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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
MORE TO FOLLOW