrs: Our new friend Higins comes out with a cousin and another young man. Says there will not be any lobsters as time is too short to arrange it, but he has some mud crabs ready to cook ashore. He goes back. We have breakfast.

1000hrs: Have a swim around the boat. Water is just great. Temperature inside boat is 30 degrees. Barometer 1008 hp and rising. Wind picking up slightly. Small wavelets in the bay.

063 swimmiesLeft: A quick swimmies in the morning. Ann, Delma and Russ in the clear water beside the boat.

1100hrs: All jump into the dinghy to go to shore. Little bit squeezy in our little 8 ft boat. There’s about 3 inches of freeboard. Have to imitate the Indons by bailing out water when it’s choppy.

064 namtabung beachRight: Thatched huts along the shore-line approaching Namtabung village. All these huts are unpowered by electricity. The main part of the village lies further back beyond the trees.

Once ashore some kids show us the way to the Orang Kapala – Headman. Meet Higins on the way. The Headman is away so we’re taken to meet the 2nd Headman who doesn’t appear interested. Quite an interesting village. It has electric power and an almost new church. Streets are wide and clean except for various dollops of dog, pig and goat shit. An ever-present gaggle of noisy, gawking, attention seeking kids again. Most gather around the two girls like bees to a honey pot.

Lunch: Walk around the village for a little bit. See several satellite dishes around. Everyone looks well fed and clothed. Fairly prosperous looking place compared to Adaut. Lunch is at Higins’ aunties place. Feast on 5 big full mud crabs, sweet potato, pumpkin and rice. Yum yum.

065 village lunchLeft: Lunch with Higins at his aunties house. All the family watch but will not join us. Villagers come by and stay to watch for a while. Crowds of kids gawking through the windows and doors.

Afternoon: Wander around almost aimlessly for a while before being taken to one of the houses. We’re met by two senior Ibu’s – ladies. With displays of toothless gums and tobacco plugs they show how they turn raw cotton into thread. They pull out a sample of their weavings to show us. Takes them about 2 weeks to make a cloth large enough for a coffee table. Unfortunately we’ve already got some weavings.

065a ibu spinningRight: A demonstration of how locally grown cotton yarn is made. The women sharply spin wooden dowels while pulling raw cotton out of the little woven containers. Quite skilful. Their dresses are an example of traditional weaving using natural dyes.

Take a walk along the beach. Higins shows us where a concrete bunker had been built by the Japanese in the war. Sit under a tree on the beach and rest. Forget about any privacy though. The entourage of children stick to us better than Super Glue. They do however make themselves useful. We each get a coconut to drink the milk and eat the meat. Further down the beach Martin is being fed sugar cane and being groomed by the village kids. They’re fascinated by his long hair – Indonesian males here don’t wear long hair.

1700hrs: The tide is right out by the time we get back to the village. No matter. There’s many willing helpers to carry the dinghy through the shallows to deeper water. Make our way back to the yacht. We had intended to stop for a snorkel over the reef but there’s a bit of chop running in the bay. Am able to make out a long shoal running parallel to the beach which is unmarked on the chart, and which we found with a certain amount of excitement yesterday.

1800hrs: Back at the boat notice that an old T shirt used to sop up excess water is missing. Delma says she thought she saw one of the kids named Dominic wearing it before we left. Have swimmies around the boat again and drink hot cuppa’s. Just relax and enjoy a bit of privacy for a while.

Discuss the possibility of checking out the old Japanese airfield which is situated further inland. During the day Higins had given us some more info about it. It’s apparently bigger than the Ambon airfield today but is disused. He says that if we go there we will be the first visitors, and that there’s still old machinery and airplanes next to the strip. Seems the Japanese had also dumped vehicles into the bay around the corner and can be viewed by snorkelling in the clear waters.

The bay Higins mentions would have to be SW from here and called Labuan Lemian. The pilot books don’t have a lot to say about the place. The airfield is allegedly a cross country walk to a place called Lingat about 5 km away. There seems to be a little bit of disagreement between Higins and his cousin as to how long this will take so it doesn’t fill me with a lot of confidence. My impression of Higins is that he is a nice fellow but is a man with big ideas, a lot of talk and not a lot of knowledge about the island on which he is now was living. After checking the chart and discussing it we all decide we won’t go there and check it out.

Dusk: Everyone into the dinghy again for the trip back to the village. Take it very carefully over the reef feeling our way in using our oars to test the depth, as the tide hasn’t come in sufficiently yet to be sure of clearance.

066 lowana at duskLeft: Lowana IV at anchor under a full moon as head back ashore for another dinner of mud-crabs. The bright spots are the reflectors on a lifering.

Evening: Almost pitch black once ashore. A fire has been lit to guide us in. Even though the village has electricity there is virtually no street lighting and the village is set back from the trees on the shoreline. Higins finds us almost immediately and takes us to his cousins place. We’re seated while we wait for dinner and we watch copra being bagged by a young lad for shipment to Saumlaki.

067 cousinsRight: Our host family.

Eventually some huge cooked mud crabs are brought out, still hot. Another feast of mud crabs, spinach, spiced fish and rice. Watched by crowds of people. Higins opens the crabs and extracts the meat for us before joining in himself. No one else joins in. A little discomforting eating so well with so many watching.

Afterwards some cassette tapes we brought along are put on. The music resounds up the street through amplified speakers attracting even more villagers. Someone with a big stick draws a large circle in the dirt outside the house, which the villagers aren’t allowed to cross. Martin is able to sit outside in the cool air like Lord Jim holding court reasonably unmolested, enjoying sippies of sopi, while being the subject of intense scrutiny by the villagers.

Meanwhile the girls have been inside enjoying a regular tipple of sopi. Young Dominic (of rag T shirt fame) is all dressed up now and encourages Delma to get up and dance. She accepts and goes straight into a routine which involves swinging of the hips and flattening your dancing partner. Dominic is barely able to keep his feet much to the utter delight of the onlookers. They’re literally almost falling about laughing. Ann is persuaded as well to join in.

068 bumsiesLeft: Delma and young Dominic who are … dancing? Note the young fellow with the shovel in the background shovelling copra into a bag for his Dad.

The evening wears on and the “dancing” continues. Dominic gamely stays on his feet and makes a few counter attacks of his own. The crowd outside swells as the laughter and music attract even more villagers.

Finally the girls come outside for fresh air. The line is redrawn in the dirt and one of the men threatens the villagers with a stick to stay back behind it. Our two shameless lasses start again and try to get a Samba line going but the concept must be too strange and very few join in. Maybe they are just too shy but a sea of grinning white teeth and shining eyes follow the two white ladies having some fun. There probably isn’t much in the way of entertainment here, so this night will probably go down in village memory for a long, long time.

069 elvis dancingRight: Elvis (his real name) doing his ‘pelvis’ act in the street. Dominic looking on. Also maybe a couple of hundred villagers standing around as well.

All good things must come to an end and the party-pooper has to be the skipper. I would like to be able to get the crew back to Lowana IV while they can still sit reasonable straight and still in the dinghy.

2200hrs: Lovely trip in the full moonlight. Slow down to admire the reef through the clear water as we pass over it. Spectacular stuff. The moonlight lends an unreal quality to it.

2230hrs: Hot chocolate drinks for everyone and bedtime. We observe that these people have expended a considerable amount of money on us so far and we haven’t been asked for any money to pay for it. Where could you get that sort of hospitality in Australia? You could not imagine owing a fairly large amount of money (relatively), and being allowed to just leave without paying. Especially out to a boat which could just depart in the night if we were low enough to do so.

Fri 4 Sep 98
0730hrs: Awake to the usual aroma of Eau de la Porcine – perfume of pig, coming off the land. Get some pretty good whiffs at times.

0930hrs: Temperature 29 degrees. Barometer 1006 hp. Everyone still slugging out lying in bed reading books. Each waiting for someone else to get up and put the kettle on.

Morning: The terrible trio go ashore in the dinghy with the snorkelling gear. Tide is going out slowly. The coral reef goes a long way off the beach, so the dinghy is used as a base from which to snorkel. Ann takes some underwater pictures of one particularly nasty looking bombie rising up almost to the surface. The swimming takes up the rest of the morning and early afternoon.

070 lowana off namtabungLeft: Lowana IV anchored off Namtabung.

1430hrs: On shore looking for Higins as arranged. No sign of him. Kids running all over the place to find him. In the meantime we’re invited into the front room of someone’s house while waiting. The bloke there proceeds to tell us about how good a boxer he used to be. I don’t know why he chose that particular subject.

1510hrs: Higins arrives on a push bike and takes us to his cousins place again. We indulge in yet another feast of more huge mud crabs, yellow rice, spinach and spiced fish which everyone comments on as being just too delicious.

Later on we take a walk along the beach. Each of us with an attendant party of youngsters. Our two girls walk right out to the point with their kindergarten hot at their heels. Some hang around Martin who gives English and bullfrog singing lessons. One of the village lasses declares her undying love for him.

Meanwhile I talk to Higins but then get mobbed by the hordes. I look around to see they’d deserted Martin who has waded out into the water. Good plan because with his long crane legs he can get further out without getting his clothes wet. I’m reminded of how a fox gets rid of fleas!

1800hrs: Escape back to boat for some peace and quiet plus a bit of privacy for personal comfort requirements without staring eyes. Have a cuppa and rest for a while.

2000hrs: Back to shore for our promised lobster meal. No sign of Higins again. Wait at his cousins house and are served dinner. No crabs this time. No lobster either. Basically the same fare we had for lunch. Quite nice though. Cold Bintang and soft drinks are also provided. Higins later turns up. Says his lobster men had still not returned and mumbles something about being angry with them.

2230hrs: Finalise our bills. Higins cousin wants Rp10000 per plate. That’s Rp40000 (A$6.50) to feed four of us. Total cost of food for 4 meals for 4 persons was Rp160,000 (A$26.20). Higins is happy to accept whatever commission we want to give him. We pay him Rp50000 which would be about 2 weeks wages. Drinks of 9 beer and 6 soft drinks cost Rp142,000 (A$23.30). All up the cost for food, drinks and Higins commission cost Rp352,000 (just under A$60). Higins presents us with an embroidered piece of cloth as a parting gift.

Higins now takes us to his mothers where some traditional baskets Delma had asked for yesterday are now completed. These are fairly large baskets with a strap which the native woman hang on their foreheads. They are woven out of palm leaves and are quite strong and well made. She also buys a woven palm hat. The hat and 2 baskets cost Rp20000 (A$3.25).

No limes, bananas or pawpaws available. Tonight ashore is a much more subdued affair. Still a lot of kids about but not as many as last night and few adults. They must be starting to get used to us.

2330hrs: Make the trip out to the yacht uneventfully across the reef in the moonlight. Drink hot chocolate and other drinks with the strong smell of pigsties providing atmosphere. Pooh!

Sat 5 Sep 98
0730hrs: The call of nature draws me out of bed. Marathon effort over the side which doesn’t seem to want to stop. Martin is duly impressed as the tinkling on the water keeps him awake. Time to get up anyway. Very humid this morning. Not much wind at this time. Looks good enough for sailing though.

Have decided to start heading up the west coast of the Tanimbars. One option is to go direct for Yamdena Strait but that would be in excess of 40nm. We’re looking for an easy day sail so we’ll head for the village of Latdalam on the SW corner of Yamdena Is and overnight there.

0830hrs: Observe two levels of cloud. Tufty cirrus up high and cumulus below. Looks like we’re in for a weather change. A small sun shower comes over lasting about 30 seconds. Barometer 1005hp. Keeping an eye of the barometer to watch for any pressure drop.

0900hrs: Getting boat shipshape. Have breakfast. Hoist the dinghy. Wash down the bushfire ashes off the decks. Quick swimmies next to boat.

Namtabung – Latdalam

Chart_4_Egron_Strait

1000hrs: Anchor aweigh. Motoring to waypoint to give batteries a chance to recharge, and to take a look at the wind conditions further offshore.

1100hrs: Wind has picked up. Seas are picking up. On course 042 degrees True for Latdalam village. Wind E to ENE and building. Using #1 jib with a reefed mains’l. Getting between 3.5~4.5 knots with short gusts.

072 martin on tiller 073 relaxed on deck
Above: On our way to Latdalam. Martin on the tiller. Namtabung is over the horizon behind us. Getting occasional gusts so mainsail is reefed. Above: Ann taking it easy reading a novel. Latdalam village is in sight ahead.

1200hrs: Covered 5 nm over last hour. Anggormasa and Vaiwar Islands off the starboard beam. Wind still building slowly. Getting up to 5.5 knots consistently. Latdalam village is in sight just under 6 nm away. Barometer 1006hp which is okay for time of day. Seas are small but choppy. Cloud base is building up.

1230hrs: Wind fresh. Speed 6 knots.

1300hrs: Arrive off Latdalam village. We’d picked up even more speed at the end of this last run. Another lovely sail close hauled at an average of 5 knots.

1320hrs: Take down the sails and secure them before motoring towards an anchorage carefully taking soundings. There’s another boat close in but can’t make out whether it’s another yacht or not.

1400hrs: The other boat is an Indonesian prahau. Drop the anchor and secure the boat. Girls prepare a late lunch. Bit windy and overcast with patchy cumulo-nimbus and grey to black undersides. Ask Ann for the temperature and she reads it off as 1005. Pretty hot here … glad I didn’t ask for the barometric pressure!

Anchored Latdalam village. Posn: 7 degrees 56.27’S, 131 degrees 05.94’E. Latdalam is located on the SW corner of Yamdena Island. Anchored in 13.5m of water just under 1 nm from the village. Admiralty Chart 2791 is very accurate showing a 5m reef line which extends a considerable distance from the shore.

Caution: There are extensive underwater reefs and bombies further out and all around the area in depths around 16m to 22m. They can come up suddenly to around 6m to 8m. Extremely uneven bottom. There are likely to be shallower outcrops. Skippers should not assume they are in clear water too soon when visiting or leaving this area.

Log recorded 15 nm from Namtabung to Latdalam.

1600hrs: The village looks interesting. Very imposing church and a giant rock structure on the shore line. Unfortunately the chart shows a fringing reef at zero datum extending a couple of hundred metres out. The surf crashing on it can be clearly seen and heard. Sends out a significant signal to the prudent visitor not to try it without local knowledge, or at least only in calmer water. No one interested in going ashore.

Lazy afternoon. Bit blowy and overcast. Boat hobby-horsing but only a little bit. Crew either read books or sleep. Have sundowners at dusk.

Martin tells us about the green flash phenomenon. As hard as it is to believe he says it is well documented on the internet with some of the websites showing actual photos. It’s not known what causes it. Probably just a rare combination of atmospheric conditions.

We watch a fabulous sunset hoping to see this fabled green flash but it doesn’t happen this time. A jet flies silently high up overhead to the NW with the sun reflecting off its silvered surface. Its long slipstream outlined in the dying sun. Almost a full moon coming up in the east.

2000hrs: Finish dinner. Lovely meal with a nice satay sauce over baked potato, pumpkin wedges, zucchini and rice followed by creamed rice and pawpaw. We are appreciating that when sailboat cruising, meals don’t have to be elaborate to be both satisfying and tasty.

2200hrs: Listen to the weather forecast. Nothing to concern us unduly in our region. Wind has dropped and the seas are now flat though surf is still crashing noisily on the onshore reef. This place is not listed in the two pilot books on board. Due to the perceived difficulties in getting ashore, it is probably no wonder that few people visit here. Lovely moonlit night.

Sun 6 Sep 98
Dawn: The soft ‘puh’ sounds of a dolphin breathing breaks the silence as it glides through the glowing surface of a flat sea in the light of reddish dawn. Unconcerned by our presence it slowly makes its way past.

0800hrs: Fathers Day. No one realises until later in the morning. Late start. Never mind. All the usual chores – breakfast, tidy up etc. A tiga rowa with 4 male adults turn up. They hang off the stern with serious expressions looking into the cockpit and wheelhouse while Ann is being shown some engine maintenance e.g. changing oils, decompressing.

Latdalam – Wulutu

074 Yamdena Strait map

0950hrs: Anchor up. Muddy bottom here requires several buckets of sea-water and brushing to clean. Clear day. Light winds and slight seas e.g. ripples with small wavelets. Course 300 degrees True with wind right on our stern. Pick our way out of the anchorage with depth sounder going. Watch carefully as the underwater reefs rise and fall on the screen.

075 anchor partyLeft: Anchor party at work pulling in the anchor at Latdalam. The winch will be used once the slack is taken out of the line.

Put up the #1 jib but only getting 3.3 knots. Change to genoa but it flops a bit. Pole it out and start getting a consistent 4 knots. No mains’l this time as it would blanket the headsail but content with this setup for now. Expect winds to pick up later as usual.

076 poled jibRight: Under way from Latdalam with a poled out headsail. Wind dead astern. Indonesian courtesy flag at top right. Mainsail folded along the boom at the bottom of photo.

Heading for Sierra Island off the SW coast of Yamdena inside Yamdena Strait. We have to head NW before doglegging NE then E into Yamdena Strait. Navigation until now has been relatively easy. Lots of isolated reefs and shoals coming up so more attention to position taking and chart plotting will be required.

Morning: Winds pick up as expected between 10~15 knots. Seas around 1m.

1200-1300hrs: A sighting is made of a shadowy figure in the sea that might be a dugong. Not a dolphin. It’s just under the surface with no fin showing. Later on identify it as a Tiger shark with its striped body when it swims past the boat about 50m away.

1300hrs: Positioned 14.5 nm from Latdalam and 2.5 nm from our first waypoint. The waypoint is between a reef named Karang Barasadi and Ngolin Is off the SW coast of Sierra Island. Ngolin is only a little thing. Just a small outcrop of sand and low vegetation but it sits in the middle of a large reef area.

Wind has freshened even more. Reasonable sized swells following causing the boat to surf slightly at times. The boat is yawing a bit giving Delma some work to do and she isn’t liking it much. Doing a good job though and exactly on course. Average between 4.5~5 knots so far and hitting up to 5.5 knots at times. Still just using the genoa headsail.

1340hrs: Reach first waypoint. New course 015 degrees True brings the wind abeam to starboard. Take the genoa pole down and getting 4.5~5 knots. Next waypoint is set off NW corner of Seirra Island at 7.5 nm away. Staying with just the genoa for now. There’s a little bit of weather helm but that’s okay. It’s not enough to justify putting up the mains’l and we’re making good speed anyway.

1530hrs: Reach second waypoint off Yayaru Island which is no more than a low level piece of coral about 50m long and wide. A young booby bird takes an interest in us and follows. It sits on the water to watch us go by then flies ahead to repeat the process. Keeps it up for a little while but eventually loses interest.

Turning to 075 degrees True to enter Yamdena Strait. This brings us almost smack into the wind which is about 20~25 degrees off the bow. Unable to sail into that angle of course. One option is to continue further north under sail and tack back but I don’t have the time for that. I want to get to the next anchorage in good daylight to avoid nasty surprises. Turn the motor on and take down the genoa. Put up the stays’l but no mains’l. Stays’l helps steady the boat and gives a lift of about half a knot.

The winds lessen as we come into the lee of Seirra Island but there’s a head current of about 1 knot. Motor running slightly higher at 1600 rpm and getting 3.9~4 knots over the ground.

1700hrs: We’ve completed 5 nm on this heading including a small detour to go around three white buoys evenly spaced off the eastern end of Sukler Island. Most likely a net.
Later saw local fishermen working this area by night.

1745hrs. Have come abreast of the village of Wulutu on Seirra Island. Have to travel further east before turning south to clear a rather large and shallow bank off the village before we can reach a potential anchorage.

1845hrs: Only available charts of area are small scale meaning they cover a large area. Finite detail is not available. This chart shows a pretty severe drop-off from zero metres so we are nosing our way in very carefully using the depth sounder. Finally select a site, drop the anchor and set it within fairly easy reach of the village.

It’s not long before a very poor looking fellow paddles out in a dugout to try and sell us a stone carving. We’re all pretty tired now and not up to bargaining and socialising. We ask him to come back tomorrow.

Anchored Wulutu village. Posn: 7 degrees 39.22’S, 131 degrees 02.26’E. Wulutu village is located about half way on the northern side of Seirra Island. Anchored in 26m of water. At low tide a shoal (possibly sand) bank can clearly be seen. There are extensive onshore reefs once more but these are discoloured and can be clearly seen. A couple of small fish traps mark the edge of it.

Distance Latdalam to Wulutu was 33.5 nm. Engine hours not noted.

Evening: Another lovely dinner. The girls really excelling. Crew relax on deck in brilliant moonlight. Wind dies down to a very gentle breeze. Sea is flat and mirror like. The local power station breaks down as all lights in the village blink out. Can hear some voices floating out from the village. They get the power going again about an hour later.

2200hrs: Listen to the forecast from Darwin Radio. No problems forecast for our area but still have both low and high cloud layers indicating change.

Mon 7 Sep 98
0800hrs: Not much breeze but slowly building. Anchor hasn’t moved.0900hrs: Wind building. More clouds. Small wavelets breaking.1000hrs: Wind much stronger, maybe 30 knot gusts. Boat rocking to swells and moving around to her anchor which is holding firm.084 coastal traderLeft: One of the local boats comes out to take a look at us. 1100hrs: Brunch of damper. Sky overcast with grey cumulus. Some rare patches of blue sky. Possibility of rain. Barometer 1006 hp being normal for time of day. No weather problems foreseen. Reasonable swells running so abandon any idea of going ashore for time being. Use silastic to make a temporary repair to the small hole in the hull of the dinghy.1200hrs: Our man from yesterday comes out to try and sell his stone carving. It’s a pretty basic looking thing consisting of a figure sitting on his haunches, hands to face and looking upwards. His first bid is Rp 1 Million which makes Martin’s eyes goggle. An obviously outrageous offer with laughs all around. He has a sense of humour this bloke. His next offer is Rp100,000 from which he won’t budge. We offer Rp25000 and won’t budge at least until he does. Stalemate.The carving certainly looks authentic enough. It might be genuine but he doesn’t know or can’t give any details about its origins, hence we aren’t all that keen to pay too much for it. He eventually goes away after partaking of biscuits, coffee and cigarettes. He may be back after he’s seen someone ashore. We hope he does.1400hrs: Heavy shower passes over. Our man is paddling away in the rain. It’s just enough to wet the canopy and clean it of salt, but not long enough to rearrange the canopy to catch the rainwater and pipe it into our main tank. Some swells coming through the anchorage.077 wulutu showerRight: A rain shower passes over Wulutu village.1445hrs: A large fibreglass boat pulls alongside. Chap named Victor steps aboard. He comes from Ambon and speaks very good English. He knows the yachts Emanuelle and Enigma from Darwin. Victor had met George Challer of the Enigma in the Aru Islands at a place called Dobo. Victors group are on their way to nearby reefs to dive for lobster for export. He may sell us some maybe on Wednesday. Victor seems a pretty smart business dude, well dressed and friendly. Off they go.1500hrs: Get another shower of rain but it passes quickly. Still seems to be more rain about. Conditions much calmer and the water is settling down.1530hrs: The boys take the dinghy to shore. The sea is still too choppy to attempt just one trip with all of us in the dinghy. As we motor into shore 3 coastal trader boats come in loaded to the hilt with wall to wall people. Almost like those trains you see on TV that are loaded with people in India. Follow the boats in.078 coastal ferryLeft: One of the several coastal ferry boats coming into Wulutu village. This one is loaded up with people, but some other boats are much more overcrowded.The locals are already coming out in anything that floats to ferry the visitors ashore. Even our mate with the stone carving is there. Guess they earn a few extra Rupiah this way. Literally hundreds of people on the boats and on the water going to and fro. We hear later there is a big wedding coming up. Big school of tuna in a feeding frenzy right next to the dinghy and the fishing rod is back on the boat!1600hrs: Drop Martin ashore and return for the girls.1630hrs. Everyone ashore. A friendly Moslem chap advises us earnestly not to leave the outboard and oars on the dinghy as they might get stolen. He takes us to a nearby house and arranges for them to be stored there. The man who receives them turns out to be a school teacher but doesn’t speak English.

080 wulutu greetingRight: The usual gaggle of children greeting us like it was Christmas. You would think a camera is the key to immortality the way they love to have their photo taken.

Almost immediately there are kids everywhere drawn to Delma and Ann like moths to a flame. It’s just like the circus has come to town as we walk around. Apart from the children this place doesn’t seem to be quite as friendly as other places. Getting more than a few surly looks from the adult men.

080a wulutu escortLeft: One of the streets in Wulutu village. Russ and Martin are well up ahead with a relative lack of kids hanging around. Interesting architecture of the buildings here.

Quite distinct architecture than you normally see in Indonesia. There are lots of 2 story houses with upstairs verandas. Lots of shops and they all seem to be well stocked. Also seem to be a lot of Chinese as well but no sign of any of the recent trouble as elsewhere in Indonesia. There’s even a picture theatre. One chap named Herman, very jovial and a 100 mile per hour talker follows us around making himself our unofficial guide.

Visit one of the shops and buy some dried fish, the very small kind like whitebait as it’s known in Australia. Will try this as fishing bait later. The owner wants Rp10000 for 1kg. We only want a handful so he gives it to us. Also gives the girls a free roll of lollies each. Buy some small hooks, about 16 for Rp8000 (A$1.30) to make some bait jigs.

Back on the street it starts to rain. Herman shepherds us into the nearest house until a rather heavy shower passes. Sit around in the middle of the front room on plastic chairs until the rain passes. We’re then guided to another shop with a pool table out the back. Herman has decided that Martin and I need to play a game of pool so he clears everyone out. The room has a dirt floor, no lights and a post right next to the table which prevents some shots from being made easily. If you could see the balls. The girls wait out in the front room. Herman plies Martin with sopi. We pay the owner Rp1000 for the game and get out of there.

Next visit is to the local Policeman’s house. His name is Onus. His wife is very friendly, intelligent and sharp. It’s quite enjoyable and we share quite a few laughs here. Find out about the markets tomorrow then head off to collect our outboard motor and oars.

Many willing childish hands carry the dinghy down to the water making quite a game of it. The water has now well ebbed and very shallow. There must be 100 of them see us off. Some of them give us a parting splash as we leave. Make the mistake of splashing back and the return fire is instant.

081 send off partyRight: Our ‘send-off’ party. Whatever you do, don’t make a splash at one of them…you’ll get wet!

This region of the Tanimbars have a very interesting sailing craft. It’s essentially two very large canoes tied together with a cross beam at the f’ard and aft ends, making it a kind of catamaran. Distance between each hull is maybe 20 ft (say around 5m). Each hull has its own independent sail. They use these to catch the whitebait that our Chinese gentlemen was selling in his shop as dried fish. They grade them into three sizes. The largest are between 100mm to 150mm. Must be big business because there are lots of these craft in this area.

Although they seem to be primarily working boats, we did see one in the afternoon obviously being sailed just for fun. It was well painted. Both sails were being operated independently but in unison. They make an impressive sight to see these things sail as they are quite big.

086 working cat 1 087  working cat 3
Above: One of the traditional catamaran fishing sailboats that are a feature of this particular region. They come in various sizes but can get much bigger than the one shown here. Above: Some of the local catamaran fishing boats drawn up on the beach ready to go out again after dark. At night the lights of these boats can be seen in the distance moving and forth.

Dusk: Back at the boat. Decks all wet from the heavy showers. Note that the temporary repair to the dinghy has held up well.

Evening: Have sundowners followed by a nice dinner of Tuna Mornay and pasta. Rain has gone and sea is smooth again. Light breeze. Almost have to wear a light sweater. Sit around in the moonlit cockpit watching the lights of the local fishing boats.

Tue 8 Sep 98
0900hrs: Weather about the same as this time yesterday. Maybe not quite as bad. There’s been a hive of activity. Delma and Ann lay out cushions and mattresses topside to air. They’ve washed clothes and hung them out. One tea-towel has gone over the side with the wind. A tiga rowa with 4 juveniles hangs around for a while, with one of them getting cheekier the further away they get.

082 wulutu smogLeft: Smoke haze hangs over the village. Wind is building and sea is too choppy to attempt another visit to the village.

1100hrs: Wind blowing fairly hard. Gusts stronger than yesterday. Boat starting to skitter around on her rope anchor a little bit. Wind is hard enough to tilt the boat at times as she swings. No sign of rain until now but a few low grey clouds around. Sea choppy with swells coming through. Cushions and mattresses taken back below. Definitely not going ashore.

1130hrs. Whitecaps everywhere. Some gusts quite strong. Tops of waves being flattened. Surface of waves have a rippled appearance. Sunny day. Plenty of clouds.

1215hrs: Just starting a cup of tea and come alert with a start. Boat has turned beam on to the wind, flag pointing abeam and dinghy lying alongside. Oh oh! Quick check of landmarks confirms anchor is dragging!

Martin already on his way f’ard to the anchor winch. Race downstairs, open engine seacock and start motor. Delma and Ann also going f’ard to anchor winch now. We’ve dragged maybe 25m to 30m so far and it hasn’t taken very long. Tide is out and the sand bank can clearly be seen behind us, though some way off yet. Martin calls that there’s some indication the anchor might be beginning to bite again. I decide to re-anchor anyway.

1230hrs: Start pulling up the anchor and using the motor to hold position. There is 110m of anchor rope and chain including a long length of 23m of 8mm chain out there to pull up so it will take a little while against this wind.

1330hrs: Have re-anchored in slightly deeper water further out and away from the village in 30m water. Let out 120m of rope and chain this time. Take down the canopy which acts like a sail and has a magnifying effect on the pull on the anchor. Boat sits more steady and straighter to her anchor.

This is the first time this anchor has ever dragged. Hopefully conditions will not get worse but if so, will need to consider putting out a second anchor. Just as well we didn’t go ashore as originally planned.

1430hrs: Drop the boom and attempt to set up the storm trysail to act as a wind vane and keep the boat pointing more into the wind. It’s just too big for the purpose so take it back down.

1600hrs: Wind seems to be starting to moderate but not giving in easily. Some bursts still fairly strong but not quite as hard as earlier. Siphon 100 ltrs of water into the main water tank from jerry cans. We’re using water at the rough rate of 10 ltrs per day for 4 crew. Not too bad. Only using fresh water for cooking and drinking. Lash the empty containers down below in the aft engine compartment. Horrid job getting into and out of that cramped little hole.

083 access holeRight: Climbing back out from the aft engine compartment, behind the engine.

1700hrs: Wind still going strong. Everyone gets involved in pulling out the spare 150m of new rope and marking it with cord at 10m lengths. Shackle it to existing anchor rode and pay out another 40m. This now gives us 160m with a scope more than 5 to 1. This is all new springy nylon rope and it is absorbing shocks nicely. We can still put out our 60lb danforth (fluke) anchor as well if it’s really necessary. Now consider that we’re quite secure and looking good. From now we’ll use a minimum ratio of about 5:1. We don’t want another anchor to drag.

1830hrs: Wind dying down at last. Seas settling. Having sundowners. Lovely sunset. Sukler Island in the distance is framed by a small shower with the sun shining right on the island itself. Very pretty.

085 wulutu sunsetLeft: After the heavy winds during the day and dragging our anchor, we’re compensated with a beautiful sunset.

1930hrs: Canopy put up again. Wind seems to have dropped down enough for the night.

2000hrs: Big yellow moon has finally come up casting a yellow light on everything.

2130hrs: Gentle breeze. Dinner finished and cleaning up just about done. Bit of jollity aboard with jitter-bugging going on in the galley. They’re even waltzing to the Tennessee Waltz !

2200hrs: Forecast for our area 10~20 knots, S to SE trade winds with gusts to 30 knot. Oh well … more of the same.

Wed 9 Sep 98
0630hrs: Crew are all up except for the skipper who’s pretending to be asleep.

0730hrs: Muesli Bars and hot tea/coffee for brekky. Crew going ashore to the market while conditions are still calm promising they’ll try to get back before it gets too blowy. I’ll be staying aboard to keep an eye on the boat.

0755hrs: Can feel the wind already. Still just a breeze but stronger. Take canopy down. Place a buoy near the bow so that the anchor rope can be cast adrift quickly if need be for later collection. Figure it’ll be easier for one person to do that than try and get the anchor in quickly. You never know when Murphy’s Law will strike.

1000hrs: Finish putting in a replacement switch for the light over the galley sink which has fallen apart. This is another failed item which had been installed by tradesmen in Darwin just before leaving. As well as a switch I had to jury rig a system with a piece of nail to make the light work again, but it’s fine now. This particular light has been especially handy at night out at sea.

Ashore: The boat rubbish that’s taken ashore is promptly rummaged through by locals. Not much waste here. Plastics seem to be a prized material. See Onus and his family who are preparing to return to Saumlaki today. They seem happy to see Martin and the girls again. Onus organises some bananas and sweet potatoes. He also shows them some beautifully woven cloth. From here they visit a place where they’re able to get some hot food takeaway, hot sweet potato slices and jam doughnut type things. They also get coffee and eggs and are given yams as a parting gift.

Hammad, a young fellow wearing a pith helmet and trying to learn English finds 5 pawpaws for Rp1000 each. The Chinese shop has some gula – sugar. Martin enters another shop to buy some more Indonesian whisky. Run into Victor who can only sell us lobster for Rp75000 (A$12.30) each as they are already packed for export. He might do them for Rp60000 at his lowest price. Oh well … no lobster for tea!

They pick up the outboard from the same bloke who looked after it yesterday. The girls give him some Woman’s Day/New Idea magazines which are always a popular item in Indonesia. He gives them 2 pawpaws in return. Our chap then gives the outboard to a child about 11 yrs old who carries it down to the dinghy, then helps carry and push the dinghy 200-300m out to water deep enough for it to float. Total shopping cost has been about Rp35000 (A$5.70).

Wind picks up again. Swells coming through and gusty winds. Delma, Ann and Martin return from shopping ashore looking like drowned rats in a dinghy half filled with seawater. Delma’s not very talkative as she prises her white knuckles away from the gunnels.

088 morning shoppingRight: Some of the shopping from the morning expedition ashore. The shopping party got a bit wet getting back and all the veges had taken a salt bath. Probably a good thing as any bugs should have been drowned.

1100hrs: Last night we thought there had been more lights than usual ashore. Maybe it was the wedding celebrations. Whatever it was we now have about a dozen small craft loaded with people sailing past us heading back up Yamdena Strait. Many more boats leave throughout the day.

Wind is fairly strong but don’t think it has the same power as yesterday. Boat riding quite steadily with no sign of rocking or jerking.

1230hrs: The conditions are definitely easier than yesterday. Not many whitecaps around. Some swells come through but not too bad. Boat gently hobby horsing. Occasional gusts but not excessively hard. Girls are asleep. Martin is reading a book topside while I consider raiding the lolly jar.

Afternoon: Sleeping and reading, reading and sleeping. Wind blowing, boat rocking. Waiting it out.

089 fishboat at duskLeft: A fishing boat glides past at dusk with just one sail up. One of them is singing a little song as they go.

1800hrs: Winds and seas are calmed down. Contemplate going ashore for a swim but have sundowners instead. Sometimes you have to make the hard choices.

Evening: Lovely dinner of corn & soya patties, mushy peas, mashed potato and fresh home made bread.

2130hrs: Moon coming up big and yellow. No wind. Seas still.

Thu 10 Sep 98
0730hrs: No wind. Calm seas this morning still.
090 lateen sailingRight: Lots of boats of every kind are leaving Wulutu. Here is a single hull sailboat with a typical lateen sail heading out into Yamdena Strait. The lateen sails are reminders of Arab influence centuries ago throughout the Molucca region.0800hrs: Still calm. Cups of tea/coffee. Check engine oils and start engine. Sparks immediately start flying and shut down motor immediately. Some checking finds the starter motor is shorting on the engine block. The mounting bolts for the starter motor also holds the compressor mounting bracket and the whole assembly is loose. Awkward job but finally get the bracket and starter motor properly positioned and bolts done up again.

Wulutu – Keswui Island

0900hrs: Still calm. Seas flat. Lovely gentle breeze. Pull up anchor and on our way. Heading for Keswui Island where we hope to do some snorkelling. Intend to motor as it’s just a few hours and the breeze will be virtually right on the nose the whole way. Wind is from ENE and we’re heading NE.

091 cat sailing 2Left: One of those twin-hulled catamarans. From a distance they look like two separate sailboats sailing together. We caught up with this one in the middle of Yamdena Strait. There is virtually no wind but they are still making reasonable speed.

0930hrs: Lovely breakfast of muesli, pawpaw, banana and honey all covered in homemade yoghurt. Thankfully Delma had brought a yoghurt maker. This is followed by toasted homemade bread. No chance of losing any weight this trip – we’re being fed too well.

092 lolly snatcherRight: Skipper is caught raiding the lolly jar … again.

1000hrs: Still motoring getting 4.5 knots. Why bother with the sails? Located 4.5 nm NE of Wulutu village. Makatian village on Yamdena Island in sight off the starboard bow.

1100hrs: Wind has picked up to maybe 15 knots. Approaching Keswui Island. Chosen anchorage is near the SE corner adjacent to another wide expanse of reef. Take our time to look around.

1200hrs. Drop anchor. Depth 17m. Put out 120m of rope and chain as we’re on a lee shore. Holding about 300m out from a fringing reef. Village of Makatian is about 3 nm away across the open strait. Lovely little spot. Wind still around 15 knots with some stronger gusts.

Anchored Keswui Island. Posn: 7 degrees 32.46’S, 131 degrees 09.83’E. Keswui is situated almost in the middle of Yamdena Strait and roughly halfway along the west coast of Yamdena Island. There is a channel between Keswui and another much smaller island named Wolas. According to the pilot book the channel is narrow and clear of dangers, but we observed shoals across the southern end which would force a very narrow access indeed. Bottom is marked on the chart as mud.

Distance Wulutu village to Keswui was 11.2 miles motoring for 3 hours. Engine hrs now at 544hrs.

1230hrs: Once the motor is turned off I notice the alternator belt is hanging loose. Find the head of one of the high tensile mounting bolts has snapped off and the whole assembly is hanging loose. Here we go again.

The snapped bolt is also part of the engine hand cranking assembly – it bloody would be. Have no ‘ezy-out’ to try and extract the broken stud. After removing the alternator and hand cranking unit I’m able to screw the broken stud out with fingers. Scrummage through engine spares and find some old bolts to fit. Have to find 3 different sized bolts for the job. Manage to fit both units back on after much difficulty, with the alternator properly aligned with the engine pulley.

Hand start the motor. All okay but wonder why no amps are coming from the alternator. Forgot to turn on the ignition switch – dummy!

1430hrs: Electrically start motor. Everything just fine and working perfectly again. Pack up tools.

1500hrs: Bit of a tidal current running. Put out a safety rope with a floating fender at the end, and crew indulge in swimmies beside the boat. Some fairly good choppy waves coming through so don’t stay there long. Two good sized logs float past. Wouldn’t like to have hit either of them further out.

1530hrs: Light lunch of noodles. Still just a tad too windy to put up canopy. Once bitten twice shy is the lesson with the canopy, especially when near reefs.

1730hrs: Still a bit windy though not too much. Water is a bit bumpy which is not surprising as it fetches across 3 miles of open water before it reaches us.

Makatian village seems to have a rather imposing church. Has some sort of spire out the front. Just about everywhere we go the biggest and most imposing building is a church. Usually its a Protestant church, at least around this particular region. Catholic churches are also relatively large but tend to be smaller than the Protestant ones.

1900hrs: Wind still up at maybe 10 knots or so. Seas slight. No whitecaps but waves fairly close together. Bit cool about 28 degrees celsius inside but even cooler outside. Barometer a bit lower at 1002 hp.

1915hrs. Attempt to attract the attention of a fisherman to buy some fish. No luck.

2030hrs: Wind down to about 5 knots only. Seas calming. Not a lot of movement with the boat. Finish some rather simple but tasty dinner of fried rice, capsicum, tuna, eggs, corn, onion, champignons and soya sauce. Pitch black outside.

2200hrs: Listen to High Seas forecast. S to SE trades at 10~20 knots. Nothing of interest to us at this time.

Fri 11 Sep 98
0715hrs: Nice and calm. Boat laying almost east/west. Village across the channel shrouded in smoke from cooking fires.

0830hrs: Everyone into dinghy and going ashore to look at the channel and see what’s ashore on Keswui Island. Notice the outboard telltale is just a trickle of water. Stem very hot to touch. Motor running hot so returned back to Lowana IV to check it out.

0830-1100hrs: Check gearbox oil. Looks milky. Drain oil. Not much of it there. Refill gearbox with fresh oil and take the dinghy for a run. No change. Unfortunately I’d left the outboard manual at home and anyway have no spare impeller. A new pump had just been put in back in Darwin just prior to the trip. Could be a blocked water jacket.

Blow and suck on the water outlet pipe. Water jackets seem quite clear without obstructions. That does not mean that ALL the water jackets in the head are not obstructed or blocked. Bit reluctant to pull it completely apart especially without a manual. Will just have to go ultra easy on it using low revs from now on.

1130hrs: Another attempt to go ashore. Outboard running a bit warm but not unduly so if the revs are kept down. Stem hot to touch though.

Am able to locate a narrow channel at low tide between the shoals only about 20m wide. Not sure how deep but probably deep enough for most boats. There is another shoal to the right as you enter from the south and there looks to be shoal water on the right hand (eastern) side at the northern end.

Even though the channel is very pretty, anchoring here would not be a good option due to mosquitoes even if it is possible to get in there. The channel might do in an emergency i.e. a cyclone if enough ropes to shore and anchors were put out. But it is slightly open at the northern and southern ends.

093 kiswui explorersLeft: Two of the intrepid explorers ashore. Looking towards the northern end of the channel separating Keswui Island and the much smaller Wolas Island.

1200hrs: Tide is out. Look around some grass huts used by local fishermen. Find one bloke with a boy ashore who says that about 40 people live here on Keswui on and off. Just the two of them at the moment looking after the place. Sections of the mangroves have been cleared to allow those large catamaran sailboats to come in on the high tides. It seems to be a bit swampy just inland off the shore. Prime malaria country no doubt.

Much evidence of locals eating big oysters. Lots of very tall coconut trees loaded with coconuts. The young lad was sitting up in a mangrove tree playing his ukulele when we return from our walk.

1230hrs: Leave the camp and dinghy over to a sandbank nearby. Look around and find loads of big oysters just sitting in clumps. This calls for a return trip to Lowana IV to collect oyster opening tools, 30+ suntan oil, beer, coke, snorkelling gear and towels.

094 mangrove breaksRight: On offshore sandbank looking back to Keswui Island. Breaks have been cut into the mangroves by local fishermen to beach their catamarans overnight.

1300hrs: Big feed of oysters except for Ann who doesn’t like them. She goes snorkelling instead. Later tells us that the coral reef and snorkelling in general was just excellent, if not the best seen on the trip. Water is beautiful with lots of multi coloured fish swimming about with bigger fish below.

095 oysters 1Left: Martin and Russ getting stuck into the oysters. The oysters are abundant and quite large.

In the meantime Delma, Martin and I continue to gobble down fat oysters, some of them so big it takes two bites to eat them.

1430hrs: Wind is coming up and showing signs of strengthening. Nothing like it’s been on previous days though. Pity we don’t have an inflatable instead of our little dinghy, especially as it is at the moment. Ferry everyone plus gear back to the boat in two trips. Pity we have to leave but it’s better than being stranded ashore.

096 return to boatRight: Returning to Lowana IV.

Afternoon: Long afternoon. Sun very hot and windy.

1830hrs: I decide to set out in dinghy alone with fishing gear. Work across the reef lure fishing and along the edge of the island but no fish. Not a nibble. Water still very bumpy. Return to boat empty handed.

2100hrs: Another excellent dinner of mince, sweet potato and pumpkin. A beef stroganoff mixture has been put into the mince. Also a lovely baked desert of apple, prunes and sultanas.

2130hrs: Too tired to wait for the broadcast. Everyone in bed going asleep or reading.

Sat 12 Sep 98
0800hrs: Everyone awake. The prunes and sultanas from last nights dinner is giving everyone an extra bit of cleaning out this morning. Crew virtually lining-up at the head.

Temperature 29 degrees celsius inside but sun much hotter outside. Barometer has been down to around 1000 hp last couple of days but up to 1004 hp this morning. Moving again. I wonder what fresh problems we’ll have today?

Kiswui Island – Barbuara Island

0900hrs: Absolutely still. Anchor rope floating on the surface of the water making it much easier to recover the anchor. Head off NE then N to clear reef around Wolas Island. No wind. Motoring. Heading up Yamdena Strait and will take a look at a little island called Yangur Rual if possible. It’s located to the south of Wotap Island where we are eventually headed.

1000hrs: Located 4 nm NE of last anchorage. Have a tidal push of about 3/4 to 1 knot. Water has been like a mirror but wind is picking up now. Ann has had an attack of the sneezes. Girls have been busy scrubbing down the decks and making everything shipshape. Cockpit is clean thanks to Martin’s efforts yesterday. Set a waypoint mid channel just short of Wotap Island which can be clearly seen in the distance.

1030hrs: Take a transit bearing off the little islands of Natraal and Natrool. They look so small on the chart but much bigger in real life. Wind about 10 knots off starboard beam.

1115hrs: Reach waypoint and turn NE to 050 degrees True. Heading up the middle of the strait now. The two channels to the south of Wotap Island are open to us but the wind and waves have picked up again. Do not want to attempt it. Will take an overnight anchorage in the lee of Barbuara Island which is just off the coast of Yamdena. It’s currently east of our present position.

1215hrs: Sea choppy. Wind maybe 15~20 knots. Final approach to selected anchorage area.

097 barbuaraLeft: Approaching Barbuara Island. This marks a distinct geological change from flat to volcanic country. The cone of a volcano can be seen in the distance at far left.

1230hrs: Sound out the anchorage. Beautiful little island with a nice looking beach at one end framed behind by tall coconut palms. Drop anchor. The wind has picked up and holding us offshore and moaning through the rigging, but the water is nice and smooth here in the lee of the island. Feel that it was a wise choice to come here as Yangur Rual is in an exposed position.

It’s low tide. There are some pretty promising rocks around which might yield some more oysters. First order of business though is a cup of tea or coffee.

Anchored Barbuara Island. Posn: 7 degrees 23.7’S, 131 degrees 18.65’E. Barbuara is located SE of Wotap Island against the coast of Yamdena and situated about two thirds of the way up the western side. Anchored in 21m of water. No real navigation difficulties seen. Reef areas protrude at Low Water and are discoloured at High Water.

Distance travelled Keswui to Barbuara was 12.5 nm.

098 quiet beachRight: A secluded beach offers a chance for a swim and a wash.

1530hrs: Have had a little rest and everyone going ashore. Tide has covered the rocks so no oyster hunts today. Explore the beach. There are a couple of people living ashore in grass huts. Very primitive conditions. Can’t see any evidence of what these people do for a living. Assume they are sort of caretakers for all the coconut trees of which there are a lot. Copra is pretty big business.

099 caretakers hutsLeft: Some grass shelters and fish drying racks on the beach. The water beautifully reflects the tall palms.

We all have a swim and wash our hair with shampoo which is the only thing that is effective in salt water.

Unfortunately like a lot of other places in Indonesia they’ve poisoned all the reef. Just dead coral and rocks. A wasteland except just out near the drop offs. Evidence of mosquitoes ashore so leave to return to boat. Always the possibility of contracting malaria.

Evening: Quiet chats on deck. Dinner. Hot chocolate and reading before bed.

074 Yamdena Strait map

Sun 13 Sep 98
0700hrs: Conditions completely still. Boat has swung northerly with the tide around midnight. Arc of swing .05’N and .04’E which is about 90 metres.

Barbuara Island – Yangur Rual Island

0900hrs: Anchor up and motoring. Heading for the little island of Yangur Rual. There are actually two very small islands marked on the chart in this channel between Wotap Island in the north, and a larger Wuliaru Island to the south. They are Yangur Rual and Yangur Raa.

1015hrs: Reach our waypoint to the south of Yangur Raa. The island is not where it’s supposed to be. Charts have been known to be incorrect so proceed with care, depth sounding as we go. The island is finally found as per the chart but it’s only just visible on the surface. Turn northerly to 310 degrees True.

100 watching sounderLeft: Russ and Martin in the cockpit intently watching the depth sounder. The sun is very hot. Note the limp flag even as we motor along.

Caution: Yangur Raa Island. Despite what any pilots books might say including the ones we had on board, and in contravention to the chart which marks it as a proper island, Yangur Raa actually disappears at High Water. When exposed it is simply a sandbank with a heap of birds sitting on it – if you’re lucky. The sandbank extends further west than that shown on the chart but the channels are quite deep at 40 plus metres.

1045hrs: Approaching Yangur Rual from the SE. Start sounding the area.

101 yangur rualRight: Yangur Rual. The small island of Natrool off to the left. Large island of Wuliaru in the background at left. Darker patches in the water around Yangur Rual are reefs. The shore rises quite steeply.

1105hrs: Drop the anchor at Yangur Rual. Posn: 7 degrees 23.45’S, 131 degrees 12.05’E. Anchored in 26m of water between 200-300m due south of the island. The island is situated on a sandbank which is fairly steep-to on the SE side but is well discoloured. There is a good channel 20m-25m deep between the island and a 3 fathom shoal marked on the chart further south. Extensive reefs on the western side negate using the island for a lee shelter from NE to SE winds.

Distance Barbuara to Yangur Rual Island was 7.5 nm. Total engine hours 551 hrs.

1130hrs: This would have been the stillest day we’ve had on the whole trip so far. The flag almost hanging limp. Just a breath of breeze. VERY hot. It’s 36 degrees celsius INSIDE the boat with the fan going.

Water is crystal clear. Can see the anchor rope disappearing into the depths for a long way. There is a fish hanging around the back of the boat about 10m down. Water reflecting glare like a mirror. Horizon has vanished in the heat haze blending into the sky to the NW. A bit weird not being able to see a horizon.

Yangur Rual is like the proverbial cartoon tropical desert island. It consists mostly of sand with some sparse pandanus trees at one end. No coconut trees and only clumpy vegetation otherwise. It’s a beautiful beach surrounded by cool clear green water.

1230hrs: How quickly things change. The afternoon breeze kicks in and the sea becomes choppy with widespread whitecaps. Our trip to the island is postponed for the present so Ann takes a swim beside the boat.

1300hrs: Holding position perfectly. Winds not too strong at between 10~15 knots. Lots of chop and whitecaps but not heavy. Quite pleasant actually, even if we are confined to the boat. A Zodiac rubber-duck dinghy would be nice to have right now so we could get across to the island. Unfortunately our little 8 ft fibreglass dinghy doesn’t have much freeboard and is not safe for these conditions. Especially now we’re having cooling problems with the outboard.

1500hrs: It seems a little calmer so make a move to go ashore but another fickle wind comes through causing slight seas and scattered whitecaps. Decide to wait. Breeze is just lovely though and the setting is excellent. Decisions, decisions … sleep or read?

1600hrs: Try again. Ferry everyone across in 2 trips taking it really easy on the outboard. Seas still quite bumpy but no real problems. The island has clear green water and clean sand with black patches on the bottom. These patches turn out to be rocks with the occasional brown spot betraying a coral bombie sticking up near the surface. It’s easy enough to work our way around these. Shore is fairly steep so it’s necessary to spin the dinghy stern-to shore and face the waves as we land. Otherwise we might get pooped. Don’t have any problems though.

Explore the island. Some really beautiful sea shells. Find a half scallop embedded in dead coral which will make an excellent table centrepiece and functional as a dip plate. Do some snorkelling. Large variety of tropical fish. Nothing really big but some beautifully coloured small ones. Lots of brain corals. There are good sized clams that are embedded in cavities in rocks, but without jemmy bars we’re not going to be able to get them out.

This reef system hasn’t been poisoned but there are signs that they’ve used explosives at some time to catch fish. Unfortunately this is another Indonesian method of harvesting fish. Grab what you can with no eye to conservation.

There’s only one makeshift grass hut and a couple of small overnight campsites. Lots of bird life and crawling shell fish on the beaches. Picture postcard stuff. The idyllic tropical island except it doesn’t have any water. Would be nice to camp ashore but the yacht is anchored in a position exposed to strong winds and a long fetch of water east and west.

1900hrs: A strong current running westerly makes it hard work for our small 3.3 hp outboard getting back and forth, but everyone is finally brought back onboard. The wind has picked up instead of dying down at sunset as it usually does. Boat is gently hobby horsing to the swells. Martin has somehow managed to kick and cut his still rather tender half a toe on some coral. He’s sterilising and dressing it.

2200hrs: Listen to the forecast. No problems in our immediate area but moderate seas in the north Arafura Sea where we will be next week. Hopefully they’ll have abated by then.

Mon 14 Sep 98
0130hrs: Ann is woken by rain coming through the front hatch. Very quick shower which Martin sleeps through up on deck. Part of his mattress extending out from under the canopy f’ard of the mast gets wet.

0230hrs: Dinghy laying slack beside boat. Anchor rope slack. 3/4 moon is up giving lots of light. Tide is changing. Have to get up to a call of nature. Decide to keep watch for the time being just in case the anchor rope decides to snag something underneath the hull. Very peaceful.

0315hrs: Boat has swung 180m to the east and about 30m toward the north. Almost a full half circle towards Yangur Rual. Plenty of room though. Slight breeze is keeping the boat fighting the tide. Anchor rope floating around slack but boat is keeping position fairly well at about 25m depth.

0900hrs: Some fishermen working in our area. Wave them in and buy 3 live fish for Rp5000 and a packet of barley sugar lollies. One fish is a parrot fish complete with beak. It has the most incredibly tough skin I’ve seen in all my years of fishing, possibly even shark. Also buy a tricky-snapper and an unknown orange and white barred thing not seen before. Finish filleting them and Delma immediately cooks them for a most refreshing breakfast.

These fishermen have a mother ship that they return to at night which is about 60ft in length. It’s quite distinctive with grey superstructure and black hull. Actually looks almost like a naval vessel.

These blokes use leased boats from Hong Kong. Quite distinctive dinghies with purpose built water wells which access the sea in the bottom in which to keep their catch alive. They use boards to cover the wells and keep off the sun. The dinghies are equipped with small outboard’s such as 4 hp Mariner or Yamaha which push them along quite well.

We’d first noticed the mother ship and dinghies back at Wulutu village, and since then we’ve seen them working around each area we visited. They haven’t paid much attention to us until now. Must be hard for them though. They’re out in the sun and weather every day from daylight to dusk.

0930hrs: It’s Annie’s birthday today. Delma presents her with a Birthday Girl tiara with instructions to wear it all day. Martin says that to mark the occasion she should be promoted in the foredeck party and be the first to pull the anchor up.

102 birthday girlLeft: Ann’s birthday today. She’s presented with a birthday tiara and instructions to wear it all day…which she mostly forgets to do.

1000hrs: Wind and tide still in competition with the boat not knowing which way to go. Lovely breeze.

Yangur Rual Island – Wotap Island

1030hrs: Anchor up. Motoring again since we don’t have that far to go. Heading towards the western side of Wotap Island just to the north. First we have to go NW on course 305 degrees True for 2nm to clear the extensive reefs on the western side of Yangur Rual. We then turn NE on 040 degrees True for the SW bay on Wotap.

Isn’t long before the land shelf drops off to over 250m. Fairly uneventful trip. Heading northerly with the tide trying to carry us back into the channel. Have been applying 10 degrees of leeway but it’s not enough. The depth sounder alarm goes off at 30m at which it had been set, so we turn west again for a while. Those reefs off Yangur Rual really do come out a long way!

1130hrs: Looking at the SW bay of Wotap Island which is now abeam. Doesn’t look like anything special. In fact looks a bit mangrovey further in. Could be wrong. Decide to check the next bay further north. It has a small cliffy island in the centre of the bay which looks interesting.

1230hrs: Arrive at the NW bay and decide to anchor up. Very pretty place indeed. Make our final approaches through the northernmost channel into the bay around the small island at the entrance. Progress is slow as we move from side to side of the channel to find the deepest water. Extensive reefs around every bit of land to be seen though there’s plenty of room.

1300hrs: Anchor up. We like the look of this place and will probably stay here a couple of days. This particular bay has a couple of nice looking beaches and reefs to explore, and that island smack in the middle just begs somebody to climb up to the top. It’s cliffs look pretty steep faced but we think we can see a couple of places where we should be able to get up without too much difficulty.

Anchored Wotap Island in 25m water. Posn: 7 degrees19.13’S, 131 degrees 13.91’E. Wotap is situated about 2/3 of the way up the west coast of the Tanimbar group. It’s a fairly reasonable sized island of about 5 to 7 square kilometres with its biggest mountain feature at just 618m. The NW bay provides a well protected anchorage for winds from the NE to the SE.

Note: Nearly all the islands on the western side of the Tanimbars have low mountains in the 600 odd metre range except for Laiboban Island which is 1281m high. It can clearly be seen about 8 nm away poking up in a blue volcanic cone shape. Some islands at the northern end of the Tanimbars reach up to 800 plus metres and are quite steep sided.

Distance covered Yangur Rual to Wotap Is was 8nm. Engine hours total 554hrs.

104 wotap north viewRight: Inside the northernmost bay of Wotap Island on the western side, looking towards the northern shore. Excellent swimming and oysters here. Most of the distance to the shore is shallow reef.

1340hrs: Ann is served a birthday banana custard sprinkled with crushed nuts. Martin wishes it was his birthday so he could get crushed nuts too. There’s an opening for a comment or two there somewhere.

105 wotap south viewLeft: Looking towards the southern end with an island in the middle of the bay.

1830hrs: Another relaxing day on board. Bit too blowy to venture ashore. No one probably inclined to do it anyway. Besides we have to limit the use of the outboard motor now as the water pump is getting weaker. If it fails we’ll be rowing everywhere.

Have sundowners. Enjoy the scenery and the birds working the schools of fish along the reefs. A couple of fish schools boil on the surface near the boat but am not ready with the fishing rod. Too bad … Our fishermen mates from this morning were supposed to meet us here to sell us more fish, but haven’t turned up. Too bad …

103 deck drinkiesRight: Martin, Ann and Delma not very active, relaxing on deck having a little ‘sippies’.

Rolling stones tape, sun setting, atmosphere on board is just great. Running short of dunny paper though. There might have to be a rationing!

107 banda sunsetLeft: Sunset over the Banda Sea.

Evening: Very gentle breeze and smooth water. Nice. At one stage we see extraordinary phosphorescent small sea creatures beside the boat. Really interesting. During the night Martin hears a pretty loud wallop nearby that sounds like something big.

Tue 15 Sep 98
0700hrs: Wake to the depth sounder alarm going off. It had been set at 15m but is suddenly showing just 8m depth. Strange … calm water, not swinging. Landmarks all okay. Turn the sounder off then back on again. All okay. Wonder what caused that?

Sun coming up behind the hills of the island. Depth sounder goes off again same as before at 8m depth. This time notice lots of bubbles breaking the surface of the water around the boat. What the hell’s that? Bubbles disappear and the sounder shuts up again.

Later figure out that it was densely packed schools of fish passing underneath, probably being herded by dolphins. It was to become a nuisance with the sounder.

0715hrs: Couple of blokes from a village about 2km away turn up in a dugout. They’re going fishing and want to know if we will buy any. Is the Pope a Catholic? Away they go after getting the almost obligatory cigarette from Martin, who’s the only smoker on board.

0945hrs: More visitors. A man and a woman with a 5 year old boy in a dugout come alongside. Woman is done up with her best makeup being white paste smeared over her face. This is quite common in Indonesia especially in poorer or remote areas, at least in the Molucca region of Indonesia. It’s supposed to make them more beautiful or attractive. Culture thing possibly similar to the way western women use lipstick, rouge and eyeliner.

The man promises to provide lobster tomorrow at Rp50000 but agrees eventually to Rp30000 (A$4.90). The size of the lobster remains to be seen. He has to go back to his village and get his diving glasses.

A comment is made about another yacht recently who bought some lobster from him. This would have had to be Farr Star whom we met at Saumlaki and who told us about this place. All the while our man admires our snorkelling gear on which we keep a careful eye until he leaves

Morning/Afternoon: Take the dinghy over to the beach on the northern side of the bay. Cross a very extensive reef. Spend the day exploring the coral sand beach, swimming, snorkelling, exploring some small caves and rocks along the shore. While not doing that we prise up and eat oysters or relax and read – or sleep.

108 exploringRight: The tide is in so we have to wade around the rocky foreshore. Often find patches of oysters which need tasting.

Another man and woman with a young girl arrive on the beach in a tiga rowa. They sell us some coconuts and sit by as we drink the milk and eat the coconut meat. They want 500Rp each but having no money with us we ask if they can come back to the boat later today. Turns out they have to leave before the tide drops so that they can get back to their village.

109 suggestive rockLeft: No prizes for the name we gave THIS rock.

I’ll need to go back out to the boat and get the money to pay them. They follow. Give them Rp5000 but they also indicate they want T shirts. Give them an old pair of shorts and khaki collar shirt out of the rag bag. They take them without comment and seem happy with it. They look like they need them anyway. Barely make it back ashore over the reef as the tide fell.
110 coconut sellers
Right: This family sells us some coconuts. The lady is very pregnant but still does her share of the rowing in their tiga-rowa. Mean looking machete that fellow has got!

Back at the beach another man arrives. Sitting in his dugout is a long awaited, almost fabled LOBSTER. Quite good sized too. One of the painted lobster variety i.e. multi-coloured. He talks at a loud volume indicative of divers who have blown ear drums telling us he wants RP10000 for it.

111 lobster for dinnerLeft: At last our long awaited lobster! We’ve been looking for a lobster dinner for so long …

He also has a good sized trepang (sea cucumber) in the dugout but he isn’t producing it. Not that we want it. He agrees to come out to the boat later on to deliver the lobster and get paid. He thereupon goes back out on the water and sits in his dugout near our boat for several hours waiting for us to return. We hope he’s keeping that lobster cool!

The beach and rocks are alive with crawling shell fish of all kinds. The snorkelling is not particularly good. There are clams around but once again they’re all imbedded in reef requiring a jemmy bar to prise them out. The clams are good sized at maybe 30-40cm in diameter. Would make a good meal in themselves.

Dusk: Return to boat. Our mate with the lobster comes over and gets paid his Rp10000. Lobster seems okay still. He also wants a T shirt so we give him an old one. Wants a smoke and some lollies for his kids. Okay … and we give him a couple of Woman’s Day magazines. He goes away seemingly satisfied promising to return tomorrow with 2 lobsters.

Evening: The afternoon wind hasn’t kicked in all that much. Boat sitting fairly still in the water. Delma cooks our lobster which we have for dinner together with biscuits, salsa and noodles. All in all the meal is filling and the lobster delicious even if a bit rich.

Weds 16 Sep 98

0700hrs: Depth sounder goes off again. Turn it off. A little bit of breeze about.

0800hrs: Wind building up. Small wavelets.

0930hrs. Wind really going now. Moaning through the rigging. Whitecaps everywhere. Boat canopy catches the wind causing boat to yaw around. Take it down.

1200hrs: Blowing pretty hard at times. No sign of any locals in canoes or sailboats. Little wonder. Boat is swinging through an arc of around 100m but holding firm in position. Getting hot without the canopy up. Conditions too strong for our little dinghy to take ashore again. The situation underlies why world cruising boats tend to be 40 ft length or more. They have more storage room and are able to carry a decent sized dinghy. There are some limitations with a 30 ft boat.

1700hrs: Spend the afternoon sitting around on deck waiting for the wind to die down. It’s now showing signs of it but still getting strong bursts. No chance today of exploring the little island. We had wanted to get to the top of it to take some photos. Never mind. You take the good with the bad when cruising by sail. Today must be penance for such a good day yesterday. Either that or the God of Lobsters is angry with us.

1920hrs: The wind at last dies down enough to put the canopy back up again for the night. Sun has set, no moon yet. Our friendly evening star planet Venus is shining brightly and reflecting on the water. Can see the two pointers of the Southern Cross low on the horizon to the south, but the cross itself is hard to make out on the gathering gloom on the horizon.

The girls are busy in the galley making salmon patties with green beans. Sweet potatoes and pumpkin chips are cooking on the BBQ.

074 Yamdena Strait map

Thu 17 Sep 98
0700hrs: Everyone up. Today marks the start of our return home via Selu Island located at the most SW point of the Tanimbar group. This anchorage had been recommended by a friend although it looks a little steep-to and exposed to southerly winds. The pilot book also reports heavy tide rips can occur in this area. We’ll just have to take a look and if the conditions aren’t right, we’ll push on.

Wotap Island – Selu Island

0800hrs: Take up the anchor and start navigating out through the narrow channel to open water.

0900hrs: Wind not up in any strength yet. Expecting stronger winds like yesterday so put up the #1 jib and full mains’l for the time being. Motor off. Wait and see what happens. Lots of fairly good sized flying fish skimming over the blue water. Wind from ESE at about 5~10 knots.

112 doing it hardLeft: Under sail with a full mainsail and #1 jib. The girls are taking it easy for the time being. It’s a hard life but somebody’s gotta do it. Selu Island can be seen in the distance at left.

0930hrs: Wind seems to be dropping. Located 5.5 nm WSW of Wotap. Speed down to 2.7 knot at times.

1200hrs: Positioned 3 nm north of the NW side of Wuliaru Is. Winds variable both in strength and direction. Trying to maintain a course of 250 degrees True but the heads’l is being blanketed at times by the mains’l. In order to keep the heads’l filled we are being forced more southerly than we want go.

Mains’l taken down and I ask the crew for a change of headsail to the genoa. A little mix up occurs as to which sail has to be put up and a bit of tension surfaces among the crew. Some sharp words are exchanged. Not anyone’s fault in particular. The slightest and silliest things can sometimes arise when people are confined together for fairly long periods. It’s over almost as soon as it starts.

In a little while we’re 11 nm from our waypoint with the genoa heads’l giving us more flexibility in a direction to steer. Getting between 3~4 knots and sometimes a bit more with some puffs as they come through. Getting cloudy. Pretty hot and humid.

1245hrs: Down to around 2.5 knots. Pole the genoa out for immediate results up to 4~5 knots.

1315hrs: Half way across the gulf between Wuliaru and Selu islands. Seas are disturbed. A few waves smacking the side of the boat. Waypoint is 6.75 nm away. Getting between 3.5~5 knots with variable winds still.

1500hrs: Reach waypoint off Nita Island which is off the NW coast of the larger Selu Island. We have to round this island to get to the western side. Turn southerly to 185 degrees True. Take down genoa pole. Bumpy waters off the headland.

1530hrs: Start motor and take the genoa down. Have selected a couple of sites from the chart to try for an anchorage but it’s very steep-to country here. Depth is over 1 km deep just 1 nm offshore. Sounder is supposed to pick up the bottom at 400m yet we don’t get a reading until we’re just under half a mile from the anchorage waypoint.

Spot the ‘mother’ ship again with all its little red dinghy ducklings out fishing.

Sound out the first anchorage site. Although feasible I don’t like it much as it’s quite exposed out from some low lying land behind. Hit the MOB button on the GPS in case we need to come back to it and move on further south to check out the next spot.

Note: When punched, the Man Over Board (MOB) button on the GPS records the precise latitude and longitude and provides bearings to return to that position.

1700hrs: There is a little village at the head of a little cove where there is a deep channel between the reefs. Sound out and measure the area carefully to allow for anchor swinging room. Drop the anchor.

Anchor barely hits the bottom and we’re still paying out the anchor rode when a red dinghy comes up. We gesture for them to keep clear but they ignore us and keep insisting ‘navy’. Surprised to learn that two of them are Navy personnel and want to check our papers. Where have they come from? They persist in attempting to approach and board us and finally some of the men grab onto the stern davits.

Martin and I are both getting annoyed. They simply will not keep clear. It’s bloody bad manners not to mention poor seamanship if not stupidity or sheer inconsideration to get in the way of someone trying to anchor. All sorts of things can go wrong and they would simply make a suddenly bad situation worse.

When anchoring has been done to my satisfaction, only two persons are permitted on board, these being the alleged two Navy men. Both are in civilian clothing and neither presents any identification. Another dinghy of fishermen arrive alongside.

Everyone except the two aboard are told to stay in their own dinghies. Martins stands by to ensure this occurs while I take the two other men downstairs into the cabin where they are handed photocopies of all ships papers. It must be said they behaved politely once on board and did not linger any more than necessary to establish who we were and what we were doing.

By the time the Navy blokes get off, Delma’s mouth is watering. Each dinghy has big live tricky snapper swimming around in the wells. Bargain for one fish from each dinghy at Rp10000 per fish (A$3.30 for both). Quite big fish too, each being around 60-70cm in length.

We are pretty sure the Navy blokes went back to the ‘mother’ ship and we start to wonder about the black and grey colouring of that ship. Strange …

Anchored Selu Island. Posn: 07 degrees 32.38’S, 130 degrees 50.06’E in 32m of water. At the end of the anchor rode of 120m of chain and rope the boat is sitting above 48m of water and holding directly out from the shore. Positioned directly in the lee of a 207m and a 211m hill. At this location I’m not prepared to put out a bigger anchor scope than 4:1 due to vicinity of reefs and swinging room required. Decide a second anchor will be put out if need be. Conditions remain good and it’s not required.

Distance Wotap to Selu was 26nm. Engine hours 557.4 hrs.

1820hrs: I clean and filled the fish in the cockpit then the girls prepare the fillets. Also keep a big lump of roe from one of the fish. We’re having Thai Curry tonight! Martin cleans and disinfects the cockpit. All is well with the world. Thankful that we’re able to anchor up safely and not have to do a night-sail.

113 tricky dinnerRight: One of the two tricky snapper sold to us by fishermen after the Navy fellows left.

1830hrs: Winds are dropping. Water is smooth in the lee of the low hills.

Evening: A succulent meal. Even just the entree of crumbed fish pieces is almost enough to fill everybody. Wait for a couple of hours to let that lot settle before we attempt the next course – which is just as great. Nothing much short of a genuine pig-out …

2200hrs: Listen to the High Seas forecast and hear a call from Darwin Radio saying they are anxious to talk to Lowana IV. This pricks up my ears but I’m unable to respond due to our burnt out radio tuner. This incident starts to cause a bit of worry as to why they want to talk to us ‘so anxiously’. Make some calls to any ships on the VHF Ch16 and 27Mhz radios, but as expected no responses.

Discuss options. To get back to Saumlaki we will have to leave very early in the morning, but it’s still a good 50nm windward run to Saumlaki through the strait and various islands with possible adverse tides. There are also the unlit fish traps in the night in Saumlaki Harbour to consider.

Final decision is to push on as originally planned and overnight at Latdalam again.

Fri 18 Sep 98
0700hrs: Boat rousing. Dinghy from our neighbouring ‘mother’ ship comes past eyeing us off.

Note: Boat swung through an arc of 198m north to south lying almost parallel to the southern shore in the morning with an incoming tide. Tides set north to south here.

Selu Island – Latdalam

0800hrs: Pull up the anchor and start motoring out to clear the southern headland. Will put up sails when a look can be taken further outside. Water calm, almost mirror like. A little breeze. Overcast with fluffy-wool type clouds.

0900hrs: Wind maybe 15 knots from SE. It’s been pretty near easterly this whole trip but today when we want to go SE the wind is from the SE. Never mind. Put up the #2 (small) jib and mains’l with 2 reefs in since I’m expecting higher winds later. Especially when we cross Yamdena Strait and the bight between Seirra Island and the SW coast of Yamdena.

Run the sheets to the small jib inside the shrouds to try to sail closer to the wind. Intend to keep motor sailing at this time and see how we go. If we can keep a good enough speed we might even try for Saumlaki. It would be nice to know what message awaits us from Darwin. However we’ll need to do better than the 4.5 knot average so far on our present close hauled course of 160 degrees True.

0930hrs: Located 5 nm due south of our overnight anchorage on course to our waypoint off Seirra Island. Pointing into the wind between 25-30 degrees which is probably the best Lowana IV has ever done. Motor sailing and getting up to 5 knots. The log and GPS read the same so no apparent assistance from tide or current. Lovely day. The wind is about 10 knots now that we are away from the land. Seas slight. Very light clouds, overcast and glary.

1030hrs: Off the west coast of Seirra Island. Average over the last hour between 4~6 knots. Exactly on course.

1200hrs: Take all reefs out of the mains’l. Very bumpy seas with waves 1.5m-2m. Quite choppy and close together. The sea bottom has shelved up from 100m or more to between 20-30m within a short distance. Good enough reason for the water to get disturbed. Wind is also at about 15 knots which is making it worse. Take at least one wave over the bow but will get more seeing they’re so close together.

Tickled pink at the boats performance to windward, especially considering last years poor performance. Still getting 3.5~4 knots in the conditions. Put a reef in mains’l again just before the waypoint as we’re a bit overpowered and getting a bit of a lean up.

Change course to 180 degrees True and belly out the heads’l to help keep momentum going when we jolt into the waves.

1255hrs: Very bumpy now. Waves have spaced out a bit but are much bigger. Whitecaps everywhere. Long rolling cresters some of them. Tack eastwards to seek smoother water under the lee of the land. It will also take us closer to Latdalam where we will definitely be anchoring tonight.

1310hrs: Big pod of dolphins arrive around the boat. Dozens of them are swimming under the boat and back and forth across the bow. You can see them taking a look at the silly humans bouncing around above the water. These are not the larger dolphins as in the Banda Sea. They’re only around 1.5 to 2m with a lighter coloured belly and grey topside. Occasionally there’s a bigger one. Very playful.

1320hrs: Dolphins still hanging around when I need to call for a second reef and spoil the fun. By the time the reef is put in the dolphins are gone. Boat handling and speed much smoother although we’re still slamming into the waves, which seem to be building.

1500hrs: Only averaged 2.75 knots last hour. Still heading easterly but slowly coming under the lee of the SW coast of Yamdena. Water is much calmer. Sun is much bloody hotter and the wind is backing towards the E from SE forcing us sail a more northerly course away from our destination. We’re presently on 070 degrees True but only just able to hold it, but I hope to make one more mile to clear some shoal water before tacking southerly again.

1510hrs. Not to be. Wind suddenly swings forcing us to go to 050 degrees True, which is too far north out of our way. Tack southerly. New course 130 degrees True will take us back out to the rougher water. Oh well …

1630hrs: Make 4 nm southerly to clear another shoal then tack easterly again. Trying to get back into calmer waters. Hate being tossed around, we’re supposed to be cruising!

1700hrs: Pass the 20m depth line but still a long way off the shore. Just 4nm to Latdalam as the crow flies but it’s directly to windward. Decide to try and motor toward it. Take down heads’l, sheet in the mains’l as hard as a board and start motoring directly toward Latdalam. Wind springs up on the nose almost immediately and speed drops back almost to a standstill. Seems this anchorage just doesn’t want us to go there. Back to tacking. Belly the mains’l a tiny bit to try and get some lift then start tacking toward our anchorage at about 2 knots or so.

1900hrs: After consistent strong, last gasp headwinds we finally manage to arrive at Latdalam and get the anchor down. Have been heading to the same GPS position from our last visit, but we pass over an underwater reef which suddenly juts straight up almost to the surface. Thankfully I don’t have a heart pacemaker – I’m not sure it would have stood the strain. Turn back out a little further and find a good patch about 16m deep and anchor there.

It’s been a long, fairly hard day bashing to windward. Quite bumpy in places especially off the western end of Sierra Island. Good to be able to stop and rest. Look at the sea and am thankful we’re not still trying to get to Saumlaki.

Anchored Latdalam. Posn: 7 degrees 56.07’S, 131 degrees 05.69’E. Distance travelled 36.4 nm. Engine hours 568hrs.

1920hrs: Wind dropping. Canopy has been put up. Hot cuppas and nibblies.

Evening: Have a sumptuous canned food dinner of sausages and onions and vegies. Unfortunately I eat so heartily as to get the hiccoughs.

Must be hundreds of pan sized fish swimming and plopping around the boat. Must be attracted by the cabin lights through the portholes. In the morning Martin tells us they were still plopping around out there to about 0300hrs.

Sat 19 Sep 98
0530hrs: Awake to the sound of a mysterious rattle. Unable to locate the source. Boat rocking gently to small wavelets coming up the coast from the south. Have a scratch and go back to bed.

0700hrs: Crew slowly starting to move one by one. Reports once more of a hairy sea-monster which has been heard on or near the boat on this and other trips. Never been seen and only gets vocal whenever Martin or myself are asleep. If the truth be known it’s probably not just the boys. A petite sea monster can be heard when Delma is asleep too sometimes.

0730hrs: A lone dolphin cruises past the bow whilst we are still at anchor.

Chart_4_Egron_Strait

Latdalam – Saumlaki

0800hrs: Start making our way slowly westwards back out to sea. Lots of underwater reef right throughout this area. It would be a fisherman’s paradise as the area is alive with fish on the sounder. Reefs range between 6-18m as we pass over them.

0900hrs: Approaching first waypoint at 1 nm away. It’s located between the SW coast of Yamdena and Anggormasa Island at the entrance to Jasi Strait. Motoring only at this stage. Wind directly on the nose. Waiting to see what the situation will be after we turn the corner into the strait and start heading eastwards.

0850hrs: Small pod of dolphins trailing us off our starboard aft quarter. One of them dives playfully under the stern and out the other side.

Enter Jasi Strait. Like all narrow straits it funnels the wind and tide. We’re lucky enough to get some tidal assistance but the wind and waves come at us constantly head on. Put up the mains’l and sheet it in. Motor sail back and forth tacking across the 1/2 mile wide channel at an angle to the waves.

1015hrs: Have got through Jasi Strait at an average between 2.5~3 knots despite the conditions, and back in deeper water again. Am now bearing the brunt of seas coming directly from the Arafura Sea at the bottom of Yamdena Island. Wind is up 15~20 knots. Spray whipping off the crests of waves. Heads’l up and tacking roughly SE and NE. Another bumpy water day.

1130hrs: Approaching the northern end of Nustabun Island where there’s a very narrow gap and I’m not sure we’ll be able to get through here. Take down heads’l and sheet the mains’l in again. Will try the same trick as before. If it doesn’t work we’ll have to go south and go around the bottom of Nustabun before coming back up towards Saumlaki.

Able to get a bit closer to the wind without the heads’l, and getting a little lift from the mains’l by loosening it slightly. Tack back and forth across the channel until clear of Nustabun though have to work a bit harder to get through this one. Water gets calmer as we travel easterly.

1230hrs: Clear of Nustabun Island and almost at the northern end of Matakus Island. We’ve saved at least a couple of hours by going through the northern passage. Put the heads’l back up and tack northerly to avoid a big 12m shoal area.

114 yamdena ferryLeft: A coastal trader boat passes between Nustabun and Matakus Islands. There’s quite a heavy chop going and it’s very windy still.

1245hrs: Getting 5 knots. Lots of rain activity about and we actually get a few drops. Want to dodge these isolated storm pockets as the wind can gust up a bit in and around them. Heading up Saumlaki Harbour. Bumpy ride again but making good time.

1300hrs. Turn off the motor. Sailing up Saumlaki Harbour under 2 reefs and small jib at up to 5 knots. Just HAD to get SOME sailing in on this leg.

1400hrs. Just about ready to drop anchor and a rain shower comes through reducing visibility. Wait for it to finish and the sun to come out so we can see the fringing reef. Know where it is but just want to make certain.

1420hrs: Anchor up okay. We’d been through some fairly slow stretches through the straits and out in the bigger waves so we’re glad to get the hook down again. Sun has come out. Lots of clouds but it doesn’t look like any more rain about.

Anchored Saumlaki. Usual position. Distance 19 nm. Engines hours 574.5 hrs.

1600hrs: Martin and I go ashore and head for the Telephone Office. Ring Darwin Radio who state they don’t pass messages anymore. Perth Radio now does this and we’ll have to ring them. Give them a report of our situation just in case anybody asks and they give me the Perth Radio number. The Darwin operator says he’ll notify Perth in half an hour to tell them we’re okay just in case we can’t get through.Ring Perth Radio and get them on the line. Explain our situation to them e.g. broken radio, and ask for our message. Our friend and neighbour Mr Dave Fields wants to contact us. Perth Operator says he’ll contact Dave in half an hour and tell him we’re okay just in case we can’t get through.Ring Dave and get him on the line after talking to his answering machine for a little bit. There had been some concerns at home from family members about not hearing from us, and they’d asked Dave to find out if we were okay. Give Dave all our details and tell him we’ll make phone calls to family members tomorrow.Job done. Anxiety relieved, no bad news, nothing serious had happened. Return to the Harapan Indah hotel. Ronnie, who is Mama’s daughter and manageress of the hotel tells us that the whole of Saumlaki is without fresh water. It has to be ordered and paid for two days prior but she assures us there is enough for us to have a mandy. Whew!1800hrs: Get a cold bottle of Bintang beer and head back out to the boat. Give it to the girls who have been busy getting things together to go ashore. Such a simple thing you would think but you must remember essentials like Doxycycline, mossie coils, money, laundry, moisturiser, toiletries and even toilet paper.115 party residueLeft: Empties to be taken back to shore. Crew try to persuade the skipper that some of these must have spilled. When that failed then some were empty because they’d been decanted … yeah right!

On the subject of toilet paper, the girls may have been a little bit coy and hidden a spare roll for emergencies. Back ashore we organise rooms for the night with Ronnie. The mandy is heaven and I even indulge in a cold water shave.1900hrs: Went to visit our usual little rumah makan – restaurant, but its closed. Must be Muslim to be closed on a Saturday night. An amplified call to prayers issues from a local mosque as we wander around, lending a certain atmosphere to the night. No street lighting except for what comes out of the open shops.Buy some hot battered banana fritters from a warung – roadside stall for Rp250 each. The Padang restaurant provides a tasty feed for the three of us costing Rp21750 (A$3.60) including 3 small bottles of aqua. Martin returned at a later time for a feed and a large bottle of Bintang, a packet of Garam cigarettes and a black coffee for Rp15700 (A$2.60).Evening: Sit around and chat on the boat deck but we’re all pretty tired so bed went off to bed early.Sun 20 Sep 98
Morning: Late morning for everyone. Successive rain showers across the harbour and very blowy. Lowana IV doing a little dance back and forth to her anchor but she should be well secured out there with a 6 to 1 ratio on her anchor rode.Delma and Ann ring respective families. Mission successful. They also organise an expedition to one of the outlying villages where they do wood carvings. They couldn’t remember the name of the village later, but was most likely Tumbur which is renowned for its carvings in the Tanimbars.116a morning coffeeRight: Delma and I having our usual morning coffee out on the boat deck. Delma and Ann are about to set off on their wood carving shopping expedition.While the girls are out tootling around the country, Martin and I top up fuel and water tanks on the boat and check the stuffing box. It’s been running hot lately as not enough water has been getting through to cool the bearing. Not much cause for concern though as the packing is teflon and graphite impregnated. Also using marine grease with it. Back off the securing nut a little bit on the stuffing box to release the pressure on the packing, which should let a little more water through. Should be okay now touch wood.1330hrs: Complete our tasks on Lowana IV and return ashore.Have used 100 ltrs of diesel for 74.5 hrs engine running time. That works out to 1.34 ltr/hr. Very happy with that considering some of the weather we’ve gone through!117 under constructionLeft: An impressive church under construction. They place a LOT of emphasis on their churches.1400hrs: Meet up with the girls who have returned from their shopping expedition for wood carvings. Ronnie couldn’t arrange for a bemo for them, so she took the girls out to the village herself in the hotel’s ute. They bought some very nice carvings and more head baskets. Had a lovely time.

118 making bricksRight: Ann with Ronnie where the bricks are being made by hand.

Also went up to the top of a hill overlooking Saumlaki Harbour where Ronnie and her husband are building a house. She invited the girls to come and stay next time at the house.

119  workersLeft: Workers feeding banana palms to the banteng cattle on Ronnie’s property.

1445hrs: Leave the hotel for a late lunch but our preferred restaurant is shut. Only one place is open so we have a meal there. Quite nice. Return to the hotel for a snooze.

1800hrs: The terrible trio go out to boat with the clean laundry. While the girls sort things out below, I climb the mast to straighten the wind vane at the top which is crooked. It’s been giving me the irrits. Also tighten up the lashings on the radar reflector in the crosstrees as it’s been banging on the shrouds.

1840hrs: The girls finish their sorting jobs and packing stuff away. Return to shore.

120 return to baseRight: Crew get-together. Girls have returned from their day trip. Hanging off the chair at left is a traditional basket carried by a strap across the forehead.

Evening: Have a lovely meal at the hotel again. The Lonely Planet book has it all wrong about this particular hotel when it comes to the food. It’s just excellent. The cook is really good and a delightful middle aged lady. Can be a bit embarrassing though the way she bows and kneels to give you a cuppa or food. She’s obviously been taught in the old school. The younger ones to my mind tend to be a bit sullen at times.

122 a last dinnerLeft: Another feast at the hotel on the night prior to departure. The cook is standing at centre background.

Mon 21 Sep 98
0730hrs. Leaving today to return to Darwin. Tide is going out so row the dinghy over to the main wharf so as not to get stranded by the tide at the hotel.

Morning: Visit the Harbour Masters Office and get our clearance for Darwin. No problems. He just asked where we’d been the last few weeks and didn’t ask why we hadn’t gone to the Kai Islands.

The girls do some shopping. Martin asks a steward named Jamie to collect some beer and cigarettes. We pay up our hotel bills and Ronnie drives us all down to the main wharf with our shopping and stuff. A policeman stops us at the wharf gate. First one I’ve actually seen in uniform on duty around the place. He follows us down the wharf to watch us cast off.

Need to do two trips in the dinghy. One with Martin and all the gear and shopping. Get rained on quite heavily going out to the boat. A Darwin yacht Balladier has arrived this morning and is now anchored up. They all look a little tired. They say they’d been having some hard weather with lots of head winds. We can certainly relate to that. Their visa’s are going to expire on the 29th so they won’t be able to stay long. Give them the drum on officialdom in this place and the Harapan Indah hotel.

123 return to boatRight: Martin waits onboard as last minute shopping is being brought out. Boat is ready for sea with full fuel and water tanks. Just need to stow away the gear and pull up the anchor.

Drop Martin off at the boat and return for the girls. Big waves and smiles from Ronnie, the policeman and a tribe of hangers-on. Out to the boat. Uneventful embarking and debarking the dinghy. It’s when everybody’s looking that mishaps seem to occur.

Saumlaki – Darwin

Chart_2_Route

1100hrs: The weather forecast is for isolated storms and 1m seas gives us a weather window so it’s time to go. Pull up the anchor and start motoring slowly down the harbour securing everything. Wash and stow away both rolls of anchor rope below decks. The anchor and chain would have to be the muddiest they’ve been on the whole trip so far and has to be cleaned with buckets of water and brooms. Move some empty jerry cans off the deck to make more room up there and re-stash them below.

124 standing readyRight: Anchor aweigh. Martin securing the anchor to make sure it doesn’t clunk around. Delma standing by to wash the mud off the deck.

1200hrs: Clear of Saumlaki Harbour. Sea swells getting bigger. Halfway between Matakus Island and the Yamdena Strait light. Heading southerly to clear some shoal banks, then will be turning SW towards the western end of Melville Island, Australia.

125 last viewLeft: Our last view of Saumlaki. The main wharf is centre photo.

Sails put up with 2 reefs in mains’l and #2 jib. Motor off and we’re away!

1400hrs: Shake out one reef in mains’l leaving one reef in. Still have #2 jib for the time being but wind is dropping. Out into open ocean swells. Pretty big stuff which takes the edge off our speed in the troughs.

Big pod of dolphins pass underneath. Don’t stop to play but after we pass by they start doing acrobatics, jumping high out of the water and flopping back.

1430hrs: Made only about 3.5 knots last hour. Take down the #2 jib and put up the larger #1 jib. Speed picks up to 4.5~5 knots. Almost at the continental shelf where the water drops from around 60m to over 200m before it gets really, really deep.

1455hrs. Crossing the shelf. Waves quite big with the open ocean swells hitting the relatively shallower water.

1700hrs: Pass an Indonesian offshore fishing boat. He has an anchor rope out but can’t be anchored so must be using a sea-anchor drogue of some sort off his bow. His small boat pitches horrendously in the short sharp swells yet he walks nimbly on it apparently unconcerned and untethered.

Situated 24 nm SSW of Saumlaki and east of the most southern point of Selaru Island at 20 nm away to the west. Still running with #1 jib and mains’l with one reef. Winds variable but getting anywhere between 4~6 knots. Waves are more settled into swells but still a reasonable size. Some whitecaps around. Boat handling no effort on the tiller at all. Well balanced and sails trimmed okay. Really, really pleasant sailing. Just lovely!

Ann feeling a little sick after taking her Doxy tablet this morning. Delma is okay at this time as she took hers last night. Crew starting to settle into routine. Rosters done.

Pass through some local showers during the afternoon which take away our wind as they go over and slow us down. Sun comes out later and the wind starts to stabilise.

Dusk: Uneventful sailing. Lack lustre sunset.

Tue 22 Sep 98
Overnight: More uneventful sailing overnight. Quite pleasant. Wind swung from SE to E from forward of the beam to aft of the beam. Maintained roughly 4.5~5 knots and sometimes higher. Winds variable in strength. Occasional lulls where we dropped down to 3 knots. No moon at all but the stars put out enough light to see around the boat a little bit.

0930hrs: Shake out the last reef in mains’l. Immediate results from under 4 knots to over 5 knots. Still getting lots of lulls which slow us down overall.

1100hrs: Posn: 09 degrees 33.34’S, 130 degrees 38.28’E. Roughly 135 nm in the 24 hours from Saumlaki. Making good time. Almost boring routine. Average speed between 4~5 knots. Big tanker on horizon is crossing our stern. Probably came from Gove with a load of Bauxite.

Approx 1400hrs: Cross the Australian Fisheries Zone. Now in Australian waters.

1700hrs: Cross the Australian continental shelf.

1800hrs: Have been charging along most of the afternoon at 6 knots or more. Wind 10~15 knots. Some occasional lulls drop us down to 4.5 knots and some gusts speed us up to over 7 knots at times. Great sailing and making good time. Roughly 170nm SSW of Saumlaki. Waypoint is 60 nm away at 11 degrees S, 130 degrees E. Hopefully we’ll then turn more southerly to follow the west coast of Bathurst Island.

Evening: Sumlog which records distance travelled through the water gives up sometime around 2000-2100hrs. Just stops at 150nm.

Wed 23 Sep 98
0030hrs: A startling noise just off the starboard quarter. Wonder what that was? Wave? Another one just off to port maybe 10 metres away. Distinctive phosphorescent shapes identifies a pod of dolphins following the boat. Ann and Delma came out to look. Can’t see much but the puh sound of them exhaling and gulping air can be heard all around the back of the boat. Occasionally a bright streak flashes through the water. They stay with us only for about 5 minutes then leave.

0400hrs: Passing over Goodrich Bank. Course takes us to the right of Marie Shoal which is charted at 8m deep. Not a problem in itself but these sorts of things can cause bumpy water.

0700hrs: Another uneventful night. Started losing the breeze from about 0415hrs onwards. Wind kept coming behind the mast so that the mains’l blanketed the heads’l. Sheeting in the mains’l got more air into the heads’l. Sometimes the unconventional works.

0850hrs: Just 1 nm from waypoint. Wind keeps puffing and dropping. Seems to be taking forever to get to it. Change course to 185 degrees True for the next waypoint off Cape Fourcroy. This is at the SW point of Bathurst Island. We have 55 nm on this leg to go.

1230hrs: Travelling down the west coast of Bathurst Island. Winds variable. Seas slight. Seas have lost the dark cobalt blue of deeper water and we’re back to the more familiar coastal light green. Only getting 2.5~3 knots with just 10 nm under the keel in the last 3 hrs. Wind vane occasionally doing circles hunting for any breeze at all.

126 the sheikRight: The ‘shiek’ sitting on the tiller off the NW coast of Bathurst Island. Very still, glarey and hot conditions.

Take down #1 jib and put up the genoa which brings us to to between 4 and 4.5 knots average. A school of tuna erupts in a feeding frenzy right next to the boat.

1400hrs: Wind can’t make up its mind where it wants to come from. Very difficult to set up a sail rig. Seems to be backing to the north. Change to goosewing rig with the heads’l poled out to windward, mains’l out to leeward.

1430hrs: Coastwatch flies over our mast and calls by radio. Give them all our details and expected ETA in Darwin.

1500hrs: Goosewing rig proves effective averaging 6 knots over the last hour. Wind is definitely steady from astern now. Horribilicus looking cumulu-nimbus clouds ahead. There appears to be a line of what looks like light rain squalls underneath them. Isolated showers with some gaps between them.
127 storm frontLeft: Sails under goosewing rig approaching a line of apparent rain squalls. We were wrong. It became a full-on extensive storm front.

Waypoint is 30nm away to the SW corner of Bathurst Island. Keeping well offshore to give lots of clearance to extensive shoals and reef areas off the coast. Haven’t actually sighted Bathurst Island as yet. It’s low set anyway and can usually be seen only from around 8 nm.

1600hrs: Hopeless. Wind has dropped away and the little bit of wind that’s left swings around to the NW and heads directly for the rain system ahead of us. Drop mains’l for a while to allow us to at least get back on course at a very slow speed using just the heads’l.

1615hrs: Give up the ghost with trying to sail. Our line of isolated rain squalls seems to have deepened into a weather front stretching 180 degrees across the SE across our track. The system has taken every breath of wind. Sails are flapping and we’re just drifting with the current. It’s overcast and much cooler too. Looks like we’re going to get a rain squall and there’s no way of avoiding it. Some gaps between the squalls. Will try for one.

Take down the sails and secure them. Turn on the motor and throttle up to around 5 knots with the intention to go through and out the other side.

Note:
With the benefit of hindsight the signs indicated something more severe than a line of isolated rain squalls. However we hadn’t heard any gale or storm warnings, and the weather forecasts we had listened to on H.F. radio were for 1m seas and isolated storms. I should have remember the old adage – there’s a calm before a storm.

Chart_6_Bathurst_Island

There looks to be gaps between the showers which indicate the system is not very wide. Without the benefit of radar I’m unable to determine how deep or wide the system actually is, and we have no HF radio to check with OTC Darwin Radio. Try calling any ships on VHF Ch 16 for a forecast update, but get no response.

Consider heading for the shelter of the land but it’s over 10 nm away. We’d have to cross extensive shallow and uncharted areas, try to avoid reefs and there’s a very strong tidal influence. We’d be overtaken by the ‘squalls’ before we got close enough to anchor anyway.

We could run with the squalls to the NW but we’d still get dumped on. It’s an option that we can fall back on if need be.

But at this point the ‘line squall’ is not thought to be so bad, to decide to try and keep going S or SW. The big spring ebbing tide will push us away from land to give us more sea room.

1640hrs. Line squall going over us. Rain pelting down but seas not too bad. Martin on the tiller wearing a poncho and a cap on his head … yes! He has a CAP on to keep the rain and wind spray out of his eyes. The rain is more a nuisance than anything at this stage. Seas okay and no big deal. We’ll push on.

128 martin with capRight: A rare photograph of Martin with a hat on. At this point we’d gone through the first rain squall. We still couldn’t see ahead so the storm board in the companionway is left in place. This is the last photo anyone thought to take during the oncoming storm.

1645hrs: Pass through a gap in the squall line. Can see Bathurst Island to port. That would be Rocky Point. Looking for the other side of these squalls to the south but no sign. It looks deeper if anything.

1920hrs: Waypoint is just 9 nm away now but we’re getting pushed slightly to westward by wind and tide. Cape Fourcroy light can be seen off the port bow. Very black out there. Still working our way southerly and being pushed westerly. Conditions are getting worse. Seas has turned to moderate but the winds keep building up.

Put up the mains’l with 2 reefs and sheet it in tightly to try and keep the boat a bit steadier. Sail is as flat as a board so as not to catch the wind and overpower the boat.

2100hrs. It’s hard to steer a steady course. The compass is swinging wildly and the only way to navigate is to use the Cape Fourcroy light as a reference point. Even this is hard to do as Lowana IV is thrown about to the demands of the wind and waves. The light is popping up everywhere from astern to well forward of the mast.

2200hrs: Have been trying to steer a course due south all this time. Being forced westward by the wind, the waves and a strong spring tide of over 5m. All together pretty powerful forces against which we can’t compete. Hope it will blow over soon.

2330hrs: Conditions have worsened and we’re in the pooh. Wind is screaming through the rigging. Huge waves. Still trying to head south but actually being forced quite fast to the WSW.

Don’t consider it safe to attempt to turn back for shelter behind Cape Fourcroy because the tide might push us onto reef when it eventually starts flooding easterly. We need more sea room so we’ll keep going westerly at this point. The more sea room the better. Just have to persevere for the time being. My biggest worry now is that Lowana IV gets side-on the seas and gets rolled over with a breaking wave. That must not happen.

Thu 24 Sep 98
0340hrs: Impossible to keep going like this. I’m getting concerned for the mast and rigging which is under terrible strain. Almost 13 nm to WSW of waypoint. Well out to sea in the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf. It’s time to stream a parachute drogue and attempt to ride out the storm.

Martin and I creep forward with harnesses attached. The boat is rocking violently from side to side but somehow we manage to get the mains’l down, lay the boom across the cockpit and lash everything down.

0450hrs: Have drifted 2 nm to the SW since taking down all sail. We now make our way forward under the soft, orange glow of the deck lights to the bow on our buttocks, me with the drogue and Martin following with the rope and chain. Blackness outside the boat is complete. As I sit next to the bowsprit Lowana IV repeatedly falls off the back of successive waves and plummets down into the troughs, landing with a jolt and sending up a solid wall of water which drenches both of us.

Am aware that once the drogue is thrown out into the sea the tension on the rope is going to be really heavy. This sea-anchor is going to have to hold 9 tons of boat head-on into the sea. Everything has to be arranged for it to pay out properly the first time and not snag an arm or leg. At the bottom of one of the troughs the drogue is thrown saucer wise and immediately the securing rope starts whizzing loudly through the rollers as it pays out. Finally it pulls taut. Lowana IVs bow jerks around and settles to to it. We’re still rocking violently but at least relatively safe. Hopefully most of us can now try and get some rest.

Try calling OTC Darwin Radio again on Ch16 VHF. No answer. Haven’t heard any other calls either. Signal probably blocked by the storm. Martin volunteers to stay up on watch.

0600hrs: Martin goes below to try and get some sleep. Am mildly surprised by the size of the waves. Conservatively estimate from the peaks and troughs that a two storey house would easily fit in there. That would make them about 6m waves and some of them even bigger. The tide has changed and is running easterly making it worse with a wind on tide situation. On the crest of each wave I can see the wind whipping froth off the seas and sending it in streaks across the surface. I estimate this storm to be at least Force 8 on the Beaufort Scale and probably even higher during last night.

It’s awesome to be on the crests looking down into the troughs. Lowana IV is rocking hard but riding the waves well. Some of them are quite sharp faced but she is meeting each one and lifting herself nicely over them.

The parachute drogue keeps her laying maybe 70 degrees to the waves. I’d prefer her to lay a bit higher into the waves, but the force of the tide keeps her at this angle. In any case the drogue keeps tugging the bow around just enough to stop her laying beam-on to the seas.

Have had some minor spillage of gear out of cupboards that have never spilled before. Only the occasional heavy slap on the side.

0700hrs: Have drifted just 1 nm to the SW on our drogue, equivalent to just under half a knot compared to 2 knots prior to getting the drogue out. It’s slowed us up considerably and keeping us a lot safer.

0800hrs: Miss the weather forecast on HF radio. Bugger it! A fawn coloured sea snake with a small head and about 1m long is swimming off the bow near the parachute drogue rope. Watch him for a while in case he decides to try and climb up the rope. The last thing we want is a hostile snake somewhere in the bilges. He hangs around the rope wriggling for a while but finally dives away.

0900hrs: Tide changes and starts ebbing westerly causing us to start drifting to the NW. A full wave gives a good solid thump to the side of the boat. Seas seem to be abating a little bit so bring in the drogue and start the motor.

Spend the next couple hours trying to make some headway to the east without success. The only directions where we can make any headway at all with or without sails, is NW towards Timor or SW to Western Australia.

Back to waiting it out. Put the drogue back out but this time with a piece of chain to to help keep it down in the water more, and take any slack out of the rope. It helps Lowana IV to sit a bit better to the waves.

1500hrs: Over the duration of the ebb tide we drift 9.5 nm to the NW but over the last hour it’s been more to the WSW. It’s been a very uncomfortable day but I’m not overly concerned about safety at this stage. It’s more a bloody nuisance and for all we know we might be here a couple more days yet. Just have to get used to the idea.

Tide is turning again. Everyone has tried unsuccessfully to get some sleep. Gear and rigging seems to be holding well so far. I’ve been around the boat but can’t find any apparent or potential problems.

1515hrs: Coastwatch flies over us again. Am pleased to see them so we can get a message out. Ask them to pass our position to OTC Darwin Radio and that we’re okay and just waiting out this storm. Also ask them to pass a message to our friend Dave Fields. They agree and tell us they will check on us again tomorrow.

1530hrs: Take stock of the sea and winds. It dawns on me that the seas have actually started to abate quite quickly, at least relative to what we had before. And the wind has also backed towards the east. Maybe we’ll at least be able to make some distance towards the south and the Northern Territory mainland.

Rouse the troops who drag themselves somewhat reluctantly into action. Retrieve and stow away the drogue. Turn the motor on and raise the sails with 2 reefs in the mains’l. By the time we do all this the wind has dropped even further. Great! The seas still quite big and the wind still strong but it’s manageable.

Shake out the remaining reef in the mains’l. By the time the sails are reset and sheeted we’re able to travel close hauled at about 4 knots on a SE course of about 150 degrees True. Excellent! If the weather holds out long enough we might be able to get under some shelter from the lee of Cox Peninsula.

1800hrs: Have covered 10 nm so far and looking okay. Tide is flooding easterly so that is giving us some assistance as well.

Coastwatch calls. They’ve passed our messages and inform us that Dave will have a hot meal ready for us when we return. Hearty news. Really appreciate Coastwatch for their help, knowing they aren’t actually required to pass personal messages for yachties. Advise Coastwatch we’ve managed to get underway and give them our present position, course and speed.

Dusk: A large schooner crosses our bow in the distance heading westerly. We make a minor alteration to course southerly to intercept her for a sticky beak. As we draw near she alters course to starboard and passes down our starboard side at a distance of about 50m. Her name is Ardella and she flies a U.S. flag. There are 5 men visible on deck including a big negro chap up on the bow.
129 ardella passingLeft: The U.S. schooner Ardella passes by. She’s still got her storm rig up so it’s assumed she also got hit by the storm.

1900hrs: Have been charging along quite nicely to the SE and have covered about 18 nm since getting underway. We now need to get more easterly as much as possible while we still have the tide run with us, so take a punt that the weather will hold and change course to the ESE.

2230hrs: Cross the 130 degree Longitude line. Our original waypoint was on this line but 20 nm to the north of where we are now. Making very good time. Conditions continue to slowly get calmer.

Fri 25 Sep 98
Overnight: Uneventful motor sailing throughout the night. Made excellent time getting 4 knots against the tide which was a bonus. Have been using the motor because the winds dropped right down to just light winds. I also want to make sure we can catch Customs before they knock off work today. Otherwise we’ll have to linger until Monday confined to the boat, or else pay an expensive after hours callout fee.

0600hrs: Beautiful morning. Seas calm with just a light breeze coming from the SE. Talk about contrasts. Have had the genoa headsail up most of the night but we now need to turn SE for a direct run into Darwin. Genoa taken down. Still getting some lift from the sheeted in mains’l. Coming abeam of the Charles Point light on the NW end of the Cox Peninsula.

0700hrs: Make a final turn and head directly for Cullen Bay in Darwin Harbour where we should be able to meet up with Customs for clearance. Steering 130 degrees True. A big freighter comes up astern and passes us on our port side also heading for Darwin.

0830hrs: Pass the #6 buoy at the harbour entrance and say ‘hullo’ to it. Contact OTC Darwin Radio on VHF Ch16. Give them our final position report and thank them for their assistance. Customs hear the exchange and enquire about clearance requirements, so we make arrangements to meet up with them.

0945hrs: Arrive at Cullen Bay and tie up to go through our quarantine and customs clearances. Customs confiscate all our lovely clam shells which are apparently a prohibited item. Shame that. Seems they’re trying to prevent a market for these shells otherwise the Indonesians would start to cull them big time. I’d believe that.

130 surrender clamshellsRight: Reluctantly handing over our collection of sea-shells.

1030hrs: Clear Customs and Quarantine. No problems with any of it. The chaps were very polite and very professional. Head back to Lowana IVs mooring in Sadgroves Creek. Have to push it really hard as the tide is going out at a fearful rate. Even the navigation buoys in the harbour are being bent over due to the force of it. No wonder we got pushed about so much out at Cape Fourcroy.

131 girls get ashoreLeft: The girls are the first to step ashore at the Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht Club pontoon. It’s their job to order the drinks, hamburgers and chips.

1230hrs: There’s almost no water left in the creek and barely make it up the creek after the keel scrapes the bottom a couple of times. Finally tie up to our mooring. Turn off the motor and begin sorting out personal gear. Make two dinghy loads to ferry crew and gear to the Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht Club – DBCYC where we indulge in our much dreamed of hamburgers and ice cold drinks.

132 capn teddy goes homeRight: The much travelled Captain Teddy makes a pig of himself. Couldn’t stand up and had to be carried home by his father.

Talk to a couple of people at DBCYC. Find out that OTC Darwin Radio had issued a PAN PAN broadcast about us after being informed of our situation by Coastwatch. It really wasn’t necessary but nice to know anyway. This was possibly why the schooner Ardella turned to take a closer look at us.

Note: A PAN PAN is issued where there are concerns for a vessel but where the vessel is not in any immediate danger.

Epilogue

Sat 26 Sep 98
Morning: Ann, Delma and I return to Lowana IV and take 3 dinghy loads off it. These include sails, cushions, clothing, artefacts, excess food, fuel and water containers. Everything inside is cleaned and various items sorted out outside.

On checking the fuel there’d been 50 ltrs used from Saumlaki to Darwin. Final engine hours 611.7 hrs. Engine hrs this leg was 37.2 hrs with most of that due to the Cape Fourcroy storm and the trip home from there. Total engine hours for the trip was 111.7 hrs for 150 ltrs. That’s still a very consistent 1.34 litres per hour on average for all conditions.

Lunch: Return to DBCYC for lunch. More hamburgers and iced drinks. Speak to some people there. They’d heard about us out there at Cape Fourcroy through some fishermen who had apparently only been a few miles away from our position. These fellows had apparently seen the weather front coming in on their radar covering 150 degrees of arc. Quite a big one. They’d made some comments about how rough it was and how lousy the fishing had been.

Some other people tell us how it had rained and blown quite hard in Darwin over the two days we were out there.

Martin,
a good companion and shipmate.
RIP mate.

Conclusion

All in all a most thoroughly enjoyable trip. The lady crew who have never done this sort of thing before are accorded earnest praise from the Skipper for their resilience, tolerance, enthusiasm and general crewmanship. They made the trip even much more of a pleasure.

Mention has to be made of the girls cooking. It was excellent and lent considerably to Martin’s farting prowess which became almost legendary. Martin modestly never admitted to being the culprit of all these intermittent trumpet blares around the boat, claiming instead that there were flocks of geese about. They were indeed a very noisy bunch of geese.

Interestingly no one had any real problems with ‘bali belly’. The only time extra ‘meditation’ as Martin called it were required, were after we’d eaten a dessert with prunes and after we’d eaten the rich lobster. No one had to visit the dunny as a result of having eaten ashore. We also drank some of the water at the hotel and the local restaurants with no apparent ill effects.

Equipment and gear failures are a fact of life on cruising sailboats. Every possible effort had been made to ensure all was in proper working order. All major failures had been recently attended to by professional tradesmen. Perhaps it was just coincidence.

The small 8ft fibreglass dinghy proved to be a bit of a limitation. Suitable enough when conditions were calm but not that safe in even slightly choppy water. Inflatables also have their problems not the least of which are punctures. However for a small cruising boat who’s dinghy size is limited, it’s probably the better way to go. All you need is the money to buy one.

The Tanimbar Island group contains some 62 islands of which only about half are inhabited. They are quite pretty in their own right. More experienced sailors who have cruised Indonesia extensively might not be so impressed about the place. But how could you not enjoy crystal clear water, white coral sand and abundant marine life, especially if you are fortunate enough to have good weather for so long.

The villages and people are generally fairly much the same as you would find anywhere else in Indonesia but they do have their own distinct culture. And the dugouts and small sailing craft are significantly distinctive. The catamaran style fishing boats are possibly a unique feature of the region.

The Tanimbars are not yet exploited by outside economic interests. They are pretty much ‘natural’. Very friendly, but by and large we found the adults will respect your privacy to some extent. But the kids … well there’s another story. Every family must has 50 bloody kids! (just kidding). All of whom seem to strive to outdo each other in vocal ability and in the art of attracting personal attention … constantly.

There is not a lot of English language spoken because the Tanimbars are in a bit of a backwater. Not many visitors. Not all that much contact with westerners in general. Although there are some from time to time you will meet that speak really good or passable English.

Costings:
A boat kitty of $2000 was established from which all boat running and common crew expenses were taken:
CAIT: $350. 00 (permit for ship)
Visa’s: $400. 00 (for 4 persons)
Cullen Bay Berth: $120. 00 (loading and stowing gear)
Diesel fuel: $ 58. 00 (120 ltrs Duty free at Cullen Bay)
Diesel fuel: $ 5. 00 (40 ltrs in Indonesia)
Quarantine fees: $105. 00 (Australia)
Food/other consumables: $962. 00 (1)

(1) Includes all food and all types of grocery items purchased before and during the trip. This was for four persons over almost a full five weeks. That’s $240.50 per week and just over $60 per person per week to live aboard. It also includes our lavish meal ashore at the Harapan Indah hotel.

Equipment Failures:
Motor: Cracked cylinder block before leaving Darwin. Sea water subsequently flooded the same cylinder. Cause at time of writing not known. Possibly either faulty cylinder head sealing or else back filled from a syphoning effect. The syphon break system on the engine cooling water inlet side was re-designed and lifted higher. At this time it’s believed this may have rectified this particular problem.

HF Radio: Electrical energy from radio emissions shorted out onto the steel deck. Radio tuner not yet checked out and not known if repairable. The thru-deck insulation had been installed through the steel deck using common silastic. A sure fire recipe for rust, which built up around the base until it touched the centre pin. Did not take long.

Fridge/Freezer System: Vibration of the motor caused the thin copper tube to the pressure switch to break. A high pressure hose with fittings arrived on the market not long after our return. One of these was fitted in replace the thin copper tube. The fridge company fixed the system while I supplied the R134 gas.

Outboard Motor: Some small object had been drawn into the water pump and broken off two fins of the impeller. At the next service, this new impeller will be replaced and keep as a spare.

Russ Swan
Skipper
S.V. Lowana IV

THE END

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