Kupang, Dragons, Fishermen and Bars. 22Sep2010

Clearing into Indonesia through Kupang could best be described as bizarre.  It didn’t help that we arrived just after Ramadan and in the equivalent of Christmas holidays but that was just the start.  The passage (460 miles) itself took four days and nights and eventually in company with the Germans (actually Austrian, German and Dutch; Martin, Anna and Seats) on the Anima III we put down the pick at Tenau on Saturday morning and the two skippers went looking for the harbour master and customs.  After establishing that neither could be found and that they were almost certainly closed for the next three days both boats slipped around the corner into Kupang for a shore run. Upon going ashore at Kupang we were availed of help by locals intent on providing us with as much assistance as we could handle; for a donation of course.  Part of this help resulted in the afternoon with somebody taking time off his holidays to come down and clear us through the maze of Quarantine paperwork; again for a donation. Amazing really, the boats and crews were issued with all types of clearances, e-coli checks on water, food, rat-certificate, health, guns (none of course) etc etc all without the quarantine fellow even looking at either of the two boats; he didn’t even care that he couldn’t see Gadfly’s registration documents or get the official number. It seems donations go a long way here.


The man from Quarantine; lots of stamps!

One of the problems for sailors in Indonesia is ‘The Bond’.  Apparently in 2006 a number of boats in the Sail Indonesia Rally failed to clear their boats out properly, meaning that to customs those boats (luxury items attracting a hefty duty) are still lurking around the country somewhere.  So it was decided that a bond should be paid by all yachty types with the bond amount subject to the value of the vessel and refundable when the boat leaves the country (what a nightmare).  Nobody pays this of course but what it does provide is spectacular leverage for more donations to be extracted from innocent yachties.  The procedure is for the donations to be received via a third party, ‘The Agent’; if you pay the agent enough money to pay officials enough money the threat, sorry requirement of a bond goes away.  Another problem is the location of the four offices one needs to visit, that is, immigration, customs, quarantine and the harbour-master.  They are in disparate locations and finding them without local support or a very switched on taxi driver would be just about impossible.  The skipper enlisted the support of ‘Charles’ and his motor-bike to visit the relevant offices and eventually got the clearance sorted with only a 175,000 RP  ($18-00US) ‘donation to the country’, not a bad result really.  The crews of both boats had by this time of course spent three and half days sculling about Kupang before clearing in and the clearances for both boats went through without anybody even visiting or looking at either of the boats; stunning!!

Our friendly locals Charles and Ayud were great help during our four days in Kupang, as was the old guy living under the pier who looked after our dinghys.  Charles also trundled the skipper about looking for internet options and a new modem and while visiting the ‘Telcomsel’ offices managed to swap his borrowed motor-bike for somebody elses bike; well the key did start the thing.  After his adventures on motor-bikes the skipper was feeling lucky (to survive) and contemplating taking up some new and relatively safe sports, base-jumping came to mind as did white-water rafting on the Iguasso Falls.

It was a bit of fun at Kupang though, the locals were great and given the poverty one can’t really get annoyed at the constant desire for a handout of some sort. The frustration for the locals however as Charles explained, is that the extortion of money for services by officials goes beyond visitors and in his words, ”they treat the locals the same and we have no money”! Of course the even bigger frustration for the locals is that while the situation stays as it is, actually getting worse for yachties with the donations becoming more costly as more people want a piece of it, the number of visiting yachts other than ‘Sail Indonesia’ will continue to decline.  There is now a tendency for boats to sail on and clear in elsewhere even though Kupang should logically be the clearance port of choice for west-bound boats. Less boats of course means less tourism money and less opportunity for the locals wanting to support the visiting boats.  On another note and the small world concept while in Kuoang we met Arne, a veterinarian working in Kupang on an aid program.  It seems Arne is a mate of and studied with our angling veterinarian Dave Gordon in Sydney; at one point they were house-mates. Arne had a house on the headland above Kupang and of course we all went around for the ablutions facilities.

Drinks at Pantai Laut (Robin's place).

A girlfriend for Morris!

We got away from Kupang at about 2000 (8.00 PM) on the Tuesday evening and with the revolving light from the light beacon above Kupang dropping astern we went in pursuit of the Germans who had slipped away four hours earlier. This was a 250 mile hop to ‘Rinca’, a small island between Flores and Komodo. This was to be a three night exercise, good sailing, minimal motoring, squalls and lightning and we arrived very early on the Friday morning to pick up a mooring in a bay at the southern end of the island. The area is of course famous for the ‘Komodo Dragons’, actually big-arse goannas (monitors Gini!!) of the genus Varanus.  Apparently if we were to go to Komodo we would be subject to $!5-00 a person conservation charges but if we go to Rinca we get to see the dragons for free; and there they were walking around on the beach directly inshore of our mooring.  There were four on our beach and a couple more on the next beach around so in we went fully equipped with cameras to check out the big lizards.

Where is the food?

When we arrived there was a large local sailing, charter boat (Felicia) doing the diving and dragon thing for the tourists and the punters on the charter boat told us they had seen the same dragons on our beach when they arrived. When we went ashore the dragons were very interested in our dinghys (especially the white Gadfly boat) and the skipper was suspicious that the charter boat operators may in fact feed our big lizards to encourage them onto the beach.  They did appear somewhat habituated and are probably used to having food tossed to them from the white tender from the charter boat.  At one point we thought they were planning to climb into our tender but with no food in the offing they eventually lost interest and sauntered around waiting to see if we would change our minds about the food thing.  Lots of photo opportunities here whilst keeping clear of the business end of teeth and drool.

After our ‘Life on Earth’, moment we went around to chat to the skipper of Felicia and ask his advice on the best time to clear the passage to our north between Rinca, Padar and Komodo Islands. Apparently the current whistles through here and planning with the tides makes life go more swimmingly.  Our man told us his intention was to slip through at 0530 the following morning so with this in mind (and a donation of 16 eggs to the Gadfly’s depleted food reserves) we pulled our anchors and cruised the 15 miles to Padar Island to spend the night just around the corner from the tight spot between Padar and Rinca.  The plan was to get away at 0500 and do a 30 mile hop over the top of Komodo to the big bay on the north of Banta Island between Komodo and Sumbawa.  This turned out to be a very large open anchorage which in normal circumstances would have had the skipper concerned about exposure to northerlies but it seems here people just don’t think quite the same way as sailors more accustomed to the vagaries of weather at higher latitudes.  The anchorage here was in very clear, warm water over coral and sand patches which dropped into deep water very close to shore.  It was also very hot so a swim and snorkel were the order of things followed by the obligatory clean of the hull.  A persistent shaft rattle also prodded the skipper to look closely at the shaft alignment and do the rounds of the engine mounts.  That night it did blow from the north but only at about ten knots, different world up here!

From Banta to Kilo is 60 miles meaning at 5 knots, 12 hours of travel.  We were by this time becoming accustomed to wind in the early morning, especially out of the passes between the islands followed by afternoons of light and often variable winds. By taking advantage of the early pressure we get as many miles in as possible before lighter conditions mean either slow sailing or motor sailing with constant changes to the rig and trim of sails.  For the Gadfly the preferred rig has become put the wind over the quarter, pole out the genoa to windward, main square to leeward on a preventer, with staysail and mizzen also to leeward.  Of course the breeze is not always this accommodating and frustration can become the order of things. Another option is reaching with the big baggy asymmetric in place of the genoa, this is good for 10-15 knots of breeze.  We left Banta at 0200 still in company with Anima and had a great sail in good air till about 1000 when as expected the breeze followed the script and went light. We arrived at Kilo at about 1500 (3.00 PM) and went ashore to see the sights.

The Germans. Anima III.

Kilo is a little fishing village on the north coast of Sumbawa and the locals here probably don’t see too many yachties coming through.  The children were very excited and every one of them was out to follow us around and play soccer with Tim. The women took a liking to Anna and were very keen to know which of us was her husband and “where is your baby”?  As the food situation was getting a bit dire on the Gadfly we went in search of food but only managed to procure eggs, soy sauce and noodles.  Ah well, when in Rome!  After getting back to the boat the skies opened up and had both boats crews running around on deck for showers and washing clothes. Next morning was to be a dawn departure with a parting of ways for the two boats.  Martin is headed for another village stop while the Gadfly was to do a 150 mile jump around to the Gili Islands off the NW tip of Lombok, we plan to catch up in Bali.

The quay at Kilo.

On fishing villages and more the actual fishermen and their fishing boats, they make navigation here interesting. It seems that their interpretation of navigation lights is somewhat different to most mariners understanding of lights at sea.  Whereas most people have a red light to port and green to starboard, the norm here is flashing red and green viewed through 360 degrees and sometimes blue and white flashing through 360 degrees.  This of course doesn’t help at all with aspect and given their seemingly erratic movement at times it becomes incomprehensible what said boat operators intentions might be.  It gets even better when there are a number of them in close company doing their thing and the area starts to take on the look of a nightclub dance floor.  During the day it does get easier where the guy on the boat waves little table tennis size bats of hand things indicating where his nets might be.  However, when there are a number or them they all wave them in different directions making direction something of a lottery.  Ah well, it’s their water so the best option is keep well clear and wave; they always wave back.

So here we are ensconced on a mooring off the tourist and backpacker hotspot at Gili Trawalgan.  This is party time stuff and last night Tim and Trevor did a job on themselves.  The skipper wisely pulled the pin at about 1230 and went back to the boat. The two intrepid Kiwis however, managed to lose the girls who had offered them somewhere to sleep and eventually slept on the beach; much discussion about the need to try and use the phones we have bought so as to avoid sleeping on beaches!  This place is quite the contrast to places like Kupang and Kilo with shops, bars, hawkers, music blaring, t-shirts for sale, diving trips to be had, glass bottom boats etc etc.  The plan from here is to leave very early tomorrow morning and work the tides for the 70 mile passage to Benoa Harbour on Bali.  There we expect to see more bars, more restaurants more t-shirts, more hawkers and more beer.

Go Pies!


One Response to “Kupang, Dragons, Fishermen and Bars. 22Sep2010”

  1. Debbie Duckworth Says:

    To the Skipper and Crew,
    Outstanding adventures & thank you for sharing! Some very important info for those courageous souls who love the sea, its inhabitants, peoples, & travel. Keep it up – the sails, the good wind, your good sense, the fun… Hope you find more fish and coral. 😦 Will look forward to more posts.

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