1997 Sailing to Timor


A photo-journal of a sailing voyage from
Darwin to Timor Island Indonesia
and islands to its north
September 1997

01 Voyage Map


Early July 1997 marks the end of a successful two year refit for S.V. Lowana IV. She has been virtually rebuilt and is now ready for sea trials.  During this time she has been stripped down, completely sandblasted inside and out, repainted, rewired and the motor rebuilt.

Confirm with Martin Langdon as crew for forthcoming trip to Indonesia. I’d first met him during a previous trip to Indonesia when he’d been a crew member of another yacht.  Martin was an experienced sailor and fluent in Indonesian Bahasa language so counted myself lucky to get such a valuable man to my crew.

Thur 10/7/97

Lowana IV is craned back into the water at DBCYC – Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht Club. As she begins to float with the incoming tide, careful checks are made for any leaks.  With the motor started more checks are required for further leaks and proper alignment of the propeller shaft with the stern gland where the shaft penetrates the hull out to the propeller.

The next two weeks or so is spent attending to a seemingly endless list of things to do, both in minor improvements and adjustments with the boat and in preparation for the trip.

02 SV Lowana IV 04 Lowana IV craned off the dock
Above: Lowana IV being lifted by crane onto a flat-bed trailer. Above: Being craned down into the careening area to wait for the tide.

Mid July 97

Advertise at DBCYC and Darwin Sailing Club for additional crew. Barbara and Paul respond to the ad and eventually get taken on as final complement of crew.  Total now four crew plus Cap’n Teddy – Martin’s mascot who has travelled with him for most of his voyages.
08 Cap'n Teddy sits besides the compass
Crew List:

Russ Swan (Skipper)
Martin Langdon (2IC)
Paul *
Barbara *

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

Left:  Cap’n Teddy sits next to the compass where he can overseer everyone on watch.

03 Cap'n Russ 05 Martin
Above: Cap’n Russ.  Photo taken later in Indonesia. Above: Martin relaxing in his favourite position during a cocktail hour.
06 Paul 07 Barbara
Above: Paul on watch. Above: Barbara making a round of coffee in the galley.

Mon 18/7/97

Money and application sent for an Indonesian cruising permit known as a CAIT to agents in Jakarta by Peter Dermoudy of the DBCYC on behalf of Lowana IV and another yacht Chelsea Morning.  This is a most important document and must be in our possession before leaving Australia.  To arrive in Indonesia without one could potentially result in seizure of our yacht, which has actually happened to other yachts before.

August 1997

Persistent apparent overheating fault with the yacht’s engine being a 2 cylinder diesel 25 hp Volvo. The motor had been virtually  rebuilt except for the crankcase. Temperature gauge fluctuating back and forth across the dial. Unable to locate the cause and involving a considerable amount of time and effort. Fit new thermostat and temperature sender switch.

Also fit a new temperature gauge showing the actual water temperature so at least I will know whether the cooling water is too hot or not. Drill two 1/8 inch holes in the face of the thermostat to help move the heated water out of the engine a bit faster. Never detected any overheating from the telltale outlet afterwards, despite what the temperature gauge was showing.

Most disturbing is a severe humming noise and vibration throughout the boat above 4 knots. The cause is traced to a rudder pintle being loose in its housing. The pintle is where the foot of the rudder is attached to the hull.  This at least is fixable and a metal sleeve fashioned around the pin fixes that particular problem.

The other cause was found to be bent bilge keel struts.  The bilge keels are little fins which protrude from the hull out to the side of the main keel. They support the boat in an upright position when sitting on the ground and the struts serve to brace the fin to stop it from folding under the hull.
09 Lowana IV getting some last minute checks
Left:  Lowana IV at DBCYC careening poles with her bilge keels removed.

The bent struts are cut off and new ones are welded into place. Although this reduces the problem the vibration and humming continues at above 6 knots. Careful measurements find that the fins themselves are bent out of shape by 3 mm. This would probably have been due to standing on the hard stand for two years. No way they can be straightened without a foundry in Darwin, so reluctantly decide to cut the fin keels completely off.

Doing this solves all the vibration and humming noises and greatly improves the speed and handling of the boat. Unfortunately it also reduces the boat’s stability. The boat is now more easily affected by wind and waves. She wobbles more easily from side to side or bucks rather than glides through frontal waves.

The list of things to do seems as long as ever. As things are done new stuff is added to the list. Manage to complete an overnight sea trial to Bynoe Harbour with Martin and then do a day sail with Paul and Barbara. Also do a day sail with Paul, Martin and some other friends at the start of the Darwin to Ambon Race late in August.

Sat 23/8/97

My wife Delma joins the crew for a ‘No Excuse’ party up Woods Inlet overnight. This is a local yachty’s social event where numerous yachts gather around an old timber power boat” called Mulga. Unfortunately the electronics on the Mulga blows up so the amplified music and floor show that had been planned is not able to continue.
10 the crew up Woods Inlet
Right:  Anchored up in in Woods Inlet, Darwin Harbour. From left, Barbara, Paul, Martin and Russ. Delma taking photo.

Instead, most yacht crews dinghy over to the Mulga later in the night. Standing room only. Serious eye problems with some of the people on board as few seem able to focus properly. Strong acrid, funny smelling smoke may also have something to do with it. Make sure our dinghy is tethered way out on the edges rather than against Mulga,  as those next to her hull steadily filled with lubricant from inebriated party go-ers.

Mon 25/8/97

Crew shop for non-perishable foods while I get all the boat spares and boat consumables e.g. fuel filters, fuses, silastic and the endless bits and pieces needed once out at sea. Our original intention was to leave by tomorrow but so far our CAIT has not arrived. Peter Dermoudy contacts the agents in Jakarta and is told the application will go up for approval tomorrow. Our departure is put back.

Wed 27/8/97

Peter Dermoudy breaks the news that our CAIT application has not been received by the agent in Jakarta. This is contradictory to what Peter had been told Monday. They admit to getting the money but not the papers for either Lowana IV or Chelsea Morning. In the meantime here we are ready to go except for Customs and buying of perishable food stores, but no permit. We can’t go to Indonesia without it.

The agent Mr Kustarjono Projopolito of the agency Kartasa Jaya says he can rush a permit through in 10 days. Our documents are faxed to him straight away. We ask for a letter confirming receipt of the application and if possible the projected CAIT official number. We reason that if we can have such a letter we at least may be able to get ashore at Kupang in Timor, even if the CAIT original doesn’t reach Kupang in time for us. They promise to do this tomorrow or Friday.

Thur 28/8/97

The letter does not arrive. Cancel our Customs appointment and duty-free fuel delivery for today and re-schedule for next Monday. New plan is to go and spend the weekend at Bynoe Harbour and get cleared from Customs next Monday, providing the letter we asked for has been faxed to Peter Dermoudy. Our plan is to then go to Ashmore Reef for a few days to fill in time before getting to Kupang. This would allow time for the re-submitted CAIT to be approved in Jakarta and faxed to Kupang.

Fri 29/8/97

Sail to Bynoe Harbour. Depart DBCYC pontoon at 0700hrs and sail to Bynoe Harbour. We enjoy excellent sailing during the day hitting up to 8 knots at one point but more often around 4 to 6 knots.  Anchor up in my usual spot in a creek at Turnbull Bay at 1530 hours. Ring Peter Dermoudy later in the afternoon but he’s not heard anything from Jakarta. Why does that not surprise me?

Sat 30/8/97

Crew go ashore at Masson Point for a walk and a look around. Beautiful day but a tad blowy and the wind is building up. I get busy with some last minute work around the boat. Crew return around midday. Have lunch and a lazy afternoon getting settled. Paul and I go fishing later on. Not a bite except for the sandflies and return to the boat empty handed. Paul keeps fishing after dinner and catches a nice salmon. We have it for dinner 3 days later and it’s delicious.

Sun 31/8/97

0600 hours: Early start. Have a cup of tea or coffee, stretch and a look around. The new canopy is really proving its worth with the benefit of a dry deck in the mornings.

0700 hours: Anchor up and returning to Darwin. Lovely sailing northerly out of Bynoe Harbour but run out of wind around Charles Point before turning easterly towards Darwin Harbour. Seas are flat but it’s a beautiful day nevertheless. Motor sailing.

1300 hours: Motor off. Initially sailing around 3 to 3.5 knots but the wind slowly builds until we are reaching between 4 and 5 knots.

1500 hours: Norm the Skipper of Chelsea Morning tells us by radio that our CAIT has arrived at DBCYC. Loud cheer from all crew. Much relief but it later proves a bit premature.

1600 hours: Drop anchor at Fannie Bay in Darwin Harbour.

1700 hours: Martin, Paul and myself go ashore and walk to Martins place.  Martins sets a cracking pace. He then drives us to DBCYC where we collect our respective vehicles. The office is closed. Paul drives his truck to my place then returns to the boat.

Mon 1/9/97

0800 hours: Crew gathers on the beach at the Darwin Sailing Club and make final arrangements. Perishable food shopping done and some laundry. Pick up the CAIT from DBCYC. A cast bronze rudder is also handed over to us for delivery to a boat in Kupang. Complete photocopying of official documents.

1200 hours: All crew back on board. Stow gear and food away. Motor down to Cullen Bay pontoon to take on our duty free stores, fuel and Customs clearance.

1400 hours: Clear Customs and stow duty free stores away. Have to wait to take on the duty free fuel but the Lockmaster is too busy to give us our fuel at this time.

1515 hours: Lockmaster runs down but is still unable to give us our fuel. Martin goes and speaks with the Manager. This results in the Lockmaster turning on the pump and us doing our own refuelling. It was worth the wait because at only 50 cents a litre it saves us 29 cents a litre. Boat is now carrying 385 litres of diesel giving quite a good cruising range.

1630 hours: Finally away from Cullen Bay pontoon. Stop in Fannie Bay to hoist the dinghy up onto the davits and lash down all jerry-cans of fuel and water up on deck.

1800 hours: Clear of Fannie Bay near the #6 Buoy and on our way!



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