Sunday, 7 October 2007

Kupang to Komodo Islands - September 18th

Komodo Islands National Park

Kupang to Komodo

Still no winds. We left Kupang motor sailing which we continued right into the night. Later we cut the engine to save fuel and drifted mainly with the current at a slow rate of knots. Below it was hot and humid. We stayed about 30-50 nautical miles off the coast trying desperately to find wind. We found enough just 5 knots again. Before leaving we had received a tsunami report over the HF radio from a number of major earthquakes that had just hit Sumatra not that far away to our west. We knew once out of port we had nothing to fear but up till then it was a little concerning. If it did come we never saw it.

The trip took 3 days so it was back to a watch system and harnesses on again. When off watch following the sun around the boat or should I say the shade actually. We all used double clipped biner system on our harnesses so we could walk around on deck. On rough sections we would be confined to the cockpit except for essential work.

On the way we passed the island of Flores known for its active volcanoes. Made for quite a spectacular rugged mountain scenery but they smoking volcanoes made it very hazy.

We stopped first at Rinca island. Brown and barren just one fishing boat in a nearby bay but even he left. Fiona was happy as she did not want to offend the Muslims but desperately wanted to swim in the now stinger free waters. We dinghed ashore and within minutes spotted several large komodo dragons. There are about 2500 of them on Rinca and luckily the tourists don’t yet know that. I followed one back to his nest basically several depressions in the sand beneath cliffs in the shade. I am glad that at this time I did not know they had deadly bacteria in their saliva!

We also saw loads of monkeys running and playing on the beach they were Macaques and were very shy. Sighted some small deer too.

Kokodos are one of the oldest forms of monitor Lizard on this planet. They look ancient and also powerfull some being over 100 kgs. They can run up to 18 kms/hr but are usually sluggish. They kill their prey by a toxic bacteria when they bite so by this method all they need to do is bite there vitim on the leg. The victim then runs away but dies up to two weeks later. Then it is feast time and several dragons can devour a whole Water buffalo. In fact buffalo and Timorese Deer are their main prey. We later learnt that a small 9 year old boy was killed by a komodo on Komodo island just a couple of months ago.

After a bit of snorkeling in not so clear coral waters I decided to get some exercise so head off up a creek. I was a bit wary of confronting a komodo which are hard to see because they lie so still and are camourflaged.. Luckily I saw them first and gave them a wide berth. There was no track so I boulder hopped the easiest way to get through the vines and vegetation. Off on the hills it was dry and hot and full of snakes. Well I trod on one anyway. Did not see him till the last minute. He was not aggressive and just took off under the leaves like Aussie snakes do. I noted his markings and took him to be a python. Triangular head and mottled heavily patterned beige/bron colour. In fact he was a very dangerous Viper and could easily have killed me. Lucky, I suppose.

After the snake encounter I took to the hills climbing higher and higher until I could see over the other side of the island and for miles and miles. All I could see were islands galore and reefs everywhere. I came across a large area of dirt and dust and droppings soon realizing this was the main home to the deer on the island. I surprised quite a few getting to within metres of them before they saw me. It upset a couple of stags with their big antlers and they roared at me for quite some time until I left. The walk back was easier along deer tracks. Any other way was impossible. The nice grassy sloping hillsides were covered with volcanic boulders, ankle breakers so walking was very hard and concentration intense. But I felt free enough to whip off my clothes and do the nudist bit as it was a long way back to the beach. I saw few flowers and most trees had lost their leaves due to the drought.

The view from our anchorage had to be one of the most stunning I had seen. Surrounded by rugged hills and distant mountain peaks and white coral cays and beaches. Sunset here was truly beautiful. Once anchored the liquor locker is opened again and vast quantities of duty free alcohol are consumed aboard. Except for me I like to keep it in moderation so enjoyed a nice Vodka on the rocks as the sun went down.

After two days we left for Komodo island a day trip away. It was a difficult passage with light wind and very strong and scary currents. I have never seen such wild waters before. One minute smooth water next in 2 metre standing waves splashing the decks. We had to switch off the auto pilot because it could not handle the conditions or preempt the pull from the current. One second we were being ripped sideways to the left next to the right then the left again.

Once we were turned a full 90 degrees instantly all 13 tonnes of our boat with motor flat out. I was hand steering sending the wheel spinning through 80 degrees at a time just to keep the boat going straight. Ian had a go at me which I did not like because I had not been following his allocated bearing. He later apologized when he realised the track I had achieved on the chartplotter was a straight one. I think I am a better sailor than he and he did not like that. This created some tensions and from then on I was not happy with a few of Ian’s instructions or attitudes.

Dodging the reefs that often extended way out from island points became quite challenging and we were all on the lookout for them. When we did finally come into the bay that we were heading for we quickly realized that the reefs we could see were well down beneath us. We could see a full 150 feet clear to the bottom. When our anchor went down we could see the full 200ft chain and the anchor from aboard the boat. Once again Ian and I collided when I suggested he drop the pick in a large sand patch within the reefs. He told me to drop the anchor and I called out that we needed to be a bit further in. in fairness to Ian he was worried about the depth but I could see it was fine. I had to drop it where he said then he let out way too much chain. We ended up back on the 80ft Bugis Schooner behind. When an hour later the currents changed they swung around right over our anchor and we could nearly pass drinks to the guests aboard. Some smart New Yorker aboard kept yelling at us to pick up our anchor and move to a nearby buoy. He did not listen when we tried to explain that we couldn’t as it was under there boat and also the pilot book listed this third buoy as unsafe and unreliable.

Ian let out more chain then drove the boat in a circle to wrap around the coral and keep us shorter away from the schooner. I did not like this method of solving the problem either as later on when the wind picked up it snapped the top off the pristine coral below.. oh well.

Needless to say the diving here was probably the best I have ever experienced. This might explain why there were diving charter vessels calling in there. Superb coral everywhere, every type you could imagine and an equal variety and quantity of tropical fish. It was so clear it felt like an aquarium. One dive at a place called crystal rock saw me swimming with millions of large fish. They blotted out the light there were so many. As I swam towards them they would part and then close all around me. Unfortunately I forgot to put the card back in my camera at this place so all the stunning photos I took were not recorded.

At another spot we drift dived near a drop off. Here I had a sea snake swim right under me then shortly afterwards as I dived to the drop off two different sharks swam very close. One was a white tipped reef shark the other looked like a gummy shark. This area is known also for giant manta rays which I thought I saw but cannot be sure.

Fiona and I swam ashore then climbed the nearby mountain startling a white bellied sea eagle sitting on the top. Impressive to watch him take off from so close. On the way down the other side we hit boulder grasses again and Fiona had a hard time with cut on her ankle getting knocked. The beachcombing on the rocks and deserted coral beaches made up for it. So much to see, a beach combers paradise. Ian never seemed to join us on any of the hikes or the swims. He just sat on his boat and relaxed. I suppose as skipper and main navigator the passages are quite demanding and he just feels like chilling out. For me passages are an ordeal to endure to get to the places you really want to be. That is what it is all about and certainly with the fickle winds you can’t say the sailing has been fun recently. So I wonder what he gets out of it?

If sailing my own boat I would plan to spend more time when near land and to day sail when it is possible rather than just do multi-day passages that need watches to be maintained. Perhaps the reason he does not like stopping so often is that he has no electric anchor winch and even his manual one does not work. For me it has been really hard as he always puts out an excess of chain so pulling it in by hand is pretty hard work. A simple investment here would avoid a lot of worries and dramas especially when hauling in the anchor in crowded anchorages in not so ideal conditions. I am certainly learning much here on this cruise.

We sailed back to Rinca Island where we found a very sheltered narrow cove in which to anchor. We had been cautious about the depth here but need not have been. later one of the Schooners sailed in and anchored off the trees right next to the beach. Obviously the beach dropped away sharply there to good depths! Here we went ashore for a guided tour by the National Park staff. There are only a few staff here living in two huts with basic facilities and in a remote location. Komodo Dragons were hanging out in the shade under their huts. As we waited for our guide to finish his lunch two heavikly armed policemen arrived. They must have noticed our scared faces as they inserted a fresh magazine into the M16 then cocked the trigger right in front of us. Fortunately they did this to be ready to protect us had one of the Komodos got a bit frisky.

The tour was informative but pretty basic. We saw more Macaques watching us from the trees on either side and had to walk around several sleeping Komodos just a metre from us. The guide carried only a long stick as defence. Strangely we came across the only waterhole on the island with two water buffalo wallowing in their muddy waters. Six Komodo Dragons were lying on the ground within 20 metres of them. Talk about sleeping with the enemy!

It was very hot and dry here and mosquitos swarmed the boat at night as we were surrounded by shoreline. As the sun went down I sat on the deck playing my guitar (which i had bought in Timor for just $10) and watched a a very poor family in their tiny long boat as they fished with nets and lines catching only tiny fish that they sold to the 'Parks staff. It looked like that baot was also their home. What an existence. Two adults and one child on one tiny boat with few possesions and little to eat. On the back was a claypot burner their heating and cooking facility. They were very friendly and humble people with huge smiles that remain with me even now.

We left Rinca in the early morning with a good tide to cross the bar then set sail for Lombok and Bali. This leg of the trip was very tedious with little wind. Ian kept chasing the wind trying to find the compromise between the calm seas well offshore and the onshore sea breeze near the reefs. We ended up about 30 Nms off the coast. We managed a very respectable 5 knots of speed. Not bad for a 13 tonne boat in light zeyphrs. It was hot and humid so there was little relif from the heat. As we were now coasting our deck watches became more demanding keeping a lookout for hidden reefs and overfalls.
Ian timed our arrival in Bali for the early hours of the morning. The entrance to Bali marina is in the pasage between bali and Lombok known as one of the most treacherous waters in the area. Extremely strong currenst, whirl pools and shallows either side. At first we had to ease the sails to slow down our progress but as the tide changed and we had the current against us we hardly made any progress under full motor and sails. in fact we were going backwards which means the helmsman has to think backward too and use the helm in the opposite direction.
We spotted a slow moving yacht between us and the entrance but they made no attempt to radio us or answer our calls. We could not understand why they stayed so close to us without moving. We later found out that they were marooned having limped in from Ashmore reef with a dead engine and no wind. Now they were having to fight the same currents as us. The Welsh skipper had tried to hail us by voice and radio but we had not heard them. eventually they got towed in by the Indonesian Customs boat.

NEXT POSTING: BALI - The land of the most beautiful people in the world!

… more to come folks stay tuned!

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Darwin to Timor 8th September

Darwin to Timor

Hi Folks, well I have done heaps since my last postings so to start I will finish off with Darwin.

The crew of Mystic blue hired a car together (aircon of course as it was 38 degrees outside) and head off out of Darwin. We drove about 100 kms out to the Adelaide River and the Frogland Wetlands. Well worth the trip. The wetlands were everything I expected from the Northern territory, billabongs covered in lilies, an amazing array of water fowl and wading birds such as brolgas and herons and magpie geese. Lush and green amidst an otherwise dry brown landscape.

We were warned to be wary for crocodiles and sure enough after some searching we spotted one. He was floating ever so slowly creeping up and some ducks like a floating log just beneath the surface. Fortunately the ducks were wise to him and lived another day.

The Adelaide River involved a boat tour to see the jumping crocodiles and we certainly saw heaps. A great tour, not to touristy and they definitely knew a lot about crocodiles. Safety was paramount and twice they stopped the tour when idiotic Americans tried to get too close to the crocs. There are so many crocodiles in the muddy waters of the Adelaide River that I cannot imagine anyone has ever swam there and lived to tell the tale.

Back to the Darwin yacht club for a farewell party as many yachties were leaving when we were. Some to Ashmore reef others to Christmas Island and some to Bali direct. Only one other boat was heading to Kupang, West Timor like us and he left before us and we never saw him again.

We purchased our last minute duty free grog and duty free diesel then returned to our anchorage. Officially we are not meant to go ashore but it is standard practice to go to the Yacht Club for Happy Hour and drinks with the other yachties. We decided to leave early the next morning with a favourable tide. The other yachties told us we were in for no wind the whole way but our weather sources said otherwise and Ian was optimistic of a quick trip.

As it turned out the others were right. In fact some of them had no wind at all and motored the whole way to Christmas island. At least we departed in a 15 knot SE trade wind. Ideal! Once out of sight of land the the land breeze died down and soon we were crawling along to just 5 knots which was to stay with us the whole way with even less at night. In fact we were becalmed several times for hours on end. The swell never seems to stop though despite the entire region being windless. This meant the boat was still lurching, the little wind we did have was flung from the sales every time a big wave hit. Progress was slow, it was hot and to make matters worse the humidity was kicking in. In Darwin the locals had told us to leave now as the humidity would hit 100% in just a few days as it does every year at that time. Looked like we were now experiencing it here in the Timor Sea.

The Arafura Sea near Darwin had turned green now we were back in beautiful clear blue waters again. Often colourful large sea snakes would float by on the surface just mms away from the hull. This surprised me as we were now 100 kms away from anywhere and over very deep waters. Regular pods of dolphins would accompany us surfing our wake and diving under the boat. On one occasion when all of us were really hot and sticky, harnesses were allowed to be removed as the boat was upright and we were not moving at all, we contemplated diving in for a swim. We talked about the movie “Becalmed” where a group of yachties did just that then the wind picked up and the boat sailed away from them. We made our plans then just as one of us was about to test out the 80 degree F waters several sharks appeared as if they knew already our plans. Then more arrived. In all about twenty sharks circled the boat for more than an hour. We gave up any idea of swimming after that.

We saw several turtles and lunchtime one day saw a school of humpback Whales swim by and put on an amazing show for us double breaching, spraying water from their breathing holes and slapping the water with their massive tails. The power was astounding. They had young ones with them too so it could not have been a mating ritual.

With no wind the strong currents were taking us off course. Despite planning to avoid the Oil Rig area we ended up heading right into them. This made for some interesting night time navigation. Lights appeared every where. To add to the menace several uncharted reefs were also in this area. Luckily we had been warned and given their co-ordinates but it did mean keeping a sharp lookout for breaking surf and on the depth finder and radar. Normally these are switched off when on passage to conserve the batteries. Each day though we motored for 1 hour to re charge them anyway.

In addition fishing boats started appearing. After studying them with the binoculars we noticed they were long lining, laying out several kilometres of baited hooked lines behind the boats dropping tiny markers every few 100 metres. We had to avoid not only the boats who seemed to criss cross right across our paths but also the extensive lines and nets behind them. Not easy with no wind so the engine was used when it was necessary to take evasive action.

Some distance on and several days later no boats had been seen until we saw something on the horizon. We took bearings and found it was closing on us but heading parallel. As it eventually neared our location it made a sharp turn 90 degrees towards our beam and charged straight for us. At the last moment it changed direction but only after all the crew started appearing one by one. The area was marked on the chart as having experienced pirate attacks here so we were quite concerned. Relief as it moved away flowed over us and we did not see another boat until close to Timor.

Strangely as we closed on Timor the wind picked up. We actually did not want wind as these are coral reef waters so we wanted to be able to see the surface clearly and move slowly. Instead we had 20-25 knot winds the south east trades had re-established themselves. Why did they not do this earlier I wonder?

We had not planned to close the coast at night but by the time we had coasted down the south east coast of Timor to the bottom of West Timor it was dark. On went the radar and we made another night time port entry. This time very hazardous as there were heaps of fishing boats. It looked like there was no way around them. They seemed to stretch the entire way across the channel. Most of them did not carry navigational lights but they were easy to see with numerous neon lights strung around there decks. We got close to quite a few and all were very friendly.

Sometimes the radar would not pick up a signal from the larger wooden boats and both Fiona and I had to join Ian on watch calling out as soon as we saw any shape that looked like a boat. Some were tiny with no lights and right in the channel. The motor was on to give us control in the strong inter island passage currents and suddenly ian proclaimed the motor was struggling. Speed had dropped to half speed. We had obviously picked up something on the prop. Being dark, strange waters, strange sea creatures and boats all around we opted not to dive over and check at that time. Later when safely anchored I jumped over with a snorkel and mask and found a very thich nylon rope around the prop. It took 5 dives to free it as it was well and truly wrapped around. We must have crossed a fishing net after all. Sorry friendly fisher peoples!!

Our destination was a beach bar called Teddy’s Bar where we could anchor off and await clearance. It took a while to find it as there were so many lights on the shore.

KUPANG – West Timor

I was a little nervous about coming to West Timor and being Australian. Fiona used her British passport for the same reason. But, they could not have been friendlier. The Quarantine and Immigration fellows came out to us early in the morning. We were all still asleep. They knocked on the hull and wearing no uniforms we thought they were just inquisitive Timorese or vendors. Kupang is not the wealthiest of places and the officials had to borrow a boat to get to us. After clearance we had to take them ashore in our dinghy. We still had to go into town to the immigration office to finalise our cruising permit and visas. All went well except we got ripped off by the touts who escorted us all wanting a cut of the monies. Even the immigration guy put his hand out for a bribe.

We had been warned not to clear customs here or the boat would be charged import duty or a large bond so we only did immigration and quarantine. Nobody asked us why we were not clearing customs which we finally did later on in Bali.

Kupang at night looked civilized and large by day it turned out to be noisy but lively but definitely third world. Pot holes in every roads, lots and lots of people every where, bemos (small mini buses) every few metres otherwise millions of smokey 2-stroke motor bikes carrying everything you could imagine. Power was unreliable, showers ashore non-existant, phone calls a nightmare and internet took us five bus rides to find then was only two machines and very slow and expensive.

Hygiene was almost non existent yet we still eat out on the street stalls with the locals. Lots of fun and no one got sick. Surprisingly as when we finally got to the fresh food markets there was all the meat, beef, pork, chooks etc all lying in the open Nepalese style, covered in flies in the hot sun. I was sure glad I was vegetarian. We found the Timorese to be very friendly and happy people but always trying to get some money out of us. We had to pay to get our dinghy guarded and a separate fee for the boat on its mooring also. This was a daily fee and we know now that we paid too much. We even doubt if it was even necessary as every seemed to be so honest.

We found a cheap eatery and there met a famous local singer/dancer who spoke English. He got us the local price – 50 cents for a meal including cold boiled water. We made friends and met him that night at teddy’s bar. He brought along a gorgeous friend, Amy, who was stunning yet a little shy and very polite. After just 15 minutes conversation through our new friend as interpreter she told me she wanted to marry me. Ahmmm! Well I thought it was a joke but apparently not. She was Christian and the Islamic government was persecuting Christians closing down churches all over Indonesia. Her future did not look good. Her Muslim husband had left her with one 6 month old boy.

I told her I had to go for dinner with the others in town but would be returning to Teddy’s Bar later on. She apparently waited three hours for me then finally left with a message that she would wait 6 months for me to return and if not would then start looking for another man. All this and I had not even suggested I would marry her. Mind you tempting as she had to be one of the prettiest I had seen, but, she could not speak a word of English. My dancer friend had told me Timorese wives are extremely faithful and devoted. Don’t think I am quite ready for an Asian relationship of this type. I am single but I need to have a partner who can be an equal, can have intellectual conversations and who can share common interests.

We left Kupang after 5 days to sail to the Komodo Islands about a 3 to 5 day trip.

NEXT UPDATE: Komodo dragons, diving in 150 foot clear waters and jumping ship in Bali where I am now living in Ubud in the hills inside a Balinese temple. Not to mention having to bribe Balinese police and exploring the lush jungle valleys between the rice paddies!

Friday, 14 September 2007

Timor Sea

Quick note. Got to Kupang in Timor safely. Great trip . Photos and details soon. Sea snakes, whales breaching , dolphins and poipoise, pirates and oil rigs, and stunning sunsets every night.. Love Timor so friendly here. Off soon to komodo island.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Wellington NZ to PNG to Darwin

My trip continues, but first a picture to put you in the right mood . . .

Since my last posting I have been living in Wellington aboard a boat up on the hard in Evans bay Yacht Club. Sleeping aboard is pretty good as the owner, Matt, has a diesel heater on all the time and a full size DVD screen, TV and thousands of videos plus a hot shower.

I preferred being here. It was warmer than being in a house and at least this meant no travelling costs from Tim and Glenda's place and no infringing on his kids.
At least I got to stay with my mum before leaving NZ. Hope you are still well and not worrying about me mum!

Matt, an ex-pat Aussie, is doing the boat up for when his girlfrend returns from USA. Poor guy I think she may not be coming back. Matt's a cool guy basically born int sailing and he sure knows a lot. Matt likes to party hard so he turns up at the bat with a hangover almost every day.

The Farr was in pretty bad shape but after a lot of work she is now looking pretty good.

Matt was so impressed with my work that he really did not want me to leave just yet but as the sea calls I must obey.

Well it has been a while but at last I got invited aboard a yacht, a Canadian registered Cascade 42, sailing from PNG to Komodo and beyond. I sleep up in the forepeak with Fiona, the other crew member, a 32 yr old nurse from Greenwich. She was really chuffed when we received our first time pips from greenwich on the SSB radio.

With assistance to get to PNG I finally threw in the grindstone (ie. living aboard the Farr 1120 which I was careening and repairing in Wellington - see first few pictures) and swapped 6 degree temps for the warmth of Latitude 6 degrees South to sail via the labirynth of reef country known as the Torres Strait and the pirated waters of the warm Arafura Sea.

Firstly Port Moresby. Wow what a place. Very, very dangerous. Rascals and guns thieves and danger everywhere. No more movie theatre as it was too unsafe for ex-pats to go there.

The yacht Club and fenced surrounds were the only real safe place where we were moored. An armed gun post marked the entrance and also the breakwaters and more than 11 armed guards patrolled the pontoons and bar area all the time.

Still what i saw i liked and actually found the locals to be very polite and friendly. I tried to walk into town but was warned off and given a ride by a local ex-pat. I walked back though with Ian, and Fiona and i also walked to the local supermarket keeping a watchfull eye on everyone we passed especially near the squatters.
Buses are fully caged especially around the drivers.

The blood lining most streets was in fact merely the spittings of beetle juice a past time that even local white collared business man still enjoyed.

We left early on the Friday and then sailed non-stop for more than one week for nearly one thousand kilometeres mostly way out of sight of land.

The first day I felt a bit queezy but this soon went away and I enjoyed being down below as much as on deck. The water here is 27 degrees C and the air about the same or more. Along the way we experienced perfect trade winds of 15 - 25 knots but rather steep seas on some occasions.
I had my watch allocated being: 12 midnight to 3.00am then 9am till 12noon and then 4 to 6pm. Not bad and I soon got used to sleeping when i could. Ian, my age and from Canada, Fiona sharing the forepeak with me from England, and me - just the three of us. We are getting on really well and everyone is performing well too. Yeah we have not hit anything yet!

Matt plans the navigaton on his laptop using MacSea software then uploads it to his GPS unit that we follow. In difficult reef waters we use both to steer by.

Sleeping aboard a moving boat is not easy. Up in the bow you ascend and descend with each passing wave, sometimes volently. The ship rolls from side to side so you have to use lee cloths and stuff sleeping bags around you.

It is too hot to have any covers in fact I sleep nude most nights as it is cooler. Sometimes I sleep in the main cabin on the pipe cot or the lower bunk but there you suffer the noise of the other crew making meals or changing watch.

I soon got used to the regime of watches and quite like it. There is time for overlaps wth the other crew to chat and discuss navigational decisions ahead or weather conditions. When the wind strengthens sometimes we are all up together especially if a gybe is needed in strong wind.

When the wind is strong we sleep in our gear ready to jump up and assist.

Along the seas we saw several cute turtles surfacing near to us, a pod of about 20 dolphins for ages and I had one lonely dolphin play next to me one lonely night time watch. Just me and him and the full moon.

We also saw one hell of a big shark, a few various sea birds one who made our boat his home for a day, no crocs yet. We caught several huge fish , a tuna, several Wahoo and a few we sent back too. Fish seems to always be on the menu.

When we got the eclipse of the moon on the 28th all I could think of was my daughter, Antara is far away in Germany but no way to contact her, nor my sister in law who also shared the same birthday. In fact I think every night aboard I was talking about my daughter. The others must of got sick of me telling how much I miss her.

Some tense moments coming through the rugged passages between the reefs in Torres Straits and also near Darwin where we had to negotiate a very scary pass between reefs against the current and with no wind and in the middle of the night. Thank god for good navigation and GPS.

I have learnt so much on this trip about provisioning, watch's, gear, navigation and ocean sailing in general plus all the other cruisers we have met who have shared the experience of their life living aboard with me like the Nibian family on the boat acnhored next to us in Fannie Bay Darwin. I am here for one week before setting sail again. Once at sea life is strictly regimented. Meal times watch changes etc are all to a carefully timed plan and so it should be. This way it works and no one gets overly tired.

Darwin is hot, in fact it was 37 degrees yesterday mainly dry heat but can be humid sometimes. The yacht cub here is very welcoming. FREE showers, wash facilities and a great place to catch up with all the other cruising yachties which we do as a ritual every night. The excuse being that we have to wait for the tide to return so we don't have to drag the dingies 5 kms down the beach.

The sunsets are wonderful every night.

If you look carefully you may see our boat. It is the furthest one out. Nearly out of Australian waters I reckon! Yesterday I walked 5 kilometres around the shore to the old WW II defences. Darwin was severely bombed by the Japs and had to be rebuilt only to be totally destroyed again by Cyclone Tracy in 1974.

When you liveaboard a boat at anchor life ashore is timed by both the tides and use of the dinghy so we all must co-ordinate our times ashore around this. The nights are warm sleeping below and too hot in the mornings when sleeping on deck. Every morning I go for a quick dip in the sea after first checking there are no crocodles or sharks visble. I seem to be the only one game to do this!!

We are off in a hire car tomorrow to see crocodes and the wetlands n the bush inland. This will be the only visit to real Australian conditons for an n his first visit to Australia.
From here we go via Timor, Komodo island, Flores, Bali, Singapore, Melacca Straits, Langkawi to Phuket where I have a possible boat to return to Oz with.
Cheers everyone. "Crazycol"

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Back to Wellington for Mum's birthday party!

Mum's Birthday:

Fortunately the good timing of our decision to abort the trip meant I could be here for my mum's birthday party. The birthday cake was quite a surprise as they had organised an old photo of mum from when she was first married to be iced onto the cake. A bit weird eating a picture of ones own mother!!! We had to be careful where we put the candles too.

Most of the family was here so it was a great meeting of family members many whom I had not seen for ages. There was Sarah, David, Ben and Hannah (who celebrated her 5th birthday at the same time), Judy and Mother of course, Hilary and her partner Jennie, Michael, Andrew and Emily, Jarred and Emma, Tim and Glenda and David, Jill and Katie and who ever else I forgot to mention.

At the moment I am living at my brother's house sharing a room with my 17 year old Nephew, David. Tim's family has been very hospitable but much as i love it here i need to get back to the sea so am searching the web pages looking for short handed yachts on passages.

"Oh it is good to go down to the sea again
To the Lonely Sea and the Sky"

"A wet sheet and flowing sail
and a wind that follows fast
That fills that white and billowing sail
and bends the gallant mast

That bends the Gallant mast my boys
and away the good ship flys and leaves
Old England on the Lee!"

My little girl, Antara in Germany aged 1 or 2