Rallies and the Raja Ampat.Davao to Sorong, West Papua.22July to 01October 2012.

The sail-past from HMAS Sirius.

 

Holiday Oceanview.

The reason for going to Davao was to join the Davao-Morotai rally. This particular event was organised as part of Sail Indonesia which is sponsored by the Indonesian Government and involves pouring money into a region of the country thereby  promoting tourism by luring a bunch of floating miscreants with offers of support and entertainment. In this case a free CAIT (crusing permit for Indonesia), half a dozen free nights with food and at Morotai, 100 litres of diesel and a case of beer; for the last two of these yachties will of course travel half way around the world! Seriously though these rallies are a bit of fun, you get to meet people  and one gets a look at local customs and places not very much travelled to. For those of us in Davao we were also looked after at the ‘Holiday Oceanview Marina’, with much food and dancing and equal amounts of enthusiasm from the locals given that tourism events in Mindanao are somewhat thin on the ground. Mindanao of course gets more mentions for piracy and abductions than anything else and even though the brigands are located on the western side around Basilan, the mud sticks as it were. So for the locals, having anything as salubrious as a ‘yacht rally’ happening from their town was cause for great excitement and all over the news.

Looks the part one supposes!

How to get an engine into a boat!???

Fred and his machine shop!

Holiday Oceanview.

Doug.

Departure day.

Of course one problem with going on a rally was the need for an engine in the boat and this wasn’t looking too good for a while when after three weeks the engine was still in pieces on the dirt floor of a local workshop (Fred’ Machine Shop), it seems things don’t really happen in a timely manner in the Philippines. Anyway the rebuilt engine eventually arrived in time to load test with ten hours of running in the pen the day before we left. Putting it back in was something else with seven Philippinos all arguing vociferously about how to get it on the mounts. It seems the usual procedure for such things here is just have enough bodies to physically lift things, but, not too much room in a boat! After much drama it went in but Trevor still had some concerns, rather trepidation considering the engine bits still sitting in buckets.  Another lesson here of course and whilst in the Philippines, is never underestimate the mess than can be made when pulling out and putting back a diesel boat engine; breathtaking it was.  But the engine was at least back in and running and with two new crew, Tom from Germany and Debbie from California we were ready to go, just!!

On passage to Talaud.

Talaud, ordinary anchorage.

Little wooden boats for everyone!

The scheduled departure day for the rally was September 06 heading straight into a three day run and two nights at sea, bit odd really given the number of day hops we could have done heading south down the Davao Gulf but in the interests of keeping up with the rally schedule it was off to Talaud we went, hard on the breeze like usual . On the way out of our marina pens we were regaled with musicians, VIP boat, media commentary and sail past, all very exciting (definitely for the locals, some of them were in tears) and we were told later all over the news. At Talaud three days later the rally had organised special clearance arrangements for the boats, barbecues on the beach, dancers and even a carved wooden boat as a present for each boat on the rally. The next destination was Morotai and for the locals the biggest event it would seem since General Macarthur arrived in 1945 prior to his return to the Philippines.  Much excitement on Morotai with more flags than people, three nights of food, dancers and singers and one night a ‘crayfish’ cooking competition where 2500 crayfish were cooked on what must have been 2 km of barbecues; interesting!!  The grand finale for the theMorotai festivities was a sail past between a podium on shore where the President was chatting to the crowd and HMAS Sirius parked a mile offshore. The sail past started with local and imported war ships (visiting Navies) followed by the yachts, of course all spread over about 5 km of ocean, line astern. By the time we sailed past it was unlikely anybody was even interested or noticed the yachts but for 100 lites of diesel and free beer!!!  Still don’t believe Macarthur would have gone anywhere near the grubby hole in the ground the locals have named after him.

After Morotai it became a moving south expedition in company with Thyme and Metana and headed into the Raja Ampat at the western end of New Guinea . The name translates as ‘Four Kings’ owing to the 4 largish islands in the middle of the area and this part of Indonesia is we had been led to believe, the place to visit for all things aesthetic , clear water , brilliant diving and marine wildlife. First though was four days moving down the western side of the island of Halmahera, then an overnighter to Wayag. On Halmahera it was farewells to Debbie when we dropped her off at Buli, then a twenty mile day hop for an afternoon chill at anchor before heading east and overnight to Wayag.

This one crashed in the water!

Part of the RAN Morotai contingent.

The wind was actually favourable for this run and we arrived good and early after an overnight sail into one of the most spectacular places you could think of parking a boat. We were back into Karst country here with limestone formations the order of the day. The island has a massive lagoon facing south with multitudes of small limestone islands or pillars sticking up out of relatively deep water; well deep enough to drive keel boats about in and play hide and seek. As Daryl said, has a very Jurassic Park feel about the place. . On the outside (south) side of the lagoon around the limestone rocky things the water was clear, the dolphins curious, the turtles non-plussed and fishing banned. This island is a park with no fishing, no people for that matter and the entire place cleaner than anywhere we had previously been in Indonesia, the island  bordering on pristine.  The only other people here were a couple of yachtie types also on the Morotai rally, and some dive charter boats.  We stopped here in paradise for 5 days before moving south-east towards the ‘Equator’ islands and a move across into the southern hemisphere.  On 26 September at 1445 and in position 130o 06.7E we crossed back into all things south. That night anchored on Kawe, Toni, (Daryl’s girlfriend) had something of a turn requiring calls for advice on the HF radio (via New Zealand and

Sail past.

Australia) and next day a boat arrived offering to

A stout vessel.

evacuate her, she was okay by then but the response was interesting.

The Equator Islands to Sorong is around 70 miles cruising through mostly uninhabited islands, day hopping and stopping on sandy white beaches lined with palm trees, not swimming in some places due to large reptilian animals with long tails and sharp teeth, catching fish off the back of the boat (we through back the two and half metre shark) and wondering about this part of the world that nobody seems to have paid much attention to.  It was here we also said our farewells to Simon and Amanda on Thyme (and of course Sloop) who would be staying north in the Raja Ampat and then heading off for the Philippines once again.

On 01 October  we stepped out of ‘ Crocodile Lagoon’ , (our name) on the north-east  coast of Betanta and slipped across to Sorong on the far western coast of New Guinea.  We were here for three days in a none too good anchorage, stocked up on food, after much drama managed to buy (dodgy) diesel and had a crew change. Tom was off here after his excellent adventure and was headed for land travel over Lombok way. Spanish Angel (pronounced Anhal in Australian speak) arrived for the trip south and British Jerry arrived at the last minute to go as far as he could south-east. On 03 October  we pulled up our overworked CQR and headed further south for the Selat Sele, Pulau Misool  and the Ceram Sea.

P. Wayag, what a place.

 

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