Catching up on photos…
Catching up on photos…
It’s been days since we’ve had an Internet connection good enough for a blog post. So below I do some catching up. Still can’t handle photos though.
We left Lagundri at dawn, 55 miles to our next planned stop at Sipika in the Telos island group. After motoring for two or three hours, a breeze came up, and then grew to 20 knots — almost unheard of hereabouts, except in squalls. We had a nice sail, but the wind wouldn’t let us point to our destination. So we decided to “go with it” and head for the east side of Pulau Tanahmasa instead of the west. As the sun was getting low we entered a very inviting bay that has no name on our chart. Also the chart suggests that it is too deep for anchoring, but we found a good spot just inside the northern point of land, off a little village. We are anchored just a quarter mile north of the equator. Across the bay is another village, in the Southern Hemisphere. We decided to name this anchorage Equator Bay.
Three dugout canoes with kids came out and hung around the boat, plus an older fisherman. They spoke no English beyond, “Hello Mister.” I wish we spoke the same language, because I think this is a magical place, and I’d like to hear more about it. But we were busy with our latest gear failure (salt water pump used in the galley and also needed to make fresh water), and preparing dinner. The kids lost interest after a while; the fisherman hung out and asked us for a mask and snorkel. We don’t have extras, so we had to say no. I offered him a Coke as a consolation prize, which he accepted, but then asked again for a mask & snorkel. Oh well.
Full moon. Beautiful night. No internet here despite a great cell signal. Some rock music coming from the village, makes an interesting counterpoint with the fishermen paddling home in dugout canoes…
Next day we motored to Telos Town to get internet. We drifted off the town for a couple hours as we tried to figure out what to do about our batteries (and email our plan to the dealer in Australia who is trying to help us), and about our malfunctioning salt water pump (and email Bob begging him to bring a replacement with him when he comes to join Maggie in Padang). We would get engrossed in the tasks, and twice came close to drifting on to reefs!
Finally we just found a spot to anchor, and it turns out to be a very nice spot. We’re about six miles south of the equator here, so a celebration was in order. But we spent the entire day until dark working on the pump. Our celebration consisted of pulling pizzas from the freezer for dinner, and splitting an extra ration of beer.
Yes, we get internet here, but it is so slow it is barely possible to send an email. So I can’t post this blog yet.
Even though we anchored far from shore, we’ve had several visitors paddling canoes, looking to get something from us. The first guy was somewhat comical, talking at me non-stop even though I couldn’t understand a word. He wanted a diving mask. When that didn’t work he asked for diesel (to take back to the village, I guess, since he was paddling a dugout canoe). Okay, I siphoned a gallon into a jug for him, but it didn’t stop there. He asked for food, and I gave him a little. He asked for a mask again. He asked for cigarettes. I finally just said enough, and ignored him.
Then came the boys with shells and bracelets for sale. Then the fisherman with squid for sale. Then two guys asking for clothes, and simply hanging behind the boat for a very long time until Tim gave them old T-shirts. They didn’t express thanks, and they didn’t go away until some time later. I feel for these guys, seeing the rich white folk coming to their area with expensive yachts. But they don’t make it pleasant for us. In many places they come with a smile and it seems more manageable and more fun. Here they don’t seem happy, they want too much, their prices are very high, and they aren’t smiling when they leave. I don’t know, maybe we just had bad attitudes after struggling with the pump all day, but I don’t think that’s it.
We moved on a few more miles to Sipika. Popular anchorage — Convivia was already here, Peregrine arrived an hour ahead of us, and On Verra arrived an hour after. Next day Maggie arrived, too. This is a beautiful anchorage off of a nice beach, where a surfing resort is under construction. We spent another day messing with our salt water pump, discovering that if we mount it upside down it seems to work! Both Peregrine and Maggie had spare pumps that they offered us, but ours only has to last three weeks until Bob arrives (to join Maggie) bringing us the replacement. And for now things appear to work. We’ve been catching rain in the squalls, though, since we’ve been uncertain about using our watermaker. Kind of fun…a little “primal” to be catching/drinking rainwater. Of course many cruisers rely on it solely, but not us.
We had seen some white guys landing a boat ashore here, so when we went ashore we looked for them. We met an Australian named Sooly and his wife Melissa from Padang. And his mates Chris and Ben and Dugal, plus Ben’s local girlfriend Rini. Had a beer with them and talked about the tsunami tower Sooly is building, so when the tsunami comes his family can ride it out on the tower. He has done a lot of research about how tsunamis will behave here given the shape of the ocean floor, and how to build a tower that will withstand the forces. Plus he has an app on his phone that will alert him when there is a tsunami warning. He has two adorable boys, soon to turn four, who are twins — one white-skinned like him and one dark-skinned like his wife. They make a beautiful family. We got invited to dinner. I was about to decline…we don’t want to overstay our welcome, when Ben, standing behind Sooly, nodded an indication that we should accept. Okay, back around sundown.
The guys were hanging out in Ben’s place next door, drinking beers and talking about Australian rules football, which they tried to explain to us. We brought a bottle of the moonshine we procured in Nias, plus some fruit juice. Of course with Tim there, plus booze, we talked about everything. How Muslims in “Indo” are different from Middle East Muslims, Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics, how to get what you need in Padang, what drugs are available locally, etc.
Then across to Sooly’s place where the steaks (from Australia) and “bugs” (like small lobsters) were on the barbecue, along with fresh corn. And a bottle of Bombay Saphire gin appeared, and chilled glasses and ice and lime and tonic. Wow! The ice was the best! The Australians lived up to their reputation as serious drinkers, and the one Kiwi kept pace, and we tried to stay close. The food was unbelievably good. And we all became best friends forever — at least for tonight. These guys did not hold back their opinions about all things Australian, Indonesian and American. We learned a lot, we had one of the best meals of the trip, and we came away with some phone numbers of potentially useful contacts in Padang. A memorable night!
Next stop on our way south is called Pasti’s in our cruising guide, though that’s just a name the surfers use, rather than the name of the local town. Nice anchorage, in that it is relatively shallow and sand rather than coral. A little rolly, but we don’t much care. It is one of the underrated advantages of a catamaran that it doesn’t roll like a monohull in places like this.
There’s a beautiful surfer’s resort ashore. I had ideas about renting a board for the day, plus arranging for dinner at the resort. It was a rainy morning, and we spent some more time messing with our salt water pump, which now seems to be working fairly well. In the afternoon I inflated our kayak and paddled along the shore looking for a way to avoid the reef. One of the guys working at the resort paddled out on his board. He said if I waited at the floating hut off the resort, he’d call for a canoe to come get me.
So I rode in via dugout, and met Paulo, one of the owners of Surfing Village. No matter that I didn’t have any money with me, have a beer! But he told me this is not a safe place to learn to surf. The guests were almost all large Australian men (one named Beast!), and there were stories of broken boards and broken bones and major wipeouts. Okay, I won’t try to rent a board today. But dinner would be no problem. I asked Paulo if it was a fixed price meal or a menu, and he said, “Don’t worry about it. Just come on in. Would you like another beer?”
I swam back out to the floating hut to retrieve the kayak, and as I got back to our boat i was a little surprised to see my canoe paddler approaching. I had told him I had no money with me to pay him, and then Paulo had said he works for the resort so no need to pay him. But he had come to collect. I paid (about a dollar), and we asked if he could return at six to take us both ashore. Okay…except by 6:15 there was no sign of him. We called the resort on the VHF, and they sent a powerboat to take us, and half a dozen surfers, to the edge of the reef, and the canoe appeared to ferry us in two at a time. This was a little exciting…surfing in over/through the coral…waves sloshing over the gunnels… But we made it, still (barely) floating.
We met Mario, another owner, and a bunch of little kids for whom we had brought a soccer ball. (Only offering we could think of, since we’d been told not to bring money.) We enjoyed a delicious dinner, and beer, and magic tricks performed by Paulo, and jokes that were challenging to follow with the Aussie and Brazilian accents, and a (very impressive) photo show of the surfers in action, and we had a delightful time. Ferried romantically back to the boat by dugout (which we happily paid for), ending a happy visit to Pasti’s and Surfing Village.
Except…Tim seems to have gotten food poisoning at our delicious dinner. Ick!
And I hear that Bernie won only one of five state primaries this week. The more I learn about the world, and American history (I finished reading The People’s History of the US), and the more I meet people of different cultures and learn from their perceptions of the US, the more I support Bernie, and big changes from the current American corporatism.
But back to sailing. We covered the 45 miles from Pasti’s, which culturally is still part of Nias, to Tabekat Bay on the island of Siberut. Here the culture and the local language change to Mentawai. But we haven’t met anyone yet. We anchored out in the open in this beautiful and protected bay, and I was delighted that, for a change, no one came to the boat trying to sell us anything. And upon hearing a motorbike in the distance I realized we haven’t heard that sound, nor the call to prayer of a mosque, for days.
We have just 70 miles to Tua Pajet, the place we have chosen for our rendezvous with our new crew member, TC. We didn’t want to meet at Padang, in part so TC can see some of the Indo islands, but more so that we can all sail together for a day (and probably a night) in advance of our prepping and departure from Padang. We have 4 days until our rendezvous, so we might stay here a day and explore, if Tim recovers quickly.
Heading down the west coast of Nias from Lahewa, our first stop was Afulu. The entrance was exciting — appearing to have breaking waves all across it. Our cruising guide, limited though it is, gave waypoints for a passage in. Nerve wracking, but no problem. Once inside, there is a huge peaceful bay, where another yacht was anchored. We had a chat with Tim, on Revel, but for the most part we just enjoyed the peace and quiet.
We started early the next morning, heading out through the gap in the surf just as a squall was coming overhead. The squall provided welcome shade, and for a couple hours provided a decent sailing breeze. But as the breeze died out midday, we decided to stop at the Hinako island group. We spent an hour motoring around looking for a decent anchorage, and never really found one. Maybe that’s why these islands aren’t mentioned in our guide or in the notes from any other cruisers!
Very remote place! And made rather eerie by surf breaking in what appears to be open water, no land in the vicinity. The chart shows shallows at some of those places, but others it shows being deep, which is disconcerting.
In the morning we tuned in to an informal cruisers “net” on the radio, and learned that another boat, Convivia, was also bound for Lagundri (south end of Nias), and they were out of fuel. We offered to meet them outside the anchorage and pass them a jerry jug of diesel. As it turned out, they filtered a gallon or so from the dregs in their own jugs, and then sailed in without assistance. But they invited us over for margaritas!
They are a young couple with two kids, maybe 11 and 8. The kids could not be more different from the kids on Tahawus — they are outgoing and want to interact with the adult visitors, and serve us food and drinks, and tell us their ideas about cool inventions. Tomorrow we all go into town together with Todi.
Todi paddled out to us on his surfboard. He speaks pretty good English (though he has the Indonesian habit of saying Yes whenever he doesn’t understand what we say). We had a long talk with him, including arranging tomorrow’s tour and ride into town, for us and for the four Convivians. Then in the evening he took us to his family’s losman (guesthouse) for dinner. We didn’t realize we would be the only ones there. Nor that ordering chicken with our curry noodles meant that they would have to buy/kill/prepare a chicken, and it would take over an hour! No worries, we got to meet Todi’s mother, father, and wife, plus they had Bintang beer that we haven’t had for months. Cold and delicious.
We also didn’t realize when we followed Todi’s lead to shore that we would be tying the dinghy just off the jagged coral, stepping off to the coral, and walking over 50+ yards of coral and mud to get to solid ground. Tim had a case of the shore-sways, perhaps augmented by the margarita, and he went half way into the drink. I blew out my flip-flop, as the appropriate song goes. After the fine meal and large-size Bintangs, we got to find our way back through the mud and over the coral in the dark. We found the dinghy okay, except that the line tying it to the shore had untied itself, and it was hanging by its stern line 50 feet out in deep water. Whatever, a little swim after a big meal…quite nice. A good time we had, and wondering what adventures are in store tomorrow…
In the morning Todi had a truck and driver lined up. We picked up the Convivians and rode through small surf to the beach. Locals helped us pull the dinghy above the high tide line. Off we went to town — first stop a gas station to buy about 80 gallons of diesel (10 for us, 70 for Convivia). This was a little dicey, because it is not legal for us to buy diesel — the government subsidizes the price, and thus it is only for Indonesians. Foreigners have to buy at designated places at higher prices, but of course there is no such place nearby, and of course locals want to pass along the low price to us with a small markup.
We tried to get a firm price before filling the jugs, and our guide said we could have the pump price (since he was already getting lots of money from us for the truck and driver). But then the gas station wanted extra. Tucker from Convivia held the line, giving them a very small bonus, but basically saying no to their requests. Meanwhile our driver was watching police vehicles fueling, and he looked very worried. We did the deal, no problems.
Then to lunch; then to the supermarket for a few things; then to “The Village.” We had no idea what to expect there, but Todi said we could see the traditional stone jumping. This is where a boy coming of age has to jump over a two meter high stone wall, some say with sharp sticks on the top, some say with no knowledge of what’s on the other side (maybe that’s metaphorical), and we also heard it said that a man couldn’t marry until he successfully jumps (but others laughed at that).
The Village turns out to be atop a mountain. Or at least a very long steep hill, and far from the water. From the road you walk up 50 or so stone steps, to a remarkable place. It is expansive and very flat, as though the top of the hill was sheared off or ground down. There is a wide straight paved-with-stones “Main Street” stretching out ahead, with houses and shops strung all together along it. Half way down there is the King’s house on the left, and another long wide flat street across from the King’s place. I am amazed by the stone paving, and how wide the streets are and how flat. This was clearly a special place, a place of power! And so far from the sea!
By now we are being attacked by men selling traditional (maybe) carvings and necklaces and other souvenirs. They are unrelenting, following us everywhere, asking us to look again at their wares — it is for their children to be able to go to school. I buy a carving and a necklace. In retrospect I might have bought several necklaces, but I feel like once I’ve made a purchase I have to say no, no, no, in order to fend off the others and be able to breathe.
Having heard so much about the jumping, it seemed obligatory to pay to see a young man jump. It seemed better in the stories than in practice, but I imagine in the days of old (Todi’s grandfather jumped, so only two generations back) it must have been a major event with everyone watching and feasts and parties.
We walked through the King’s house, which also served as a community house, hosting feasts. It is built up on colossal tree trunks; it is huge; it is massive; and like the streets it has a very solid, very flat (but in this case wooden) floor. The whole Village seems like a museum, but the houses (except the King’s) are lived in. And not much interpretation/history is provided. It was one of the most impressive sights I have seen on this voyage, and I didn’t even know it existed. Glad Todi set this tour in motion.
Then back to the beach. Except…we were supposed to stop at a vegetable market and a store for buying more mobile data. Things got messy at this point. We were already over the 4 hours we had hired the truck for. We needed to get all the fuel out to the boats, and then return some borrowed Jerry jugs. And we still wanted to complete our errands. Tucker and I did fuel; Tim and Victoria had a shopping adventure that included other errands that the driver had to do, plus a flat tire! It was exhausting and more expensive than planned, but it got done. And I got to hang with Tucker for a while and talk about Maine (he’s from Damariscotta), and what made us good at our jobs, and my men’s team, and community, and cohousing, and his dream of having a farm where people doing cool things can come to live cheaply in community, and share their work and have interesting synergies happen. Memorable day!
Next day we were thinking of renting surfboards for a first-ever try at surfing. But first there was the leaky hatch to repair. And more research into a possible battery replacement configuration. And I wanted to replace the fuel filters on the starboard side, because that engine seemed to labor at times. That turned into a long hot messy process, as did trying to bleed the fuel system after, and get the engine to start.
Then Todi came by for a visit, paddling his surfboard with one hand because he had my sandals in the other. He had seen my “blow outs,” and had offered to get them fixed for less than $2. He delivered them back repaired. Not tested yet, but he asserts they are “very strong.” And then I wanted to clean some of the “beard” off our waterline, and say goodbye to our new friends on Convivia. Oh, and go aloft to check that lines aren’t chaffing at the masthead.
So…we didn’t get surfing. That’s a little sad, since we are at a primo surf site — people travel from all over the world to surf here. But on the other hand, we’re not going to get our first lesson out on the big reef break, but on the tiny beach break, which is not what surfers come here for! In any case there may be more opportunities just ahead…