Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Arriving Palau Today

We had a good time at Helen Reef. More on that in another post.

After a great 2 days of downwind sailing, we will be arriving in Palau this afternoon. It has been a fairly fast sail, with wind on the quarter or directly behind at 10-20 knots. In these conditions we make 6-7 knots easily. The weather has been very settled...sunny tradewind conditions, with nearly a full moon at night.

Last night we had our first squall of the passage. The winds gusted to about 35 knots. We had 2 reefs in the main and about 1 reef in the jib. In one gust, surfing down a wave, in a wing-on-wing configuration, we hit 15 knots!!! At sustained winds of 20-25, we were regularly doing 9-10 knots. All of a sudden our ETA concerns (trying to time our arrival during normal working hours to avoid overtime fees) went out the window.

It has been nice having additional crew on board. Liko and Claudia have been helpful and cheerful, and have been learning "the ropes" quickly.
At 8/15/2016 11:51 PM (utc) our position was 06°48.89'N 134°24.04'E

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ghost Town at Ayu Atoll

We had very limited information about Ayu Atoll. Our friends on Brick House had stopped there are few years ago, but had not said much about their experience. They were uncharacteristically unenthusiastic however. They stayed 2 nights and we had waypoints for their anchor spots.

Ayu is a long daysail from the N coast of Waigeo. The strong winds of a few days before had died down, and we anticipated light southerly winds, and maybe a little following current. So we got going early, just after daybreak, so we would arrive at Ayu in good light. Conditions as we left the anchorage were not promising. The squally conditions we had experienced for the previous week had dissipated somewhat, but it was still 100% overcast.

As we approached the southern end of Ayu's reef around noon, we hooked a good-sized mahi mahi. (woo-hoo, fresh fish tonight!!) Also, a boat was approaching us from the other island just SE of Ayu. This boat looked like the typical "excursion" boat from Raja Ampat. At first we thought they must be divers, but on closer inspection, they were all neatly dressed men, locals. They came by and we waved, but we didn't stop. We were in the open ocean and Dave didn't even want to attempt to have anyone come alongside. They waved back, but didn't speak or make any motions to us. As always, it's tough to communicate at all with no Indonesian on our side and no English on their side. They trailed us for about 5 minutes as we fought the mahi, and then eventually peeled off and headed for Waisai. We are guessing that they were some kind of official delegation (they looked like tourism officials).

Once we got close enough to Ayu's reef to see that we could see, we decided to proceed into the reef. We did have a pretty good Google Earth chart of the atoll, and the overcast was thinning. The conditions were light, and we could see well enough to confirm that what we were seeing on Google Earth. We even felt confident enough that we took a shortcut channel down to the island that Brick House had first anchored at.

We were surprised on entering the main channel, to see another low sandy island ahead to the east that looked chock-a-block with small houses. Brick House had never mentioned other inhabited islands. The island they had anchored behind was much higher than the rest. As we sailed by on the outside of the reef, we could see a few houses, but not so many as this one low island. It was too late in the day to spend time exploring, so we proceeded as originally planned to the "main" island in the middle of the atoll.

Coming in the alternate channel from the obvious main channel (it cuts off toward the main island earlier), we had least depths of about 4 meters, avoiding the obvious shallow coral heads, but it was usually around 10 meters. The main channel was even deeper. There are anchorable spots if you arrived at the atoll late in the day and didn't want to proceed further in poor light.

We found the village the Brick House anchored off of, with a very big concrete pier, a church, and many small houses. But it was curious that only one person came out on the pier as we nosed around. Normally we would expect 10-15 kids jumping up and down on the pier waving and yelling "Hello Meester! Hello Meester!" We anchored a little ways from the village in about 10 meters mixed sand and coral. We were relieved not to see any boats launching from the village to come say hello. We had saved our mahi carcass, and when an old guy in a fishing canoe came by on his way back from the reef, we gave it to him. He smiled and waved and thanked us, but again, the language barrier.

We could see a big house up on the ridge--it looked sort of like a resort from afar. But on closer examination--maybe not. So in the morning, we took the dinghy in to say hello and look around.

Again, no one greeted us on the pier, and the village with 20-30 houses looked completely deserted. It was eerie. We finally found a man on the other side of the village, getting ready to launch his big panga. We said hello, but again the language problem. I fortunately remembered the Indonesian word for "walking around" (jalan jalan), and we got a big smile and a wave at the path leading inland.

We had the weirdest walk. We found a concrete road leading inland, and it looked like someone had platted out the land adjacent to the road. There were lot numbers spray painted on the concrete. Piles of rubble and some flat places indicated they had been preparing to build more houses. But every house was locked up and deserted. The large building up on the ridge turned out to be a school, locked, decaying, with one room packed with student desks. We found further on, an administration building, locked and decaying (obviously unused for at least a couple of years). Alongside the road someone had planted (and someone was still tending) various food-bearing plants...coconuts, bananas, melons, taro and several other kinds of root vegetables. We found a full-up Telkomsel (the local phone company) remote installation, with a tower, satellite dish, solar panels, etc. It was dated 2012, but looked abandoned. We had previously checked for Telkomsel signal on our cell phones and got nothing.

There was a second very small village (group of houses) on the other side of the island from where we anchored. There we found a 3-room schoolhouse, unlocked, and it looked like it had been used recently (a date on the chalkboard was May 2016). But we didn't see anyone as we poked a bit around the group of houses.

As we went back through the village where our dinghy was, two pre-teen kids had a few coconuts on road, obviously harvested for us (but no machete in their hands to open the coconuts for us). I hadn't thought to gab any gifts other than a small sack of candy, so I gave that to the boys. We could see 3 other adults sitting in the shade by one of the houses, and they waved and thanked them. Again as we walked through the village, which looked like 50-100 people should live there, we only saw a handful. There was a really nice solar array by the church--20 or so good-sized solar panels and 2 big metal boxes, one marked "batteries" and the other marked "inverter". It didn't look like the inverter was functioning.

There were 3 men on the pier working on making fish cages (4-6 poles upright in the water, surrounded by netting... sort of the local version of a refrigerator for their catch).

I am not sure what was going on on that island--a huge migration to jobs in Waigeo? A foreign church-building project that had petered out and the foreigners gone home? A government aid project that fizzled out? Some kind of plague that wiped out the village? Or people temporarily visiting another island for seasonal fishing reasons?? Maybe a huge wedding or funeral on another nearby island? I would love to have had a chat with someone who spoke english about what was going on. I'm definitely going to Google a little about Ayu when we get internet. Apparently the island or village is named Abidon, as that was on several signs, on the church and the school.
At 8/09/2016 10:34 PM (utc) our position was 00°30.20'N 131°07.89'E

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Heading for Palau

We checkout out of Sorong, Indonesia on Wednsday, and left Sorong on Thursday morning. We spent Friday doing some boat maintenance on a shallow beach on the north coast of Batanta.

Early yesterday (Saturday) morning, we left that pretty anchorage to head north and east toward Palau.

Our first leg was planned to be 45 miles to an anchorage on the southeast end of Waigeo. We had originally envisioned this leg to be the typical Indonesian drift (motorsail). However, a strong monsoon trough moved in a couple of days ago, and we had big winds from the SSW. This made our planned anchorage untenable, but also gave us a speed boost, so we ended up going about 62 miles, going on around the east end of Waigeo, and found a nice anchorage on the north coast.

We had 20-25 knots most of the day, and with the main down to the 3rd reef, 2 reefs in the jib, and the wind aft of the beam, we were easily reaching 7-8 knots. It was good experience for us all--it had been so long since we actually sailed that we needed a refresher. And the new crew are soaking up the terminology and the sail handling.

None of our friends have been in this part of Waigeo, so for the first time, we had no waypoints or tracks to follow! But thanks to GoogleEarth and SASPlanet, we had some usable satellite photos. Good thing, because the chart is vague and way off in this area.

I have been learning how to make satellite charts from SASPlanet--it's not hard but something I haven't done before. Doug on Rigel gave me his SASPlanet program with about 4GB of cached sat photos, which have much better photos of this part of Indonesia (Nokia DGSat). I had made a few maps a week or so ago, so when I blithely tried to make a few maps of the east and north coast of Waigeo, I was surpised to find some problem between GE2KAP and SASPlanet. With Paul (the GE2KAP creator) and Terry on Valhalla's help, I tried a few things, but haven't solved it yet. It may be a Windows issue.

Fortunately we already have good cartography of the stops we plan for the trip to Palau. Our plan is make the jump to Ayu Islands (about 60 miles north of here) tomorrow. This is an Indonesian group of atoll-like islands. I think there is one village. I am sure we will be welcomed for a day or two stop there. The next stop after that is a single overnight NNE to Helen Reef, a tiny atoll at about 3N 132E. This atoll is owned by Palau, and is staffed by 3-4 rangers who live there and protect the reef from poachers (usually Filipino and Indonesian fishermen). If we have good enough weather, we hope to spend a few days there, diving and snorkeling. The final leg is a double overnight NNE to Palau. So we think we won't be in Palau until around 18-20 August.

It looks like the monsoon winds are dying down today, so we are hoping for only 5-10 knots behind us for our first leg tomorrow. We'll be leaving at the crack of dawn to give us an early afternoon arrival, as we've got about 5 miles of reef-strewn passage to get from outside the reef to the anchorage inside the reef.
At 8/7/2016 7:55 AM (utc) our position was 00°08.52'S 131°14.39'E

Beaching Soggy Paws

Yesterday we did something that we never could have done with the old Soggy Paws... we beached the cat on a nice sloping beach and did some maintenance on the underwater side.

High and Dry Doing Underwater Maintenance

It's new moon time, and the tidal range is bigger than normal, with higher highs and lower lows than other times of the month. High tide was supposed to be at 8am, so we got up early and started watching the tide mark we had set at high tide the previous evening. As soon as we saw the tide definitely going down, we started getting ready to go up on the beach. At 0810, we started engines to pull our anchor and head for the beach.

Snuggled Up to the Mangroves

We had measured depths of the water in the sand spot we had picked out, and knew we would have to nose right up to the bushes on the beach, to be in shallow enough water. We tied a rope onto a strong bush on shore and brought it out into the water, secured with a dive weight and a small buoy, to be ready to tie a bow line to.

As we slowly headed in to the beach, we dropped a Fortress anchor from the stern. This whole maneuver would have been difficult with just two of us, but we have 2 crew for the trip to Palau, and they made it easy. With Sherry driving, Liko on the stern with the stern anchor, Dave on the bow with the bow line, and Claudia in the water with a mask and snorkel, we carefully positioned Soggy Paws a few inches above the sand in as level a spot as we could find. We had to nudge the bow over a little to level things out, and tied a 3rd line off to the side to maintain our position.

Claudia Updates Dave on How We Are Positioned

So we touched the bow to the sand, and then just waited for the tide to go down. Claudia started positioning boards under our keels, to keep us from sinking in the sand too much.

Claudia Positions the First Set of Boards

Liko and Dave with the Last Board

We had tried to buy a sheet of 1/2" plywood in Sorong for this purpose, but none was available. So we ended up with a 1x8" plank, cut in 2 ft segments. We used 4 boards crosswise along the bottom of the keel.

And we picked up a little more wood from the beach to brace up underneath the rudders, which ended up sitting about 1 ft over the sand. By 0915 we had all 8 boards in place and the front end of the keel was firmly grounded. An hour later and the boat was nearly completely out of the water, and we started on the maintenance tasks.

Boards Buried in the Sand Under the Keel

Supports Under the Rudder

While we were out, we did the following:

- Changed the zincs in the saildrives
- Repaired a few nicks in the saildrives with epoxy
- Painted the new prop blade with antifoul
- Checked and adjusted the angles on all the prop blades
- Scrubbed the waterline
- Changed the oil in the port engine

One Of the SailDrive Zincs, New and Old

Claudia and Liko got a chance to break away while Dave was working on the saildrives, to go snorkel in the reef nearby, which we had previously seen.

We had an early dinner, and just waited for the tide to come up. At 7:30pm, the first board floated free, and by 8pm we had pulled ourselves backward via the stern anchor and were fully off the beach.

It was pitch black out--no moon, no stars, and a low overcast. But we had the anchor waypoint marked, so maneuvering "on instruments", I was able to get positioned over the anchor spot. It took 2 tries to get it right--the first time we ended up a little too close to the reef on one side. Too far out, and we're in 80-100 feet, and too far in, we'd swing over the shallow reef. By 8:30pm we were safely anchored. Long day, but worth it to get the zincs changed.

At 8/5/2016 12:40 AM (utc) our position was 00°46.78'S 130°44.82'E

Friday, August 5, 2016

Cleared out of Indonesia

July 27-Aug 5

We spent a few more days playing and exploring along the north coast of Batanta, and then on July 31, headed for Sorong, about 30 miles away.

The plan for Sorong was to (a) pick up crew that were going with us to Palau (b) get re-provisioned and fueled up and (c) clear out of Indonesia.

Liko and Claudia, our crew, met us on Monday afternoon, having taken the ferry down to Waisai. Liko was the instructor at Biodiversity Eco Lodge when we made our 20 dives there, and had August off. Claudia, his Chilean girlfriend, who has been traveling the world for the last year, had joined him to make this trip with us. We only knew Liko a little bit, and had never met Claudia, so we had a few trepidations about taking them on a 3 week trip. But it seems to be working out well.

Our biggest worry with officialdom in Sorong was our Customs paperwork. Under the new rules, we should have been able to get a 3-year "temporary importation paper" (TIP). But, we discovered when we renewed our visas a month ago in Sorong, that because we entered Indonesia via the Rally and via Sangihe (NOT an official port of entry), we only got a 3 month TIP. And there was some question whether our TIP expired on 7/27 or 8/5. Both dates were on the form, but the form is in Indonesian and Google translate helps, but is not perfect. But after several emails with ASWINDO, the agency that sponsored the Rally, they assured us that we were good until August 5. The second problem was that the Customs guy had told us that we had to have our agent contact Manado Customs (who oversees Sorong) and have our paperwork forwarded from Manado to Sorong.

So our first stop was at Customs, to make sure that all our paperwork was there and in order. The Customs guy was very nice and spoke very good English, and he said we were good to go. We made an appointment with him for Wednesday morning.

The next worry was about adding two crew who had flown in to Indonesia on tourist visas, to our crewlist to check out with us on the boat. One cruiser 2 years ago had had problems doing that. He ended up essentially leaving in the middle of the night, without properly clearing out. He told everyone "Immigration doesn't want people to go out a different way than they came in." However, after further investigation--talking with another cruiser who knew the details--his problem was because his crew had overstayed their visas! I also posted on several Facebook groups for this area asking about crew flying in and leaving on the boat. Nobody had had any problems. We had talked about trying to get an agent (or local "fixer") to help us grease some palms to make it happen. But we decided to wait and see if we ran into any problems before trying that avenue.

I spent Tuesday teaching Liko and Claudia about provisioning for 3 weeks away from civilization. We made 2 trips to the Saga supermarket and the Robinson's supermarket. Provisioning in Sorong is better than we've seen for a couple of months, but still very "out island". For example, it's difficult to find any fresh meat except chicken. Whatever imported goods are there, are VERY expensive. We did find fresh lettuce, but it was about $3 for a small head. And some "luxury" veggies like brocolli and bell peppers, as well as some CHEESE!! I just ignored the prices and stocked up on what we needed.

We also found the Telkomsel office got topped off on cell phone minutes, dropped our accumulated laundry off to be washed/dried/folded, got cash from the ATMs, and scoped out a place to go in for dinner. All of this is more difficult than in most countries we've been, because our Indonesian is almost non-existant, and very few common people speak English. Between smiles, gestures, Google Translate, and sometimes a helpful bypasser, we managed to get everything done.

Meanwhile, Dave was working on getting diesel fuel and gasoline, to make sure we were completely full when we left Sorong. The guys at the fuel depot behind the navy boat were very helpful and friendly. We jugged 4 25-liter jugs twice to get topped off on diesel. And a couple of jugs of gasoline.

Dave also took one of our air compressor filters into EON Engineering to be re-packed with new filter material. Wick, an Australian, tests, repairs, and refurbishes dive tanks and dive compressors.

Wednesday was checkout day. We started at Immigration, crossing our fingers that we wouldn't have any issues. We dressed conservatively (everyone complaining about wearing long pants, collared shirts, and closed toe shoes, because of the heat), and made sure we had plenty of copies of crew lists and copies of the passport picture pages. It took about a half an hour, and we had no problem at all, nor any questions about where our crew came from. Dave double-checked every passport that we had been correctly stamped out.

At that point, we split up, and Dave headed for Customs, and we headed for the fresh veggie market. Here we stocked up on several bags full of fresh local veggies. Claudia saw a table selling beetlenut (a plant-based drug that the locals chew in this part of the world). She had always wanted to try it, so she bought a trial bundle of all the stuff needed, and got someone to explain how it was to be used. (she hasn't tried it yet).

Dave ended up spending nearly all day trying to get finished with our clearance out. Customs wants to come out to the boat and take pictures (to make sure the boat we are clearing out is in fact the same boat that cleared in, and has all the expensive gear still aboard). Then he went to the Harbormaster, only to find out that Customs had forgotten to give him a piece of paper he needed. So back to Customs... then back to Harbormaster, only to be told that he needed to clear out with Quarantine, which is halfway across town. It was nearly 5pm before he came back to the boat, exhausted. But we had accomplished everything we needed... except for one thing.

When we were in Batanta, Dave had found a nice beach with only a slight slope, that dries at low tide. He wanted to beach the boat on the upcoming New Moon tide, to change the zincs in the outdrive. And he wanted a piece of 1/2" plywood, about 2 feet wide, to help keep the keels from sinking in the sand. So Dave called our friend Victor, a guy who speaks really good English and has a construction equipment company, to see if Victor could tell him where to get the plywood. Victor offered to get the wood we needed, and cut it to size, and deliver it to the boat. Unfortunately, Victor couldn't find 1/2" plywood anywhere. So we adjusted the requirement to 8" wide boards, cut in 2-ft lengths. Unfortunately, Victor's guys misunderstood the discussion, and cut the 8" wide boards into 2" wide strips!! So instead of delivering our wood on Weds afternoon, Victor called apologising, and said he'd get the correct wood to us in the morning.

So instead of taking off for Batanta and our haulout place at 8am, we were stuck waiting around for Victor to deliver the wood we needed. That gave me a chance to have one last crack at Saga, to pick up a couple more heads of lettuce, and a batch of fresh shrimp.

Finally we were away at about noon, with the wood onboard. Now we were worried about getting to our anchorage 32 miles away before dark. But for once, we had uncharacteristically good wind, on our quarter, and later on our beam. With a double-reefed main and a single reef in the genoa, and a little current behind us, we were making 10 knots over the bottom in 22 knots of wind. Wheeee!! Everyone onboard had a blast, and got a little sail-handling experience, and a turn at the wheel. We arrived at our anchorage well before dark, and had a chance to do another recon of the beach that we were planning to beach on the next day.

It was nice being at anchor in nice calm clean water again! (Sorong is a fairly dirty harbor and has a nasty chop when the wind opposes the current).

We go into the beach on the high tide tomorrow, and will spend the day beached, scrubbing the bottom and doing saildrive maintenance. Then we'll be off toward Palau (doing day-hops around the E end of Waigeo for a couple of days).
At 8/5/2016 12:40 AM (utc) our position was 00°46.78'S 130°44.82'E

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Fun and Games at Agusta Island

I am way, way behind...wanted to hold off posting current adventures until I catch up, but I find myself getting further behind. And this adventure was too good to miss posting about.

We had a terrible night Tuesday night... On Monday we left our nice quiet beach and bird anchorage on the N coast of Batanta (00-46.74S / 130-44.86E) and were originally heading to another similar anchorage on the N coast, a little further west, just to explore. But the weather was sunny and settled-looking, with almost no wind, and Dave suggested we head for Agusta Island (south of the west end of Mansuar Island) and try to do a couple of days of diving. (We had previously tried to stop there in early July, but ended up with strong southerly unsettled weather, and had to bypass it).

The forecast was all over the place, so looking up in the sky, this seemed like a great idea. Since the resort wasn't expecting us, and the "mooring waypoint" that Peter on 2XS had given us was way offshore in deep water, we didn't see any mooring (at least none available). We motored close by the pier and saw at least one white person ashore, but nobody came out. So Dave launched the dinghy and went in to investigate. He found Marco, the owner, and a couple of guys cleaning the pool. They had just been too busy to come out on the pier to wave at us. But Marco was more than happy to move his biggest dive boat off the "big boat" mooring so we could hook up.

Fortunately, we had come as the ferocious current was starting to slack, so our first hour on the mooring was quite calm. And the wind was calm. Dave jumped in the water to take a look at the mooring and make sure it was strong enough. What he found was actually 2 mooring points with 2 uplines connected by one line between them. The one with the strongest looking was in such deep water that he couldn't snorkel to look at it, but figured that the other one was strong enough--a chain wrapped around a coral head and coming up on a fairly strong line. And in such benign conditions...

So we were happy until we noticed that the 2nd mooring ball the connecting line was going to cause a problem as we swung around--we have not one but two saildrives and props hanging down to foul on, not to mention 2 rudders. So we spent another hour messing around with the mooring situation. We finally tied both mooring balls together so they formed one mooring, and took all the extra lines hanging around and tied them up in a bundle, so there was nothing trailing that would get caught up in our undercarriage.

The next problem was that as the current slacked, the very light breeze behind us was pushing us ahead on the mooring, and the mooring line was long enough so that the bouy trailed back far enough that it and the associated bundle of lines could get fouled in our saildrives (which are pointing inward from the side of the hull, slanting down some, about halfway back along the hull). So we hooked our bridle line closer to the mooring ball itself and tied the unused line up into the bundle. All seemed well, and we went ashore and had a nice dinner with Marco. This is off-off-season and his wife Mara and admin assistant Melissa are both off-island, and there are currently no guests. So Marco was happy for company. We took in a nice bottle of wine and had a very good Neapolitan-style dinner in the restaurant.

The weather was benign overnight, with only one small sprinkle and a little extra wind that didn't last long. But neither of us slept well, perched on the edge of reef in essentially an open roadstead exposed to the south, with ripping E/W current changing direction every 6 hours.

The morning dawned with more typical conditions of this time of year. Overcast and a little wind from the west. They picked us up with the dive boat promptly at 8am. The main reason we had come to Agusta was to go dive on the WWII airplane wreck (a P47) nearby, but Marco said the conditions were not good for that dive. So we went instead and did 2 dives on the south coast of Mansuar (the big island to the north of Agusta). Each dive was in a bay protected from the WSW wind, where a village was--one village was named Yenbuba, but I never got the name of the 2nd village. It was near high tide and visiblity was fantastic. The fish life was fantastic. The soft and hard coral was fantastic. Another set of great dives. Marco offered us an afternoon dive or a night dive, but 2 dives a day is enough for us. But we did make plans for dinner.

I looked at the weather in the afternoon and told Dave that it was forecast to become more unsettled, and we should leave for a more protected anchorage. Note: there is no usable cell signal at Agusta, so we were mostly getting a spot forecast (text wind and rain forecast)--no satellite photo or anything more detailed was possible. All the weather in this area comes from 3 sources... Unsettled wx from tropical convergence zone flare-ups; Tropical weather passing north of us; Cold front remnants surging up from south of us. Most of the time the wind is less than 10 knots, but unsettled weather comes in the form of squally weather, with wind and rain. We ourselves have seen nothing over 25 knots in squalls, and they are not sustained, so it's all manageable. However, 25 knots opposing a 2-3 knot current gets pretty ugly pretty quickly.

It takes some expertise to read the spot forecasts here (a text table taken from a GRIB file for one particular lat/long). Since we have been in Raja Ampat, we have not seen any wind forecast to be over about 14 knots. The normal winds are "light and variable" -- 5 knots or less from varying directions. There is a column for rain in mm/hour. "Chance of rain" is indicated by a few tenths of mm in this column. "Strong chance of rain" is when there are rain indications in more than one of the 6 hour time slots in a day, and "Heavy Rain" is anything over about .5mm. Our forecast was showing Moderate Chance of Some Rain, plus wind to 11 knots out of the south. This doesn't seem like bad weather, but with experience, I knew that this is indicating fairly unsettled weather here, and with a southerly wind, could be bad conditions for staying at Agusta on the exposed south coast. Dave really wanted to stay another night and go dive on the airplane wreck on Weds, plus we were looking forward to another night of good food and pleasant company ashore. So he convinced me that I was being a "nervous Nellie" and we decided to stay.

Since we had complained about the mooring setup, Marco made a dive on our mooring after the current slacked in the afternoon. Apparently he hadn't taken a close look at that mooring (trusting someone else's word that it was strong). And its setup was fine for it's primary purpose--holding the biggest of his dive boats securely. When he looked at the chain around the coral head, he was aghast to find that the chain was broken. He said that chain was only 4 months old. (When Dave examined it, it looked like chrome-plated pot metal rather than good galvanized or stainless). So Marco cut the line fastened to the chain (unfortunately, we found out later when the current resumed, leaving the entire up-line still attached to our mooring). Since he was on SCUBA, he looked carefully at the second mooring, and said it was a "big anchor" and had no chain, but strong 1" line up to the mooring ball, and it was well set in the sand. So that was what we were hanging on--the one mooring, an anchor, out in deeper water.

We came back from another great dinner ashore and the current had picked back up. We noticed the long line trailing from our mooring back through the two hulls. We finally were able to fish the line out of the water and pull it up on deck, so there was no possibility of problems if we had to escape the mooring in the middle of the night. This was a lot harder work than it sounds--the current was ripping at 2-3 knots, and the line was big and had a build-up of algae and critters, including hand-cutting barnacles and shells. We ended up wet (it was raining) and stinky, but werew satisfied with the job we had done.

About midnight, we woke up with the boat pitching and the wind rising. The current was ripping 2-3 knots in a westerly direction and we had 15 knots of wind from the WSW. We checked the mooring and looked at our overall situation and decided that it would be difficult to leave under the conditions, and though we were uncomfortable, we were safe enough. One thing we did notice was that we were further out into the current than the previous night. When Marco had cut the connection to the inshore mooring, he had unwittingly set us up to hang out in faster current.

I was uncomfortable going to bed. If conditions deteriorated and we started dragging, our drag alarm wouldn't sound until maybe it was too late. (If you set the alarm close enough to wake you up immediately, it goes off falsely every time you swing). So I decided to stay up and watch things. I had the GPS on and set a waypoint "go to" for our current condition, which gave us distance away from that point in big numbers. We also had the AIS Anchor Watch feature on. I could easily see from the "snail trail" on the GPS that we were still sitting mostly where we had been the previous night.

The wind died off for a bit, and I almost went to bed, but it was still looking like heavy clouds to the west, so I decided to stay up a bit longer. A half hour later the wind and waves came up out of the west. We now had over 20 knots, opposing the 2-3 knots of current, so the waves were pretty big, and the forces on the mooring buoy enormous. I checked the GPS and noticed that we were now showing that we were 20 feet from the waypoint I had dropped. A few minutes later, that went to 50 ft. The mooring was dragging slowly. Fortunately it was dragging away from the reef, into deeper water. I went to wake Dave up. By the time Dave got assembled (headlamps and tools he needed to drop the mooring), and we talked about what we could do...(If we drop the mooring, where would we go?) the distance had increased to 75 ft. We were definitely dragging and it wasn't likely to stop. I got the engines started, and Dave got the bridle unshackled quickly--we were going to leave our expensive hook and bridle attached to the mooring because there was no way under the conditions to get it unfastened from the mooring. Then we started really moving... toward the resort pier behind us. So Dave cast off our bridle from the bow, and we prayed that we'd drift far enough away, without drifting onto the reef, so that we could engage the engines without tangling in the big ball of crappy line that was bundled up around the mooring balls. Neither one of us could see where the mooring went, but I gingerly gunned the engines to get us heading offshore, and we were free!!

My first instinct was to head for Freiwin, about 13 miles away, as the crow flies. We had been there long enough to know it would be protected enough in these conditions, and we had good tracks to get us there safely in the dark. Anchoring nearby was out, because the islands and reefs are so steep-to in this area that there was no way we could find a safe anchorage in the dark, on the other side of the island that we hadn't even seen before. So we started motoring east toward Friwen. We figured at 6 knots we'd be there in 2 hours, and still get a decent night's sleep. Not so... we forgot we would be bucking 2-3 knots of current, and adding the dog-leg around Cape Kris increased the distance.

When we checked our ETA after a half hour we found that boat speed was down to 2-3 knots and we wouldn't get to Friwen until well after daylight!! And we still needed to come back to Agusta and retrieve our mooring line and our dive gear, and pay our bill. Next idea was to "heave to", but with the extensive reefs and islands nearby and the current going at 2-3 knots, that wouldn't work either (plus, we haven't quite figured out how to heave to in our catamaran yet). Finally, we decided to sail around a bit, staying close to Agusta so we could easily get back there in the morning.

We ended up putting just enough jib out to sail with the autopilot on. Since the wind was opposite the current, we set up to sail "up current" so we wouldn't go very far. The wind had started to abate almost the minute we dropped off the mooring (of course!). With light shifty winds, I eventually got things stabilized with just enough speed so the autopilot would hold the course, and we were drifting in nearly a straight line backward towards Agusta! I sent Dave to bed to get some sleep, and had fun playing with the sails and current until dawn. By 6:30am, it was light, the current was slacking, and we were nearing the resort again. I woke Dave up to go retrieve our bridle from the mooring, and then go in to retrieve our dive gear, pay our bill, and say goodbye to Marco. I commenced sailing again as soon as Dave was away in the dinghy, staying within a mile or two of the resort.

Marco was really upset about our ordeal and apologetic about the mooring. He offered to move his dive boat and put us on his other strong mooring, and insisted that we go ahead with the plan to go diving with him again that day. But while Dave was ashore, I picked up another forecast which predicted the same squally weather would persist for the next 2 days. I was NOT going back on another lee shore mooring under those conditions, no matter what. I encouraged Dave to go ahead and do the dive on the airplane wreck. I knew how much he wanted to do it (and how much Marco wanted to show it to him). It was the primary reason we were there. I could keep sailing around for a couple of more hours while they did the dive.

I had envisioned setting the sails, letting the autopilot steer, and reading my book. But the weather conditions and the current was so changeable, that as soon as I got the boat on a safe course, something would change and we'd be heading for a reef or island again. And our actual direction wasn't apparent from looking at where the boat was headed, I needed to jump up and check the course on the computer. I didn't get much reading done, and I barely was able to fix breakfast. And it was raining--half the time I couldn't even see the nearby islands (and their attached reefs). But I did get a good bit of practice handling the boat single-handed. And Dave got to go see his airplane wreck, which he said was a fantastic dive (of course).

We eventually stayed long enough for Dave to help/oversee resetting the mooring (with Marco's guys doing the work), and for our gear to get rinsed, and to pay the bill. With me (increasingly impatient) still out sailing around. Marco tried one last time to get us to stay another night, or even just for lunch "now that the mooring is re-set". But I wasn't having any of it. We needed to get going ASAP to get back to a safe quiet anchorage on Batanta, about 3-4 hours south of us. And after 12 hours on the helm, I was getting a wee bit tired.

So we left Marco, with apologies (he's really a great guy, and we plan to go back next year with more settled weather). We decided to go back to the anchorage we had left at Birie Island, on the north coast of Batanta, arriving at 4pm. The spitting rain finally stopped just as we anchored, and we had a quiet and restful night last night.
At 7/27/2016 7:10 AM (utc) our position was 00°46.74'S 130°44.86'E (Birie Island, N coast of Batanta)

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Waisai and the End of the Rally

June 17-21 (yes, I am way behind!)

The last official stop on our Sail Samal 2 Raja Ampat Rally was Waisai. Waisai is a small tourist town on the south coast of Waigeo Island. It is the recently-constructed capital of Raja Ampat Regency. Every year as cruisers visit Waisai they find more infrastructure to support their booming dive/snorkel tourism business. One feature we were amazed to find, was a small marina that had been built for visiting yachts. It has a long floating pier with slips designed to accommodate big catamarans. The local tour boats and small island ferry boats also use it as the departure point for their tours and ferry trips. We were amazed that they could find room to fit 6 boats--5 cats over 40 feet, and a monohull, on their dock.

Our Little Rally Group at the Waisai Marina

We had been corresponding for a couple of weeks with the Waisai Tourism Office. Our contacts were two young Indonesian ladies named Husna and Sherly. They were both standing on the dock waiting for us, as our 5 boats converged on the marina. Because the marina is a little exposed to the SE winds, and the finger piers are a little short, Mike on Sirius advised us to Med-moor in our slip...approach the slip, do a 180 turn just outside the slip, drop an anchor off the bow, and back in to the slip. We have only Med-moored once or twice in our 9 years of cruising, and never in this boat.

When Dave and I were discussing who was going to do what, he was surprised to find that I wanted to drive the boat rather than drop the anchor (I wouldn't have wanted to drive with the old Soggy Paws). Dave is much better at judging distances and angles than I am, so I felt he would be best on the bow deciding when to drop the anchor. With the maneuverability of the twin engines, I felt confident I could back her into the slip without problems. We were fortunate to have almost no wind, and we performed our pirouette, drop, and back flawlessly. I got compliments from the other cruisers, especially when they found out this was the first time I had ever docked the boat!!

By the time we finished tying everyone up, Sirius had already organized a dinner in town for that evening. We had also organized a "rental car" with Husna, to take us into town for money, groceries, and cell phone top-ups.

The next day, the Waisai Tourism Department organized a boat trip for the crew of all 6 boats (in 2 of the local tourist boats). The weather turned out great--sunny and not too windy.

One of the Two Boats for our Day Trip

It took us about 2 hours to get to Fam Islands, where we went into a lagoon area similar to Wayag. Here, they had built a small tourist facility with a nice set of stairs leading to a viewpoint on the top of the hill. In 10 minutes of huffing and puffing, we were at the top. It was beautiful. And we could see a turtle swimming in the lagoon below.

Souveniers at the Penemu Dock

Local Fisherman--Note Twin Engines

The View from the Viewpoint

The 2016 Sail Samal 2 Raja Ampat Gang

From Fam and Penemu, we went to Arborek, a small island with a very nice village. We'd been told by other cruisers to make sure we took our snorkel gear, because the snorkeling off the pier at Arborek was supposed to be great. (It was!). We had lunch and a snorkel and a nice (short) walk around town. I went looking for the bathroom and ended up in an outhouse with a squat toilet. But better than going in the bushes! (Someday I'll blog about my Indonesian and Malaysian toilet experiences).

The Pretty Little Village of Arborek

A Typical Raja Ampat Waterfront Homestay

After lunch we loaded up in the boats again and stopped at the Manta Ray place (Manta Sandy). But alas, no mantas present (not the right time of year, we were told). Then we headed off along the north coast of Mansuar Island. When we got to the break between Mansuar and Kri, the guys poled the boats across the shallow area, and took us to a pier off a village on the east end of Mansuar. Our boat driver told us to go drift in whatever direction the current was going, and he'd pick us up. The current wasn't going, but we found a spectacular reef very lively with fish and turtles, etc. We all enjoyed that snorkel so much that we vowed we'd come back and do a dive there some time.

Finally they rounded all the snorkelers up and we headed back to Waisai. We had a beautiful time.

We had time for a nap and a bit of socializing before we were again rounded up to go to the official "Welcome Dinner". This was held at a nice local resort and included a couple of short speeches, some local entertainment, and a buffet dinner. At our Welcome Dinner in Morotai, they expected us to sing karaoke (which we did after some prodding). Fortunately, karaoke isn't a "thing" in Waisai, so we were able to avoid that. But we did want to reciprocate with a little entertainment (it's customary). Greg on Verite is pretty good on the guitar and had picked out a song he thought we could sing as a group, and even made song sheets for all of us. We did a credible job of "I Am Sailing" by Rod Stewart, and our efforts were much appreciated by the Indonesians.

A Musical Serenade by Local Musicians

Me in my Dress-Up Clothes at the Rally Dinner

Our Last Group Picture!

We had a great time, and enjoyed mixing a little bit with all the people (local dignitaries and English-speakers) who had been invited to the dinner. Again, all this was gratis, courtesy of the Waisai Tourism Department. THAT is the major benefit of doing these rallies in Indonesia. Tons of fun stuff, easily organized, and usually free or very reasonable cost.

This dinner officially concluded the rally entertainments. We stayed another day on the dock to finish our shopping and looking around town, and then we took off again to explore more of Raja Ampat.
At 6/19/2016 2:49 AM (utc) our position was 00°26.00'S 130°48.41'E

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Kabui Bay

June 14-17 - Kabui Bay

After hearing someone else rave about snorkeling and diving in "The Passage", Dave was anxious to use our last remaining days before we had to be in Waisai on June 17, to get a look at Kabui Bay. This is a large bay formed between Gam Island and Waigeo Island, at the SE end, there is a wide opening to Dampier Straits (near Waisai). At the NW end is a very narrow passage, bounded by reefs on each end. Dave had been told of great snorkeling, interesting exploring, Nudibranchs, caves, etc.

So as soon as we recovered from our early morning birdwatching expedition, Soggy Paws, Evia Blue, and Sapphire headed up into Kabui Bay. As everywhere in this area, our CM93, Navionics, and Garmin charts are petty useless. They show large blobs, but not much useful small boat navigation info. So we are navigating on GoogleEarth charts (mostly made by Terry on Valhalla, and our friends on Mystic Rhythms). Unfortunately, GoogleEarth has very poor resolution photos in most of Indonesia. Terry has been successful in using SAS Planet (a Russian alternative to GoogleEarth) to get some other more detailed satellite pictures. But he only bothered to do it where he had an anchorage waypoint. So we were navigating on friends' tracks, and a not-very-good GoogleEarth picture.

Even our poor GoogleEarth picture showed a very interesting shoreline along the north coast of Gam Island--large fissures in the rock that go way back up inside, deep enough and wide enough for possibly navigating in the big boat, and certainly worth exploring in the dinghy. The entire bay is more reminiscent of the Pacific NW than of what one would imagine Indonesia looks like. Dave was itching to stop and explore the coast a bit more, but I urged him to carry on to our agreed anchor spot, on the inside end of "The Passage" (aka Kabui Pass), so we would have time to explore and snorkel the pass with good light in our dinghies.

So we carried on to the anchorage on the inside end of Kabui Pass, off Warikaf Homestay. (00-25.42 S / 130-34.19 E) As always, we had several anchor waypoints from friends' prior visits. We ended up anchoring in only 13 meters in a good spot. No internet though--we'd lost the cell phone signal as we turned the corner going up into the bay. (whimper) But a beautiful spot, and we had friends nearby to play with. Once we had lunch, we jumped into 2 dinghies and took off into the pass.

The currents in all of Raja Ampat run strong--average being 1-2 knots. But the Kabui Pass is a very narrow passage between two fairly large land masses, and emptying a fairly large bay. So the current in the pass can run 5-6 knots. As luck would have it, the current was almost slack when we started exploring. (but not for long). Once we sussed out which way the current was running, we jumped in with snorkel gear and the two dinghies on their respective leashes. We stayed on the Gam side of the pass, since that seemed to have more interesting profile and features. While running around in the dinghies, we had spotted two caves along the pass, and made a mental note to check them out once we were in the water.

The snorkel was very interesting--mostly in the quiet spots and eddies. Bright red feather stars clinging to one rock, funny looking fish hanging around inside the underwater cave, and Jan from Evia Blue even spotted our first Wobegong Shark. The current picked up to "very strong" out in the middle of the pass, but along the edges were eddies going the other direction (so we were having to drag the dinghies up-current sometimes), and some quiet water. We drifted all the way through the pass to the outside, before getting back in the dinghies and blasting back through. We had to offload John from Sapphire from our dinghy (which only has the 5hp motor on) into Evia Blue's dinghy, so we could make progress against the current.

There is a "homestay" here near where we anchored. Some other cruisers had dubbed it Kabui Bay Yacht Club, and we'd been looking forward to hanging out there. However, it looked abandoned when we first arrived. Late in the day, the owner or caretaker of the homestay, showed up and came out to us in his boat. He didn't speak any English at all, and he was not smiling or welcoming. He handed us a nicely-worded laminated sheet in English that explained that the Kabui Village was building a new fence for their church and a "voluntary donation" of 500,000 Rupia was required from each visiting boat. There is no church we have seen anywhere on our way in. I looked up the words for "where is" in Indonesia but just got a blank look when I said them. (the village turns out to be a couple of miles away on the outside of the pass).

A required voluntary donation? Seriously? This is about $40 USD, and we felt disinclined to pay. There are no goods or services offered for this fee, and it's not a park fee (we already know we will owe a 1,000,000 Rupia Park Fee once we get to Waisai) And we couldn't argue because the guy appeared not to speak a word of English. We finally decided to "donate" 50,000 Rupiah (about $4 US) to the cause. We signed his book with our name, date, and donation, and Sapphire and Evia Blue did the same. This is a new thing that was just implemented 1 May 2016. Boo hiss!!

The guy didn't spend the night at the homestay, but left just before sunset. We saw another local boat go into the dock just after that, and we could see with the binoculars that they were filling water jugs. As they came by us, they made motion that we could go in and get water too. So the next morning, we did so... loading our 7 empty jugs into our dinghy. There's a pipe conveniently located on the dock of the homestay, that is constantly running from a spring up the hill. I thought it was a bit cheeky of us after we turned down his donation request, but Dave said "other cruisers wrote about getting water there, and the guys last night told us we could." In the middle of filling our jugs, the guy showed up again. Again his expression was bland, not smiling, not angry, and no words. Dave said "Is OK?" and he shrugged and walked away. So we finished filling our jugs and then left.

While we were looking around the bay with the binoculars, we had seen a platform high on a hill adjacent to the homestay. So after filling the jugs, we went looking for the inevitable trail up to the peak. We found a place where someone had knocked together a small ladder from saplings to help scramble up the side of the bank from a boat, and a path leading away from there. So the next morning, us and Evia Blue gathered up a few gifts and went in to the homestay to ask permission to go up to the lookout. Again, no expression whatsoever. But he made it clear that he wanted a fee of 50,000 Rupiah per person to make the trek. Still mostly non-communicative, still no smile. Sheesh. It's not a lot of money...$4 per person. But the whole atmosphere creeped us out. We said "no thanks" and left. It started raining again anyway.

Dave proposed we move around to where he'd seen the labyrinth on the chart, and go exploring with the dinghies. So we moved a few miles to anchor just outside the labyrinth, which we've named Kabui Haven. (00-24.88 S / 130-36.66 E) We loaded up in our dinghy and spent 2 hours exploring around. I took my cell phone which has OpenCPN loaded on it, and we mapped the entire shoreline. We found a couple of good anchorages, one in about 10 feet sand which would easily accommodate 4-5 boats, and completely protected. (00-25.04 S / 130 36.86 E) It would be a great typhoon hole, if there were typhoons or cyclones here. Using my OpenCPN map, we found a fairly easy route out to our outside anchorage, with plenty of width and depth to get the big boat in. We got back to the boat about 5pm and Dave wanted to move to the inside anchorage, which we have named Kabui Hideaway. I nixed that idea. It's Happy Hour! Who wants to spend an hour up-anchoring from 23 meters and moving into an enclosed windless anchorage? We are leaving in the morning anyway, as we have to be in Waisai by midday. But I'm sure we'll be back.
At 6/17/2016 3:27 AM (utc) our position was 00°24.88'S 130°36.66'E

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Friwin, Cape Kri, and Birds of Paradise

After our great day at Penemu, we left Yangello early in the morning and motored about 15 miles east to the island of Friwin. We opted to go via the reefy route, past Arborek and the north coast of Mansuar to get a look at possible places to stop and dive. Boy there is a LOT of current in this area! The reefy route was easy, even in imperfect light. The water is either 100+ feet deep, or 2 feet deep. It's easy to see where to go and not to go.

We arrived in Friwin in the early afternoon--the last in our 5-boat fleet to arrive. Verite had arrived first and got the most picturesque spot off the pretty beach on the NW corner of the island, and everyone else was anchored around the north coast in about 60-70 ft. We found a nice spot off the eastern end of the north coast, with a direct line view to the island that has the cell phone towers on it, off Waisai. Not finding any shallower water a reasonable distance off the island, we anchored in 22 meters--about 70 ft. Better deeper and in sand than tangled in coral and destroying the beautiful coral. And a little offshore reduces bugs and increases breeze.

Since everyone was together again, we called everyone up on the VHF and invited them to Soggy Paws for Happy Hour. We ended up with 12 people in the cockpit (with a couple in chairs on the side deck). This was the biggest gathering so far on the new boat.

The next day, Greg and Wendy on Verite invited all the divers to go with them on Verite to do a dive off Cape Kri. This reputed to be one of the best dives in the area. Sirius and Verite had already dived it a couple of times, and had tides and best spots to go in and come out figured out. Greg put us in at the perfect spot, the current was barely moving down the coast, and we drifted down the wall marveling at all the fish. It just got better and better as we went down the wall. Toward the end of the dive we got to the confluence of the currents where all the big fish hang out. Amazing! This was definitely our best dive yet. And it was the most relaxed because we had someone manning the boat on the surface, ready to pick us up no matter where we ended up with the current.

A few days before, our friends on Sirius had made contact with Simon, the guy who does guided "Bird of Paradise" tours. They arranged for the people off their two boats to go one morning, and sent Simon over to talk with us about arranging for us to go the next morning.

Simon is a character. He doesn't speak much English, but he came with Nelly, who speaks good English. Nelly has a homestay on the south coast of Gam, just across from Friwen. We had heard that Simon could only take 2 people per trip in his small canoe. But since he's hooked up with Nelly, they have a boat that can accommodate 5 or 6 people. The price in previous years, dealing directly with Simon, was 100,000 Rp per person. But with the help and management of Nelly and her husband Martin (plus I think due to tourism inflation), this price had gone up to 300,000 (about $22 US) per person. Dave argued a little but Nelly pretended not to understand his question about why the big price increase, while Simon eyed our "yacht" and fingered one of our $300 dive outfits that was drying on the railing. So when Nelly threw in breakfast at her guesthouse, we agreed to pay the 300,000 Rp fee, and set up a pickup time for 5am (!!).

Several people had told us that Simon had showed up early--he showed up at Sirius the day before at 0420!! So we were ready by about 0445, and of course Simon didn't arrive until 0515!! But we were ready with sturdy shoes, a headlamp, and cameras and binoculars. We motored up the "river" in the dark. It's not actually a river but a saltwater lagoon in a river-like configuration, caused by the geographical upheavals common in this area. It was nearly low tide, and the boatman had to turn off the engine and pole us along a few times.

Finally we came to a rickety dock, where we clambered out onto the muddy bank. In following Simon up into the forest, we realized what some of that extra money went to--building handrails up through the forest, making it much easier to climb up the steep track. I am sure that when it was just Simon on his own, there were no such improvements. Simon did the whole climb barefoot, but I was glad of my Keen sandals with toe protection and good tread.

After about a 20 minute climb through the forest, Simon sat us down on his bench, pointed up at the bare limbs sticking up high over the forest, and started making bird calls. When nothing happened in the first 5-10 minutes, I was afraid we'd been too late, with a late start, the low tide impeding progress in the lagoon, and a bigger than normal group. But with patience, we finally got to see the drab female and fancy-feathered male do their dance. I took a couple of snaps with my cellphone, but others had better cameras and hopefully we have one or two good pics of the male Bird of Paradise's fancy costume (haven't had a chance to review all the pics we've been taking--with activities every day, amazing scenery, 2 smartphones, a dive camera and a land camera, our pics are numerous and scattered all over!).

We spent about a half an hour gazing upward, trying to see what the birds were doing behind the foliage. But every now and then, the female would jump into the clear spot, and a male would jump next to her and do his dance. Well worth $22 and getting up at 4am to see. And afterward, we had a nice time talking with Nelly and Martin. Nelly's coffee, tea, and breakfast cakes was a nice way to end the trip.

As soon as we got back to our boats, Verite and Sirius headed for Waisai to send off some guests, and us and Evia Blue and Sapphire motored up into Kabui Bay for a couple of days.
At 6/12/2016 7:40 AM (utc) our position was 00°28.25'S 130°41.45'E

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Penemu Garden Dives

As I started to say in the last post, Sirius suggested we do the dives at Penemu as a day trip. But Dave was worried about leaving 2 boats unattended at Yangelo while we day-tripped in the 3rd boat. This worry was not founded on any news about problems leaving boats unattended, just normal caution. So we decided to take all 3 boats and spend the night at Penemu, on Sirius' "open roadstead" "sandspot on the end of a reef". However, Sapphire decided he'd stay in Yangelo and do boat maintenance and explore around in his dinghy a little, so it ended up being just us and Evia Blue hauling anchor in the early morning.

We had trouble getting our anchor up. We patiently motored the boat gently in every direction, trying to free the chain from whatever it was wrapped around, to no avail. I finally had to put on a dive tank and go down to 75-80 ft in the dark water to see what was up. Visibility turned out to be surprisingly good--the bottom was sand and coral, not the usual silty muck I expected. In the light and variable winds in our little hidey hole, we had managed to do a complete wrap around a low dead coral head. It took me only a minute to free us up, and with a wiggle of the anchor chain, I signaled Dave to pull it on up. Evia Blue, who had wisely tied their stern to a tree (keeping them from sailing around on anchor), had no problems getting their anchor up.

Since Evia Blue had a 20 minute head start, they anchored their boat on Sirius's waypoint, jumped in their dinghy with their dive/snorkel gear, and headed out to meet us. Because we were trying to time our arrival at the first dive site, Anita's Garden, for slack tide, we needed to hustle on up there (about 3 miles to the north end of the island). There was some current when we arrived, but not too much. Looks like our timing was good.

For this dive, rather than anchoring the big boat and diving with a dinghy trailing behind, we decided to try "live boating"--having everyone dive off a big boat, and have the big boat standing by to pick up the divers as they surface, wherever they end up. In high-current areas, its a much safer and easier way to dive. However, someone has to forgo a dive and drive the boat. Because I HATE trying to manage a dinghy while diving, I volunteered to be boat driver for this dive. Jan and Dave went down with scuba tanks and Monique snorkeled in among the islets around the dive site. Even though I wasn't able to dive, I had a good time on the surface hanging out on Soggy Paws, with one engine idling. I put one of our new plastic chairs on the top of our new hardtop, took an umbrella to keep the sun off, and sat and read and drifted in the current, watching for bubbles. Every now and then I'd have to climb down to maneuver the boat around to stay close. They had a very nice dive.

Once they were up, we loaded everyone back aboard, and motored slowly down the east coast of Penemu, checking for possible anchor spots. The problem as always was that the depths go from 40 meters to 18 inches in a boatlength. It's very hard to find anchorable depths in sand with no coral heads within the swinging radius. We found one or two spots that were possibilities under the current conditions (flat calm). If there was much wind blowing from any direction, these spots would probably be untenable.

We also sent a dinghy expedition inside the little enclosed lagoon we could see on Google Earth. Dave took soundings with the hand-held depth sounder on the way in, and we could have gotten in without much trouble. But there was a big sign on the inside that demanded payment of 500,000 Rupia for yachts and 300,000 for motor boats. Though the guy they saw didn't speak English, he made it clear that our fee would be 500,000. (This is about 40 USD). There is a walk to a lookout inside the lagoon.

While we ate lunch and explored around, we headed down the coast toward the 2nd dive spot--Melissa's Garden. By about 2:30, we were off Melissa's Garden. Dave was going to drive this time, and Jan and I were diving. But it wasn't slack current anymore. We could see the current was ripping, so we headed a little further up-current before going in. We quickly got swept down the side of pinnacle and spend our dive time in the lee of 2-3 little islands. There was lots to see there, but we used a lot of energy and air swimming around in full dive gear, across current.

Once we surfaced, we took a look at the time, and the weather, and decided to head back to the safety of the enclosed anchorage at Yangelo. There was a big black cloud moving toward us, and it didn't look like a good night to be out in an exposed anchorage tenuously hooked into a coral rubble pile. So we raced the sunset to get back to Yangelo before all the birds roosted for the night... And we spent another quiet night in lovely Yangelo.
At 6/10/2016 12:31 AM (utc) our position was 00°30.72'S 130°27.23'E