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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