Wednesday, August 25, 2010


August 26, 2010—Bau-Bau City is rarely visited by westerners, and the rally has never come here. As a result, this city of 250,000 pulled out all the stops for our group. The dragon at the right overlooks the harbor where we are anchored, and at night his eyes are lit with red lights--pretty scary looking.

We arrived at dusk on the 21st. It was sprinkling rain, and the anchorage was a bit full, but we finally found a small spot. We dropped the anchor and waited. It was not holding, so we re-anchored, and this time it held. We were a little tired, so sv Esprit invited Tin Soldier and us over for drinks and appetizers.

The next day a trip to a cave was scheduled in the morning, and a pedi-bike ride (a rickshaw powered by a bicycle) was scheduled for the afternoon. We did not attend the cave because we had to mend a seam on the dinghy. Around noon we went ashore, leaving our dinghy at the temporary dinghy dock, and enjoyed lunch. While we were there, the wind came up, and it looked pretty rough in the anchorage. We hurried back after lunch to find our dinghy pulled up onto the dock along with several others. The waves were coming over the dock, which was getting pounded against the stone steps by the waves coming into shore. The guys watching the dinghy dock helped us get the dinghy back into the water, and we made a hasty retreat back to the boat.

When we were back on board, we discovered that we were too close to another boat, so we pulled the anchor and moved--again. We had planned to attend the pedi-bicycle ride; however, with the rough conditions and having just moved the boat, we decided to stay aboard to make sure that the anchor was holding. The current here creates real problems here because it affects the position of the mono-hull sailboats, but the wind affects the position of the catamarans so we all moved in different directions. Several boats have bumped each other during our stay. Luckily, we are not one of those.

The next day was a very busy one. In the morning we were taken by bus, with a police escort with the sirens blaring, to Nirwana Beach to enjoy some swimming and snorkeling. Unfortunately, it began to rain after two hours so we returned to the anchorage.

At 3:30 we returned to shore to attend the welcome ceremony that was planned by the locals. The elders were there, and all were dressed in their traditional clothing. Five of them sat on a blanket and prepared water for a blessing on us. Each cruiser then knelt in front of each elder, shook his hand, and then moved on. The last two elders dipped leaves into the water and then sprinkled it on our heads. After that we received a lei made of flowers, and then we walked between two lines of the other representatives from the area. There must have been 50 men, and we shook every man’s hand. The welcome that we received was really quite impressive.

Next we got back into the buses and were again escorted to a handicraft shop where there was weaving, jewelry making, and sewing of the very decorative cloths for the traditional costumes. Across the street we entered a traditional house that was built on stilts, and we were given a tour. In the rear room, we were allowed to put on the headdress and jackets that are worn for a wedding, and we had our picture taken. It was great fun.

The Keraton Fortress was our next stop. This fortress sits high on the hill overlooking Bau-Bau, and this palace fortress is recorded as the largest fortress in the world with a length of 2.74 km. It was begun in 1591 and was finished sometime around 1645. There are quite a few homes inside the perimeter walls of the fort, and some government buildings as well. It was quite impressive and in good condition as it has been restored.

Within the fort, we went to Keraton Hall, where some local dances were performed for us. Inside the hall, there were families from all the different villages, and they had all prepared their traditional food dishes for us. Steve and I sat with one family—a mother, her sister, and her daughter Amy, and a friend of Amy’s. They served us portions of at least 10 different items, all of which were just wonderful. There was fish, chicken, lobster, crab, several types of rice, banana and coconut custard, and sweet treats. I don’t know the names of all the dishes, but all of them were the most delicious foods we have had here in Indonesia, and it was obvious that they had spent days preparing the food. Amy spoke very good English so we learned quite a bit about her family and the traditional foods.

During dinner, some young children walked through the hall dressed in traditional wear, and they were absolutely adorable. After dinner, the locals all wanted pictures with us. We must have had 50 pictures taken of us--it was really amazing. We left the hall so full that we could hardly breathe and returned to the buses to head back to the boat. Everyone on the ride back said that they were overwhelmed with our reception and many were moved to tears, including us.

Tuesday began with a bus trip north to a Hindu village where everyone turned out to warmly greet us and where we were treated to three Balinese dances. The locals provided us with a delicious lunch, and then we were off to see the rice fields. The Balinese people came to Bau-Bau 30 years ago, installed a dam and irrigation system, and cleared the land by hand. The rice fields are quite impressive, and the landscape was beautiful.

That evening the Mayor invited all of us to his home and put on an amazing dinner and presentation of local custom dances. One of the dances is actually named the "Linda Dance." Bernie and Diane on sv First Light III volunteered to wear traditional outfits for the event, and they gave a speech thanking the mayor and the Sail Banda committee for all their hard work. After dinner all the cruisers were taken by a local to dance. None of us seemed to grasp the steps, but we provided some entertainment. Then there was the usual line dance to local music, so I enjoyed participating in that for awhile. We left around midnight, once again tired but pleased with all we had seen that day.

Yesterday was very busy with shopping for vegetables and fruit at the central market and the MGM supermarket. Marilyn and I rode motorcycle taxis to the MGM, which was a real experience because of all the traffic here. Three of us ladies found a few hours in the afternoon to go shopping for clothes. In the late afternoon we hosted a happy hour for Esprit and Tin Soldier, and then we joined Tin Soldier ashore for dinner.

Today we will take care of any loose ends and last minute shopping. We plan to leave in the morning to head south to Flores Island, stop at Bone Raté reef for a day or two in order to break up the passage, and then hook up with the southern group of Sail Indonesia. Bau-Bau has been an absolutely wonderful experience, and we are so glad that we came here to enjoy its hospitality and meet the people.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Wangi Wangi to Hoga Island

August 21, 2010--On August 15, a Welcome Dinner was held for Sail Banda at a new resort about 30 minutes north of Wangi Wangi. At 6:30 we all assembled at the restaurant and then piled into cars for the drive. We drove along a single-lane paved road and were amazed to see that it was lined with houses for almost the whole drive.

We arrived and were shown to the open-air restaurant, where we sat at a table with the crews of three other boats. The dinner was buffet style with rice, fried noodles, fish, fish soup, kasava, and greens. The food was good but spicy. We talked at the table until the Regent of Wakatobi got up to give a PowerPoint presentation about the area. He was pushing hard to have a Sail Wakatobi instead of Sail Banda next year. When he finished, we watched another traditional dance, and then the crew members from each boat were called up and given lovely hand-woven scarfs with Wakatobi embroidered on them. We were then invited to dance with the local dancers, and everyone had a very good time.

The next day we walked up to Telekom to take care of some last minute internet business, and then we walked to the Morning Market to get some veggies and some eggs. We went to the Alpha Market for bread; however, they had none. Bread is hard to find here as there are only two markets that carry it.

A festival was scheduled for 4 o'clock that afternoon so we went ashore at 3:30 and began to walk over with a few other crews; however, we were told that we had to go as a group. We were a bit confused since the field was only a five-minute walk, and we knew exactly where it was. Anyway, we waited and finally quite a few of the local guides left with us. The walk was straight down the main road, but the guides made us turn and walk inland for about five blocks, then south for about eight blocks, then back to the main road again actually going through some people's back yards on the way. We arrived at the field and were shown to our seats under an awning. About five minutes later the excitement began.

We had heard that a protest was planned, and we noticed that there were quite a few police around the area. Two young men, followed by quite a few locals, ran onto the field and began tearing down a display that had been built out of bamboo and palm fronds. The police stood around for a few minutes, and someone was speaking on the microphone. Finally, the police moved the locals back off the field. A young man who was the speaker and interpreter told us that the event was done for the day, and we should return to the anchorage. Many of the cruisers were filming all of this, including us, and many of the locals were filming the cruisers. It was a bit unnerving to say the least. We were told to wait for a few minutes, and then our guides led us from the field with the police stationed along our route.

At the restaurant the cruisers were all discussing what we had heard about the protest. Supposedly the small group of protestors was upset because food had been prepared by all the villages in the area, and we were to be able to sample it. That went against Ramadan, and they were upset. Now, just about everyone of us felt that the organizers would have made sure that no food was served until sundown; however, we also heard that this group was upset with the moderate Regent who is up for re-election next year. This was their chance to create problems for him.

We ate dinner at the restaurant that was the central area for the rally. Tin Soldier joined us, and we even enjoyed some wine. We then returned to the boat and made her ready to leave early the next morning. We were very glad that we had all our clearance papers completed and on board.

At sun rise we pulled the anchor and went out the pass in the reef. Esprit and Tin Soldier were just ahead of us, and there was a mass exodus of boats behind us over the next few hours. Some had planned to leave anyway, but others went ashore early to get their papers and take off. We were sorry that we didn't have time to say goodbye to everyone on shore, especially our young guides, and we were sorry, too, that this situation would hurt Wakatobi with future rallies.

We had no wind so we motored the five hours to Hoga Island. Luckily, we three boats were the first ones there so we were able to pick up mooring balls. Esprit took one, and we rafted up with Tin Soldier on the other. These moorings are better protected from wind and seas than the anchorage is. Hoga is supposed to have some fabulous diving, and we planned to find out.

The next day we all went snorkeling along the reef and saw quite a few fish and some pretty coral. In the evening we joined 18 other cruisers, with kids, to celebrate Jaryd's (Tin Soldier) 14th birthday. It was an excellent meal, and the company was great fun. Jaryd and his friend Jamie from Esprit then stayed ashore in a tent for the evening.

On the 19th we did a dive of the Pinnacle. The visibility was not great, and there were few fish, but we still enjoyed the dive. We went ashore in the afternoon to walk along the beach and stop in at a scientific marine research facility. We were hoping to get our dive tanks filled, but we had no luck with the dive people ashore.

Our last day in Hoga we found another dive site, and this one was exceptional. We ended up down to 120 feet for a short time; however, the best depth was about 90 feet. We came to one spot where the fish were so abundant that we were surrounded by them, and they were all swimming in a large circle above, below, and all around us. It was just spectacular. We also saw so much beautiful coral, especially fan coral, on this dive. It was hard to go back to the dinghy.

We left at 4 o'clock this morning headed up to Bau Bau, which is another stop for Sail Banda. The winds were very light so we had to motor sail the whole way. Luckily, we had a knot of current with us so we were able to arrive by sunset. The festivities begin tomorrow, so we shall see how it goes at this stop.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

August 14, 2010—Our first day at Wangi Wangi in Wakatobi was very busy. We motored through the pass in the reef and anchored with five other boats in the lagoon. As usual, we straightened up the boat and got some rest.

We heard over the radio that there was a parade in the afternoon, and the Sail Banda fleet was asked to attend, so at 1:30 we all met at the restaurant and walked to the soccer field to assemble. We wore our Sail Banda shirts and carried our U.S. flag mounted on the oar from our dinghy. The group consisted of one boat from Canada, two from Australia, and three from the U.S.

We were put in the middle of the other local groups and began our walk around the town. Joining us were students from a private school in town who were studying English, and they acted as guides for us in order to practice their English skills.

All along the way the locals had come out in large numbers to watch the parade. When our group went by, everyone would call out to us and wave. Many asked to have their picture taken with us , and they made sure that our flag was included in the picture. They were so friendly and were enjoying themselves immensely. When we stopped in front of the Regent’s residence, we all saluted, and then we continued on. We ended up walking in a large square pattern through the town.

After returning to the restaurant, we were told that the Regent was so impressed with us that he wanted our group to come to his residence for a lobster dinner that evening. Steve and I were very tired; however, we agreed to join the group. Cars were waiting for us at 6:30, and we were driven to the event. We were given seats in a long row behind the “official” seats. We did not see dinner tables anywhere and sat for two hours before the proceedings began. They call it “rubber time” here.
While we were waiting, we watched young people in beautiful costumes come in and sit in a group to our right. The costumes were quite unusual and were very diverse in style. Finally, the show began. We were all given snack boxes with a spring roll, a piece of cake, and a glass of water—so much for lobster! There were several awards given out by the dignitaries, and when that was done, the dancing began.

The groups came from all over Indonesia to represent the different provinces. They had been together for a week getting to know one another and sharing their different cultures. Each group was called up to perform a traditional dance from their province. It was very interesting and very diverse. One of our favorites was a group dressed in beautiful oriental clothing. The young ladies sang is very high pitched voices and performed the most amazing dance. The body position and posture were all very controlled, and the dance was performed very slowly. The leg and foot work appeared to make it hard to keep one’s balance; however, none of them waivered during the whole performance. It was wonderful to watch.

We enjoyed every one of the dozen or so performances, but around 11:30 all the cruisers decided that we needed to leave. The entertainment was not quite over, but we found a good place to say, “Thank you” to the regent and then slip out. Our cars took us back to the anchorage, and from the boat we could hear the party continuing.

The next day we relaxed in the morning but went ashore to find a bank so that we could exchange some money. We did not have any luck. There are two banks here—one does not exchange money, and the other bank does, but the rates are horrible. Neither of our bank cards would work in the ATM so we got nothing done.

On August 10 Steve returned to the bank and was able to change U.S. dollars to hold us for awhile. We then took two guides and went with Marilyn from sv Tin Soldier to the central market. It had been raining all day so there were large pools of water along the road and most of the paths through the market were wet with puddles. This was a whole new experience, and we all agreed that this was the poorest market we had ever been to. The vendors were all very friendly and polite. We purchased some limes, some red chilies, and peanut clusters, and all were very inexpensive. I got four nice limes for 2,000 rupia or $0.20 U.S.

Ramadan began on August 11 so from 4 a.m. to 6 p.m. there is no eating, drinking alcohol, or smoking in public. Some restaurants close as do some shops, but we could still find places open to buy things that we needed. The hardest thing for us is that the mosque down by the water broadcasts prayers and music five times a day beginning at four in the morning. They use loud speakers, so even with the hatches and ports closed, ear plugs in, and our two fans running, we can still hear the music.

The next day eight of us loaded into two cars and took a tour. We stopped at the Bajo Village. The houses were built over the water on stilts, and then the people would build a stem wall around each house with coral rocks. The first village was very poor; however, we found that once again the people were very friendly and welcoming.
The second stilt village was newer. The houses were separated by water so boats were the only way to get from one house to another. Some of these houses had already begun to build up the stem walls around the perimeter. The ocean water flowed freely in and out with the tide so the water was much cleaner, and there was a nice breeze.

After the village we visited several water caves where the locals go to swim, bathe, and do laundry. These are fresh water springs that fill the caves so the water was very clear. At each one we watched women doing the laundry while the kids played in the water. We also drove up to the top of the hill to get a view of the whole area, and then we finished the tour by stopping to watch women weaving cloth on a loom. The material was beautiful, and I never would have known by looking at it that it was hand woven—it was perfect.

Last night we took Anna, our guide, to the Night Market. There were vegetables and fish available for sale; however, the real treat are all the food vendors that set up booths and sell all sorts of wonderful things to eat. We found donuts, steamed rice, fish squares, and vegetables in a spicy peanut sauce. The food was all delicious and ridiculously inexpensive. The crowds were out, and everyone was enjoying the evening. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and returned to the boat absolutely stuffed.

Today we had a fairly lazy day. We did get some chores done, and I did a load of laundry. Earlier in the week I sent in my sheets and towels to be done by someone in town. I was very pleased when the laundry came back as it was very clean and smelled great. It was just a bit damp so I did have to hang it out a little longer to get it dry enough to put away.

The official festivities for Sail Banda begin this evening. We will attend that event and one tomorrow, and then we plan to head south to Hoga Island in order to do some diving.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Arrival at Wakatobi

August 9, 2010--We left Banda on Thursday morning with light winds and overcast skies. We motored for about an hour until we cleared Run Island, and then we were able to sail. The winds were a nice 15 knots and were aft of the beam, so we had a good point of sail. The seas were a bit confused, which was probably a result of some current, but we were happy with the conditions.

The passage went well with winds from between 15 and 23 knots. We did experience squalls almost every night; however, they did not produce any major rain or wind. On the second night when I came up for watch, there was a vessel off to our starboard. Steve stayed up until we had safely passed the ship. There were still two targets on the radar, which we thought were fishing vessels because they were fairly close to each other. Steve went below and told me to call him up if they presented any problem. When the closest one was about three miles out, the AIS alarm went off. This meant that it was a commercial ship, not a fishing vessel. The AIS system gave me our closest point of approach of about two miles, so I held our course, and the ship passed our starboard.

I thought that we were clear for now, but a few minutes later I spotted lights once again off to starboard. The radar showed that it was the second ship, which was moving in the opposite direction from the first and headed across our bow. The AIS again picked up the ship and showed that it would pass in front of us about two miles off. The AIS also gives information about the vessel such as the name and the size. This ship was almost 1,000 feet long and 160 feet wide--a very large ship. I held our course and watched. I thought it would never get past us, but finally it was clear, and now there were no more targets on the radar screen.

About a 150 miles from Wakatobi Steve noticed a large tree floating in the water, and later we spotted another one. It would not have been good to hit one of these during the night. The wind lightened up a bit in the afternoon so we shook out a reef in order to pick up some speed.

As luck would have it, we arrived at Wakatobi about two hours past sunset. We had received some directions from sv Esprit, who had arrived at noon, so we made our way into the bay. We had expected a fairly deserted island with perhaps a village. What we found were lights all along the shore and fishing huts with lights in the bay. We wove our way in very slowly with Steve on the bow checking with a 1,000,000 candle spot light. When we reached the last way point, nothing made sense to us. We called Esprit to clarify and were told that it was correct. Finally, Ghno called on the VHF radio and told us that he would be out to guide us in. We continued into the bay at a very slow pace, and when we found Ghno, he led us to a mooring ball, which we tied up to for the night. It turned out that the last way point was further out in the bay than Esprit realized--better than too far in the bay.

We thanked Ghno for all his help and then got the boat straightened up a little. We called sv Tin Soldier, who was about two hours behind us, to let them know the situation. We stayed up until they arrived around two in the morning. We finally got to bed at 2:30 and slept soundly until 6:30 the next morning.

In daylight we could clearly see the entrance through the reef into the anchorage, so we left the mooring ball and made our way to the anchorage. There were only six boats so we found a good spot and dropped the anchor in 33 feet of water. This was a nice change from the 160 feet in Banda. We cleaned up the boat and enjoyed a good breakfast and decided to relax for awhile before we went ashore.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

In and Around Banda

August 3, 2010--On Thursday the 29th we relaxed in the morning and then joined sv Tin Soldier and sv Esprit on a tour of a nutmeg plantation. We all got aboard one of the longboats and motored through a pass and over to the village of Lonthoir. As we walked through the village, the people were very friendly, and the children would say hello and then follow us for awhile.

We saw the communal water well where a young boy was dropping his bucket and hauling up water to fill jugs. Next we climbed 150 steps and walked through some more of the village until we were at the plantation. The nutmeg plantations also have almond trees, which shade the nutmeg trees, and cinnamon trees. We met two young girls who were picking up nutmeg nuts from the ground and were told that the price of nutmeg is up, which is good for the local people. They also harvest the almonds and cinnamon.

Our guides, Jufri and Wiwinn, were very informative about the history of the nutmeg trade in Banda. In the 15th century, the Banda Islands supplied all the world's quality nutmeg, which was in great global demand. They traded nutmeg with the Arab, Chinese, Javanese, and Bugis merchants who anxiously waited in line to do business. Then in 1512 the Portuguese arrived, followed by the Dutch in 1599. The VOC or Dutch East India Company played a major role in the area. In 1621, because the Bandanese would not hold to a monopolistic trade agreement, the Dutch carried out the virtual genocide of the Bandanese people by killing any male over 15 years of age. The English gave the Dutch problems for awhile; however, a deal was made (I don't know the exact year) for the Dutch to give the English Manhattan Island in exchange for Run Island in Banda. This gave the Dutch a monopoly in the Spice Islands for the next 200 years.

After the plantation tour we went down the hill to Fort Holandia, which was built in 1619. The walls were about the only thing left of this fort, but it was still very interesting to walk around. One of the locals asked us to sign a guest book, which we all did.

That night we ate a quick meal and then went into town for entertainment, dancing, and an awards ceremony. David, a representative of Sail Indonesia, gave out a prize for First Over the Start Line, Best Dressed Boat, and Best Dressed Crew. We were totally shocked when we won the Best Dressed Boat. The prize was a very nice foul weather jacket. Since it was a size medium, I thought that I would get to wear it; however, it swims on me so Steve has a nice new coat.

There were more local dancers who performed the traditional dances of Banda. They were followed by a young band who performed the AC/DC song, "Shook Me All Night Long." After that we all got up and did a Country and Western line dance to Bandanese music. It was great fun, and we were again fed local treats along with ginger tea, which was delicious. We got back to the boat at midnight and called it a night.

We have been SCUBA diving at three locations here. One was at the lava flow of Gunung Api from the eruption in 1988. The other dives were wall dives at two outer islands. The coral here is spectacular and the fish are abundant. Unfortunately, on our last dive, our underwater camera case came open, and we lost our Cannon camera with some great photos on it.

Yesterday we took time to work on the boat, but today we took a tour of Benteng Belgica, which is a fort that was built in 1611 and gave us a wonderful view of the surrounding islands. The fort was extensively restored in the 1990s and was well worth the visit. We also took a stroll through the streets to look in shops and meet some of the locals.

We have loved our time here in Banda. The people have been very gracious hosts. They have fed us and greeted us with warm smiles and friendly, "Hellos." We are very grateful that we came the extra miles up here to be a part of the Sail Banda celebration. We even skipped going to Ambon in order to stay a while longer. We plan take care of last minute items tomorrow and then leave on August 5 for Wakatobi and the Wakatobi Marine National Park, where should be some more wonderful diving opportunities.

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