02 September 2015

Last Leg: Geraldton to Fremantle, Australia

Fremantle Sailing Club Harbor Sunset
We are safely back in the Fremantle Sailing Club Harbor, after a record (for us) sail of 215 nautical miles in 24 hours between Geraldton and Fremantle.  We had a lovely reach in 15-20 knots of wind from the northwest.  The wind was consistent and stable for the entire 24 hours and the ocean more like a lake than the Indian Ocean.  The night was beautiful with clear skies lit with a full moon and zillions of stars.  In short, it was one of the nicest sails we had during our journey.  We were lucky that our strategy of waiting for good sailing weather paid off, as this is a notoriously difficult passage.

All in, over the last 3-1/2 months we sailed 4024 nautical miles during our round trip from Fremantle to Bali, Indonesia.  In Indonesia, we sailed to the western end of the island of Flores, then back through the Komodo Islands where we departed for Dampier Australia on July 5th and made landfall and cleared Customs on July 11.  We took the next 6 weeks to harbor-hop down the west coast of Australia back to our point of origin for this trip, Fremantle.

What's next ?  Some time back home in the USA planning the next adventure.

In the mean time we are writing some reviews of equipment performance, as well as lessons learned on our journey, that we will post on this site that may be of interest to fellow crusiers.

30 August 2015

Whale Song Serenades: Carnarvon to Geraldton

We sailed the 290 miles between Carnarvon and Geraldton departing early morning Monday 24 August and arriving Geraldton after dark, about 8 pm on 26th of August. 

We stopped the first night on the passage, after sailing only 50 miles, at the northern tip of Dirk Hartog Island and picked up the mooring in Turtle Bay for the night and to wait for the weather (winds) to moderate as forecast.  Dirk Hartog Island is the western most point of land in Australia, and a place of great historic significance as well as a place of great natural beauty.  This is definitely a place we want to visit again.
A place in history was sealed in the year 1616 when the island was discovered by captain Dirk Hartog of the Dutch East India Company ship Eendrach. The names of senior people on board, including Hartog's were inscribed with the date on a pewter plate and nailed to a post as he claimed the land for the Dutch.  He was only the first of many early explorers to visit the prominent land mark on the western coast of Australia.

Today, a light house stands on the northwestern cape of the island, which forms the northwestern corner of Australia.

We arrived at Turtle Bay early, about 3:00 pm after an ideal sail across Shark Bay.  Shark Bay is more than 5 million acres and a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to seemingly boundless wildlife plus the world’s largest beds of sea grass.  It is a relatively shallow, huge bay, a popular tourist destination as well as a destination for humpback whales and the world’s largest concentration of dugongs, (manatees).  Without exaggeration, whales were in constant sight the whole 50 miles as we crossed the Bay from northeast to southeast. 

The cliffs and slopes of Dirk Hartog Island lit by the
warm light of sunset while we listen to the whales.
Frankly it was unbelievable to see that many whales all around us.  What a memorable experience.  It was also great sailing weather, with temperatures in the 70’s (F) and 15-25 knots behind the beam.
The abundance of humpback whales prompted us to pull out our small hydrophone to see if we could hear them sing.  Wow, were we glad we did.  We even recorded some of their vocalizations simply by holding the Ipad to the stereo speaker.  The hydrophone is a small unit originally marketed for kayakers.  It runs on a 9 volt battery, and has a 3.5 mm output jack that we plug in to the auxiliary input on our CD player.
Click on the white/red arrow by the whale's tail below to hear the whales we recorded.

Our hydrophone is from Aquarian Audio
and plugs in to the auxiliary
input to our onboard stereo

There were so many whales, and some so close to the boat that evening, after dark in the light of the full moon, we could hear them singing without the hydrophone!  That was a first for us, as we listened to their songs reverberate through Katmai’s hull.  Truly an amazing experience.  We have seen a lot of whales during our time in Alaska, but nothing that could remotely compare to the abundance of whales here in Australia.  By some estimates, the humpback whale population is growing nearly 10 percent per year in Western Australia, and is nearly back to pre-whaling population levels.  How good is that? Fantastic and rather amazing considering the harbor we stayed in while in Carnarvon was a whaling station that took nearly 8000 humpback whales alone, and it was only one of several stations along the coast.  The whaling stopped in the 1960’s. Whaling was, by some accounts, the first viable industry in Western Australia after the arrival of Europeans. Now days of course, Australia is very focused on conservation and protection of these gorgeous giants.
Whale spout mist in the air in front of the Cape of Dirk Hartog Island,
with a silhouette of the lighthouse backlit by the rising sun as we left Turtle Bay
for the run to Geraldton on Tuesday about 6 am.
All in all, we spent 18 days in Carnarvon waiting for that engine part, and then waiting for the proper weather to head south and continue our journey to Fremantle.  Fremantle is the main harbor for Perth Australia and where we will leave Katmai while we return back to the USA. Eric is holding the long awaited elbow for the engine exhaust manifold just after its arrival from Perth via Singapore.  Yeah, right part, phew!! 

17 August 2015

Shore Side Explorations

A brave crab trying to look fearsome on the shoreface
While we wait in Carnarvon for a boat part, we have done some hiking on shore.  It is late winter, and the spring wildflowers are starting to bloom and as always, the bird life in Australia is pretty amazing too.  Here are some highlights of our recent walks.

Sturt Desert Peas - A favorite
Sturt Desert Peas are brilliant and abundant on the western coast of Australia.  They are named after Charles Sturt, who documented  large quantities of the flowers while exploring Australia in the mid 1840s. 
The brillant scarlet-red flowers bloom after rain and are each about 2 inches (50mm) long. In the Exmouth area, we saw a local variety that has a white center rather than black like the more common variety shown here.  There are many pea family wildflowers around, but none as showy as the Sturt Peas.

This hot pink flower is called parakeelya.  The Aboriginal people used the fleshy leaves as a source of water.  The brushy desert around Carnarvon exploded in pink from these little gems a couple days after a rain.  The flowers are about 1" across and formed a pink carpet beneath larger shrubs.  Amazing considering we are on the edge of the central desert. 

The showy sky blue flowers of the Trichodesma zeylanicum, commonly known as Camel Bush or Cattle Bush, are standouts every place we have been between Dampier and Carnarvon.  Here they form a bushy display right behind the main dune of the beach.

While exploring the tide pools along the Ningaloo coast, we were lucky to see Oyster Catcher birds.  Just as in Alaska, they are noisy beach combers.  Here there are two varieties, the all black 'sooty' oyster catcher and the black and white 'pied' oyster catcher.   These are one of the very few birds of Australia that seem the same as we had back in the USA.

This photo has one bird of each variety.  There were a pair of each on the tide flats.

And below, a beautiful sunset from the Carnarvon Yacht Club.   The club members have been very welcoming and helpful to us. 
Sunset from the Carnarvon Yacht Club

15 August 2015

Waiting on Parts in Carnarvon, Australia

We are in the harbor of Carnarvon, on Australia’s western coast and waiting on an engine part for Katmai. An exhaust water leak developed in an elbow on the engine as we approached Carnarvon last week. Not a big drama, but when you have a Perkins engine that was built in England, and you are on the remote west coast of Australia, you are about as far away as you can be from a specialized part. Which means it will take some time, and expense to get a replacement part shipped to us.  Our stock list of spare parts that we carry is very long, but a new exhaust elbow was not in storage in the bilge, so we are WOP, waiting on parts.  We anticipate delivery mid week.  We can’t complain though, in fact just the opposite.  We have had really no significant failures in any of our systems, and we are safe in a nice harbor in a wonderful town.

Thumbs down for an exhaust flange with a pin hole sea water leak underneath. 
Note hose clamp holding a 'duct tape band-aid' so we could motor in to the harbor.
Carnarvon is a delightful spot and as always we make new friends in each new harbor.  Having a sailboat with a hailing port of Anchorage, Alaska while sailing in Australia is sort of like having a new friendly puppy in tow…many people stop by just to chat and ask about our adventure.   Often people will see our mast some distance off, while driving perhaps even a mile away and then come by and seek us out to chat and look at the boat.  Commonly, people ask if they can help and offer transportation, local knowledge and of course good sea yarns!  It is a small world, and we often meet the same people unexpectedly over and over. 

For instance, we meet a delightful man from Switzerland on the beach near Exmouth while exploring the tide pools one afternoon a couple weeks ago.  As Eric is from Switzerland, anytime we meet another ‘Swissie’, well it is instant conversation…in Swiss-German of course!  Wouldn’t you know it, as we were motoring around in the harbor with our dingy trying to determine where we could put Katmai (she was on a tug boat mooring about a mile out of the harbor), we are hailed from the roadside in Swiss-German!  Here was Danny and his wife, 250 miles and 4 days from where we last saw them.  None of us knew where the other was headed after Exmouth, and now we are in the same harbor at the same time.  Danny and Bente travelled by road in their caravan (RV) and us by sailboat.  What a coincidence!
New friend Danny was kind enough to take us to the hardware store so we could
purchase two fender boards to help secure Katmai to the seawall. 
That is Katmai's boom in front of the truck; she is tied to the seawall.
Danny was kind enough to help us get two large timbers to use as fender boards the next morning from the hardware store.  It would have been a long walk with a heavy load without his truck!

We are using the time tied to the seawall to do some chores, such as changing oil in the engine and generator, polishing stainless and the routine systems checks we perform (steering, hydraulics, electronics, engine, batteries, rigging)….the list is long.
Once again in a cockpit locker, Eric changing the oil in the generator.

The weather of course is gorgeous while we wait, and we very much wish we were on the sail to Geraldton.  Geraldton is our last planned stop before Fremantle, it is about 290 miles south and will be another two days or so of direct sailing.    

Slave to the stainless, Laurie polishes boat bits while Katmai is tied to the seawall.

We are just hoping the weather gods are in a good mood and that we do not have to wait long for a fine weather window once we get the part and get it installed.  Until then, there is more stainless to polish and other routine things to do.

02 August 2015

Swimming with Whale Sharks

We have been playing tourist here in Exmouth while we wait on a good weather window for our next leg, 250 miles south to Carnarvon.  One thing that I always wanted to experience in Australia was swimming with the whale sharks off the Ningaloo Coast.  While we were working in Perth, various colleagues did the tour and always spoke highly of the adventure.

Eric and a whale shark the size of a city bus

So, on Thursday, we ventured off with King’s Ningaloo Reef Tours and got to swim with the gentle giants ourselves.  What an experience it was!  We are so glad that we did this.  Here is a video from Kings , albeit not from our exact trip,  but it is a really a good summary of our day.

The group of 10 people jumped in the water and the bus sized whale shark cruised by, just below the surface, really oblivious to our presence. Swimming above the water, we could not see the whale shark, but once you put your head in the water, looking though your diving mask it was like being in an IMAX theater.  WOW, they are SO HUGE!  What an amazing animal...and we got to see two that day.

We saw many humpback whales on our day trip with Kings Ningaloo Reef Tours.
Whale Sharks are up to 60 feet long and the largest known fish.  Filter feeders, they live on plankton and other small sealife in the open tropical oceans of the world.  We also saw several humpback whales, turtles and several species of dolphins.  The team from Kings Ningaloo Reef Tours did a fantastic job, we really had a great day out on the reef.

26 July 2015

Yahoo, finally a Wahoo!

Finally, Laurie caught a fish!
We caught a lovely wahoo fish while sailing on the way in to Exmouth this morning.  We have been day sailing the last 4 days between Dampier and Exmouth.  We have just arrived at the Exmouth harbor and have tied Katmai to a dock for the first time in two months.  Yippee, shore power and fresh water from a hose....aaaahhhh.

Exmouth is on the northwest-most corner of Australia and is about 730 miles from our ultimate destination, Fremantle.  The area is famous for the Ningaloo Reef and whale sharks, so we may spend some time here exploring before heading on to Fremantle.

During our trip from Dampier, we had three overnight anchorages, the first night at Eaglehawk Island, about 16 miles west of Dampier.  The second night we anchored at Great Sandy Island, which was about 67 miles from Eaglehawk Island.  The third day we sailed another 70 miles to Serrurier Island and then today, the last leg in to the harbor at Exmouth which was about 35 miles.

Sunrise departure from Eaglehawk Island
Ok, the story of the fish.  Our fishing success has become a bit of a joke as the only luck I had catching fish was to purchase them from local fishermen along the way :). 
But finally today, while sailing at nearly 8 knots between Great Sandy Island and Exmouth, we hooked a nice Wahoo, which is in the Mackerel family. This fish must have been desperate if he actually went for my lure, given I have trolled for hundreds of ocean miles with no luck.

Sunset from Great Sandy Island was brilliant.
Our fishing technique while sailing consists of 300 feet of 300 pound test line, then a long wire leader and a lure of some sort.  We caught this fish on a nice large and very pink plastic squid!  We tie the 300 lb test off on the boat with a length of bungee cord, and when that cord snaps tight (indicating fish on) we simply wind the free end of the line on to a winch and grind her in, not even slowing down.  This is definitely a fishing for meat sort of activity, not so much sport.  But we will enjoy the fish immensely.  In fact, Eric is making mackerel sushi for dinner, and I am sure we will be eating lots of fish in the coming days…but thankfully Katmai has an excellent freezer as well.

Thousands of seabirds on the northwest shelf.
Humpback whale spy-hopping in the distance
Our trip from Dampier was delightful.  I am so glad that we opted to day sail though the islands and reefs rather than go offshore and sail around the clock.

The second and third days we saw numerous pods of humpback whales, many of which put on a fabulous show of breaching, spy-hopping and flipper flapping.  I bet we saw more than 50 whales total.

We also saw our first sea turtles, both at sea and around our boat while at anchorage. And the bird life was fabulous, with hundreds seabirds of many species all around us.

We have not seen this sort of abundance of sea life since we left Alaska.  What a fabulous coast.

22 July 2015

Dampier, Australia

Desert Sturt Peas are vibrant signs of early spring.
This area of Australia’s northwest coast is the hub for Western Australia’s hydrocarbon, salt and iron ore shipping.  It is a very industrial area, with huge loading docks spread out over a long peninsula and with that an endless stream of large freight ships. 

It also is a very beautiful place and a very special place for the local indigenous peoples.  The countryside is very dry, almost desert like, but this time of year nature besprinkles the land with colorful wild flowers.  The topography is mainly low hills of red granite boulders with the occasional oasis of green trees and splashing spring water.  The coastline consists of a myriad of small rocky islands and reefs in a clear blue sea.

Katmai(distant center with tall mast) anchored
in Hampton Harbor, Dampier
We are anchored deep in a bay called Mermaid Sound in front of a small yacht club and the little town of Dampier.  The anchorage is full of moorings for the small work boats that support the industrial undertakings on the peninsula.  The anchorage also is the temporary home of four cruising yachts, including Katmai, that are looking for the next weather window to sail on to various destinations and dreams.
View from the upper deck of the
Hampton Harbor Boat and Sailing Club
The local sailing club, Hampton Harbor Boat and Sailing Club, has been very welcoming and we are fortunate to have access to a dingy dock, clothes washer, shower and lovely restaurant and bar with a fantastic view of the harbor.

A large kangaroo petroglyph near Deep Gorge
We had the good fortune of spending a good part of a day with a guide from one of the local indigenous tribes, Clinton Walker of Ngurrangga Tours .  This area is known for its aboriginal rock art chipped into the red boulders by local native peoples over a period of some forty thousand years. 

Lovely Ghost Gum trees stand in contrast to the red granite hills
A spring in Deep Gorge, the rocks have thousands of petroglyphs

The area is estimated to contain about a million pieces of rock art and is considered the largest collection of rock art in the world.  The rock art depicts the life of the local indigenous people and conveys what there is to hunt for food, how it is hunted and also conveys stories of life, creation and spirits.  To see the rock art one has to go into the ‘bush’ and explore the rocky hills.   Clinton painted a passionate story for us about the life of his people, from long ago before the arrival of Europeans to the present, as we scrambled up boulder strewn hills and valleys.  They had a hard life here, but understood the balance of nature and the food could supply.
We also had an opportunity to visit the historic village of Cossak, and the regional art festival last Sunday.

11 July 2015

Komodo Island, Indonesia to Dampier, Australia

Departing Komodo Island, Indonesia on the morning of July 5th.
We departed Indonesia from the Komodo Village area on July 5th and headed back to Australia. It took a couple days waiting in Indonesia to receive official confirmation from the Australia Border officials regarding our notification of intent to arrive in  the port of Dampier on or about the 10th of July. Once we got confirmation, we departed.

The 750 mile trip to the northwest coast of Australia would take 5 or 6 days of around the clock sailing, plus or minus.

We had been looking at the weather forecasts for the Timor Sea for several days, as it is important to pick a ‘weather window’ that avoids the ‘re-enforced trade winds’ if at all possible.  When a strong High Pressure system develops over Australia, it acts to compress the pressure gradient over the Timor Sea, and the normally 10-20 knot easterly trade winds can easily become twice as strong.  We found a reasonably good window for the second week of July, but knew the winds would be picking up as we approached the Australia coast.

Our first two days out were magical trade wind sailing.  Warm weather, clear skies and a nice 10-20 easterly wind made for a nice sail.  We skirted to the west of the large island of Sumba, (Indonesia) and saw several large squid fishing boats more than 40 miles offshore during the dark, moonless night.  Encountering local squid (fishing) boats at sea at night is difficult as they carry only large white lights, no navigational lights to indicate which direction they are headed.  As it was, we never came close enough to one to worry.  

Day 3 was nearly windless, with the wind dying at 6 am abruptly and not going over 2 knots until about 8 pm. Like magic, we motored through a small cloud bank and once again, the easterly trade winds started to blow.

The first 3 or 4 nights out were just jam packed with flying fish…The 3rd morning out, there were more than 20 on the deck after a night of jumping in our bow wake.

The 4th day, the wind slowly swung to the south, so we took the opportunity to sail to the southeast, as we knew the next day, stronger winds directly from the east were due.  Making easting now, in lighter winds would allow us to sail with a more favorable (comfortable) wind angle once the winds built.

Thursday night, we were once again headed straight south towards Australia and the wind slowly built.  By morning, it was howling pretty steady in the upper 20’s, gusting in to the upper 30’s (knots).  We were sailing under a double reefed main and staysail, hard on the wind (close hauled), going straight south towards the coast of Australia.  The seas were huge, breaking and coming at us every seven seconds or so.

At sunrise, we lowered the main entirely and turned down wind another 20 degrees, aiming right for our destination (Dampier) and sailed the rest of the way with just our smallest sail, a staysail alone.   I must say, it was a bit of a frightening experience for us both when Eric needed to go forward to the mast, climb up several feet to drop the main. Once finished, he needed to time his decent to wait for waves to wash over the boat, before dashing back in to the cockpit.  We spend most the next night and day with the washboards in tight, to keep water from the odd wave from splashing in below decks.

We needed to average 6 knots for the next 24 hours to get in to Dampier during the daylight hours.  We had no trouble making that rate, in fact it was a bit of a challenge to slow ourselves down in the high winds, despite hardly having any sail up.  It was a long night of high winds, we had about 10 minutes of 45 knots plus, and most of the night between 35 and 42 knots.  We took shortened shifts, to allow each other more rest as keeping watch was pretty fatiguing.  Even sleeping was a challenge, given the motion of the boat.

Katmai did fine, but we were sure glad to round the Burrup Cape at day break make our way down the Mermaid Bay, towards Dampier.  Twenty-five miles down the bay, it was still gusting more than 30 knots in the harbor when we picked up a mooring in front of the Hampton Harbor Sailing Club.

It has been a windy week here along the northwest coast, and we are staying put until it moderates.  Next Stop, likely Exmouth, about 200 miles to the southwest.  Until then, we will surely enjoy all that Dampier has to offer!

05 July 2015

Komodo National Park - There ARE Dragons in those hills

A big female Komodo Dragon, basking in the sun.
We spent a couple weeks in Komodo National Park, and enjoyed greatly the opportunity to get off the boat and hike a bit.  We took guided hikes on both Rinca and Komodo Islands.  They say it is not safe to hike on your own, due to the Komodo dragons, and it was of course interesting to learn about the area and wildlife from our guides.  It was great to get some time to explore on the shore. 

View from the Komodo Ranger Station

We were fortunate to see five ‘dragons’ during our hikes.  They are really quite impressive, and apparently hunt mainly deer, but also water buffalo, wild pigs and other prey.  On Rinca Island, we saw lots of wildlife, including monkeys, fruit bats, water buffalo and many birds of prey.

The Komodo Dragons are a very large species of monitor lizard, found on only five islands in the area. They are huge, growing up to 10 feet long and weighing up to 150 lbs.  Meat eaters, they lay in ambush of large prey.  Only four to five thousand dragons live in the wild.  Only about 350 breeding females remain in the population .  The Komodo National Park was formed in 1980 to address concerns of the declining population.

Local merchants ready to make a deal as we are trying to anchor
Once we moved on to the larger Komodo Island, we were near a village, so we had a lot of visitors trying to sell us pearls and wooden carvings of Komodo Dragons.  As we turned the corner in to the main bay near Komodo Village, we immediately received the attention of more than a dozen local boats and canoes.  There were no other foreign yachts in the area that we saw anyway, so the arrival of one was a big event for the local merchants.

More pearls and wooden carvings to sell.

Everyone was looking to make a deal, and they were mostly selling pearls and wooden carvings....although one  bright local entrepreneur was selling cold Bintang (a good local beer), chips and other food items.  One boat showed us the way to a local vacant mooring, and soon we had a dozen or more boats hanging on to our boat trying to make a sale.  A common refrain is 'one-by-one', which is a request to buy something from everyone, loosely translated as 'please don't spend all of your money with one merchant'"! Lynn, every time I hear the locals call out 'one-by-one' it reminds me of you and your business name.   Needless to say, we did end up purchasing more pearls than I could ever possibly wear...and we have a few wooden dragons on Katmai too (and a couple of Bintangs of course)!
Beautiful moon over Komodo Village from our mooring. 
Can't beat this view for a 'sundowner'.

28 June 2015

Run, climb, bite, swim - the Komodo Dragon, the world’s largest Lizard!

It feels like we are in Jurassic Park!  The ‘dragons’ here grow to an impressive size of ten feet and 150 pounds. It can sprint up to 20 mph, climb trees, dive to a depth of 15 feet and devour a deer in short order. Komodo, where the dragons live, is also a region in the Indonesian archipelago that consists of some 30 arid volcanic islands. Most are uninhabited, as a matter of fact only about 4000 people call the Komodo Islands 'home'. Today, most of the islands, associated reefs and bays are part of a large National Park, which is listed at UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Sunset view with the volcano Sangeang steaming in the background
There were 'barking' deer, wild goat,
eagles and much more on the beach
This is a spectacular area; made up of aquamarine tropical waters that are so clear one can see the sea floor seventy feet down,  dry volcanic islands that are mostly inhabited by dragons, deer, wild boar, Eagles, flying foxes, monkeys and, yes, snakes (including the Cobra) and colorful reefs that make this a scuba divers dream. With that, however, comes a continuous traffic of dive boats. Since many of the best anchorage spots are now off limits to dropping an anchor the only remaining option is being lucky enough to pick up one of the very few permanent moorings that the World Wildlife Fund installed. The area desperately needs more moorings to accommodate the visitations to this incredible park.

Our first few days and night in the Park were spent in a bay named Teluk Batu Montjo, which is on the northwest tip of Komodo Island. It was a spectacular spot, clear water, no dive boats and a sunset view.  We had the place to ourselves for three days, a big change from villages full of children and the tourist crowds of Gili Aer and Bali.
Beautiful rocks too!

Looking west towards the setting sun is the island volcano, Sangeang. It is an active volcano continuously venting steam from its top and it sports the textbook volcano shape, a cone rising out of the deep blue tropical ocean. Looking from Teluk Batu Montjo the sun sets just off the steaming volcano's southern slopes, an incredible sight for our ritual sundowner hour. Teluk Batu Montjo bay teams with colorful reef fish and in the early mornings we were rewarded with the sight of a handful of gracefully 'flying' Manta Rays in the clear waters around Katmai.

Gili Lawa Laut and Gili Lawa Darat Islands
looking south towards Komodo Island
Gili Lawa Laut, our next stop, is a small island on the north eastern tip of Komodo Islands. A favorite stop for dive boats, so we counted our luck as we entered the bay and one of the three moorings was just being vacated by a dive boat. We spent four heavenly days there, swimming, reading, hiking up the islands crest-line and yes more sunsets.

Katmai on a mooring off of the island of Gili Lawa Laut
The dive boats and their western passengers of course attracts also local boat merchants selling woodcarvings of dragons, pearl neckless', Dragon teeth, decorated wooden bowls, etc. These local merchants pull alongside visiting boats with their long and narrow beam, locally built boats. These boats are built of solid teak timbers and sport a very small diesel engine that goes put, put, put....and is started with a hand crank, no electric anything on these boats! One of these merchants, Eggj and his brother Iwan, approached Katmai shortly after we picked up the mooring and we bought a few things from them. Our interaction with Eggj and Iwan was, I hope, beneficial for all of us. One morning I asked Eggj if he could get us a nice fresh fish? He asked "how big"? I said "about this long".
Laurie cleans the fish we bought from Egj.
An hour later he came back with a beautiful fresh whole Emperor fish. He must have bought it from one of the local fishermen, who we see in their small dugout canoes fishing the reefs all night long, as there is no village in the area. That was one tasty fish for us that evening and the next.

Egj and Iwan's 'water taxi' taking us from our
 anchored boat to Labuan Bajo city to get supplies
Egj and Iwan now have become our local 'support'. They followed us all the way to the town of Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores. We just got our anchor down near Labuan Bajo when they motored up to Katmai. While still in Gilli Lawa Laut they asked if we might need diesel on our arrival in Labuan Bajo, I confirmed that we did. That is all it took, they were not going to miss that opportunity.  It was a great benefit to us is that they deliver the fuel in jerry cans to our boat at anchor and we don't need to haul the diesel to the boat in our dingy, or even worse tie up to a commercial dock and deal with significant time and paperwork. Sweet! Within a few hours our diesel tanks were full! We then made arrangements with Egj and Iwan for a water taxi ride on their boat for early the next morning. We needed to do a shopping spree to resupply Katmai's food stores. In the morning Iwan guided us through town to a local market, where he helped us communicate with the market staff, insuring we got the right change back and organizing a taxi back to the harbor for us and all our bags of food and a case of beer. In the meantime Egj got our laundry to someone for washing. After the shopping, Laurie and I walked for a couple of hours through town on our own. It is a different world!

Port city of Labuan Bajo, Flores Island

Labuan Bajo, is the biggest town in western Flores and the main hub, is a jumping off point for tourists visiting the Komodo National Park, its Dragons and its spectacular reefs. Bajo, as the locals call it, is a small town, with a few streets, no stop lights, a tourist Main Street of dive shops and a few restaurants. It is a town with apparent poverty, despite being the center for the Komodo tourist industry. Based on things now in ruin, the town has seen days of greater affluence in its past. The people on the other hand are lovely! Big smiles are common and so are friendly greetings.
We bought a papaya from a few women sitting on the ground selling veggies and fruit displayed out on some cloth. They did not speak English and we do not understand much Bahasa Indonesian, so the ensuing communication regarding the price of the papaya ended in much hearty laughter and many smiles. We understood 50,000Rp (5$), which is way too much, but they were really only asking 15,000Rp (1.5$), which more than fair for this large and beautiful papaya. Isn't it always so? It is the people who make the place.
The harbor of Labuan Bajo makes you feel like it you have been transported back to the late 1800s.  Based on the multitude of very large wooden sailing ships it surely does not feel like it could be the 21st century. The harbor is full of wooden ships of all shapes and sizes, most come with some sort of sailing rig, many are schooners, some are... well I am not sure what, but they are all unusual and interesting. Many are small and some are very big and look like could ply the world’s oceans with the best of Walt Disney's pirates. But then, the 21st century is never that far away as this evening a modern super yacht arrived and anchored in the midst of the 'pirate' ships.

27 June 2015

"Hey Mister, Hello Mister!"

"terima kasih, mister" Thank you, mister!
School boys wave goodbye
and thank us for the notebooks and pencils.
One of the most pleasurable things about our voyage through eastern Indonesia has been meeting the people.  The children  are especially delightful, and invariably run for their dugout canoes and paddle out to us as soon as they see us setting the anchor....as they approach, they smile, and wave and yell "Hey Mister, Hello Mister".  It is tradition for traveling sailors to bring small gifts for the local children, and we brought along a lot of school supplies, note books, pencils, pens.  Generally it is just the local boys that show up, but sometimes girls as well. 

Often, a local boy will paddle out with some fruit or drinking coconuts to trade for some perceived treasure on board Katmai.  We have traded everything from fishing lures, fishing hooks, clothing and cash (if they prefer) for what they bring, if we can use it and generally we can.

The children that visit us at anchor are often very young.
Thanks to the generosity of the Fremantle Sailing Club and their donors, we also had several duffle bags of hats, shirts, and shorts sized for children.  In addition, the large bag of used soccer balls (footballs) have been a big hit.  Generally when we gave away a football,  the children played for hours on the beach.

"Oh Boy"  Yelling to friends on shore as they
 paddle back to the village. 
This of course means more children are on the way!
Paddling out for a visit using sticks
as oars for the outrigger dugout canoe
Peeking over the side of Katmai,
standing in their canoe