Sunday, 24 August 2008

Australia at last!

Australia at last!

With the weather window doing its part, it steadily improved as we closed in on Australia. The lures were out and we could taste that first fish! Early on the morning of the 30th June 2008, Melville Island came into sight. I called Jenna up on deck and soon she spotted land. Very excited about having spotted Australia first, she ran off to wake up Dan and tell him. The previous day I had issued a "captains command". The first one to see Australia got 60AUD!  Dan and Jen came to the decision that if one of them saw it first, they would split it 30 / 30AUD between them. A good decision. They were stoked at the thought of having money to spend and excitingly went on to ask what kind of shops there were. Clearly they still had Indonesia in mind. B told them that awaiting us were shopping malls and a whole city of shops. There were other children, English speaking people, restaurants and so on. Daniel focused in on computer games and books, whilst Jenna looked forward to exploring the toy aisles in general!

With spirits now flying, we motor sailed down the NW coast of Melville Island, passing Bathurst Island to our port, and rounding the southern tip, now on a direct line into Darwin across the Beagle Gulf. Unfortunately the SE wind picked up and we had to motor into it. We would not reach Darwin before nightfall, but we were not stressed. We were almost there! As it slowly got dark we were greeted by an unbelievable sunset to our stern. We reached the channel markers at about 8pm and then proceeded down the main channel towards Darwin. Our intended anchorage was Fannie Bay, where we could anchor for the night before checking in with customs and immigration. Entering a foreign anchorage at night, can be a little tricky. Added to this there were many sand bars in the area and the tidal range was 6 meters! With our spot light we slowly made our way between the sand bars and headed in to where we imagined the Fanie Bay Yacht Club to be situated. Finally B picked out a few yacht masts ahead and we made our way towards them. Not taking any chances in the darkness, we finally dropped anchor in about 8 meters of water. Shayile was now secure on Australian ground! We had no idea where we were, but ashore we could see a lot of lights and activity. It looked good. "B cracked a bottle of white wine and we sat in the cockpit enjoying the evening breeze and the lights of Darwin!" (I wish!)

B: Actually, as good as that sounds; it was supposed to be a chilled bottle of red. Sadly I had terrible heartburn and Rob had a headache so the wine stayed in the very empty fridge. As Australia is an island it has very strict laws about what foodstuffs you can bring in. Basically any fresh fruit or vegetables are taboo, also eggs, honey and milk, so we had pancakes and scrambled the last, carefully hoarded eggs. We gobbled up all the remaining fruit except the vast pile of bananas that we had been given just before leaving Luang. We couldn't finish the garlic and onions and ginger as to overdose on these in a small airspace is suicidal! Although we never went hungry, we had all lost weight  and had been living on high carbohydrate and virtually no protein for the last two months. Since we left Bali we had only had 3 chickens, 8 packets of bacon and ham and fish on about 4 occasions. Eggs were used for pancakes or French toast ie shared and the cheese that cost the same as gold per gram had been used more for a visual effect than for a nutritional one. The moral of the story is always to stock up for longer than you think necessary and if you have to pay expensive local prices for tinned tuna well then that's what you have to do. Plus you have to fish yourself if you can't embarrass your husband into doing it and at the end of the day; we were all looking healthy, never mind my bleeding gums and the rash around Jenna’s mouth. There was steak awaiting us in Darwin!

Fannie Bay

Check in time 

At 8.30am the next morning, I called up customs. I was given instructions to proceed to Cullen Bay Marina at 10.30am where we would be met by the officials. Still apprehensive about checking in, we pulled up the anchor and motored across to Cullen Bay, about 2 miles away. We entered the break waters to where the marina lock was situated. With such big tidal ranges and the summer time threat of cyclones, each marina has locks. Just outside the Cullen Bay Marina lock, we pulled up alongside a jetty and tied up. We did a quick tidy up and waited for the officials to arrive. Daniel and Jenna could not resist the temptation to jump of Shayile and run around on the jetty. They needed terra firma! At 10.30 sharp, the entourage of customs, immigration and quarantine officials arrived. I was surprised at how young they were and half of them were women! It was great to see after having been through so many countries where the officials were older men; only! We welcomed them on board Shayile and everyone gathered in the cockpit. I've learned along the way that when you screw up, put your hands in the air and deal with it! I explained to them what had happened and that there were no excuses. We had no visas as I was under the false impression that we could get them on arrival. I had been on the internet and researched quarantine and customs controls. We knew what was allowed in the country and what was not. Everything, except visa requirements! Professionalism prevailed and immediately we could see that things were ok. We had been cut some slack and that there was the possibility of being granted a 1 month tourist visa. With Customs and immigration complete, Quarantine went about going through all our food on board. B had prepared all our food stuffs for inspection, separating them out as per the regulations. All the food not permitted to enter Australia were removed, placed in a large plastic bag and taken away. The quarantine official was a great guy and we spent half an hour discussing the Barra fishing and crab catching techniques. Once all the food goods was removed and all officials left, we remained tied up awaiting the immigration guy to return with our passports. B and I breathed a big sigh of relief. Although we did not have our passports back, complete with visas, it looked positive.

Half an hour later, the immigration official returned with our passports and visa's. We had been granted a 1 month tourist visa, and should we wish to stay longer, we would need to apply for it via the local office. Further to this we were given a letter, stating that we had contravened immigration regulations but thank goodness we weren't fined. Apparently the fact that we were honest and embarrassed about our screw-up and that we had followed all the other entry regulations showed that we were at least partly informed. All I could see was the visas and permission to remain in Australia! We motored out of Cullen Bay marina and headed back to Fannie Bay Yacht Club. Within 2 hours we had re-anchored and legally in Australia! It was great to be here!!

Rob with Customs officials on Shayile 

B: The Customs Officials were so pleasant and efficient that they covered a lot of paperwork and information in a fairly short space of time, plus it was so nice not to have to travel to find some dingy office somewhere. The guy who searched the boat, opening drawers and peering into bilges also teased the kids into a fresh frenzy of tidying their room. When it was over he asked if they liked fireworks....of course we love fireworks! For once our timing was excellent. It was Northern Territory Day and the only day of the year when fireworks are legal, sadly not well timed as it was also the driest time with a very high fire hazard but tonight the skies would light up. There were pontoons and a huge barge moored off Mindil Beach in Fanny Bay. That evening, as we dingied across we saw that they were loaded with firework. Just then a large water police rubber duck with flashing lights came racing over to head us off. We thought we were in huge trouble but the lady(!) driving and her male colleague couldn't have been more helpful, estimating walking times, better places to go ashore etc and wished us a great evening and left.  We motored over to the yacht club beach where we had tried to get lunch earlier in the day, nothing after 2pm, and had settled for the most expensive beers and packets of chips we had ever had but they tasted great. The beach was full of families and kids, fireworks being set up everywhere and people drinking and ordering food with abandon. We settled in and Rob plumped for the T-bone steak at A$ 30 (R240), not cheap but amazing and I had a chicken schnitzel with avocado and mozzarella but amazing and served with big fries and a big starchy salad bar. We piled our plates with fresh green lettuce and red but tasteless tomatoes tossed with dressing, red onions olives and feta cheese!!! But we passed on the potato salad, corn and beetroot salad...too much like tinned food. We ate like Kings and felt stuffed afterwards and realised why so many people around us looked a little overfed. In fact a lot were downright fat but we are in the Land of Plenty. Dan and Jens were so excited by the fireworks and children that they could barely be dragged away for food and decided on bangers and mash, again a very large portion for children but they put it all away. The fireworks were spectacular and people set off huge expensive ones all around. Only once did one fire up into the diners, sending them running for cover but no one was injured that we heard about. What a great evening and a very warm welcome to Darwin, thank you so much. The only downside was that 3 times we had to wander down the beach and drag the dingy further out as the tide plummeted by at least 6 meter's and went out by about 75m. Some of the small yachts anchored close in sat down and rolled onto their side, amazing to see and good exercise to work off our huge meal.

With great food and a full fireworks display greeting Shayile and her crew into Darwin, we knew we were going to enjoy out stay in Australia!!


The Family in Darwin

August 2008 : DarwinAustralia

With Shayile safely anchored off Fannie Bay Yacht Club, we began to settle into the Australian way of life and begin plans for the next few months!

We had arrived in the country which was earmarked as our final destination. Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territories, was to be our base for at least 3 months. Should we decide to sail around to Cairns, we would have to wait for the weather to change and this meant only leaving Darwin in late September or early October.

Speaking to other yachties before getting to Australia, we got mixed views on Darwin and the Northern Territory. It really is very isolated, way up to the north of Australia. The state of the Northern Territory only has about 200 000 people in total, with Darwin’s population some 110 000 people! We could not believe how few people lived up here! With so fewer people there seemed to be less of an impact on the environment and everything around Darwin. Perhaps this is relevant to most of Australia but it came as a surprise as we had never experienced a “city” with so few people! I also got the feeling that people were treading a lot lighter on the environment, and life seemed a lot more organised. We had heard about how regulated Australia was with laws governing every part of daily life but first impressions of life in Darwin told me that this regulated society really has it’s advantages and we immediately felt extremely safe, both on Shayile and ashore whilst walking the streets. With that secure feeling, one immediately relaxes and priorities are changed from preservation of family, property and self to one of freedom to go explore without being threatened, and do what can be done in this wonderful city.

We soon began to enjoy the small city of Darwin and aspects of life in Darwin really began to appeal to us!

Our first real outing was a ride into town by bus, where we walked the city of Darwin, seeing just what was on offer. Having spent 5 months traveling Indonesia, this really was a huge culture shock! That morning, we found a coffee shop and ordered our first cup of coffee and a small bite to eat. Again, the price of goods shocked us. We were paying the equilivant of R24 a cup of coffee. 2 cups of coffee, 2 milkshakes and a small bite to eat amounted to R200!! All of a sudden “wallet constipation” set in and remained with us for many months to come! Sitting alongside us, a couple had just completed their full house breakfast. As they got up to leave I noticed huge quantities of untouched bacon and a few slices of toast were still on their plates! B had to literally hold me back as I launched myself bodily at the plate of leftovers! What a waste and here I was starved of such tasteful foods! We did find Mc Donald’s and there 50c (R3.50) ice creams. These were to be our “special treats” over the coming months.

Indonesian Rally

Each year, around August, the Indonesian yacht rally leaves Darwin, traveling up through Indo into Malaysia and then on to Thailand.  Whilst we were anchored in Fannie Bay, more and more yachts arrived, most of them joining the rally. These yacht rallies are a popular form of cruising. Organisers put together a route, itinerary and then handle all visas and cruising permits. Those yachties wishing to join the rally pay their money and sign up for the experience. With up to 150 yachts setting off together, it is a great adventure for those participating and enjoying the company and security of other yachts. Certainly the social events organised along the way make it a popular experience for all but for cruisers commencing their cruising life, or new to sailing, it is a great confidence builder where experiences and advice can be shared amongst the yachties.

Soon there were 120 yachts all anchored up in Fannie Bay, doing last minute provisioning and repair work and awaiting departure date. The yacht club really became a social gathering point each evening.

At Fannie Bay Yacht Club, new friends were being made. All short term of course as most were on the rally, due to leave later in August! Jenna and Daniel had teamed up with an Australian family who were traveling with their 2 kids. Belinda and Pedro owned Yacht Bonnie and their kids, Moses (Mosey) and Archie their able crew!! Daniel and Jenna forged a friendship with Mosey and Archie and they spent many hours together playing at the yacht club.

One afternoon, B got a call on the radio asking for her assistance on another yacht where someone was injured. We grabbed the first aid kit and shot across in the ducky to where the injured guy was waiting. As I climbed on board the mono hull yacht, the whole cockpit was covered in blood, with a trail leading down through the companionway. Down below, a guy was lying on the floor, with his hand heavily bandaged. Apparently he was hauling up the anchor when it got stuck. On trying to rectify the problem, he jammed a few fingers in the winch! Not a pretty sight and 2 of his fingers were in a bad way. As B began work, he confidently told B to do whatever it takes to sort his fingers out and that he “was not American”, implying there would be no pending law suits! B sorted him out as best she could but the guy needed serious attention, perhaps even surgery. (We later learned that he did infact have major surgery to his fingers and hand with pins and plastic surgery.)

On the 28th August, the Indonesian rally set sail from Darwin destined for Kupang, Indonesia. What a sight to see some 120 yachts sailing out of Fannie Bay. With them gone, the yacht club seemed quite deserted! It was sad to see many of the friends we had made, sail off into the sunset. Usually we would be out there with them!

Kicking around in Darwin

With the rally now gone, Fannie Bay looked quite deserted! Besides a few other yachts waiting to sail east, it was quite empty. However we had work to do and the most important one was to get Shayile sorted out and listed with yacht brokers. However we first needed “wheels.” I took Daniel and my bicycles off Shayile and started to kick some life into them. Daniel’s we managed to resuscitate but mine went straight into the bin! Totally seized up! We all then headed into town looking for a few second hand bikes. We found B and I some decent mountain bikes but Jenna had to wait a while. However it was a week later when I walked into one of the Salvo Stores (Charity Shop) and found one for Jenna. 8 Aussie dollars later, some minor repairs and Jens had wheels! It was great as we were all now able to cycle around Darwin, using the cycle tracks where ever possible. The family was mobile!

Yes, another wonderful thing about Darwin is its cycle paths. Virtually every road as a cycle path running alongside it; completely safe and away from all traffic. It’s wonderful to have such facilities and with that, we were able to ride the area as a family, checking out the sights and scenes of Darwin.

Not long after we arrived in Darwin, we were all out walking the neighbourhood. (No bikes as yet!) Close to the yacht club, we came across an enclosed area where a family in a camper van was braai-ing. (Called a “barbi” in Australia!) First impressions were, a fire set up and facilities to braai. On closer inspection, we got to see what kind of facilities is really available to the Australian public and tourists passing through. It was a barbi kiosk! All you do is pull up; hit the switch under the cooker and on comes the gas. Soon the plates are heated and within minutes, you are cooking up a storm. Better still, it is all for free and the cherry on the top – they are cleaned and serviced by the local municipality! Both B and I went into a temporary state of shock! They worked, it was for free, and it was not abused and never stolen! How was that!! It was not long before we had a good few meals at one of the many braai facilities in and around Darwin.


Preparing Shayile for sale

With the kids now booked back into school in South Africa in January 2009, we could enjoy up to 6 months seeing and experiencing Australia. Unfortunately this did mean now parting with our beloved Yacht Shayile! We needed to put her on the market and hopefully sell her to a couple, or family, that would appreciate her karma and presence! We always felt she was “alive” and now part of the family. Our home, our protector and sanctuary for the past 3 years. It would be a sad day when we finally parted company!  However I needed to get cracking with listing her and preparing her for a sale.

Between socialising and exploring Darwin, we began our final maintenance chores on Shayile, preparing her for the sale. Fortunately there was nothing too major that needed repairing, for a change! Each day I ticked off another task as I worked my way through the jobs. B was kept busy with school work, boat chores and preparing meals for the family. As soon as I had completed the majority of the tasks, I listed Shayile, both through agents and directly, by means of the internet. It was either sell Shayile in Darwin, or sail the 3000 miles around to the East Coast of Australia. B was not at all keen and rightly so! It would be a 4 to 6 week slog, pounding into the now strong SE trade winds again! B had set her mind on selling Shayile in Darwin and the family over landing to Cairns or Brisbane.

Tim and Sandy

With Shayile now listed and officially “For Sale”, we received our first phone call from an agent telling us that a guy in Darwin was interested in looking at Shayile. I made contact with the potential buyer, Tim Baldwin, and we teed up an appointment for him and his wife Sandy, to come see Shayile. Being our first potential buyer, we gave Shayile a good cleaning. Once done, she looked her best in 3 ½ years! Sparkling and proud as ever!

When Tim arrived at the yacht club, I went ashore on the rubber duck to pick him up. Waiting for me on the beach were Tim and Sandy, laden with goodies! An introduction and soon we were back on Shayile, about to show our first potential buyers around Shayile. Sandy had done a bit of “research” and had googled our home page. She was able to get quite a bit of info on Shayile, her adventures and our family! Part of the goodies she had brought along was sweets for the kids and a few local newspapers for us to read! Having spent an hour on Shayile, checking her out and asking all the relevant questions associated with buying a boat, we settled in with an afternoon drink and caught up socially. Tim was an ex politician who had spent 9 years as a minister in the local Northern Territory government. Having retired from politics Tim, a qualified electrician, joined a good mate of his, Milan, in an electrical business in Darwin. Sandy worked with Tim and Milan and “held the fort”, handling administrative tasks for the business. We immediately took to Tim and Sandy and a friendship was forged from day one. Their generosity was evident from day one. When Sandy asked as to whether we had seen much of Darwin, and Belinda replied no, she kindly offered us her car there and then! We had only just met and already we had a car on offer!

A few days later Tim returned to Shayile for a second visit. Accompanying him was his partner Milan and his son Warrick. Tim really took a fancy to Shayile and I could see he really wanted her. Unfortunately they had to sell their house before a deal could be done and so, pending a sale, Shayile remained on the market.

This did not deter Tim from joining me on Shayile from time to time and assisting me with minor repairs. Being an electrician and overall great handyman, he fixed a number of issues I had that needed fixing, and all for nothing! It was at this time that Tim lent us his bakkie. They had a company bakkie (Ute) that was not being used and kindly offered it to us to use. We must have had that bakkie for 2 months in total! What a bonus for us as we could now get around Darwin, sight seeing and picking up parts for Shayile when required. “Murphy” struck on the first week of us having the vehicle. One night a window was broken and, although we feared the radio stolen, everything was still there, minus one window of course. Nothing to Tim. He arranged a new one and even fitted it for me. Further to this I never even paid him!

We were invited into their home where Daniel and Jenna experienced their first taste of “home life” and pets. They fell in love with their pool, dogs, bird and home on terra firma and could not wait for the next visit to Tim and Sandy’s home!

Their generosity was astounding and we will never be able to repay Tim and Sandy for inviting us into their lives and their kind generosity.

Over the next few weeks we had quite a few potential buyers visiting Shayile and giving her the once over. With no takers, we went about our lives in Darwin, seeing and experiencing the sights and at the same time being on standby for a potential buyer!

Cruising in and around Darwin

Whilst Shayile was now on the market, we could not really leave Darwin for an extended period, however we did venture out on quite a few fishing trips! Anchored in Darwin were Cameron and Julie on the yacht Dreamweaver. We got to know them and soon we were planning a trip cruising west of Darwin down to some islands and a bay situated about 40 miles away.

Our first trip out was for 2 weeks or so. We left Darwin and spent the day sailing down to a bay called …………. The area west of Darwin is littered with bays, rivers and islands. It is a fisherman’s dream with virtually every outing, a fish is guaranteed!

That afternoon, we anchored up and I went off flyfishing, looking for that ever elusive mythical fish called a Baramundi! No luck but a stunning afternoon, trawling and flyfishing the reefs and sand banks.

Next day was a short hop down to ……. Where we joined Cam and Julie. For the next week we travelled together, socializing on each others boat and exploring the inlets and swamp areas around B…. Bay. Each night, we put outr the crab pots but success was only in the form of small mud crabs. Nothing worthwhile for the pot.

The highlight of the trip was Bare Sands, an island used many years ago as a target range for aircraft and battle ships. Entering the anchorage proved tricky with a very shallow sand bar at the entrance. We even had to wait for the tride to rise before we made our way into the anchorage, avoiding banks and reefs. As we entered a swirl in the water caught my attention and I told B to drop a lure over the side. No sooner had she released the lure, the line went tight and B was on to a big fish! Whilst I steered us into the anchorage, B fought, and landed, a huge Queenfish! Back in business for a dinner of fresh fish. We spend 3 days exploring the island and the surrounding area. I fished when ever possible whilst B and the kids either went ashore to play or kept themselves busy on Shayile.

A key attraction on Bare Sands islands is the turtles which come ashore during the season and lay their eggs. Our objective was to see the display in person.

We went ashore each night looking for the turtles but no luck. In the morning, we found the tracks. Frustrated, we returned the following night. Finally we got it right and we were rewarded with the sight of 3 or 4 turtles coming out of the sea and making teir way up to the dunes to lay their eggs. It was a long process and we all sat around the turtle as she got busy digging a hole in which to lay her eggs. We were all impressed with the amount of sand she removed with each “shovel” of her front and back legs! Once the hole was dug, she laid about 40 eggs and then got busy covering them up. With that, back to the ocean and out to sea. Apparently each female will return 3 or 4 times and lay a batch of eggs over a week or 2.

It was very special to be able to witness this ritual and especially rewarding for Daniel nd Jenna. One night whilst out looking for turtles, I felt a crab run over my foot! Shinin down with my torch I discovered a baby turtle was waddling its way down towards the ocean! A real brave heart who continued his waddling motion even whilst in our hands. We placed him back down and he immediately set off towards the ocean. (I think it was a he!)

After turtle watching, fishing and socializing with Cam and Julie, we sailed back to Darwin. 

Our territory Tour

Although doing quite a bit on Shayile to ensure she was all ready for a possible sale, we spend time in and around Darwin. Tim lent us his pick-up and again, we had wheels with which to explore Darwin and pick up parts for Shayile.

Keen to explore a bit of the Dawins surrounding areas, we visited ………….. and later spend an enjoyable day with Tims dad on his smallholding situated close to Kakadoo National Park and the Queen Mary river. He was an interesting chap who had lived a full life in the Australian outbacks, hunting buffalo and crocodiles. His outlook on life and philosopies were extraordinary. Here was a 28 year old man caught in an 81 year old body. What amazed me was he was still planning his future for the next 20 years, telling me about how he was going to “change things out here”, and other strange cultural cross religious gaherings he had planned for the solar equinoxes! Truly incredible and a personalty one gets to meet all too infrequently!

Shayile up for sale

With most of the running repairs now completed, and Shayile looking really good, we officially put her on the market. I contacted a few brokers and listed her myself on the net. With the Indonesian rally over and having done quite a bit of cruising in and around Darwin, it was time to “test the waters”. 

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Shayile almost lost! And leaving Indonesia

Shayile almost lost!

Throughout the day the wind increased, and even in the protected bay, we received gusts of up to 30 knots. It was blowing out at sea! That night it did not stop and B and I went to bed rather apprehensive! I could not sleep as I began to feel the first effects of a ground swell developing. From the increased winds over the past 24 hours, the swell had picked up out at sea and was now wrapping around the point and rolling into the bay. At 2am, we both got up and sat in the saloon, glued to the instruments and, in particular, the depth gauge. There was nothing we could do but sit it out, vowing to leave the anchorage at first light. Outside it was pitch black. With our hand held beam light, we were able to shine on the shoreline and reef every once in a while. Unfortunately the swell picked up further and soon Shayile was starting to lunge forward as each swell went under her, pushing her towards the reef. I started the engines to ensure they were ready to move at any moment! Anxious we sat and waited, hoping the dawn would arrive before we needed to take any action. This was not to happen.

At about 3am a big swell came through and we watched our depth gauge go from 40 meters, to 15 meters, to 7 meters, to 3 meters!! Shayile was being pushed onto the shelf!! B pulled up the slack on stern line then ran for the spot light and I jammed the engines into reverse, doing all I could to back her off the ledge. B was shining the light over the side shouting, "We're over the reef Rob. Get us off, reverse!!" With the engines in full reverse and the depth gauge shallow alarm going off continuously, we were going no where. I dashed up front to discover the anchor chain was snaggered somewhere below Shayile, not allowing us to back off the reef. With Shayile being pitched backwards and forwards, I was just waiting for that terrifying feeling below our feet as she touched reef and rock and began ripping her bottom to shreds!  I shouted to B to release more anchor chain whilst I reversed! She did and with chain pouring off the front, I was able to reverse and soon Shayile entered 20 meters of water. We were now just off the ledge but still way too close for comfort!

We were off the reef, but not out of danger. Being pitched about dangerously close to the reef, we were still in trouble and immediately the 2 of us went into "evacuation mode". Preparing for the worst, we went about grabbing what was needed should we need to abandoned ship. I grabbed the passports, computers, radios, flares, computer back up system and a few other things. I also got the life jackets out. B grabbed warm clothes for us all, water and small amounts of food. She took down the IPERB, whilst I put the remaining fuel into the ducky. We worked as fast as possible, going about the task as calmly as possible, at the same time casting an eye on the depth gauge, waiting for the alarm to go off again! With preparations to abandoned done, we began plans on how to get out of the situation. No sooner had we started discussing it, Shayile was back on the reef, the alarm screaming at us! This time we were sideways on! Again I put the engines in reverse but again we were held tight, now with 2 anchor chains snaggered! Having discussed it, B made a call to drop all anchor lines. It was the right call. We needed to get the hell off the reef and out of the bay! Careful not to snag any lines in the propellers, which would have been disastrous, we cast off the anchor lines and released the anchor windlass, allowing all the chain to run off over the bows of Shayile and into the deep water below. Still reversing, we clawed our way off the reef again and back into deep water, I spun her around and headed out into the bay! We were now without any anchors, but Shayile was safe and, more importantly, so were we! I could hardly swallow as my mouth was bone dry! We had come so close to losing Shayile! Feeling quite naked with no anchors on board, we motored up and down outside the bay for 90 mins until it got light and then, despite being exhausted we would try make an effort to retrieve the anchors....if possible!

B: It was amazing that the anchors that had made us feel so safe and secure were what almost caused us to lose everything. I can honestly say that if we weren't both awake when the chain snagged we would have lost Shayile. We worked really hard and managed to communicate well under extreme stress but it was terrifying. My mouth was so dry that it was hard to talk, never mind scream over the howling wind. Twice I scooped day-old rain water, usually used for laundry, up out of a bucket and into my mouth, just so that I could talk! My biggest concern was if we fouled the props we would be powerless and would grind up over the reef. At one stage, Rob queried if we should wake the children and put them into life jackets. I refused as I thought it would be too traumatic for them and we really didn't have time to keep them calm and hold and slip ropes and keep tabs on what was going on. We were close enough to the shore to swim but the thought of climbing the sharp, jagged volcanic rocks leaves me cold, even now.

B and I just stood in the cockpit going over the situation again and again. We had not picked the best spot to anchor, but it was all we had. Besides Romang, 120 hard won miles away, all anchorages in the area were off ledges. Finding one would be a nightmare. We were well anchored, but the developing swell as a result of the wind and possible tide changes, had compromised our position. Although the SE wind was holding us off, the increase in the size of the swell wrapping around the point and entering the bay, had literally lifted us up and dumped us on the ledge. With the anchors snagged below us, we could neither go forward or backwards! We had done the right thing and now we just had to salvage what we could. 2 hours later it began to get light and with sufficient light, I woke up Daniel. The plan was for Daniel and me to go and try salvage the anchors whilst B stayed on Shayile, motoring up and down, waiting for us to return. Young Daniel was great and, although complaining about the cold, we managed to drop the duck in a big swell and motor off towards the rocky coast. There was no way Daniel would be able to drive the ducky up to the rocks whilst I jumped off. It was just too dangerous. He had to go! I told him what to do and then edged the ducky up to the jaggered cliff face. Timed correctly, he jumped off and scrambled up over the thorny bushes and sharp rocks towards the anchor. Heaving, he lifted it up and virtually just dropped it off the cliff face into the sea. To climb back down was too dangerous so I shouted to him "jump into the sea!" Realizing he had no other option, he did, and I motored across to him and pulled him on board. He was freezing cold but had done the job! I was so proud of how maturely he behaved under such dangerous conditions. I then pulled the anchor up by hand. We now had our Bruce anchor back and all the line! Next I went to where the secondary anchor was positioned and, with Daniel driving the duck; I jumped over the side and began looking for it. Finding it, I detached the anchor from the chain and using a rope, hauled it on to the duck. We now had 2 anchors. The primary anchor was not where we had dropped it and although part of the chain was visible, it had disappeared over the ledge down to where it was snagged. We returned to Shayile, relieved to have 2 anchors and all the rope rode back on board. All we could do now was return in a few days time, where the waves and wind had calmed down and retrieve the anchor and chains. 

B: My relief at seeing Daniel throw the anchor down and Rob retrieve it was indescribable....a boat with no anchor is like a car with no brakes, maybe worse. If we had to just sail we would have to go backwards and our eastward progress had been so difficult. I was so proud of Dan. Jenna was still soundly asleep... luckily. My Darling Husband was a star, he was so tired that his eyes were black and sunken and he still jumped into cold water and dug about in the coral to save the day. I did remind him that as much as I loved him, this adventure was getting a little too adventurous for my liking! That said we were so happy to still be safe and undamaged and that the children would not have to witness Shayile breaking up on the rocks and all our possessions floating in the wash. I had even planned to take the closed cell foam seat cushions from the cockpit as the rocks were too sharp to sit on! The financial loss of the chain was so small compared to losing the whole craft that we didn't even care if we never saw the chain ever again.

Our guide to the safety at Uhak - William

As we were lifting the ducky we heard an engine, a fishing boat loomed out of the morning gloom. We waved them over and after a garbled conversation about a safe anchorage we motioned one of the guys aboard. He was thrilled but later we realized he thought it was just for a visit! With him on board, we motored out of the bay, not having any idea as to where we were heading. The fisherman’s name was William and, although he spoke very little English, we managed to communicate. B fired up 3 great cups of coffee and we followed William’s directions back down the coast to the island of Luang, about 3 miles away.
Now 3 weeks over our check-out date, and still in Indonesia, I was worried about the consequences of being caught, possibly by the navy. We were now "pushing our luck" a bit. Having said that, we did not want to be in Indonesia. Australia was calling and all we wanted was to get there but the weather was holding us back, not giving us that window to head towards the Tanimbar Islands, or south towards Darwin. An hour later we drew level with a beautiful but barren looking high, volcanic island. We had passed it on the way through but it was surrounded by a large, very shallow reef and looked quite impossible to enter. However, enter local knowledge!

Luang village with the church in the foreground

Pulau Luang

Running parallel with the island of Luang with its fringe reef of 1 mile surrounding it, B and I wondered just where this guy was taking us. Local knowledge is a wonderful thing and at a given point, he told me to swing in between two sharp rocky outcrops and go across the reef. Now committed, I did and with B and a very enthusiastic William up front watching for bommies, we crossed onto the reef and proceeded in towards the island of Luang. At times it looked shallow, frightfully shallow, and B kept asking me how our depth was going. It all looked good my side and showed up as 4 -7 meters deep. B could not relax and for half an hour we made our way over the reef towards the protection of Luang. Up ahead I could make out a village with a big church evident in the center of the village. We made our way across towards the village and about 200 meters out, William told us to drop anchor. Manually, I picked up the Bruce anchor with its rode and tossed it off the front. We were over sand! We were off a beach! Behind us extending out for some 5 miles was the outer reef with waves crashing onto it. We were now in its protection. The wind was still blowing over 30 knots but the sea was flat and we were anchored over sand in 3 meters of water!! Such relief at such a time is hard to explain. Although exhausted and emotionally drained, we were now safe. I took William ashore, paid him for assisting us and told him we would see him later. B and I needed to sleep!

Rob & William

Next day was spent on Shayile. We had many visitors popping in to see us, one of them William and another guy by the name of Leo. William began to bug us a bit as he wanted everything! Each time he came out, he would want a mask for diving, then my sunglasses, then shoes! It was very irritating but I managed to put him off. However young Leo seemed a lot more pleasant and spoke a fair amount of English. He asked for nothing but just wanted to help us in any way. We liked him and the way he respected our time and did not harass us for anything! He told us an interesting story on one of his "fishing trips" to Australia. Apparently local divers from these islands regularly go on boats to Australia to poach fish, lobster and shark fins. They are also caught regularly by the Australian Coast Guard. Young Leo and his fellow "fishermen" were nabbed and their boat confiscated. It was later burnt and they were jailed. Sadly Australian jails offer a higher standard of living than most Indo homes so Leo and team didn't seem to upset by being incarcerated. He explained to us that they even get fruit in jail and "spring mattress"! "Indonesia jail very bad, Australia jail very good" he proudly told us!

We spent the day, between visits, cleaning up and organizing Shayile. That night, the tide went out and Shayile sat down on the sand for a couple of hours but it was better than sitting on a reef. We realized that our depth gauge was definitely malfunctioning, needing re-calibrating and we had been in much shallower depths than we though. B was vindicated in saying that it was much shallower than the depth gauge had shown as we had crossed the shallow atoll at a spring low tide.

B: I felt completely drained for 2 days and spent as much time in bed as possible, usually holding very tightly onto one or both children. I had awful dreams, even while awake as I played out the possible end scenarios. I spent lots of time thanking God for keeping us safe and for giving us the strength and calm when I had asked for it the night before. The loss of an expensive, un-insured boat would have been a small price to pay for the safety of our family. After explaining everything that happened to Daniel and Jenna, they queried what we had packed to leave with. Dan was pleased with the snacks and canned Coke but they both asked about their Cuddlies, had I packed their favourite soft toys? No, I hadn't. That realization sent me off into a huge sobbing cry.... they have so few possessions, all of which are here on the boat and we could have lost it all and it would have been an awful end to a wonderful adventure. We wouldn't have died, the local villagers would have rescued us at some time during the morning, but we would have had a nasty time getting back to an airport and would have flown home with no luggage!

Local children tied up behind Shayile

Visiting the village on Luang

Next day Daniel and I went ashore as I needed to introduce myself to the village elder or chief. We were met at the small jetty by half the village! As we tied up, they all gathered around with more and more arriving! We walked off towards the village and met up with William. He took us and introduced us to 2 older men. It was difficult to try work out just who they were, but it was later established that the one guy was a "businessman" and the other a retired army officer. There was no sign of any "chief"; perhaps there was not such a figure head at this village. (We later learned that he was “out of town”) With the population in tow, we were taken to a modest house and ushered into the living room. There we sat down with everyone. A few ladies came out and together we all exchanged pleasantries, doing our best to communicate. It usually consisted of names, where we were from, where were we going, and so on. Everyone was very friendly and over a few homemade biscuits, we got to know each other. I asked if we could see the church and, eager to show us, they agreed and off we all went again. The church was big, complete with bell tower and huge front doors. Inside, I was taken by surprise of what was called the altar. In front of me, up on the stage, was this enormous structure made up of 2 fish! This massive Grouper had its mouth open, with access through the back to the pulpit standing between its teeth!! Incredible stuff! The church accommodated about 200 people complete with choir balcony and a mezzanine type floor. Besides this, it was very bare of Christian artifacts associated with churches as we know them.

The church with the “fish” altar

After a few photos and a bit of video footage, (I needed to record the fish!) we took a walk around the village followed by the entourage of kids and adults, all eager to touch us and watch our every movement! Again, it was a very neat and well laid out village compared with the squalor of, say, Maumere! Having said that, it was a poor village with no one standing out as having considerably more than anyone else. Besides the church, there was no sign of any money circulating on the island. These were a simple subsistence people, living primarily off the sea. With a very arid and rocky landscape, crop farming was limited to a very small area and certainly not enough to support the small population. Once finished with our tour of the village, we returned to Shayile.

Unfortunately visits to Shayile became a hit! Every few hours another sampan would pull up and tie on. However by now, we were wise to their advancements and politely refused most any access onto Shayile. Those like William and Leo came aboard for a while, but we had to limit the visitors as everyone wanted to climb on board. With "visiting hours" greatly reduced, we were able to carry on with our lives on Shayile. B was still a bit shaken and not yet keen to go visit the village, so she remained aboard, enjoying her time relaxing and carrying on with "Shayile work".

Typical house in Luang village

B: I don't recall much time spent relaxing.....especially as I had to conjure meals out of the strangest leftover ingredients....which was why they were left over! But we did fine on the fruit we got in Romang, especially the lemung or pale pink grapefruit and lots of pancakes, breakfast or dinner and even powdered-milk custard slices on cream crackers were known to pass as supper. Luckily the children had learnt to love rice in the time we have spent in the East as fried rice with a bit of this and that and 'maybe you didn't notice there was absolutely no meat in there' was always well received. I did spent days on end on Shayile but I refused to lose anything to petty theft so close to the end of the trip and there were always people paddling silently up to the back of the boat so I remained on Shayile to 'keep guard'.

"Officials" arrive on Shayile

The wind continued to howl from the south east, but with the sheltered anchorage, all was well. Until we had our next visitors! Early one morning, I awoke to Daniel saying there was a boat pulling up alongside Shayile. I got up, put on some clothes and went upstairs. There, at the doorway, was a young, good-looking Indonesian about to step inside! I was furious and, putting my hand on his chest, told him "Get out! This is not you home! Why do you enter our home?" He backed off to where his 2 companions were now sitting in the cockpit. He looked rather embarrassed and apologized. I had had it with these guys just invading our space as and when they wanted to, stepping into our house without knocking or asking!! Being on board was bad enough, but stepping into our saloon was unacceptable! Once we all settled down, he introduced himself as Jimmy, a member of the military (complete with dog tags around the neck!) and that the elder gentleman with him was "an official". After strained introductions, he asked to see our passports. I went downstairs to get the passports and explained to B, how after having hundreds of un-invited visitors on board Shayile, the one I get mad with is in the military! I took the passports and handed them over. After having examined the passports for about 5 minutes, I could see "concerned" expressions on their faces. Clearly they had focused in on the 2nd June checkout date and it was now the 24th June! "Military man Jimmy" spoke quite a bit of English and I went about explaining the situation, the weather and our plans to head for Australia. With Jimmy interpreting, the message was passed on. I was then told that I needed to bring Shayile around to the other side of the island, where there was another village and more "officials". I flatly refused saying I was happy this side, with protection from the wind and an established relationship with the local villagers. It was not a pleasant meeting and eventually they left, not happy with my response to them on wanting us to move. (At this stage I must note that they must have had my anchor and chain and wanted me on their "turf" to start negotiations!) I now started to stress a bit about the possible implications. Were these guys for real? Why did they want us on their side of the island? The military? Possibly other officials involved in immigration? Sleep would not be easy that night.

Dan, always required in a picture

Augustina and Shirly were regular visitors on Shayile

Conflict on Luang!

Later in the afternoon, I decided to take Daniel and Jenna for a run around at the village. We motored ashore and were soon met by the Shayile Fan Club. We took off along the beach and played about. Soon the retired army man invited us into his house, surrounded by about 50 villages! We all sat about in his house and, as no one spoke English, we were all stared at and poor Jenna was touched, especially her hair! With that visit finally over, we walked back towards the jetty and our ducky. On route I was confronted by a very aggressive man, the same "business man" George, who had taken us around the village. George called me across, waving his hands, raising his voice and making a big scene for all to see. I was completely stunned by his behavior! From churchman, showing me his wonderful creation to Mike Tyson at a bout weigh in. He shouted and went on about "Passports!! Need passports!! Now!! Now!!" Gesturing to him I said I would go get them, but he continued with his aggressive motions. Now we were in trouble! What was going on? From this peaceful villager, to raw aggression, and the need to see our passports. All the villages seemed to be cowering away and not one approached. I even tried to ask Mr Retired Army Officer" what was going on but he just looked away, saddened by the whole scene. He did say Mr Businessman was "Security"! What the hell was "security"?

We returned to Shayile and I grabbed the passports, telling B that something was going down and it did not look good! I returned to the village, with Daniel and Jenna, and proceeded to the house where "Mike Tyson" was waiting. He ushered me inside and closed the doors, and even the windows. (This was to keep the onlookers out, but certainly not a good feeling) I produced the passports and, taking out a small note book, he began writing down all our details. A young lady was brought in to do a bit of translating but her English was very poor. I kept asking for Leo who spoke English a lot better, but no luck. Although difficult to outline the details of the discussion. it was established that, on hearing that the villagers over the hill (Luang Timor) wanted us their side, this village became angry. They then suspected that we wanted to leave! When I finally got the message across to them that we had no intentions of leaving and wanted to remain anchored off their village, the mood changed 180 degrees!  They WANTED us their side, for whatever reason. I reconfirmed my decision and smiles broke out all round. With the situation now "understood" they were happy and even gave me a packet of biscuits, perhaps embarrassed at the way they had behaved.

Outside however it was a different story with a few of the younger ones where many of them were quite militant. William, looking very stern, walked with me saying, "We fight, I kill! Timor no good!" Finger across the throat and crosses on the temple, it was all aggression, and it was aimed at Luang Timor. However it did not make me feel any easier and I returned to Shayile not knowing what was going on and anxious about the pending civil unrest about to go down. On Shayile, I told B that we should leave in the morning. Things were getting out of hand with a faction fight brewing and our passports being scrutinised by "officials".

Entrance to Luang village 

Time to leave Luang

Next morning, with the weather looking reasonable, we decided to head on. Although we got Aussie weather forecasts daily, there was no indication as to how long the weather was going to remain unstable and with no 3 to 6 days forecasts, it was difficult to make plans. I quickly went ashore and told the powers that be that we were leaving for Australia. I did say that, if the weather got bad, we would return to their village. They all seemed happy with our decision and within an hour they were waving us on our way. I had asked Leo to accompany us and assist with retrieving the anchor and chain. He readily accepted and by 9am, we were motoring out of Luang, on our way back to Kalapa.

At Kalapa, just off the reef where we had anchored, I lowered the ducky and Leo and I motored towards the reef whilst B and the kids waited on Shayile. At the reef, I dived over and began searching for the anchor and chains. However they were gone! Clearly they had been removed by local fishermen. Pissed off that I had not returned earlier and tried to retrieve them, we returned to Shayile. I asked Leo if he perhaps had any idea as to who might have them. He immediately pointed towards Luang Timor! (Did he know something?) I was convinced the village on Sermata had it, but Leo adamantly pointed towards Luang Timor. Resigned to the fact that the anchor and chain was gone, we headed across to Sermata where we were going to drop Leo off. He would hitch a ride back to Luang on a local fishing boat. When I took him ashore, we asked a few local villages on a sampan, if they knew the where abouts of our anchor and chain. The reply was a firm no. I gave Leo money for the return trip to Luang, along with a fishing rod, and dropped him off on the beach. He was a good guy and had been a friend whilst we had been at Luang. As I was on my way back to Shayile, I was called across by the same fishermen on the sampan and was confidently told that they had our anchor and chain! One jumped into the dingy and directed me towards the village. Why the sudden change? Now they tell me they have it? He told me we needed to go ashore and visit his brother at his house. I smelt a dirty big rat! At the shore I told him to get out and, if my anchor was there, they must bring it out to Shayile. I was not going ashore and I was not entering into negotiations. I returned to Shayile and, suffice to say they did not bring the anchor out. There was no way they had our equipment and all they wanted was for me to go ashore. We motored away from Sermata and put up the sails. Whoever had the anchor and chain could keep it. We wanted to get to the Tanimbar Islands or, better still, Australia!

It was not to be! As we got closer to the end of Sermata, (the eastern side) the wind picked up straight out of the south east, and the sea picked up. Doing everything, we changed course and tried to pick an angle on the wind where we could make progress in the right direction, as well as be comfortable into a big sea. 2 hours of pounding into 30 knot winds and going in the wrong direction, we decided to call it a day and return to the shelter of Luang. We had no idea for how long these conditions would last and we would be very uncomfortable, going nowhere at 2 knots!! We turned and ran with the wind and weather. As we ran comfortably down wind, I commented to B that this is what we should be doing! Running with the weather! It was a great sail and for the next 2 hours the water swished on by as Shayile rose and fell with each swell, riding them without a vibration or a slam. It was bliss!

Leo and Rob

Back at Luang - the anchor saga!

We arrived back at Luang that evening, to be greeted by Leo. He had hitched a ride back from Sermata and joined us on Shayile with his brother and a friend. He kept telling us "No good, weather no good, must wait 3 days!" B and I just looked at each other, resigning ourselves to another few days stay at Luang. We just hoped that the "civil unrest" between the 2 villages had calmed down and that we could just be left in peace out at anchor.

First thing next morning, we had our first visitors. Military Man Jimmy was back with 2 of his side kicks. This time there was no talk about passports, but about our anchor chain! The story passed on to us was that a certain "Peter the fisherman" had our equipment. Not showing too much interest, I thanked him for the information and asked if he, (Peter) was willing to sell it back to me. Considering he had gone out there and retrieved the equipment, he was entitled to compensation. I had no problem with this and understood that money would need to change hands. Jimmy told me that Peter wanted 1 million Rupee (R1000) for the return of our anchor and chain. Not having that kind of Rupee on me, and only a few large US $ bills, I had to offer 100USD. The price was provisionally accepted. With a price set, Jimmy said he would return in the morning and let me know what the answer was. However he kept on telling us that we had to stay until Sunday? Why he wanted us to stay, I had no idea, but I suspected the anchor was not with him! We went off to bed that evening, not entirely confident that our equipment would be returned. I just did not like the "feel" of it.

Landscaped water garden – Luang village

Next morning Jimmy was back. However there was a complication. As he climbed on board Shayile, I could see there was a problem, as he looked kind of bleak. Things had changed and the good fisherman Peter (not related to Peter from the Sea of Galilee) now wanted 10 million Rupee! The price had now gone up from 1 million to 10 million!!! I was furious and told Jimmy, in no uncertain terms, what I thought of Peter. He could keep the equipment as clearly he needed it more than I did, but I told Jimmy to tell Peter that, from one man of the sea to another, he was greedy and that he was now stealing from a fellow man of the sea. He was not a good man and that one day he would not return home from a fishing trip. He was dirty, he was not a man for the church, (as I pointed towards it) and that I would have nothing to do with him. Jimmy left Shayile looking very sorry for himself. I must say I felt for the guy. Caught in the middle (or so it seemed!!) he was just a messenger, able to speak English and assisting with negotiations. B and I looked at each other almost to say "We told you so!"

Villagers seeing us off on the pier at Luang

With the anchor saga now "over" and us resigned to the fact that we would not see it, we settled back into life at Luang. Belinda, the kids and I did another tour of the village. William was eager to show me his house and he had a coin that he thought I may be interested in. At his house I was ushered inside and given a plastic chair to sit on. Clearly William was a man of means. There was an old TV in the corner, a hi-fi, and a few pictures on the wall. He disappeared and later returned with a few old plates and coins. He went on to tell me that up in the hills above the village were ruins from long ago, and that he had found these artifacts up there. I tried to get a date out of him, in order to establish just how old the coins and plates were. I then discovered that most of the coins were dated and were about 70 years old. Nothing to get excited about, but again, he stressed that the plates were very old. He then unwrapped a coin and handed it to me. It had a VOC stamp on it and was dated 1790! This looked interesting and asked him what he wanted for it. He told me 1 million Rupee! I laughed, stating this was too much and that I would give him 50 000. (R50) Negotiations continued and I finally gave him 100 000 Rupee, a pair of old sun glasses and a snorkel. The coin looked authentic but, without professional advice, I had no idea. It was a chance buy, but I believe it is authentic!! (Will keep you updated!)

Outside we walked along the shoreline where literally hundreds of huge clam shells had been placed. When B enquired on the reason for it, it was explained that sea water was put into the shells and, when it dried, the salt was collected for use by the villages. Very novel and the first time we had seen this type of "farming". We were invited into a house for tea with some ladies and really had an enjoyable walk around socialising. No sign of Mr Security or any of his cronies. That afternoon Leo did come out to Shayile and, again, discussed the whole anchor saga. I told him I was through with it but he insisted on telling me that he would get it back and it would only be 750 000 Rupee! Where this came from, I had no idea but I told him that if he could do this, I would reward him.

Enter another chapter to the chain and anchor saga! Next day Leo comes out to Shayile, telling me that he and My Security are going to go get the anchor and chain from Timor Luang! He could give no details, but all was in hand and that George was "a good man, a powerful man". He was going to help and would get the anchor back! It all sounded very encouraging!  All he needed was a few liters of diesel for their little wooden fishing boat and that they would return in the afternoon with the goods. I was quite excited and almost confident that they would return with it! Later Leo, Mr Security and one other, headed off towards Timor Luang, off to get our anchor and chain! B and I spent the rest of the day, preparing Shayile for the trip towards the Tanimbars.

Clams used to collect salt

Weather forecasting by friends

Just after we had lost the anchor and chain, I decided we had to get a 3 - 6 day weather forecast from somewhere. We needed some accurate predictions off which to base our next decision about leaving Luang. Sailmail grib files were extremely vague and Darwin weather was only giving a 24 hour forecast. I had no indication of just how long the weather would persist. Don and Jeanne Pickers were the first to be contacted! Our "parents away from home", we knew we could get assistance from them, either directly or indirectly. We sent them an email, outlining our predicament. Within 2 hours Jeanne had written back, offering encouragement and telling us to hang in there. She was working on a solution. I also contacted Steve off Damai who was now back in Bali. Our third contact was Gary and Libby. I knew all 3 contacts had access to the internet and weather forecasts and were cruisers. We needed to know how long this weather would be around and when best to head on. When was that weather window? The response blew our minds. Jeanne contacted Richard who broadcasts the morning South East Asia weather net. Richard offers all sailors with access to his broadcasts, weather reports. I had tried to listen in to him but could not receive his broadcasts. Richard then emailed Jeanne the weather for our area and Jeanne forwarded it on to us. This was weather report number one. Next Steve sent me a brilliant 7 day weather report that he picked up off the net, outlining the weather in the area. It was a great weather report and proved very accurate indeed. Number 2. Then Gary got on to the net and downloaded the buoy weather forecasts and sent them on to me. I now had 3 great sources of the weather conditions in the area. Jeanne also put me on to Kim Grey off the yacht Savant. Kim had great info on weather and kindly forwarded me his predictions. From the 4 sources, I could put together something off which to base a decision about leaving. However it was not good, and would remain that way for a few days to come. An extremely high, high pressure system (1042hpa) was moving slowly across the southern part of Australia, creating extremely vigorous SE trade winds across our area. Further to this there was a huge typhoon in the South China Sea, creating havoc in the area. A passenger ship went down off the Philippines, along with many hundreds of lives. Off southern Australia, there was a hurricane! It just seemed the weather was extremely unsettled and would remain that way for a good few days. We needed to wait it out. Every day, I would get 4 weather reports and it was fantastic! To Don and Jeanne, Steve, Gary, and Kim we say "Thanks a ton for all your emails, weather forecasts and encouragement! It was fantastic and really lifted our spirits during that terrible time. Further more, Richard apparently upgraded his equipment and I received the news from Ian off Sabi Star. He told me that Richard was back on line and that I should give him a go. Within 5 days, I had made contact with Richard, who had been trying to contact me each morning. It was a relief to be able to speak to someone on the radio and get up to date weather predictions first hand. Its difficult to convey the appreciation we sailors have of such a service offered by guys such as Richard. He is not paid for his services, but is out there each morning, talking to yachts, tracking their movements and giving weather forecasts. At times, just being able to communicate verbally with someone, although thousands of miles away, can offer a sense of security, well being and a confidence booster. Fred (Peri Peri net in Durban) was another one. What great guys. To Richard, a very big thank you for your services and I'm sure I speak for all yachties out there, that we really appreciate all the effort and time you put into your communications with us yachties out at sea. Well Done!!

B: Rob's talked about the weather but even more important was how these emails lifted our spirits! We didn't want to alarm our families at how "Out There" we were or how close we had come to losing the boat but knew that our sailing friends would understand. Wow...they blew us away with their love, hugs via email, detailed information but mostly they got us laughing again with their humour. Jeanne was so kind and motivating and Gary was his usual teasing and funny self and we loved it, I could almost see his blue eyes twinkling as he teased us back on form. Steve from Damai sent the weather report that gave us hope, he reported a small decline in the wind which gave us hope that it could drop further and Lucy followed with news from Bali which gave us some distraction. Thank -you so much for 'Being There' for us and I hope we will one day be able to 'rescue' someone with words and advice like you did. We realised just how alone we had been, it had become a way of life, in fact we strived to get away from humanity for some peace but we missed the support, chat and comradely of fellow yachtsmen. Going it alone is hard and for us.......lonely.

Big smile from Max, Daniel’s mate, at Luang village

Leo and Mr Security return

As we waited for our anchor and chain to return, I still had my doubts. When the anchor was back on board, then we had it. Until then, I was not too optimistic about getting it back! I just could not bring myself to trust these guys! That afternoon at about 4pm, we saw the wooden boat slowly making its way back to Luang. On board I could see Leo and Mr Security, and a few other passengers. Without coming to Shayile they went directly to the jetty where they all climbed out. B and I were watching their every move through the binoculars! Then Leo and his brother made his way across to us on the boat. It looked good! However as soon as he pulled up to the back of Shayile, I could see by his expression and body language that something was not right. Solemn faced, he climbed aboard Shayile and as I looked down into the wooden boat, I could see no anchor and chain. Leo then went on to give me what was perhaps the saddest story of his life. Well, perhaps he thought so, but I would have none of it.  He tried to explain how, when they got there, the fisherman with the anchor and chain was not there but would only return tomorrow! He went on to explain how he had contacted the local authorities, the police and government were mentioned too (whoever they were??) and that it had been taken up by them. Just what we didn't need was meddling officials when we were overdue in a order less country. Leo's sad story went on and it got sadder by the sentence! I stripped! Firstly why motor for 2 hours around to Timor Luang not knowing if the chain was even there? A 15 minute walk across to Timor Luang would have been sufficient to ensure the anchor was there. No, the whole thing was a big scam and poor Leo, and his brother, got the brunt of my frustration. I'm not sure if they understood the purest form of expressive Anglo Saxon that exists, but they got it! With that I chased them off the boat telling them to keep the anchor and chain and not to return to our boat! I reiterated the bad omen of stealing from another sailor and that there would be consequences! I was mad, not with losing the anchor and chain, but for being lied to, extorted and jinxed into believing they would get our equipment back.

The only possible good news was an apparent window in the weather. It seemed as though it was going to moderate and, with that, B and I prepared for departure early the next morning.  I sent an email off to the Australian customs and Immigration, informing them of our pending arrival. (96 hours notice is required by the Australian government for yachts entering the country) With that done, we were ready to leave!

Across the Timor Sea to Darwin Australia

At 5am, we were up. There was a breeze out of the SE but conditions looked good. B pulled in the anchor as I motored up and within 15 minutes we were on our way across the reef towards the open sea. As we motored away, we were anxious that someone in authority would make their way out towards us, halting our exit with passport and other issues. It was an apprehensive few hours as slowly Luang was left behind and we crossed the top of Sermata. The wind continued to pick up all morning and soon we were pounding into the good old SE wind. Fortunately they were not too strong and we managed to motor sail to wind. I had to fall off our intended route, the Tanimbars, and now we headed in a NE direction towards the island of Babar. It was extremely uncomfortable and B was adamant that we were “not going there!” We have no (reef or rock) anchor and we will run into more officials there!" I had to agree with her but I just wanted to get as far away from Luang as possible! Then we got our break!

The wind slowly moved around and within an hour, it was blowing directly out of the east! I tacked Shayile and we went onto a southerly bearing, directly towards Darwin!! I was not sure how long we would be able to maintain this course but it felt good to be heading away from Indonesia and towards Australia! We were still beating into wind and sea but we were heading in the right direction. B was ecstatic and that evening we had a glass of wine to celebrate the change in winds and that Indonesia now lay 20 miles away, behind us! Again I must stress that we had some unbelievable times and adventures in Indo. It was fantastic. Yes, like all adventures, it had its moments, but our relief at leaving Indo revolved around us now being almost a month over our check out date! Once checked out of a country, your passport stamped, you need to leave. We were pushing our luck, and the possibility existed that, if we had been caught, we would have been in the dwang! Our yacht could be impounded and large fines levied! We had seen it happen before and it is not a nice feeling being vulnerable to possible arrest! I would not like to be in this position in a 3rd World county like Indonesia! Best we leave, and that we did!

The first night in the Timor Sea was dark, very dark! With no moon, and clouded skies, it was pitch black! However the sail was good and we made good ground through the night. As if luring us on towards Australia, the wind and seas slowly improved. We got hit by a few rain and wind squalls but, being prepared for them, all went well as they screamed over us.

Relieved to be out in the ocean again – Timor Sea

For the next 24 hours we beat our way in a SSE direction towards Melville Island, the first land fall of Australia. Although beating to wind, the weather slowly improved. With the weather abating, so did the sea conditions and during day 2 at sea, Shayile began to sail a lot more comfortably. The constant slamming to wind eased up and began to enjoy our time at sea once again.  B and I wondered if this would be our last passage of 3 days or more and perhaps our last night passages. It was a bitter sweet call as sea passages can be very enjoyable and others can be stressful and nerve wracking!! At about 11am on day 2, the first signal of "Australia just ahead" turned up. We were all sitting inside the saloon when all of a sudden we heard a loud aeroplane go flying overhead! It was very low and buzzed over the top of Shayile. It was the Australian Coast Guard! I must admit, I was a bit choked up, so excited to be "on the home straight". Just over 3 years of sailing as a family was drawing to a close and we had all traveled so far and were safe! I reflected back from those dreadful days going up the South African coastline towards Mozambique and the terrible weather we had. With Cyril on board, we had got through it. Then the crossing of the Indian Ocean, a total of 34 odd days at sea. Almost 5 months in Indonesia and the reef episode. We had made it through the lot and I had a lot to be thankful for! Australia felt like "being home" and I smiled at the prospect of entering Darwin harbour!  I turned the radio up and soon we got a call from the Coast Guard. We passed on the required information, telling them we expected to be in Darwin late the next day. Wishing us all the best and a welcome to Australia, they flew on towards Australia and we continued on our way.

B: The only sad thing about our arrival in Australia was that we didn't catch a fish! Sadly our timings were such that we passed over the best fishing shoals in the night when we do not troll a line. Its hard enough in the daylight to drop the sails and fight a fish but in the dark, while one of you is asleep would be madness. We were so excited to be in a country that followed rules and regulations, ie... you knew what to expect and weren't expected to offers a bribe! But we had a surprise waiting and, after a couple of years in the East, we were astonished at the cost of living in Australia! 

The visa saga!

Having sent an email to the Australian authorities informing them we were on our way, I received one back. They asked a few questions and asked us to provide visa details, if we had visas. I wrote back informing them that we would apply for visas on arrival. Somehow I had got it into my head that, like almost all of our previous countries, Australian visas were issued on arrival!! Now why I was of that opinion is difficult even for me to reason. We had plenty of time to apply for them in Singapore and Bali, but with an "understanding" that they were easily obtainable on entry, I left it! It now appeared to be a big mistake! We got a return email informing us that our circumstances would be considered on arriving at Darwin, but with the understanding that a possible fine of 3000AUD ( R22 000) each could be applicable. Hanging on to the "your circumstances considered on arrival", we sailed on. However I was now worried that we would be fined or, worse, turned around!!

Wetar & Eastern Indonesia

Wetar - Uhak

As mentioned, as far as sailing in Indonesia and in particular eastern Indonesia, we had entered waters not often visitored by yachties. It was a remote part of Indonesia, with poor anchorages and little information to go on. The local population seemed to be living what only can be described as a primitive and rural way of life. Our next stop was the island of Wetar which lies to the north / north east of Timor. Looking at the charts and reading up on the area, we discovered the area was prone to unsettled waters, over falls and currents. I'm not sure as to why the area around Wetar was prone to these types of seas, but it could be due to the various depths surrounding the islands in the area. On the 6th June, my mom's birthday, we left Kawula and headed in a north easterly direction towards Wetar. It was an overnight passage with a distance of about 140 miles. As lunch time approached we entered the over falls and could see the unsettled water ahead. Again nothing dangerous but extremely uncomfortable on Shayile as we slammed into the waves. We were hoping the conditions would improve as we closed in on Wetar, but quite the opposite. My Log Book reads "Beating hard, over falls, crashing! Hate it" The next entry about 7 hours later reads "Poor Shayile! Terrible, terrible crashing!" Winds 15 - 20 knots, nothing tough but just compounds the difficulty of beating into a short choppy swell. These conditions are very uncomfortable, especially on a catamaran, and the relentless inescapable pounding can make life on board quite unbearable! On we went and at about 7am the next morning, with the NW tip of Wetar in sight, conditions improved a bit. Although the wind remained on the nose, the sea calmed down and we motored around the NW tip of Wetar and then along the northern coast. Looking out towards Wetar, we could see no signs of any inhabitants. It was all natural vegetation, rising up from the sea to about 400 meters, perhaps higher. The mountains were coated in green lush rain forest type trees and bush. In places we could see rain squalls pelting the hills and valleys high above us. It was stunning scenery, something out of Jurassic Park! Eventually we did pass what looked like a small village nestled in a bay. Apparently there was a bit of logging in the area years back and small settlements or villages did serve the industry. Although I dug up some crude co ordinates for anchorages, the first one proved impossible. The next one, the co ordinates were way out and not an anchorage at all. On we went and eventually, looking through binoculars, we saw a very small village with 2 fishing boats anchored off it. From the charts, we picked out its name as Uhak.


Uhak village with the church and bell tower

Although not keen to anchor off a village, it seemed we had no choice and reluctantly made our way towards it. As we approached the village, from behind us we saw a navy rubber duck heading in our direction. Although only 6 days or so over our check out date, I thought we were about to be boarded and interrogated. However it shot right on by and headed for the village. Both B and I were convinced we saw a white lady in the rubber duck? As we approached the local fishing boats, the men on board pointed out where best for us to anchor. We eventually dropped anchor in 15 meters of water and drifted off into 50 meters. It looked safe enough and Shayile kept her position off the stony beach.

Looking through our binoculars, we discovered there was a white lady ashore, clearly a visitor. I decided to go ashore and introduce myself to the local chief. With my trusty assistant Daniel, we jumped in the duck and motored across to the village. There was no beach, but a coastline covered in cobbled beach stones and some shells. It was beautiful and so different from anything we had previously seen. Waiting for us on the shore were a few kids. We tied up and then walked towards the village where we could see a group of local folks sitting together under a tree with the white lady. We entered the small gathering under the tree and introduced ourselves to the chief and the village folk. The white lady, we discovered, was Mia and she worked for an Australian mining company that was busy with some prospecting in the area. Part of the contract conditions on the mining company was to embark on an upliftment program for villages in the area. Mia's task was to work with the villages, initiating and generating self sustaining projects that would benefit the community over a long term basis.

Mia with Daniel and the villages looking on

Mia was from Belgium and spoke Indonesian fluently so, with her as an interpreter, we all sat around in a circle and I related our travel story to everyone! Along with the chief and his entourage, there must have been no fewer than 40 villages looking on. They were all interested in who we were and why we were in Uhak. They wanted to know where we were going and most could not believe how long we had been at sea, living on a boat, especially with the kids! Someone said that they would like to meet “the lady on the boat”, so I shot back to Shayile and picked up Belinda and Jenna. We arrived back at the village gathering and immediately we were ushered towards the old plastic chairs waiting for us. Surrounded by the villages and with Mia, the village chief and a few elders seated besides us, the interest in us and the questions continued for another hour. They were all Protestants by religion and we really enjoyed their company, made easier with Mia interpreting the conversation. Just before departing we bought green oranges and small yellow lemons. With Mia doing her best to show the villages how to record all transactions, an invoice was made out! We were also given some wild honey as a gift. It was a great end to what was a tough trip across to Wetar, and we returned to Shayile relieved to be anchored off a beautiful island and a great village!


B enjoying the kids at Uhak village

Next morning Belinda made 3 big cakes for the villages. We also collected a few odds and ends no longer needed on Shayile and then headed for the village. Again, everyone saw us coming in and soon there was a small gathering waiting for us as we arrived. We were ushered up to the communal gathering point under the tree and all given the old plastic chairs to sit on. B cut up the cake and Daniel and Jenna began handing it out to everyone. We are still not sure if they liked it or not, but everyone tucked in. Perhaps it was their shy manner or perhaps it was the first time they had eaten cake! Who knows, but everyone enjoyed the time with us. Belinda gave away a few kitchen utensils to a lady that seemed to exert a bit of authority. She was a very pleasant lady with a huge smile, which got even bigger when she received the "gifts" from Belinda! The only thing we really wanted in return was some water. Once they realised this, myself and Daniel were escorted off to the well with our water containers. Walking through the village was very interesting. Gone were the dirty streets with garbage and plastic bags everywhere which we saw in Maumere. It was clean. Each house, or hut, was neat and tidy, some even with little vegetable gardens outside. Compared to Maumere and other towns we had previously visited which were health hazards, this little village had a sense of pride to it. Each family was making an effort to ensure their homes were clean and presentable. When we arrived at the well, a bucket was lowered into the water below and a process of filling our water containers commenced. I took the time to walk across to the church. It was more a small hall with a rusty iron bell tower outside. Although very stark inside, every effort had been made to decorate an altar and stage up front. Impressed, I returned to the well where Daniel was now in charge of lowering the bucket into the well and heaving it out.

Dan pulling water from the well

When we returned to B and Jenna, more wild honey and bananas had been given to us. Leaving the village that afternoon, we saw an old man hard at work on the beach. He was busy carving and shaping a sampang (wooden canoe) out of a log. His tools were a very old plain and a small axe. That was it and with these tools, the boats was slowly taking shape. It was a memorable day with the villages of Uhak and we returned to Shayile happy to have shared a day or 2 with these villages.

Pebble beach at Uhak village

B: After arriving in Uhak, I was exhausted and needed a sleep but, whilst doing a quick tidy-up, and was spotted by the village folk who assured Rob that I wasn't asleep like he said! I was reluctant to go ashore but I was so glad I did. These were such genuine people, so proud of their homes, so self-assured. Aya may have been the chief's daughter, but who knows. She was tiny with an enormous smile. She was only 32 but already had 5 children and seemed so normal in shorts and a t-shirt. The next morning her brother paddled her out so she could invite us to join them for mass. We hadn't realised it was Sunday and I had already started baking the cakes so had to decline. She was blown away by the boat but was so sweet and cheerful and she and I clicked straight away. I packed a whole laundry basket of things that I knew would end up being thrown away in Australia. There were plates, bowls, glasses, 2 teacups and saucers, a stainless coffee pot, and some of the kid’s old linen. I also left behind one of the cake tins she had admired that morning.

Departure day, and B with Aya and her 5th child

Well, all Aya's Christmases came that day. She was gracious and thankful and, as we finally left the beach that afternoon, she collapsed back with her head in her hands, as if now that we had left the shore she could believe that all those things were for her and her friends who I had shared them out with. Her home was small and spotless and virtually empty once the plastic garden furniture was out under the tree. It felt great to make such a difference in her life, I hope it didn't cause any jealousy but I'm sure it all worked out. The honey from Uhak was the best we have ever tasted and we ate it on pancakes, with bananas on fresh Shayile bread and I had it in my green tea too. The beach was so memorable too as it was composed entirely of brightly coloured stones. Garden designers would have platzed. It was like a pirate’s chest full of brightly coloured jewels, of course I forgot to get a close up photo, but it was hell to walk on and I felt bad for thinking the guy I saw stumbling along the previous evening was drunk! Uhak was so different from anywhere and so surprising that such nice people live so isolated. This village is completely cut off for 5 months when the N E winds rage, amazing when there were so many children and pregnant women who may need medical care. It proved that you don't have to be wild when you live in the wilds!

Carving out a sampan using an axe

Wetar - "Bliss Bay"

Although the weather was not looking too good, we decided to head on along the coast of Wetar and try look for another anchorage. Being tucked up close to the northern coastline, we were well protected from the SE wind that blew overhead. We had not done more than 20 miles when we realised it would not be possible to head out away from the protection offered by Wetar. Out to sea it was howling and the sea had picked up. I was not interested in slamming into it! We came across a small inlet on the NNE tip, hardly a bay, and decided to try anchor up. The charts showed no sign of it being an anchorage at all. It never even had a name! As we approached the shore we were surprised to discover that it did offer some good protection from the waves and wind and we even managed to find a bit of sand on which to drop our anchor! With the anchor down, we relaxed and took time to look about and take in the surrounding scenery. We were all alone! Not a village nor any sign of human life around. We were surrounded by these high tropical rain forest hills and valleys. The beach looked pristine with the forest vegetation extending down to within 10 meters of the sea. Besides the birds and the Fish Eagle in the surrounding trees, and the wave action of the sea, there was not a sound! It was a little piece of paradise, bliss, blocked off from civilization! "It reminds me of Chagos" said B and she was right. It was a gem of an anchorage and we went on to spend 4 days anchored up, away from the weather, and humans!!

Absolute isolation with not a person to be seen!

Ashore, we spent time collecting shells, and we had the choice of them all to ourselves! We even gave fishing a go and I managed to catch a huge Barracuda. Not our favorite eating fish, and with a risk of Ciguatera poisoning, we retrieved our lure and then released him. You know you are all alone and in a small piece of paradise when you are able to wear no clothes all day! B loves it – that is she has no laundry!! Each day we had eagles visiting the bay, swooping down looking for food, all adding to the natural beauty of the place. We even saw a wild pig running around in the under growth.

Travelly caught on fly 

All good things come to an end and on the evening of day 4, a fishing boat motored on by. Seeing us, he turned into the bay and anchored about 50 meters away from us. I waved to them as they came in, but got no response from these hardened looking fishermen. That night when we went o bed, we set the alarm for the first time in weeks. Far from everywhere and tucked away in a secluded bay, we felt kind of vulnerable with a boat full of surly Indonesian fishermen anchored off our stern! Its amazing how you think the worst in such a situation, but we did, and we did not sleep well that night. Our splendid isolation was now a worry. Next morning we woke up to see them motoring out of the bay, on their way to their fishing grounds some place. With our concerns unfounded, we to upped anchor and headed off in an easterly direction, having enjoyed the solitude of this little bay in Wetar!

B: While the wind howled, we ploughed on with school work and I tried to stretch one packet of bacon into 3 meals. We were 2 weeks behind on our schedule and had left Bali with little meat and hadn't been able to get anymore in Maumere. Fishing was dismal as usual. Luckily we had lots of flour and we ate lots of bread and jam, pancakes with honey and lemon and even powdered milk custard slices with cream crackers were known to pass as a meal. We wandered on the beach each day collecting shells but I was alarmed one night while shining a light into the depths to see what looked like small box-jellyfish! They were active little hunters and I'm afraid that was the end of swimming in that bay.

Wetar - Tg Hatuloi

As we rounded the point heading east we slammed straight into a very strong easterly wind. From the charts, I had identified a bay, about 10 miles away, and we headed towards it. Once in the bay, we realised it was not anchorable and had no option but to slowly make our way along the coast towards the N.E. corner. In the distance we picked up a few fishing boats anchored off and thought it best to head for them as, with local knowledge, they would know the best spots to anchor when looking for protection. With their shouts on where to anchor, we eventually picked a spot and dropped anchor. I put out a second anchor to hold us in position. About 400 meters out to sea the wind was howling and the sea was on its head! From the weather reports I was receiving out of Darwin, Australia, it was not looking good. For the next 3 days it appeared as if we were going to have to sit tight! Again, we were in a protected bay, anchored up with a few local boats, all seeking protection. These were infact not fishing boats, but trading boats, carrying goods from island to island. Although no longer than 45 feet, they were strong wooden boats with a good old diesel engine driving them. Each boat had 3 anchors out with 2 of them tied to trees on the shore. The one anchored up next to us had a goat aboard, which I do not think was there as a mascot!

Dan devouring huge bananas!

For 3 days we remained at anchor off Hatuloi. It was a difficult coral shelf anchorage, but offered some good snorkeling. Besides a few visitors each day, we were left to ourselves. The beach was a treasure chest of shells and coral. We spent hours each afternoon walking up and down the beach looking for shells. No one really collected them, so we had some fantastic finds! Again, we tried our luck at fishing. Trawling behind the ducky was unsuccessful but, with the sea on its head, we could not go too far out. However I did have some luck fly fishing and one evening I landed a beautiful Brassy Spotted Travelly. which we had for dinner, the first real fish in a long time. (Well since my gourmet meal of sardines that is!!)

Again, the mornings were spent with school work before any other activities took place for Daniel and Jenna. When sailing, we found it extremely difficult to try teach and, frankly, gave it up as a bad idea. At anchor, we got stuck in to school work. With Zulu as a subject of Daniels, the whole family was learning the language! Furthermore, the reading bug was now firmly entrenched in both kids and they would spend hours reading. Daniel, having read the first 3 Harry Potter novels, was now re-reading them. I had bought him one of the Hardy Boy books, but it just did not have the same appeal! Jenna was also reading very well and we were pleased with their reading skills. As dinner was quite early, we either had "family video nights" where we would all climb into bed together and watch a kid’s movie. Other nights, B and I would watch a DVD, all genuine copies, obtained in Bali!

Dan & Jenna paddling the ski to shore

We enjoyed the time at Hatuloi, no village, no people and a few boats anchored close by. As time crept on, we were now 2 weeks over on our exit date from Indonesia. I began to wonder what the implications would be if someone questioned our reasoning for still being in Indonesia. Would they ever understand that weather was hampering our progress out of Indonesia? With that at the back of my mind, we decided to head on out towards the island of Romang. The weather was not good, but we decided to give it a go. Early on the morning of day 3, we left Hatuloi and out into the wild sea. Not 5 miles away, we slammed straight into the weather! It was hopeless trying to beat directly into 25 - 30 knot winds with choppy, ugly seas. Surrendering to the pounding, I swung Shayile about and we headed back to Hatuloi. Another day to wait it out.

Next morning we gave it another go and, although still blowing, the wind direction made it easier. With one motor on and reefed sails we were able to head towards Romang, about 40 miles away.

Daniel fly fishing whilst a few local fishermen look on

Romang - Hila village

As we approached Romang, the seas calmed a bit and the last 10 miles were, relatively speaking, enjoyable. We had no idea what to expect once at Romang, but from the charts, I identified the anchorage that offered the best protection. What we could see as we approached, was a huge church, perched high above the village. It looked really big and dwarfed all other dwellings. Closing in on the bay, we could make out a small ship anchored off. It was one of these coastal cruisers, perhaps delivering supplies to the town of Hila. It was tied up at a jetty. Strangely enough, as we approached the jetty, we could see it was not joined to the land! It was still "under construction". How goods were being ferried to and from the ship was unclear but the jetty was not doing the job! We made our way through the fringe reef and into a protected spot. Much to our surprise we found some sand over which to drop the anchor. Once down, the visitors arrived! Besides a few kids on sampans, a bigger boat pulled up and 3 guys climbed aboard. One chap, looking very official and a few years older had a "coast guard" cap on which was elaborately braided in gold thread! Again, very little English was spoken, but he introduced himself as the harbour master! Whilst B made them freshly squeezed lemon juice, he asked for our passports and with that we looked at each other thinking "here we go". He also asked for photos of us all! With this little meeting having taken place, he asked me to come ashore.

Romang’s “Coast Guard”

With my trusty crew Daniel, who is always a big attraction in these villages, we went ashore. We were ushered towards the "harbour masters" office, which was nothing more than a derelict house of sort, the kind you see with wooden planks nailed across the windows and the door half open! We all sat around an old desk with the usual 300 people peering in through every door and window. The atmosphere was quite relaxed and we were all happy. The first thing the harbour master does is pull out an old photo of himself in army uniform with a huge semi automatic rifle across his chest. Proudly he pointed at the picture and then at himself. I acted very impressed by such authority and he seemed to accept my sincerity! Next up was the paper work which must have taken an hour. I did nothing but he never stopped and the dusty old stamp, always a huge sign of importance, did a lot of banging. With a bill of 700 rupee, (R70) presented, I eagerly paid. No mention was made of the now well overdue stamp in our passports!! Before returning to Shayile, we took a brief walk up through the village. B had asked me to try get a few things, if there was a shop. All I did was make a few observations and thought it best to return tomorrow. We returned to Shayile, grateful that no scene was made over the passports! Personally I think he never even noticed the exit date, infact even his literacy was in question!

Next day, Daniel and I went ashore with a shopping list from Belinda. She needed fruit, flour, sugar, oil and milk. She also placed an order for a chicken! Belinda avoided going ashore as she battled with the constant harassment and was also worried about petty theft. Besides this, she also just loved to be alone on Shayile with Jenna, enjoying a peaceful morning! We were met on the beach by the usual entourage of younger folks and then taken, firstly, to the pastor’s house. Here we were invited inside and told to take a seat. (This happens at every home visited. Perhaps the owners like others in the village to see them entertaining a visitor?) I caught sight of a pumpkin in his kitchen and asked if I could buy it. Accepting the offer, the first purchase in Hila was a huge pumpkin, although over priced! We then walked up to where the shop was pointed out to us. The only purchase I was able to make was the flour. The rest was "out of stock". I managed to buy 10 liters of very over priced petrol. Whilst the shop owner was filling my petrol container, I notice a nautilus shell in the shed. It was covered in dust and had no look of importance to it. I asked him if I could have it and he gave it to me! What a scoop! Outside, alongside the village main path, was a huge Pomelo tree laden with fruit. Daniel and I both got very excited, having last eaten a Pomelo in Thailand! Again I asked and within minutes about 6 huge Pomelo were given to us! We were extremely grateful for their generosity. With the pastor guiding us, we now set off up a stairway made of coral and concrete on a walk up to the church. 

Hila’s village square!

We entered another level to the village, coming to more houses lining the pathway. The houses were all neatly laid out with very little litter about. Again I took note of the people’s way of life and attention to tidiness and cleanliness. Then we came to the church itself which was still under construction. Huge bamboo scaffolding covered the outer walls. To its right was the old church and we were taken inside for a look about. One could see that the church, although very poor, was the focal point of the village. There must have been 100 plastic chairs in it and the altar was sparsely prepared for a service. Looking at the few articles available with which to carry out a church service, I could not help but think how far R1000 would go in acquiring further items for a church service. Outside, it seemed as though work on the church had come to a stand still and when I inquired, I was told "money a problem". Clearly these guys build as money is available and, when not, work ceases! I chuckled to myself, hoping the pastor would put the extra money I had paid for the pumpkin, to good use!

On the way down, I stopped at a few more shops. Not "real" shops, as they were really just houses with the front room converted into a shop, with a counter. In South Africa these would be referred to as a Spaza Shop. I finally managed to get some sugar. I also bought the hoards of kids in tow, a whole bunch of sweets. We walked back down to the village below and, just past the Pomelo tree; I was called across to a man sitting on a stilted platform. He sent his wife off and she returned with a bunch of bananas which she gave to Daniel. I thanked her and offered them some money. He refused it and we went on our way. Here was a guy, church mouse poor, and he would not accept a few coins for his bananas. Very humbling and so different to other parts of Indonesia! On the beach, I got the message across that we would like to buy a chicken. I now had an "interpreter". Along the way a guy by the name of Daniel had hooked up with us. He spoke a limited amount of English, but enough by which to communicate. He told us he was a fisherman and farmer. With Daniel we now had a crude means of communicating and, again, I put forward my request for a chicken. With that, we returned to Shayile.

View from the church in Hila village, Romang

Next day, Daniel arrived on Shayile with a chicken; a live one! His English was not that good, and I told him we wanted it headless, featherless and on a plate! He finally got the message and I told him I would meet him on the beach later as I also needed to get water. I returned to the beach that afternoon and there was Daniel, the live chicken under his arm! We reconfirmed that we wanted the chicken, despite the high price of R70. Daniel then handed it across to 2 of his mates. Out came a knife and with one holding the body and the other the neck...... 30 minutes later we had a beach prepared chicken! B was not impressed. Besides still having a few too many parts to it, it had bits of beach sand peppered about! Eager to please, Daniel led me off to get the water. We entered a small homestead on the outskirts of the village and walked into the coconut trees where, amongst the crude wooden structures of a villager’s house, a man offered me vegetables. Not knowing what he had an offer, I accepted and he returned with a basket of leaves! I tried to establish what they were but no one could translate or give me any idea as to what they may be! Expressing my absolute gratitude, I turned them down but did accept a huge bunch of bananas! Up ahead I could see a large blue barrel, with a little stream running on by. Here was the water supply. It was not from the stream, but from a very cleverly devised "water drain" system that brought good clean fresh water down from the hills above the village. Using large bamboo poles that had been split vertically in half and cleaned out, these poles we raised on stilts and, acting as a gutter system, carried the water down to the blue barrel below! It was brilliant and Daniel and I got busy, filling our water containers. In amongst the coconut trees, I expressed an interest in getting coconuts and without hesitating, Local Daniel said no problem. With the water back on the beach, Daniel grabbed a machete and we headed off. Arriving at "his" plantation, he chose a tree and then scrambled on up. Within 5 minutes, we had 10 coconuts! We all headed back to Shayile with water, coconuts, bananas and a readily prepared chicken!

Daniel, not always keen to be in the photo!

 And with a local villager from Romang

That afternoon, Jenna, Daniel and I were back in the village, eager to obtain a few last minute requirements. I needed to get a few more Pomelo's. They lasted well on Shayile and the whole family enjoyed them. We enquired in the village and, again, hospitality and generosity flowed. Within 20 minutes we had about 12 Pomelo. Then a man came out of his little house with a bunch of bananas. I again offered money but he refused, giving them to me as a gift. Again, here was a family with very, very little and yet their generosity was astounding! It amazed me how attitudes and overall village behavior can differ from island to island, and even from village to village. B and I spend many an evening discussing this, trying to establish reasons. The generosity of the people of Indonesia seems wide spread. They are a very generous people, particularly amongst the rural islanders. The predominantly Christian islanders of eastern Indonesia came across as very friendly and perhaps more inviting. Women were seen and were not shy to get involved in discussions with strangers, like ourselves. These villages appeared to take cleanliness of their village and surrounding a lot more serious than those further to the west. Whether they just had less plastic to scatter about.... no, they defiantly took a lot more pride in their homes and surroundings, of that I am certain. Eastern Indonesia was more of a Protestant Christian faith as apposed to the Muslim faith in the west. Was this a factor? We believe it was. Perhaps the old village chief system was a lot stronger and, being so isolated, these islands still lived a traditional lifestyle, not exposed to modern ways and influences as much as those islands to the west. All very interesting when analyzing and interpreting the attitudes of the people we met. Greed appeared to be non existent.

Wooden cargo boats dried out on Hila beach, Romang

With bananas, coconuts, Pomelo, and a sandy, skinny chicken, we had all we needed for the next leg. Each day we would look up at the clouds as they streamed over the top of Romang, coming out of the south east. Each day we watched, hoping for them to "slow down" showing signs of the wind moderating. After 3 days at Romang, we decided to make a dash for it. The next leg was in a SE direction, directly into the wind and we were not looking forward to it. At 1am in the morning of the 17th June, (my brother Donald's birthday) we fired up the motors and pulled up the anchor. Following our track on maxsea, we slowly made our way out passed the jetty. All of a sudden, the alarm on one of the engines went off! It was overheating! I immediately turned it off, furious as to its choice of time and position in which to overheat. With no options, we turned around and headed back to the small anchorage in Romang. B and I climbed back into bed. It was no time to tackle an engine problem. Our departure date would have to wait another day.

With the water circulation issue resolved the next day, we were all set for attempted departure date number 2! Early on the 18th June we motored out of Romang and, with engines purring along, we made our way around the NW tip and out into open seas, on our way to Moa. We got the winds right, or should I say, as best that was on offer. Sailing and motor sailing, we made good progress and that afternoon we approached our chosen anchorage off Moa.

Moa - Tg Seradona

I came across this anchorage in an old article I had on my computer. Despite being some 10 years out of date, the anchorage and co-ordinates would still be the same. In this area, there just were no anchorages to mention. None at all! The old information was all we really had to go on. B and I looked at each other as we approached the anchorage and commented, "back on the shelf!” We dropped in 5 meters and backed off into 500 meters!! We were now getting used to the set up but it certainly did not make us feel any more confident about the safety of such anchorages! Within 5 minutes we had the regular boarding party with us. One of the guys had spent the better part of the day at Solly Kramers, because he battled with mobility, and had a lot to say. He also had a lot to take and went about trying on every thing we had that was exposed to his eyes! On went B's mask and into his alcohol saturated mouth went the snorkel. On went my shoes and demands for fishing rods and sun glasses were expressed. This was the kind of visitor we could do without. Fortunately his mates were not part of the same drinking club and they were quite pleasant. When I enquired on the anchorage, they pointed out further down the reef, where the best place was to anchor. With that we pulled up the anchor and motored on down to the spot they pointed out. A few of the younger guys dived over board and showed me where to drop the pick. Besides "Betel Nut", they were good people and spent the next half an hour with us on Shayile. I took careful note of the one guys diving mask. It was entirely home made. Using 2 pieces of rounded glass and lots of epoxy putty, he had crafted himself a pair of goggles, complete with strap. Giving him credit and full marks for creativity, B went below and brought out her old mask. She handed it across to him as a gift. It was still in 100% working order, although about 15 years old! Immediately the guy put them on and jumped in to the water, swimming up and down. Every breath he would look up towards us and give us a bit thumbs up! He liked them!

We had a quiet night, although an uneasy sleep, and the wind and water held us off the reef. This reef anchoring seemed to be working after all! Next morning, we left at first light and made our way off in an easterly direction towards Sermata, some 50 miles away. Using the same outdated article, I pin pointed 2 possible anchorages. The description read as follows:

Motor sailing most of the time.  Decided to avoid a village. (Elo village)  Anchored at above position in 10m of water.  Large coral heads closer in and drop off 20-30 mtrs further out.  Clear water, 20m visibility.  Up to 2knots of current and swell came round corner of island.  All 3 yachts had to dive to clear anchors.  Some snubbing of chain.  Not recommended

GRINGO moved around corner of next island to west, Kalapa, and anchored in 8m just past Tg Pohehi, which is no doubt a better anchorage.  Did not go ashore.

The first anchorage mentioned was on the island of Sermata, some 5 miles past Kalapa. We thought it best to check out Kalapa before heading on to Sermata.

Pulau Sermata

Up ahead we could see the small island of Kalapa and then identified the bay, not a very convincing, anchorage. We entered the bay and slowly made our way along the ruggered rocky coastline looking for a spot where we could best drop the anchor. The island had no beaches at all, but extending the entire length of the bay was a rocky cliff, about 2 - 3 meters high. Below the cliff was a rocky ledge, extending outwards for about 20 - 30 meters. Again the ledge was anything from 1 meter to 3 meters deep, great for diving on, not that good for anchoring! After scouting the area, we concluded that, it was not ideal. Although it offered protection from the wind, it was a difficult and perhaps tricky place to spend a few nights. In calm conditions, it may be fine, but we were expecting winds in a day or so and decided to head across the straits to the island of Sermata.

Mika from Sulawesi in the sampan he made himself

An hour later we were scanning the shoreline of Sermata looking for a spot, but again, we were stumped by the reef. Furthermore there was a swell running. We made our way towards a village, hoping to find something better. As we approached the village of Elo, a fishing boat came by and we gestured to them where best to anchor. A spot was pointed out but was the good old "drop in 3 meters, drift off into 40 meters"! Now very limited with choices, we dropped the anchor. With the swell running, it was not at all pleasant and I decided to climb on the ducky and go inspect other parts of the reef for a possible spot to anchor. With mask and snorkel, I went up and down looking for an opportunity, but returned to Shayile not having found one. I mentioned to B that it was impossible and perhaps Kalapa was the best option after all. It offered protection from the SE winds and was in a bay. With little options left, we upped anchor and returned to Kalapa.

B: This crowded dirty-looking village was so close to the sea and the tiny anchorage was right next to the low sea wall, that I could hear the children coughing, never mind the delighted squeals and 'Hello Misters." I couldn't wait to leave!

Pulau Kalapa

Back at Kalapa, 2 fishermen in a small boat tried to point out a place to anchor but their choice was shocking! Nevertheless we gave the two well-meaning old guys some new caps.  Eventually we chose a spot and dropped the primary anchor in about 2 meters of water and then drifted off. Not happy with just the one anchor, I got the secondary anchor out and we ran a line from the stern, at a 45 degree angle, back to the reef and dropped the anchor. We now had 2 anchors holding us in position, keeping Shayile into the SE winds and off the reef. We now needed to sit out the winds forecasted for another 2 - 4 days. The wind died during the first night and we had a peaceful sleep at anchor. The next day the wind picked up and blew strong all day. Although it was a very low lying island, we were protected from the brunt of the wind, but got enough to hold us off the reef. Not entirely happy with our primary anchor, which was lying too close to the edge of the shelf, we ran a third anchor to the shore. Climbing up the jaggered volcanic rocks, I positioned the anchor and then ran a line, buoyed with fenders, back to Shayile. In the event of the primary anchor pulling off the shelf, we were still attached. We were now in position!


                        Indo winds!!