Friday, September 2, 2011

Sailing to Wakatobi

We all felt a little queasy after the calm waters of Banda. A couple of doses of Stugeron set us straight though. This crossing we decided to implement a 4-hourly watch system. I had 6-10, Penny had 10-2 and Rene had 2-6. I thought it worked really well as I had the best shift (mostly due to the fact I still had a head-cold). After two days at sea, however, Penny came down with the Banda Bug and we swapped shifts. This wasn't good for me (ruined my sleep rhythm) but worked well for her (trying to get better). The whole trip took 3 days and 3 nights. We covered just under 400 nautical miles and averaged about 4.5 knots. Initially we set out with our lovely friends on Annwn (from Bundaberg in QLD) but – as usual – they soon overtook us and disappeared over the horizon. We maintained radio contact with them for as long as we could. The radio net we usually log into was eerily silent (we discovered later that it had moved back by one hour to follow local time in Sulawesi). 
Our friends on Annwn sailing past us!
Three days and nights followed of sailing Anima. There weren't many other ships about but we did see whales, dolphins, flying fish and birds. On the first night an Indonesian fishing boat changed course and steamed right up to us passing by a whisker in front of our bows. I had to adjust our course and was a bit worried about how close they came but it was fine. Our chart-plotter had a warning that this area was frequented by pirates and so my imagination ran wild (of course). On the last night there were frequent short words over the VHF radio on channel 16. Just one or two words said quickly and then silence. A local sailing boat with blue sails passed us quietly... were they now following us? Paranoia got the better of us and we turned off our stern light and only sailed with the tricolours showing. I spent my night watch in what we call a “Billi watch” named after our cat (who now lives it up on land in Brisbane). This kind of watch is characterised by lots of wide-eyed staring out to sea. Thankfully I didn't see anything but still had planned my escape which involved grabbing the epirb, inflatable pfd, water ration and flippers and jumping overboard!! Luckily I didn't have to implement this plan. On the last day we passed strange small rafts; the first of which was flying a small, tattered black flag! Pirates we thought? But no, there was no one in sight. Just birds and a raft. A few miles further and we passed another! This one had palm fronds spread out over it. We wondered what they could be? I thought they might have been ceremonial rafts that were set out to sea. I asked Gino (from Wangi Wangi) about the rafts and he explained that they were fishing traps – the fish are attracted to the bamboo. If this is true, the Indonesians are amazingly resourceful because the rafts were in over 3000 metres of water! Imagine the anchor chain/rope they require!! 
Pirate raft... fish attraction platform...?
We zig-zagged a bit and changed our mind about the exact destination based on the wind. This trip was our best sailing yet in Indonesia as it was still relatively fast but the swell was much reduced. There was even a decent rain shower so Rene and I were able to wash our salty locks using the run-off from the mainsail. Water is a precious commodity out here! We had assumed that it would be free but have instead had to pay for it at each location. So a luxurious activity such as hair-washing is put off until the last possible moment. The water from the mainsail was still pretty salty but washing hair under a running trickle of water was revitalising!  
Washing hair at sea.
As we neared Wangi Wangi island, we started to hear radio traffic with yachts we recognised and with something called the W.I.C. (Wakatobi Information Centre). Gino from this organisation called us to explain the entrance procedure to the lagoon. We motor-sailed up to the lagoon and he boarded our boat (from his dinghy) to lead us in through the shallow entrance. 
Gino leads us into Wangi Wangi harbour.
After anchoring Gino gave us an information pack about Wakatobi and explained that this island environmentally aware – we were not to discard rubbish over the side (not that any yachties do anyway!). After our sea crossing we were keen for a drink and a catch-up with friends. It was Carol's birthday from Freycinet (also my Mum's too!) and we had a fun night at a bright pink hotel complete with rats and 80's style video hits karaoke.

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