Sunday, September 7, 2008

29 August 2008

29 August 2008

The second crossing of the Equator! We sailed into a quiet little bay on the Sulawesi mainland early this morning, cooked breakfast, caught up on a little sleep and then girded our loins and went ashore to do the honours for the newly arrived wetbacks. Alison and Sam Grierson, and Elaine Huxley hadn’t crossed the Equator by sea before, so they were to be duly inducted as Shellbacks by both Richard, and Wayne Huxley. Wayne had a red cape and a plastic CROWN, outshining Richard who had to make do with a new trident and his budgie smugglers. A fire was lit, a barbecue cooked, and lethal amounts of Bintang and red wine consumed. An unsuspecting group of men from the nearby village wandered past and sat down by their outrigger canoe. After a lot of hand signals and poor attempts at Indonesian on our part, a tug of war was in progress between the two groups. (Check out the photos!) It took a few minutes and a lot of effort but the Rally gang managed to drag the Sulawesians across the line to much laughter and cheering. Handshakes and big grins all round, and then the next challenge was issued – the classic Australian contest at which we have never been beaten, that Olympic event of the future, the Thong Throw. This required even more elaborate hand signals and poor Indonesian, and I don’t think the Sulawesians understood what we were getting at, but they were pretty good thong tossers just the same. A draw was declared, and the Sulawesians grinned hugely, shook hands again and decamped before any more strange activities were introduced. Actually, it was after they watched a coconut carrying contest between two sides of contestants, men and women, using knees, that they hastily stood up and remembered they had a prior engagement.
Cultural embarrassments aside, they’ll have something to shake their heads over for a few weeks.

After a few pots of strong coffee and some headache tablets next morning, we set off for an overnight sail which turned into three nights. We’d hoped to be able to stop the second morning just before a cape at the top of a big gulf, and were entranced by crowds of lipa-lipas flitting about the waters ahead of us as we drew in near the coast. They’re an impossibly light-looking sailing boat with a white triangular sail and light outriggers. They skim over the waves more like a windsurfer than a boat. There must have been a hundred and fifty of these elegant craft out on the water. Then we noticed several long, low, fast boats spearing out towards us, with the crew standing up and waving their arms at us and pointing out to sea. They hunted us out of the way in no uncertain terms and didn’t veer off until we were well clear of what turned out to be nets everywhere. We would have been clear of them if we’d been allowed in to shore, but I guess the fishermen didn’t want to take any chances of having their nets damaged. With so many nets and so many boats out, it must have been a seasonal fish run or something, and this was their big opportunity to pull in some serious fish.

We headed out across the gulf and into some heavy seas, with winds coming at us from the south east and throwing up big waves. Malaika handles heavy seas beautifully. She just rides the waves comfortably, and you feel quite safe, even if you can’t do much downstairs. These were 3 to 4 metre waves, but wide apart so there was plenty of time for the boat to get across them. Winds up to almost 30 knots at times meant we did some fast and furious sailing. Made a welcome change from motoring all the time.

That night we investigated a possible anchorage at a pair of islands at the start of the shipping channel into Makassar, but the coral reef surrounding them was impossible to manage. We gave a collective groan and headed out for our third night’s sail, reaching Makassar at about 1am, after more than 60 hours straight. (Six days non-stop sailing from Darwin to Ambon was fine because we were expecting it, but we’d planned to overnight at least once at anchor on this voyage and we just weren’t prepared mentally I think, so we were all pretty tired.)

‘A glass of red would be nice...’ sighed Richard and Lex. They’d finished the last of the wine a few days before, but unbeknownst to them I’d hidden one bottle. It was opened with much satisfaction and drunk by the four of us in the middle of the night, anchored in the middle of Makassar Harbour. A good way to finish a long sail.

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