Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Kupang and the call to prayer

This will be sent via HF radio since we have not yet established internet contact here in Kupang. Sorry, no photos for now. Just not enough band width.

We had a good passage from Darwin. We've crossed the pacific. We're in the Indian Ocean now.

There was a fun start line affair with a nice sail out into the Timor sea. It got a little rolly. It got light and we did some motoring. Boats speed under three knots is about my limit of my patience if we have the fuel. Then it picked back up and we had a great spinnaker run for about fourteen hours. Of course we got to wrestle the thing down in too much wind at 2AM. We ran the rest of the way into Kupang under genoa alone.  We averaged 160 nautical miles per day which isn't bad cruising. Winds and seas were astern. 494 NM total. 74 hours. It was sunny and hot but the full moon was incredible. The atmospheric conditions made for the most beautiful moonlit nights I've ever seen. Quite unforgettable.

Kupang is where William Bligh and his men came ashore after the longest open boat voyage in history. One result of the Bounty mutiny off Tonga. For us, arrival in Kupang was without difficulty. The cruising community uses the word "drama" to signify things not going smoothly. We don't like "drama". Boredom is very welcome sailing out here. So I didn't say arrival in Kupang was without "drama".  It was dramatic in a standard usage of the word. Kupang, something tells me Toto,  is not Des Moines. Coming in after a few days at sea and several months in the western world Kupang is noisy, bustling, scruffy, dirty, chaotic, hot and humid and wet, windy and dusty all at once. Sunrise, "...where the dawn comes up like thunder." Sunsets are even better. The people seem a mix of Malay, Indo-polynesian, Melanesian, and Chinese with a lot of other stuff thrown in. Friendliness and sweetness are the social constant. The community seems to be predominately Muslim. The check in procedure was bureaucratic chaos streamlined a great deal by the organization of this rally. Everyone was very nice but we have more paperwork, far more paper, than I've ever before encountered on entering a country.

So we did our check in duties and had a Bintang (the local brew) at Teddy's bar (the designated cruiser hangout) and bought a sim card for the cell phone. Wandered a little of the town and then felt the crash coming. Post passage exhaustion had set in. Time to dinghy back to the boat and have a couple tacos for dinner. Watch a "West Wing" (we have the entire series on CD) with a stiff Captain Morgan and Diet Coke and sleep the sleep of virtue.

And at 0400 in the complete calm of the anchorage the full moon is beaming through the open v-berth hatch. It's cool and I've slept well. Janet is snoozing away sweetly. And the mosques in town issue the call to prayer. It's an other worldly and wistfully beautiful sound. A priestly hymn to the morning faithful. Makes me feel at one with the world. And then something I've never heard before. A short simple trumpet solo from some source, mosque perhaps? Much more a 'taps' than a 'revelry' and then two bells very clearly and then silence. A nice way to wake a city.

So now it's about 0630 and the city is up. The constant horn honking of the traffic has started. We'll go ashore and start further exploration. About half the fifty or so boats coming to Kupang have arrived. The rest will come in over the next few days. We have plenty of friends in the fleet. This will be fun.
Love to all,
Bill & Janet
SV Airstream
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Thursday, July 22, 2010

24 Hours

Roughly 24 hours, that is, and we'll be outta here! Sayonara OZ. It's not that we haven't had a good time in Australia, we have.  As I've said many times the people have been great. The land and the coast have often been very beautiful. But it's time to leave. I'd think it's just me but Janet and most of our cruising friends feel the same. Anyway, tomorrow at 1100 local is the 'official' start of the Sail Indonesia Rally and we'll be off shortly behind the small contingent which is actually participating in the Sail Banda Race. Having done plenty of races we have no intention of getting tangled up in the start line chaos for no reason. Should be about 105 boats departing and that will be fun enough. It's about 450 nautical miles heading 285 degrees true to the entrance to the strait leading to Kupang on the island of Timor, our first destination. The weather looks good, maybe a little light, but we should have about a three day passage. There's almost a full moon and the winds, current and swell should be well aft the beam. Should be a nice passage, we hope.

We've explored Darwin and the local area. We went out to the Adelaide River and watched the
jumping crocodiles. That may be a very touristy thing to do but it was not something we're likely to see
anywhere else. We went to the Territorial Wildlife Park which was nice. We watched birds at fog
damn. Janet has made friends with a flock of ducks at the marina. They know a handout when they see it. We had dinner with Aussie relation of friends in Eureka. We've had a very active cruiser social life amongst the boats.

Darwin has been good but very expensive, even by Australian standards, which is about twice as expensive on the whole, as the states. So we're looking forward to another culture. Everybody here says Indonesia is chaotic and wonderful all at once. We can handle the chaos, especially when it's expected. And so far I've never met an 'exotic' culture I didn't enjoy. We'll try to make some friends. We'll try to keep the boat right side up with the water on the outside. Those things are what's important.

Internet access will be pretty spotty. I'll try to make some blog posts by HF radio email but there won't be any photos until we get some band width. We should be in Singapore by around the first of October.

Love to all,
Bill & Janet
SV Airstream

Friday, July 9, 2010

In Darwin, Catching Up

Ahhh.....the joys of civilization! Unlimited hot water showers! Ice cream! Restaurant fare. Now that we're at Cullen Bay Marina we step off the boat to whatever service we require. We don't do the damp dinghy dance to a sandy, tidal shore dodging bomies and crocs and returning in the wind, through the chop, at night. No more wet behinds, for awhile. Life is good!

Darwin is very nice. It's almost worth the journey. We left Siesia with the usual 20-30 reinforced trade winds blowing from the ESE with hopes for a relatively smooth ride for 300 miles across the Gulf of Carpentaria in the lee of the huge Cape York Peninsula. Faint hope soon dashed. Of course there was enough wind to kick up a decent swell as soon as we cleared shore and since the gulf is shallow and since the tides are very much in evidence we ended up with a very steep, short duration and confused sea. Nothing dangerous or scary but about 8-10 foot seas at about six seconds and very chaotic depending on the tide. Made for a very uncomfortable ride. After a couple days this gets old. It was best described by another boat on the passage as crappy crap. Again we just flew the genoa and reefed it down when it  blew hard, over 35 occasionally, and put in 175 mile days with little effort other than discomfort.
Once across the gulf and past the Wessel Islands it began to flatten out a little and by the the time we were north of the Cobourg Peninsula it was actually quite nice but the winds were light. We went into Alcaro Bay just before Cape Don to wait a few hours for a favorable tide and then spent the night motoring across the Van Diemen Gulf, through the Vernon Islands and the Clarence Strait and into Fannie Bay at Darwin by mid morning. Nothing like radar and dual GPS chart plotters for night navigation in restricted waters. What wonderful stuff. So it was a five day, 720 mile passage to finish off the more than 2000 nautical miles we've covered since leaving Bundaberg. We deserve a break.
We spent a night at Fannie Bay due to the vagaries of the Australian bureaucracy and then entered Cullen Bay through their lock system. Tides at Darwin can exceed 7 meters so the marinas all have locks to maintain a little control over depth. Cullen Bay Marina is modern and convenient in all respects. Darwin is pretty and nice with a small town atmosphere. In a strange way it reminds me a little of Anchorage. It's about the same size and since it's so isolated it's the center of everything for a couple thousand miles. It's very maritime oriented and the frontier is very real. This time of year, winter of course, it's warm and a little humid but very livable. Not like Anchorage. I'm not so sure I could handle it here in the summer. It gets ungodly hot and humid we're told.

So we've been socializing with friends who have been arriving. Many are heading up into SE Asia with us as part of the Indonesian Cruising Rally. There's a big Asian population in Darwin and we've been enjoying some good food. All of Australia is expensive and Darwin is very expensive because of it's isolation.  Just can't be escaped. We're doing a few boat projects and planning some land travel for next week and getting ready to get ready to start thinking about departing for Indonesia. Right now we want to decompress and relax rather gently....ahhhh...that feels good.

The one frustration has been with our internet provider, Suddenlink. Cequel Communications, which does business as Suddenlink, has decided that certain areas of the world just harbor too many phishers and spamers and they won't allow  IP addresses  from these places to access their servers to send or receive emails. No notification, etc. if you're traveling those places, which include a hell of a lot of Asia, you just happen to be SOL. So when I found we had 390 emails on their servers I could not access and since I couldn't send emails using my own ISP, lets just say I was frustrated, very. Thank you Skype for nearly free world wide calls. Thank you internet for giving us ways to hunt down just about any senior executive at any public company. Thank you, personal assistant to the CEO of Cequel, for helping work around this situation. No thanks to the persons who have instituted this ridiculous policy. It seems the world wide web stops at the western shores of North America as far as Cequel is concerned. Anyway, if you'd like to contact us our 'suddenlink' emails will be forwarded to our new Apple ISP address at: wwickman@me.com
that's MAC's MobileMe server. We'd love to hear from you.

So the plan is to be here, or on land travel, until the 24th of July. Then we head for Kupang in Indonesia and work our way through the southern reaches of Indonesia to Komodo, Lompoc, Bali and up through old Java and probably be in Singapore in the first part of October. Then into Malaysia and Thailand by November. Then we'll see. Janet will certainly come home and I may hang around for awhile to supervise boat jobs.

In the meantime..Love to all!
Bill & Janet
SV Airstream