Day 77, Year 3: Eighteen Hours to Departure

Day 77, Year 3: Eighteen Hours to Departure
Date: Friday, July 25, 2008, 5:00 pm Darwin Time
Weather: FINE
Location: Fannie Bay, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

We have spent our day plugged in here at the Sailing Club doing laundry, making phone calls back home, and uploading photos. Mark has spent the entire day uploading photos. He does have photos posted through Day 35. We posted Days 1 through 20 while in Cairns and were only able to add fifteen more days while here. But we did try. It is just so very slow. Mark is still connected and trying to upload one more photo file, Day 67 Day Trip to Kakadu. I think he might get that one uploaded as well, and that will have to be it for now. I spent part of the afternoon outlining our travels of the next five months for our kids. We are trying to find a way to get them over here for a visit. So since I have the outline, I thought I’d share it with you as well.

–July 26 to July 30-Passage to Kupang, West Timor, Indonesia
–Early Aug to Mid-Sept: Indonesian Islands from West Timor to Bali
(Alor, Lembata, Flores, Rinca, Komodo, Sumbawa, Lombok, Gili Air, Bali)
–Mid-Sept to Early Oct: Bali and Java
–Mid-Oct: Kalamantan (Island of Borneo)
–Oct 3: Singapore
–Nov 14 to Mid-Dec: Sail Malaysia Rally from Johor Baharu to Langkawi
–Mid-Dec: Langkawi, Malaysia to Phuket, Thailand
–Mid to End of Dec to End of Jan, Early Feb: Phuket and Surrounding Area
–First of Feb: Leave Phuket for Red Sea or South Africa

We plan to spend Happy Hour here to connect with folks before the exodus tomorrow morning. And then we will go back to Windbird, put the dinghy on the deck, and get ready for take-off.

080725 Day 77 Last Day in Darwin

Day 76, Year 3: Exhausted in Darwin

Day 76, Year 3: Exhausted in Darwin
Date: Thursday, July 24, 2008
Weather: FINE
Location: Fannie Bay, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

We always laugh when they give the weather reports on the VHF radio in Australia. It seems all they ever say is, “Weather – fine.” And it is, with the exception of the high winds this week. Getting to and from the boat to land has been a real chore. We are about a mile out. Even in calm weather it is quite a hike, but with the choppy seas, we get soaked while feeling like we are riding a bucking bronco. This morning when we went to shore, a catamaran was dragging anchor and caught the anchor
off the bow of a monohull, so then the two boats were dragging together. I could hardly see what was happening because we were getting blasted with waves of water coming over the bow of our dinghy. This made me think of our friends Tim and Teresa Speigel back in Concord, New Hampshire. Once when we took them sailing in very windy, rough conditions, Jim turned to me and said, “And this is what you do for fun?!” Well, it is what we do for fun, but I must admit that this week has been challenging.
Trying to carry heavy provisions out to Windbird in these conditions is really not fun. We are exhausted, but we are done. And now that we are done, the winds are predicted to drop to almost nothing over the weekend which means we will be motoring to Kupang. Too much wind when we don’t need it and not enough when we do. That is the plight of a sailor. At least fuel is cheaper in Indonesia, so it won’t be quite so hard on the budget as it has been in Australia.

Today I took the bus out to a the huge Casuarina Mall to do the last grocery shopping while Mark stayed at the Sailing Club uploading photos to the website. With the very, very slow connection, we have had to reduce our expectations. If we are very lucky, we will get photos uploaded through Lizard Island. And from Lizard Island onward, we are going to have to upload way fewer photos than we have been. Indonesia, like northern Australia, certainly doesn’t have the internet capability for photo
uploading. We’ll have to hope things are better in Malaysia and Thailand, but that is three months away. Skype calls are also going to be limited in the meantime. I guess the best we can hope for is that our Ham radio Winlink email can keep us connected. Even that is challenging in this part of the world. We heard a cruiser from England saying today that there is only one Ham station between here and England. We have been using Fairbanks, Alaska to get our email out of here, but that’s probably
not going to continue once we head west. In addition to the free, ham operated Winlink, there is a subscriber network called Sailmail. We haven’t used that since the Caribbean, but we might have to re-subscribe to Sailmail in order to keep connected. Tomorrow morning Customs will be here at the Sailing Club to check out the 120 Rally boats. We assume we will be sitting here most of the day waiting our turn, but that will give us a chance to talk to other cruisers about communication so we can
make a decision on what we need to do.

Last night we talked to Heather, Jed, and Sam on Skype and we got to see Sam on the video cam and he could see us as well. He would point to the computer and “talk” to us in Sam language. It is probably our hopeful imagination, but he really seems to recognize us. We surely enjoy watching him. When we call at night here, it is his early morning, so we got to watch him eating breakfast and starting his day. We are going to try another call tonight, and that will be the last until Kupang. After
that there will be only one other stop where we will have internet access until we reach Bali in late September. So I am definitely going to have grandmother withdrawal.

We truly haven’t had any time to think about our trip through Indonesia since arriving here. We have a basic outline of a sailing plan, but we need to read and check out many sources before making a final sail plan. There are so many islands in Indonesia, and we have limited time. Our current visa gives us 55 days after arrival in Kupang to reach Bali. We then have to apply for a 30-day extension that will get us to Singapore. We have about a four day sail from here to Kupang, East Timor and
we will be there for about a week before heading west across the Indonesian islands. During that time, we will come up with an ‘official’ sail plan for Windbird’s voyage through Indonesia.

Day 75, Year 3: It’s a Drag

Day 75, Year 3: It’s a Drag
Date: Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Weather: Sunny and Windy
Location: Fannie Bay, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

The name for today’s log is a bad play on words. We started our day with boats around us dragging anchor in the strong winds. That is always a scary thing, especially when there is no one on the boat that is dragging. The boat that has been right beside us since we anchored in Darwin is named Larissa. We haven’t met the people onboard, but this morning early they were no longer beside us. They were dragging back through the anchorage. But at least they were able to get their boat under control
and reanchored. And no sooner than they did that another sailboat came floating between us and Larissa and headed out to sea. Mark got on the radio and asked Larrisa if they could help him recover the boat, but by the time Mark got in the dinghy and reached the boat, Bill and Jean of Pelican Express and Nancy and Steve of Toboggan were there to help. It took quite a bit of effort but finally they were able to get the boat reanchored. So the morning was not a relaxing one. Added to this is the
fact that the anchorage is as rough as an anchorage can be. Fannie Bay is shallow and with the strong winds it is very choppy. But choppy or not, we needed to go to shore to pick up our frozen meat order, so Mark went in and got that while I stayed on Windbird and defrosted the freezer and cleaned the refrigerator. Once we got that job done, we both headed into shore. It was a wet ride, but after all, this is a water sport. We took the bus into town and I shopped while Mark tried to upload photos
at the internet café. Unfortunately it was no faster there than back at the Darwin Sailing Club. So right now we are back here in Fannie Bay at the club with all of the groceries that I bought in town. We are sitting here watching the sun go down while we upload pictures and I write this log.

As we sit here, we are watching two-year old Pierre Louis play pool. Pierre Louis is the child of a French scientist and his French wife from Madagascar. We met them in Bundaberg at the end of the Port to Port Rally and it is so much fun to see how Pierre Louis has grown. He actually walked over to the pool table, found a pool cue, and then proceeded to try and hit the only ball on the table. He then got on his little scooter and rolled over to talk with us. He speaks only French and we speak
only English, but we had a nice conversation nevertheless. When I watch him I think of Sam. It won’t be long before he will be doing the same things as Pierre Louis.

Speaking of Sam, we are going to stay here at the Club until 9 pm tonight and try and call Heather, Jed, and Sam in their early Wednesday morning. One of my real disappointments in this part of the world is the fact that internet connections are just not good enough to handle video Skype calls. We will try tonight, and if that doesn’t work, I’m going to send Heather a bunch of photos of Gramma and Granddad and ask her to show these over and over to Sam so he doesn’t forget us.

Tomorrow is more of the same. More shopping and a little more work on the boat. We have really enjoyed Darwin, but it is once again time to move on. But before I end this log, I must mention one of the most exciting things that we have seen here. Yesterday when we were fighting the choppy seas on our way in to shore from Windbird, a dugong surfaced right in front of us. We have searched and searched to see these creatures, but until yesterday morning they had evaded us. The one that surfaced
in front of us was huge. His head was at least a foot and a half to two feet across. And then he drove and we got to see his back and then his tail. It was quite an exciting early morning show. We have sworn that dugongs don’t exist because we have never seen them when others have, but yesterday morning there was no denial.

Day 74, Year 3: Frustrations

Day 74, Year 3:  Frustrations
Date:  Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Weather:  Sunny and Windy
Location:  Fannie Bay, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

It’s not all paradise out here.  I am writing tonight’s log, but yesterday’s log is still not posted on our website.  Since yesterday’s log was special, in honor of Sam’s ‘half-birthday’, we sent it from the Sailing Club using an internet connection instead of sending it over our Ham radio on the boat.  We thought it would post quickly and we could then put the pictures of Sam on the website with the log.  BUT after two hours of waiting, the log was not posted.  So we came back to Windbird and then went into town this morning to go to the internet café to check again.  Still no log posted.  So we thought we would call Justin and see if he could check on this for us, but we didn’t have his phone number readily available.  I won’t even go into the details of the frustrations, but one frustration led to another, and then it was time to be at the Convention Center for our Rally Info meeting.  We hurriedly walked across town and down to the waterfront.  We arrived on time and actually Mark had time to find a phone in the Center that would take our phone card (the ones in town would not), so he called Justin and he is checking on the website problem.  But after the four hour meeting, we went back to the internet café and found that our log from yesterday is still not posted.  Hopefully we will get this problem ironed out in the next day or so.  Our time in Darwin has been wonderful but the one thing it lacks is easy and reliable internet for transients.  And this is only going to get worse over the next couple of months, so I guess we had better get used to it.

The Rally Info meeting was also a bit of a frustration.  It was an hour shorter than advertised, but we came away with more questions than answers.  Basically we were told that we are going into a part of the world where everybody wears a watch but no one pays attention to time.  The watches are just for decoration.  We were told that there are no clear lines of engagement.  We just have to play it by ear.  We are leaving on Saturday, but the details of the program of events are still being planned.

We just have to trust that by the time we reach Kupang, they will have the dates of the other events throughout Indonesia.  Facilitation payments to officials are sometimes going to be necessary and we just have to use our best judgment in deciding when and how much to pay.  If you are caught with guns or drugs that are not declared you can be arrested and given the death penalty-good deterrent.  And here’s the best one.  When a boat comes up to us with sub-machine guns we are supposed to understand that these are just people patrolling the pearl farms, not people gunning for us.  I’m sure I’ll be completely relaxed.

So this is going to be an interesting adventure through Indonesia.  We were told that the answer to most questions we might have is, “It is impossible BUT it can be ‘arranged.'”  This is going to be very different from cruising in the South Pacific.  We have read the logs of other cruisers who have done this Rally in the past couple of years and they have nothing but praise for it, so we’re hoping it is uphill from today.

Day 73, Year 3: Happy Half-Birthday to Sam

Day 73, Year 3: Happy Half-Birthday to Sam
Date: Monday, July 21, 2008
Weather: More of the Same Beautiful, Sunny Weather
Location: Fannie Bay, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

That GRAND baby of ours is eighteen months old today. So Happy Half-birthday to Sam! When we arrived here in Darwin, there were some updated photos of Sam waiting for us to download from Picasa, so I have posted those with today’s log so you can see how much he has grown. What a beautiful little boy. I saw the Norwegian twins, Hedda and Marita, on my way into the Darwin Sailing Club this afternoon and made the mistake of saying, “Hello beautiful girls.” Obviously nine-year olds don’t want to
be called beautiful and the looks I got were not those of pleased little girls, but here in my log I can call my grandson beautiful, and Hedda and Marita as well. I still miss Sam so very much and would love nothing more than to be with him for his half-birthday, but maybe I can fly home for his second birthday in January. Or better yet, maybe he can fly to Thailand.

We started our day by having breakfast at the Skycity Casino with Donna, Gerry, and Klinton of Scot Free II. Klinton is Donna and Gerry’s son, mid-thirties, and flew in this week to crew with them through Indonesia. Mark did some sewing on Scot Free’s headsail day before yesterday, so they insisted on taking us out to breakfast. It was a nice break and got us halfway to town early in the morning. We took the bus the rest of the way to town after breakfast and did some more food shopping and picked
up the charts we had ordered. Then it was back to Windbird with heavily laden packs to put things away. We also made one other purchase today. David and Judy on Freebird had a Tahatsu 9-horsepower dinghy motor for sale. They really wanted a 15-horse motor as they are avid divers and find hauling the heavy tanks challenging with the smaller motor. We have been having a bit of trouble with our motor and had thought about buying a new one. Dave thought he was going to get $500 for the motor in
trade and that was more than we were willing to pay, but when we got back from town, David and Judy came through the Sailing Club with the new motor and the old one. They got a good deal on the new motor without a trade, and then we were able to buy their old motor at a price we could afford. Now we will have a back-up if our very old faithful conks out. You really can’t be out here with a dependable dinghy. It’s your only transportation to and from shore unless you want to row and with the
winds and currents we have been encountering, that is just not an option.

Tomorrow we spend five hours at a Rally briefing, so that just about takes care of Tuesday. Hopefully by the end of Wednesday, we will be ready to go. Ready or not, it is out of here on Saturday morning at 11 am.

080721 Day 73 Sam's Summer

Day 72, Year 3: It’s A Water Sport

Day 72, Year 3: It’s A Water Sport
Date: Sunday, July 20, 2008
Weather: Beautiful, Sunny Weather
Location: Fannie Bay, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

Tom and Harriet Linskey sailed around the world in a 27-foot boat not too many years ago. As we were preparing for our circumnavigation, we had dinner with the Linskeys and I had a so many questions for them. One of my questions was about the necessity of having a hard-bottomed dinghy with big pontoons so we wouldn’t get wet when going to and from shore. I was sure we needed that, but Tom just laughed and said, “Judy, didn’t anyone tell you that sailing is a water sport.” Well, today, in our hard-bottomed dinghy with big pontoons we got soaked coming back to the boat from shore. This is the second time this has happened in the last few days. The first time I had laundry fresh out of the dryer with me and no plastic bag. Well, so much for that laundry. I had to soak it all in fresh water when I got back to the boat and hang it out to dry. Today I went in to use the water at the Sailing Club to rinse my laundry, but I was smart enough to take a plastic bag to put the wet clothes. I didn’t want to have to rinse them again on the boat. The plastic bag saved the day. So yes, Tom, it is a water sport, but I still don’t like getting soaked when going to and from shore. That’s not my idea of fun.

We stayed on Windbird again all morning working away, but when we went in do the laundry rinse we decided to take a little side trip. We walked down the beach to the Northern Territory Museum and had a delightful quick trip through it. It’s a great little museum featuring some of the best Aboriginal art we have seen. It also has a nice natural history section and a Cyclone Tracy exhibition showing the devastation of Darwin in 1974. I hope to go back again and meander more slowly through the displays before we leave. But at the rate I’m going, I’m not going to have time to do much of anything fun between now and Saturday. “The hurrieder I go the behinder I get.” This sign hung in my mother’s kitchen and it certainly describes how I feel right now. But tomorrow is another day and maybe a miracle will happen and we’ll get everything done. Dream on.

080720 Day 72 Visit to Northern Territory Museum