Arriving in Darwin on 3rd July, we were just in time for Louis birthday. Venturing ashore and into the Club, we were surprised to see Shinge and Riri on Nirai, a Japanese couple who we had first met in Bonaire, and last seen in Huahine in the Society Island. Fantastic. We all shared our tales of adventure over a beer. It seemed that they were planning to sail through Indonesia as well.
Indonesia is a difficult place to cruise freely and there is substantial paperwork attached. Suffice to say that the easiest way to documentary perfection is to join a yacht rally, which we had done on arrival in Australia. All the yachts on the Sail Indonesia 2010 rally would congregate in Darwin in the 2 weeks prior to departure, the 24th July. It looked like we were going to see some of our Pacific cruising friends again and have some good social while we prepared Pegasus and ourselves for Indonesia.
Leaving the Club, we wandered up the road to a Saturday market where we bought essential supplies and had lunch. It was strange being with so many people in the bustle of the market and we made our way back promptly. On our return we were greeted by "Hey, Pegasus"…. Our old friends Orono1 were there…what a surprise. This was great news. Donna and Peter's children Heidi and PJ, although a little older, were good friends to JJ and Louis. The children went to the playground in the club, and we all settled down for a beer and talked of our adventures over the last 9 months.
The afternoon disappeared and after an early dinner we returned to Pegasus. Bed for the boys and Amanda and I set about decorating the pilot house and wrapping presents for Louis 4th birthday the following day.
We were all up early, and JJ was extremely excited having helped us prepare everything the previous evening. Presents, pancakes, and Ashore for Lunch. Next to the Sailing Club was the Trailer Boat Club, which had a pool. Meeting up with the Orono's we all settled in for lunch and plenty of pool action for the children. I managed to get back to Pegasus for a few hours to sort some internet stuff and fix the heads again….always a lovely job!
Monday arrived and we started our Darwin jobs: first Customs. We had acquainted ourselves with the bus system, and found an easy route into town. I went to customs and then the Indonesian consulate. On arrival we had collected our welcome pack from Sail Indonesia with clearly detailed instructions of what we had to do prior to departure. In effect we needed to inform customs of our plans, apply for Indonesian visas, obtain some local currency and fill out a number of forms for tax rebates on exportable items such as fuel and capital goods. In addition we had all the usual jobs of laundry, fuel, water and supplies.
With 8m tides, Darwin is not the easiest place to restock. Sometimes we had to haul the dinghy some 200m down the beach, but little by little we restocked and readied Pegasus. 14th July and JJ's birthday. We had many e mails, and a package from England, and having a hire car for a few days spent a very good afternoon at the water park with some other cruiser families. JJ had a great day.
We were progressing quite well and with Visas and money organised, Pegasus ready, we were ahead of the game. I was a little concerned as my jobs list was not as extensive as I would have liked. We were about to head off into Indonesia where any items for repair would be extremely limited. Just finding a stainless steel screw could be impossible. I tried to purchase in a pre-emptive manner until I could really think of nothing else.
Having been told that copies of all documents were essential, I out together some scans of passports, visas, ships papers, crew lists etc, and took them to the copiers in town for 30 duplicates. While there I noticed that they had a service for copying maps. Many cruisers were getting complete sets of "maps" for all the areas we planned to cruise. Charts, being copyrighted, are not allowed to be copied. Maps on the other hand are not subject to copyright so are fair game. I ordered some charts and guessed that as long as I knew where the reefs were on passage, close navigation would always be by "mark one eyeball". That said it always helps to know what water depth to expect on arrival. Sorting through hundreds of charts, I removed everything for Australia and New Zealand. We would not need these again, so donated them to the sailing club who were delighted.
As our we completed our resupply, so we had time to enjoy a few of the sights in Darwin. We spent a great day at the "Crocasorous", a crocodile farm in the centre of Darwin. This is where, so the local paper reported, Harry, the physic croc predicted the winner of the world cup. He was presented with 2 lumps of meat on a line, each with a national flag above. Harry correctly ate the Spanish meat and flag, thereby gaining local notoriety over and above the German Octopus who was performing the same physic stunts in Europe!
Over the 3-week period we had some great social with many friends from the Pacific. Sail Indonesia organised a large BBQ, which we all enjoyed, and as our date of departure approached, we were required to attend a detailed skippers briefing. This was a very detailed and informative affair. There were many representatives from Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, and it appeared that no expense had been spared on various brochures, t-shirts, hats and documentation. Clearly this was over and above our entry fees and was indicative of the sort of reception we could expect.
There were two routes planned for the Rally. A southern route to Kupang and on to Flores, and a Northern route, which we had chosen, to Banda, Ambon, Wakatobi and Bau Bau, then heading S to join the southern route in Komodo. As the 24th July loomed so we started to get excited about our next adventure.
Australia had been fantastic, and although excited about moving on, we were a little sad to leave such a great country. There is an ethos there about family and the outdoor life, and although massively bureaucratic and as expensive as it is large, we had really enjoyed the way of life and generosity of the people.
As part of the Rally to Banda, a race had been organised, and we had entered in the early stages of application. I checked with our insurance company, and it was confirmed that Pegasus would have only limited coverage if we took part. With reluctance we withdrew from the race.
The Sailing club organised a champagne breakfast on the morning of departure and after a few pastries and coffee, returned to Pegasus and readied her for the passage to Banda, a 650 mile reach across the Arafura sea, into the Banda sea. There were over 100 yachts in the rally and the Darwin Ambon race, a separate event, was sharing the start line. With so many boats we hung back, and crossed the line half an hour after the start, still in a large fleet.
With the wind ENE at 15kts we had a good reaching start and as the fleet thinned so I released the reefs and Pegasus picked up her heels, We were quite heavy with water and stores, but had decided against carrying the additional 200lt diesel that had helped us through the Kimberley. Early evening saw the wind ease, and keen to get NE of the shoals off Bathurst Island, and into deep water, motor sailed until first light when the wind filled in with some force.
The Arafura was proving to be herself again with a rough, confused and steep sea. Pegasus was going well and with 3 reefs in the main and staysail out, was making great speed. Although pretty rough and with the wind over 30kts, it was a walk in the park compared with the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, and we could expect the sea to ease as we entered the Banda Sea.
By 0100 on 26th July the conditions were moderating and although squally, we were passing between the Islands and the sea was easing. Over the morning we shook out the reefs and Pegasus made good progress. It looked like we would arrive just pre dawn the following day. With fair winds and flat seas we powered through the Banda Sea making anywhere from 8-12kts up wind. We passed Pulau Serua, our first volcano, and arrived in Banda just at first light.
Passing the committee boat we reported our engine hours and made our way into the anchorage, where a few of the early starters were at anchor and one or two who had started with us. We had clearly made good time.
The Anchorage between the islands in Banda was very deep, but we managed to find a spot and dropped the anchor in 30m water. On a short scope in the well-protected harbour we turned our engines off at 0630 local time.
We had arrived in the Spice Islands, our first stop in Indonesia and very different from the scene we had left in Australia. A large jungle clad volcano dominated the anchorage, and ashore were many coconut palms, our first since the Pacific. It reminded us both of the Marquesas, some 6000 miles to the East and a lifetime ago.
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