Crossing Ombai to Kalabahi

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Crossing Ombai to Alor


Tues 9/9/97

0730 hours; Leave the hotel and return to Teddy’s Bar. Troops must still be out on the boat and therefore uncontactable. Have 3 cups of kopi (coffee) and have a chat with some Americans off Watermelon who have been cruising for 11 years now. Also pick up my laundry from the wash shop.

Morning: Dave and Shea from Wanita Merah arrive with 2 crew and anchor not far from us. We’d brought some duty free sheet music for them which was later delivered. Quite a surf running on the beach with 1 metre waves making it hard for yacht dinghies to get on or off the beach. Jimmy turns up promising we can leave later in the day. Our updated CAIT is supposed to be faxed to arrive by 1000 hours today. He indicates he will pick it up and that Immigrasi and the Harbour Master clearances will be no problem. We can leave after lunch.

Crew comes ashore. Give them an update as to what’s happening then head out to the boat, drop off my laundry, change clothes and return to the beach. Have some lunch at the Karang Mas Restaurant and then return to Teddy’s Bar to await Jimmy.

Afternoon: Still no sign of Jimmy and not likely to now. Hear that he is off doing something else, so Paul, Barbara and I catch a Number 10 Bemo out to the museum for a look. It’s pretty ordinary in my view but the trip and scenery is good. Lot of new houses going up out there.

25 service stationRight: Your average corner service station . Bring your own containers. Quality of diesel fuel in Indonesia is usually good but must be filtered for impurities. Care must also be taken to guard against water in the fuel.

Late Afternoon: Back at Teddy’s Bar kicking our heels waiting for Jimmy.

1900 hours: Jimmy finally turns up but hasn’t even checked if our fax has arrived yet. Doesn’t see fit to apologise for the delay or even to explain why he has held us up. He goes off at my insistence to do it now. I am definitely trying my hardest to be nice and keep my cool.

1930 hours: Jimmy returns. Fax has arrived but this ‘updated’ CAIT has a stamp from the Navy but no clearance number. AND it is still missing the Department of Sea Communications stamp. Disappointment and annoyance at this further setback. We are still stuck here. Will this incompetence never end?

Evening: Talk to an ex-pat named Bob who does yacht charters from Kupang. He tells us about lots of officialdom problems for yachts this year. He says there has been something like 8 yachts at one point earlier in the year all having problems. Mr Teddy Tanonef who is the owner of Teddy’s Bar comes over to our table.  Bob speaks with him in my presence stressing the bad effect this sort of thing will have on tourism, especially the visiting yachts who normally anchor off Teddy’s Bar. He’s left in no doubt about how bad news travels fast and wide amongst the cruising yacht fraternity.

Without a doubt Teddy is quite influential in Kupang. He listens to the sorts of things that have been going on then questions Jimmy at some length about my situation in particular.  He tells Jimmy in my presence that he has to take some responsibility for the inefficiencies that have been going on. Teddy finally asks me for a letter of complaint and he says he will talk to the Governor.

By now I’m feeling decidedly pissed off, return to the boat, have some dinner and go to bed.

Wed 10/9/97

0630 hours: Sail cruising is interesting in that you never quite know what each day will bring. However, I am without my usual air of expectation today. This thing has already cost us over a weeks delay. We are no longer have time to visit the Solor Island group. We may also have to cut off our visit to the Damar Island group as well.

0730 hours: Row over to Chelsea Morning and give them an update as to what is happening so far with us. They are in pretty much the same sort of situation. They have to meet with Jimmy to go out to the Navy Offices at 0900 hours today.

Morning: Since I don’t have a drain tap on my main tank, I spend a little time making a fuel suction device using clear hose and a rubber priming bulb. I want to use it to suck up fuel from the bottom of the main fuel tank to check for the presence of water and/or any black sludge. It proves to be a simple but reasonably effective system. Top up the main water tank. Clean up, secure stores and trim boat.

Afternoon: No change with getting a clearance today. Paul and Barbara go ashore for a swimming beach out of town and will be staying somewhere overnight. Martin and I relax and have a little nap.

1830 hours: Jimmy comes out to boat telling us everything now in order and we’ll be able to leave tomorrow... uh huh again!  Finding it hard to believe anything this man says.

1900 hours: Go ashore for dinner. Hand Teddy my letter of complaint that he requested yesterday. Hopefully the situation will be improved for future visits by yachts but I won’t hold my breath. Was going to do some shopping at a Toku Mas (gold shop) but they’re closed by the time we finish dinner at 2030 hours so return to boat. Martin stays ashore but comes out later on.

Thurs 11/9/97

0730 hours: Martin tells me that Jimmy saw him ashore last night and told him we now have clearance from Immigration and that only the Harbour Master clearance remains. Crunch time coming as to how much this will all actually cost us.

0930 hours: Martin and I go ashore. Cup of coffee at Teddy’s Bar and then go shopping. Buy a gold necklace for Delma for our 25th wedding anniversary. Cost of gold is Rp32000 per gram in Kupang at moment. Take a long walk to the market but don’t particularly see anything we fancy except for some sugar, coffee and eggs. Get bread from a bread shop and collect some more laundry.

1130 hours: Back at Teddy’s Bar and find Jimmy waiting for us. Everything finalised and clear to go.  At last!  Looking out into the harbour I can see Chelsea Morning has already left. Jimmy hands us our Pratique clearance for Australian Customs and our passports. Pay his A$50 fee and the extra A$75 for the crew, even though I have high reservations that this money is actually not an Immigrasi fee but I just want to get out of here.  He doesn’t ask for more and I won’t give it to him if he does Then in a spirit of bonhomie he has the gall to tell me he will look me up when he comes to Darwin so that I can show HIM around … yeah right!

1200 hours: Back on board waiting for the rest of the crew who will be arriving soon. Take down the shade canopy and start stowing gear ready for sea.

1300 hours: All crew aboard. Hoist the dinghy and secure it. Weigh the anchor and start heading out for the town of Kalabahi on Alor Island. Good following winds help push us out of the harbour.

Kupang to Kalabahi

26 Kupang to Alor map

1600 hours: Clear Monkey Island and Kupang Harbour. Starting to get strong gusts constantly changing direction which keeps us busy working the sails. Seas lumpy.

 26 sailboatsLeft:  Leaving Kupang Harbour and passing Monkey Island. These two boats are fishermen doing it the way they’ve probably been doing it for centuries.

1845 hours: Have reached 11 miles off Kupang after doglegging around Monkey Island. Winds are more steady in direction. Sails have been goosewinged and are giving us perfect sailing in a northerly direction. Lots of moonlight. Seas about 1.5 metres swells. This is just great – hitting up to 7 knots.

2000 hours: Seas getting lumpier and swells a little longer. Change course to NNE towards Alor. Take down goosewings and set sails for a beam reach which steadies the boat immediately. Speed reduces to 6 knots but the sailing is really enjoyable.

2400 hours: Ombai Strait is the stretch of water that separates Timor Island from a chain of islands to it’s north. We’re out in Ombai Strait proper and the wind dies right down dropping our speed to 1 knot or so. Turn the motor on and start motoring with only the mainsail up. Strong head current is holding us back but this is usual for this time of year according to the pilot book.

Fri 12/9/97

0530 hours: Still not enough wind to sail. Only made 7 miles in the last 5.5 hrs due to the strong head current and no wind combination. Positioned 49 miles NNE of Kupang. Sumlog shows 60 miles telling me that the head current has held us back by around 11 miles.

0600 hours: Daylight. Still motoring. Jib now up and making slightly better time. Heading directly for Alor Strait which separates Pantar Island and Alor Islands.

0900 hours: Motor off and put up the genoa. Speed still only 1.5 to 2 knots. Plenty of time to kill anyway as we don’t want to enter Alor Strait before daylight tomorrow. We want to be able to gawk at everything.

1315 hours: Speed has picked up slightly to between 3 and 3.5 knots. Seas are still calm. Lots of big ships passing by from time to time. Current crew situation is – Paul has a head cold, Barbara is seasick, Martin keeps farting and I’ve just had a sleep.

Have travelled 24 hours and positioned 71 miles NNE of Kupang. We’ve covered 75 miles actual distance over ground averaging a little over 3 knots with the sumlog reading 85 miles.

1600 hours: Have been sailing along at roughly 2.5 knots but the wind has died down again. Only getting 1 knot under sail so started motoring slowly, mainly for the refrigeration and to put some charge back into the batteries.

1950 hours: Waypoint off the entrance to Alor Strait is 18 miles off. Wind has picked up very slightly to about 5 kts.  Decide to heave-to. Backwind the staysail and lash the tiller over. Making about 1.5 kts leeway roughly 030 degrees which is only 10 degrees to the west of our intended waypoint. Boat steady and gently bobbing. Coast of Pantar Island is in sight at 14 miles. I don’t want to close the land at night so we’ll just be maintaining night watches throughout the night.

Sat 13/9/97

0215 hours: Coast of Pantar Island only 4 miles away. Start the  motor and head slowly to a new waypoint 10 miles further east for a safety margin. Need to kill some more time before entering the strait. Making about 2 to2.5 knots on ENE course towards Alor Island.

28 Alor Strait map

0500 hours: Sky lightening up promising the usual red sunrise. Turn towards our primary waypoint off Treweg Island lying in the middle of the entrance to Alor Strait. We will proceed past Pura Island then turn right into Kalabahi Sound, which leads to the township of Kalabahi.

27 sunrise 28 good morning martin
Above: Sunrise over Alor Island. Strong smoke haze caused by large fires elsewhere in Indonesia. Above: Good morning Martin! Treweg Island at left. Alor Island at right.

0630 hours: Reach primary waypoint and the sun is already biting. Country around here is very mountainous. Quite pretty.

0730 hours: Treweg Island abeam on our starboard (eastern) side. Heading northerly towards Point Tobileumong which marks the entrance to Kalabahi Sound. Distance to Kalabahi is 23 miles and getting 5 to 5.5 knots.

29 motoring 30 waypoint
Above: Alor Strait proper. Heading for the gap between Pura Island and Alor Islands. Above: Closing towards the end of Pura Island before turning right into Kalabahi Sound.

31 hillside vilageRight: A village perched up high on Pura Island. The dark area is a rather high sheer cliff. Some of the village houses off the photo to the left are actually right on the lip of the cliff.

1000 hours: Strong 3 knot current against us between Pura Island and Alor Island. Approaching lighthouse at Point Tobileumong which is 4 miles off. Making 2 knots headway.

32 outrigger1 33 outrigger2
Above: Point Tobileumong in the distance where we turn right into Kalabahi Sound. The canoe off our starboard bow seems unconcerned about us. Just steers his merry way right across our front and we’re lots bigger than him. Above: Typical dugout canoe with outriggers. The lateen sail design reflects the centuries old Arab influence in this part of the world.

1230 hours: Wind picked up an hour ago from astern which gave us 5 kts under sail using Number 1 jib. After turning into Kalabahi Sound the wind shifts and starts belting right down on the nose. Take the sails down and start motor-sailing with mainsail sheeted in.

34 pointing 35 fish trap
Left: Motoring into the wind. Martin pointing to something of interest onshore Right: Characteristic bamboo fish trap throughout this region of Indonesia. This is a small one but some are quite huge. Can be a navigation hazard as they are not usually lit at night.

1330 hours: Strong winds up to 40 knots against the tide making the seas quite choppy.  It’s a bumpy ride in this final and narrowest section of Kalabahi Sound. Engine revs pushed up to 1700 rpm but only giving 2 to 4 knots. Lowana IV is pitching heavily over successive waves slowing our headway and sending stinging spray over the bow.  No actual waves have come over as yet. Seas quite sharp and hitting us with a thump. Yuk!

36 passage 42 alor6
Left: Kalabahi Sound looking back towards Pura Island which can just be seen in the distance. Right: The main ferry terminal and Harbour Masters office at Kalabahi. Its actually closer than it appears here. The gap in the hills to the right is where the wind funnels into the bay before it belts up the strait. It’s good anchor holding ground but the anchor has to be well set with a good scope of chain.

1430 hours: Arrive Kalabahi and see another yacht already here with an American flag. It’s named Tally Ho.

Pull out the spare Eagle depth sounder and it works just fine this time. Able to locate a patch about 35 ft deep in which to anchor. Anchor digs in quite well when it’s finally dropped.

Whew!… what an effort to get up that last 10 miles!

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