Tuesday 31 May 2016


May brings us closer to the start of our Sail 2 Indonesia rally - we are so very excited. During May we sailed in company with friends: Sally & Forfar on their beautiful boat Squander. We sailed together from Magnetic Island to Cairns. Stopping at Orpheus Island, motoring behind the magic of Hinchinbrook Island, over to Goold Island, up to Dunk Island, dropped into Mourilyn Harbour and then sailed directly to Cairns where we anchored in Trinity Inlet. All up covering 187 nautical miles in 10 days as we left Magnetic Island on the 5th of May.

Matilda bound for Orpheus Island
It was funny sailing into Trinity Inlet - Cairns on the 14th of May, as the blog is titled 100 days to Cairns - so by arriving on the 14th meant we still had 43 days to go and wondered if we should change the title - ha!

Spending the last week or so at Magnetic Island with Sally and Forfar was so much fun. We did the Fort Walk together and spent many hours discussing Indonesia and beyond on our boats. It was so good being able to banter back and forth with concerns and to hear what others are doing - it was all very interesting and we learnt lots. We were glad to finally have our first aid kit sorted with their expertise and advice.

The Fort Walk was amazing and nothing like what i thought it was going to be. The walk and bus ride back took most of the day and it wasn't too grueling. It was amazing how they put all this in place in such a remote area. Bruce and I also enjoyed the only bus circuit on the Island as it took us on a tour. We stopped off at the other side of the island for a look see which was beautiful. Both of us are very much looking forward to going back one day and exploring more of the many bays Magnetic Island has to offer.

A weather window presented itself on Thursday 5th of May to enjoy a day sail to Orpheus Island so we took it. We enjoyed a 9 hr sail and dropped the anchor in Little Pioneer Bay with Squander. None of us where in a hurry so we all decided to spend a couple of days exploring and relaxing. The next day we went ashore for a walk but in thongs we couldn't get far. A timely reminder for us to invest in good sturdy walking shoes/sandals. The following day we enjoyed a snorkel and got to see some pretty coral and a few fish but visibility was low.

The sun setting behind Matilda over Hinchinbrook Island.
Sunday the 8th after much discussion we decided to enter the body of water behind Hinchinbrook Island by taking the southern entrance via Lucinda past the longest jetty in the southern hemisphere.  Amazing infrastructure in place for loading sugar, what a conveyor belt that must be to change when it wears out.  It's very shallow at this end of the island so a high tide is essential. After an early start we made very good time and had the anchor down at Reis Point, opposite Haycock Island by lunch time. The mosquitoes where fierce but everyone had their eyes peeled for some of the larger local inhabitants, but the crocodiles, proved to be elusive and we didn't sight one.

The next morning we left Reis Point and motored a bit more up the channel and dropped anchor at Scraggy Point. We went ashore here and found the fresh water creek - it was beautiful. However the mosquitoes where in there thousands yet again, and unfortunately the crocs were still in hiding When we headed ashore for our walk we were able to look over some fish traps built in the shallows.

Next day we motored again out of the channel and over to Goold Island. We made good time and decided to go for a walk and even enjoyed a little swim.

Dunk Island was next on the agenda and this was also a very light days sailing only taking 4 hours. We spent the next day at anchor doing some boat maintenance. Unfortunately my left knee is swelling up so a days rest seemed to make sense, however it meant we didn't get a chance to go ashore which was a real shame. The view from the boat was a bit heart breaking to see how the once pristine resort was still damaged from cyclone Yasi that made land fall on the 3 February 2011.While the owners have made progress there is still a way to go before it becomes any where near the resort it once was.

Friday the 13th seemed an ominous day to set sail but we did as the winds were again in our favor. Another short days sail only taking 4 hours all up to Mourilyn Harbour. Much to our delight we caught a tuna on the journey up. Not being overly fussed on tuna we wanted to give it to Sally and Forfar and we used the frame for bait and dropped a crab pot in but it didn't reward us with much, At least Bruce got to practice his rowing skills!

Mourilyn Harbour
Next morning Sally and Forfar left early to make it to Cairns - Trinity Inlet. We left 2 hours after them expecting to drop anchor at Fitzroy Island. However the wind had picked up a fair bit, making Fitzroy unsuitable so we decided to sail on with the possibility of anchoring at Mission Bay, but the bay is shallow for a long way out and the swell was well set in wrapping around the headland so we continued on to Trinity Inlet. By 1840 we had dropped the anchor and could see Squanders mast in the marina.

Matilda sailing up Trinity Inlet - Cairns
We now had over a month to finalize all our last minute things we have been thinking about since leaving Moreton Bay. We had loads of running around to do and our lists seemed to be increasing fast. We had to find all the shops in a town we don't know and its always a challenge but loads of fun.

As I write this blog its the end of the month and we have not stopped. Every day we seemed to be either ashore gathering supplies and hemorrhaging our bank balance or on board tackling the endless 'to do' list of maintenance and improvements we have deemed necessary before we leave Cairns and leave Australia. Lucky for us Bruce is very hands on and works tirelessly on his beloved Matilda.

Bruce yet again in a tight spot. This time working on the toilet pump.
The task of running around is not that easy. Usually by the time you find what you want, it is not in stock by the time you get there, so you have to come back or they just don't stock that item anymore and the process starts all over again and you have to find it somewhere else. The buses here only seem to stick the one main road making it very challenging to get around. However that said, everything is here, we just have to get creative. Thanks to friends the job has been made so much easier as friends of our shared their friends who spent a day running us around!

Erica, Charlie, Bruce & Deb at the Salt House.

The Sail2Indonesia rally must is not far off now. We are surprised that only 2 (one being us) boats out of 34 are in the inlet. Maybe they are much more relaxed and organised than us! We have been down in the tender to the Cairns Cruising Yacht Squadron, which is down past the navy base in Smiths Creek. Its a long way in the tender and glad that the rally organizers have arranged a bus to pick participants up in and run them around.

Friends arriving to join the rally.
Activity on the inlet here is non stop. Every single day around 8 am we watch all the tourist boats head out to the reef and local islands loaded with holiday makers and then about 4 pm they all head back in. The navy is here and they come and go. They have their own docks just up Trinity Inlet in Smiths Creek right behind Admiralty Island - their presence is impressive. Then there's the local fisherman, they work tirelessly. Meanwhile the commercial ships are escorted nearly everyday by the local tugs and it all makes for a fantastic sight. They seem so close to us! Also we have watched the super yacht Ethereal come in.She is an impressive sight being 190 ft long. She is a charter yacht and only costs AU$311,000 a week!

Super yacht - Ethereal

Ethereal at night.

The Great Dividing Range is impressive. It completely surrounds Cairns and the clouds love to cling to the forest giving it all a look that's hard to describe - its very, very impressive. Its hot here too, the humidity has knocked us about a bit and we need to learn to do four things: slow down, rest, don't run around in the middle of the day and drink loads of water. Lessons we are learning quickly.

Some days we are lucky to catch the sun setting. This is an inspiring sight with colours that fill the sky. A great reminder we are in Far North Queensland.

Friday 27 May 2016

Internet & Mobile Phone coverage

While in Indonesia will I have access to the interest and will I have phone coverage? Good questions,,,,

Keep in mind Indonesia has a population of approx. 260+ million and Australia has 29 million. Even if over half of the Indonesians have phones their network coverage is extensive. They also live via their social media. So will you have coverage, yes of course you will but will the data be as we know it - maybe not. Their lines are very full of users, so data maybe slower than what you are use to, but you will still have it. Evenings are definitely slower than during the day on the network.

You must ensure your phone is unlocked prior to leaving Australia.

Interesting statistical data such as: Indonesia has nearly as many mobile phones as it does people. As of September 2013, there were 236.8 million active mobile phones and about 237.6 million people. The number of mobile phone subscriptions was at 285 million and rising as per the website - Living in Indonesia.

Telkomsel seems the most popular. 
When dialing mobile and land line numbers enter these prefix codes for a cheaper rate (they use the Indonesian Satellite System):
  • 01019 
  • 01017 
TIP OF THE DAY: Unlock all of your devices before you leave Australia.

Insurance for your Vessel & Travel (Health)

Another big question - should I take out blue water insurance against my vessel and insurance against my health?

Again the answer to the question we feel is not only personal but from vessel to vessel - crew to crew there can be so many variables to consider - not to mention the cost, its a very, very expensive outlay no matter who you are. Its as simple as some people believe in it and some don't. We hear horror stories and we hear amazing stories of assistance from insurance companies.

Boat Insurance,,,

For us Matilda is our home, she is our only asset - so we insure her. We use QBE for Australian waters and Topsail for international or blue water coverage. One thing we do use is an insurance broker for Matilda. We believe the benefits are high and worth the small fee they change annually. Our broker is Oceanic Marine Risks and they have always been prompt and extremely helpful towards us.

A couple of things to understand and consider. Blue Water insurance is anywhere outside the 250 nautical mile range off the Australian Coast line. Read your fine print. What latitudes are you covered in and where are you not covered in. Be upfront and honest with your contact when doing inquiries - the more information you give them the better the coverage. Consider the options re your excess you pay if you have a claim. Keep in mind a lot of marina's in Asia don't want to see you insurance policy. Unlike in Australia, you cant get a berth until you produce your insurance certificate.

Health / Travel Insurance,,,,

Again very personal. We have heard stories of insurance companies being wonderful on how crew where treated in an emergency situation and we have heard from people who have not had health/travel insurance, had an accident and also receive wonderful care while in Indonesia.

Its a toss up really, sometimes the final decision comes down to if you can afford it. Like boat insurance its not cheap.

We have heard first hand that Travel Insurance Direct is one of the best to go with.

Blogs, books, guides and websites we found useful.

Heading overseas in Matilda to Indonesia is one of the most exciting decision of our life. To ensure we were getting the most out of the experience we read a lot about everything and anything we could find. We like to inform ourselves.

The internet is the most amazing tool for research. These are the websites and guides that we found interesting and helpful.

Websites and Blogs:

Books/Guides/Maps we purchased new & some second hand from markets & book stores.
  • We purchased an International Travel Map for South East Asia
  • Lonely Planets (new and second hand) on Indonesia & Thailand
  • An Indonesian phrase book by Lonely Planet
  • Pocket guide on Bali (second hand) 
  • Cruising Indonesia - written by Lea Pennicott off the sailing vessel Tientos
  • Nathaniel’s Nutmeg - written by Giles Milton
  • Cruising Guide to Indonesia - written by Andy Scott
  • South East Asia Pilot - written by Andy Dowden & Bill O'Leary

Friday 20 May 2016

Extra Fuel and Water

One of the big questions akin to 'how much gas will I need to take' looms over us all. How much extra fuel do I need to carry and how much extra water should I carry????

Fuel - we carry approximately 434 litres. Our longest passage is Thursday Island to Tual, 700 nautical miles. If we average 100 nm a day, obviously that's 7 days fuel. We burn approx 4 litres an hour, so with the math done 24 hs * 4 ltr is 96 ltrs. We passage plan on 5nm an hour, so 700 nm is 140 hrs or 5.8 days. Say 6 days is 576 ltrs of fuel.

We have 2 x 20 litre jerry cans for diesel giving us a total of 474 litres. We must sail or we wont have enough fuel and will have to paddle.

Other than the crossing over to Tual we believe by looking at the itinerary we will have ample opportunities to gather diesel. Matilda sails well under her spinnaker so we don't foresee any problems.

Diesel (Solar in Indonesia) is available, but do yourself a favour and buy a good filter before you fill your tanks and good diesel conditioner.

Water - we carry approximately 420 liters. We have two 20 litres jerry cans, one 8 litre canvas bag and two 10 litre black shower bags. Matilda also has a Spectra water maker fitted and can make 50 - 53 litres of water an hour. As an extra back up we have made a water catcher from a tarp that we can string out over the front that will funnel water directly into the tanks via a hose set up.

Again, we feel this will be sufficient while cruising Indonesian waters.

Gas cylinder refills and Gas Bottles

Gas cylinder refills and gas bottles in Asia does raise a few questions: can we get our Australian gas bottle refilled in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia & Thailand? Are the fittings the same? Is it super expensive? If they take our gas cylinder away to refill it, will the same cylinder be returned? The list of questions goes on and on, and our fears are well founded as without gas we cant cook.

The other questions for us is where will we store extra bottles? We can only fit out 4.5 kg bottle in our gas locker, which is essential because our gas connector, regulator etc is in this locker. Besides we don't want to have a gas bottle in use that is not in the locker for safety reasons.

Few will argue, you don't actually need much gas as eating out in Asia really cheap. But still we like to have a cuppa, not every single meal is eaten out and we like to bake.

We have read Indonesia and Malaysia have the same fittings and Thailand has the same fittings as in Australia and most marina's will fill your gas cylinder. (at the time of writing I am unsure about Singapore). You can not exchange bottles from one country to the next and you cant get them refilled.

Seems most cruisers who are there now are buying bottles in each country (not expensive) and working around the refilling that way.

Matilda carries 2 x 4.5 kg aluminium gas cylinders, each lasting us about 3 weeks. We do not have a generator on board for heating water. At the time of writing we are putting into place strategies to extend the life of the gas tanks. Friends of ours are very gas conscious (also doing the Darwin Rally) they wash all their dishes in salt water first and they wash their bodies in salt and rinse both dishes and bodies off with 1/2 a liter of fresh water. Its not essential to wash in warm water, actually the coolness of the water is a bonus when having a body wash as its so warm in Asia. We wash our dishes only once a day. We rinse all our dishes in salt water and do one load in the evening with some warm fresh water.

We have decided to buy another 9 kg gas cylinder. We are confident we can decant the 9 kg cylinder to the smaller bottles when we have to. We will have the POL fittings and 6 and 8 millimeter hose barbs and a length of pressure tubing. We also know the fitting for Indonesian gas cylinders are easily purchased once we get there. We are also, happy to purchase bottles as we travel through each country.

Update 7 July 2018 we did fit a Malaysian gas cylinder, the details are very much the same for an Indonesian cylinder, except the Malaysian cylinder id a lot bigger. The regulators may even be the same. Here is what we did: Fitting an Asian gas cylinder

Money Matters including:Rupiah, Access to your money while in Indonesia and TRS

Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) and access to your money in Indonesia

It is most import to be organised well before you set sail off to Indonesia. As with most things in life everyone approaches tasks differently and everyone has a different opinion. We both like to keep things simple. The added advantage of Bruce having worked in Asia for over 20 years in lots of different countries has given him the confidence to know what to do. The following is what we did.
  1. We have internet access to our funds
  2. We carry a Master Card/Credit card
  3. We carry a Visa card/debit card
Having internet access is crucial we feel so we can move funds around from account to account and still deal with our bills even though we are not in Australia.

The Master Card is credit only.

The Visa debit card gives you access to your nominated account (per arranged with the bank) it is not credit. It access available funds only.

A few important things to remember. 
  • The Master Card must have the word CIRRUS on it. Cirrus enables the card to be used world wide. A more informative explain can be found here.
  • The Visa Card must be on the Visa PLUS ATM network so it can be used outside of Australia
  • You MUST advise your bank that you are travelling overseas otherwise they will halt all access to your funds as they will think any/all transactions are fraudulent.
  • You will be charged fees every single time you access your own money and its worth asking the bank about these charges so you understand how much. The bank may be able to inform you of a more cost effective way to cut down on charges.Be clear on how much you can withdraw at a time in Indonesia as nearly every ATM will have a cap on how much you can withdraw and how often (eg. could be equivalent to AU$150, twice a day with a fee of AU$7 each time).
  • Photocopy your cards (front and back) and put the photocopy away for safe keeping. If you loose your cards this piece of paper is incredibly handy.
  • Before you leave your country of residence, write the International phone number for reporting lost cards next to each card - not the 1800 number that is usually associated with credit/debit cards.  
  • As good practice write down the international number for all your cards - photo copy them all and write the phone contact and email contact.

Seasoned travelers have given us a few handy hints while travelling overseas:  
  • Only carry the cards you really need.  
  • Ask your bank to un-link your credit / debit cards.  That way if one is stolen the other card will work. Once you cancel a joint credit card, both are canceled if they are linked together.
  • Take ample Rupiah (cash) when sailing to Indonesia, there may not be many working ATM's where you are expecting them, they may run out of cash due to the amount of boats on the rally all withdrawing cash and most purchases are completed with cash eg. market shopping.
  • Remember though ATM's are available in Indonesia, it just may mean you need to hire a taxi to take you to one
  • Take some US$'s
  • Take some AU$'s
  • Leave an old wallet with a few bogus/old (to us) cards and a few Rupiah in it. that way if your broken into they will grab the decoy wallet first then run.

International Bank Fees

There is a lot of information regarding fees that your financial institution will charge you while you are overseas. Fees mainly comprise of:
  1. ATM fees
  2. Foreign transaction fees
  3. Credit card fees (while a broad)
  4. Exchange fees
Sometimes there are even fees on top of fees, all for the privilege of accessing your own hard earned holiday savings. It can be very overwhelming indeed trying to get your head around the best way to avoid fees.

With regards to avoiding high exchange fees keep these tips in mind:
  • Don't use ATM's in hotels, hostels, 7/11's etc they have higher rates of exchange
  • Don't use airport ATM's they have very high exchange rates
  • Don't use money exchange offices - they also charge you a commission on top of their out outrageous exchange rates
  • Do try to only use ATM's that are attached to a bank.
I believe that the best option is to source an Australian bank or Financial institution that has Global access. Westpac and Citibank were the only two banks at the time of writing this section of our blog (May 2016) that were global and had global ATM's.

Be careful not to confuse your credit card (eg. Master Card) with your visa debt card. If you are over 50 years of age you maybe able to gain some benefits with regards to fee wavering. If you are over 50 and retired, you will find getting a credit card difficult due to have little to limited income. The best option is to inform yourself and the best way to do that is go into your local branch and talk to someone.

Note the Rupiah is identified as IDR.

A handy tip we were given was when working with the cash remove the last 4 zeros as a rough guide as to how much you are working with. 

Goods and Services Tax - GST & Tourist Refund Scheme - TRS.

Understanding GST is complex and best left to our accountants the poor things! But what is worth understanding is how the GST rebate works when you leave Australia. This is referred to as the TRS - Tourist Refund Scheme.

Read up on TRS here so you can inform yourself and to find the link to for the application form.

Here are few tips to note:
  1. you can claim 10% back on good purchased 60 days prior to your departure date
  2. you have to of made the purchase and be taking it out of the country
  3. the claim is for AU$300+. Hint here, if you are planing on buying several items from say a chandlery, have the chandlery do up an account for you so you can pay for all your purchases at the end ensuring your account is $300+
  4. you must be able to show the original tax invoice with the companies name, address and IBN number
  5. you can not claim on food
  6. you cannot claim on beer, spirits or tobacco
  7. read up on what you may have to pay back when you re enter Australia