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

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