Blows Hard at Wulutu

Mon 7 Sep 98
0800hrs: Not much breeze but slowly building. Anchor hasn’t moved.

0900hrs: Wind building. More clouds. Small wavelets breaking.

1000hrs: Wind much stronger, maybe 30 knot gusts. Boat rocking to swells and moving around to her anchor which is holding firm.

084 coastal traderLeft: One of the local boats comes out to take a look at us.

1100hrs: Brunch of damper. Sky overcast with grey cumulus. Some rare patches of blue sky. Possibility of rain. Barometer 1006 hp being normal for time of day. No weather problems foreseen. Reasonable swells running so abandon any idea of going ashore for time being. Use silastic to make a temporary repair to the small hole in the hull of the dinghy.

1200hrs: Our man from yesterday comes out to try and sell his stone carving. It’s a pretty basic looking thing consisting of a figure sitting on his haunches, hands to face and looking upwards. His first bid is Rp 1 Million which makes Martin’s eyes goggle. An obviously outrageous offer with laughs all around. He has a sense of humour this bloke. His next offer is Rp100,000 from which he won’t budge. We offer Rp25000 and won’t budge at least until he does. Stalemate.

The carving certainly looks authentic enough. It might be genuine but he doesn’t know or can’t give any details about its origins, hence we aren’t all that keen to pay too much for it.  He eventually goes away after partaking of biscuits, coffee and cigarettes. He may be back after he’s seen someone ashore.  We hope he does.

1400hrs: Heavy shower passes over. Our man is paddling away in the rain. It’s just enough to wet the canopy and clean it of salt, but not long enough to rearrange the canopy to catch the rainwater and pipe it into our main tank. Some swells coming through the anchorage.

077 wulutu showerRight: A rain shower passes over Wulutu village.

1445hrs: A large fibreglass boat pulls alongside. Chap named Victor steps aboard. He comes from Ambon and speaks very good English. He knows the yachts Emanuelle and Enigma from Darwin. Victor had met George Challer of the Enigma in the Aru Islands at a place called Dobo. Victors group are on their way to nearby reefs to dive for lobster for export. He may sell us some maybe on Wednesday. Victor seems a pretty smart business dude, well dressed and friendly. Off they go.

1500hrs: Get another shower of rain but it passes quickly. Still seems to be more rain about. Conditions much calmer and the water is settling down.

1530hrs: The boys take the dinghy to shore. The sea is still too choppy to attempt just one trip with all of us in the dinghy. As we motor into shore 3 coastal trader boats come in loaded to the hilt with wall to wall people. Almost like those trains you see on TV that are loaded with people in India. Follow the boats in.

078 coastal ferryLeft: One of the several coastal ferry boats coming into Wulutu village. This one is loaded up with people, but some other boats are much more overcrowded.

The locals are already coming out in anything that floats to ferry the visitors ashore. Even our mate with the stone carving is there. Guess they earn a few extra Rupiah this way. Literally hundreds of people on the boats and on the water going to and fro. We hear later there is a big wedding coming up. Big school of tuna in a feeding frenzy right next to the dinghy and the fishing rod is back on the boat!

1600hrs: Drop Martin ashore and return for the girls.

1630hrs. Everyone ashore. A friendly Moslem chap advises us earnestly not to leave the outboard and oars on the dinghy as they might get stolen. He takes us to a nearby house and arranges for them to be stored there. The man who receives them turns out to be a school teacher but doesn’t speak English.

080 wulutu greetingRight: The usual gaggle of children greeting us like it was Christmas. You would think a camera is the key to immortality the way they love to have their photo taken.

Almost immediately there are kids everywhere drawn to Delma and Ann like moths to a flame. It’s just like the circus has come to town as we walk around. Apart from the children this place doesn’t seem to be quite as friendly as other places. Getting more than a few surly looks from the adult men.

080a wulutu escortLeft: One of the streets in Wulutu village. Russ and Martin are well up ahead with a relative lack of kids hanging around. Interesting architecture of the buildings here.

Quite distinct architecture than you normally see in Indonesia. There are lots of 2 story houses with upstairs verandas. Lots of shops and they all seem to be well stocked. Also seem to be a lot of Chinese as well but no sign of any of the recent trouble as elsewhere in Indonesia. There’s even a picture theatre. One chap named Herman, very jovial and a 100 mile per hour talker follows us around making himself our unofficial guide.

Visit one of the shops and buy some dried fish, the very small kind like whitebait as it’s known in Australia. Will try this as fishing bait later. The owner wants Rp10000 for 1kg. We only want a handful so he gives it to us. Also gives the girls a free roll of lollies each. Buy some small hooks, about 16 for Rp8000 (A$1.30) to make some bait jigs.

Back on the street it starts to rain. Herman shepherds us into the nearest house until a rather heavy shower passes. Sit around in the middle of the front room on plastic chairs until the rain passes. We’re then guided to another shop with a pool table out the back. Herman has decided that Martin and I need to play a game of pool so he clears everyone out. The room has a dirt floor, no lights and a post right next to the table which prevents some shots from being made easily. If you could see the balls. The girls wait out in the front room. Herman plies Martin with sopi. We pay the owner Rp1000 for the game and get out of there.

Next visit is to the local Policeman’s house. His name is Onus. His wife is very friendly, intelligent and sharp. It’s quite enjoyable and we share quite a few laughs here. Find out about the markets tomorrow then head off to collect our outboard motor and oars.

Many willing childish hands carry the dinghy down to the water making quite a game of it. The water has now well ebbed and very shallow. There must be 100 of them see us off. Some of them give us a parting splash as we leave. Make the mistake of splashing back and the return fire is instant.

081 send off partyRight: Our ‘send-off’ party. Whatever you do, don’t make a splash at one of them…you’ll get wet!

This region of the Tanimbars have a very interesting sailing craft. It’s essentially two very large canoes tied together with a cross beam at the f’ard and aft ends, making it a kind of catamaran. Distance between each hull is maybe 20 ft (say around 5m). Each hull has its own independent sail. They use these to catch the whitebait that our Chinese gentlemen was selling in his shop as dried fish. They grade them into three sizes. The largest are between 100mm to 150mm. Must be big business because there are lots of these craft in this area.

Although they seem to be primarily working boats, we did see one in the afternoon obviously being sailed just for fun. It was well painted. Both sails were being operated independently but in unison. They make an impressive sight to see these things sail as they are quite big.

086 working cat 1 087  working cat 3
Above: One of the traditional catamaran fishing sailboats that are a feature of this particular region. They come in various sizes but can get much bigger than the one shown here. Above: Some of the local catamaran fishing boats drawn up on the beach ready to go out again after dark.  At night the lights of these boats can be seen in the distance moving and forth.

Dusk: Back at the boat. Decks all wet from the heavy showers. Note that the temporary repair to the dinghy has held up well.

Evening: Have sundowners followed by a nice dinner of Tuna Mornay and pasta. Rain has gone and sea is smooth again. Light breeze. Almost have to wear a light sweater. Sit around in the moonlit cockpit watching the lights of the local fishing boats.

Tue 8 Sep 98
0900hrs: Weather about the same as this time yesterday. Maybe not quite as bad. There’s been a hive of activity. Delma and Ann lay out cushions and mattresses topside to air. They’ve washed clothes and hung them out. One tea-towel has gone over the side with the wind. A tiga rowa with 4 juveniles hangs around for a while, with one of them getting cheekier the further away they get.

082 wulutu smogLeft: Smoke haze hangs over the village. Wind is building and sea is too choppy to attempt another visit to the village.

1100hrs: Wind blowing fairly hard. Gusts stronger than yesterday. Boat starting to skitter around on her rope anchor a little bit. Wind is hard enough to tilt the boat at times as she swings. No sign of rain until now but a few low grey clouds around. Sea choppy with swells coming through. Cushions and mattresses taken back below. Definitely not going ashore.

1130hrs. Whitecaps everywhere. Some gusts quite strong. Tops of waves being flattened. Surface of waves have a rippled appearance. Sunny day. Plenty of clouds.

1215hrs: Just starting a cup of tea and come alert with a start. Boat has turned beam on to the wind, flag pointing abeam and dinghy lying alongside. Oh oh! Quick check of landmarks confirms anchor is dragging!

Martin already on his way f’ard to the anchor winch. Race downstairs, open engine seacock and start motor. Delma and Ann also going f’ard to anchor winch now. We’ve dragged maybe 25m to 30m so far and it hasn’t taken very long. Tide is out and the sand bank can clearly be seen behind us, though some way off yet. Martin calls that there’s some indication the anchor might be beginning to bite again. I decide to re-anchor anyway.

1230hrs: Start pulling up the anchor and using the motor to hold position. There is 110m of anchor rope and chain including a long length of 23m of 8mm chain out there to pull up so it will take a little while against this wind.

1330hrs: Have re-anchored in slightly deeper water further out and away from the village in 30m water. Let out 120m of rope and chain this time. Take down the canopy which acts like a sail and has a magnifying effect on the pull on the anchor. Boat sits more steady and straighter to her anchor.

This is the first time this anchor has ever dragged. Hopefully conditions will not get worse but if so, will need to consider putting out a second anchor. Just as well we didn’t go ashore as originally planned.

1430hrs: Drop the boom and attempt to set up the storm trysail to act as a wind vane and keep the boat pointing more into the wind. It’s just too big for the purpose so take it back down.

1600hrs: Wind seems to be starting to moderate but not giving in easily. Some bursts still fairly strong but not quite as hard as earlier. Siphon 100 ltrs of water into the main water tank from jerry cans. We’re using water at the rough rate of 10 ltrs per day for 4 crew. Not too bad. Only using fresh water for cooking and drinking. Lash the empty containers down below in the aft engine compartment. Horrid job getting into and out of that cramped little hole.

083 access holeRight: Climbing back out from the aft engine compartment, behind the engine.

1700hrs: Wind still going strong. Everyone gets involved in pulling out the spare 150m of new rope and marking it with cord at 10m lengths. Shackle it to existing anchor rode and pay out another 40m. This now gives us 160m with a scope more than 5 to 1. This is all new springy nylon rope and it is absorbing shocks nicely. We can still put out our 60lb danforth (fluke) anchor as well if it’s really necessary. Now consider that we’re quite secure and looking good. From now we’ll use a minimum ratio of about 5:1. We don’t want another anchor to drag.

1830hrs: Wind dying down at last. Seas settling. Having sundowners. Lovely sunset. Sukler Island in the distance is framed by a small shower with the sun shining right on the island itself. Very pretty.

085 wulutu sunsetLeft: After the heavy winds during the day and dragging our anchor, we’re compensated with a beautiful sunset.

1930hrs: Canopy put up again. Wind seems to have dropped down enough for the night.

2000hrs: Big yellow moon has finally come up casting a yellow light on everything.

2130hrs: Gentle breeze. Dinner finished and cleaning up just about done. Bit of jollity aboard with jitter-bugging going on in the galley. They’re even waltzing to the Tennessee Waltz !

2200hrs: Forecast for our area 10~20 knots, S to SE trade winds with gusts to 30 knot. Oh well … more of the same.

Wed 9 Sep 98
0630hrs: Crew are all up except for the skipper who’s pretending to be asleep.

0730hrs: Muesli Bars and hot tea/coffee for brekky. Crew going ashore to the market while conditions are still calm promising they’ll try to get back before it gets too blowy. I’ll be staying aboard to keep an eye on the boat.

0755hrs: Can feel the wind already. Still just a breeze but stronger. Take canopy down. Place a buoy near the bow so that the anchor rope can be cast adrift quickly if need be for later collection. Figure it’ll be easier for one person to do that than try and get the anchor in quickly. You never know when Murphy’s Law will strike.

1000hrs: Finish putting in a replacement switch for the light over the galley sink which has fallen apart. This is another failed item which had been installed by tradesmen in Darwin just before leaving. As well as a switch I had to jury rig a system with a piece of nail to make the light work again, but it’s fine now. This particular light has been especially handy at night out at sea.

Ashore: The boat rubbish that’s taken ashore is promptly rummaged through by locals. Not much waste here. Plastics seem to be a prized material. See Onus and his family who are preparing to return to Saumlaki today. They seem happy to see Martin and the girls again. Onus organises some bananas and sweet potatoes. He also shows them some beautifully woven cloth. From here they visit a place where they’re able to get some hot food takeaway, hot sweet potato slices and jam doughnut type things. They also get coffee and eggs and are given yams as a parting gift.

Hammad, a young fellow wearing a pith helmet and trying to learn English finds 5 pawpaws for Rp1000 each. The Chinese shop has some gula – sugar. Martin enters another shop to buy some more Indonesian whisky. Run into Victor who can only sell us lobster for Rp75000 (A$12.30) each as they are already packed for export. He might do them for Rp60000 at his lowest price. Oh well … no lobster for tea!

They pick up the outboard from the same bloke who looked after it yesterday. The girls give him some Woman’s Day/New Idea magazines which are always a popular item in Indonesia. He gives them 2 pawpaws in return. Our chap then gives the outboard to a child about 11 yrs old who carries it down to the dinghy, then helps carry and push the dinghy 200-300m out to water deep enough for it to float. Total shopping cost  has been about Rp35000 (A$5.70).

Wind picks up again. Swells coming through and gusty winds. Delma, Ann and Martin return from shopping ashore looking like drowned rats in a dinghy half filled with seawater. Delma’s not very talkative as she prises her white knuckles away from the gunnels.

088 morning shoppingRight: Some of the shopping from the morning expedition ashore. The shopping party got a bit wet getting back and all the veges had taken a salt bath. Probably a good thing as any bugs should have been drowned.

1100hrs: Last night we thought there had been more lights than usual ashore. Maybe it was the wedding celebrations. Whatever it was we now have about a dozen small craft loaded with people sailing past us heading back up Yamdena Strait. Many more boats leave throughout the day.

Wind is fairly strong but don’t think it has the same power as yesterday. Boat riding quite steadily with no sign of rocking or jerking.

1230hrs: The conditions are definitely easier than yesterday. Not many whitecaps around. Some swells come through but not too bad. Boat gently hobby horsing. Occasional gusts but not excessively hard. Girls are asleep. Martin is reading a book topside while I consider raiding the lolly jar.

Afternoon: Sleeping and reading, reading and sleeping. Wind blowing, boat rocking. Waiting it out.

089 fishboat at duskLeft: A fishing boat glides past at dusk with just one sail up. One of them is singing a little song as they go.

1800hrs: Winds and seas are calmed down. Contemplate going ashore for a swim but have sundowners instead. Sometimes you have to make the hard choices.

Evening: Lovely dinner of corn & soya patties, mushy peas, mashed potato and fresh home made bread.

2130hrs: Moon coming up big and yellow. No wind. Seas still.



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