Down the Bumpy Path

This is the time of year when the Trade Winds change from Northeast to Southwest. Until mid season when the winds settle they are usually stronger as we found out the hard way. The moorings at Sangihe were shaky at best and it was not going to be fun when the wind picked up or shifted so at the first sign of change we made a hasty exit.

The path south is dotted with small islands, many with great anchorages so we decided to day hop on down to Saluwasi. The first island looked good on paper, deep north facing bay well protected from southerlies. Unfortunately it was far too deep to set an anchor. I carry an exceptional 600 ft (200 meters) of chain, far more than most cruising boats and yet i could not find a place to drop the hook. John on our companion boat, Restless, gave up as well and asked a small tug boat tied to the cement pier if he could side tie, as we did with a local ferry.

Restless with our host tug and the village folks
Now snuggly secure next to the pier we were visited by most of the tiny island village, we were the biggest news to hit this town it seemed. All the folks were genuinely friendly and we were soon surrounded with beaming bright smiles. I broke out the balloons, the kids laughed, the adults watched and all was good.

With sketchy internet our weather information was limited but it seemed the wind would stick for at least a week, much too long to hang off the broken tug boat. I consulted the local ferry boat captain, and in sign language, pantomime and a few common words, he advised we go that morning. The next island was only 35 miles away so off we went. I have said before that there are days i envy the sailboats, slipping down wind silently in a nice breeze, today was not one of them! it was a day designed for heavy displacement trawlers. The seas built as the wind hit the 40 knot mark, yet we remained comfortable for the most part.

The next island, Siau, has a massive volcano which erupted just as we approached, smoke billowing out of the top reminiscent of old King Kong movies. Also bringing movies of great peril to mind, just as the volcano erupted, the always loyal, anally babied Cummins engine stopped. With no power the two to three meter seas tossed us about violently. Being so intune with the engine i felt the RPM drop before it died and was hands on the key instantly, and, Praise Allah, it started. A bit of thanking and head scratching as to why, we continued. A few minutes later it stopped again. This time i took action, dropped fast into the engine room, switched the dual Ravor filter and switched to the other fuel tank. A few grinds and the loyal Cummins fired up and kept running. i had run on the starboard tank since fueling and that fuel had been polished but when the tank got down to about half it seemed the rough weather broke loose some crud on the very bottom and blocked the fuel. One of the things i truly, deeply and passionately love about the Cummins is it will start dry. Most diesel engines would have required some painful bleeding to restart, the Cummins just fired right up. Needless to say at the next anchorage i ran all the fuel through the ESI polishing system twice!

We rounded the volcano and headed for what we hoped was a safe anchorage. This is the one on the leg that we had doubts about. As we approached the anchorage those doubts vanished as we settled under the watchful eye of a 50ft sparkling white statue of Jesus Christ and dropped the hook in 40 ft of calm water. We laughed as we discovered the anchorage not only had the protection of our savior but great internet as there was a tower right behind the Holly statue. So with the tower and Christ off our bow and an erupting volcano off our stern we toasted the days fortune.

Our usual 5:30 am departure and bam back in 20 plus knots head winds. Happily as we left the island the seas abated and we had a more pleasant ride to Biaro Island which had a real promising anchorage deep into a bay. We settle in and enjoyed the calm.

With better internet i could get more weather information and i used my new fav site, which seemed to load faster than the others. The almost phsycadelic (neither i nor my spell check knows how to spell this haha) wind display clearly showed we had picked the roughest path. Just 20-30 miles to the west the winds calmed and bent towards the west. As we were the lead boats in the rally, i sent a group email advising the sailboats not to follow our path, fact is most would have a hard time making any headway in the seas and headwinds. i advised they take the more westward route albeit a non stop passage with not nice comfy anchorages. Most did just that and were glad.

We rejoiced as we neared Saluwasi Island and calm seas and sunshine. The main city is Manado, which has not facilities or anchorage for cruising boats. Last time i found a nice bit of local know how and rafted to an old derilict passenger ferry inhabited by a great bunch of local characters. they seemed to remember me from 3 years ago, i guess not much changes in their world. As with last time, i needed fuel and as with last time it was the Police boat that sold it to me with the help of the good ol boys. Furthur took on 1000 ltrs and Restless, 1400 ltrs. Interesting difference as we both left full and had done the same distance at the same speed.

Donna counting out millions of Rupiahs, for the fuel

Barrels of fuel rolling down the dock

We reveled in civilization,the girls shopped and i found a four story hardware store, all were happy. We hired a cosmic bug like peddle car complete with rocking sound system and cruised the avenue, the next day we heard the oh so welcome and familiar call of Sidewinder on the VHF and learned they were anchored not far away so off we went to find our friends and on to the next adventure!