Aug 31 - And then there be dragons

This has been a day to cross off one of those things on my bucket list - meeting the Komodo dragons up close and personal. We were picked up by our tour boat and joined 10 other folks for the 2 hour trip to Rinca Island, the other large island besides Komodo Island where the Komodo dragons are found. Coffee and tea were served and it was a great feeling for all of us not to have to navigate thru the many reefs, just to be tourists for the day and relax. Hendrik, our tour guide, was a 7th generation descendent of the Portuguese settlers of Flores Island, and spoke fluent English, Dutch and, of course, Indonesian. We docked at the small boat dock at the entrance to the Rinca Island Park, and met our two rangers assigned to our group. They both carried long forked sticks, and one was in front and one took up the rear of the group. Accidents do occur here, and people are occasionally attacked by the Komodo dragons, whose saliva carries toxic bacteria. We were told that the dragons bite and attempt to tear their prey up by shaking it from side to side. Hmmm. At any rate, about six dragons were resting under the kitchen cabin where the rangers cook their meals, so finding them was easy. There are different choices of trekking paths of different lengths, 1-5 km in length, so it's up to the individual folks which trail they walk. We came across a female dragon guarding her nesting area, a 3 feet deep hole in the ground, and the ranger explained their breeding habits. If I recall correctly, about 15-30 eggs are laid, although the survival rate is about 20%. We then saw a very unusual sight, another female digging her nesting hole, like a dog throwing dirt all over digging for its bone...The ranger was very excited at this event, as apparently it's quite rare to actually see it. We stood about 25' away from her, busy taking pictures but giving her lots of room and attempting to be as non-threatening as possible. After walking back to the entry area, we had again seen about 8 more dragons, so the total days sightings were quite high. We returned to our boat for a wonderful freshly cooked lunch of rice, fish and tofu dishes, with plenty of food for second helpings. We then took a diversion to go snorkeling and found a beautiful reef with lots of fish and plentiful coral. After, we ate a dessert of fried bananas and finally returned to our boats in the late afternoon. What a great day! Total inclusive cost per person: $48 USD. We'd highly recommend Hendrik, who arranges the boat and tour; his cell is 62-81-331-364-926.

Aug 30 - Labuan Bajo

Position: S08deg31.05min/E119deg52.00min
We continue to motor 30-35 nm daily, sailing when able. I look for what I call the 10/10 effect; that is, at 10:00 in the morning, give or take an hour...after all, this is Indonesia time, the wind comes up to 6-10 knots. Don't get only lasts an hour and then the water returns to glass flat and the wind speed indicator returns to 00.0. This 10/10 effect has seemed to occur regularly over the last week or so. The night before last we had our first rain in over 2 months, a very light sprinkle that lasted a few hours, but hardly enough to wash down the decks. We arrived Labuan Bajo yesterday. This is a tourist area catering to surfers and divers; we've been told that world class surf is about 50 nm from here. Labuan Bajo is also the gateway to Komodo and Rinca Islands, where one can see the Komodo dragons. Komodo Island has been designated one of the Seven Wonders of the World. We've anchored directly in front of the Eco Lodge, and took a dip in their pool along with a bunch of other cruisers. There are restaurants at many of the resorts, and we ate lunch here at the Eco; tourist prices but good food. Today I've arranged diesel delivery from one of the many boat boy boats (7000 rupiah/liter), who will, by the way, also arrange for water and gasoline delivery, laundry service, and act as taxi service (70000 rupiah return trip per boat) to town from the anchorage here about 2 miles away. Convenient. Btw, at this time, it's about 9100 rupiah to 1 USD. Rally events here have been cancelled...a familiar story. We're now at the northwestern corner of Flores Island, after traveling about 270 nm east to west on this northern coast, and it has been a beautiful island to visit. We didn't realize
that Indonesia, being the 4th most populous country in the world, had so many islands and coastline. Most of the population lives in Jakarta, but there are small and larger villages and towns scattered along these coastal islands with lots of people living a simple lifestyle. All have been friendly, their small fishing boats have been colorfully decorated, and everyone we've encountered waves and smiles back at us. Tomorrow, we're planning on a tour to Rinca Island to see the Komodo dragons; more about that later.
Pic: View from the village; our group of boats is in the distance (it's much quieter and out of the way of traffic.) The boat boys ferry us to town, wait for our return, and bring us back for 70,000R (about $7.00)

Aug 22 - Out and about; In Mausambi

We've had to do a lot of motoring to get to our anchorages. The wind has been light, frequently on the nose or dead downwind, or non-existent. Of course, the currents are strong, so our trawler imitation is getting pretty refined. We've found the Sail Indonesia Rally data a bit confusing...some of the dates and locations of Rally events are conflicting or have been cancelled...We're just heading in the general direction we want to go, looking for good anchorages, of which there are many on this north coast of Flores Island, and taking advantage of meeting some of the locals. Here in Mausambi, yesterday afternoon we enjoyed a visit to one of the local schools and met the English Club students. They were 8-11 years old and each gave a very short presentation...they were just as excited to meet the 20 cruisers who showed up! After, we had a BBQ, although Sue and I stayed vegetarian as the pork didn't look that well cooked. The anchorage here is very rolly (E08deg20.1min/S121deg47.2min) so I expect we'll leave in the next day or so. Sue's off on an early 0400 trip to Kelimutu and the Three Colored Lakes (; she'll post pictures when we have strong internet.

Aug. 14 Lembata Festivities

When we first arrived in Lembata and met Max, the Dept of Tourism official, he asked me to become the "Official Representatives of the Yachties." I did my best to get out of it, but finally agreed to become the "Cultural Representative" and give a speech (!) at the official welcoming ceremonies. Max was Master of Ceremonies for the evening, and things began around 7 pm. But, I'm getting way ahead of myself. At 2 pm, the Official Welcome to Lembata began, with the Regent and Vice-Regent of the Lembata Province opening up the festivities. Sue and I were both fitted with serongs and ornamental palm headdress, and offered the betel nut with drink? as an introduction and welcome to the village. Being gracious visitors, we both chewed the betel nut and made motions to smoke the tobacco offered, but then the gate was opened for all the yachties, and a parade ensued to the downtown area. The school children and teens were all costumed, and about 300 people in the parade wound around to a large sport field area where native dancing took place. Of course, Sue and I were "required" to participate, so we humbly tried to follow the footsteps in what appeared to be a kind of line dance, and did our best to keep up. The villagers wanted to take lots of pictures with us, so it was quite a scene. We finally returned to the waterfront, and sat for a bit before the evening festivities were to begin. The local Officials made their speeches, and then I got up and spoke four lines of Bahasa Indonesian to welcome the Officials and thank the town on behalf of the yachties. There were loud shouts of appreciation and applause at my attempts, and my very short speech seemed to go quite well; at least everyone else thought so! Traditional dancing performances then took place, and we eventually lined up for a buffet meal of delicious traditional Indonesian food. There were, I estimate, about 125 yachties present, and lots of villagers, so the amount of food prepared was prodigious. During the dinner, more presentations took place, and after dinner, Sue and I were, once again, called forth to dance with the locals. Things finally wound down at 9:30 or so, and we returned to Infini tired, but having had a wonderful experience with these very friendly people. It was a unique opportunity for a cultural exchange, and we felt we had made the most of it. We heartily recommend Lembata as a stop for future Rally participants and other cruisers.

Aug 11 - A busy day in Lewoleba, Lembata

The morning started off by taking the Yamaha 15HP outboard motor off the stern rail and putting it in the dinghy. I hadn't started the motor for several years (!), and thought I had done the proper storage procedures, but when I went to finally use it, it wouldn't turn over and the starting cord didn't budge. I figured the piston was locked up in the cylinder, so was waiting for the proper time and place to find a mechanic to sort it out. Here in Lewoleba, Max is the "go-to" guy. He works for the Dept of Tourism, and his job this week is to help the yachties with any problems they may have. Yesterday, he took me by motorbike to a local welder who fixed our windless lever. The "shop" was primitive by most standards, but the results were perfect and the cost of repair ($2USD) most welcome. It turns out that the welder fellow is also the mechanic, so we arranged a bemo (no hauling that outboard on Max's motorbike) and took it to his place for him to work on. After taking a look at the pistons, he declared them in fine shape, but needed a 22mm socket to get off another engine part. I went back to Infini to get my socket for him, and by the time we returned to the shop the outboard was running smoothly! The 22mm socket wasn't needed after all, and Mr. Tomo (the mechanic/welder) had figured out the magneto was stuck. When Max asked him what he did to fix the engine, he replied "Magic..." I love a mechanic with a sense of humor. We then took the motor back to the dinghy, took off the 9.8 Tohatsu motor, put the Yamaha on, and did a test run with Max, Mr. Tomo, a dock hand and myself aboard. The motor purrs like a kitten and runs perfect! Again, cost of repair was most welcome, $15USD. I took a few jerry jugs in for diesel (7000 rupiah/liter-about $0.65USD/liter), and the local Government Tourism office has arranged for petrol, diesel, fresh water, laundry, tours and most anything else to be available to the yachties. During this whole time, Sue had gone on a tour with some friends of ours to see local traditional villages and meet some weavers, visit a leper hospital compound, and see a bit of the island. Her one hour tour took five hours, but everyone enjoyed the experience. In the afternoon, we ferried Max and three of his co-workers out to Infini; it was their first visit ever aboard a yacht, and we had a really nice visit and answered their many questions about our life and family. After a brief break in the action, we met up again with friends to go to dinner. The local Indonesian food is quite reasonably priced here, and Sue and I can both eat, with soft drinks, water, or a beer included, for about $3.50USD total.

Aug 8 - Lembata

We motorsailed to Lembata in the late morning. To go anywhere around here, you have to wait for the tides. If they're against you, you'll be going 0-1 knot SOG; with you, you'll be going 7-8 knots SOG. Lowobela Harbor is where we're anchored, and is surrounded by five volcanoes, two of which are about 5000' high; and one of which has an active steam vent escaping from its top cone. Lets hope it stays dormant for just a while longer. Dozens of fishing boats putter past; some of the boats are quite large, but the sound of their single cylinder engines without mufflers is quite distinctive. The fishermen weave in and around the sailboats, as about 20 of us are anchored in their fishing grounds, and lay nets or string lines from Chlorox bottles. The rest of the Rally fleet isn't here yet, and the anchorage will be more crowded than now, not a bright prospect. The loudspeakers from one of the nearby mosques blare either recorded prayers or music, depending on the time of day. This evening we enjoyed a farewell/one year friendship/wedding anniversary dinner aboard the Georgia J; Scotch fillet steak, glazed carrots, mashed potatoes, Oriental noodle salad, and chocolate cake. We met Kim & Sharon one year ago at Suwarrow Atoll, Sue and I celebrated our 31st, and GJ leaves tomorrow to fast track to Bali and eventually Thailand. Tomorrow we'll go explore the town, await the Rally events, and plan our path across Indonesia.

Aug 3 - Kupang happenings

Last evening there was a dinner for all the Rally participants, hosted by the mayor of Kupang, with lots of traditional dancing, food, and modern music. It was attended by about 300 yachties and another 200 or so onlookers; there was quite a crowd. This morning we toured around Kupang with a guide. Our first stop was to see the monkeys in Tenau; not much to comment about. We then went to the Oenesu waterfall, a beautiful park setting with a fast flowing stream coming off the waterfall. Following that, we visited where the traditional Indonesian musical instrument, the sasando, was made, and listened to a performance by the local sasando master, Jeremias Pah, as well as his son, Dorce Pah. Their skills were amazing, and we ended up buying a small sasando, as well as a CD made by Jeremias, as souvenirs. Lots of pictures were taken and Jeremias autographed our instrument; a nice touch. Following a delicious lunch, we visited the local museum, which housed collections of weaving and wares of the East Nusa Tenggara province. We then stopped to see a traditional Indonesian fishing boat being constructed, although power tools are now being used these days. Our last stop was at the vegetable market. It was a full day, with some wonderful insights into this unique local culture and peoples. Time for a Bintang.

August 1 - Safe arrival in Kupang, Indonesia

We arrived at the Roti Strait at sunrise and were anchored by 0930 in Kupang. A safe trip from Darwin across the Timor Sea with no boat issues; always the best kind! There are about 80 boats in the anchorage in front of Teddy's Bar, the cruiser hangout. The Customs folks boarded us about 30 minutes after we anchored, and to say the paperwork is voluminous would be an understatement. We then were able to take down our quarantine flag and go ashore to clear in with an entire room of officials seated at six tables! We now have a small bag of clearance paperwork that would impress the most hardened cruiser. Colorful booklets, stamped paperwork in duplicate, multiple signatures on many forms that we have no idea what they makes any bureaucratic forms from the USA look short and puny by comparison. We used our boat stamp multiple times - you have one of those, don't you? We had our first Bintang beer; cost for a large bottle was about $2.75USD. Food here is cheap and good; tonight is another welcoming party (free food and drink) with the Mayor of Kupang attending; we were enroute a couple of days ago when the Governor welcomed the fleet at another dinner, but as a friend of ours who attended said, "these people really know how to party!" Yachties from all over the world are here, and the Sail Indonesia folks have done a wonderful job of putting together these preliminary events and easing of the clearing in procedures for everyone.