Oysters and Problems in Paradise

Thu 10 Sep 98
0730hrs: No wind. Calm seas this morning still.

090 lateen sailingRight:  Lots of boats of every kind are leaving Wulutu. Here is a single hull sailboat with a typical lateen sail heading out into Yamdena Strait. The lateen sails are reminders of Arab influence centuries ago throughout the Molucca region.

0800hrs: Still calm. Cups of tea/coffee. Check engine oils and start engine. Sparks immediately start flying and shut down motor immediately. Some checking finds the starter motor is shorting on the engine block. The mounting bolts for the starter motor also holds the compressor mounting bracket and the whole assembly is loose. Awkward job but finally get the bracket and starter motor properly positioned and bolts done up again.

Wulutu – Keswui Island

0900hrs: Still calm. Seas flat. Lovely gentle breeze. Pull up anchor and on our way. Heading for Keswui Island where we hope to do some snorkelling. Intend to motor as it’s just a few hours and the breeze will be virtually right on the nose the whole way. Wind is from ENE and we’re heading NE.

091 cat sailing 2Left: One of those twin-hulled catamarans. From a distance they look like two separate sailboats sailing together. We caught up with this one in the middle of Yamdena Strait. There is virtually no wind but they are still making reasonable speed.

0930hrs: Lovely breakfast of muesli, pawpaw, banana and honey all covered in homemade yoghurt.  Thankfully Delma had brought a yoghurt maker. This is followed by toasted homemade bread. No chance of losing any weight this trip – we’re being fed too well.

092 lolly snatcherRight: Skipper is caught raiding the lolly jar … again.

1000hrs: Still motoring getting 4.5 knots. Why bother with the sails? Located 4.5 nm NE of Wulutu village. Makatian village on Yamdena Island in sight off the starboard bow.

1100hrs: Wind has picked up to maybe 15 knots. Approaching Keswui Island. Chosen anchorage is near the SE corner adjacent to another wide expanse of reef. Take our time to look around.

1200hrs. Drop anchor. Depth 17m. Put out 120m of rope and chain as we’re on a lee shore. Holding about 300m out from a fringing reef. Village of Makatian is about 3 nm away across the open strait. Lovely little spot. Wind still around 15 knots with some stronger gusts.

Anchored Keswui Island. Posn: 7 degrees 32.46’S, 131 degrees 09.83’E. Keswui is situated almost in the middle of Yamdena Strait and roughly halfway along the west coast of Yamdena Island. There is a channel between Keswui and another much smaller island named Wolas. According to the pilot book the channel is narrow and clear of dangers, but we observed shoals across the southern end which would force a very narrow access indeed. Bottom is marked on the chart as mud.

Distance Wulutu village to Keswui was 11.2 miles motoring for 3 hours. Engine hrs now at 544hrs.

1230hrs: Once the motor is turned off I notice the alternator belt is hanging loose. Find the head of one of the high tensile mounting bolts has snapped off and the whole assembly is hanging loose. Here we go again.

The snapped bolt is also part of the engine hand cranking assembly – it bloody would be. Have no ‘ezy-out’ to try and extract the broken stud. After removing the alternator and hand cranking unit I’m able to screw the broken stud out with fingers. Scrummage through engine spares and find some old bolts to fit. Have to find 3 different sized bolts for the job. Manage to fit both units back on after much difficulty, with the alternator properly aligned with the engine pulley.

Hand start the motor. All okay but wonder why no amps are coming from the alternator. Forgot to turn on the ignition switch – dummy!

1430hrs: Electrically start motor. Everything just fine and working perfectly again. Pack up tools.

1500hrs: Bit of a tidal current running. Put out a safety rope with a floating fender at the end, and crew indulge in swimmies beside the boat. Some fairly good choppy waves coming through so don’t stay there long. Two good sized logs float past. Wouldn’t like to have hit either of them further out.

1530hrs: Light lunch of noodles. Still just a tad too windy to put up canopy. Once bitten twice shy is the lesson with the canopy, especially when near reefs.

1730hrs: Still a bit windy though not too much. Water is a bit bumpy which is not surprising as it fetches across 3 miles of open water before it reaches us.

Makatian village seems to have a rather imposing church. Has some sort of spire out the front. Just about everywhere we go the biggest and most imposing building is a church. Usually its a Protestant church, at least around this particular region. Catholic churches are also relatively large but tend to be smaller than the Protestant ones.

1900hrs: Wind still up at maybe 10 knots or so. Seas slight. No whitecaps but waves fairly close together. Bit cool about 28 degrees celsius inside but even cooler outside. Barometer a bit lower at 1002 hp.

1915hrs. Attempt to attract the attention of a fisherman to buy some fish. No luck.

2030hrs: Wind down to about 5 knots only. Seas calming. Not a lot of movement with the boat. Finish some rather simple but tasty dinner of fried rice, capsicum, tuna, eggs, corn, onion, champignons and soya sauce. Pitch black outside.

2200hrs: Listen to High Seas forecast. S to SE trades at 10~20 knots. Nothing of interest to us at this time.

Fri 11 Sep 98
0715hrs: Nice and calm. Boat laying almost east/west. Village across the channel shrouded in smoke from cooking fires.

0830hrs: Everyone into dinghy and going ashore to look at the channel and see what’s ashore on Keswui Island. Notice the outboard telltale is just a trickle of water. Stem very hot to touch. Motor running hot so returned back to Lowana IV to check it out.

0830-1100hrs: Check gearbox oil. Looks milky. Drain oil. Not much of it there. Refill gearbox with fresh oil and take the dinghy for a run. No change. Unfortunately I’d left the outboard manual at home and anyway have no spare impeller. A new pump had just been put in back in Darwin just prior to the trip. Could be a blocked water jacket.

Blow and suck on the water outlet pipe. Water jackets seem quite clear without obstructions. That does not mean that ALL the water jackets in the head are not obstructed or blocked. Bit reluctant to pull it completely apart especially without a manual. Will just have to go ultra easy on it using low revs from now on.

1130hrs: Another attempt to go ashore. Outboard running a bit warm but not unduly so if the revs are kept down. Stem hot to touch though.

Am able to locate a narrow channel at low tide between the shoals only about 20m wide. Not sure how deep but probably deep enough for most boats. There is another shoal to the right as you enter from the south and there looks to be shoal water on the right hand (eastern) side at the northern end.

Even though the channel is very pretty, anchoring here would not be a good option due to mosquitoes even if it is possible to get in there. The channel might do in an emergency i.e. a cyclone if enough ropes to shore and anchors were put out. But it is slightly open at the northern and southern ends.

093 kiswui explorersLeft: Two of the intrepid explorers ashore. Looking towards the northern end of the channel separating Keswui Island and the much smaller Wolas Island.

1200hrs: Tide is out. Look around some grass huts used by local fishermen. Find one bloke with a boy ashore who says that about 40 people live here on Keswui on and off. Just the two of them at the moment looking after the place. Sections of the mangroves have been cleared to allow those large catamaran sailboats to come in on the high tides. It seems to be a bit swampy just inland off the shore. Prime malaria country no doubt.

Much evidence of locals eating big oysters. Lots of very tall coconut trees loaded with coconuts. The young lad was sitting up in a mangrove tree playing his ukulele when we return from our walk.

1230hrs: Leave the camp and dinghy over to a sandbank nearby. Look around and find loads of big oysters just sitting in clumps. This calls for a return trip to Lowana IV to collect oyster opening tools, 30+ suntan oil, beer, coke, snorkelling gear and towels.

094 mangrove breaksRight: On offshore sandbank looking back to Keswui Island. Breaks have been cut into the mangroves by local fishermen to beach their catamarans overnight.

1300hrs: Big feed of oysters except for Ann who doesn’t like them. She goes snorkelling instead. Later tells us that the coral reef and snorkelling in general was just excellent, if not the best seen on the trip. Water is beautiful with lots of multi coloured fish swimming about with bigger fish below.

095 oysters 1Left: Martin and Russ getting stuck into the oysters. The oysters are abundant and quite large.

In the meantime Delma, Martin and I continue to gobble down fat oysters, some of them so big it takes two bites to eat them.

1430hrs: Wind is coming up and showing signs of strengthening. Nothing like it’s been on previous days though. Pity we don’t have an inflatable instead of our little dinghy, especially as it is at the moment. Ferry everyone plus gear back to the boat in two trips. Pity we have to leave but it’s better than being stranded ashore.

096 return to boatRight: Returning to Lowana IV.

Afternoon: Long afternoon. Sun very hot and windy.

1830hrs: I decide to set out in dinghy alone with fishing gear. Work across the reef lure fishing and along the edge of the island but no fish. Not a nibble. Water still very bumpy. Return to boat empty handed.

2100hrs: Another excellent dinner of mince, sweet potato and pumpkin. A beef stroganoff mixture has been put into the mince. Also a lovely baked desert of apple, prunes and sultanas.

2130hrs: Too tired to wait for the broadcast. Everyone in bed going asleep or reading.

Sat 12 Sep 98
0800hrs: Everyone awake. The prunes and sultanas from last nights dinner is giving everyone an extra bit of cleaning out this morning. Crew virtually lining-up at the head.

Temperature 29 degrees celsius inside but sun much hotter outside. Barometer has been down to around 1000 hp last couple of days but up to 1004 hp this morning. Moving again. I wonder what fresh problems we’ll have today?

Kiswui Island – Barbuara Island

0900hrs: Absolutely still. Anchor rope floating on the surface of the water making it much easier to recover the anchor. Head off NE then N to clear reef around Wolas Island. No wind. Motoring. Heading up Yamdena Strait and will take a look at a little island called Yangur Rual if possible. It’s located to the south of Wotap Island where we are eventually headed.

1000hrs: Located 4 nm NE of last anchorage. Have a tidal push of about 3/4 to 1 knot. Water has been like a mirror but wind is picking up now. Ann has had an attack of the sneezes. Girls have been busy scrubbing down the decks and making everything shipshape. Cockpit is clean thanks to Martin’s efforts yesterday. Set a waypoint mid channel just short of Wotap Island which can be clearly seen in the distance.

1030hrs: Take a transit bearing off the little islands of Natraal and Natrool. They look so small on the chart but much bigger in real life. Wind about 10 knots off starboard beam.

1115hrs: Reach waypoint and turn NE to 050 degrees True. Heading up the middle of the strait now. The two channels to the south of Wotap Island are open to us but the wind and waves have picked up again. Do not want to attempt it. Will take an overnight anchorage in the lee of Barbuara Island which is just off the coast of Yamdena. It’s currently east of our present position.

1215hrs: Sea choppy. Wind maybe 15~20 knots. Final approach to selected anchorage area.

097 barbuaraLeft: Approaching Barbuara Island. This marks a distinct geological change from flat to volcanic country. The cone of a volcano can be seen in the distance at far left.

1230hrs: Sound out the anchorage. Beautiful little island with a nice looking beach at one end framed behind by tall coconut palms. Drop anchor.  The wind has picked up and holding us offshore and moaning through the rigging, but the water is nice and smooth here in the lee of the island. Feel that it was a wise choice to come here as Yangur Rual is in an exposed position.

It’s low tide. There are some pretty promising rocks around which might yield some more oysters. First order of business though is a cup of tea or coffee.

Anchored Barbuara Island. Posn: 7 degrees 23.7’S, 131 degrees 18.65’E. Barbuara is located SE of Wotap Island against the coast of Yamdena and situated about two thirds of the way up the western side. Anchored in 21m of water. No real navigation difficulties seen. Reef areas protrude at Low Water and are discoloured at High Water.

Distance travelled Keswui to Barbuara was 12.5 nm.

098 quiet beachRight: A secluded beach offers a chance for a swim and a wash.

1530hrs: Have had a little rest and everyone going ashore. Tide has covered the rocks so no oyster hunts today. Explore the beach. There are a couple of people living ashore in grass huts. Very primitive conditions. Can’t see any evidence of what these people do for a living. Assume they are sort of caretakers for all the coconut trees of which there are a lot. Copra is pretty big business.

099 caretakers hutsLeft: Some grass shelters and fish drying racks on the beach. The water beautifully reflects the tall palms.

We all have a swim  and wash our hair with shampoo which is the only thing that is effective in salt water.

Unfortunately like a lot of other places in Indonesia they’ve poisoned all the reef. Just dead coral and rocks. A wasteland except just out near the drop offs. Evidence of mosquitoes ashore so leave to return to boat. Always the possibility of contracting malaria.

Evening: Quiet chats on deck. Dinner. Hot chocolate and reading before bed.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s