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Published: August 6th 2014
We made it!…. we are in Indonesia!
After quick trips to the shops for last fresh food provisions and a few things from the chandlery we waited for the horns marking the 11am start of the rally. Didn’t really hear the horns but got our selves together, only to be delayed by Naomi needing to visit the toilet, and then we were second from last across the start line. We sailed slowly passed the tourist motor catamaran filled with rally organisers and interested onlookers as Naomi insisted we don’t have the engine running for this. Being almost last did have the advantage of not being being overtaken by the other boats and we pretty much stuck near the back all the way.
Light winds carried us pleasantly westward along the coast. As night set in and we we loosing sight of land we also lost the wind and ended up motoring most of the night which Naomi had no complaints about. Though there was no breeze an annoying northeasterly swell did set in for most of the trip across and with it the clanging of sails as the boat rolled. The next
day had much the same pattern but when we got the engine running this time we noticed it was making fumes that made the main cabin smokey. With extractor fan on and the aft hatch open it wasn’t too noticeable but obviously concerning. The fumes were coming from the oil cap on the rocker cover and I managed to quell them partially by using a rag as a gasket. Light winds persisted through this second night so decided to sail rather than motor which put us behind the rest of the crowd.
There were radio scheds on the HF which ran for the rally officially 3 times per day, an unofficial and much more popular rally sched which I only heard about on the second day and the old sched from the British yacht contingent. On the latter I asked about solving the engine problem. Got replies on how to improve the gasket effect but also the suggestion it could mean one of the exhaust valves in the pistons had gone…. oh bugger, how would we get this fixed in Indonesia? On the second night of radio discussions, the rebreather pipe was mentioned and
this reminded me that the mechanic in Darwin had told me to take this off the air filter intake and feed it into a bottle which I had done. I wasn’t sure of his reasons except that this it better to do for old engines. Anyway, once I re-plumbed the pipe the problem was gone!!! Horay.
Day three was mostly slow again, but the speed was no where near annoying as the clanging of the sails in the swell and we motored sometimes just to improve the motion. In the few hours there was some decent wind we hooked a fish and had to slow the boat to reel it in. Naomi helped by pulling on the line and then it snapped just as she was lifting it near the boat - it would have been a nice plump 70 cm tuna. So close but so far! One fish we did get aboard, but only because it was flying fish that we found dead one morning on deck.
Unfortunately Alex was a little unwell as a reaction to his typhoid shot in Darwin he was spiking temperatures for a few days and one day spent most
of it asleep- very unlike him. Naomi suffered sea-sickness too in the lolling motion so I think it was the third night where I let her sleep and was preoccupied with monitoring for smoke from the engine, the engine’s temperature, Alex’s temperature, and dispensing panadol but I managed to get some napping in.
That evening some ominous clouds were about and soon after Naomi went for her first sleep around 9 pm a squall came over. We had almost full sails up in the 5-10 knot winds which in a matter of seconds rose to about 25 knots with a large change of direction to that almost gybed the main. I called Naomi back out of bed to help reduce sail and the rest of the night was quite windy with bursts as lesser squalls passed over, which made for an unrelaxing sail constantly scanning the dark skies for clouds coming through, but before midnight we did have the high point of passing the Australian/Indonesia border.
By day 4 most of the boats had arrived in Kupang whilst we were 80 miles out. There’s a 15 mile passage between two islands in the approach to Kupang
Our first sight of Indonesia
and we had been advised not to go through at night as there could be unlit dangers like buoys, nets and boats. With the first good strong wind of the trip this presented the most frustrating circumstance. We were flying along at 6-7 knots, and we started to see the coastline at lunchtime but we would not make the passage before nightfall so after days of hoping for stronger winds we had to waste them, and reduce sail to slow our selves down so that we could come through in the morning. Had a talk to a couple of other boats on the VHF as they were in the same predicament as us… if one of them was brave enough to go through at night I might have followed them through.
We were both tired after this last night and to think that with some extra hours motoring when the winds were light might have had us in an anchorage a night earlier was very annoying.
In the end we couldn’t slow ourselves down enough and maintain good direction so in the early evening we tried heaving to for the first time about 25 miles off
the coast. It took a few attempts and required only the tiniest bit of jib to balance us out but eventually it worked. The wind persisted at 20-22 knots most of the night and though it wasn’t the restful motion I had been given the impression it would be, it was more comfortable than trying to hold ourselves beam on to slowly maintain the proper direction. We had a light dinner and napped until we left at 11 pm. It was a dark night and we much more cautious being on watch with the threat of unlit boats as we neared the coast.
As we sailed on the autopilot went crazy at one point making the main gybe violently and snapping one of the straps holding the bimini. It continued to under perform often giving up and flashing a notice that it was being overworked I think... then I remembered we still had the steering lock on from when we were hove-to !! duh!
We carefully timed our arrival at the passage entrance for first light which was late for us at 7am because we were still on Darwin time (1.5 hrs ahead). Just before this light a
boat gave me scare as it came close around the front of the boat with a engine that sounded like a helicopter and a flashing red light. As the day lit up the Timor countryside giving us our first proper view of our long awaited destination Naomi & Alex roused themselves and we motored up the passage passing local boats - some were high powered long tinnies and others traditional sailing fishing boats. Along the shore there were many fish /oyster farms with a network of buoys and usually accompanied by a floating hut in a charming oriental style. Then ashore it became much more industrial looking as the channel narrowed and we had to navigate though the anchored tankers. A large ship was heading into the channel so we kept to the right but then it turned straight toward us. I could see its name on the AIS so called it twice on the VHF but no reply. We changed course again and the game of chicken was over.
We came out of the channel and for the last stretch fought through the 20 knot wind and chop that is quite typical in Kupang. We pointed
toward the throng of swaying masts and dropped anchor in the quarantine area… after exactly 5 days and nights we had made it!
It wasn’t long before we were being boarded by seven officials out of an inflatable for customs and health checks. It was a friendly affair with us crammed into the saloon exchanging photocopies of documents, filling a few forms and a random check in a variety of lockers/cupboards. Alex was a big hit and this was the start of a big trend, with most of the officials wanting photos taken with him! One also asked for a carton of milk which Noami gave although we have told not to give gifts.
Once this was taken care of we were instructed to remove our yellow quarantine flag and come ashore to complete formalities. On the beach there was a team of guys to carry our dinghy out of the water and guard it for 75000 rp (about AU $7.5 which was extortionate but as it was our first exchange on foreign soil we weren’t prepared to fight).
We took the time to walk a few streets to find a photocopy shop and come back to
Teddy’s Bar for lunch. Alex was the centre of attention everywhere, where the locals would often grab him for a photo and to stroke his chin. I think after a while it was quite confronting. The town was dirty dusty place with streets teeming with mopeds, and cracks in the pavement you could loose a cow in.
The rally had the four groups of officials organised into one very hot room - Health; Immigration; Customs & the Harbour Master so it was just a case of chair hoping around the tables. After this we went back to the boat to rest and this is where the dinghy guys were worth their money as the typical afternoon sea breeze had build up a chop sending small surf onto the beach. I had a nap - and then dressed up (relatively) for our rally gala dinner with the mayor. There were dancing and singing performers, a speech from the mayor, free buffet and a chance to catch up with fellow cruisers many of whom we had only spoken to on the radio so far.
Tottered back to the boat exhausted for our first full night’s sleep in 5 nights.
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