Saturday, August 11, 2007

Welcome to Indonesia

Current Location: Inside the Lagoon, Parmahan Island, Indonesia
Current Position: 08 27.3' S 122 25.3' E
Next Destination: Maumere, Flores Island, Indonesia

Our time in Kupang was great, but as suspected upon arrival, the upbeat pace was tiring. The tours put on by the Rally were outstanding (more about those and more details about Kupang will be posted on our website at a later date). The anchorage however lacked appeal, but thanks to the full days touring and exploring Kupang we were hardly ever on the boat!

While most boats departing Kupang were headed for the next rally stop, Alor, we decided to head towards Lembata (the third rally stop), opting for a bit of time "alone" before rejoining the rally. Of course with 100+ boats around, one is never really alone! We ended up about eight nautical miles from the town of Lembata, near Adunara Island.

The area is beautiful. Some of the dramatic cliffs and landscapes remind us a bit of the Marquesas Islands, only here, huge Mt Fuji style mountains emerge, some still blasting smoke, others lying dormant. From the anchorage we could spot at least five volcanoes at various points around us.
When we first arrived we were pleased to find only one other boat in the anchorage. The next few days were paradise. The anchorage was extremely flat, the water clear, and the snorkeling terrific. We were both recovering from various illnesses, so it was terrific to enjoy some true R & R and we loved getting back into the slow days of the cruising lifestyle. We also enjoyed a few sundowners with Sundance (the other boat).

There are two sand pits that appear and disappear with the tides, both of which were terrific to walk along at low tide. The water clarity was amazing; one could easily see the bottom of the channel, 80 feet below! The corals were fantastic, both soft and hard, some of brilliant colors. Surprisingly, for the amount of coral we didn't see as many fish as we thought there should be. Even so, we did spot a juvenile black lion fish, swimming about in the open - very majestic looking. Plus a school of gigantic Longfin Spadefish, I've never seen them so big, and they weren't scared of us at all (I swam within touching distance of them and they barely flinched). We also spotted a fantastic anemone, encased in a blue soft covering (almost like a plastic bag). On our first pass the anemone was fully open, the blue "bag" barely noticeable, but when we returned the "bag" was closed and only a tiny bit of the anemone stuck out. It was really quite cool. Unfortunately there were also a large number of huge Crowns of Thorns, and bleached coral.

It didn't take long before the anchorage began to fill up, boats arriving both from Kupang and Alor. The anchorage was still quite pleasant, but fifteen boats are never as serene as two! With the additional boats we enjoyed a few happy hour drinks on the sand-spit, noting that it was perfect to get off the boat for the few hours when the north swell came rolling in.

In total we spent about one week there before finally motivating to move on. Instead of going into Lembata for the rally events we decided to move westward slowly, with a plan of rejoining the rally in Maumere. And so it came to be that we found ourselves in Tanjung Gedong, Flores, around three in the afternoon. It is a small anchorage and already four boats (plus two local boats) were anchored there. There was just enough room for us, but we'd have to tie a stern line ashore and squeeze between two other boats. As it was late in the afternoon we didn't want to move on, hunting for another anchorage. This was a first for us; a stern line to shore, over a coral shelf (deep waters quickly shelving up to shallow waters), in a tight spot. And all, of course, in the audience of the curious locals!

We dropped our bow hook in about 50 feet (choosing the deeper water as to avoid destroying the coral of the shallow shelf). Before the hook even touched the bottom at least three local canoe boats approached to greet us. Luckily I had learned how to say "Just a minute" in Indonesia, so we were able to hold them off while we figured out how to get a stern line ashore. Of course, who know "a moment" would end up being two (very comic) hours!!!

First off, Chris quickly hopped in the dinghy with our hand-held depth sounder to make sure there was enough room over the shelf (for when we swung around with our stern line), and also to scope out a potentially spot for our friends on Island Sonata. He couldn't figure out why his knees were getting wet until he realized he'd forgotten to put the plug back in the dinghy - he was sinking!!! He came back to Billabong with one of those 'oops' grins and asked me to hand down the plug!

Chris dug to the bottom of our cockpit storage, pulling out a huge wad of line (which got a few "oohs" and "aahs" from our local audience). He attached it Billabong's stern, jumped back in the dinghy, and headed ashore. Only there wasn't enough line. I couldn't back in (to get us closer) because with Billabong's port walk I couldn't get her straightened out before hitting the boat next to us. Unable to communicate, with Chris onshore and me aboard, he came back to Billabong and we decided to try going in nose (bow) first; our theory being that this would get us close enough for Chris to reach shore, where he would attach the line, and then pull it, thereby spinning us around, stern to shore. All seemed to be according to plan; Chris made it ashore with enough line, and we were more or less centered between the two boats. However, there were no rocks large enough to tie the line to, and the trees were another few yards up the beach (too far with the current line). We went back and forth trying a few things, before Chris finally gathered up the line and came back to Billabong - getting a few chuckles from the locals when he slipped on the rocks getting back into the dinghy.

Now, you have to keep in mind that while all this back and forth is going on at least five canoe- style boats are hovering around Billabong with the locals smiling, laughing, and staring, literally watching every move (and every blunder). Probably wondering how these two white fools ever made it anywhere! After all, when they anchor their fishing boats, they just drive them right up on shore! Within the first five minutes I had exhausted all of my Indonesia and they had pretty much used up all the English, so we were left to smiles and waving!

Anyway, out came some more line, and away Chris went again. This time we ran the line from the stern, through the bow (to keep us straight), and Chris didn't try to actually pull Billabong. Once ashore he tied the two lines together and then disappeared into the trees to attach the line. When he reappeared he was urgently slapping at his legs, back, stomach and head. I knew then that something had gone amuck. Again, the locals thought it was grand entertainment, and there was much laughter! When he finally made it back to Billabong he informed me he was 'attacked' by green ants and that they "had gotten in my underpants!" Well, luckily his efforts were successful, as now that we were attached to shore we could easily pull in the stern line (having released it from the bow), and swing Billabong around to lie neatly between the boats, bow out. Perhaps it doesn't sound so bad, but this process took a good two hours, long enough for the locals to get bored; by the time we were finally anchored everyone had returned to shore! As evening fell we noticed that one of the fires on the rocky shore was bigger than it had appeared earlier; wouldn't that just be the icing on the cake - if the fire traveled closer to our stern line and burned through it!

Of course that didn't happen. And we enjoyed an extremely pleasant and peaceful night. One wouldn't think there would be a lot of 'firsts' left after 3-1/2 years of cruising, but apparently there is always something left to learn!

We know that next year, and the years following, another crowd of cruisers will be traveling through Indonesia, and so, when relevant, we will throw in some additional information to hopefully assist those coming in the next years (such as what follows).

Additional anchorage notes for following cruisers:
Adunara Anchorage: In the "101 Anchorages" book it states there is room for 4-5 boats in 10-12m. We think about 3 boats in 12-15 meters is more accurate along the tongue of shallower water that runs off the SW edge of the sand spit. However, there is plenty of room for additional boats (we saw up to about 15) if willing to anchor in deeper waters (about 16m - 20m) either south of the pearl farm or along the NE channel. Be aware that a strong current can flow through the anchorage, and around the NE sand-spit (especially during the spring tides), this results in some interesting boat swing, and caused a few boats to have to re-anchor and/or come mighty close to other boats. Also try not to anchor too close the pearl farm buoys or shacks, as the locals will come out and ask you to move. We would typically get stronger S/SE winds during the night that switched to NE sea breezes in the early afternoon, so don't anchor on the shallow shelf off the northern side of the channel or you'll end up parked on the sand spit at midnight.

Tanjung Gedong, Flores Anchorage: The center of the anchorage is deep (100-200 feet), and it shelves up quickly. As noted above, when we arrived the boats had used stern lines ashore, this allowed them to be bow out to any swell that might enter, and allowed for more boats to fit. If you want to avoid throwing your hook directly onto the coral (always a good thing to avoid), plan to drop in 40-50 feet. Once the stern line is ashore you will fall back (towards shore of course) and be in about 20-30 feet. We imagine a pretty good swell could enter the bay, however on our night there it was extremely peaceful and flat calm. Local fishing boats (the larger ones) anchor in the deeper parts as well, so it can get crowded. None of the boats in front of us (nor us) could find the shallow waters described in "101 Anchorages" but we figure you could easily fit nine boats if all committed to tying stern to.

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