Baptism by Pink Chairs

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.


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.
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.



2 thoughts on “Baptism by Pink Chairs

  1. Hi Russ, thoroughly enjoyed your blog thus far. Is there more to come? I will be visiting Selaru Island in February next year, so looking forward to it. Kind regards, Christine Knox

    • Christine,
      You can read the full story here:
      If you are feeling adventurous, start asking around as soon as you get over there if anyone knows how to get to the WW2 Japanese airfield on Selaru. I got told about it but the people who told me about it hadn’t been there themselves. Apparently there’s also a bay on the northern side which allegedly has a lot of Japanese military equipment dumped over the seabed. This was also conjecture so I don’t really know if it’s factual or not.
      If you do decide to investigate I’d be highly interested to find out what you find?
      Russ Swan

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