august 2009: indonesia

Indonesia: The eastern islands – Darwin to Lembar (Lombok)


Fannie Bay (Darwin) – Timor Sea – Roti – Pulau Dao – Sabu – Rai Jua – Sabu Sea – Indian Ocean – Mengkudu – Teluk Malekaba, Teluk Lamombang, Teluk Sendikeri, Nihiwatu (Sumba) – Flores Sea – Java Sea – Lembar (Lombok)

Dinner on the trampolines on route from Darwin to Indo

Swim in the Timor Sea on route from Darwin to Indo

Nine things we have learned

1.The following make for a comfortable passage:
Before you leave
*Prepare mentally. Expect to experience extreme and prolonged boredom, seasickness, terror and sleep deprivation.
*Prepare physically. Run. Shower on land; use maximum water pressure.
*Prepare food.
*Schedule watches. Three hours on; three hours off.
While underway
*Follow your watch schedule but be flexible (if you feel alert, then let the other person sleep).
*Keep Zinc tidy. Every morning and evening, do a thorough tidy-up.
*Eat dinner on the trampolines and watch the sunset.
*Structure your day so you have an activity to focus on during each three hour block of time. For example:
-Three hours of “brain gym” (write / learn Indonesian / read self education books e.g., about photography, law, bird and fish identification, cooking, sailing, travel / complete crossword and suduku puzzles).
-Three hours of “relaxation” (sleep / meditate).
-Three hours of “entertainment” (read novel / listen to iPod / watch DVD).
[Note: This activity schedule is followed by the first mate only. The skipper thinks the first mate is a nut case.]
2. A quiver of best favourite surfboards + uncrowded smoking tubes + happy wife = nice life.
3. Mobile phone coverage and service in Australia is a joke. Australian consumers get shafted. In Indonesia there are mobile telephone towers everywhere, providing ridiculously cheap (2 cents/min) coverage in the least likely places (eg. at remote islands where only a few hundred people live).
4. The first mate is not the best ojek (motorbike taxi) passenger ever to have travelled in Sabu. [Note: Because of her extensive experience riding motorbikes and scooters in Asia and Australia (as a driver of passengers and as a passenger), the first mate expects ojek drivers to commend her on her performance as a passenger and, perhaps, to nominate her as tourist of year in whatever region she is travelling.] The first mate was aghast when her ojek driver in Sabu demanded that she adjust her position on the ojek. She announced to the driver that her positioning was perfect and that obviously he is inexperienced at carrying passengers. Nevertheless, the first mate adjusted her position as directed. She did not want to crash and break a limb like “Mr David“. [Note: The first mate has no idea who is Mr David however apparently he has recently returned to Australia from Sabu with a broken limb (perhaps broken in an accident caused by the first mate’s ojek driver?)]
5. We need scuba tanks on board Zinc. The next time our anchor chain is wedged under and around a coral bombie in 13 meters of water our sailing buddy the diamond diver may not be available, or inclined, to work underwater with his scuba tank for an hour to free our chain and recover our anchor.
6. We are in form to win the reality television programme “The Amazing Race” (if the programme ever opens to Australian contestants: in which event, Jo, we are relying on you to nominate us). Clearing Zinc into Indonesia has been our toughest challenge yet. Not all yachts manage to obtain all of the stamps. We did. [Note: It took time, patience and phone calls to the right people, but (perhaps surprisingly) not cash].
7. The first mate needs a bouncy bamboo stick to carry her water containers home from the well. The local ladies at the well like the first mate’s containers but say she really needs to get herself a decent stick to swing over her shoulders. Having a husband to carry the containers home for her gets the first mate no cred.
8. If you give beers, cigarettes and minties to the Kapala Desa (village chief) as a thank-you-for-letting-us-anchor-in-your-beautiful-bay present, then later that day you will have to pick up from the beautiful bay: beer cans, cigarette butts and mintie wrappers.
9. Do not have a maritime emergency near Nihiwatu in Sumba where the emergency VHF radio channel (VHF16) is used by the resort to discuss housekeeping arrangements (e.g., “Sharon, have you made the beds in villa 3?“ “Not yet, Eric.” “Do it now Sharon. I do not want to have to ask you again. And Sharon: the mini-bar; make sure it is restocked.” “Yes, Eric.”) This banal chatter greatly reduces the chance that a mayday call will be heard in this region. The resort claims to own ocean waves however under international maritime law it does not own radio waves. [Note: Maritime law breaches aside, the resort is tasteful and is located in a spectacular setting with an awesome wave (available only to resort guests) directly out the front. We recommend the resort to those of you who are cashed up.]

The love of our lives – Mr/Ms Spinnaker

Arriving in Indo – better than standing in line at the airport

Six of the best bits

1. Sailing with our new spinnaker. Speeding across smooth seas in less than 10 knots of wind as if we are floating above the surface. Blissful. How ever did we sail downwind without a spinnaker? [Note: We used to bob around, hold out the sails with our arms, change sail patterns every 20 minutes, bicker about what to try next, proclaim to hate sailing and turn on an engine.]
2. Arriving in Indonesia. Rolling over long period, 8-10ft lines of swell. Watching the sun rise. Sighting land for the first time in 93.5 hours. Hearing the roar of waves hitting the reef. Pulling up next to our buddies’ yachts (the only two other boats in the calm lagoon). Anchored at 10am. Surfing at 10.30am. Worth the effort.
3. Hassle-free Indonesia. It is unbelievable; unexpected; extremely pleasant. We think it is the absence of the little annoyances associated with relying on other people to provide you with transport, a place to sleep and cooked food that makes travelling on your own boat easier and more relaxing than travelling overland or on a charter boat. Although perhaps we have been lucky so far and the hassles are yet to come…. [Note: If we believe the friendly “warnings” we received from people in Australia (who we note have never travelled on their own boat in Indonesia), then the latter must be true].
4. Feeding a small village. Gifting the monster we caught from the deep (a 50 pound great barracuda) to local fishermen who had not caught any fish that day.
5. Stallion Marine’s exceptional after-sale service. Particularly Dave’s patience and helpfulness when we harass him with questions such as: How do you do this/that? What do you think of this/that? Can you source and courier to us spare parts/replacement parts/a spinnaker? Unfortunately for Dave our harassment did not cease when we left Australia (as no doubt he hoped it would).
6. Cruiser playgrounds. Beautiful and remote bays where cruising sailors surf, kite-board, dive, snorkel, spearfish, jog, play frisbee, swim, kayak, stand-up paddle board. Everyone fit, relaxed, healthy and happy; buzzing on exercise highs.

At the petrol station


Four of the worst bits

1. The three (more) fish that got away; two of which stole our lures.
2. Being gawked at. Not by locals but by other travellers who peer into our living room on their way to the surf.
3. Learning to surf backhand on a shallow reef break in long period overhead high waves. Going left; going right; going left; too late; smashed on the head by the lip of the wave; caught inside; tumbled by an eight wave set; somersaulting forwards, backwards, sideways; lungs bursting; ears and nose flooded; hat wrapped around my neck backwards; rash shirt twisted inside out and upside down; hair band and bobby pins ripped out; hair in my eyes, ears and mouth; worried about the leg rope connection snapping; worried about discovering how shallow the reef break is.
4. Sailing away from a perfect barrelling wave with an empty line-up.

Monster from the deep

Nature report

*Shark. One. On route from Darwin to Roti; circling; dorsal fin in the air.
*Sea snakes. Nine. Eight sea snakes lifting their heads out of the water to peer at us as we passed on route from Darwin to Roti. Ranging in length from 2ft to 8ft and in diameter from the size of a finger to the size of an arm. One sea snake 3m from the first mate (who was lying on her surfboard at the time) in the line-up at Camouflages.
*Indonesian wildlife. Scabby pigs. Starved and mangy dogs and cats. Goats and cows with logs tied around their necks. Pretty birds trapped in small cages. Chickens missing feet and feathers. Squashed rats limping on three legs. Animal lovers must look the other way.
*Whales. Seven. Six 8-10ft whales playing near Sabu. One 38ft whale (i.e., the size of Zinc) breaching 20m away from Zinc’s starboard bow at sunrise on route to Lombok.
*Dugong. One. Massive, lazy and slow spotted several times in the line-up at The Gong.
*Manta Rays. Two floating on the surface next to our tender at The Gong.

Ojek driver

No-one to share the barrels with

Surf report

Favourite break this month:

Skipper – The Gong
First mate – The Gong

*Hospitals [zero]. Left reef break. Extremely shallow with a wedging takeoff and a fast hollow 50m barrel. World class. There is a hospital in a village about 20km away.
*Grumpy Old Men [two to 15] Left reef break. Long rides ranging from fat walls to just barrelling. An old man’s playground. Warning: there are a few grumpy old men in the line-up.
*Camouflages [zero] Left reef break. Long rides with multiple top to bottom barrelling sections. World class. Works all tides.
*Farewell Skipper [zero] Right reef break. Top to bottom 100m long perfect barrel.
*J-peak [zero to one] Right reef break. Slow peaking takeoff and long wall petering out into deep, safe water. Similar to J-bank, Burleigh Heads.
*Discovery [zero to five] Left reef break. Shifty peaks and long walls. Fun. Could handle 100 surfers. Hollow with a smaller swell.
*The Gong [zero to seven] Right reef break. Powerful double up barrels on a big swell. Long fun walls on a small swell.

[Note: The names we have attributed to the above breaks are based on private anecdotes. The number of other surfers in the line-up is shown in square brackets (it does not include us). We did not surf the breaks in the above order…. Good luck trying to work out where they are….]


Expensive barrels

Dive report

*Pulau Dao (spearfishing)
*Mengkudu (spearfishing)
*Teluk Malekaba (spearfishing)

I’ll throw the eggs down

Book report

The skipper read:

*Rediscovering Gandhi by Yogesh Chadha (3 stars)
*The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (4 stars)

The first mate read:

*The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard (3.5 stars)
*The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (1.5 stars)
*The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (3.5 stars)
*Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson (2 stars)
*The Shark Net by Robert Drewe (4 stars)
*The Grandmothers by Doris Lessing (4 stars)