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