Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Quick Update:Thoughts on the Cocos Islands and Amara's Current Position

Thoughts on Cocos Islands, by Martin:

"We spent 4 days in the Cocos Islands. An atoll west of Bali by about 1200 miles.  The islands reminded me alot of the beautiful palm covered islands of the South Pacific.  We anchored in a small lagoon off of Direction Island with a beautiful sandy beach and the trade winds providing a nice cool breeze.  Black tipped reef sharks circled the boat endlessly waiting for a handout. Snorkeling in the marine reserve proved to be spectacular as we saw the largest unicorn fish of the whole sailing voyage, manta rays, and several large sharks and a barracuda .  We hosted a party onboard AMARA with the seven other yachts in the lagoon. As a result we made some good friends to keep an eye on each other as we do our crossing of the Indian Ocean.  We were also able to catch up on the internet and reprovision in the local store, but had to pay dearly for it.  A head of lettuce was $9, bread was $8, and tomatoes were $2 apiece.   We made some friends that took us diving to a wreck with some great fish life and then crayfish hunting (clawless lobster).  

On our last day, we traveled over to West Island and got the full tour by our friends.  They were proud of having the only international airport that wasn't fenced in and was indeed the center of a golf course.  I didn't want to tell them that there is another unfenced international airport I'd been to in Antarctica.  Local life moves pretty slowly in these parts without much changing day to day.  There are only 80 adults living on West Island.  The one exception is that they have a perfect location for kiteboarding and have a school there that supports the sport.  We considered giving it a another go, but then decided we would be better off if we got an earlier start toward Mauritius.

We are currently 500 miles out to sea on our way to Mauritius, with 1700+ miles still to go, and the Indian ocean proving that it is indeed rougher than South Pacific.  We debated at length the pros and cons of sailing over the top of Madagascar versus under it and finally made the decision to sail beneath it, knowing that we will be more exposed to any of the dreaded storms coming up from the southern ocean.  I've finally found my sea legs again and have just finished reading the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, a book by Clayton Christiansen called "How to Measure Your Life" and also a book about the Australian outback.  Unfortunately the hard drive with all our movies aboard crashed, but we were able to salvage the TV series Newsroom and have been enjoying it immensely, tonight being our tenth and final episode.  You take what you can get when you're a at sea."

Amara's Current Position and Some Messages to Fellow Travellers:

"AMARA is at 14 degrees 27.3 minutes South and 87 degrees 41.4 minutes East doing 184 miles per day.
I think we are about 140 miles to the north east behind Sanctuary and ahead of Doug on Fellow Traveler.

After much consideration regarding Ken's council (another cruiser), we decided to head for Mauritius instead of Madagascar.

Christine, congrats on a 40 lb Mahi Mahi unless of course your 40+ meant you caught more than 40.  Save some for us!!"

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Komodo Island and Manta Rays–Bali: Installment 2

Once we got the filtered gas and back in Amara's fuel tanks, we took off to Komodo Island.  Komodo Island is about a half a day sail from LBG.  
Right when we arrived at Komodo island, we jumped into the tender and headed for the tour of the island.  As we got closer, I could see the ground start to move.  I quickly realized that it was Komodo dragons coming out to see the tourists.  I think they have had enough bologna thrown their way that word has gotten out among them that the first one to the beach gets the food.  They came trailing out from all corners of the beach heading straight toward us.

Martin and Doug jumped right out of the tender and were able to get just close enough to snap a picture and then jump back into the boat.  The bacteria is so bad on these dragons that it can cause a terrible infection and worse case, death.

It was so amazing to see the Komodo's so close up.  We just sat in the tender and watched as they strolled the beach.

After sitting there for quite some time, we headed back to the boat to go diving in what was probably the most magnificent sea aquarium that I had ever seen.  I had never seen so much colorful fish and coral gathered together.
I think Martin and Made dove at least 3 times because the diving was so incredible.

We stayed near Komodo island for the rest of the day and then took off the next morning to go and dive with Manta Rays.  Made kept saying that we would really enjoy this next experience.  Having dived with Manta Rays in Tahiti and Suwarrow (Cook Islands) I wasn't sitting on pins and needles.

When we got to the spot where we were going to dive, there was a large commercial dive boat loaded with tourists and their were snorkels scattered throughout the water.  We decided to wait it out and let them have their time before we jumped in.  Again, I wasn't all that anxious.  You've seen one Manta Ray, you've seen them all.  I had become quite calloused.

Finally after the boat left,  we jumped in Amara's tender and headed for a spot smack dab in the middle of nowhere.  I was amazed that Made knew exactly where to drop us into the water.  The water was really rough and I hesitated getting in because I thought it might be a little too much for me.  Just then Made pointed and said, "There, jump in there."  As I looked over to where he was pointing, all I saw were fins poking out of the water.  Made said for us to get in and hurry!  Being curious, I jumped in without hesitation.  We swam for a little while to get closer to the fins and then ducked under the water.  I COULD NOT BELIEVE MY EYES!  We counted at one point 12 manta rays just swimming around us in circles.  Again the water was super rough, but non of us seemed to care.

Doug and his first encounter with a manta ray.
Martin reaching out to touch the manta ray while I swam underneath it.
We stayed out in the water for a good hour just playing with these amazing creatures.
On the chase.
Doug getting a closer look.
Martin is an amazing diver.  He can go incredibly deep in the water and stay down there for what seems forever.
In this photo of Martin, you can see three of the Manta Rays that seemed to just want to play with us.
After fighting the waves for an hour, we were all a little exhausted so we headed back to the tender where Made picked us up.  A few weeks after we were in this area, I heard on the news about a tourist boat carrying 25 passengers sank in this exact same area due to the waves being so high.  Here it is in the news.  

We had an amazing time visiting the islands in Indonesia close to Bali.  It really is a beautiful part of the world.  After we had our fill of diving, we headed for Bali which was a two day journey.  

*  *  *  *  *  *  *
Finally we arrived in Bali after being at sea for 5 days.  I was anxious to get to land.  Even more, I was anxious to get to a restaurant.  I had appointed myself as Amara's cook for those 5 days and was ready for a break from boiling potatoes and making spaghetti.  When we arrived in Bali, I was surprised by the teeny tiny marina.
Amara backing into it's slip at the Bali marina.
One thing about sailing in Indonesia is that the cruising community was almost non-existent.  The thing I love the most about cruising is meeting the other crews and owners of boats.  There were none where we were at and that was a tad bit disappointing for me.  But hey, we were in Bali, who can complain?

It is interesting to note that our port side engine failed about half way through our journey, even with our best intentions of trying to clean the gas.  Losing an engine isn't catastrophic while sailing, but it makes for an interesting and INTENSE time while getting into a TIGHT marina and backing your boat into the slip.  Martin did an amazing job getting Amara into such a tight spot and was able to maneuver her with ease.  I on the other hand was a nervous wreck.  We arrived right when all the tourist boats were filling up with passengers and we could see people clicking away on their cameras.  

Once we got in and settled into the marina, we immediately also became tourists.  We quickly found all the hotspots and some fabulous restaurants.  Bali is super inexpensive.  We ate like kings during our stay and our average meal for three people was always less than $50.
Made and Doug enjoying a typical Balisian meal.  Suckling pig, rice and potatoes. 
Hanging in Bali
I have some more great photos of us in Bali, so come back in a few days to see the last installment of our adventure!

                                                                    *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Meanwhile, Martin and his crew of three (David, Doug and John) are in the middle of the Indian ocean making their way to South Africa.  They arrived in the Cocos islands last Friday, stayed there for a few days and are now making their way to Maritius.  I talk to Martin via satellite phone almost everyday.  Yesterday Martin sounded pretty miserable since the wind was blowing at 24 knots and they were fighting their way through rough waters.  With that combination, there is no way to avoid a queasy stomach.  I talked to Martin again today and he sounded much better.  He said the wind had died down to 20 knots.  Although not that much of an improvement, at least he didn't feel quite as nauseas.  Martin and his crew are anxious to get to South Africa.  More news on their travels tomorrow...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Adventures in Indonesia Continue

Me and my new friend in Indonesia.
I can't believe that we are already in September!  So much to discuss.  So much to tell you about.
Visiting a local restaurant in Ubud
First, my trip to meet up with Martin and Amara in Indonesia was such a fun time.  We had originally planned that I would fly into Bali, take a small puddle jumper to Maumere and meet Martin and Doug (our good friend from Utah and who is currently helping Martin crew the boat) at the dock.

Well, like sailing, things change.  I missed my flight to Maumere.  So, Martin switched gears, kept sailing and had me fly into Lubuan Bajo (LBJ).  At the airport in Bali, Martin had arranged that our new dive guide meet me there and accompany me to LBJ where we would board Amara and head to Komodo Island--home of the famous Komodo dragons.

Our guide's name was Made (pronounced, Mau-day).  I was told that when I got to the airport to just look for the guy with the biggest smile and sure enough, I spotted him quickly in the crowd.
Our guide, Made from The Lighthouse Conultancy
*  *  *  *  *  *  *
Before I move on with this post... to our cruiser friends that are following our blog and taking notes.  If you are headed to Indonesia, this information might come in handy for your planning.  Diving in Indonesia is a little different than diving in other spots in the world.  You will really want to hire a dive guide to accompany you on your trip through Indonesia.  Cost is about $150/day and worth every penny.  Even if for a few days, do it!

Before going to Indonesia, Martin did his homework and planned carefully.  This was the one spot he had been looking forward to diving more than any other spot that we have dove in the past.  He did not want to take a chance.  For instance, Raja Ampat has some of the most incredible diving in the world.  Cenderwasih Bay is the one place guaranteed that you will see giant whale sharks.  (The photos I posted in an earlier post was of Martin and his crew with whale sharks at Cenderwasih Bay.)

During the planning process, Martin was looking at a website about information in Indonesia and saw an ad for dive guides in Indonesia.  He called and made quick friends with the owner, Andy, from The Lighthouse Consultancy.  Andy was able to arrange to have a guide for the first three weeks of the trip while Amara was in Indonesia.  Then, while I was there, we had Made join us.  These guys work through some sort of "secret" network and are on the phone constantly with other guides discussing what they had seen in the water and guiding other boats to those sites.  It really is incredible how Made was able to drop us in the water, in the middle of nowhere, and expose us to the most beautiful deep sea aquariums full of hundreds of brightly colored fish and amazing coral.

One word of advice, book you guide early.  The Lighthouse Consultancy provides guides for all the super yachts that are in Indonesia--so they go fast.  In fact, the week before Made joined us, he was on a super yacht with Bill and Melinda Gates for a few weeks.  Andy is a wonderful help and, in fact, helped book me on my flight to LBJ when I missed my flight to Maumere.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *
Once Made and I arrived in LBJ, we headed for a hotel to wait out our stay until Martin and Doug arrived a few hours later.  A bonus about Indonesia is that it is incredibly cheap. Nice hotels can go as low as $35 for a very nice hotel.  I decided that if we were going to wait, why not wait poolside at a nice hotel?  So Made (who became fast friends with me) and I headed to the hotel to have lunch and lounge a little.  (I even got an hour and half massage for $18--see, cheap!)

Later, I found out that the airline that I flew on was on the US "No Fly" list.  How was I supposed to know this?  I just wanted to get to my husband!

Around 6:00 that evening Martin and Doug called from the marina.  After sailing for two days straight taking 6 hour watches, they made it.  Albeit, a little tired and with one engine working.  The curse of buying bad gas in Sorong had followed them to LBJ.  

The next day, first priorities were grocery shopping and hiring someone to pump the diesel out of the tanks and then filter it a few times and then bring it back to us.  Made was a huge help and was able to help us find a mechanic on this tiny island to do this.  Problem was, we were there during Ramadam (a huge Muslim holiday).  Almost 90% of the population in Indonesia is Muslim.  During this holiday, and this particular day, it was a day of fasting and prayer.  Pumping out the gas was about a 2 hour job, but turned into around 5 hours because the mechanics had to keep leaving the boat to go back to their towns to pray.  Worse, I offered them water not realizing that they were fasting! (Crazy American!)  

After removing all the fuel, someone had to go down in the tanks and wipe them down.  They were that dirty from the terrible gas that we had purchased in Sorong.  All I said was, "Don't look at me!"  Actually, I wasn't even a consideration and Martin decided to "go down".
I was so afraid he was going to come up brain dead.  He had to keep coming up, grasp for air and then head back in.  In this photo, he is on his way down to clean up the tanks with paper towels and old rags.  The fumes were so bad that I had to go sit at the bow of Amara.  It was just too much.  

While the men were cleaning the gas tanks, I sat down and started to make a grocery list.  Made told me that there was a pretty good market in the town and that he would take us there after the fuel got sorted.  At those moments, I really... I mean REALLY missed Sue.  I am always so used to her making anything from nothing.  I hope that I never took her for granted.  Anyway, I really missed her mainly because I didn't want to plan out meals for the next 5 days.  I went through the bins and sorted through all the canned goods and wrote up a simple menu.  Then I listed out the ingredients that we needed and finally we headed for town on Amara's tender.  

When we arrived at the "market", what we found was that it was a great place to buy soap, rice, corn flakes and some eggs.  No produce.  No milk.  No meat.  Nothing.  So much for a substantial market. After realizing that my menu wasn't going to happen, I started to panic.  Martin assured me that the next day we could go to the early morning market and find something.   

Arriving to the early morning market, this is what we found...
Thank heaven there was a whole bounty of produce.  So I knew that we were going to be ok.  After seeing the fish, I decided to pass and hope that Sue had stocked the freezer with enough meat and fish to get us to Bali for the next five days.
With menus in place and tanks clean, and HOPEFULLY clean gas, we headed for Komodo Island.

Next installment... Komodo Island. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Meet Me in Maumere

It's official, I am finally off to go meet up with Martin and Doug in Indonesia.  It has been one crazy week trying to get the house settled and get ready to meet them in Maumere.  I am so excited to see Martin!

The week leading up to seeing him, however, hasn't been quite as pleasant.  Like all good wives of husbands that have big boats, I am lugging more boat parts with me than I am sunscreen!  In fact, I think I was close to a mental breakdown on the ven diagram of emotional health just trying to pull these parts in from all corners of the US.  I got to be VERY good friends with a Yanmar distributor, who now recognizes my voice before I even introduce myself on the phone.  Words like mixing elbow, turbo pumps, oil plugs, cylinders, filters (for generator and water maker) and injectors now easily slip off my tongue.  I have looked at more diagrams of engines than I ever thought was possible.  My bag is H.E.A.V.Y!

My trip to get to Martin will be more like a planes, trains and automobiles kind of trip.  We are talking 52+ hours of travel before I even meet up with him on the island of Maumere.  Currently, Martin and Doug are racing to get to me (a five day trip for them) by Saturday.  From there we will head to the Banda Islands and go see the Kamodo dragons on the island of Kamodo (they waited for me to join them).

Well, I am off to Tokyo (where I have a 15-hour layover) and then onto Bali.  Then I'll eventually catch a little puddle jumper to meet up with Martin on Maumere.

Wish us luck!

Check back in a few days!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Whale Sharks!

Martin swimming with whale sharks.
Martin and crew had an amazing experience last week.  They were able to go to Cenderwasih Bay and swim with the elusive whale sharks.  This has been a dream of Martin's for so long and I am so happy that he was able to finally swim with the huge creatures.   
Martin hired a dive master, Tommy, to take them through many of the famous
dive sites in Indonesia.  This being one of them.
It was very tricky for them to get to this site because there is a lot of red tape to get to this marine park.  While in the park, you have to host a ranger on your boat the entire time.  So everywhere Amara went, the ranger went with them even spending the night on Amara for the week while they were there.
Doug getting a closer look.
Trevor filming from above the whale shark.
Martin said that when he first jumped in the water to see the whale sharks they were right there in front of him.  They were just as curious about Martin as he was about them.  He said they came right for him and he said that for a moment, he got a little startled.  Quickly, he remembered that they don't have any teeth so he knew he was pretty much safe.  He couldn't get out of the water after that point knowing that they were so close to him and wanting to play.

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Martin and crew got fuel for Amara in early June and have been paying a price for purchasing REALLY BAD fuel ever since.  In the picture below, you can see visible layers or water, dirt and fuel.  Martin says that the quality of the fuel purchased is probably the worst fuel that he has ever seen, and they have been paying a price dealing with the effects that this horrible fuel has had on the engines.  They were finally able to refuel in Sorong this week and are HOPING that it isn't as bad as what they got before.  As Doug said, "Cruising off the beaten path has its advantages but it also has it's disadvantages."  Bad fuel is one of them.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Martin and Doug are the only crew left on Amara at the moment.  They left Sarong today and are making their way to the Kamodo islands to go and see the famous Kamodo dragons.  It should take them about two days of sailing to arrive.

The great news is that Lily and I are going out next week to meet Martin.  I know, I know, he is in paradise and I am home doing who knows what?  Actually, I have been handling a lot of things here and have finally seen a window where I can come up for air, so Lily and I are taking advantage of this and heading to Bali to meet Martin, Doug and Amara.  The reunion will be grand.

Since I'll be back on Amara next week, I am hoping to keep our blog updated more, so keep checking back as I continue to write about Amara's adventures.