Gili Islands

Bali… not quite.
We are in the Gili Islands just 20m short of Bali (Gili is Indonesian for Island so we are in the Island islands).
We have just come back from a shore crawl involving beers and pizzas with Roger and Carli from La Palapa. Try saying that after 3 of Roger’s Margaritas.
The exposure to western decadent temptations after 4 weeks in impoverished paradise is a bit of a shock to the system but I’m sure we’ll get over it.

We left Labuan Bajo and made for Rinca, one of the homes for the Komodo dragons. We booked our walk round their lair and saw the brutes. Large sluggish animals but the guides are also fairly quick to draw a line in the sand which you cross at your peril. We were duly impressed. They are not quite Tyrannosaurus Rex dragons but definitely bigger than your average gekkos. I would not want to face one in a narrow laneway on a dark night. On the walk my usual shaky land legs kicked in and I was feeling typically ‘lack of sea’ sick queasy. Not till I got back on board Scot Free did I realise that this queasy stomach was more than just motion sickness. One long night of Bali belly stomach cramps, caramel jelly and cold sweats later I surfaced so we abandoned sailing plans for a day till tummies settled down.

To get here so quick after Rinca we undertook a couple of overnight sails of approximately 100 miles. Some of the best sailing yet. Free and easy close reaches slipping along under the moon in kindly seas is the kind of sailing magic you only dream of. The anchorages and their snorkeling are unbelievable. Empty, good holding, spectacular views and usually well sheltered. It is typically a race after the anchor is dropped to see who hits the water first. One island in particular is worth mentioning. Sotondo Island (or should that be Gili Sotondo) was a dawn arrival after Rinca. We nosed inshore as far as we dared… too far, bump, scrape and back out to 20 feet to drop anchor and take the plunge. Sanna and I went for a beach comb and found spectacular lumps of crimson coral, shells for the collector including a huge, almost pristine Nautilus and a native 3 pronged spear which will clean up to make a useful hunter gatherer weapon. We still were cruising with Ballyhoo and enjoying sundowners and yarning at the end of each day. We’ve since ‘lost’ them but no doubt will catch up soon again. Meanwhile we are in bottled paradise which serves as an introduction to Bali.

On the way here last night we inherited a stowaway. A sea eagle landed on the masthead and clung there tenaciously eyeing off electronic wind indicator (expensive) Tricolour light (expensive) VHF antenna (expensive) and mechanical wind indicator (expensive). Much shouting, strong language,, shaking of halyards did nothing to distract him and I was forced to sit there, neck cricked for 5 hours while he chatted up my (expensive) wind indicator. The rapturous raptor finally left at 6am having not ‘scored’ all night. We also had a friendly Flipper accompany us on Sanna’s watch which made her trip. Talking of stowaways I have been asked about Jenny. She appears to have gone. One faint odour of decaying mouse on one day in Darwin is my only clue. No doubt a sad little mummified corpse will come to light one day during a spring clean and all will be explained but at least she spared me the walk the plank thing.

It all sounds seductive and it is, but you need your wits about you. On the way in to one anchorage I planned to hit the reef edge at a tangent, to follow the depth contour round and into the anchorage. The contour appeared more or less on schedule but something caught my attention  The lighter reef colouring extended further to starboard than I expected. I glanced at the depth sounder… 120’… 60’… 20’… 12′ whoah!, grab the helm, disable the autopilot, hard a starboard and watch the depth sounder cling to 12′ before it starts to climb again The reef was either incorrectly charted or had grown since the last update. Bumping on a reef in no wind or current and no swell is different from a full on ram at 7 knots.

Scot Free is a pleasure to sail. Last night I was on watch with the wind just forward of port beam at 20 knots. All sails set she sat steady on a 20 degree heel on 6.5 -7.2 knots for hours on end revelling in the conditions. Thi boat is easy to balance and I know I’ve said it before but will say it again, extremely sensitive to tweaks. An inch in or out on the sheets delivers an instant response to the log. I now, more reluctantly than ever reach for the engine start button since it breaks this silent powering mode. The token technology used in terms of Autohelm and wind generator are welcome since it frees me up to appreciate the moment. They also ‘balance’ well. The ships system collects solar power during the day to charge the batteries. This collection is more or less finely tuned to replace that used by the freezer, lights and radios. The night requirements are balanced by the wind generator. It all seems to work. sometimes the batteries are down a fraction but more often than not the smart charger is complaining about too much power. I mention the freezer since at last I seem to have got my head around it. In Melbourne the Auto mode seemed to work in terms of keeping the fridge at 4 degrees. However 15 degrees in the tropics is not an option. Rob, my crew from Darwin first mentioned that the red light only came on when the engine charging was in operation and since then I’ve fiddled with settings and now …. we make ice! Great. Margaritas on Scot Free take on a whole new meaning.

Sanna has persevered in the galley and is now turning out fresh bread, pizzas and cakes with a flourish. There is nothing nicer than crispy fresh toast, fresh (canned) butter and Rose’s Lime Marmalade for breakfast.
Downside foodstuffs are local butters, cheeses and packeted things except for Indonesian 2 minute noodles. The ‘butter’ is as close as you ever want to come to yellow axle grease. Vegetables are limited as are recognisable fruits but at least there are alternatives. The upshot of this is that our diets have suffered a bit. Sanna was the first to notice bouts of light headedness… iron deficiency we diagnosed and signs of electrolyte shortages. Supplements help a bit but tonight we are treating ourselves to real imported Steak with all the trimmings.

Scot Free Clear.

 

30th The morning after the night before…….
I keep telling people ‘I’m not a drinker’ and they keep saying ‘Well you could have fooled us!’
The steak was perfect and so was the day. That was two days ago I think.
Last night was a bit of a mess though.Started out with margaritas on La Palapa, always a mistake. Then we four, Roger, Carli Sanna and I had dinner, very nice followed by a visit to the Irish pub where we proceeded to drink Bintangs which seemed to arrive and ever more frequent intervals, well we were thirsty. Roger and Carli left early obviously recognising a train wreck well in advance I do remember coming back from the toilet and seeing a hulk in MY seat chatting up MY crew. Protecting Sanna’s honour I tapped hulk sort of heavily on the shoulder and told him to get off my seat.Before this went anywhere ugly Sanna whispered urgently ‘F*%# off, I’m scoring here’

‘Oops sorry mate’ (fortunately a nice forgiving hulk.)

The night went downhill rapidly after that finally ending with Sanna disappearing in one direction with some young innocent and me the other way to look for my dinghy.
Looking…. looking… looking.
No Dinghy, bugger! I looked at the boats out in the channel under the moonlight and decided that swimming was an easy option, I could look for the dinghy in the morning.
Swimming…. swimming…. swimming.

After about half an hour I realised that I was downstream of Scot Free but NOT gaining on her. Oops Christmas Island here I come. (The current can run at up to 2 knots through here. On the way past La Palapa I grabbed at their dinghy, managed to hang on, struggled into it and fell asleep. I woke up about four hours later cold and obviously wet. This time the current was running, very strongly towards Scot Free. The tide had turned. Back in, ride the rapids back to Scot Free, clutch at boarding ladder and drag myself on board. Still no Sanna. Quick shower to wash off salt water and fall into stupor in my bunk.
About 10 this morning I am sitting on the deck with my morning cup of tea and I see a forlorn figure moping up the shore towards …. my dinghy, exactly where I left it! How come I couldn’t find it last night you wonder. You may well ask!

My morning was cheered up watch Sanna struggle single handed to launch hte dinghy, lose her flip flops under the dinghy, give up, flop aboard, fail to start the outboard. This is all followed by a haze of blue sweary words and a feeble but successful row out to Scot Free. I’m going to miss this woman!

We’ve now had a big breakfast washed down by …. more beer!

Scot Free definitely over and out from the Gilis.

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LabuanBajo

Blog10.
I did say that I was not liable to be able to communicate till Bali. But now we’re at Maumere and the resort ashore has a flaky Internet connection. Hopefully I can upload this blog entry without any hiccups. I managed to send 2 emails eventually earlier this morning (50,000 Rupiah) so we’ll see later on.
For those in the know Maumere is at 08deg38min south, 122deg18E. The beach is beautiful black volcanic sand and the backdrop is stunning, real tropical paradise setting. The occasional dugout canoe sidles past with a smiling occupant showing off fish, fruit, vegies etc and we feel so guilty passing up their offers since it’s a lot cheaper in the market. But what are we talking about, 1Kg fish for $3.00 or market for $2.50! Fresh pineapple for $1.20 and so on. If you really were careful with money you could live well on $5.00 per day. We think we have it well in the west but paradise is only a step away here.
The people are incredibly friendly and easy going. We organised a car trip to the 3 coloured lakes yesterday 2-300 k round trip to south side Flores then up to a volcanic peak above the clouds. All the way smiles and happy waves, screams of delight from schoolkids seeing a westerner! Occasional stops for drinks, kopi… sorry coffee or fruit and biscuits. A wonderful lunch on the beach, then ice cream and Bintang (beer) back at boats for less than $35.00 a head. This includes car and driver. You would NOT want to drive yourself, road rules are less than clear! Road conditions would give an OH&S inspecter post traumatic stress disorder.
For those interested in sailing news, I first need to list the litany of gear failure we have had. Nothing mechanical so far except for a snap shackle letting go of the gennaker at the top of the mast and a second jammed halyard. Rob from Ballyhoo is going aloft to retrieve them later today. Sanna is pissed off because a) she sees it as her job and b)extracts the inference that Rob is not as fat as she is. She is not fat!
The journey from Kupang to Kelimatu was an overnighter again without Harry the AutoHelm but at least with veering Vera. At one stage the wind topped 30 knots and we enjoyed a great hour or two’s sail. Interesting to catch VHF chatter from some cruisers back in Kupang saying they did not ‘do’ 30 knots! Sanna in 7th heaven with the toe rail just touching the water. The wind eventually died and left us at the mercy of a 3 knot south-westerly setting current which threatened to stop us. And of course I was off watch sleeping when Sanna woke me to say that Ray (Raymarine) the chartplotter had gone on the blink, literally. It still blinks at me forlornly when I try to switch it on. It appears that this expensive equipment is not living up to its name. I took over and manually helmed until I awoke to realise that I’d turned 180deg and was heading back to Kupang! Rob on Ballyhoo noticed the erratic manoevres and talked me back to consciousness. Thanks again Rob.
I spent some time with the new Autohelm course computer (don’t ask what it cost!) and finally with the inclusion of a hand held contol unit on loan from La Palapa Harry awoke from his coma. Welcome back Harry!
We switched on the iron spinnaker and motored till dawn where we caught a good breeze in to anchor in a beautiful protected bay with Victory Cat, La Palapa and a few other boats from the fleet. We stayed for a couple of days then decided to head west to a little township, Larantuka. Listening to the VHF chatter disuaded us from heading north up the channel into 2.5 knots of head current. We decided Larantuka for dinner then risk the Narrows with its tidal race. Lucy who speaks Indonesian had verified that this was negotiable at slack high water. Larantuka was memorable. Like a 19th century Klondyke frontier town sprinkled along the shore just south of the Narrows. A lovely cheap meal in a restaurant out of Lonely Planet (300? tourists per year) then back for an early night. We weighed anchor next morning and breasted the tide to escape into the bay north of the Narrows with no incident. Ballyhoo and Scot Free then made for the island to the north where we had a wonderful 2 hours snorkelling in shoals of iridescent fish. Next morning I weighed anchor and raised all sail to make for Tg Gedong at the top end of Flores before Sanna awoke. Such is cruising. We slipped down the west side of this peninsula and anchored just inside Hading Bay. Anchoring on a rock shelf with 2 feet under the rudder is not designed for easy rest and we headed out early next morning, once more just wandering generally westwards. We then picked up some traffic on the VHF which indicated that Tim on Vicory Cat had found a lovely anchorage in sand just off the Maumare resort and had booked dinner for 7pm. That evening 3 boats synchronised their arrival at Victory Cat by 5pm. Ballyhoo, La Palapa and Scot Free. Then Airstream arrived and we dinghied ashore for a resort feast. Lovely night in good company in a safe haven… should be called safe heaven.
We almost certainly don’t have Internet till Bali now where we should drop anchor before the 14th September hopefully in time to catch Dave and Barb holidaying there. It’s only about 450 miles but we’re going to meander 20-50 miles per day with lots of stops for snorkelling, sundownering, moonuppering and talking….. cruisers get good at that.
Labuan Bajo; 8Deg 29.632S 119Deg 57.839E
I said no Internet till Bali but we stumbled into Labuan Bajo at the western end of Flores yesterday and found a great little internet cafe in this great little town which serves great food, cheap beer and coffee. (Do I sound impressed?) We are going to stop over for an extra day to ‘do’ the market and some boat jobs before heading to Rinca and Komodo where ‘there be dragons’. The charts look and the pilots sound interesting with chart inaccuaracies of up to 1.5 miles, reefs strewn everywhere, up to 12 knot tidal races, overfalls, whirlpools, unmarked fish traps, unlit local boats with nets slung for a kilometre behind them, sounds like Portland, not! We are anchored off the main town and can dinghy ashore to the harbour which involves a James Bond run under the docks with an inch clearance above the dinghy sides. But at least we arrive in the town centre. The main street is again like something out of the Klondyke with the only road meandering through piles of building rubbish, holes to lose a car in, fish drying on canvas in the gutters, shops and families vying for a foothold on the precarious faces of the hillside or water’s edge. Deep gutters and washouts everywhere attest to the summer wet and can catch the drunken unwary easily. And of course the ever present ‘spiv’ selling the local pearls, komodo dragon carvings and probably his daughters.
To get here from Maumare we did a couple of day sails and an overnighter. The anchorages along the way stealthily sink into a haze of oblivion and even with the ship’s log or diary we end up ‘losing’ a day. We stopped at one little perfect bay, a breathtaking Eden with an extended family of 25 souls eking out a living in paradise. Lucy and I went ashore and since Lucy speaks Indonesian managed to get ourselves invited ashore to share their breakfast next day.
We arrived mid morning and a feast of roast fish, tapioca, local fruits and coconuts, each holed, split and supplied with machete sliced off spoon to drink the milk and spoon out the jelly. Sanna went wild with her camera and the shots of the kids are to die for. Aunt Lucy became Santa Clausette for the day with pencils, paper, sharpeners, balloons turning the kids into a bunch of feral gremlins, screaming with delight as they buzzed their parents with loosed balloons and drawig in the sand with their new pencils. Lucy and Sanna went back for more toy supplies and I spent an amazing hour making sand pies with the blister packaging from the pencil kit while the kids taught me to count to 20 in Indonesian and I taught them to count to 20 in English… they learned quicker than me!
The snorkelling has been wonderful, reefs not too damaged and fish fit for the most ambitious aquarium. It’s just too delightful to pull up somewhere just after midday when the sun highlights your safe path through the reef into an anchorage, drop the anchor in 20 foot of gin clear water where you can see the anchor clearly hit the bottom in sand, turn over, set properly, lay out the chain by eye, tie off, and collapse overboard into bath temperature water so clear you get vertigo when looking down. Because the winds have been so light we have done a lot of motoring but the Yanmar (iron topsail) is proving to be very economical at low revs and running the motor so much means that we make water from the watermaker and daily showers are all the rage. I’ve bought 160 litres of diesel since leaving Darwin and have not yet touched the spare tank so miles per gallon calculations become somewhat meaningless. Raising all sail and drifting along at 2 – 3 knots is perfectly acceptable when you only need to make 15 – 20 miles. I know it all sounds seductive and it seriously is. Sanna is now browsing some Scot Free magazines for her ‘perfect’ boat, I think she may be infected and returning to Europe with ownership ambitions.
Talking about infected, I caught a cold from Bill off Airstream and Sanna caught an ear infection, probably from snorkelling.The ear infection succumbed to antibitotics from Doctor Dave’s prescriptions and my cold has run its course. Apart from that the only other medical issue is catching my fingers in the anchor gypsy Gnnnnggh!, I think they’ll grow back OK. So it can’t be paradise then… strange you so easily get fooled.
Bali is only a couple of hundred miles to the west now (I think) and it will be strange to hit civilisation again. We’ll remain there for a while while I find replacement crew, try to get my Raymarine fixed, pick up my new ATM card and then lay our course north to Kalimantan (Borneo) and then west to Singapore. This looks like testing sailing again as we enter Lord Jim’s territory.
For those of you wanting more than the occasional reference to sailing matters this is your special paragraph…..
Scot Free is a good boat. She is fast, steady and strong and easily managed by one person, exactly what you need here. She slips along at 4 – 5 knots in a 10 knot breeze and is unbelievably sensitive to tuning. Sanna has picked up ‘sail whisperer’s’ language and spends hours tweaking the sheets, an inch tighter, 2 looser, the traveller more central… and look 0.02 knots faster! We have not yet had to reef the main and if the wind is right and strong enough we just do the American thing and ghost along under the Jib. Scot Free is a cutter rig (Dave called her a ‘corner cutter’ rig but then he was as guilty of that as I was) and I have learned a new respect for this layout. The inner stay sail when used in conjunction with the jib and main ‘cuts’ the slot between them and improves the lay of both sails delivering about 5 degrees of pointing ability and easily 0.5 to 1 knot on the correct heading. The ship’s systems like the anchor winch, dinghy management, power management (Collection and storage) water maker all are balanced which makes for a perfect ‘small footprint’ boat. The fridge was an issue since arriving in the tropics and has struggled to keep the contents cold. However I’ve now discovered that running it full on in manual mode works well, and it still seems to cycle as if it were in auto mode. Wow, Ice in our gin and tonics! The other reliablity issue commonly faced by cruisers is the heads. So far I have only had to dismantle the plumbing once, this vacuum system seems to be the best.
Our radios seem to work very well with the VHF taking a daily pounding with all the traffic it has to contend with. I still have not got my head around the HF but I’ve no doubt that as I head into more remote territory it will come into its own.
The instrumentation, critical to safety, and all expensive Raymarine equipment is in for a special slice of criticism. It seems that Raymarine, for all its reputation has let a lot of the fleet down. Both my Autohelm, now replaced with a $2.400 new course computer and the chartplotter (New 2 years ago) have not impressed me by failing in embarrassing situations. I shall be seriously miiffed if the chartlpotter is not serviceable!
Storage on board is more than adequate and it seems to have settled into a logic of its own. I still carry a lot of tools but somehow cruisers seem to need them!
Additions which have proved necessary are 12v fans to cycle the air and tie down straps behind the galley sink and elsewhere to retain the watermaker supply bottle, in the heads to stop shampoo ending up in the bowl etc etc. I have designs for a cockpit table and in fact the material also. Projects unfinished when I left Yaringa are a diminishig twinkle in my eye although the more critical have been knocked off. I have a suspicion that when I get back in about 5 years time Roy is going to wonder what the hell I’ve been up to all that time!
All in all Scot Free is a good sound boat…. and I’ve been informed that ferros are bullet proof.. I hope this does not need testing in the Red Sea.
Some of the boats we are cruising with are million dollar touches. It’s nice to get invited aboard the neighbours gin palace for Margeritas with ice cubes but just a little unsettling. We have been cruising with Victory Cat, which is a Seawind from Woolongong owned by Tim and Ruth (USA). Going aboard to a lounge the size of a small cricket pitch for bacon, eggs, and pancakes for breakfast is even more unsettling. However, we’ll cope.
This is the crew from Scot Free signing out from Paradise.
‘Scot Free clear to listening watch on channel 16’.

Flores. Here we come.

We leave Kupang tomorrow and I am writing this under a leaky thatch roof shed roof with a flaky internet connection.
The crossing from Darwin was uneventful except for wrapping the gennaker round the keel with the sail on one side and the sock and lines on the other, what a mess!
It was tiring since we still do not have the Autohelm working yet. Rob my old mate from the Maribyrnong persevered with Vera Backer and by the 3rd day she seemed to be working. Certainly you could take your hand off the wheel for up to half an hour. I can live with that. Rob left us yesterday and his contributions (OH&S and sound ship management practices) will be sorely missed. Sanna (Warrior Princess) joined us in Darwin to replace Liesa who has serious family health issues to contend with. She has sailed dinghies a long time ago and is keen to learn keelboat handling. I think she will be a good crew member… my luck with crews continues I think.
Scot Free is in the groove now and feels like she is earning her cruising stripes with distinction. Gear failure was common amongst the fleet of 107 boats from Darwin. The first night out the accompanying Indonesian gunboat rammed and badly damaged one of the yachts going to Ambon. We nearly got rammed on the last night by a yacht whose skipper was obviously asleep at the wheel. I could see the stitching on the sai we were so close.
During the day we could see at any one time 6-8 sails on the horizon and their nav lights at night. It was like taking part in some surreal pilgrimage and very reassuring to know that there were so many boats should something untoward happen.
Kupang was our ;landfall and after anchoring out we dinghied ashore to meet up with new and old friends including the crew from Kathleen Love who we first met in Lizard Island a century ago, or was it yesterday? Time goes into a wierd dimension when you’re cruising. It’s like Dr Who and the Tardus. Having made Kupang over 4 days and nights of sailing we enter a thirld world port from the 18th century populated by appallingly poor yet happy people. One crew visited an orphanage and were visibly affected for days by the experience. Others went on an organised tour to a village in the hills where the locals had laid out flags for kilometres to greet this one busload of tourists. Months of preparation and scrubbing up for a couple of hours of sightseeing. It’s hard to underatand the psyche.
This is a hard blog entry to write since I am in the final throes of a 4 day hangover on top of a sleepless passage. I am looking forward to raising the anchor at 10.00 and heading north to Kelimatu. We are diverting from the fleet and cruising in company with Ballyhoo. Robert, Lucy and Marcus as crew. All we want to do is find a comfortable restful anchorage where we can snorkel and enjoy sundowners for a week while the fleet catches us up.
It’s going to have to be a frugal trip for a month or so till we reach Bali since I lost my ATM card here a few days ago. But I am now a millionaire having exchanged $300AU cash into 2,500,000.00 Rupiah. So much money so little value. Hopefully Liz can get my new card to Dave and Barb in Bali where we should be able to meet up again. I look forward to that.
The next month or so is going to be communicationless I suspect but this is no hardship this end. No doubt I will crave communications a bit more at Bali.
Scot Free very quickly falls into a state of anchor sloth and I spent a coupleof hours this morning making ready for sea. She’s shipshape and ready to go now and I think it’s getting easier. I’m not quite at a ‘place for everything and everything in its place’ but getting close.
I’d better stop now, Sanna is back from shopping and we’ll be pushing the tide at Lembata if we’re not lucky.
This is the crew from Scot Free signing out.
Scot Free clear.