Thursday 31 October 2019

October Newsletter

News from the Crew of Matilda
October  2019
Farewell for now....we loved every minute......till next time team Moonshadow!!!
Ships log 
  • October 1: 35.3nm's to Pulau Patar (Kabir). Anchored at 08 16.25S, 124  12.16E in 29 mtrs.
  • October 2: 36.2nm's to Kalabahi, Alor. Anchored at 08 13.33S, 124 31.00E in 21.8mtrs.
  • October 3: 1.1nm's to Anchorage B, Kalabahi, Alor. Anchored at 08 13.34S, 124 30.25E i 16.1mtrs.
  • October 6: 21.3nm's to Kokar, Alor. Anchored at 08 09.71S, 124 26.64E in 17mtrs.
  • October 7 & 8: 127nm's overnight to Tg.Tutntue, Wetar. Anchored at 07 38.69S, 126 22.79E in 30mtrs.
  • October 8 & 9: 63.6nm's overnight to Romang. Anchored at 07 35.07S,  127 21.98E in 21mtrs.
  • October 12, 13 & 14: 220nm's over 2 nights to Palau Selu, The Tanimbars. Anchored at 07 32.45S, 130 50.40E in 12mtrs.
  • October 15: 39.2nm's to Palua Selaru, The Tanimbars. Anchored at 08 07.82S, 130 58.76E in 9.5mtrs.
  • October 21: 25.7nm's to Palau Saumlaki, The Tanimbars. Anchored at 07 58.51S, 131 17.32E in 20.6mtrs.
Matilda watching on as her buddy departs the anchorage bound for Australia. 
Crew log:
October signaled our final destination in Indonesia. As I write we are anchored at the town of Saumlaki in The Tanimbars as a well-established easterly blow howls outside the harbour. We are very glad we are not out in it still heading east. We have our fingers crossed the easterly blow is signalling the change of season and will soon blow from the north west – perfect for our run to Thursday Island, Australia.  From Langkawi we have now covered a total of 3384 nautical miles in 165 days. During these days we have only had to do 7 overnight sails. All our time spent passage planning and gathering information was worth every minute. 

A local Phinisi dive boat checking her sails at Saumlaki.
We have anchored in some magnificent locations, meet some amazing local people, seen things that will forever remain fond memories, but most of all our time with Margie & Jeremy on their beautiful Moonshadow has forged a bond that will span a life time.  Sailing in company over the last 5 1/2 months with them, spending every single day together and sharing amazing experiences has formed a friendship akin to family. Looking out as we have sailed the seas and always seeing our Moonshadow sailing along, has given us a comfort that’s hard to describe. It can be a mighty big sea out there when you’re all alone in it, and it can be daunting to say the least. Moonshadow’s home port is Darwin, which means from Saumlaki we go our separate ways for now until we meet again.

During our time together Jeremy and Deb took thousands of photos of each others boats and this shot is one of our favourites as it combines Debs love (or is that fetish) for warships and our Moonshadow. As we sailed along Java's coastline bound for Bali warship 361 escorted us out of their live firing range before their manoeuvres commenced - how lovely of them. 
The month started off with us arriving at the island of Pantar and dropping our anchors behind a small headland, but as the afternoon blow came the anchorage became uncomfortable so we all decided to make a run for the small town of Belang Merang - gee we will miss the names. To enter the waterway to the anchorage, we had to pass through a gap in the reef but once in the calm, it made the mad dash worth every second for a calm and secure night.

Some locals coming in with supplies, love these long boats.
From Pantar we made our way to Kalabahi, Alor, what a fabulous stop over this turned out to be. As we headed to the straits we were surrounded by 4 volcanoes and greeted by a pod of small dolphins. The infamous current that runs out the front of the entrance to the fiord leading to the town of Kalabahi made our approach a little interesting. Selat (strait) Alor funnels an incredible amount of water from the south to the north in the small gap between Pantar and Alor.

A pod of small dolphins welcoming Moonshadow to Alor.
The water outside the strait is over 2000 meters deep and shallows up to 400 meters in the strait leading up to the fiord.  This movement causes the water to stand up – quite literally giving it a washing machine impression and it swirls with some considerable force, creating whirpools which push and pull anything that moves within it. Feeling the water grab a hold of your boat and move 17+ tonnes within seconds sideways is an unreal feeling. 

Enjoy the video below that Jeremy took as we passed over.

At one stage we had a 50 degree crab angle.  Once inside we realized we had miss timed our entry and were battling the flow at its peak time. Bruce was revving poor Matilda’s engine like I’d heard her roar trying to keep off the reef and we were making just over 1 knot of speed over the ground with the 5 knot current against us! What was a surprise was when our water temperature alarm sounded alerting us the water temp had dropped below 13 degrees, the average is 25 degrees.
A local fisherman casually fishing in the current slop. Not long after we passed him at a whopping 1 knot, he went over to Moonshadow and guided them to a section of where they could make better speed than 0.5 knots and he stayed with them until he knew they were safe.
Once inside the fiord which is only 140 meters deep, the waterway was blissfully calm, a relief after we had come through the exciting bit. The high mountain sides did indeed create a fiord like feeling as we motored our way up to Kalabahi. It was a thrill to see our friend’s boat – Madam Wong whom we met in Cairns before we left in 2016 at anchor. 
The impressive Madam Wong.
As we traveled more towards the east, we saw more and more Catholic churches.
Our first stop was the main town but this was very busy as they have 3 main jetty’s for their commercial traffic and we were basically out the front of them. Our friends put us in contact with a lovely young man who helped us, even advising us to move up to the next bay and anchor with Madam Wong. We did this and couldn’t believe the difference. As we came in the local kids were on the shoreline yelling and cheering – what a fabulous greeting.

One of the 3 main jetty's were constantly loading and unloading. It was a bit unnerving as these big boys had to maneuver right in front of us. 

Along with the commercial shipping the local taxi's & ferry's also had to move around us. This was a very busy place. (Note the size of the tree, they semi cut down in the background - it was seriously one of the biggest stumps we have ever seen).

One of many local ferry's unloading - all by hand!

The local kids were yelling and waving like mad, it was quite the welcome.
And this was our new anchorage, 5 minutes down the road. Perfect,,,,,really calm.
We spent 4 days at Kalabahi refueling, gathering supplies and chilling a bit before the next haul. Daily we had the local kids come out but incredibly they would not approach unless we called them over. Our little gifts of exercise books, pencils and tennis balls went down a treat. Leaving Alor we timed our run out this time with the slack current and geez what a difference it made. 

Getting diesel can take us days and days, this time was no exception. We had to wait a few days for delivery to the island first, then match our timing with tides and our delivery guy. This is how Jeremy and Bruce hauled about 400 litres of diesel.

And with his sense of humour, Jeremy is taking the team ashore for yet another round of diesel collection.

Off to the market and in a bemo we all go. The lady with the bucket is off to the market as well with her fresh fish catch. Gee that smelt wonderful in the heat of the day.

This lady was on the bemo as well and showed us were to go, she was so excited to have her photo taken with us girls.

The bemo ramp. Note that tree stump again from the land side this time, it was seriously a big tree.

Oh we loved these bemo's. It seems the more aerials, stickers and seriously loud music they have going the better they are.

The market is a flash of intense color.

We asked for ayam (chicken). In these parts this is how you buy your chicken and you slaughter, gut and pluck yourself....we all passed.

We saw a lot of women everywhere chewing on beetle nut for a numbing high and they were pretty happy about it.
At the anchorage there was fresh water on tap from the springs. Every single day we watched loads of people come and bath, wash their clothes and gather water for their homes. 

Just before we headed out a couple of young girls paddled out on their polystyrene canoe and until we called them over they did not approach us. They loved receiving their tennis balls. 

Not long after, this lot appeared.. lucky for them we had 3 balls left.
We then made our way to Kokar on Alor, then up to Wetar. The Wetar anchorage was interesting as the island mines gold and they do not overly welcome or encourage visitors. There is little to no tourism at Wetar and even as we approached we were hailed on the radio and asked was asked to state our intentions. The caller would not identify themselves and Jeremy was most courteous with his responses. 

Moonshadow anchored in around 23 mtrs out the front of Wetar. The landscape was magnificent but boy we were so close to shore in extremely deep water.
With this in mind we didn’t want to intrude so we timed our run to the island of Romang with a 2100 (9pm) departure. The overnight sail to Romang was uneventful compared to all our passages since leaving Flores. This was most likely due to the depth of the water, being over 5000 meters in some spots making fishing, especially night squiding almost impossible for the locals. The locals make their living by farming in these parts, a nice change from all the hazards their fishing creates for yachts passing by. 

This is the harbour of Romang, with the exception of the west, it is very well protected. We were very glad to arrive around midday as the reef was extensive and made anchoring interesting. Note the new Harbour Master's office/home being built out the front with Matilda and Moonshadow being the only boats there.
Nestled in the valley, this is the entire township of Romang.
Romang was a real treat. The anchorage proved to be a hard task master due to deep depths and a rapidly rising reef, but once secure it was a magnificent place to stay put for 4 days. The locals welcomed us and I am certain they found us as intriguing as we found them. Their town was spick and span, and had some lovely gardens which were very well tended to.

Bruce is standing on the only street at Romang, it was quite hilly!
All the local houses had very neat and tidy gardens with splashes of color. 

Colour was everywhere.
One day we had the Harbour Master (HM), his brother and his brothers brother in law drop by for a visit. Romang has a weekly ferry so the HM doesn’t get to see a lot of boats. Funny thing was he spoke absolutely no English, lucky his brother did. We served them coffee and showed them our navigation station which they all found mind boggling. 

The Harbour Master in full uniform (for our benefit no doubt) with his brother next to Bruce and his brother in law in the stripes. 
And then they left in their canoe, with a net just in case they need to catch dinner along the way,,,,,,,,priceless.
Ashore the views were breath taking as we looked out over our boats and the local donuts were to die for. Their local church stood proud up on the hill and it was a treat to visit, but the road up was really steep (only 1 road here, no cars).
After a very steep walk the church steps seemed like a good photo spot.

Ohhh the donuts here were amazing and this young lady is the chief cook for them. She was very proud to be able to show us her technique. 

The finished product complete with some sweet buns. We brought way to many donuts haha!!
Jeremy was most happy about his donut purchase.

Out the front of the donut shop Jeremy entertained the kids with some of his music - they loved it!

Yep... it was steep and very hot the day we all decided to tackle the main street. This was heading up to the church.
While in Romang the local ferry pulled in. This is the only way they can receive their supplies here. It was a hive of activity for several hours as they loaded and unloaded their goods. 

Margie and I walked to the very top of the street. On the way we waved and chatted with some local lads who had a huge paw paw tree out the front of their place. As we walked back down they carried some paw paws for us. What you can't see in this photo is the young man slightly behind Margie is also carrying a very large machete. 

A panorama shot of the entire bay.
From Romang our next and final stop was The Tanimbars (TT). Approaching the island of Selu was emotional at the time. This local island makes its way by farming flying fish eggs. It was all very interesting how they dried the eggs on their boat roofs and how they form a place for the fish to lay its eggs. They do this by harvesting the local palm fronds, and make curtain like drops. The fishermen place these curtains in the water and the eggs are taken after a short time, which was all very interesting. However, the anchorage was very tight with our boats and theirs, and we had a huge bommie on Matilda’s stern. Feeling we had little room to ‘slip’ if a blow came in, we all decided to move south to the island of Selaru. This turned out to be a terrific choice.

Approaching the anchorage, Moonshadow looked awesome on the flat sea with a full moon setting behind her.

Matilda entering the anchorage with the sun rising.
One of the local boats at Seru. They are drying flying fish eggs on the top (yellow) and they are also drying palm fronds for the flying fish to lay their eggs in.
Selaru is one of 17 islands that make up TT’s and it is the second largest island in the group. Incredibly it has little to no tourism and the local villages are very basic. For that matter, we saw little tourism at the main island of Yamdena, where Saumlaki the main town is located. We spent 6 days at Selaru cleaning our boats in preparation for our re-entry to Australia to face Boarder Force (Immigration and Customs). Australia has a reputation for being incredibly strict, which is to our benefit and we hoped that many hours of cleaning, scrubbing, polishing and tidying up every single space will make their job easy and trouble free.

On our first night at Selaru I managed to capture yet another magnificent full moon.
One day, Nico the local teacher from one of the villages on Selaru dropped by to invite us to his village to eat coconuts & bananas and to take photos. We were all thrilled to receive such an amazing invite. The town was really tidy and clean. They had a few local cars & trucks which drove on well-maintained roads. All the houses were made of brick, with well-presented gardens. 

Early one morning we saw the locals being ferried from one side of the island to the other...we always love that there is always a bailer,,,,their boats are always taking on water.

Another early morning we woke to absolute silence, no wind, no sounds at all... it was eerily still.

Same time as the photo above but looking towards Matilda's stern - it was impossible to distinguish the horizon.
Our arrival signaled some sort of frenzy with the local kids who followed us in mass as we were taken by Nico and his brother Bruce around town. It was so much fun meeting others and trying to pay compliments with our dreadful Bahasa. We almost felt we were having a Royal Visit as we were taken around to the local school, their local church, we dropped in to a boat building shed and finished our tour off back at Nico’s house with over 30 adults and children peering at us. The camera phones with selfies were in overtime as they clicked away with us and we in turn took loads of photos, one of my favorites was Bruce with Bruce.

Our welcoming committee - all smiles.

Welcome to the Tanimbars!!!

At Nico's place we were quite the spectical.

The boat building shed with our fan club.

Their church.

Bruce at the church with his fan club.

Bruce and Bruce.

Bruce with one of his groupies,,,she really wanted his Matilda cap and flashing her smile he gave in.

I love this photo. Bruce is on the jetty and the vista is simply magnificent.

We caused havoc as we went past the local school. All the kids stormed out to greet us.

Margie with her ikat weaver. We both bought some rugs.
Our time in Selaru was capped off with yet another visit from Nico and his family to our boats giving us more coconuts and much to Bruce’s sheer delight we got given 2 lobsters. They were still in the pots, we both enjoyed them the next day once we had dropped anchor at Saumlaki for lunch on yet another loaf of homemade bread - Bruce’s specialty over the last 5 months. 

Our fresh lobsters were delicious on fresh bread...

Nico in the yellow, his wife in the white cap and their children, plus nieces and nephews all bought out the two lobsters and came on board Matilda for a look.
The first image that strikes you as you motor up the channel to Saumlaki is the churches. They are predominantly Catholic which is evident by the huge spires on the churches. The water way here is wide and deep, but unfortunately a little too deep with reef close to shore and we saw quite a few sunken boats in close, some of which were quite large ships. 

This is the egg delivery guy on his scooter.

This is the egg delivery guy in his truck.

This is a sight i will never miss and dont even think about the smell. Some parts where really disgusting and no one is doing anything about it.

Another delivery of diesel being organised.

One of the street market's sold chilies. 

This lady was trimming her pickling onions.

The tide went out a long way here.

The Harpan Hotel.

A street fish monger.
We even managed to scrape something in 17mtrs which was a bit unnerving.  Our guide book said we could tie our tenders off to the Hotel Harapan, which was easy to find with its palm trees on the deck. The hotel staff were warm and welcoming. Not long after arriving our contact found us, it was great to meet Higi. He helped us with diesel which was great. The streets are the usual crazy busy with loads of friendly people waving and yelling out 'Hello Mister'. Checking out was easy as well, a great way to end our time in Asia.

First step in checking out was with imigrasi....its a house in a street.

2 doors down was customs. the young man who mans this office was asleep the first time we went in, the day we called in he was out so the imigrasi man phones him and he came back for us.

Then a quick visit out to Matilda for their clearance process - we had no issues.

Then it was down to quarantine and the harbour master, on the way my shoe repair guy always had a friendly wave for me.

Capturing their local history this walkway arch was impressive.

Quarantine office.

Finally the harbour masters.

And we are done, cleared out. The Harbor Master the one sitting.

As we left the harbour we had a chuckle at a local truck transporting some reo.

Some final supplies from a local vendor with excellent produce.

The carrot lady had loads of carrots. (the fridge was not connected to power).

This is the market street, you could basically buy everything you wanted here.

Some interesting wooden carved statues at the Harapan.

This is exactly what we will miss....the kids who would follow us around always so happy.
We spent a total of 10 days in the harbour of Saumlaki preparing both boats for Australia. Again the people ashore made our stay memorable. After provisioning cooking and baking for the 400+ nautical mile run to Australia we hauled Matilda’s anchor on October 30 and sailed out of Indonesian waters and back into Australian waters signaling the end of our 3 ½ year odyssey in Asia.

And she is ready to go home.
During our stay in Asia we met so many wonderful people who will now forever be a part of our lives. Saying ‘farewell for now’ is always difficult after spending time together, but by far saying farewell to Moonshadow was the most difficult of all. Jeremy and Margie changed our outlook on life, we love them as family. Now we all must focus on our next adventure. 

Till next time,,,,,,,,

See ya Moonshadow.........