6 Mar 2014
By accounts from skipper Andrew there’s been some pretty heavy weather out there in Tahiti, keeping him aboard Athena for some days at a time. In the meantime he’s been working on the bureaucratic paperwork to obtain a sailing permit known as a CAIT for Indonesia. This is for the vessel only and if we don’t have one by the time we arrive in Indonesia we can expect long delays – or worse. It’s not unknown in the past for vessels to be held in port and the crew sent home. In fact I’d once been threatened with the same because although my CAIT was fully approved, the copy sent to me too early was missing one stamp! Getting a visa may be another headache but nothing much can be done just yet until we get our CAIT authorised and issued.
Andrew tells me Athena’s hull really needs to be scaped and antifouled. Unfortunately everything is pretty expensive in Tahiti so he’s looking to get it done at Pago Pago in American Samoa. I understand he’s also picking up a new sail there and apparently it’s a good place to stock up on supplies.
I’ve suggested whether we might go to Tonga instead to get the antifouling done because apparently there are better facilities, and entry requirements to the country for yachts are pretty straightforward. It’s a touch WSW – west-south-west from Tahiti but the trade winds tend to be more from the SE so it shouldn’t bother us too much. I thought maybe we could either then backtrack north to Pago Pago in American Samoa or else continue west on through Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon’s?
Not a good idea it seems. The skipper tells me the area south of Tahiti and Tonga tend to have semi-permanent low-pressure weather systems, meaning bad weather and hard sailing. He’s had enough of that coming over from Mexico to Tahiti and I must say I’ve had my share of bad weather and rough sailing too. He wants to keep pretty much in the lower latitudes i.e. closer to the equator between latitudes 8 to 12 where the weather is a bit milder and gentle than further south. And he points out the route across the Indian Ocean later on also takes this in account.
We still propose to stop at Apia in Western Samoa and at Honiara in the Solomon Islands. From there it’s going to be a long haul. I don’t want to pre-empt Andrew but I’m thinking maybe we’d be going through the Louisiade Islands which is part of Papua New Guinea. The most difficult stretch navigation wise will probably be through the Torres Strait where we enter the main shipping channel at Bligh Entrance on the eastern side. From there it should be a straight run across the Arafura and Timor Seas to Timor Island where the further north you go I’ve found that the winds tend to be more easterly i.e. behind us blowing from the east to west.
It remains to be seen whether we go straight to the southern side of Timor Island to get to Kupang the regional capital of West Timor. My own preference would be to go over the top of Timor and visit Dili in East Timor on the way through. I think I’ll be trying to talk Andrew into it because by the time we get to Dili we’ll have been at sea for quite a while, so that would be a good place to stop and stretch the legs. There’s also an Indonesian Consulate there if we’re still having paperwork problems for entry into Indonesia. And last but not least, from Dili to Kupang we’d at least be following the coast of Timor with something to look at besides another week of open sea.
However at the end of the day it remains to Andrew to make his final decision on which way we’ll go. Who knows what vagaries of weather or fortune may require a change of plans? Flexibility with plans is a key ingredient for travelling under sails.
Hopefully we won’t be delayed for too long at Kupang. I don’t have a particularly good regard for the place. On the brighter side upon leaving Kupang there’s lots of interesting places to see as we sail along the many islands of archipelago including but not limited to Lembata, Flores, Sumbawa, Komodo, Mataram and finally Bali. Some of these places are still volcanically active. Maybe we’ll get to see where the ancient Flores Man lived. They only stood about 1 metre tall and were on Flores Island about 12,000 years ago. Or maybe Kelimutu, an active volcano with it’s three coloured lakes. Or the dragons on Komodo Island.
However whichever way we go or however long we’ll stop at any one place, I’m hoping I might get a chance to fly home for a short visit to family once we get to Bali.
MORE TO FOLLOW