Off to Indonesia

Off to Indonesia

After days of preparing, partying and waiting the big day arrived and the Sail Indonesia Rally began. With an 11:45 start just at the end of the anchorage we sat on the hook and watched to majority of the 110 boats leave in light following winds. After most of the fleet had started, some gaily decorated; we eased the fully flagged Furthur complete with tie dyed crew shirts, across the start line and circumvented the sailing fleet. Three days of blissful passage making had begun.

Before we left we all sat at the anchorage and held court at the Darwin Sailing Club. We also resumed the famed tradition, the Furthur Party, with some old and some new friends. It was so good to see the dinghies bundled up at the stern of Furthur and the party roaring on the upper deck. This will be the first of many Furthur Parties on this rally I am sure.

All were eager to get going as we did the last ritual of a very well organized Australian customs clearance. I actually got back a big chunk of the GST and was able to buy duty free fuel at a fifty cent a ltr. Savings—that is two bucks a gallon off!!!.

The overriding sentiment amongst the cruisers who had all spent considerable time in Australia is that; Australia is a great country, friendly, optimistic people, spectacular scenery and boating and a true pleasure to visit. All also were exuberant to leave the brutal cost of being in Australia. All agreed that we all felt a knife, albeit held by a jolly chap, had been held to our back as we paid 3-4 times American costs for every item. The burden of this excruciating demise of our cruising budgets left an emotional weight that all were eager to have taken away. So we all left Oz with fond memories, less money and no sadness in our departure.

We passed most of the boats as we hit our 6.5 knot cruising speed and set a way point 430 miles to the northeast. As the first nightfall came it was obvious that the fleet would split and we found ourselves in the middle of a few faster cats and larger, faster boats. Gladly one of these was our good friends on Curious who would stay within radio range the entire trip.

I had volunteered to be communications boat as the Indonesian patrol boat hosting the Sail Indonesia Rally staff had radio problems. We agreed to do a radio check for emergency and distress calls on the SSB at 0800, 1200 and 1600 each day. So diligently, OK I slept through one noon call, we hailed the fleet on the SSB, 4430kh at the appointed hours.

The SSB is a bit of history that does not meld seamlessly into modern technology. Many cruisers have simply replaced it with more modern satellite communications but it is still the preferred long range tool. In my case I have to prepare a bit, the ship’s computer will crash if left on each time I transmit, so off it goes. The stabilizers have a bit of a fit too, so I hit the standby button each time I transmit. All being accommodated for I would transmit a call to any distress or emergency calls and wait three minutes for response, none heard—thank God—we did a bit of chatter and off went the radio. This process was repeated three times a day.

The remainder of the communications was with the old standard VHF radio which heard its share of chatter. The fleet cooperated extremely well and avoided any problems which might be expected with 110 boats all going the same direction to the same place.

The weather was blissful, just enough wind so we did not wind up on Kapung alone and not so much as to spill the plate of homemade brownies that Simone made and set on the table. We did not did not see more the fifteen knots and all from behind us, perfect conditions. The nights were full of stars and a half moon which appeared during my “dog watch” about two in the morning. The sun rises and sets were those dreams are made of.

This was a perfect crew for the trip; Troy has now become familiar with all aspects of the boat and cruising and is a real asset. Simone adapted quickly and her ever present beaming smile gave evidence as to much fun she was having. There is nothing like witnessing someone experiencing the mystic beauty of phosphorescence for the first time. Both worked in the galley seamlessly and the food was fantastic.

This was a rare crossing as we had company, a mixed blessing. Each night we had four to six boats within a few miles. I am more used to crossing where none are seen for days. Fortunately the fleet was well behaved and spread out just enough. We only had to change course once to avoid a converging boat, the rest of the time we stayed on our long range way point and the auto pilot on “nav”.

We are planned to arrive at the landfall at first light and take the two hour trip to the Kapung anchorage just after sunup. The plan held perfectly. This is not difficult for me as we stayed on one course and our speed varied slightly with the changing current. I was impressed how the sailboats were able to make the same thing work, or maybe they just got luck as we entered the anchorage with about fifteen other boats. The remainder of the fleet dribbled in for two more days.

We nestled in the anchorage and awaited customs, which will be totally over whelmed by this group I am sure. As the cooling breeze came over the boats the sound of the very Arabic music calling us to noon prayer bellowed from shore. We were now in a new land for sure.

The first leg of the Sail Indonesia Rally ended with all boats safe and sound and all the participants eager for new adventures and the wonders of Indonesia.