August thru September 15, 2013 Logs
Tuesday, September 10th, Bali Marina, Benoa Harbor, Bali
It’s day fifteen in Bali. We are waiting, more or less patiently, for our most recent visa extensions which we submitted for processing on the thirtieth of August. The wheels of bureaucracy turn rather slowly here in Indonesia. There are, however, worse places to be stuck.
The Bali Marina isn’t as bad as rumor had it. True, you can’t drink the water and no, the shower has never been cleaned but the docks are all afloat and they even have finger piers. Made and his staff are pleasant and helpful. Also, there seem to be far fewer bugs than at the last Marina we tied up at thirteen months ago in Fiji.
Day fifteen in Bali also happens to find us celebrating our eighth wedding anniversary. Not a world record, true, but a good reason to treat ourselves to a Japanese restaurant for lunch.
Our last update was from the Bandas in late July. From there we made a three day passage to Hoga Island in the Tukangbesi Archipelago. There was no shortage of wind but the weather was for the most part rather ugly. We were very happy to come around the north end of Hoga on Saturday the 27th of July. We picked up the mooring off of Operation Wallacea which, we were told, was empty for several days until Wallacea’s dive boat was due to return. We had been in contact with Wia at Tukangbesi Diving about getting some diving in during our stop. We went ashore to make contact and were eventually directed from Operation Wallacea to the Hoga Island Dive Resort. These are the only two commercial entities on this little Island. There is also a tiny village. We were bound to have success, it was just a matter of asking the right person.
Geertje, the Dutch founder of the resort, was packing up to head to Europe for two months the following day. Before her departure she got us organized with her dive guides, Asrul and Deddy for several days of diving. This operation was somewhat similar to the one we encountered in the Bandas. There was definitely a local flavor to it. With only about eight inches of freeboard there were no ladders required for climbing in and out of the boat. Despite the gray weather during several of our outings the diving was good. Our favorite dive was the Inner Pinnacle where there were several beautiful anemones and a number of juvenile midnight snappers hanging out in the black coral.
After two days on the mooring we moved to the south side of the Island, through a narrow channel. We were reluctant to move since the weather was supposed to deteriorate a bit and this was the less desirable side. It took us two hours to find a place we were comfortable with. Despite being rather near the channel it was in only thirty feet of water which was a happy number. In hindsight we might have opted for the still reasonable sixty feet slightly further from the channel. Can you spell surge? At any rate we lived to tell about it.
After five days at Hoga we were ready to head south to the island of Flores, several hundred miles away. Flores would be our first stop in Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia’s southern island chain. We hauled up the anchor on August 1st and headed out through the reefs to the north and west of Hoga. The sun was shining and has been ever since. We haven’t had a drop of rain in forty days, praise be to Allah. The passage across the Flores Sea was very pleasant. The sky was star-filled and the wind was favorable. What more can you ask?
The wind died when we reached the north side of Flores two days later so instead of motoring overnight to Labuan Bajo, our intended destination, we pulled in at Inca Village and spent a pleasant night in six meters of water with a sand bottom. What a refreshing change of pace.
The precipitous change in the climate from where we had left was remarkable to us. The landscape in much of Nusa Tenggara is dry and blond. There were cactuses visible on the hillsides. The clouds were fluffy and white without even a hint of rain. We had to pinch ourselves to make sure we weren’t dreaming.
The next day we motored from Inca Village to Gili Bodo and anchored with another cruising boat for the first time in three months. It was a beautiful spot on the doorstep of Komodo National Park.
The following day we finished our passage to Labuan Bajo, dropping the hook off of the Bajo Eco Lodge two miles south of town. Once again we were in comfortably shallow water with amazing holding in mud. The conditions were ideal for good sleeping. The folks at the Eco Lodge were quite nice. You can eat in their lovely restaurant and get your laundry done to boot.
We had two desires to fulfill while we were in Labuan Bajo. The first was more of a need than a desire. Roger’s visa had to be extended for the second time so we made our way to the Immigrasi office which we found to be closed for the entire week due to end of Ramadan celebrations. The soon-to-be-overstayed visa would be dealt with when we returned from a liveaboard dive cruise, our real desire in coming to Komodo.
After some hunting and the timely intervention of Greg at Dive Komodo we secured a berth on Batu Bolong. This pinisi is owned by a couple of geologists who have decided recently to finance their boat by chartering it for diving. We joined two other couples for four days and three nights of diving in Komodo National Park. I can’t begin to describe the beauty of this area. The contrast between the blue of the water and the golden hillsides is breathtaking. The diving is spectacular, helped no doubt by the current that nourishes the straits. Our dive guide, Adrienne, was knowledgeable and timed our dives well. With a bit of hiking and a visit to see the dragons thrown in, we found the liveaboard trip to be just the ticket to visiting the Park. Raja Ampat and Komodo are by far our two favorite diving spots. We would concur with many who say that Indonesia has some of the best diving in the world.....it's also very affordable.....we seem to average about $75-80 USD for 2 dive days.
After two weeks in Labuan Bajo we continued our trek west. Fully provisioned and with new visas in hand we crossed the north end of the Park to Gili Banta. We anchored in the “very protected” anchorage at the south end where we rolled all night when the wind decided to come out of the south.
The next day we managed a sail to Wera Bay on the northeast tip of Sumbawa. This lovely village faces the beautiful volcanic island of Sangeang. After being besieged by a flotilla of village youth who asked for everything including money we decided to make an early exit the following morning before the rascals rousted themselves from bed.
Our destination was Teluk Panco which, we were told, had no village. As we approached the anchorage it became clear that there was in fact a village but it was very well hidden and its residents were quite shy. During our several day stay we didn’t even decant the dinghy, instead we worked on projects and watched life go by on the shore of this remote village. There were herds of cows and horses which passed by unattended. The locals harvested things from the reef that uncovered at low tide. They didn’t seem to appear at the beach at any other time. We were visited by one pleasant young man from Kilo, a village further into the bay. Ahmad had attended university and spoke very good English. He obviously liked to practice on visitors since he came rather far out of his way to chat.
The remainder of the possible anchorages on the north side of Sumbawa didn’t reach out to us for one reason or another so we opted for an overnight to Lombok. We were able to sail the distance but it wasn’t pretty. We had to pinch a bit because of the wind angle and that made for a long night of paying close attention to the steering. I couldn’t get the monitor to cooperate with the sails and after three floggy hours and two visits from the unhappy Captain I ended my second shift and headed below. In the early morning we watched as Lombok’s volcano, Gunung Rinjani appeared out of the clouds on the horizon. At 3700 meters it’s something to behold. By mid-morning the wind had died and we motored our way between Gili Air and the mainland toward our anchorage at Kombal Bay. Once we went past the Gilis the wind picked up to thirty knots on the nose for the last two miles. We were very glad not to be anchored at Gili Air. Kombal Bay was sheltered by large hills and was much more to our liking.
We spent five days in Lombok. We were tourists for two days. Day one of touring involved a speed boat trip out to the island of Gili Air which we then circumnavigated on foot. There are no cars or scooters on the Island which makes it quite appealing. You do need to listen for the bells of the horse-drawn carts that are used for transport though. No need to get run down by a pony. We spent most of the afternoon relaxing in a restaurant, watching the tourists play on the beach in front of us. It was quite luxurious really.
Day two of touring involved a land tour. Ali, our guide, said that the places we wanted to go were too far away and that it couldn’t be done in one day. Hmmm… Instead he took us on his version of a tour which was a combination of lots of city traffic and visits to tourist traps where he seemed to be very friendly with the vendors. We did enjoy the visit to the Ikat & Songket weaving cooperative where I was allowed to give weaving a try. In addition to pointing out Lombok’s sightseeing “highlights” Ali also passed on a variety of information about the Muslim religion. It was a rather long day and we are quite certain that our itinerary could also have been accommodated in the time allowed.
After our fifth day in Kombal Bay it was time to get to Bali to sort out our Temporary Import Permit which, it turns out, had expired. It’s a long story involving a wide variety of miscommunication but suffice it to say paperwork was required.
We left Kombal Bay and flew south with the current. We should have continued on to Benoa Harbor, Bali’s main port, but we decided to stop for the night at the island of Lembongan. This turned out to be a mistake. The roll in the harbor was wickedly unpleasant at certain points in the tide. To add insult to injury we couldn’t get the anchor up when we tried to leave the following morning. Roger had to don scuba gear, disconnect the anchor, do loops around a bommie with the chain, etc, etc. We hauled the anchor up with the genoa winch and finally worked the chain loose. We were afraid we might have to spend our visit to Bali sourcing new ground tackle but happily it didn’t come to that.
Once we were free of Lembongan Harbor we headed out into some really awful current induced seas. It was like being in a washing machine all the while going eleven knots. Once we were free of the seas (which was about seven miles or forty minutes into the trip) we headed towards the mayhem which is Benoa Harbor. Tourist “mother ships” were anchored five deep in the channel. They dispatched little speed boats which towed tourists on giant banana-like inflatables. Other boats towed parasailers within inches of our mast. I decided I couldn’t worry about them. All I could do was follow the markers and hope for the best. By one p.m., August 27th we had made our way into the relative quiet of the Bali Marina. Made met us and took our lines. We were very glad to be there.
As we spent the next few days doing paperwork and looking over the details of the trip to Thailand and beyond, we both began feeling out of sorts. The option of heading south out of Bali and directly across the Indian Ocean somehow seemed so simple. The wind angle was good and we’d be in South Africa in just a few months. We were beginning to worry about the wind angle we would experience crossing the Indian Ocean if we started as far north as Thailand. A departure from Bali seemed so tempting as we watched several dockmates head out for their crossings.
We spent hours analyzing our state(s) of mind and the reasons for it. We researched all our cruising materials and other cruiser's logs from the internet. We also had some great advice from Greg Shea on Erin Brie who had circumnavigated several years before and has been great in responding to our questions as we continue west and sort through our various options. I think we were also just tired and needed some re-charging. After two weeks in Bali we now feel quite rejuvenated. The sores on Roger’s leg are healing and his month old cold is better. I enjoyed a solo pilgrimage to Ubud where I took some cooking classes and went to a spa. It did such wonders for me that Roger and I returned for a second trip and had a wonderful weekend of relaxation, touring, and good food. I had a hard time pulling Roger away from his R & R. Basically we have chilled for a while, given Shango some much needed attention, and regained our cruising spirits. In the end we decided that we aren’t ready to pack it in by a long shot! It’s Thailand or bust.