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.