Friday, December 9, 2016

The Trials and Tribulations of the Indian Ocean

A little too close for comfort! And on a collision course!
After our challenging exit from the Gili Gede harbor through the pearl farms and to the Start Line at Desert Point, we logged our starting information and began Leg 10 of the World ARC by ourselves. The passage we have most dreaded was the Indian Ocean. And there we were going it alone!

The fast moving current that flows southerly through the Lombok Channel gave us a good start. At times we were close to 14 knots over ground. That concerned me as it is much greater than our stated hull speed. Dennis was sleeping most of the day with his intestinal infection and medications. and I didn't want to wake him. 

There was a lot of freighter traffic in the Lombok Channel.
The run out through the channel was fun until we reached the point where the outward flow met the open ocean. Then all hell broke loose! Suddenly the swells coming at us were 10-12’ high and we were still going quickly into them. The wind was gusting in the high 20’s and the boat was loving it, but I was not!  The swells were gigantic and hitting us on the beam. It was time for me to get the Captain up on deck!

Lovely sunsets all the way.
We reefed the genoa and settled the course, but it was still an uncomfortable heel to starboard. Then to add to the drama of the day, a huge freighter was also steaming out of the channel and directly across my line of sail. I kept turning to port to ease off his path, but it was still too close for comfort. The cargo ship never altered it course even though it was driving me further off mine and into a closer haul than I cared for. Once he passed us, it was back on course with the hope of a good sail. Sailing – something we haven’t done much of since the winds were so light on the way to Lombok.

We were two days behind the fleet and hoped to catch them just as they would be leaving Christmas Island after a 48-hour rest there. In less than an hour, the wind died! Here we go again: motor sailing. Think about driving across the USA at the speed of 6-8 miles an hour! UGH! There goes the fuel we just put in!

As we were arriving at Christmas Island, many boats
were already on their way to Cocos Keeling.
It is 620 nm to Christmas Island and another 525 nm to Cocos Keeling, both Australian islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Motoring the whole way would drain our fuel and drive us crazy. We hoped we would be able to sail all the way – NOT!

We did use the current to our advantage. I had listened to the fleet on the VHF as they left Lombok and they were all complaining about a strong current against them – even to the point of holding them to under 3 knots of forward momentum. A couple of sailors we met in Australia shared an App with us to show us the currents. This was a godsend as we went well south of the rhumb line to find a fast east to west current and rode it all the way across to Christmas Island! At times we were covering 9-10 knots over ground. Adding 2-3 knots per hour helped us put the miles behind us as we averaged 188 nm per day for the first two days. We usually hope to get 140-150 nm per day.

While at sea, I was emailing via the satellite phone at an ungodly rate per minute trying to order the parts we needed for the generator. The suppliers in Australia failed to follow up with me. We hadn’t been able to back flush the water maker membranes without the generator. It will probably mean replacing them in South Africa. Delta, Alpha, Mike, November and $$$.

The little blue dot shows our position on Google Earth.
The three of us did a good job of conserving water: Dennis and Don were not shaving, we only did dishes once a day, we did drink as much as we needed, we didn’t wash clothes or take showers (you didn’t want to be close to us!), but we did sponge bathe. And washing hair-NOT. I have a tee shirt that says: Boat Hair, Don’t Care! But I really wanted to shampoo it.

The World ARC tried to help us secure parts and get them to Cocos Keeling. We appreciate the effort they have put into it. Unfortunately, the dealers and service centers have not been as helpful. There wasn’t much we could do at sea without Internet access. This may mean no repair until Mauritius which is a month away! That is a long time to be on one tank of water.

Our immediate goal was to catch up to the fleet with or without a stop in Christmas Island.

Friday, December 2, 2016

A Double Hat Trick In Indonesia

Hugh was one of great Yellow Shirts. That's what we call the
WARC staff as they are easy to find in these shirts! Hugh
first met us in New Caledonia with WARC New Zealand.
Or when it rains, it pours! Dennis was feeling better but still weak on Wednesday so we decided to start sailing to catch the fleet. There was a 48 hour stop in Christmas Island that would allow us to gain on them. The downside was that we probably wouldn’t get to stop there so it would be about a 1150 nm sail straight to Cocos Keeling. So we were up at 0600 to prepare the boat for sailing.

And as we were heading out of the anchorage when another challenging situation happened. (One was the mechanical problem with the generator and two was the no-show mechanic and three was Dennis’s running stomach.) That completes the  first Hat Trick – sort of. Now it appears that we are working on a second one!

Pearl Farms are everywhere! And hard to see.
As I was following the route track on which we entered the area, I saw two white things ahead floating in my path. The area is full of pearl farms which they move from time to time. I was concerned that I was heading into one between the two white buoys­­­­­­­­­­­­ (which turned out to be floating cups!) I slowed the boat and asked Dennis and Don to tell me what I was seeing white ahead of me. Don waved me to starboard to miss the object. And then it happened!

The reef doesn't show on the chart just above the dock
that doesn't exist at all! So much for depending on them.
We were at low tide and there was a reef on my starboard. The depth meter read 29 meters and the next minute, Dennis was yelling for reverse. As I threw it into reverse, the bow lifted like a rearing stallion as we were trying to stop before hitting the reef and sent Dennis to the deck. We came down gently, but the bow was on the reef. I couldn’t back off once we came down!
We were right in front of a village which was both good and bad. Bad: it was embarrassing to have gotten stuck on a reef that I knew was there but couldn’t see due to the light and position of the dinghy on the deck – plus with an audience on shore. Good: The good thing is that the villagers walked barefooted out on the coral to help lift us off.

Man was the best all week!
One of our water taxi drivers was Man, who also came on board on Monday to help me set up my phone and buy more Internet time because I couldn’t read the language. He has the greatest smile! Man had taken it upon himself to go ashore and put some minutes on my phone so I could text or call him if we needed anything. He had also shared that his brother lived in the village next to the anchorage, but he lived on the other side of Gili Gede.

Unfortunately, we were at the lowest of tides for the day when I nipped the edge of the reef. Backing up did no good so we were going to sit and wait for the tide to turn to flow. I was concerned that we would be pushed further onto the reef so I texted Man to see if he could come in his boat to pull us off.

We knew the track out from our trip into the bay. But the
floating white objects caused a misjudgment.
Just then a group of guys from the village started walking out and some came in a boat. Man was on foot walking to us, but had called his friends with boats. Dennis became concerned about “salvage claims” so he wanted to talk to the guys first. The tide had only gone up 0.01 meter at this point.

Then the sailing gods looked down upon us! Six or seven guys pushed on the bow as I reversed and we floated off the reef! Thank you lovely villagers! We gave them some money to share, said our goodbyes and were on our way through the pearl farms toward the Start Line. We had our own 0902 start on Wednesday and continued on around Desert Point. And we checked the bilge again.

So why do I call this a Double Hat Trick? The first Hat Trick was the generator issue, the mechanic’s failure to return and Dennis getting sick. The second one was the three dumb things that caused me to kiss the reef:

1) We broke our rule of having someone on the bow watching (because they were busy putting away things),

2) I took direction from someone (other than the Captain) and he wasn’t in a position to see the whole picture and

3) I didn’t follow my own instincts and allowed myself to turn to starboard instead of going to port where the water was deeper. I had no idea that it went from 29 m to .45 m in less than inches! These Hat Tricks were not winning moments, but they did provide lessons learned!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Trouble in Paradise!

Don and Sheila were our crew from Darwin to Lombok.
Sheila completed her circumnavigation there and left us for
some fun in Indonesia before returning to work in Germany.
The World ARC fleet had a scheduled Start to Christmas Island and Cocos Keeling, two Australian islands in the Indian Ocean. I say “had” because we were not part of it! We were abandoned by the fleet as they headed out of the Gili Gede anchorage early Sunday morning!

We had attended the Skippers’ Briefing on Saturday and asked if anyone had a spare oil pressure switch for a Fischer Panda generator with a Kubota engine. Into the Blue said they had a used one for a Kawasaki engine that we could have. Since we had a mechanic coming on Sunday, we stayed behind to wait for him.

The water taxi was the best way to go ashore.
Needless to say, it was lonely in the harbor
the fleet. Odysseus, the boat with the engine failure that was towed 350 miles by Katarina, was still there waiting for the mechanic, too. The mechanic arrived midday and installed the part. Then it happened!

The generator wouldn’t start at all. Before it was just the feed water pump that wouldn’t start due to low oil pressure. Or so we thought! Now we weren’t sure what was the real problem. Dennis asked a local sailor to take a look and Nigel thought it was a solenoid problem. There was a loose wire that had sparked when Dennis touched it.

Sailors helping sailors! Diagnosing the generator issue.
Of course, the mechanic had to go to Odysseus to diagnose their engine problem. He said he would come back in the morning. NOT! Unfortunately, there was a death in his family so he did not come back. He has to drive two hours from Mataram to get to Gili Gede. So we sweltered in 100 degrees and sun – with an occasional squall – for the whole day and most of the next day.

He never did come back! He only went to Odysseus to drop off an invoice and collect money so he could order their parts. He said he would come over to us, but did not.
This is how we refuel when there is no marina.
In the meantime, we had begun trying to source the parts from Australia with the hope that Hugh with Rally Control could bring them from Sydney. Even though the fleet left us behind, the World ARC was very helpful in trying to assist.

We hoped the parts could meet us in Cocos Keeling. The main issue is that we cannot run the water maker (desalinator). We had enough water and juice on board for keeping us hydrated. The issue is the need to protect the membranes of the water maker and we can’t backflush or make water without the generator working properly.

Sometimes friends drop by ... or swim over!
Now let’s add a little more drama to the situation! Dennis was having what our Van Ni friends call “running stomach” and sleeping all of the time that he was not seated in the head. Actually, we all had a touch of it, but I blamed it on the spicy food we had eaten on several occasions. Remember: Lombok means chili pepper.

Don and I were fine after 24 hours, but not the Captain. It started on Sunday and by Tuesday he needed to see a doctor. The trip to a doctor entailed a dinghy ride to the mainland, then a 1.5 hour taxi ride to the hospital and then the return trip. It took him all afternoon and he returned to the boat at sunset.

He described the experience to us: the hospital was very modern and there were several non-natives there with stomach issues. They drew blood and ran tests to find that he had an intestinal infection. The doctor gave him some medications and sent him home.

He said the hospital had modern equipment and facilities, but the staff did not wash their hands between patients and they did not change the linens on the examination tables between patients! Yikes! I wonder what else he picked up there? He returned to the boat to eat a little something since he hadn’t eaten in two days and was weak and lightheaded. Then back to bed.
The World ARC Yellow Shirts and locals took good care of us.

This was our track on YB Tracker. No we did not cut
across the land. The tracker sends a signal every six
hours so it missed us going through the Lombok channel.
We would wait another day for the mechanic (who never showed or called) and for the Captain to regain some strength. Then we would fill the tanks with bottled water we purchased and head off to catch the fleet.

Monday, November 21, 2016

A Day of Arts and Crafts

Having been a fiber artist for years, I was looking forward to visiting some of the villages where native crafts are done. I was disappointed that we did not have time to go over to Bali as I wanted to find some batik fabrics. However, Dennis arranged a private tour for us to go to several villages with a driver and a guide. They knew what we wanted to see and took us everywhere in an all day adventure.

We had visited the pottery village of Banyumulek and its retail store with the WARC on our tour. Some of the people made pottery with the village ladies while the rest of us watched. It was fun watching the children watch us! As for the children, they are sweet and love to have their photos taken. Unfortunately, my blonde hair scares some of them. The adults say they think I am a ghost!

On the way to the pottery village, we rode in horse carts. Obviously, we are much taller than the locals so it was hard to sit up without hitting our heads. While a little uncomfortable, it was a fun experience. Unfortunately, the big pots I liked would not fit on the boat! We like to leave a little money with the locals so we bought a couple of small items.

The World ARC does a nice job of showing us the culture and people of the various countries through the tours and events they plan for us. It makes it easy to just get off the boat and into a bus. No planning, no hassles! I like it!

We continued to walk through the village and meet people. Of course, they were all trying to sell us little handmade souvenirs, but I have tried not to come home with a bunch of stuff! At the far end of the village, the bus was waiting to take us to the Pottery Cooperative store where they sell everything under the sun made of their red clay.

Cute kids in the weaving village.
On our own, we spent a day with a driver and our guide Alik. We went first to Mataram to find the capacitor for the feed water pump. Success!

The next stop was the ikat weaving village. This is what I wanted to see. We were told that in this village if a village woman does not know how to weave, she cannot marry! So the girls learn to weave from the age of ten.

Winding a warp
I was disappointed that I did not see them using the warp dyed technic, but the pieces I bought are of that type. Since the retail shop is a cooperative, there is a great variety of colors, patterns, sizes and style from which to choose. The are done by different artists so each piece is a little unique.

First we walked through the village and visited the homes where the weavers were working on back strap looms. One pair of ladies were winding a warp for a new project. They use very fine yarns. I never had the patience for that. Better to buy than fight the process. Besides, I donated by whole weaving studio to Wayne State University's Fiber Department when we sold our house.

I can't imagine sitting on the ground in this position everyday. I can't even sit like that, at all!
It amazed me that so much of this fiber art is still woven on back strap looms. Of course, there is a lot of machine woven fabrics that look like they were handwoven on the market. They are the less expensive ones. I doubt that these women are paid much for their finished pieces. They send them to the cooperative store to be sold. No one attempted to sell directly to us. Of course, we were with a guide during the village tour.

Apparently, the men do the warp dyed ikat
weaving, but none were working when
we were touring the village.

From there we went to a traditional village where 27 families continue to live as they have for centuries. Although they have electricity and mobile phones now, their housing and lifestyle is the traditional type. It is somewhat like the Amish communities in the USA.

These are hollowed out pumpkins (or as we would call them,
gourds) that were used to carry rice or water.
Our guide's sister married into this village and lives there. They still store their rice in a rice house like the one pictured here. It is on stilts to keep it dry and allow air to flow underneath. It also keeps animals out of it.

All natural materials are used to build the houses.
They somehow enter through the little door at the top to fill it and retrieve rice. I don't know how they get to the rice at the bottom unless there is another door underneath. It wasn't that far off the ground.

The houses are built up on clay slabs to keep the water out. The walls and roofs are all natural materials and have to be replaced from time to time.

An old way to catch rain water with a
modern touch!

The family barn

I found it interesting that they do not put their cattle out to graze in the fields. Instead, they cut the food and bring it to the cattle.

The community center

A typical cook stove
And, of course, a gift shop on the way out of the village!

Our guide, Alik, didn’t know what batik was. He thought it was ikat. Since a friend of ours had been at the batik gallery the previous day, I knew we were near it. Finally, he found a source that directed us to the right place. It was fascinating to watch the young girls working with the hot wax to create patterns. We bought an interesting art piece. Now I need a wall on which to hang it!

In batik, you apply hot wax to block out areas from the dye. After the first dip into the dye, the fabric is dried. Then you block out additional design areas and tip it into the next dye bath. This process is continued as many times as necessary to get the patterns. If you see white on a piece of batik, the wax was kept in place until all dying was completed. It is a long process that requires patience!

On the way back to the boat, we stopped at several of their beautiful beaches and we saw a wedding procession along the road in one little village. The bride and groom each walk under an umbrella, but at opposite ends of the procession. Interesting!

Crab tracks in the sand

The bride doesn't look too happy!
All in all, it was a very busy day filled with many adventures. We were exhausted and definitely thought the tour company had done a fabulous job of showing us the island and what we wanted to see. Plus we got to buy the part we needed!