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Published: August 11th 2014
After the second gala evening meal with the governor of the Kupang District the boats started to filter away - heading north to Alor. One of the local tourist organisers started to arrange a meeting in Wini which is about half way and a popular idea as it gave the potential for day hopping there rather than an overnight trip.
On our second day, after some more very cheap photocopying (90 sheets for a dollar) we took a look at Kupang’s oldest church - a chap came out of his office to show us around - he pointed out the original sections from the Portugese rule a few hundred years ago but on the whole it was very plain. We found a small dingy place to eat frequented by quite a few locals - had a guess at the menu and ended up with fried rice and rice with chicken. Interestingly when we pick stuff at random on a menu we always seem to end up with rice and chicken in Indonesia. Of more interest to Alex was the indoor pond with a collection of long cat fish milling around.
We returned to Teddy’s Bar and I took a
Teddys Bar on right
This happens to be the inlet where Captain Bligh landed his boat after a 3000 mile journey following the mutiny
stroll on my own to look for an old fort that supposed to be nearby. I cross the creek “Cholera Creek” as its known to some ex-pats we met, and climbed the hill skirting the edge of the tarmac busy with mini-buses and scooters. With almost every second vehicle I would hear a friendly “Hello Mister”. I passed a graveyard, a few stalls selling glass bottles of petrol and fish, and some normal houses. I did find an army barracks but not an historic fort, and ended up down on the beach in the next bay. I string of colourful wooden boats lined up just off the shore.
Along my walk a guy on a scooter stopped to say a few words - as he only knew a few - which started with one of those creepy handshakes where he didn’t seem to want to let go. A confusing conversation ensued and he seemed keen to give me a ride somewhere on the back of his scooter. And I think he also asked if I like woman “you like missus” and this was somehow tied to the destination he had in mind but I told him I had no interest
in woman as I was married. This didn’t dissuade him and I ended up having to make a forceful but polite goodbye. Then he caught me up three other times along my way for similarly painful conversations - jumping on to the beach was my only escape.
At the gala dinner we arranged to visit one of the towns many orphanages and overnight I developed some Bali Belly which I am still slowly getting over now.
I wasn’t feeling very well but went anyway with a few others from another yacht. They seemed to have committed themselves to seeing another orphanage as well which seemed to cause a lot of consternation between the two guides for the rest of the day. We had a car hired between us and the driver took us up the hills into the dry centre of the island. We bumped down a dusty track to the collection of buildings made of breeze-blocks with corrugated roofs. The visit started with us entering a sort of classroom with the 45 kids ranging from 3-15 years but most under ten years, sat in rows.
The matron Julia told us a little about the kids there, and the
two ladies from the other yacht who were teachers got very involved. We asked some questions, they sang us a song, the teachers gave back with The Chicken Song, the kids loved Alex of course and Naomi started a very popular game with a balloon.
Then our guide suggested we give all the kids a hug as this is the thing they miss most without parents. I wasn’t sure our guide was really right as I found it pretty awkward and I sensed the kids felt the same. But with some introduction and beconing open armed with the indonesian word for hug I soon had 4 kids at a time crowding in for an embrace. I think for all of us it became more of a laugh rather than some deep sensitive connection filling the loss of love in their lives. The kids were not dressed in rags (which Naomi was expecting) and they were generally very happy - they were healthily competitive to whack that balloon.
We took a look around the rest of the facility, the water well, the bedrooms (the boys few bunk beds were very grotty), the kitchen area, the pig pen and their recently
donated collection of yellow fluffy chicks. Had a talk back at the office with Julia about the future of the orphanage as apparently they were getting kicked off the land. Our guide who seems to be there out of the goodness of his heart and he never asked for money, started the ball rolling by leaving some money as a donation - we of course followed suit. We waved goodbye to all the kids and then went to check out the proposed new site as the other yachties, with one of them also being a builder, seem to be scheming to help make it happen.
By now I was very ready to take a rest, the drink from a coconut vendor on the way back made me feel a little better but I had a nap at Teddy’s Bar before we returned to Luna Ray. Like many others we left Kupang early the next morning and had a good breeze pushing us north. As we followed the coast we started planning our tacks as the wind came closer to the nose. Naomi took quite some enjoyment in this days sailing as she got her race face on and was
thrilled when we started catching the boat ahead rapidly as he seemed to come to a standstill.
Then all of a sudden the wind dropped out to barely a wisp and the engine went on - annoyingly the alternator was playing up again. Some wiggling of the field wire would eventually get it charging but it wouldn’t last long and gradually drop to nil.
We motorsailed to complete the forty miles to a bay south of a light labelled Gumuk and anchored near our friends from SV Charlotte who had left a day earlier and stayed on as they liked the anchorage. There were signs of life ashore - cows and pigs pens near the beach, occasional mopeds driving by and a family of three taking a walk. We had a bit of a rolly night and the next day Stefan from Charlotte was in the water as they couldn’t free their anchor. They called apon other friends from “CD” as they had diving equipment and got free. We were in about 8 metres of water but it was so clear we could steer around the large rocks on the seabed to keep the chain free from snagging.
the ten other or so boats close by we were all trying to follow the coast east around to Wini. Out of the bay we came across huge schools of dolphins racing across our bow arching out of the water. We were fighting a current which made progress slow - we looked forward to it changing in our favour - this didn’t happen for about 15 hours! As the day progressed news filtered down from boats ahead that the predicted 20-25 knot winds from the east had appeared - one boat “shredding” its mainsail!
With the current the wind was turning choppy and some boats headed out to sea for smoother water whilst we pressed on, sometimes nosing into the waves sending water down the decksides. Then the headwind hit us hard and I had to get the pole down. This had me kneeling at the front of the boat as we ploughed into the steepening waves and then more came over the nose of the boat, soaking me up to my waist!
We turned out to sea and like most others decided not to go to Wini but set a new course north straight to Alor overnight. Even
Kids in Kalabahi
they became a nuisance after a while
though the wind eased only a little we still needed the engine on to keep us on track above two knots - this current would not let up. When we did stop the engine in the late afternoon, we made slow progress by being close hauled, setting us up for a bumpy ride through the night. We were in good company setting off into the dark with at least ten other boats within 10 miles - calls were going to the ships passing to check they had been spotted - one getting quite frantic as the ship drew close.
We had been working hard to time for a dawn arrival at the islands but in the middle of the night the tide finally changed and now we were going too fast and would arrive in the dark. So after all the engine work to make progress we were reducing sail again to slow down - I was getting quite irritated with Indonesian sailing.
We entered the passage between the islands at first light, showing up the hillside villages. Sailed through the turbulent water and were relieved that the potential 7 knots of current wasn’t against us. Progress was not
fast though so put on the engine to lessen the chance of the current turning against us on the way up to the inlet 10 miles ahead. About half way up there were more overfalls, huge schools of racing dolphins and we slowed to about 3 knots. We crossed the channel and into the inlet amongst radio chatter about what a poor anchorage we were heading to. We headed down the channel passed large wooden fish traps and villages by the shore, and a few other rally boats heading out. The events at Kalabahi were not for a few days so they were looking for nicer spots to spend their time. We on the other hand were getting nothing from the alternator now and needed a town to have it fixed. CD were heading out but followed us back in.
We meandered about wondering where the anchorage was and then a harbour master boat came out directing us to an area bordered by little flags on floating wooden platforms. Dropped anchor in the clear but heavily littered water in about 15 metres and held with no problems. The town was not pretty but we were happy to be on flat
the rally meeting place dockside
just after a briefing about Wakatobi
water and a chance to rest as neither of us had slept much.
We have not become enchantered to Kalabahi. Another dusty town busy with mopeds & bemo’s (minibus taxis), shops and stalls, locals calling out and presumptuous locals grabbing poor Alex for a hug/kiss/photo. They had built a little floating jetty for our dinghies and the charge for looking after them was much less than at Kupang. Amusingly the first day we arrived the usual westerly sea breeze picked up and the jetty floated away with about 5 dinghies attached and the guard stranded, pulling on ropes to stop it. We had to hitch a ride to get to back to our dinghy that day! Looking at the alternator I found the positive brush was short and thought this could explain the problem, especially as wiggling the lead that had helped could effect the wire on the opposite side of the terminal and hence put a little pressure on the brush making variable contact with the slip-ring.
Walked to a couple of supermarkets which by no stretch were super and also came across a shop selling engine parts like spark plugs. As it happened they had some
Toyota brushes - that didn’t look too dissimilar to the ones on our Bosch alternator - and a bargain at only $1.
We found a place that gave us some unpleasant looking lunch - rice and chicken again. This time the chicken was cold… Naomi amazed me by eating the brown tinged boiled egg that sat in the same cold curry sauce. Back on Luna Ray we soldered on the new brush following a YouTube video but the alternator did not work, not even when I used a test light to bypass the regulator (as recommended by Calder’s manual).
The next day I went hunting for a mechanic and the self appointed town guide Ahmed couldn’t get him on the phone so got a plump guy to run me up to one a few kms away on the back of his scooter. Fortunately my ride could also translate a little and I learnt that the mechanic wanted me to bring the alternator to him. So scooter back to the dock, back to Luna Ray to remove the alternator, back to the dock with a heavy lumpy backpack and onto the back of another young guys scooter to return to
the mechanic. He pulled out his analogue voltmeter and played around for a few minutes before suggesting we return in some hours. So back on the scooter, back to the dock and back to Luna Ray for lunch.
When I returned after lunch I asked Ahmed if I could get a ride again but no one was around so I suggested I drive myself. Got handed a set of scooter keys with a small teddy bear as a key ring and set off with the wind running through my hair along the same coastal road again up to the mechanic. Found him but of course this time I had no translator until luckily his brother arrived. I asked to pay and they said they would not accept any money until they knew it was working - if it didn’t they would come to the boat. Very honourable but of course meant I would have to return either way. Back on the boat with the alternator back on - after threading one of the bolts - we cranked the engine again and still no charge. Again I bypassed the regulator and nothing but I had the thought of checking the
voltage and found I was only putting half a volt into the field wire. Calder had said use a wire with a bulb but I hadn’t really considered how small the bulb on my test light really was. With just a plain bit of wire, the test this time was very positive, and the alternator started working. We had recently come across an old regulator whilst hunting through the boat and amazingly when we connected it up, it worked! There were still holes in the wall where the old regulator used to be, so mounting it again was very quick. So we had regulated alternator power again - if only I had done the test on the field wire properly to start with we might know which part was the actual problem - either way a great relief.
I got another scooter ride back to the mechanic the next morning to explain what happened and pay him. It took a lot to drag a price out of him ($25) as he kept saying I should pay what I feel it was worth, and my ride was not helping with the estimation too.
There was an option to take a
tour to a hilltop village and beach with Ahmed but it didn’t sound great from others that did it so the next day we relaxed until the carnival that was to begin at 3pm. When we got to the dock a large group was under trees at the meeting spot and we learnt the carnival was not happening. So there was a mass exudus to the Green Room Hotel which was now the self appointed Yacht Club. It was a basic place but they were very friendly, served nibblies and charged less for beer than Ahmed was out of an eskie dockside. And there was a young girl there that kept Alex entertained the whole time.
We have been disappointed with the services here. We payed for 80 lts of diesel and the jerry cans were returned filthy and must have been under filled by about 10 litres. So I complained about this. We left our laundry at the meeting place as Ahmed’s price was very high. We found a stall that does it, only to find our laundry had been taken but apparently with reassurance that “If we not happy with price we don’t pay”. When we got
our laundry back 2 days later they wanted 3 times what we could have payed so had to argue this one out. So I wasn’t becoming popular with the locals! Then it turned out some of the clothes smelt as they hadn’t been dried properly.
9th August Took a bemo to the vegetable market a few ams away - these vehicles are compact discotheques with loud music pumping from beneath each seat which is actually a speaker and neon flashing in every available space.
The goods looks quite clean but most stalls had the same veges - beans, bok choy, carrots, cucumbers, ginger, garlic, tomatoes , lettuce, cabbage.
Headed ashore at about 2 pm and strolled up to the sports field for the expo event that the rally was here for. Looked around some of the stalls from local companies and local regions showing their handicrafts and then sat in front of the stage for the presentation, the walking procession of the groups from each different region of Alor usually with their native dress on (often proceeded by the warriors of the clan dancing around in an aggressive way) but some were more like American walking bands in
glitzy bright uniforms. This was followed by speeches in Indonesian and then finally a couple of the officials started the event by pushing a button on stage which sent a siren into action and guys in the milling crowd in the centre of the field started letting off fireworks from canisters they held in their hands!
A french lady introduced herself as she had just joined the rally having come via Saumlaki, and she had 2 kids so was keen to have them play with Alex…. good news!
We had a dinner at the governor’s residence that evening for 7pm - we had just learnt that the transport for it had been cancelled. So we went back to Luna Ray to freshen up and put on some more formal clothing. When we got to the dock there was a crowd of cruisers waiting for the bus which was now back on - it was a small minibus with room for only about 10 so it took 3 relays before there was room for us. Got to the event to be seated in front of the stage with some guy knocking out western kareoke classics. There were a few speeches
and then we lined up at the tasty buffet for dinner which we ate casually in arm chairs - they even had some chicken nugget things Alex could tolerate. Only water was available for drinking though so it was quite a sedate affair. There were more speeches after and a long procession of shaking hands goodbye. We invited Dave and Christine from CD back to our boat for a few drinks - which they did by way of a tow from another dinghy as their outboard conked out.
Naomi had arranged to goto Mila’s house the next day - she is a university english student who worked for Ahmed. I was happy to stay for this genuine insight and it was timed for 4pm. I agreed to meet Ahmed at the same time to sort out the fuel rip off. We went ashore after lunch and took a look around the rest of the stalls at the expo but half of it was closed. When we went back to meet Mila she told us she now had to goto a meeting so could we come to breakfast. I was keen to leave early before the sea breeze kicked up
anchored 10 miles out of Kalanahi
small fishing village in background
but we agreed to breakfast. Ahmed was not there.
Back at the dock this morning we could’t see Mila but her associate said both she and Ahmed were tired and sick. I went to collect some water and on my return came across Ahmed who looked quite well - asked him again about the fuel and he tried to direct me to his “crew” back at the dock as he had to take a package somewhere quickly - I didn’t plan to waste more time so bid him farewell as we were leaving. We went shopping for some screws and bread.
We pulled up the anchor, checked the alternator was still working which meant I could use the windlass guilt free - important when your chain and anchor is 17 m down. The sea breeze was just picking up so we had a slow motor against current up the channel - leaving Kalabahi none too soon.
As we plied our way up the channel with a little spray hitting the deck we got to enjoy the scenery again and the clear litter free water. Back at the main inter island channel we turned immediately right between a small
island, passed the uncharted rocks that were just awash, and dropped anchor in 20 m of water so clear you could make out the bottom. Colourful old wooden boats and a few ramshackle huts lined the shore, while the locals went about their day by foot or by scooter.
The currents rip through this anchorage and taking the dinghy to the small island beach might have been impossible if we were not able to get onto the plane.
The rally is having a bit of a mutiny as it changed its course at the last minute to head another 200 miles north from here to Wakatobi but about 80 % are continuing along the original route along Flores, as are we. But the two routes will rejoin at the western end of Flores. So from here, as we head west, we should get back to proper cruising again, hopping along the coast, hopefully to small villages, with clear water, good coral and sandy beaches.
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