Friday, November 1, 2013



We learned through the cruiser’s grapevine that you don’t want to stay in Indonesia even one day past your cruising permit’s expiration.  However, the new marina where we had luckily booked a berth couldn’t get us in until a day after our cruising permit expired but as our luck would have it, we were able to secure a reservation for a berth at the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club for the one night.

Leaving the 5-star luxury resort on Bintan Island, which was our last stop in the Sail Indonesia Rally, we made our way due west in the early morning.  The water was flat calm and the wind nonexistent, as it usually is this close to the equator – calm enough that I was able to make a batch of banana nut muffins while we were underway.  By late morning, we were approaching our way point where we would make a hard right turn in an attempt to cross the heavy freighter traffic at a right angle.  Singapore is the second busiest shipping port in the world (Shanghai is the busiest) and a 200- to 300-meter long freighter passes every 12 minutes, some just poking along and some at a good clip.  Our chart plotter confirmed a never-ending trail of ships but even though we hadn’t quite made it to our right-turn waypoint, we saw a break in the thick traffic and made a dash to cross the Vessel Traffic Separation lanes.  The 2-mile wide crossing went pretty well but we still had to alter our course several times as we approached Singapore’s shores but, fortunately, it wasn’t the white-knuckle experience that we had been anticipating.

No sooner had we arrived in the Western Anchorage and hailed Immigration on the VHF radio when their launch approached us.  We handed over all our documents and prepared ourselves to wait for the next couple of hours for them to process our paper work but a mere half hour later, they returned the completed forms to us and welcomed us to Singapore.  With our big yellow Quarantine flag lowered and the Singapore courtesy flag hoisted in it’s place, we steamed our way through the hundreds of ships in the anchorage.  The yacht club was still about 10 miles to the west and we got a good view of the coast line as we made our way there – hundreds of 30- and 40-storey apartment buildings, like so many blades of fescue in a pasture.  The huge cranes that unload the containers from the ships were lined up for miles and all of them seemed to be in operation simultaneously.  The refineries on Jurong Island seemed to be crowded right next to each other, their tall stacks belching smoke.

We pulled Rutea into her assigned slip at the yacht club and I was immediately disappointed.  I had been expecting better maintained docks but these appeared to be somewhat neglected, with blades of grass growing up through the wood that separates the concrete.  Once I was in the dock master’s office, I learned that if I wanted to move to the marina where we had our reservation, we would have to apply for a cruising permit.  Before I could apply for a cruising permit, I would have to take and pass a proficiency exam.  It wasn’t a quick decision but the cheap rate to stay at the yacht club helped.  The other thing that I didn’t like is that the yacht club is right next to the terminal that shuttles crew out to the freighters.  A constant stream of 50-foot launches, their big, throaty diesels rumbling, churn up the water so that even the big boats at the club’s docks roll badly.  Shortly after we arrived, Rutea took such a bad roll that it pulled her plastic dock step (which was tethered to her lifeline) into the water and then when she rolled back the other direction, it smashed the puny folding step into pieces against the dock.  To be fair, though, the rest of the club’s amenities are very nicely appointed, modern and even luxurious.  Two dining options (one casual, one more formal), a new gym with all the latest equipment (they even provide thick, white towels with RSYC embroidered in large, blue letters), a chart room with an extensive collection of navigational charts and a very well air conditioned bar that has a pool table.  There is even a Jackpot Room, which is lined with slot and video poker machines but as a guest we don’t have access to it.

After being in Indonesia for three months, I was surprised at how quickly we adapted to being in a First World country again.  In no time we had figured out how to ride the MRT, Singapore’s extensive underground railway system that always seems to be crowded.  English is the official language of Singapore but everything on the buses and trains is translated into Tamil, Mandarin Chinese and Malay.  Another big difference between Singapore and Indonesia is the cost of living:  Although the trains, buses and taxis are pretty reasonable, the cost of almost everything else appears to be stratospheric.  One of the most disconcerting is the cost of beer because a cold 650ml Bintang would be around 4,000 Indonesian rupiah (US$3.50) in a more upscale restaurant and a much smaller beer would set you back about $12 Singapore dollars (US$10) in a casual eatery.  Of course, the most obvious difference between the two countries is that Singapore is ultra-modern while a substantial percentage of Indonesia’s population still lives a near-subsistence life style.

Since the British took control over Singapore in 1819, they set up communities for the Chinese and the Indians that they imported to be indentured labor (the British lost control over Singapore in 1941 when they were humiliated by the Japanese).  Today, these two cultures retain their traditions, foods and culture in sprawling areas that draw millions of tourists.  There’s even an Arab quarter where one night we had a spectacular Mediterranean dinner.  The sights and sounds of each area are intoxicating.

The ethnic neighborhoods notwithstanding, the other ubiquitous feature that heavily populates Singapore are the shopping malls.  They’re everywhere.  Most of them are very upscale but almost all of them have a similar layout; meaning that you can always find a food court with not-so-expensive fare.  With only anecdotal evidence from our casual observations, Singaporeans love to shop and the malls are crowded from early in the morning to late at night.

When you’re visiting as many countries as we are, its easy to fill up your passport and who wants to be denied entrance into a country because there’s no room in your passport for their stamp?  Both Ruthie and Corie’s passports were almost completely full so they made appointments at the US Embassy in Singapore to have pages added.  Embassy Row in Singapore is on a busy, tree-lined street and the US Embassy is in between the Australian and the British.  It’s a huge, imposing building with tall fences, hundreds of closed circuit TV cameras and signs warning you not to take any photographs.  We had to pass through two security checks and cell phones weren’t allowed inside.  The people that worked there were friendly, though, and even went out of their way to help us out.

From the embassy it was a short walk to Singapore’s Botanical Gardens.  It was a good thing that the walk was short as it was already approaching noon and it was swelteringly hot.  My polo shirt was soaked by the time we got there but I was completely dazzled by the collection of stunning plant life in this extremely well-cared-for, 53-hectare park.  The main highlight of this highlight was the National Orchid Garden, where unbelievable flowers had the most intense colors I’ve seen anywhere.  We wound up walking the entire length of the park before we came to the MRT station, where it’s air conditioning was a welcomed oasis.  Our first trip to Chinatown had been too short so we decided to head back there for a late lunch.

On, usually the top restaurant pick for a city or area is some very expensive, albeit very good, place that we can’t afford.  Not so for Chinatown in Singapore.  The top pick there is for the Hawker Stands, where steaming trays of strange and delicious-looking food are lined up, shoulder-to-shoulder, served mostly for take away but there are often a few plastic tables where a meal can be enjoyed as long as things like napkins aren’t important to you.  One of Singapore’s typical afternoon thunderstorms was dumping millions of gallons of water from the sky, punctuating it with sharp, loud claps of lightning and thunder as we chose a place to eat.  Unfortunately, that particular string of Hawker Stands didn’t attract our attention so we wound up a nice pub instead, which allowed us to have a beer but also spend about ten times as much as we would have if we hadn’t been so picky.

Our stay in Singapore is going to be very short.  Rutea badly needs to be hauled out of the water for some repairs and maintenance and the yard we’ve chosen in Malaysia has to haul us out before the 10th of November and it’s still 300 miles away.  We plan to be back underway on the 3rd.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bintan Island

The freighter traffic was getting heavy as we made our way north though Selat Riau, the wide channel that works it way towards Singapore.  Our guide book  mentioned an anchorage that sounded promising and we were just about to pull in when a very dark thunderhead threatened to turn loose on us.  The anchorage turned out to be awful so we headed back south and found a very secure spot just to the east of Raja Island.  After a very comfortable night, we got underway the next morning for what was to be our final leg with Sail Indonesia, a luxury resort on the north side of Bintan Island.

As we were dodging the massive freighters that were anchored, another very dark thunderstorm was forming to the west and soon the wind was up to the low 30s.  It didn’t take long for a decent-sized swell to develop but the rain associated with the storm was relatively mild.

The route I had plotted on the chart plotter took us over an area that had about 35 feet of water, more than enough for Rutea’s 6’6” draft but still relatively shallow compared to the water surrounding us.  I wasn’t worried about it but I still kept a watchful eye on the depth sounder.  What was more of a concern was the enormous amounts of trash in the water.

The wind had dropped to about 10 knots and with just the genoa out, we put the engine on to keep our speed up.  With a sudden jarring and loud banging from the hull, Rutea almost came to a complete stop.  “We’ve run aground,” I shouted and shifted the engine into neutral but a quick check of the depth sounder said we were still had 35 feet of water under the keel.  Perhaps we had just picked up something on the prop so I tried reverse but the noise that came from the engine/transmission indicated that something was seriously wrong.  I tried to do a logical diagnosis of the problem and I became suspicious of the transmission.  A quick inspection didn’t reveal anything obvious or conclusive.  Ruthie suggested I look over the transom and see if we were trailing anything.

The answer was very plain and very troubling.  Sticking out about four feet from under Rutea’s hull and transom were four large timbers, each one measuring about 6” by 8”.  The ends of the timbers were rounded from wear but the wood was still very sound.  I could see a threaded rod, measuring about ¾” in diameter that was keeping the timbers together.  What I couldn’t see was the end of the timbers that were still under the boat.

We furled the genoa and threw a long polypropylene line in the water, something for me to hang onto when I was in the water.  There was enough wind that even with the sails furled, Rutea was still moving at about 1 knot per hour and can’t I swim that fast.  Once in the water with my facemask on, I could see the whole story.  Four heavy timbers, probably twelve feet long each, held together with three four-foot lengths of threaded rod, were on either side of Rutea’s skeg and rudder, just inches away from her prop.  The seas were still rough enough that it would have been difficult if not impossible to remove the timbers where we were.  The wood still had enough buoyancy that I could stand on them and my weight didn’t make them sink appreciably.  I decided that all we could do for the moment was sail into the anchorage, which was only a couple of miles away.  Running the engine was out of the question as it would have been far too easy for one of the timbers to shift right into the prop, easily ruining it.

We sailed into the anchorage, dropped the hook and I was in the water with a hacksaw a few minutes later.  It took about 15 minutes to saw through the threaded rod, one pair of timbers drifting away easily while the other pair was applying enough pressure on the rod that I still couldn’t free it.  I started to think about rigging blocks and tackle to attach to the whole mess when a final effort got the timbers free.

The whole episode now just seems like a bad dream.  The only damage I could see was where the threaded rod had worn away the gel coat and some of the fiberglass on the leading edge of the skeg, a repair that’s not too difficult to make once the boat is out of the water.  What I still can’t understand is how the timbers, two on each side, got to straddle the skeg and rudder.  If the whole mess had been floating, it would have struck the boat just below the waterline.  Why didn’t the timbers straddle the keel?  How did they get past the keel in the first place?

Alls well that ends well but this could have been a disaster.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Belitung Island to Bintan Island

We were relieved to get out of Kumai and delighted when we found enough wind to be able to fly the spinnaker for most of the afternoon. As evening set in, the wind died and the engine came on - it stayed on for most of the 300 miles we traveled to get to Belitung Island. A good percentage of the participants in Sail Indonesia were there when we arrived and it almost felt like a reunion. Our anchor set deeply in a good sand bottom which is always reassuring.

The beach was lined with warungs which is almost like a restaurant. Its usually a tin roof over some resin tables and chairs, the 'kitchen' is sometimes nothing more than a wood fire in the back. We have had some very good meals in some warungs but also some lousy ones. The cruisers all seem to gather at a particular one which meant the poor staff there was going crazy trying to fill the orders from the Demanding White People Who Don't Have Much Patience. At least they had a good inventory of cold Bintang beer, Indonesia's equivalent to America's Budweiser, so even if a cruiser had to wait an hour-and-a-half for his plate of nasi goreng (fried rice), he would have been kept quiet by pounding down a few of the 650-ml bottles.

Its easy to drink a lot of beer when its as hot as it is here. With daytime temperatures in the mid-90°F and humidity somewhere around 95%, any physical exercise more strenuous than drinking a beer will produce enough perspiration to completely soak through a t-shirt. It was close to midnight a couple of nights ago when the wind shifted so I decided to pole out the genoa; by the time I got back to the cockpit after just a few minutes of working on deck, I was in bad need of a shower. The benefit is that it makes the perfect excuse for procrastinating any project. All you have to do when work rears it's ugly head is say, "Its too hot." and everyone around will nod in agreement.

The small village we had anchored off of was just too small and didn't even have a small grocery store. A few boats got together and hired a small bus with a driver to take us into the nearest town - about 30 kilometers away - so we could do some provisioning. It was a bit of unusual luck when we discovered that the bus had air conditioning and we all sat feeling very regal as we watched people on their motorbikes struggling in the pouring rain. As it turns out, the joke was on us as we discovered that the entire town was shut down in observance of a Muslim holiday. Nothing was open and the streets were deserted. We found a few items in a convenience store but no produce to speak of and that had been our main objective.

We left Belitung the next day, hoping our meager supplies will see us to Singapore. Since we left Darwin we have covered 2,900 nautical miles and still have another 300 or so to go. By the time we get to Malaysia, its quite likely that our odometer will show over 20,000 miles sailed since we left San Diego.
At 10/17/2013 4:41 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 01°20.65'S 105°51.50'E

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tanjung Puting National Park

It was hard not to get impatient as we waited for the boat to take us up to the Tanjung Puting National Park.  First light happens at about 0400 and dawn is just before 0500, making it hard to sleep much past 0530.  The boat was supposed to pick us up at 0830 but it was closing in on 1000 by the time it showed up.  The 20-meter timber boat was expertly maneuvered along side Rutea, it’s single-cylinder diesel engine put-putting slowly as the captain used the river current to his advantage.  His docking skills were tested five more times as we picked up the crews of Atea, Inspiration Lady, Equanimity, Hokule’a and Solstice.  
Proboscis Monkey
Diesel-Flavored Cooking

The boat’s main deck was mostly covered and provided adequate shade from the very hot sun and kept us dry as it rained for most of our first day.  Below the main deck was the hold that barely had 4’ of head room and the cooks had to do all their work on their knees or squatting.  As we chugged up river, our guides, Joe, and his daughter, Febri, proved to be experts at spotting wildlife and were continuously pointing out crocodiles, monkeys and exotic birds.  

The water of the Sekonyer River was the color of coffee with too much milk in it and even though it got quite narrow in places, our guides told us it had 10 meters of depth.  It was still raining lightly was we stopped at our first station and we questioned our guides as to what kind of gear we should wear.  “Will there be any leeches?” “They only come out when its raining.”  “How bad will the mosquitoes be?”  “Bad.”  Undeterred, our 17-person entourage tramped up through the muddy trails in the Borneo rainforest in search of the almost-extinct orangutan.

The 415,000-hectare Tanjung Puting National Park is a sanctuary to protect not only the orangutans but also try to keep Borneo’s rainforest from being completely clear cut and transformed into palm tree plantations (for palm oil).  Feeding stations have been set up for orangutans that are being rehabilitated back into the wild, a practice that raises some controversy.  Our guide’s timing was perfect and we had no sooner arrived at one such station when one of the park’s staff showed up with a large sack of bananas.  Within a couple of minutes we could hear a major thrashing occurring deep in the jungle and seconds later we could see trees shaking and bending over as the orangutans made their way towards us.  A mother orangutan and her baby were swinging through the trees, climbing to the near tops and as the tree would bend under their weight, the orangutan would simply grab another tree and continue her progress, her baby holding on to her fur.  Often a branch would snap under her weight but she continued on, stopping from time to time.  Climbing up a tree appeared to be as effortless as climbing down, the strong fingers on their hind legs gripping as well as the fingers on their hands.  As they reached the feeding platform, you could see how expressive their faces are, even though they’re the least related to humans of all the great apes.

Mosquito Tent City

We were pretty well drenched with sweat and rain by the time we got back to the boat but our cameras were loaded with hundreds of precious photos.  The cooks brought out a big batch of hot banana fritters as a snack that would hopefully keep our hunger in check until dinner.  I was disappointed when dinner was served as not only was there very little to feed the 17 of us but I thought the food had a distinct diesel fuel flavor.  After dinner, we cast off again and made our way downstream in the fading light to a spot where fireflies are known to hang out.  As dusk turned into night, one tree in particular started glowing with millions of the bugs, sometimes their ‘lights’ blinking in unison.  Once we had returne to dock at the station, a big group of us played cards while the enormous bugs were drawn to the fluorescent lights.  The crew sat by until we were finished and then cleared the area for sleeping.  As the main deck was only big enough for about 6 people to sleep on, two other similarly-sized boats were brought in as sleeping stations.  The ‘mattresses’ were like lumpy tumbling mats but the individual mosquito nets promised to keep the malaria-carrying evil critters away if not providing any privacy.  It was kind of like a slumber party with Ruthie, Corie, Kyle and I sleeping right next to Jake and Jackie from Hokule’a, separated only by the thin gauze of the mosquito nets.  Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep as one of the crew sleeping below went into a coughing fit that lasted for hours.

Breakfast was horrible.  They served us scrambled eggs that had been sweetened and slices of white bread with too much melted ‘butter’ on it.  The coffee we made ourselves, dumping coffee that had been ground to a fine powder into a cup, pouring boiling water on it, waiting for the grounds to settle and then drinking it while trying to avoid getting a mouth full of grounds.  Someone saw the crew being served heaps of nasi goreng, the staple of fried rice and vegetables so we told our guides that that was what we wanted for breakfast the next day.

After the main deck was cleared of breakfast and the sleeping gear, we got underway again, making a turn onto the Sangai Sekoner Kecil where the water changed from it’s milky color to that of strong tea.  It was much narrower and seemed even more remote as the jungle towered over us.  We docked at Camp Leakey, a station named after the famous anthropologist and, almost as if waiting for us, sat a male orangutan, just a few feet away on the other side of the narrow river.  Things were becoming congested with other boats bringing tourists to the same spot, with the ‘raft up’ completely blocking any passage upstream.  As we were getting ready to make our way to the camp’s center, a crafty orangutan named Percy stealthily made his way onto one of the boats and stole a can of condensed milk off the table, the crew who was sitting only a few feet away oblivious until it was too late.

It was a small army of tourists who made their way into the camp that afternoon, dressed in full mosquito battle gear and armed with an expensive collection of long-lensed cameras.  As we were walking up the path, following right behind a mother orangutan and her baby, she grabbed the hands of the person to her right and to her left and with a powerful grasp, lifted herself off the ground, choosing to be carried to the feeding station rather than walking.  Many of us took turns carrying the 60-kilo ape and her baby; sometimes she would nibble on the hand that was carrying her.  This time the feeding station was crowded with orangutans and we were able to see some of the dynamics between their hierarchy.

Showers were offered once we were back on the boat and a steady stream of the cool river water provided a welcome respite to the steamy heat.  The boat was moved downstream for the night and we had another forgettable dinner.  The mattresses were just as uncomfortable as the night before and the nasi goreng in the morning still had the diesel-fuel flavoring.  We made our way to still another feeding station although this time dominating the platform was a large adult male which we hadn’t seen before.  There was no mistaking his wide cheeks, broad shoulders and huge pouch under his chin.
The King
After yet another lousy lunch, we began to make our way back to our respective boats.  Most of those in our group gushed with enthusiasm for the expedition although I am more reserved.  I am absolutely glad I did it but my expectations had been for a few more creature comforts, especially since I found out that we had paid a premium price and I know some of the other boats were better appointed than ours.   I suppose that if you’re an anthropologist, watching orangutans eat for hours is fascinating but it started to get boring for me.  Now that we’re back aboard Rutea, I am looking forward to getting underway and finding our next adventure.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Kumai, Kalimantan

The one consolation of being forced to motor any significant distance on Rutea is that usually the seas are flat and such was the case as we made our way north across the Java Sea.  The freighter traffic was pretty intense, though, and we had to dodge a lot of fishing boats as well.  One boat was paying out a net that was over 2.5 miles long.
Mei Goreng in the Making
 We deliberately timed our arrival at the mouth of the Kumai River to the beginning of a flood tide and even though we had to continue to dodge freighters, we were able to sail the entire twenty miles upstream to the town of Kumai.  Friends of ours had made arrangements with a tour operator and booked us a two-night, three-day passage on a boat that will take us to the Tanjung Puting National Park where orangutans live in their natural habitat.  It has been said that this is a safe place to leave the boat for a few days and we’re going to hope for the best.

Today we went into the town of Kumai and I think it is easily one of the ugliest towns I have ever seen.  Besides the typical dusty streets and the litter everywhere, this town has hundreds of tall concrete buildings that have no windows – they look like small prisons.  In fact, they’re nesting sites for swiflets who build their nests from their saliva.  Apparently, the Chinese have a fondness for Bird’s Nest Soup and a kilo of this tasteless, hardened bird spit can fetch up to US$3,000.  The buildings have loudspeakers on the roofs and play the swiftlet song, hoping to attract more birds.

Hold on to that power line!
Despite the usual trappings of a poor Third World town and the fact that its hot as hell and the power was out, we were able to find a decent plate of Mei Goreng (fried noodles and vegetables) for about US$1.00.  The market had a nice selection of fresh produce and we bought some beautiful fresh fish for slightly over US$2.00 per pound (take that, PLSF!).  We’re very excited about our trip to the deep, dark jungle of Borneo tomorrow and I promise a posting soon after we return.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Bali to Borneo

The beach that had once swarmed with hawkers, taxi drivers and vendors seemed deserted now, the stalls that had been crammed with trinkets, sarongs and batiks empty with only the ever-present litter left behind. Less than a dozen boats lay at anchor as the rest of the fleet had continued the journey west. After more than two weeks there, I was hoping that I'd remember to turn out the lights when we left.

With some cantankerous boat problems patched sufficiently enough to get us to the next boat yard - which is still a 1,000 miles away - we left Bali at 0400 with a promising forecast for 20-knot winds. Our course would take us between Palau Sapudi and Palau Raas where we thought we might spend the first evening. The wind never materialized and Rutea's diesel throbbed all day, finding us off Palau Raas in the early afternoon - too early to drop the hook so we pressed on, fighting to find a scrap of shade in the late afternoon to protect us from the intense sun. Finally, at around 2200, a light breeze filled in, enough to warrant shutting down the engine even if we had to change our course to a very broad reach. I had to maneuver though a huge fleet of fishing boats, their bright lights making the distance between us and them almost impossible to judge - they don't show up on radar. Corie came on watch at midnight and was able to just barely keep the wind in the sails by hand steering but once Ruthie came on watch at 0300, she was going to have none of that and started the engine. I made a vain attempt to get us sailing again by poling out the genoa but our Speed Over Ground continued to drop and the engine came back on.

After motoring for thirty-six hours, we have almost another thirty-six hours to go. A fresh batch of scones this morning helped the time go by and Ruthie has promised curry for dinner. Our iPad says that we've crossed into yet another time zone, now we're GMT +7 hours, the same time zone as Jakarta, Indonesia's capital city and a city we have no intention of visiting. We keep a sharp lookout for traffic as these waters are some of the busiest in world with ships heading for China and southeast Asia crossing our bow and stern constantly. The very bored Indonesian fishermen play on the VHF radio, making it almost impossible to listen to: They'll sing or make stupid noises or just hold the microphone up to a radio and leave it there, driving us nuts.
At 10/3/2013 8:05 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 05°09.90'S 112°53.66'E

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Thursday, September 26, 2013


Coffee Plant

We had met Roger and Sherry on the Gulfstar 44 Equanimity when we were sailing up the Queensland coast and liked them immediately.  Not only did we have a lot in common but their bubbly personalities, great senses of humor and easy going styles made them very fun to hang out with.  They, too, took the Eastern route and it was natural for the four of us to make plans to travel in Bali together.  It was serendipitous that we also met Sunny, an expat American living in Lovina Beach, who knew everyone and much about the area.  She made recommendations on where to go and how to get there, even going as far as hooking us up with a car and driver.  A rental car is about US$30 per day but for about US$45 per day, you can get a car and driver which is well advised as the narrow streets are clogged with motorbikes, there are no street signs and any foreigner is automatically at fault if there’s an accident.
Roger and Sherry
Our first foray inland was to some spectacular waterfalls.  The hour-long walk to get there did include about 300 steep steps but we also got to learn much about the local flora and fauna.  Did you know that the coffee plant’s blossoms have a delicious fragrance which smells nothing like coffee?  When we got close to the falls themselves we found that we had to shout to each other to be heard over the roar of the falling water.  The heavy mist in the air swirled around us as the wind generated from water falling so far created it’s own Force 5 breeze.  The water fell into a good-sized pool that was only about 5 feet deep and it felt incredibly refreshing after our sweaty hike.  Once back in the car, we drove to a beautiful old Buddhist temple and wandered around the wonderfully landscaped grounds before heading back to our respective boats.
Pemerintah Kabupaten Tabanan Temple
Several of the other cruisers had already made the trip to Ubud, a popular destination for tourists in central Bali and some of their reports made it sound not quite so attractive.  Regardless, we made plans to go anyway as it sounded like fun to do a road trip and get away from the boat for a few days.  On our way there, we stopped at a temple situated by the side of a large, fresh water lake and at that elevation the air was decidedly cool - it was the first time in months that the concept of anything more than a t-shirt and shorts was even considered.  We checked into our hotel which wasn’t luxurious but was very nice with spacious rooms and a wide patio.  At US$34 per night my expectations hadn’t been very high but I found the place delightful and quiet.  After a fabulous lunch we strolled through the very busy, very touristy town and later that evening saw a terrific Balinese dance performance.

The breakfast that came with our rooms was actually pretty good but we didn’t linger as we wanted to get to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary before the crowds and before it got too hot.  It was a short walk from our hotel and right at the entrance there were macaque monkeys hanging around.  Large signs had a long list of warnings about the monkeys and although wild, they have no fear of humans.  In fact, they’ll steal just about anything from you including wallets, sunglasses, cameras and jewelry.  We weren’t there two minutes when one monkey grabbed Sherry’s bottle of water but fortunately one of the staff brandished a slingshot and that scared the monkey off.   In the forest is also a Hindu temple and the monkeys make good use of the statues as perches and beds.

In the afternoon we hired a driver that took us to see more temples and that evening we saw still another Balinese dance performance although this one used no musical instruments, just a large group of men chanting.  It was bizarre but entertaining nonetheless.  Sherry and Roger treated Ruthie and me to dinner to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary.

Our driver was going to pick us up after lunch to take us back to Lovina but I wanted to do a little shopping before we left as Ubud is renown for it’s batik.  Any one of the thousands of souvenir stores sell cheap batik clothes but I was on a mission to find something of decent quality.  An inquiry had provided us with a prospect and without too much difficulty we found Bamboo.  Completely different than any other store we had been in, the owner, Koni, who spoke perfect English, turns out to be a talented artist as well as a successful businessman.  The four of us were stunned by the gorgeous fabrics and impeccable tailoring of the clothes.  Granted, the shirts were about five times the cost of the cheap shirts in the souvenir stores but easily worth it.  Koni does all of the designs himself and he says that no two shirts are alike.  Even though it takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to make a batik ‘chop’ – the tool that presses the wax into the fabric, he only does a few runs of any one design.  I begged him to sell me a franchise but he said no.  I asked if I could wire him money in the future, would he send me shirts?  Again he said no.  The worst part about being there was having to make a decision about what not to buy.

There was barely room for all of us and our purchases in the car for our trip back.  We made it back just in time for the Farewell Ceremony and quite a few of the boats in the Rally had already left Lovina Beach.  Rutea had done fine by herself and it was a good feeling to be ‘home’ again. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lovina Beach

We rely heavily on the Lonely Planet guides when we're traveling and our 1,000-page volume on Indonesia shows a lot of wear. The guide had several glowing comments about the Gili islands, saying that they're 'irresistable' and that there's 'serenity with no motorized traffic . .' but as we approached the small bay we found it chock full of cruising boats that were rolling badly from the wake caused by ferries bringing in waves of tourists. After making one pass through the anchorage, we turned south to an anchorage a mile-and-a-half away on Lombok Island where we spent a very pleasant afternoon. Just before sunset, we weighed anchor and, heading west again, made our way to Bali.

It was just after sunrise when we found Lovina Beach on Bali's northern shore. From the water it appears to be nothing more than an open roadstead but there is a protecting reef on it's eastern edge. Already eight boats were anchored there so we didn't have any trouble finding a spot to drop the hook and it was refreshing to feel it sink into the dark sand bottom. Although it's not the calmest anchorage we've stayed in, the motion isn't too bad and the prevailing winds are generally offshore.

No sooner had we pulled the dinghy onto the steep, wide sand beach when we were approached by several locals, all asking questions about ourselves. We had learned that this is typical Indonesian behavior but Westerners are often taken aback with their somewhat personal inquiries. "Where are you from?" "What is your name?" "How many people are on your boat?" "How long are you staying?" "Where are you going?" "What are you doing tomorrow?" Just beyond the beach is a long string of small store fronts that sell all of the Balinese tourist junk. The store owners are masters at getting you to make a commitment to visit their store and their bargaining skills are second to none. Still, we found it to be delightful and it would be still several days before we were thoroughly worn out from the constant barrage of locals wanting to provide us with taxis or massages.

However, once we got away from the beach front, we could feel the magic of Bali. This was a different Indonesia that we had seen. Being predominantly Hindu, every home and every store has a shrine or small temple. Every village has at least three temples and people place 'offerings' - small freshly-woven baskets that contain flowers, candy and incense - on the ground in front of their businesses, homes or on any one of the millions of statues that are found everywhere. The traffic is a little insane but there's still a certain serenity - maybe it's the way people put their hands together in front of their chests and bow slightly - I'm not sure what it is exactly but we're completely taken with it. The bright green rice fields are almost everywhere there's a scrap of flat land and the thick tropical forest grows right to the field's edge. Sadly, there's still wide-spread poverty with many families unable to come up with the US$250 for annual school tuition.

Would we be so in love with Bali if things were expensive? I like to think so but they're not and it makes the island even easier to love. The current exchange rate is 11,450 rupiah to US$1.00. A large 650ml Bintang beer in an upscale restaurant is about 35,000 rupiah or about US$3.00. A huge plate of mei goreng (fried noodles with fresh vegetables - one of my favorites) is about the same price. So, for about US$6.00, you can get a huge lunch with a very tall cold beer and that's if you want a full sit-down restaurant. If you're willing to settle for a street vendor, it's a fraction of the cost. There's a fairly large expat community here and we've spoken with some Americans who live here now. They tell us you can rent a very nice house here for about US$1,200 per year!

An enormous stage, complete with a sophisticated lighting and sound system was erected for the Sail Indonesia welcome. Banners lined the beach and within a couple of days of our arrival, more than 50 cruising boats filled the bay. There were speeches and parades, dancing and dinner. The festivities often go on late into the night. While we love a good party as much as anyone, the lure of Bali's inland was pulling on us strongly so we quickly made arrangements to leave the coast and explore other parts of this unique island.
At 9/25/2013 7:46 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 08°09.47'S 115°01.36'E

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As is typical for Indonesia, we struggled somewhat to get our anchor to set in Telok Batu Montjo, on the northwest corner of Komodo Island. The night promised to be calm, though, so I didn't worry about it too much. After the sun had set and the moon was rising, Kyle and I both jumped into the perfectly clear water, trying to shed some of the afternoon's heat that our bodies seemed to hold so well. "Can you believe this?" Kyle asked, as we both treaded water. "What?" I said, not quite sure what he was referring to. "We're fucking cruising Indonesia!" he said, capturing the moment perfectly.

Before dawn the next day we were underway again, on a course of due west, with almost no wind. By late in the afternoon, we had entered Telok Bima and made our way south about eight miles to the large town/small city of Bima, where Corie and Kyle jumped ship for their surfing adventure. Although the holding was good in Bima, it was a little too exposed for Ruthie and me so we made our way back north in the channel and found a small bay that was almost filled with fishing boats. It was terribly deep and I didn't want to put out much scope but we did get the anchor to set albeit tenuously. As darkness fell, almost all of the fishing boats headed out, their small, single-cylinder diesel engines providing the power for their insanely bright lights they use to attract fish. The boats were still out at dawn the next morning when we started to weigh anchor but I could tell by the way our windlass was grunting that something was wrong. As our anchor broke the water's surface, it had brought with it the anchor of one of the few boats that hadn't gone out. An old man in a very small dugout canoe came over and helped me get us untangled but we left quickly before too many people could point at us and laugh.

We motored across the top of Sumbawa Island and nightfall was approaching as we made our way to the gap between the islands. No sooner had we finished showering when the wind filled in and the sea built. Instead of the widely-spaced rollers of the Indian Ocean, though, we were now sailing in a washing machine with tall chop coming from what seemed like every direction. The motion was awful and the only good thing about it was that we were making good time. It was nearly noon the next day when we pulled into Medana Bay on the northwest corner of Lombok Island and Rutea was once again covered with salt.

An enterprising Brit and his Indonesian wife were in the process of building a marina and resort. The bay was crowded with boats from Sail Indonesia and we reunited with many people that we hadn't seen in a while. The restaurant served pretty good food and kept what must have been an enormous amount of Bintang beer cold. We took one trip into the local village but there didn't seem to be an abundance of charm there so we made plans to get underway once more, this time to the island of Bali.
At 9/25/2013 7:46 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 08°09.47'S 115°01.36'E

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Anchorage 45

As we were making our way across the remote parts of Indonesia on the Eastern Route, from time to time we'd listen in on the Western Route's net. It would make us giggle when we heard people talk about anchorage numbers rather than the actual name of the anchorage. A book titled "101 Indonesian Anchorages" by Geoff Wilson is about the only modern cruising guide available and it's widely used by participants in Sail Indonesia. A conversation on the radio might sound like: "We're leaving Anchorage 27 and heading for 30." "Oh, don't miss 29 - we had an absolutely fabulous time in 29." "Really? Sun Dog said it was buggy at 29." "Well, it was but there's this family that lives on the beach . . . "

You get the idea.

Its not that we reject using anchorage numbers but doesn't Uwada Dasami sound much more exotic than Anchorage 45? We had heard great things about the anchorage and when we arrived at midday, there was only one boat already there, a large wooden Indonesia dive boat, easily 100-feet long, it's high prow sticking up 12 or 15 feet above the water. Ruthie and I had an impromptu 'discussion' about where to anchor and we dropped the hook just upwind of 'Seven Seas', just where the water started to turn to a pale aquamarine color. Off to our port side was a long deserted beach and ahead of us were two small islands that protected us from the Indian Ocean's swell. Unlike most beaches in Indonesia, there wasn't any trash to be seen but there were dragons. Lots of them. No sooner did we have the boat secured then we had the dinghy launched. Very cautiously and slowly, we steered towards shore where four of the giant lizards were strolling on the beach, their ridiculously long forked tongues flickering out. Their walk was lumbering with each leg kind of rotating forward - it didn't look like they could move quickly even if they had to, despite what we've been told. Apparently they can swim if they have to but the conventional wisdom is that they don't like the water. Still, we kept our distance to them just in case one of them wanted to prove our theory wrong.

Later in the day, our friends David and Jackie showed up and since the location has an outstanding reputation as a dive site, Corie decided to join them for a dive while I was acting as Surface Support. That means I drove our dinghy around in circles for an hour, looking for their bubbles but the task got increasingly more difficult as other tour operators brought more divers to the same area. There must have been 30 divers in the water although two had to leave quickly when a woman put her hand on a lion fish accidentally.

David and Jackie invited us for cocktails on their boat which was a fitting end to a near perfect day. Uwada Dasami is a unique anchorage worthy of a terrific name. We didn't get much sleep that night as the wind came up and, like most anchorages in Indonesia, the holding is very poor despite the appearances of a wide sandy beach. Rutea's anchor held but lacking confidence in the bottom, it was tough to sleep deeply. I will look forward though to my dreams of returning to Uwada Dasami.
At 9/11/2013 12:39 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 08°35.88'S 119°31.11'E

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Monday, September 9, 2013

Rinca Island

The Indonesian Navy had been practicing dropping frogmen overboard right in the area where the boats on the Sail Indonesia Rally were anchored. A big, black Zodiac would race through the fleet, dropping a wetsuit-clad diver about every 300 feet and an identical Zodia would follow, picking up the bobbing frogmen. It came as no surprise to any of us when we got the message that the Indonesian Navy wanted us to move to a different anchorage and we took that as our cue to leave Labuanbajo altogether.

The grapevine and cruising guides all recommended stopping at Rinca (or Rinja, depending on which chart you look at) Island before going to Komodo Island and since it was just a hop, skip and a jump away, we went there first. The well-protected anchorage was crowded with other cruising yachts so we were forced to anchor in the back of the pack in 80 feet of water, far deeper than I like to anchor. All of us piled into the dinghy and went ashore, tying up to a wooden pier and being greeted by park rangers. Rinca is in the Komodo National Park and you're not allowed to go exploring without a guide. The rangers told us it was too late in the day to take a trek but they did allow us to visit the park headquarters where we made arrangements for the following morning, bought t-shirts and drank a lukewarm beer. As we returned to the dinghy, we spotted several macac monkeys, the first time I had seen wild monkeys. I was a little disappointed when they showed not only no fear of humans but started to make pests of themselves, even hissing and baring their teeth at us.

We were only a little bit early when we showed up at the park headquarters the next morning despite the fact that we got up at 0530. After paying our fees, we were introduced to our guides (one guide for every five people and since there were six in our group, we got two guides. The straw-colored hills in the early morning light reminded me of the back country in Southern California during a heat wave - the temperature was tolerable at the time but promised to be oppressive as the day wore on. The trek is 10 kilometers and no sooner had we got started when we spotted our first dragon. Being cold-blooded, it stood stock still, it's head raised and gave the appearance that it was no more than a stuffed Komodo Dragon look-alike. Our guides cautioned us to stay at least 5 meters away as these giant lizards can move surprisingly quick if only for a short distance. Being carnivores, they can slice off a man's leg in the blink of an eye although there are relatively few accounts of them attacking people.

Both of our guides were very knowledgeable about the dragons and the flora of the island as well and their English was excellent. They pointed out plants with medicinal qualities and knew the scientific names of the plants, too. We even got to see a viper, coiled in the corner of the shed that houses the generator. As our trek continued, we saw less wildlife, save for a water buffalo that was bathing a wounded hoof. By now, the heat was building and none of us had walked that far in months. No one said anything but I think we were all a little relieved when we crossed the halfway mark, even though we were still climbing in elevation. A short time later we came to yet another pool of water with still another lone injured water buffalo trying to make itself comfortable. What this water buffalo didn't realize though was that there was a 3-meter dragon perched on the edge of the pool, just waiting to attack. It appeared to be a National Geographic moment unfolding in front of us, with the lizard's incredibly long forked tongue darting out and the water buffalo oblivious to the danger that was just a few feet away. We stood mesmerized for about an hour in the hot sun, waiting for something to happen but it never did. Our guides were equally mesmerized as they had never seen a scene quite like that but after a while they said that they had other treks to lead and we had to move on.

The rest of the trek was uneventful and it wasn't long after returning to the boat that we were underway again. We had heard of an anchorage further south on the island where people had spotted dragons on the beach. On our way there, we started to fight a vicious current, slowing Rutea down to less than 1 knot. We stopped at a non-descript spot, dropped the hook and jumped into some of the clearest water I have ever seen - from the deck of the boat, you could see every rock, every pebble and every grain of sand that was 20 feet down. Once the current turned favorable, we got underway again and as we approached the south end of Rinca Island, a huge expanse of water lay before us. Consulting our charts of the area, we learned that this body of water is called the Indian Ocean.
At 9/9/2013 11:43 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 08°44.87'S 119°36.67'E

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It was with a deep and heavy sigh that we pulled away from Taka Bone Rate but with also a hint of relief - I wasn't sure our anchor would come up at all, fearing that it was stuck deep on a coral head but up it came nonetheless although scarred from it's battle with the coral. We had a great sail southwards and pulled into a small protected bay on Tanatampea Island, just as our friends on Geramar were leaving. The next morning, Corie and Kyle took a big bag of old clothing into the small village and were almost mobbed by the people there. They went wild over the clothing, one man grabbing one of Corie's old shoes while a different man got the other. We weighed anchor at about 1600 so there was still light in which to navigate our way past the reef and we set a course for almost due south. It was an absolutely delightful sail.

We approached Labuanbajo on the western side of Flores Island at about 0700 the next morning, anchored, cleaned up the boat and went in to clear in. Labuanbajo was a major milestone for us as it ended the Eastern Route of Sail Indonesia - the two routes met here and instead of cruising with twelve boats, we were now cruising with eighty-two. We knew many of the people who had chosen the Western Route and it quickly became apparent that the route we chose was the better of the two - we had better sailing, better events, better anchorages plus we got 250 liters of diesel fuel for free.

Labuanbajo was unique for us in many ways: There are a lot of tourists there so we no longer stood out in the crowd. Also, there were restaurants and stores that catered to tourists, two things that didn't exist at any of the towns on the Eastern Route. On the other hand, it shared many similarities of other villages we had visited with too much traffic on the narrow, dusty street and markets with their brightly-colored fruits and vegetables; fresh and dried fish covered with flies. They had a Gala Dinner for all the participants of Sail Indonesia where they even made beer available and the Traditional Dancing was very good but the food was awful. Since we planned to get out to some of the less-populated islands nearby, we spent quite a bit of time and money provisioning, even finding a store that sold bacon, the first we've seen in this predominantly-Muslim country.

With no unique claim-to-fame, we made plans to leave Labuanbajo as quickly as we could. The famous island of Komodo, a World Heritage site, was less than 20 miles away and the lure of clear water and the danger of Komodo Dragons had a strong grip on our imaginations.
At 9/9/2013 11:43 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 08°44.87'S 119°36.67'E

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Monday, September 2, 2013

Taka Bone Rate

The Sail Indonesia fleet divided into two groups before we left Darwin - about 70 of the boats elected to take the Western Route while twelve other boats chose the Eastern Route (Northern would have been a better description of the direction but it doesn't matter). When we were anchored off of Kabaena Island, the twelve boats on the Eastern Route divided yet again. The next stop on our itinerary was the village of Bintang on Selayar Island where a traditional Welcome Ceremony was scheduled along with a feast of traditional foods. Selayar Island is about 35 miles long and only a few miles wide at it's widest point - a more pencil-shaped (or insert your own favorite analogy here) island I've never seen. The dilemma was that 30 miles east of Selayar Island is the Taka Bone Rate archipelago with it's pristine beaches and crystal-clear water. If you chose to go to Selayar Island first, it left you facing a 30-mile bash to windward. On the other hand, Selayar Island could be skipped altogether and the sail to Taka Bone Rate would be an easy overnight reach. Our fleet divided almost evenly, those saying that it would be rude to skip the festivities scheduled for us on Selayar while others were saying they had tired of festivities and just wanted a calm, quiet space for a while.

We arrived at the very small island of Tinabo in the northern part of the Taka Bone Rate lagoon, which is almost 60 miles long. The passes into the lagoon are miles wide and entry wasn't an issue. Typical of most of the islands in Indonesia, a wide coral shelf extends out from the beach and then drops off precipitously, making anchoring a challenge. Regardless, our hook grabbed onto something - I couldn't tell what - and held fast although I did have some concerns that I would be able to get it back up again.

This is what we had been hoping for: A tiny island with wide, clean beaches, crystal clear water and a reasonably protected anchorage. On shore, a national parks 'ranger' station also served as a dive center, a massive 'diver-down' flag flying from one of the palm trees. There were no facilities on shore whatsoever but they did have a compressor with which to refill dive tanks. Even though diving isn't one of my favorite pastimes, it is for many cruisers and Tinabo Island was heaven for them. The cost for guided dives worked out to be ridiculously cheap at somewhere around US$6.00 per person for a two-dive day, complete with boat and guide. Many of the most experienced divers said it was some of the best diving ever.

Ruthie and I snorkeled both near the boat and further down the island, seeing brightly-colored fish that we had never seen before. The coral wasn't as bright as we had seen it elsewhere but it was still pristine and the water the temperature of tepid bath water. In the evenings, many of us cruisers would gather on the beach, enjoying cold refreshing beverages while we watched the sun set. It brought back memories of the Tuamotus and Chesterfield Reef.
At 9/3/2013 1:38 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 07°01.70'S 120°37.09'E

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Segori Island

I make continuous efforts to keep my cynicism in check but after a vicious bout of food poisoning and then an even worse relapse two days later, my interest in attending yet another Indonesian Welcome Ceremony and feast had become, well, cynical. In the Sail Indonesia Guide, it said that the stop at Segori Island was nothing more than a stopover and that no events were planned, however, once we got there, it turns out events were planned and in a big way for the tiny island. Things got off to a rough start as we approached the island and it's absolutely stunning lagoon of crystal-clear water. With the wind blowing between 20 and 25 knots, the boats in our fleet that had already dropped their anchors there were hobby-horsing enough that every once in a while their bows, poorly timing the next wave, plunged right into it. We sailed around to the leeward side of the island where the kind islanders had installed moorings for us. They did the best they could but a 5-gallon bucket filled with cement will not hold a 20-ton ketch, regardless of how much scope is out and they didn't put out much. In fairness to them, we tried two such moorings, dragging one so deep that once we released it, it sank completely out of sight. Even our attempt to set our own anchor failed so we sadly waved farewell to the Segori Islanders and our friends and found a secure anchorage on a nearby island, about 6 miles away. Five other boats in our fleet joined us.

The Indonesians were not deterred by our lack of proximity to the celebration as they recruited the use of the large police launch with it's two 200-horsepower outboards to shuttle people between the big island and the tiny island. I stayed aboard Rutea while Ruthie, Corie and Kyle did their duty, Ruthie stepping forward and delivering the speech on behalf of the cruisers at the ceremony. The islanders delayed the ribbon cutting ceremony of their new solar electric system to coincide with the Sail Indonesia presence. As a token of their appreciation, they island chief and his wife presented Ruthie with a hand-carved paddle.

The following day there was another road trip, this time on the much larger island of Kabaena. We bounced along a dirt road in a modern SUV that belonged to once of the local policemen, winding our way up to a small village where village children had gathered for a sort of dance competition. The kids were in matching costumes, I guess sorted by school or grade and were divided between the Pole Handlers and the Pole Avoiders. There were also the percussionists. The Pole Handlers had 3-meter long bamboo poles that were about 70mm in diameter and they worked in pairs at each end of two bamboo poles. There were four pairs of Pole Handlers on each team and once the music started, they would smack the poles on the ground or slap the poles together, in perfect time to the music. The Pole Avoiders would then dance between the poles in a delicate and extremely graceful manner even when the tempo became almost impossible. Obviously, if one of the Pole Avoiders got out of sync, her ankle or toe would be soundly smacked by the fast moving bamboo poles. Unfortunately for the kids doing this competition, we arrived late and their teachers made them do it all over again for us.

From there we made our way up a steep and rough road to a small village where we were greeted with a Welcome Ceremony and a feast. Corie and Kyle were selected to represent the cruisers at the ceremony although some of the other cruisers didn't get that memo and it kind of turned into a Group Hug kind of thing. I promise that I dutifully took pictures and didn't roll my eyes.
At 9/3/2013 1:36 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 07°01.70'S 120°37.09'E

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Still in Pasarwajo

The events continued while we were in Pasarwajo. One of the events that our stay was timed perfectly for was the 12,500-person dance. Apparently, someone got the idea that they wanted to break the record for the most dancers at a single event, had land cleared and leveled and proceeded to round up 12,500 school children and trained them to perform. Unfortunately, I had come down with a vicious bout of food poisoning and was in no shape to attend but Corie went and came back with a remarkable account of the event. Be sure to check out her blog post.

The following day, the schedule called for a land trip to Bao Bao, the capital of Buton Island. A large fleet of late-model minivans were hired to drive us the 40-kilometer trek over to the north side of the island and, of course, our translators came with us. In fact, they never left our side the whole time we were ashore. Bao Bao is a significantly-sized city, complete with flashy new car dealerships and traffic but also with a spectacular view of a large, well-protected bay. Our procession wended our way through the busy city with a two motorcycle cop and one police squad car escort up to the Most Extensive Old Fort in the World, where we were greeted by the mayor and vice-mayor of the city. Once again, we were given seats in the shade while we listened to their speeches and then we were fed. Again. Beautiful women danced while we waited in the buffet line and after lunch we wandered around the old fort, which offered beautiful views of the city and bay.

In the afternoon, the fleet of minivans showed up and took us to various places all over town, allowing us to see and shop at some of the local markets, after which they dropped us off at one of the newer hotels where we were given complimentary rooms in which to freshen up and relax. Ruthie and I turned down the air conditioning to it's lowest setting and took a nap with the luxury of having a blanket on, albeit a thin one. After showering and dressing for dinner, we left our room (our translators were waiting outside our door), drove to a spot on the bay that had been prepared for dinner. Apparently, our presence was a big deal and it seemed like most of the higher-ranking Bao Bao city officials and their wives in had been invited. An enormous spread of food was laid out, along with more pretty girls dancing and it was followed by speeches. Before we left, we lined up to receive a gift bag from the mayor and vice-mayor and to say our good-byes.

It was almost midnight by the time we got back to Pasarwajo but in the area where the original pavilions had been set up (which had been cleared), fresh pavilions were set up, along with a band. Another spread of food was put out but this time it came with cases of beer and whiskey. Our translators insisted on dancing with us while a big group of locals sat patiently waiting their turn at the buffet. If I had been smarter, I would have refused all food because I could feel a relapse of food poisoning coming on so we decided to leave at the height of the party. Our translators broke into tears as we said good-bye.
At 8/29/2013 1:08 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 06°34.32'S 121°05.60'E

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pasarwajo, Buton Island

Before we left Darwin, we had been told that schedules, amongst other things, often change quickly in Indonesia so we weren't surprised when we were told that our stop at Ereke on Buton Island was canceled. We had wanted to see Hoga Island anyway and now we had a few extra days before we were scheduled to be in Pasawjaro, also on Buton Island. Our sail from Hoga Island was delightful and we flew the spinnaker almost the entire way, arriving in the late afternoon. A police speedboat showed us to a mooring (which we had been told had been installed for the Sail Indonesia fleet) and we were hardly settled in when a call came over the VHF asking for all participants to please come into shore for the Welcome Ceremony.

All of us cruisers formed a line and some men in very traditional garb did a short dance. Very attractive young women put scarves decorated with fake flowers around each of our necks. In a large, open area, tables under pavilions for shade were set up and around the perimeter were stalls offering goods and services. The place definitely had a festival feeling but it was all set up for the participants of Sail Indonesia. An entire army of interpreters were assigned but they also served as waiters who brought us beer and soft drinks along with local delicacies. After talking, eating and drinking for a while, we started to peruse the stalls that surrounded us. There were many things for sale but whenever we attempted to buy something, we were told that it was free. Several times I'd see a package of something and ask what it was only to have the proprietor of the stall tear open the package, offer me a sample and then insist that I take it with me, refusing any payment. We were flabbergasted. We came back to the boat overloaded with delicious food, including some very potent palm wine.

In order to secure the area for our boats, the Indonesian Navy had a detail on patrol of our boats 24/7. The Indonesian government made arrangements to have our laundry done at no charge. The translators who were assigned to us apparently had been told that they were to be at our beck and call. It was extremely important to them that nothing bad happened to anyone while we were here.

This morning there were two separate celebrations going on simultaneously. One of them had to do with babies and there were about 1,000 of them with their parents. The other was an ancient celebration of warriors returning from victory. As soon as we came ashore, we were directed to a large tent where all the participants of Sail Indonesia were dressed in traditional clothes. I tend to overheat easily and it doesn't take much effort before I'm soaked in perspiration but wrap me in a sarong and put a long-sleeved black coat on me while I'm less than 300 miles from the equator and it will be a good test of my body's cooling system. We were given front seats under a large shaded area and began to wait for the speeches to begin. A steady stream of people would come by to take our picture, some sitting with us so they could have their picture taken with the White People. The governor of Sulawesi spoke and then the Minister of Tourism, who gave a part of her speech in English. Obviously, I couldn't understand any of what she said that was in Indonesian but it was pretty clear that she was telling the people of Pasarwajo not to screw things up for the participants of Sail Indonesia.

After the speeches were over, we made our way, albeit slowly as we couldn't walk more than a few feet before someone would stop us to have their picture taken with us, to another large shaded area that was packed with thousands of people. Our translators did their best to keep a path clear for us but there were just too many people. Fortunately, we came to a place where the path was lined on each side with police and we could make our way without being accosted by photograph seekers.

Under the shade, the ground was covered with rugs. On each rug was a very attractive young woman or two and it appeared that they were being chaperoned by their mothers. In front of each of them was an enormous bowl filled with all sorts of local delicacies. As we made our way down these long lines of pretty girls and their delicious foods, we were constantly being yelled at to sit and eat. All of the food was carefully wrapped to keep away flies but as soon as we sat down at a random rug, the covers would come flying off and the pretty girl would fix a plate of food. If that wasn't amazing enough, she would then feed you just like a mother feeds a baby. Clearly, we were celebrities and everyone wanted us to sit on their rug, feed us and have their picture taken with us.

It was a mind-blowing experience and the only bad part about it was that the battery in our point-and-shoot camera died and I only had my big telephoto on my SLR so I missed a lot of great shots. On the other hand, I will never forget shuffling through long rows of fabulous food and being fed by pretty girls.
At 8/22/2013 10:49 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 05°30.69'S 122°50.81'E

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