Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sailing To Beautiful Banda

 Rene felt a bit uneasy about the Lobobarese guy with a greedy attitude who had hung around too long at Wotap (we'd heard stories of boats being robbed at night in Indonesia, and had been particularly warned about the 'Muslim theives' from Lobobar village (albeit by Saumlaki Christians!)). We also worked out that it was going to take us longer than everyone else to sail to Banda (because Anima is slower). So, at 9pm we set out into the pitch dark, initially following our snail-trail on the chart-plotter and then following our course into the dark. There were some strange flashing lights about but we managed to avoid them all and then didn't see another vessel for 24 hours. Since arriving here in Banda, we've heard that Wotap has a bad reputation for stealing! One boat last year had more than 2K of gear nicked from their deck while they slept!! The police recovered most of it from a village in Wotap.

Prahu - a local sailing boat.
Now that Penny has learnt more about sailing, we arranged to each take 3 hourly shifts which worked out brilliantly. I'm much more well-rested as is Rene! During my shift in the early hours of the morning, black clouds rolled over and dumped rain on us (seems to be my luck!). Then, during Penny's shift, a big squall kicked up and the starboard sheet on the headsail broke! It started whipping around in the strong wind and rain as Rene stumbled out from his bunk trying to put the bed-sheet on as a sarong! Failing this, he ran out naked and Penny said lucky it was a moonless night! We got the headsail wound back in easily enough and then re-set the course – now under reefed main only. I logged into the radio sked for our rally and just as I was finishing, R2detour made some really funny sounds and stopped working. Now it was my turn to be up in the cockpit, wearing just my knickers and a skimpy singlet (no harness!!), hand-steering until Rene could get up and set up Aries the Fairy.
Wonderful crew Penny with hot pink Aries the Fairy!
Message in a bottle
After these dramas, the next day our sail was free of hassles – the only complaint was the rolly seas. We took turns sitting in the cockpit doing 15-minute watches for our 3 hours each. Penny and I wrote more messages in bottles and I somehow managed to wash my hair over the sink (a galiant effort in the big swells!). I also somehow managed to wax my legs (though not to a very high standard!!) as the boat lurched around. We all managed to get much more sleep than our previous crossings and it helped A LOT.

Trying to remain upright at sea.
The sea was lumpy and bouncy again. I'd been told that the deeper the water, the better the swell behaves. We were in over 6000 metres of water and yet the swell still knocked us about violently. I'm starting to think that the sea is rarely perfect and most yachties just put up with the discomfort of sailing in-between anchoring in amazing places (a small price some say). I'm much more used to sailing and being at sea but I still am in no hurry to make a long ocean passage!

Rene with Banda volcano
Eventually, after two nights at sea, the islands of Banda loomed on the horizon. As we neared them, we felt awe and excitement. This is exactly the type of place that I've dreamed about sailing to since beginning this lifestyle. Seeing a volcano up close is brilliant. I'm grateful for the HF radio yet again – without it, Chad from Just Magic wouldn't have been able to tell me the anchorage! We were planning on somewhere quite different. I climbed the mast again as we came through the leads. The water is crystal clear here. I saw no reefs, just plastic bags floating along in the water. The anchorage here in Banda is different to what we're used to. Thanks again to Chad, who motored out to us, explained the procedure and helped us execute it. Basically you have to motor in close to shore (still in about 20-30 metres of water), drop the anchor and reverse in towards the shore where you tie up with two stern lines. The palm trees here are covered in ropes holding the yachts in place, lined up together along the shore.

Port clearance was so easy here – taking only 5 minutes to hand over some forms. We love it here. The locals are really friendly and relaxed. The only harrassment we have experienced is the young children wanting to recite their rote-learnt English introductions. The streets are lined with drying nutmeg and mace while locals zoom about on their motorbikes and women work at market stalls selling spices, vegetables and sweets. A few times each day the muslim prayers echo out over the village. I quite like them as I can't understand the words so it just sounds like music.
Rally yachts tied up here in Banda.

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