Thursday, July 29, 2010

Passage to Banda

July 29, 2010--On July 24, we went ashore for a quick Continental Breakfast given by the sailing club and then returned to the boat to get her ready to go. We decided to hoist all our courtesy flags and yacht club burgees up the back stay, which created a lovely effect. The boat carrying the Rally officials came by very close to the boat, and quite a few people were taking pictures of her.

We had talked about leaving early but then decided to stay, so at 11 o'clock we hoisted sails, sailed over the start line, and headed out to Banda. The winds were light from the stern, and we enjoyed a day and evening of lovely sailing. On Sunday morning the winds began to build, and we picked up our pace. By Monday, the winds were between 25 and 30 knots, and the seas were once again short and steep. We triple reefed the main and later reefed the jib. The good news was that we were making very good time. Tuesday morning, the wind backed off but then a series of squalls came over, and one produced 38 knot gusts. By mid-morning everything was back to normal, and we enjoyed trade-wind sailing for the rest of the time.

We arrived at Banda at 1 o'clock in the morning. The winds were light, and we enjoyed light from the full moon so we entered the bay with no problems. The problem occurred when we looked for a place to anchor because the shore drops off steeply and quickly. After motoring around for 45 minutes and dropping and retrieving the anchor in 125 feet, we ended up in 160 feet of water with 200 feet of chain plus 100 feet of rope rode out. We decided that we would deal with finding a better location in the morning.

We were able to sleep until 7 a.m. when the bosun's whistle from the medical ship anchored next to us sounded. The government has converted a war ship into a medical ship that visits the islands and takes care of the needs of the locals. We got up and began to make the boat presentable for the officials. We notified them on the VHF radio that we had arrived, and around 9 o'clock the Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine officials came aboard to check us in. Everything went very smoothly, and they were very friendly and polite. When they finished, the Customs official asked Steve to come with him to shore and to be sure to bring our boat stamp. Steve took him in our dinghy while I stayed on board. A little later Steve returned and told me that there was no problem, but he had to sign six documents, each of which had about eight copies that also had to be signed and, of course, stamped with our boat stamp. It seemed very important to them to have the boat stamp on all documents.

We quickly got ready to go ashore because there were many events scheduled for the day. We walked into town and arrived at the pavilion where all the festivities were happening. We were told that the two main buildings and the bandstand had just been built for this event. We were shown to chairs under an awning and each given a gift and food. The gift was a memento of the event, and the food was in a small box that included several small but delicious items and a container of water. We then listened to several speeches by national and local officials. When they were done, we were treated to dancers dressed in beautiful native costumes who performed local dances for us.

We returned to the boat just after lunch in order to get a bit more sleep. Don and Ann on sv Harmonie came by to ask us to join them and sv Priscilla for dinner so we got ready for the evening and joined them at the dock at 5:30. We walked through the streets and found a local's home that was also a restaurant. We all ordered our meals from a menu that we could not read, and four of us received our meals but two did not. It all worked out in the end, and Steve and I paid our $45,000 rupia, which was about $5 U.S.

We left to walk around for awhile, and then we headed to Fort Belgica for another dance performance. The fort was built in 1532 by the Dutch. We arrived early and were treated to a guided tour by torchlight up to one of the parapets. The path included dark steps and a ladder to reach the parapet. It was very interesting and fun. We then carefully made our way back to the performance area where we were offered front row seats. "Rubber time" happens here, meaning that things never begin when scheduled; however, things finally got started with the usual speeches by officials. Some dances that evening were performed by men and some by women, and they were all wonderful. The costumes were rich and colorful, and we thoroughly enjoyed it all.

We returned to the boat at midnight and were surprised to be treated to a fireworks display from the fort. With that wonderful end to the day, we crashed!

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Northern Territory/AustralianOutback

July 22, 2010—Last Thursday we took the day off and visited some local sites. We began at the Darwin Museum, which had excellent exhibits including a section on Cyclone Tracy that hit Darwin on December 24, 1974, and just about wiped it off the map.

Next we went to the WWII War Museum. The Japanese bombed Darwin several times, but the first time was the worst with a loss of over 200 lives. As the Japanese swept through the Pacific, the British decided they could not spare any resources to defend Australia. General Douglas MacArthur, however, saw that it was the perfect base for American operations in the Pacific and much of it occurred in the Northern Territories.

The U.S. played a major role here with fighter support, and the museum had photos and films that included the U.S. They also had a Willy’s Jeep and the fuselage of a Spitfire in the collection.

On Friday we left Darwin and drove south. We went through the town of Humpty Doo and arrived at the Jumping Crocs Tour, which is located on the Adelaide River. We boarded a two-tiered tour boat and headed out, and just minutes later the first croc swam out to the boat. Wendy placed a piece of raw pork on a line attached to a pole and dropped it into the water from the upper deck. The croc came to investigate, and Wendy was able to entice the croc to jump up from the water for the meat.

We continued down the river and had five or so additional crocs put on a show for us. The last croc, that was named Bogart, was the oldest (about 70 years old) and the biggest, and even though he was missing three of his four limbs, he still came up out of the water to get his lunch. Obviously, these crocs have learned the routine for eating every day.

At the end of the tour several species of raptors were flying around the boat so Wendy threw some food in the air to get them to fly close to the boat. It was a very interesting and entertaining tour, and we learned a lot about saltwater crocs.

We continued our drive south the Bachelor where we had reservations at the Bachelor Butterfly Resort. This eco resort had seven cottages with a pool. The room was nice, and it had air conditioning—yes!! We decided to relax in the room for the afternoon because Steve had a bad head cold, and we both needed some down time. We went to the restaurant for dinner where I had an excellent lamb dish while Steve enjoyed a Moroccan chicken dish.

The next morning we took off for the Litchfield National Park about 30 minutes away. Our first stop there was to see the Magnetic Termite Mounds. These mounds are very large, and there was a whole field of them with varying sizes of mounds. The area looked like a cemetery with headstones.

From there we drove to Florence Falls. From the car park we walked down 135 steps to the pond at the bottom, where we went for a lovely swim. It was a very busy place, but we really enjoyed the swim in cool, fresh water. We haven’t done much swimming lately because of the crocs, so this was a treat. When we left, we took the footpath out instead of climbing the 135 steps and were treated to a lovely walk through the forest and along the creek that feeds the waterfall.

We then drove a short distance to Buley Rockholes, which are a series of pools in the same creek that feeds Florence Falls. There were many people enjoying the small pools, and some kids were jumping into one of the deeper pools. We sat in one of the shallower pools and relaxed for a few minutes.
Done with our swimming for the day, we drove a little farther and arrived at Tolmer Falls. It was a short walk to the viewing platform where we had a good view of the falls in one direction and a view of the desert plains in the other direction. This waterfall was not as big as Florence Falls, but it was higher.

We returned to the car and began our drive back to Darwin. There are several airstrips along this highway that were used during WWII by the fighter planes so we stopped and took some pictures. We also stopped in Humpty Doo for some lunch. We got back in time to clean up, and then we headed to the Darwin Sailing Club to attend the BBQ for the Indonesia Rally. It was an interesting group of people, and the food was excellent.

These last few days we have been finishing up our chores. Tomorrow we will move from the marina back out to the anchorage. Maneuvering through all the anchored boats will again be a challenge, and there are now quite a few boats anchored in the bay so we may have to look around for a spot.

On Saturday the Rally begins at 11 a.m. for the very serious racers in the group. We will leave either just before or just after the main group. Our sail up to Banda Island will probably take four days if we have decent winds so I will be posting blogs from the ship’s radio once again. I haven’t had good internet in so long that I got carried away with the photos-- I hope you enjoy them.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Around Darwin

July 15, 2010—Our first week in Darwin has been very busy. The first night that we were here, we joined Tin Soldier and Airstream for dinner at the Darwin Sailing Club. The food was excellent, and it was great to catch up with everyone since we had not seen these two boats for a year.

We returned to the boat and more than ready to get a good night’s sleep. It was a bit rough, but we secured the dinghy at the side of the boat and went down below. About 30 minutes later, I went above to check on the dinghy and saw that the waves had become much bigger, and they were really tugging on the dinghy lines so we decided to put her on deck. It was a bit of a struggle with gusts of 30 knots, and now we had our dinghy wheels on, which made it more difficult to pull her aboard. Anyway, we got her all secured, but then we noticed that we were much closer to sv Panache than we liked. We sat in the cockpit for awhile and watched. We also checked our GPS position, which indicated that we had not drug the anchor.

Steve was so tired that I told him to go below to get some sleep while I stayed on anchor watch in the cockpit. About two hours later Neville from Panache called on the radio about our position. We told him that we were keeping an eye on it but that our starter was acting up, which was the truth, so it was difficult for us to move. We agreed to just keep an eye on the situation. At one time we were swinging about one and a half boat lengths in front of Panache. I sat on watch until 3 a.m. when Steve came up to take over until 7:30 in the morning.

It was a very long night and the radio was going for much of the time. John and Renee on sv Scarlett had a boat drag down on them, and it hit their dinghy and their wind steering. That boat had no engine, had lost their anchor and dinghy and were adrift. Renee had to call Darwin Harbor to send out a rescue boat, and then they re-anchored Scarlett. The winds continued to blow between 25 and 30 knots until around 4 o’clock. I don’t think that anyone got much sleep that night.

The next few days were busy working to locate boat parts and do some grocery shopping. On July 9 we decided to move into a marina so that Steve could pull our transmission. We were required to have a Fisheries diver check the bottom of our boat and also put some treatment in our thru hulls. The next day we left for Bay View Marina, which required going up a river with all sorts of boats anchored in the middle of the channel. Entering the marina also required entering a lock. After we were inside the lock, the dock master Trevor closed the lock to the river, filled the lock, and then opened the lock to the marina. It was our first time to do this, and it was very interesting.

We also decided to rent a car because Steve had too much running around to do. That, in addition to buying a cell phone, made life so much easier for him. I kept busy doing laundry and working to clean and clear out any unnecessary items from the boat. As it turned out, we were not able to pull our transmission without taking the boat out of the water--not going to happen, so we will just make due for now. We did, however, decide to stay in the marina so that we have water, power, and laundry.

Darwin has been surprising for us. It is not easy to get boat projects done here, and we are again struggling to find good internet. Our expensive marina does not have any type of internet at all, which means loading up and trying to find one. Most of them area slow and frustrating, but I guess they are better than nothing. That is one of the reasons that I am so far behind on these blogs—the other is that I just didn’t get to it when I should have. I plan to post another blog this week before we leave for Indonesia on July 24.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Arrival in Darwin

July 9, 2010-We are now at anchor in Fanny Bay, which is a few miles from downtown Darwin, Australia. We arrived on Tuesday morning after another challenging passage from Thursday Island.

We left Thursday Island on Thursday-how appropriate-with 20 knots of wind that gave us lovely sailing conditions. There are four other cruisers in the area who are also headed to Darwin so we were part of a radio net every morning and evening to keep track of everyone. We headed out to the Prince of Wales channel and sailed due west.

The conditions remained good for the first two days. The seas were small and the wind was between 18 and 22 knots, and we were quite content. On the third day the conditions began to get worse with the wind and seas picking up. We put a third reef in the mainsail and kept the jib all the way out. By that evening, the wind had picked up to between 25 and 30 knots so we reefed down the jib to keep our speed down. We found ourselves sailing in large, steep seas once again and getting wet all over again.

The fourth day and evening got a little better. It was another very wet ride with waves breaking over the side. One wave hit the aft part of our dodger and knocked a support pole out of its bracket. Steve was able to fix it pretty quickly. I was sitting in the cockpit on watch around 2 a.m. when a large wave broke and the water came pouring through our enclosure and drenched me and the cockpit. I heard it coming but was unable to do much except sit there and brace myself. Steve was not able to sleep at all, and even I had some trouble. The only good news was that the wind generator kept our batteries completely topped off-that is a lot of wind power.

Our fifth day out was better because the wind backed off to around 18 knots and the seas began to settle down. They were still a bit confused; however, the whole situation was much more manageable. Every boat out there with us was experiencing the same conditions, and no one was very happy.

Late in the afternoon we arrived at Cape Don, which would begin our course through a narrow channel that we took because it would reduce the trip by 80 miles. The drawback was that the tides ebb and flood at a pretty good speed so you have to time your passage through to use the tides in your favor.

We had been sailing the whole time, but now the winds had died down to the point that we started our motor. About 30 minutes later the wind picked back up so we turned off the motor and tried to sail again. We didn't have quite enough wind to do well, so we decided to start the motor again. When Steve pushed the button-nothing! He tried three more times before the starter engaged and started the engine. Another boat project to take care of!!!

Well, we worked our way through the channel with no problems. The wind picked up again, but we agreed that we didn't want to turn the engine off and not be able to start it when we got to the anchorage at Darwin since there were about 100 boats anchored there. We continued to motor, and we arrived at the anchorage around 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, July 6. We dropped our anchor and let the boat settle in. It was good to be somewhere where we could stay put for awhile and catch our breath.

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