Wednesday, August 20, 2008

1 August 2008 Friday

1 August 08
We had a fine send-off in Darwin on July 26. Callum took out his work boat, and brought Niki and Maili, Shaun and Jen, Tom and Jess, and Ian and Ellen with him to wave us off. Terri and Tayla Hart were with Elvio Travan on his boat, Peter and Pam Garton with Ben Creswick on board, and Phil and Toots Doyle, our former neighbours at Tipperary, all came out on the harbour to wave us goodbye. Ben was shangaied aboard for some last minute computer tuning! He was a godsend. We were last across the start line, due to a mix up about which was the starting point, and no one could hear the starting gun, but that was okay. We were on the way, and we caught up and overtook a lot of boats in the nexrt couple of days. NOT that we’re racing of course.

We sailed into Ambon at 8am, 1st August, after hanging off the finish line until someone was around to mark us in. The voyage here was not without its challenges. After we left Darwin, we had good winds for the first day, but then came two days of Sargasso Sea type conditions. Dead Calm. ‘Painted boats on painted oceans’ sprang to mind. It was so calm and windless that we swam off the boat for a little while. An hour later we saw a huge shark cruising past about 100 metres away… Decided to stay inside the boat after that. The next few days sorted the doldrums out. The winds picked up and we had good sailing in fresh winds for the next few days, but then the challenges really began. Started with a blocked aft toilet and then careered downhill after that. As sorting out the loo required several journeys carrying buckets of nasty stuff from the aft cabin, along the passage, up the companionway, across the cockpit and seats and over the side, naturally this was when the wind was strong and the boat was rolling and rocking along. Lex performed heroically, didn’t yell, and more importantly didn’t spill a drop. He did look a little green around the gills by the time he finished though. After that it got more serious. Alternator problems meant the batteries weren’t charging properly, so use of computers was cancelled. The new generator dropped a pulley, and seems it was sold to us with no grub screws in place to hold it on the shaft. Then the engine had a water cooling problem, which required Lex and Jo to be head down in the engine for an hour or so. The Stugeron works perfectly for normal sailing but that was asking a bit much of it, so over the side I hung. However Lex found the problem, fixed it and we were fine again.

The night sailing was great. I love the fact that there are no hard bits in the way when you’re flying along at 7 knots in pitch dark. We passed over spots of 5000 metres of depth in the Banda Sea – the home of the earth tremors we occasionally feel in Darwin. We reached the mouth of Ambon Harbour a couple of hours before dawn, and played cat and mouse with Cloudy Bay, who beat us in by half an hour in the end.

Customs clearing happened about half an hour after we were anchored and stern roped. It took almost 2 hours and about 14 officials on board, and the filling in and signing of innumerable forms. Customs, Harbour Master, Immigration, Quarantine, Coast Guard and a Language Facilitator, and a search of the boat. However they were all unfailingly polite and friendly. Lea and Keith on Tientos had advised us to have a boat stamp made before we left Darwin, and it was applied with great enthusiasm and vigour to all the forms. Made clearing in a lot simpler I’m sure.

We went ashore after and took Colin Blair up on his offer of showers at his hotel, and then found our way to the Maples restaurant for some good Indonesian food and the first Bintangs of the voyage. Lex and Richard missed out on the Cultural display that evening, as Lex had a phone call that Malaika was dragging her anchor, so they jumped in a bemo and headed back. False alarm. They met us later at Halim’s restaurant, for the fabled chilli mud crab. I think the chef must have changed since the 80s, sadly! The rest of the menu seemed pretty good though. The dancing was great – representatives from several widely differing parts of the Maluku province, from demure handkerchief dancing to wild grass-skirted warriors waving spears. Wonderful stuff, against a small country town-hall kind of backdrop.

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