Archive for the ‘Heading South’ Category

Across the top with crocodiles. Darwin to Port Douglas, November 03 to 30.

April 18, 2013

1200 miles!

1200 miles!

One of Daryl's shallow anchorages.

One of Daryl’s shallow anchorages.

From Darwin to Port Douglas is 1200 miles, sadly most of it to windward with not a great deal of aesthetically pleasing, scenic attractions along the way. One really does get a feeling for the remoteness of it all going across the top of Arnhem land, especially when the engine is being non-cooperative, the wind is generally blowing from exactly where you want to go, the coastline isn’t really a place one would choose to spend too much time, it’s very hot and there are crocodiles swimming around ones boat when at anchor. In retrospect even though the place is pretty much named after Dutch people and sailing ships, there was never really much likelihood of Australians needing to learn how to speak Dutch.  While the Dutch were the first recorded European explorers to land in (northern) Australia, not surprisingly they were non-too  complimentary about the place. Willem Jansz/Janszoon on the Duyfken was the first to land in 1606.  He encountered hostility from the local indigenous people when he came to anchor on Cape York Peninsula and he lost ten of his crew during visits to the shore. Later Dutch explorers did not think the land worthwhile enough to pursue any claims with descriptions of low lying land, scrubby or swampy near the shore, dry and inhabited mostly by crocodiles.

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Sunrise at Melville island.

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That careening moment!

On the locals Jan Carstenszoon with the ships ‘Pera’ and the ‘Arnhem’  in 1623 described the aboriginals as, “poor and miserable looking people who had no knowledge of precious metals or spices” although this does reflect one supposes on the priorities of the Dutch at the time.  Englishman William Dampier who landed on the western coast, in 1688 and again in 1699 was also unimpressed by the dry, barren landscape, the lack of water and what he described as the “miserablest people in the world” – the native population. His negative reports led to the delay of (England’s) colonisation of what is now Australia although from the indigenous peoples point of view it might be argued they would have been better off these reports were kept up!

View from Dinah Beach!

View from Dinah Beach!

Ernest and Wen.

Ernest and Wen.

It was only when James Cook charted the east coast of the continent that a favourable report was sent back to England. Cook and his chief botanist, Sir Joseph Banks, made extensive notes about the fauna and flora, and (apparently) both recommended Australia as a good site to establish a penal colony. They said the land was green and fertile, holding great promise. Interesting really what with all the exploration enthusiasm seemingly being based around precious metals, spices (i.e. money)

Metana

Metana

Black Point, Arnhem Land.

Black Point, Arnhem Land.

and where to lock up poor people, it seems some of our current (Australian) conservative politicians would have fitted in exceptionally well and made excellent explorers! Anyway although we are speaking English the Dutch did leave names for us to remember their efforts, the ‘Gulf of Carpenteria’ was named by Carstenszooon in honour of Pieter de Carpentier at that time the Governor General  of the Dutch East Indies, while Arnhem land is named after one of Carstenszoon’s 1623 ships. On the English side the ‘English Company’s Islands’ north west of Nhulunbuy and Gove seems straightforward while ‘Malay Road’ between The Bromby Islands and the English Companys Islands was named by Mathew Flinders during his 1803 circumnavigation of Australia when he came across a fleet of Malay ‘ Proas’ and fishermen on their annual Trepang (sea-cucumber) expedition.

Gove Harbour.

Gove Harbour.

Eclipse o'clock, Gove.

Eclipse o’clock, Gove.

Well aside from all things historical and without casting aspersions on the merit of eating sea-cucumber (they are deposit feeders after all), we were quite keen to get across to Cape York from Darwin as quickly as possible and the lack of shore attractions meant moving whenever possible was an easy option. Sadly the weather wasn’t going to do anything other than blow hardish out of the east and trying to get direct to the Gugari

Hot

Hot

Rip through the Wessels was always going to be difficult. So there we went, hiding behind islands wherever we could and beating to windward using whatever combination of sails, motor or both that kept us moving.  This is all well and good with a happy engine of course but from Darwin until North Goulbourn Island (250 miles), a fuel problem meant much grief and potential slashing of wrists until we located the offending part. We had we thought solved the issue in Darwin but intermittent faults are always a dilemma and who would have thought of an unserviceable seal in the priming pump of the engine filter, especially when the thing only misbehaved when it felt like it. There is nothing like beating directly into 25 knots of wind with the engine fuel system in bits, being covered in sweat and diesel fuel trying to grab tools as they slither past on the cabin floor; Ernest and Wen looking a bit concerned and “you can fix it can’t you”.

Mangroves, lots of crocs!

Mangroves, lots of crocs!

We got away from Darwin on October 06 the day after Daryl decided to do some impromptu careening directly in front of the Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht Club; made the news and all. We were taking it in turns here for a while towing each other, Daryl with a stern gland problem he fixed while underway and at night (good effort) then a day later Gadfly with the fuel dilemma. The trip across was a procession of islands, Melville in the ‘Tiwi’ group with the first curious crocodiles, (one assumes the Dutch didn’t do too much swimming), Alaru Island, Black Point, Valentia Island, inside Croker Island to North Goulbourn, Entrance Island off Meningrida,

Cadell Strait.

Cadell Strait.

Cadell Strait.

Cadell Strait.

Mooronga Island and then under Elcho Island to pass through the Cadell Strait and Narrows. This is the southerly route underneath the Wessells as getting further north to the Gugari Rip really wasn’t an option with the ENE winds we were fighting. The only problem here is Cadell Strait is a bit shallow in places, the current is more than a problem with wind against, and the pilots description of the narrowest and shallowest bits for all it’s worth might just as well have been written by the ‘Trepangers’in 1803! Anyway, after avoiding getting stuck on the putty we slipped across to Alger Island in the dark, beating still to windward then next morning continued our to windward march into Elizabeth Bay just to the west of Cape Wilberforce at the bottom of the Bromby Islands.

Seisa anchorage.

Seisa anchorage.

More diesel, Seisa.

More diesel, Seisa.

Cape Wilberforce and the Cumberland Passage is the last barrier to pass before the Gulf of Carpentaria and one gets to head south into Gove and Nhulunbuy. The drama is however that you need to get there on slack water and then use the Ebb (eastward flowing tide in this case) to move east as the flood is too strong for your average horsepower challenged yacht to push against. Problem here though was the 25 odd knots of ENE wind blowing across the tide on a shoaling bottom and waves of three or four metres standing up just not quite steep enough to break. There really is nothing like having 17 tonnes of

Passing Cape Wilberforce.

Passing Cape Wilberforce.

boat thrown backwards to the point where one is shipping water over the stern but still getting pushed forward by the current; it’s at this point one ponders the current reliability of a certain engine and wonders if Rudolph Diesel indeed got his design right!

Rudolph Diesel!

Rudolph Diesel!

Gove waiting for an eclipse.

Gove waiting for an eclipse.

Next stop on our eastward bash was Gove and then with some lightening weather a trip across the Gulf to Seisa and then Cape York. After three days at Gove and some solar eclipse watching we headed  to ‘Bremer Island’ then straight across to Seisa just on the western side of the Cape. We were in company initially here with some of the Morotai boats including Tim and Barb on ‘Rubicon Star’ but lost touch with them on the night of Novemberr 16 as they headed further south for Weipa while Gadfly and Metana shaped up direct for Cape York. On November 19 again in the dark we anchored under Slade Point just SW of the channel leading into the Cape. At first light next morning we slipped through the shallows into Seisa for the night then headed for the Cape and at 1045 on November 21 passed Cape York and turned south onto the Aus east coast, yah; and the wind of course as expected turned SE!

Cape York, finally turning south!

Cape York, finally turning south!

Bremer Island, next leg the Gulf.

Bremer Island, next leg the Gulf.

Our expedition now turned into a southerly bash, once again hopping between anchorages sheltered from unseasonal trade winds, beating to windward and when the SE winds lightened off, just keep going. From Seisa to Shelburne Bay, Margaret Bay, Flinders Island (BBQ o’clock), Cape Melville (here it be really windy), Ingram Island, Cape Flattery and then into Cooktown. From Seisa to Cooktown  is around 450 miles and for most of that it’s every bit as isolated as across the top with Cooktown the first bit of ‘apparent’ civilisation. One does need to use this term (civilisation) loosely however and that t-shirt one guy was wearing does have some merit, ‘Cooktown, the worlds largest, open, lunatic asylum’; but it does have three pubs. Shallow in here as well with the boat sitting on the putty at the bottom of the tide each night. Mercifully the wind went light and north for us after leaving Cooktown and after stops at Hope Islands (and another BBQ) and then Low Islands we arrived at Port Douglas at the end of November and tied up to the Piles up stream from the Port Douglas Yacht Club, 3133 miles and some 90 days after leaving the Philippines.

Margaret Bay, Cape York.

Margaret Bay, Cape York.

Margaret Bay.

Margaret Bay.

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Well, they let him in! Daryl at Flinders Island, Cape York.

Well, they let him in! Daryl at Flinders Island, Cape York.

Flinders Island.

Flinders Island.

Metana near the top.

Metana near the top.

Albany Passage, Cape York.

Albany Passage, Cape York.

Margaret Bay.

Margaret Bay.

Margaret Bay.

Margaret Bay.

Ernest and friend!

Ernest and friend!

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Flinders Isalnd and BBQ.

Flinders Isalnd and BBQ.

Crocodylus porosus…… Salt Water Crocodile!

The world’s largest reptile is the Saltwater Crocodile, or in the vernacular, Salties. This carnivore has sat atop the food chain for 100 million years, and it’s ancestors were about the rivers and coasts as long as 250 million years ago.

Salties can grow up to seven metres and weigh over 1,000 kilogram’s, but the average sized male will be around five metres. They can be found across all of northern Australia, from Broome in Western Australia, right across the Northern Territory’s Top End and clear down Queensland all the way to Rockhampton. The population of Saltwater Crocs in Australia may be as high as 200,000 individuals, with the highest concentration in the Top End around Darwin and the Mary River.

Crocodile Facts

Crocodiles can live for up to 70 years and can grow to between four and five metres. The largest confirmed crocodile from the Northern Territory was trapped in the Mary River in the 1980s and measured a bit more than 6 metres.

Baby crocodiles start out weighing just 60 grams, but the largest adult males can reach close to 1,000 kilogram’s.

The average density of crocodiles across tropical Australian rivers is five crocs per kilometre, but the Mary River in the Northern Territory can average as many as 20 crocs per kilometre.

Crocodiles mate and reproduce during the wet season from November to March. A Female can lay up to 50 eggs in nests along riverbanks, where they incubate for about three months before hatching. The mean temperature of the nest determines the sex of the hatchlings. When they hatch, the mother croc will carry the hatchlings to the water in her mouth and release them. Less than one per cent of hatchlings will survive to adulthood.

Crocodiles have sensory organs at the base of their teeth that allows them to sense minute pressure changes to strike underwater. They

IMG_1427

Port Douglas on the piles.

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Port Douglas.

Port Douglas.

Malay Proa.

Malay Proa.

cannot swallow prey underwater, however, and must lift their heads above water to swallow their food.

 Crocodiles have 68 teeth in their jaws that replenish constantly if broken off. A large croc can exert more than two tonnes of pressure with its bite.

Crocodiles can swim as fast as 10 kilometres per hour and can run over open ground as fast as 11 kph for short bursts.

Crocodiles are opportunistic predators and will eat just about anything they can catch. While imagescroc 2

Dutch ship Duyfken (well the new one).

Dutch ship Duyfken (well the new one).

juveniles tend to stick with small prey, adults will take large mammals if the opportunity presents itself.

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Moving South. Whales, fishing and a problem with diesel fuel.Sorong to Darwin 02-25 October 2012.

November 2, 2012

Sorong.

 

Safety First!!

Hmmmmmm!

There are a few ways to get home to Australia from SE Asia on a little boat. You can go across the top of New Guinea, through the Samarai Strait in the east and down through Torres Strait, maybe under New Guinea to Cape York, or you can go in through Darwin or Gove and then head east across Arhhem Land and the Gulf of Carpentaria. There were this year around 13 boats out of Morotai headed for Gove in something of a fleet movement and the three of us Gadfly, Metana and Breakaway (Allan) ultimately headed into Darwin. The initial plan for us and Metana had been to go direct for Cape York but plans, plans and then whatever happens!! In this case from Sorong on we had so much trouble with fuel that staying in company to Darwin proved the best option.

Jerry’s preferred bar!!!

In Indonesia when one buys fuel on the islands the standard operating  procedure seems to be for the fuel being sold to be stored in open drums (no lid at all) and for the seller to scoop the fuel out of the drum with a measuring device and pour it into your container. These guys also have special measuring devices where one Indonesian litre equals about 90 % of the normal S.I. measure we are familiar with; no weights and measure certificates here. They do this with petrol as well, open drums of petrol and diesel stored next to each other and they do like smoking their

Metana and Daryl.

cigarettes!! Anyway aside from the potential pyrotechnic nature of their commercial practices, what actually passes for diesel may have commenced it’s career nowhere near an oil well but rather growing on an oil palm or maybe as part of a coconut. Of course the potential for getting adulterated or contaminated fuel is more than high and we had considered ourselves lucky to have got so far and so long without really shite fuel and the associated filter blockages and engine stoppages that result.

There had of course been some minor issues with our rebuilt engine, a major oil leak, new fuel solenoid that gave up and yet another heat exchanger drama. Does occasionally tend to focus ones attention on all things mechanical, like spending 5 hours getting an engine to start, when in the middle of nowhere and the closest village has police officers with machine guns visiting the night before asking if we had any beer or cigarettes for them. After much considered thought we realised that yes we had a fuel issue and staying in company with the other boats may be a wise move, so it was to Darwin we were to go.

Breakaway, Tom, Daryl and Allen.

After the Selat Sele we headed through the maze of islands north of Pulau Misool day hopping down to the north coast of Ceram (big island south of western New Guinea) then east and south on a night crossing over to the Kai Islands and our clearance port at Tual; this put us 90 miles west of Aru and from Aru it’s 300 miles to Cape Don on the great south land. An issue however all through this area and north of Ceram is anchorages and trying to find somewhere shallow enough to anchor and not on coral. One location in a Selat between P. Ginyamato and Ketimkeno near a pearl farm was perfect though but what with pearl farms and security, we had the obligatory visit from the assault rifle equipped police wanting to know who we were and where we were going. These guys were pretty friendly however and even passed their weaponry up onto our boat for us to have a closer look at it. On the north coast of Ceram we spent three nights off a village by the name of Ingelas buying some food, water and suspect diesel. Not too many tourists pass through here although the place was on the list of obligatory stops for the Gove bound flotilla. We sent Jerry on a mission here to find somewhere for us to have a night out and meal ashore and after yet more chicken-curry we went to have a beer at what turned out to be the local cat-house. Interesting place with couches lined up picture theatre style for the Video and Karaoke but the beer was cold and the girls pretty. We were leaving before the festivities kicked off and as the locals started to arrive for their night out and they did seem bemused to find white guys drinking at their local knock-shop. The local police captain was especially curious about us when he arrived for his evening of Karaoke.

Very big whales. Do not hit!!!

The problem with moving south and east from Ceram and down towards Australia is that as you move away from the equator you become progressively more exposed to the south-easterly tradewinds, sadly coming from where one needs to go. The trick is to pick lulls in the breeze after the passage of high pressure systems across Australia and use the two or three days of variables or no wind to move as quick as possible; in a yacht in such conditions not that quick really. It became a bit of a slog getting down around the corner of Ceram and the next day as the weather was light we headed straight across for our overnight run into Tual. This became mostly a motor and in very light conditions but we did catch fish and almost ran over whales. On the first day out we saw more whales in five hours than we had seen since leaving Australia two years earlier and they were big. Great big whales with long wet backs that looked like islands appearing all over the shop. Angel and Jerry were especially excited about the photo opportunities when a whale came right under our bows, Trevor was more concerned that if we didn’t change course somewhat quickly we would hit the thing and it did seem to be twice the length of our boat. Happily the whales later retired somewhere else for the evening and that night there were no things that go bump in the dark. Next day just before dusk we slipped into Tual and went on the pick for our last big shore run in SE Asia before heading back to the great south land; ah yes and more dodgy fuel.

Tual and the tired fishing boats.

More suspect fuel.

In trying to go south-east into Australia the trick is to claw eastings whenever the weather lets you and in the process try and get enough angle on the wind to be able to sail or at least motor-sail hard on the breeze and get to where you want to go. In other words go east and then go east again. The other option of course is to tack and sail as close to the wind as you can but this will normally take twice as long as taking the more direct route. To give ourselves the best angle into Darwin we decided to go another 90 miles across to ‘Aru’, a long and flat island east of Kai on the same latitude. The only problem here is that the wind went more east than anything else and even with a midnight start for the 90 mile crossing, getting in before dark was becoming progressively more unlikely. We actually got in half an hour after dusk and the fuel dramas again got the better of the engine when a mile short of our anchorage it stopped and didn’t behave again until morning and after three hours of changing filters and bleeding the fuel system. The cost of Aru lends itself to engine breakdowns however, shallow, flat, sand or mud and in the lee of the south easterly trade winds. There are a few little villages along the coast of Aru and we did try to buy more fuel here sending Angel off on a local boat with our jerry cans. He declined however when the litre measure here turned out to be closer to three quarters of a litre. We had since leaving Morotai stayed in touch via the HF with the other Australia bound boats and also with Thyme by now back in Sorong. All the boats were here following Simon’s progress with what was apparently malaria. He was at this point in hospital on a drip leaving Amanda on the boat by herself in Sorong harbour. Not an enviable situation and one of those things that can happen when travelling through such places on a boat. Bit out of touch at the moment and hope they are okay.

The next day it was off to Australia with a 300 mile passage to Cape Don at the entrance to the Dundas Straight, about 90 miles short of Darwin. The good thing here was with our eastings we got to sail most of the way and in the Gadfly reaching for the first half at 6 to 7 knots in 15 to 20 knots of wind.  Of course for the last 90 miles it glassed out and we motored into Alcaro Bay to have the engine die as we were arriving, this was becoming habitual. Next day we got the engine going only to have it die again and Daryl towed us for twenty miles while we changed our fuel supply (by this time a hose hanging out of a jerry can) and then headed down to Cape Hotham. Next day it was through the South Channel between Melville Island and the big island, into Cullen Bay for our

He wouldn’t sell us his overalls! Now the weapon maybe???

clearance then over to Fanny Bay for beers at the sailing club. The next day fisheries came to inspect our bottoms, worried about things sticking to them they are, then we headed around into Tipperary Waters Marina and the place to fix fuel delivery issues. On November 03 we head east again for Gove and Cape York.

Tradewinds.

The trade winds (also called trades) are the prevailing pattern of easterly surface winds found in the tropics, within the lower portion of the Earth’s atmosphere, in the lower section of the troposphere near the Earth’s equator.[1] The trade winds blow predominantly from the northeast in the Northern Hemisphere and from the southeast in the Southern Hemisphere, strengthening during the winter and when the Arctic oscillation is in its warm phase. Historically, the trade winds have been used by captains of sailing ships to cross the world’s oceans for centuries, and enabled European empire expansion into the Americas and trade routes to become established across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, hence the name “Trade Wind”.

In meteorology, the trade winds act as the steering flow for tropical storms that form over the Atlantic, Pacific, and southern Indian Oceans and make landfall in North America, Southeast Asia, and Madagascar and eastern Africa, respectively. Trade winds also steer African dust westward across the Atlantic ocean into the Caribbean sea, as well as portions of southeastern North America. Shallow cumulus clouds are seen within trade wind regimes, and are capped from becoming taller by a trade wind inversion, which is caused by descending air aloft from within the subtropical ridge. The weaker the trade winds become, the more rainfall can be expected within neighboring landmasses.

The term trade winds originally derives from the early fourteenth century late Middle English word ‘trade’ meaning “path” or “track.”The Portuguese recognized the importance of the trade winds in navigation in the Atlantic ocean as early as the 15th century.The full wind circulation, which included both the trade wind easterlies and higher-latitude Westerlies, was un-known (to Europeans) across the Pacific ocean until Andres de Urdaneta‘s voyage in 1565.

The captain of a sailing ship seeks a course along which the winds can be expected to blow in the direction of travel.[5] During the Age of Sail the pattern of prevailing winds made various points of the globe easy or difficult to access, and therefore had a direct impact on European empire-building and thus on modern political geography. For example, Manila galleons could not sail into the wind at all.

By the 18th century the importance of the trade winds to England’s merchant fleet for crossing the Atlantic Ocean had led both the general public and etymologists to identify the name with a later meaning of ‘trade’, “(foreign) commerce”. Between 1847 and 1849, Matthew Fontaine Maury collected enough information to create wind and current charts for the world’s oceans.

Cause

As part of the Hadley cell circulation, surface air flows toward the equator while the flow aloft is towards the poles. A low-pressure area of calm, light variable winds near the equator is known as the doldrums, equatorial trough,intertropical front, or the Intertropical Convergence Zone. When located within a monsoon region, this zone of low pressure and wind convergence is also known as the monsoon trough.Around 30° in both hemispheres air begins to descend toward the surface in subtropical high-pressure belts known as subtropical ridges. The subsident (sinking) air is relatively dry because, as it descends, the temperature increases but the absolute humidity remains constant, which lowers the relative humidity of the air mass. This warm, dry air is known as a superior air mass and normally resides above a maritime tropical (warm and moist) air mass. An increase of temperature with height is known as a temperature inversion. When it occurs within a trade wind regime, it is known as a trade wind inversion.

The surface air that flows from these subtropical high-pressure belts toward the Equator is deflected toward the west in both hemispheres by the Coriolis effect.These winds blow predominantly from the northeast in the Northern Hemisphere and from the southeast in the Southern Hemisphere.[14] Because winds are named for the direction from which the wind is blowing, these winds are called the northeasterly trade winds in the Northern Hemisphere and the southeasterly trade winds in the Southern Hemisphere. The trade winds meet at the doldrums.

As they blow across tropical regions, air masses heat up over lower latitudes due to more direct sunlight. Those that develop over land (continental) are drier and hotter than those that develop over oceans (maritime), and travel northward on the western periphery of the subtropical ridge.Maritime tropical air masses are sometimes referred to as trade air masses. The one region of the Earth which has an absence of trade winds is the north Indian ocean.

Pulau Wayag and the Raja Ampat. September 2012.

November 2, 2012

Quite the place for photographs!

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

November 2, 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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