Thursday, October 31, 2013

3 islands

It was time to move on. But on our departure from this archipelago, we wanted to hit Rhun Island about 10 nautical miles out. (Rhun is also shown on charts and signs as Run but is pronounced roon as in goon.) Our new friends, Joel and Anna, decided to sail with us the short distance to Rhun and take a local boat back to Banda Naira (Indonesia) as we would be continuing to other locations.

Friends excited to be aboard

A couple of hours later, we dropped anchor at a small island called Ai (S04°31.690' E129°45.870') where we drift snorkelled in the fast moving current.

We next motored to the nearby island of Rhun (S04°32.052' E129°41.739') where we again snorkelled. It was excellent snorkelling and we saw 2 turtles, giant Napoleon fish, 3 Spotted Eagle Rays, and fish galore. It was an encyclopedia of coral varieties.

After a great day, Joel and Anna headed back to Banda with a pre-arranged boat that came to pick them up before it got too dark out.

Taxi anyone??

Jordan and I re-anchored Sea Turtle to a more secure spot at Nailaka (S04°32.262' E129°41.490'). We dinghied ashore and walked around the very small island, and of course collected more Cowrie shells before the golden sun set over the Banda Sea. Another great day.

Sea Turtle anchored off Nailaka at left

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hatta

Another highlight of the Banda islands of Indonesia is the world class diving. We were told not to miss the small island of Hatta a couple hours to the east. So we threw off the dock lines and spent a day over there. When we approached, guess who! It was Joel and Anna, our friends watching us from the beach as we tried to anchor. They had hired a local boat to take them there for the day.

Jordan, Judy, Anna, Joel

Anchoring was next to impossible as the reef is shallow right up to the "wall", then it drops off to oblivion. Either too shallow or too deep, not to mention scarring this pristine underwater coral. treasure. We were directed further along till finally we found a marginally tenable spot after 2 tries. Jordan dove to ensure a secure anchor and adequate clearance under the keel.

We met up with Joel and Anna for what was the best snorkelling we have had in all our travels to date! Visibility was an incredible 30 m (100 feet). There was the most amazing and prodigious array of both soft and hard coral that blanketed the bottom and the abundance of fish and variety was unmatched. The scene was the best as we drifted along the reef's edge. It was a dramatic feeling of floating or flying out over the edge while we looked down along the wall into the disappearing ominous deep. As our luck with underwater cameras would have it, ours was kaput. But no worries, the scene is saved to mental memory forever!

Our snorkelling ended up back at Sea Turtle to excitedly reflect on what we just experienced over cold, refreshing drinks with Joel and Anna.

For the return to Banda Naira, we found an elusive breeze that took us most of the way.

Small passenger boat in the distance

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Songs to sing

We were a rare novelty to the Banda (Indonesia) residents and word gets around. This time we were both invited to a school to talk to students learning English. They not only wanted to know about us and our travels but being proud of their limited learned English, they wanted to practice on us. We were greeted by the faculty as we arrived with our plastic blow-up globe marked with our route travelled so far and a picture book of Vancouver Island.

We talked to 3 or 4 classrooms of about 20 students each. There are 100+ students that attend this school of junior high age. A video was being shot to show parents.

The students had many questions after each of our presentations and their English was praiseworthy although a bit rehearsed. They sang songs to us and 1 class asked us to sing a song for them. So after a blank stare, Jordan wrote on the blackboard the words to "Row Row Row Your Boat" and as soon as we started to sing, they picked up with a commendable chorus. To their delight, Jordan acted out the words so that they would understand the foreign English words. Once was not enough though. We can just see it now, when the next yachtie get invited, guess what song they now have to present?!

Ch-e-e-e-e s e

There were very few Muslims in the classroom. In the above, only 2 girls were wearing the head coverings and only 1 boy wore the cap. Many are either Christian or Catholic.

We were taken to a teacher room where we were served hot tea loaded with sugar and cake topped with sweetened coconut gratings. After a tour of the library, we were on our way back to Sea Turtle with 2 of the teachers giving us a ride of the back of their motorcycles, the mode of transportation in these parts.

As a side note, we have at times had difficulty getting cash from ATMs. Only certain machines coordinate with our Canadian bank systems. So in Banda, we had to solicit a Chinese merchant to exchange some US cash which we keep for this purpose. So far, the best internet was a small shop in Tual, but other than that, it has been poor to non-existent. This is all to be expected though as we so far have really been off the beaten path. So keeping up to date with the blog has been limited!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Banda bustle

The day the passenger/cargo ship comes to Banda's inner harbour is always a busy event. The alley in front of the terminal is packed with comers and goers and venders of every type set up in their makeshift booths and small boats cramming the docks to facilitate the expediting of cargo and passengers. This day was no exception as a colossal passenger/cargo ship arrived early in the morning passing real close in front of Sea Turtle, and shoehorning itself in at the pier.

Tiny dock compared to huge approaching ship...


Loads of longboats waiting for cargo and/or passengers...


Crowds of locals with their prized goods...


And then as quickly as it had all started, it suddenly seemed to be over. The people had all disappeared, the stalls were empty, and this gentleman appears to be finished for the day with his empty cart...


We too decided to high-tail it and dinghied over to Banda Besar (Big Banda) to a pearl farm. This large farm was set up different from the ones we had visited in French Polynesia. There were thousands of submerged oysters in the process of hopefully making saleable pearls.

Racks of oysters beneath our feet...


These Indo pearls are almost always white or a beautiful yellow, almost never black. They are essentially all sold for export through Jakarta (the capital of Indonesia) and only a few locally. Up in the yard was a crew of chattering workers sorting emptied shells and they waved us over to see. As a by-product, the shells are sold to China and we watched as they did their rapid sorting.

Rickety dock leaving pearl farm facility...


It was still early so we went over by the volcano island of Gunungapi across from Sea Turtle to snorkel. We splashed in the water just down from the black lava flow and found it to be pretty good. There was a large amount of different varieties of coral and many bright coloured fish.

On the way back, we passed a little island with volcanic formation similar to Ireland's Giant's Causeway. So curious with such square rock formations...


So far, we have been unable to purchase wine in Indonesia. Beer, not so cheap, is always available, but wine, non-existent in most places is very expensive. A potent black market liquor called Arak and made from palm is sometimes available.

Our inquiry turned up a dealer but we weren't sure if we wanted to buy it or not, so we said we would think about it. When we later returned to Sea Turtle, the seller was hanging around, but totally inebriated! He tried to talk us into drinking with him, but we politely declined. We decided black market products were not the best idea to partake of, not knowing exactly what it was made of but we supposed if he drank it and lived, it would have been alright. Although at 02:00, Jordan saw him laid out in a cadaverous pose. In the morning, he was gone.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday's events

When we wake in the morning, we never know what to expect. Early this morning, we were surprised to see 2 fancy longboats with a horde of paddlers coming close by us where Sea Turtle was moored in Banda Naira of Indonesia. We soon determined that they were participants in a race that soon ensued.

Ready to go

Once the excitement was ended, we moseyed over to the market/fish market where we learned that a large hammerhead shark had been landed yesterday and sections were now for sale in the fish market. We have tasted shark meat in the past and found it to be quite good but we bypassed on this, and also on the tuna eye!

You lookin' at me?

Today was to be a new experience for Jordan as he had agreed to teach the students of Maga's art class the concept of 3-dimensional art. (Maga had been our tour guide when we first arrived in Banda Naira.) We brought along a bunch of paper which was quickly grabbed up and there were plenty of coloured pencils in supply. The students seemed to enjoy Teacher Jordan and his new concept that he aptly explained and displayed. The concept of 3-D was also new to Maga and Jordan had everyone's attention. Many of the students caught on and produced excellent results despite no desks.

Art class

Class ended after a couple of hours when Maga asked if we wished to take a walk with him as he showed us around some more. We walked a long way out of town, up towards the airstrip, where his family has land with coconut trees; a worker shimmied up and tossed down several, some of which we drank, and some of which we took back to Sea Turtle for later consumption.

The airstrip, when no planes were around, was used for various Sunday activities such as football (soccer) or as a raceway by local motorcyclists. We watched in the heat of the day as several competed, with the winner cashing in on the pot of Rupiahs (each racer placed the equivalent to $0.25 Cdn in the pot).

We once again met Joel and his friend Anna for dinner at the Mutiara Guest House where the buffet food was delicious. We are really enjoying Indonesian food and finding most of it to be not too spicy. The prices are also super inexpensive!

(Abba, Mutiara's owner, presented both Anna and me with 1 of his nutmeg shaped broaches made of pearl shell. What a beautiful and appreciated memento!)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Touring Banda

Today we were guided around Banda Naira (Indonesia) by Maga who also filled us in on the history of the Banda islands and the spice trade. Up till now, we knew very little about this subject, let alone this interesting spot that became a world focal point that lasted for centuries.

In the 1600s, the Europeans discovered it as the only world source of nutmeg. Up till then, for centuries the Orientals had protected this valuable source, and kept it a secret. Once discovered though, the Europeans fought with one another for control of it and the Dutch won out and in that, many injustices and atrocities were committed. (Kind of what they do today, but now it's for oil.) Nutmeg was so valuable then, it exceeded the price of gold, weight for weight.

Interested in nutmeg? Here's a few facts from Maga as we toured the nutmeg farm on his family's government leased land. The trees of nutmeg and almond have a symbiotic relationship, so where you see nutmeg, there also you will find almond trees. But an odd and somewhat gross fact is that pigeons eat almond nuts whole for the benefit of the outer coating and later poop out the undigested nut which is still covered in a hard shell. The women go around with a long-handled "picker-upper" (so they don't have to use their hands) to pick up these nuts. They are laid in the sun to dry and after removing the hard shell, they are eaten. Think about that the next time you eat much desired and tasty almonds!

Pooped almonds

Back to nutmegs: these are picked by reaching high up into the tree with a long-handled nutmeg picker which consists of 2 downward facing pegs at the top of a basket that grasps the round nutmeg fruit and drops it into an open slot in the basket...

Nutmeg picker

Nutmeg is the only tropical fruit that is the source of 2 spices - nutmeg and mace. After picking the nutmeg fruit, they must be released from their coverings. These shells (husks) are then dried and used to repel mosquitoes when lit. The interior nut has a red lacy cover (mace) which is next removed and is a distinct tasting spice used in soups, sauces, baked goods, etc. The actual nutmeg (from the dark innermost part) has multiple uses, such as above, and also for essential oils, jam, fragrant candy, cough syrup, medicines, drinks, and even cosmetics.

Handful of nutmegs

The dark black nutmeg in the centre is considered to be a first class product. The 1 on the far right, much lighter in colour, is considered to be 2nd grade. If you scrunch a leaf of the tree, you can smell the pungent aroma of nutmeg. It takes 7 to 9 years before attaining the 1st harvest of these trees and 20 years before reaching full production!

At the museum of Banda Naira, we got a rudimentary insight into the colonial history as Maga our tour guide explained the portraits and painted scenes depicting events of good bad and ugly. Interesting artifacts were displayed like the wicker nutmeg picker, over-the-shoulder basket to collect picked nutmeg, the long-handled "pooped" almond picker-upper, and a large bell that each nutmeg plantation had. Paraphernalia of defense displayed included various cannons, flint lock handguns, swords and shields, and weird shaped helmets.

There were items that gave us a glimpse of everyday life like currency of the Dutch and Chinese, and even a pellet shaped currency issued for wages by the plantations. There was also a working gramophone player which Jordan started up and we listened to an old classical record. Care for a dance?

Old record player

We popped in at the well preserved fort built in 1611 by a Dutchman, Pieter Bot, to secure the Dutch interests here. It is very similar to the pentagonal fort that we saw at Acapulco.

Judy way down there

It's said that at times ghosts of soldiers past still man the site...


Residents while digging in gardens, etc. are still finding artifacts of old pottery, coins, utensils, and even cannons. Next to where Sea Turtle was tied, we saw an old rusty cannon that the gardeners just dug up the previous day while doing landscape maintenance. Jordan pulled back the tarp to take a peek at this newly unearthed authentic cannon.

Just discovered

Consider how low tech they were in comparison to today's unmanned drones with laser GPS guided missiles.

After an informative and very hot tour day, we proceeded to the beautiful and spotless Mutiara Guest House for a spicy but delish homemade dinner prepared by Abba's wife. "Mutiara" is Indonesian for "pearl" which Abba also sells from his Guest House and a shop in town (www.banda-mutiara.com). We shared our table with an interesting and friendly man and woman, Joel and his friend Anna. Joel from the USA and Anna from the Netherlands each reside most the time in Bali. Joel in particular has visited many of the interesting and out of the way places in Indonesia and was full of information on the best places to see and we agreed to meet again for more discussion.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Banda

If there is 1 thing we have learned from our years of sailing, it's that plans are etched in sand. It's about being flexible and exploring as you go. With this approach, we have had some of our best experiences and seen the most interesting sites.

Our port of entry to Indonesia led us further northeast than some. And once we were there, we heard more than once about the Banda islands. "You MUST go to Banda!" is what they were saying. It was more or less in the direction we wanted to go, so why not? What? Lost? No, we're just exploring!

The draw to these islands is not only its quaintness and picturesque setting, but it is steeped in and centered in the intriguing spice trade history, in particular nutmeg and cloves. (Recommended readings on the subject include Nathaniel's Nutmeg by Giles Milton and Scents of Eden by Charles Corn.)

The Banda islands are out on their own in the NE part of the Banda Sea. They consist of Banda Besar (the largest), Banda Naira, Gunungapi (volcano), Hatta, Ai, Run (aka Rhun), and Nilaka. With no wind, we had motored for 22 hours to get here before setting anchor (S04°31.437' E129°53.831') at Banda Naira.

Sea Turtle at Banda Naira

Banda Naira is on the north side of the largest island of Banda Besar and up close and personal to the volcano island, Gunungapi (which erupted in 1988 resulting in 5 deaths and the evacuation of Banda Naira for a few weeks). With Jordan conning from the bowsprit, he directed me through the coral in the shallow and narrow south pass  to the inner harbour. A man on shore waved us over and directed us to "Med moor" which we did by dropping the anchor and backing in, throwing him our stern line which he promptly tied to a coconut tree.

The man was the Harbour Master and right away, solicited us for fuel delivery. A buck a litre and "don't worry, clean fuel". It was our only dealings with him. He never asked for paperwork or did any checking-in procedure. A few minutes later, 2 others were competing to get our laundry business.

Another, a pleasantly accommodating young man introduced himself as Maga, a tour guide who we agreed to later employ. In the meantime, he took us on a brief walk through the town and directed us to some important spots (market, internet, eateries, etc.)

We soon met Abba on a motor-scooter. (Everyone has motor-scooters that best navigate the narrow colonial street layout and there are no great distances to travel. Only about 5 regular vehicles on the island.) Abba invited us for dinner at his guest house for the following evening which we then booked..

It was a quick and welcoming intro to Banda!!

After an excellent lunch (2 plates of of delicious Indonesian food, 2 smoothies, and a cola totalled about $8), it was back to the boat to receive 4 jerry jugs of fuel. Jordan emptied them into Sea Turtle through his Baja Filter, carefully scrutinizing the last litre in each jug, and wouldn't you know it, the last litre in the last jug had crud in it. We had been warned about getting bad fuel in Indonesia. Later we found the 1 and only fuel station close by, so the last of the needed fuel top-up, Jordan safely did on his own and for a lot less too.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Kasiui Island

After an overnight motoring passage, we arrived at Kasiui Island (S04°31.268' E131°40.962') where we planned on staying for a few hours. We were immediately approached by a lone man in a bright pink longboat who suggested with hand signals that we should re-anchor behind the barely visible reef. He also politely asked for some gasoline for his longboat but as ours already had oil mixed in, it was not suitable for his boat.

Another longboat passed by but filled with happy, friendly passengers. They all waved and shouted out "Hallo Mista" and "We love you!" We don't think they get many visitors!

We had just enough time for a quick breakfast before another longboat came by. This 1 had 2 older looking gentlemen wearing once again contemporary shorts and shirts, 1 with black curly hair and the other with grey curly hair. Both were almost toothless. With hand gestures, they indicated they wanted to come aboard to see around Sea Turtle.

After a quick tour, we retired to the cockpit as it was just too hot down below. At least above there was a bit of a breeze. Through limited conversation, and with the help of an Indonesian phrasebook given to us by SV Veedon Fleece, we discovered that our visitors wished to take us to their river.

We all piled into our dinghy with their longboat in tow. They pointed out the best directions to head through the shallow coral water. As we motored, they proudly waved with big smiles to friends in passing boats and ashore, and with hand gestures pointed out that they were in a motoring dinghy, with white people! On the way they untied their longboat and tossed down their anchor, a piece of volcanic rock with rope through its holes. What a great anchor!

Not too much further, we dropped anchor and then waded ashore in the shallow water covered with sea grass. This is where Jordan noticed that he had forgotten his sandals so he went native, barefooted! On shore, another Muslim man joined us dressed more traditionally. He was very interested in our Indo/English phrasebook and conscientiously skimmed it during our entire walk.

We tread through the jungle and through the shallow clear stream which at times was no more than a trickle; finally arriving upon our destination, our leaders all lit up cigarettes and we sat around admiring the tropical enclave.


As we returned along a different route, we were handed aromatic nutmeg leaves and small pieces of clove. The group also picked up round dark nuts and smashed them open on a rock with a rock, just like the youngsters had done when we were in Tanna (Vanuatu). They were very soft but good. Several had been gnawed on by rats trying unsuccessfully to break them open for the tasty treat inside. We also returned with a large nafara (sprouting coconut) that will make our favourite breakfast tomorrow.

This 1 is for you

Our next stop was to visit a couple of the villages. But first Jordan wanted to return to Sea Turtle to retrieve his sandals! We all piled in the dinghy once again and made a speedy trip back to our boat. Jordan also grabbed the dinghy wheels.

Back to shore, Jordan set the wheels in place. The 3 men broke out in gales of laughter as they realized what the wheels were for as they watched Jordan easily pull the dinghy across the sand and away from the water. This must have been a first for them.

The first village we visited had a little litter lying around but the second village was worse. We tried to explain that this is a punishable offence back home.

We were taken to 2 of the men's homes and invited to come in. It is custom to always remove your shoes before entering, which we did. The homes were very sparse with little or no furniture. We sat on a plastic mat on the floor. But yet there would be a small stereo or TV. I personally would rather have chairs or tables instead of TV!

The kitchen of 1 man's place was very neat, tidy, and well organized but primitive. This I noticed as I am a very organized person. It was the nicest room in the home. These men all had young children, most of whom we met, but their wives were not home.

When we were noticed by the villagers, everyone came running for pictures. Sooo many pictures. Some were taking pictures of us but most wanted their pictures taken WITH us, even if they did not have a camera. Everyone wanted to be in the picture and they firmly pushed each other aside. I was handed 1 lady's baby who immediately started to cry loudly (the baby that is) but she would not take him back until the picture was taken...


Finally we managed to escape as my eyes displayed my exhaustion...


There is an ample tide range here and it was very low as we went back to Sea Turtle. As soon as we arrived, it started to rain - what good timing! We pulled anchor at 13:00 to head for our next destination.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What next

In the heat of the day at Papua (Indonesia), we dinghied over to another white sandy beach that was this time quite a bit farther from Sea Turtle. The sand was also very fine, just like flour again. But this time, not as many shells. The hermit crabs were residing in all of the nice ones! We watched as they scampered all over the place and clusters would have minor battles trying to take over each other's shells. Teeny tiny ones and fairly large ones were spotted.

It was so hot out earlier that both of us got a bit of sunburn. We headed back to Sea Turtle when the clouds started to spit a bit. When we arrived, the birds were singing their merry songs and fish were jumping like crazy.

Jordan wanted to scrape a few gooseneck barnacles off of Sea Turtle as I cleaned our collection of shells. He began working at it from the dinghy but decided to get right into the water, forgetting that he untied the dinghy. Half an hour later, he excitedly hailed me and said we had to quickly raise the anchor and chase after our dinghy that had drifted out into the bay!! We could still see it off in the distance so it was a successful venture.

We decided to fill our water jug with water from the waterfalls. The large fall was too overwhelming and forceful so we chose a much smaller 1 but even it gave us a thorough dousing as we simply pulled up the dinghy and let it pour in. The dinghy quickly became a bathtub that we used to get everything rinsed off from being salty. After being in the ocean, we next followed with a chilly invigorating scrub by another smaller waterfall.

Rub-a-dub-dub...

The sunset was incredible with the different formations of clouds in the sky and a haze of flying bats in the distance...


The next day, we saw a turtle in the bay and then went snorkelling. There was an amazing variety of different corals, many that we've never seen before. The fish were very colourful in their patterns and we saw the largest angel fish.

We pulled anchor at 12:30 on the 23rd beneath a short but refreshing spell of rain. This had been an enjoyable anchorage with new discoveries.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Wonders of Papua

After getting jerry jugs of fuel from a service station with the help of our agent's helper, we were finally ready to leave Tual Indonesia on October 20th (supposedly the stations will not sell fuel to jerry juggers because of the bombing in Bali 10 years ago where the bombers used jerry jugs of fuel).

It was an overnight sail to the west end of Papua - Indonesia shares this large island with Papua New Guinea. The poorest people of Indonesia reside in mostly the villages and countryside of Papua. SV Relapse had recommended that we stop here to see the big freshwater waterfall that drops into the ocean. It was indeed stunning as we dropped anchor (S03°53.453' E132°49.300') on the 21st of October.

Our digital charts (OpenCPN) showed us anchored 1 nautical mile inland but we were actually in 5 metres of clear sandy bottom. The only way to the waterfall is by air or water and there are no roads connecting the few towns of Papua.

Sea Turtle by waterfall

As we approached, we saw 1 large whale as it was feeding and scooping up fish in its wide open jaws. We had to quickly stop to avoid him, oblivious in his feeding. It would continually rise to the surface as it made another swipe for fish. We hadn't seen a whale for about a year till now.

The shallows were an incredible colour of emerald green. There were many small rocky islets and the cliffs of Papua were steep and verdant. It was so peaceful. We were all alone (no more chanting being blasted from minarets!) with just the blissful crashing of water as it thundered into the ocean.

Time to explore so we took the dinghy over to 2 small tree covered islets and were astonished to see and hear thousands if not millions of cute fruit bats. There was no beach area but we didn't wish to go ashore - it was amazing to watch so many bats. A once in a lifetime experience I am sure.

They were scrambling up tree vines stuck to the sheer wall using their tiny clawed wings. Others would stay stationary and hug their wings around their bodies to conserve heat as they peered wonderingly back at us. It may sound weird but these bats were honestly really cute with their fox-like faces.

Are you lookin' at me??

The noise of the dinghy outboard excited them so they took to flight to go to the nearby next islet. It was a mass exodus with the high-pitched shrill screaming of their call!


Check out the awesome wing structure of this lone bat...


Once we finally tired of watching the bats, we decided to see if we could get the dinghy behind the large waterfall with gallons of water crashing with such force. It was fresh in more ways than 1 - it was also refreshingly cold!

Looking out from behind the falls!

There were so many smaller waterfalls - in 200 metres, we counted about 10. A small fishing boat came in and anchored in the next cove for a short washing off in the small falls of that cove before moving off.

There were many coves and hidden paradises. We dinghied in and out of many but this was 1 of our favourites. Jordan even saw a jumping trevally fish but unfortunately we did not bring a fishing rod with us on our explorations.

Charming cove

We hung out at 1 of the many white sandy beaches. The sand was so fine it was just like the consistency of flour. We don't think too many cruisers stop here as there were lots of shells lying about.

Fine sand, fine man

We were also able to get the dinghy right inside a couple of the caves in the neighbourhood.


Looking out again

In the evening sunset over the sea, Jordan noticed a haze in the sky as the bats were heading out for their evening foraging. It was an incredible sight to see them by the thousands.

Wow, what a busy and enchanting day, the ending being lulled to sleep by the steady pattern of the endless rhythm.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Worst bureaucratic officialdom

Time was passing here in Tual Indonesia and we were still not checked in. What happened to the declared One day check in?

We were approached by SV Relapse and asked how much we had paid to our agent's local helper. We had to give him 2 million Rupiah (~$200 Cdn), apparently to cover various department fees. This was quite an unexpected surprise as we had paid our agent in Jakarta this same amount and thought it was all that was needed. Relapse, having been in Indonesia for 3 years and used the same agent, told us that this was not right and the only fees now should be $50 Cdn. So we sent an email to our agent to enquire. He confirmed what Relapse had told us and assured us that he would email his helper to set that matter straight. So when our agent's helper collected us and the other cruisers ashore for due process, he privately returned the excess money to each of us. We didn't make an issue with it so he could save face. Obviously he got the message.

The Custom's office has the following 2-metre poster on display, clearly a problem in Indonesia...


We went to some health office where, as we waited, they laboriously filled out various forms and made numerous entries of their files, all made official with numerous stamps and signatures. Eventually we were presented with a large booklet containing a certificate stating we were health approved. Apparently this booklet would also be presented to the next places that we checked into and more certificates added. Hmmm, we'll see. (We later discovered this booklet was only needed for large commercial ships and we never of course used it once.)

Next, off to the Custom's office by way of motor-scooter taxis. There we sat and waited. And waited. And waited, listening to the chain-smoking Indonesian palaver. Our helper's interpretation was that Customs could not process any further paperwork until they received a Letter of Guarantee signed by our agent. Jordan tried to convince our agent's helper to call our agent in Jakarta to see what the delay was but he told Jordan that our agent had refused to sign the letter so they were just waiting until he did. What!!!!

It had been over 5 days now. If our agent had not signed the letter by now, obviously he was NOT going to. So Jordan insisted that our helper call our agent and the result was he still refused to sign. So next Jordan asked for the phone and called himself. Our agent gave some longwinded reasoning why his signature wasn't needed and still refused and Jordan gave the phone to the Custom's agent to get the same message from our agent's own lips. But to no avail, Customs insisted they MUST have a signed letter or we can't get processed for check in. We were at a stalemate but there must be a solution.

We were told that all other previous boats were signed in without an agent Guarantee Letter because they were with the Sail Indonesia Rally, an event with pre-approved leniency. We did not join that rally as we were too late.

We were willing to sign our own Letter of Guarantee but this was not acceptable to Customs. Finally, our agent called and suggested that Customs call the Head office in Jakarta for a solution. After much discussion, Head Office agreed to let us sign our own letter and the paperwork was now in the works!

But before they could finalize, a boat inspection was necessary. So off to our boat with a Custom's man. But during the day, our dinghy had been damaged by kids playing in it (any boats are fair game for the ever present kids) and they had torn out the start cord. So we called SV Azzan and he graciously gave us a ride to Sea Turtle, waited while the Custom's agent filled out more papers, and then gave Customs and Jordan a ride back to shore. After another 2 hours of paperwork, Azzan once again gave Jordan a ride back to Sea Turtle - all checked in finally. It was now 20:00 and we had spent the entire day mostly with Customs.

This has been our worst check in ever. We had been forewarned so took it in stride. We experience the joys of sailing but we must also experience the trials of sailing!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Touring Tual waterfront

One afternoon, we jumped in the dinghy and did a waterfront tour of Tual.

Waterfront in America is premium and it's where the rich build their mansions with shore edge gazebos and docks for their yachts. But in Indonesia, it seems the opposite. Here is where the shanties and derelicts reside. The bay is their garbage dump, their bathtub - and for many - their highway for their boats, and it has nothing to do with prestige or luxury. We'll let these pictures tell the story:

In need of some maintenance

It's a long way down

Busy fuel dock

Condos

Taking a bath

On the outskirts of town

On his way home

The kids are the ones who find joy in their life on the water's edge.

Always big smiles for the camera!

With thanks to the locals, we had an entertaining self-tour of the Indonesian waterfront!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lessons to learn

We went ashore to visit the extensive market area of Tual (Indonesia) and discovered the poverty of the area. There was tiny stall after stall of merchants selling anything and everything, usually under tarped roofs. Some were sitting on the ground displaying their wares or selling in alleyways in very dim conditions with no lighting. During the heat and/or rain of the day, sheltering tarps would also hang down in front.

Get it here...

The water's edge was littered with garbage and we watched more than once as the denizens walked from their waterfront hut or market stall and tossed a full plastic bag of trash into the ocean! We were speechless...but what could we say even if there wasn't a language barrier?

Such things as garbage containers and pickup and recycling that we take for granted back home are an unknown concept to so many here. Most of the populous here are predominantly concerned in just eking out an existence, leaving no enthusiasm or energy to promote a wholesome environment.

It was very disheartening to see the constant disposal of plastic garbage into the ocean. Yes, we too dump garbage into the ocean but only biodegradable and non-harmful items such as paper or produce waste, metal cans, and glass jars while at deeper seas. Sea Turtle's garbage after 21 days = 1 small bag of hard plastics/tetra containers and 1 jug stuffed full with soft plastics, none of which goes into the ocean.

Minimal garbage

Our agent's helper, who also works as a teacher, asked the cruisers to visit his students to expose them to some foreign influence and to practice their limited English. We were happy to learn that the students are learning to be environmentally conscious and are taught and practice recycling. They even make items for sale such as plastic flowers from collected garbage. Hopefully the young can teach their elders about the importance of the environment but we feel it will take persistence and 1 generation to see results.

Other hand crafts they make include jewelry from shells and beads, and cloth wear that they produce from their sewing classes. Each of the women cruisers were given a beautiful pair of earrings made by the students.

Students are taught English in school and were interested in the cruisers' stories as we spoke about our travels and answered many questions. The classroom is divided into 2 levels of education. The ages seemed to range from about 12 to 17 years.

Jordan surrounded by students and cruisers

In another classroom, we watched as the girls worked on their sewing projects. These young girls actually sew the smart-looking uniforms of their teachers...


The students had also prepared a small lunch for everyone and had it nicely displayed. The rice rolls were very scrumptious (I should have asked for the recipe!) followed by a tasty pudding, and all washed down with refreshing homemade mango-papaya juice. Back in my school daze, I was taught Home Economics where I learned sewing and cooking too as the boys were busy with Shop (mechanics, welding, etc.) Our sewing machines were a lot more modern but these old treadle Singers appeared to make perfect seams.

Oldie but goodie

Computer usage is also taught at the school but we found the internet to be very slow not only at the school but throughout Tual. After a lot of scouting, we found 1 internet shop that had pretty good connections but you had to use their computers as they had no wi-fi.