Ashore at Ambon Island


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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