31 July 2009

Arrival in Indonesia

In the middle of the night we sail with a half moon behind a cloudy sky. The first islands of the Moluccas (in the east of Indonesia) are behind us and we can see the bright white light on the tip of the harbour of Ambon. When we enter the large and deep bay the wind drops down. After an hour we see everywhere small lights against the mountain: Kota Ambon, the town of Ambon. It's not easy to find a place to anchor because of the deep waters with a steep shoreline.

Next morning a small motorboat of the Rally organisation is coming aside to direct us to the the fisherman's wharf where we can moore 'stern to' and proceed quaranteen, immigration and customs. There are a lot of helpfull people to grap our lines and all happens in a relaxed and joyfull atmosphere.

At 12 o'clock we hear via loudspeakers on a small mosque near the wharf the midday prayer (30 minutes) and later at 4 pm and 8 pm again. We have to get used to it: Indonesia is a moslim country although there also live quite a lot of christians in the Moluccas.

Once on the shore we see they've build a plaza/small village with small restaurants and shops, an Infocentre, etc. It all looks quite nice but most boats of the Rally still have to arrive in Ambon. On saturday afternoon we'll take a Bemo, small bus to town and get our first implressions of the busy citylife.

Slideshow Ambon

25 July 2009

Two weeks in Darwin

July 13th we arrive in Fannie Bay in Darwin and the first days we're busy with organising our trip to Indonesia. We'll join the Rally Sail Indonesia and in the Darwin Sailing Club we meet some members of the organisation committee who provide us with additional info. We also meet some yachtie-participants and we enjoy drinks and a meal together. Tuesday is the last Briefing of the Rally in the Holiday Inn Hotel. There are interesting presentations and again we get to know more participants including a Dutch and a Belgian crew and two Australians we've met 7 years ago in Mooloolaba.
We have to organise our 'social visa' at the Indonesian Embassy and we get a diver under 'Alexandra' to check if we have any dangerous aquatic growth on the hull before we are allowed to enter one of the Darwin marinas. On Wednesday we are moored in Tipperary Waters marina and use that as a base for jobs and provisioning. There is a bus service running to town, washing machines and again new participants of the Rally to meet.

It's warm in Tipperary marina and we install our sun covers. Saturday July 18th is the formal start of the Rally, but we've decided to postpone our departure and sail straight to Ambon to join the Rally there. On Sunday we visit the beautiful Northern Territory museum with an excellent Aboriginal art collection, a fine display of natural history and on DVD the story of Sweetheart, the saltwater crocodile that has caused so much trouble and death in this area and has finally ended up in the museum (stuffed). We are together with new British friends Susan and Keith from the yacht 'Baccus' who are delayed as well because of the breakdown of their generator just three days ago. After a coffee on the deck of the museum we stroll along to Mindle Beach for the yearly Beer Can Regatta. A lot of locals did their utmost to build something fast and seaworthy from empty beer cans (the children used soft drink cans). After display time in the morning there are the races in the afternoon. For a bit of shade and something to eat and drink we enter the Mindil market with also on Sunday a lot of food stalls and opportunities to grab a souvenir, sun hat, massage or (Aboriginal) painting.

Life in the marina is pleasant and easy although there are still some jobs on the list. Wednesday we can do our shopping in the big Casuarina shopping centre, so that'll leave us with only one run for the fresh veggies and fruit just before we leave. In the marina there are two other Dutch yachts, so there is an exchange of experiences and info. Friday is a public holiday and then Monday July 27th is the first opportunity to get fuel and clear customs to leave Australia.

Slideshow Darwin

14 July 2009

Farther north to Darwin

Leaving Flinders islands on monday July 6th the first few hours there is hardly any wind, but at around 4 pm we're under sail and going again with good speed. We are still in the shipping lanes, so all is well lit and we sail on into the night and also the moon is still there. Near Cape Grenville we make s short-cut though the Home islands and it is relaxed sailing with good speed. Flat calm waters all the time, hardly any other vessels. Wednesday morning we enter Albany passage, a channel with some Australian history and still a pleasant waterway to pass.

Then the end of the eastern Australian coast is coming into sight: we approach Cape York and see the lighthouse on the small Eborac island just in front of the Cape. It's a beautiful day and we have the current with us, but also a sad day because here we leave the Coral Sea and the Pacific Ocean behind us. For 10 years we've been sailing and living in this part of the world and we are gratefull for the opportunity we've had to experience so many cultures and meet such interesting people. We'll keep those memories in our heart and never forget!

Just past Cape York we are taken by the current and with 8 to over 9 knots(!) we're heading west along white beaches on the coast and beautiful green islands in Endeavour Strait. Next challenge is the Gulf of Carpentaria, a large stretch of water that lays south of us and causes a lumpy sea. The next night, day and following night are uncomfortable, but the wind is still there as is the moon. Two or three vessels pass us (or at least we've seen them) and almost daily we are overflown by an aircraft of the coastwatch. A few times we have contact with them via the VHF radio to report or confirm our position. The coastwatch patrols the northern borders of Australia in case unannounced vessels are coming into the territorial waters.

Friday at 7.00 pm we see the light of Cape Wessel south of us and the sea is getting settled again. There is a fine broad reach wind of 15-18 knots, so we make good progress under full sails. In the night we have the current with us and we are comfortable behind our jib and reacher, both boomed out. Saturday at the end of the day we pass Cape Don and enter the passage between Melville Island and the Coubourg Peninsula. Very important to have the tide with you there and luckily we can make it all through without having to stop. The wind has disappeared so we have to start the engine. In the morning we have only 20 nm to go, slowly we see the skyline of Darwin coming closer and at 10.30 am we arrive in Fannie Bay and see we're in the company of more than 100 other yachts that are already anchored there.

Slideshow Top Australia

5 July 2009

Cairns to Cape Melville

The last leg to Cairns we have light winds and again we struggle with a flog of five birds that won't give up trying to get passage on Alexandra, at last we get rid of them. Thursday July 2nd at 09.15 am we are moored in Cairns marina and at 11.00 all formalities to set foot on Australian soil are done, so we make a start with filling the water tanks, rinsing the boat, etc. Then we walk in 10 minutes to town for some shopping and a good coffee on one of the many terraces. All people you meet are tourists and there is a relaxed atmosphere with all sorts of shops and a lot of pubs and restaurants.
We catch up with John and Win, sailors we've met in Darwin before, ex-Dutchies, and we have a very pleasant time together. After happy hour on board Alexandra we go to town again and have a meal at the stylish Irish pub. It's still crowded everywhere on the streets and the many terraces. Also temperatures are very pleasant 20-25 C.

Friday morning we get the dinghy ready and in the davids and again we walk to town to the market for fresh veggies and fruit. The choice is overwhelming and of excellent quality! Back on board we drink coffee with new sailing friends who want to know a bit more about the sailmail and SSB radio procedures. At 11.30 am we are ready to leave the marina again on our way to Darwin.
There is a brisk wind of 20-25 knots from the SE (at last), so going north we have the wind behind and we can make a good speed of around 7 knots, in the night a bit less. Our course is partly in the shipping lanes for the big cargo ships, so we have to keep watch carefully. There are about five vessels passing us that night.

Saturday we still have good winds, so we sail on and don't stop at the beautiful Lizard Island (we've spend 3 weeks there 3 years ago). All day we do 7-8 knots and when we pass Cape Melville in the evening, the current runs with us and we see over 9 knots on the GPS, a really fast passage! In Princess Charlotte Bay, halfway Cairns and Cape York, we sail under an almost full moon into the small channel between the Flinders islands to a quite anchorage for the rest of the night.

Slideshow Cairns