Sunday, May 14, 2017

Ambon to Banda

April 22-23, 2017

The leg from Ambon to Banda is only 120 miles. You can shorten it to about 100 nm by motorsailing east along the south coast of Ambon to an anchorage east of Ambon City, which also gives you a slightly better angle on the wind. But that anchorage is exposed to the current SE winds, so we opted to go straight from the Amahusu moorings to Banda.

Our friends on Va'a Nui had finally completed their checkout late in the afternoon yesterday, and they left anyway, at dusk. We thought they were crazy, but with 4 people aboard, they didn't mind making it a 2-night trip, if they could sail more.

When we rounded the SW tip of Ambon Island around 8:30am, the conditions were typical Indonesia--glassy calm with current on the nose! According to the forecast, we were supposed to have more southerly winds during the day, switching to more easterly during the night. So we were planning a tack east on the southerly winds and a tack south on the easterly winds. Well, that was the theory anyway. The winds never got strong enough to actually sail. With the nearly 1 knot current against us, and light SE winds, tacking and trying to sail at 2-3 knots would take us forever to get there. So we ended up motorsailing the whole way.

(I was surprised to maintain data connectivity on Telkomsel for a couple of hours out of Ambon).

The afternoon was spent motoring and hoping for wind...and sailhandling... put the Code Zero up, take it down, etc. Between midnight and dawn, we had a number of black clouds come up, with accompanying wind. I spent the tail end of my watch motorsailing, tacking to avoid the blackest part of the clouds (using the radar to help pinpoint the actual centers of the clouds). Dave's watch was pretty much the same. At 0530 the clouds looked big and black enough that he woke me up to help put 2 reefs in the main. Generally the clouds only hold about 20-25 knots of wind, but you never know, and at night it's just safer and easier to be conservative.

By dawn we were about 15 miles north of the island group, with not much wind. So we decided we had enough time to see the islands of Run and Ai on our way into Banda Neira (the main island). As we approached Run, the westernmost island, we saw Va'a Nui there on a mooring outside the reef. They had arrived at midnight, and a fisherman had directed them to the mooring (which they ended up paying for).

We motored in close to Run and exchanged a few words with Va'a Nui. Then we motored close along the west coast of Run, around the northern tip, over to the west coast of Ai, around the northern tip, and into the north end of the harbor at Banda Neira.

Around 3pm, we motored past the big volcanic swath into the sea, from the 1988 eruption of Guning Apo (Fire Island). Pretty spectacular! (Later we dove the "Lava Flow").

We motored into the harbor, hoping to find an available mooring. There are supposedly 4 moorings set up for yachts in the very deep harbor. But where the moorings were supposed to be were 2 fishing boats, and no other moorings. The other option was to med-moor stern to the quay into one of the hotels, where our friends were last year. As we were milling around trying to decide what we were going to do, a guy on the seawall was motioning us in to his place. This turned out to be Reza, the owner of The Nutmeg Tree Hotel and Dive resort.

There was already one catamaran backed up to his place, tied on to a huge yellow mooring ball. So we tied in next to that catamaran and Dave took some lines ashore to The Nutmeg Tree, while it motored in reverse to keep us in place. I LOVE having two engines. We are so much more maneuverable that I don't mind driving the boat in tight places. (Before, I would make Dave drive into the tight spaces).

More on Banda and The Nutmeg Tree in the next post.
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At 4/23/2017 05:05 AM (utc) our position was 04°31.38'S 129°53.86'E

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Week in Ambon

April 15-22, 2017

Ambon was just a stepping stone to our goal, Triton Bay, in the far SE end of Indonesia. But... since it was the end to the famous Darwin to Ambon Race, we were looking forward to seeing what it was about. It is also one of the ports in which one can renew a Social Visa.

It took us a lot longer to actual get into Ambon than we expected. We had both wind and current on the nose for the last 20 miles, and for a little while we were only making 2 knots toward the harbor! The wind, which had been less than 10 knots for the last 36 hrs, piped up to 20+ knots going around the point into Ambon Bay. So we ended up t-t-t-tacking. We kept the engines on, or we would have never made progress against the wind and current. We were anticipating a nice sail up the bay once we rounded the point, but of course, the wind died as soon as we rounded the point!

We had several waypoints for anchorages, and we chose to stop first at Amahusu, on the southern side of the bay about halfway in. The "inner anchorage" that several cruisers commented on, was another 2 hrs further up inside the bay. They had completed a bridge across the bay since the last cruiser report we had, and one cruiser in 2015 had commented that they had been chased out of the inner anchorage (but they didn't know why). So rather than go all the way up there, and maybe not be able to get in or to stay, we decided to stop at Amahusu. This turned out to be a pretty good decision. Later we were told that the bridge WAS high enough for average cruising boats to get in, and it was possible to anchor in there.

Approaching Amahusu, we could see black mooring balls, and saw one cruising boat on a mooring. But not knowing who's moorings they were or what they were made up of, we decided to anchor between the moorings. Just as we were getting ready to drop our anchor, a dinghy roared up to us, and told us we could pick up any one of the moorings. This turned out to be Bertie and Nico from the Amahusu Sailing Community. They are trying to revive the area as a sailing destination and to again be the endpoint for the Darwin to Ambon Race (scheduled for August this year). They offered to help us with whatever we needed, including advice, water, diesel, transportation, etc.

We arrived on Saturday of Easter Weekend, and so didn't expect much happening until Monday. But Nico invited us out to dinner at a friend's place on Sunday night. This turned out to be an informal "friends and family" gathering to celebrate a young boy's confirmation. We got to see a short jam session, including a guy with a Hawaiian ukelele. On the way back, Nico drove us through town and showed us the local fresh market, where the bemo (local route mini-busses) terminal was (Terminal Mardika), and what number bemo's we needed to take to get to Immigration, and back to Amahusa. A very helpful intro to Ambon!

We spent a couple of days doing the necessary things... groceries, money, and diesel fuel. Dave and I spent an afternoon seeing the local sights (museum and WWII cemetary) by bemo. Then we lined up a dive day with Blue Rose Divers. Their shop is on the water directly across the bay from Amahusu. We rounded up the crew of Va'a Nui, and the 6 of us went diving on a Blue Roase dive boat, outside the bay. The wall was so-so, and the guide was not that great. (At least compared to the great guides we had diving with Bastianos in Lembeh, Biodiversity Eco Resort in Raja Ampat, and Palau Dive Adventures in Palau...we've definitely been spoiled recently). To be fair, the best diving in Ambon is supposed to be "muck diving" inside the bay. But none of us was interested in diving in the trashy bay.

Getting fuel in Ambon was a real exercise. At first it seemed easy... hand our jugs to the Amahusu Sailing Community people (Bertie) and sit back and have it delivered. However, when they told us the price was going to be 14,000 per liter, we balked at that. The "unsubsidized" diesel price in Bitung had been 7,400 per liter, and we'd hired a guy with a truck hanging out near the port for Rp100,000 (and split that 3 ways). So 14,000 seemed like a real rip-off. It turns out that there was no profit in that number for the Amahusu guys... that's the price the Pertamina station would deliver it for. After whining a bit, Nico agreed to take us and our jugs personally in his car down to the only gas station in Ambon that sells unsubsidized fuel. Two of the 3 boats didn't have enough jugs to handle their needs in one trip, so Nico ended up having to make 2 trips. It's an hour round trip to the gas station!

It turned out that the unsubsidized diesel price at the Pertamina station in Ambon is 9,500 per liter, and the gas station manager tacked on a Rp10,000 per jug additional fee, jacking the price up by another 400 per liter. Plus we needed to compensate Nico for his time and the use of his car. That was another Rp150,000 per boat. Nico wasn't available for the first run until 9pm, so Dave was out decanting fuel into our tanks at midnight, to be ready for the next run the next day. We did eventually get our 100 liters of diesel, at about 11,400 per liter. So all our gyrations and effort saved us about Rp260,000, about $20 USD, for 100 liters.

There are Pertamina stations all over every Indonesian city we've been to, but only one that is set up with an extra pump to sell "unsubsidized" diesel. There is talk of de-regulating some or all of the fuel subsidies, which would make things much simpler for foreign vessels to get fuel. We have never seen a "fuel dock" in any part of Indonesia that we've sailed in, so all the fueling has to be done by jugs. It makes it tough--especially since in most of Indonesia, the average wind speed is about 5 knots.

We did go find the Immigration office, to ask if they would extend our visa early. (Directions: take an inward bemo towards Terminal Mardika and get off at Gareja Rehoboth (Rehoboth Church), cross the road and pick up a #12 bemo to go up the hill to Immigration. Sometimes your inward bemo will deviate from their route to drop you off at Immigration for a small fee. Most drivers know where Immigration is.) The young lady at the desk spoke excellent English, but said she couldn't extend our visa so early (we were asking for an extension 5 weeks early). She led us to her boss, who DIDN'T speak much English, who basically told us he could only extend 2 weeks early, and that we should be happy that we still have 5 weeks. We tried to explain that we were going somewhere for 2 months that had no immigration office, but he didn't understand. So, no extension. Our friends on Va'a Nui, who had less than 2 weeks left on their current visa, DID get an extension, and it was essentially ready the next day. The Ambon Immigration officials seemed very nice.

Groceries...besides the big open air market at Terminal Merdika, there are two Hypermarts in town. One is at the Maluku Mall, near the base of the big bridge. The other is further away from Amahusu, in the Passo area (near where the inner anchorage is). We stopped at both of them, and the Hypermart at Passo had better stock and fresher vegetables. But both had some Australian cheese, had both a frozen and fresh section, and sold Bintang beer in cans and bottles. Getting back from either mall, you had to cross the street to catch bemos going the other way, and keep asking for Terminal Merdika. We took a Tantui (#22) bemo both times and managed to find our way back to where the Amahusu bemos staged for departure.

The beach inside of the Amahusu moorings (between the hotel and the dock) was a safe place to leave our dinghy. The tide is a factor, so we would put our wheels down and haul the dinghy all the way up above the high tide line. If you anchored your dinghy off the beach, you'd find your dinghy a swimmable distance off the beach, or high and dry on the beach. The dock would be a better place to tie off, but there's no ladder to get you on and off the dock at low tide.

We ate both lunch and dinner at the restaurant (Tirta Kencana) at the hotel where the moorings are. It was a decent meal, but tourist prices as you would expect. The Bintang was cold.

Ambon would be a great stop, if there just wasn't so much trash in the water. As the tide comes and goes, long strings of trash float past the boat, so the water is trashy for 4-5 hours per day. It's very sad. I don't know if the inner harbor would be better or worse (probbly worse). As soon as we got the next weather window to head SE to Banda, we took it.

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At 4/16/2017 11:10 PM (utc) our position was 03°54.31'S 134°06.99'E
http://svsoggypaws.com/currentposition.htm

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Arriving Ambon Today

We're not quite there yet, but we're close enough that we're receiving a 3G signal! Hopefully we'll be anchored somewhere in Ambon later this afternoon. Still not sure exactly where we are going, but we'll figure it out.

Yesterday while motoring, we ran the watermaker and topped off both water tanks, and Sherry did about 3 loads of laundry, while Dave worked on fixing things. We finally have the Port Engine starter problem solved. After finally swapping in our "spare" starter, we found it didn't work. Taking both starters apart, Dave found that he had put the spring in wrong when he re-assembled the starter after doing some preventive maintenance while in Samal. The "spare" looked new, but the solenoid was bad. Dave took it apart and PM'd it (putting the spring in RIGHT this time), and so hopefully we have a good spare ready if we need it.

We spent last night motorsailing close-hauled trying to get out of the 2-3 knot current on our nose. At one point our speed was down to 1.9 knots!! We finally tacked east and managed to shake the current, but the wind was so light (and mostly on our nose) that we kept the engine on all night.

On approaching the pass between two islands on the NW side of Ceram around midnight, we could see a big tanker approaching the pass as well, on AIS. We called him several times, and did talk to him, but never did make him understand that we were ahead of him going into the pass and would stay close in to stay out of his way. He kept saying "OK, we pass green to green", meaning he apparently thought we were coming OUT of the pass. It was a little worrying. Obviously he didn't see US on AIS and didn't speak English. But we hugged the coastline and he slowed down, probably trying to figure out where we were (as we disappeared around the corner).

Just after we went through the slot, we saw a French-registered sailboat also approaching. It turned out to be Va'a Nui, whom we met in Bitung. They are headed for Ambon too. And they had just seen our friends on Java, who are also headed for Ambon in a day or two. Small cruising world here in big Indonesia!!
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At 4/15/2017 1:28 AM (utc) our position was 03°41.53'S 127°53.19'E
http://svsoggypaws.com/currentposition.htm

Friday, April 14, 2017

Still On Our Way to Ambon (Day 3)

We had a great first day, with the wind coming up earlier than forecast and stronger than forecast. It was mostly on the beam, and the seas were quite calm for awhile, so we had an exhilarating sail, with winds almost 15 knots NNE (that's a lot of wind for Indonesia near the equator). We did 6-7 knots all afternoon.

Fortunately, the winds quieted a little at sunset, and we had a beautiful night, still sailing with full main and full jib. The sunset was nice and the full moon rising an hour later was even nicer. Around 8pm we crossed the equator. This being our 6th or 7th crossing of the equator, I DIDN'T go flush the toilet to see if the water ran the other way :; I splashed a little rum in the sea to thank Neptune for another great crossing of the equator. Dave never woke up.

About 6am the wind died out completely, as forecast, and we reluctantly started the engine. 24 hrs later, we are still motoring, but the wind is finally starting to come back, a little. Only problem is, it's right on our nose! Fortunately, it's only 6-7 knots. We are motor sailing for now, but assuming the wind does as forecast, we hope to be able to sail on a close reach in light winds sometime today.

The other factor we're dealing with is current. There is a ripping (up to 3 knots) of current coming up through the slot between Halmahera and Sulawesi (the two big funny-looking islands in eastern Indonesia, that we are sailing between). So we have been using FastSeas.com's routing to try to balance the wind and the current. We have done pretty well so far, mostly staying out of the current, and sometimes having helping current. But at some point we're going to have to head out into it, and get across it. The tactic at that point will be similar to the Gulf Stream, cross it at 90 degree angle as fast as possible.

We are still 120 miles from Ambon, and with current issues and wind on the nose, we MAY make Ambon tomorrow sometime. But even so, we are having a pleasant passage, even if we are having to run one engine. We have enough fuel to motor all the way to Australia, if we had to (if we were going there!). Our consumption on one engine is a paltry 1.3 liters per hour. And we know we can get fuel in Ambon if we need it.
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Sherry & Dave

In Indonesia til at least September!
At 4/13/2017 11:50 PM (utc) our position was 02°30.30'S 126°50.83'E
http://svsoggypaws.com/currentposition.htm

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Underway South from Bitung

Still have some posts to backfill, but let's talk about the Here and Now!

We have left Bitung, headed for Ambon, 385 miles SSE from here. We'll be crossing the equator again sometime today!

Port checkout yesterday was easy, because our friends on Ariel IV paved the way for us several days ago. Sequence is Immigration, Health/Quarantine (don't forget your Green Book!), and Port Captain. We hadn't checked IN with the Port Captain on our way in, but that didn't seem to matter. We gave them a copy of our Customs Port Clearance from Davao (I made an extra copy just for this, because we hadn't checked out with the Port Captain in Davao). I know that Noonsite says we shouldn't have to do this port clearance stuff for internal movements, but they sure seem to like doing the paperwork! Didn't cost a thing, just hours of messing around in town.

We had a nice last dinner at Bastianos Resort, and said goodbye to the manager, Thomas, last night.

We pulled anchor around 7:30 and set off south through the port. Garbage everywhere, as usual, so the helmsman had to be very vigilant. But once clear of Lembeh Strait the garbage had died down.

We had to motor the first couple of hours in no wind, but the wind has just come up and we're doing over 7 knots!! Wheee! I love sailing our catamaran!
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At 4/12/2017 4:13 AM (utc) our position was 01°08.60'N 125°15.05'E

Monday, April 10, 2017

Diving in Bitung / Lembeh Strait

A great resource for divers in N Sulawesi is this website:


Keep following the linked pages as there is a ton of information about the islands from Sangihe to Bitung, including Manado.

Another dive information resource I recommend is Wannadive.net.  They now have an app for your smartphone with all the dive site info on a map.  They had all the dive waypoints in Lembeh and Bunaken (and all the ones in Palau, too).

If you have your own equipment you CAN dive Lembeh Strait on your own.  There are two or three bays on the north/west side of the strait that have good sand plateaus to anchor in with the big boat, and from there, the dive sites are easily within dinghy distance.  (Check this one:  01 29.46N / 125 14.25 E).  Watch where the dive boats go.  In spring 2017, there was an Eco-Divers boat anchored off the south side of Serena Besar that would fill tanks for $3 a fill, so getting fills when anchored there is easy.

We ultimately opted to dive with Bastianos Dive Resort, as recommended by our friends on s/v Sirius. They had great guides and we got a package of dives, so the dives only cost about $35 USD per dive (with our own equipment).  We got so much more out of a guided dive than trying to do it on our own out of our dinghy.  So many times our guide pointed out something that looked like harbor trash only to find it’s a rare/weird fish/invertebrate.  We photographed a ton of new-to-us creatures in the 3 days of diving we did with Bastianos.  

If you’re new to “muck diving” I’d definitely do at least one dive day with a dive operation.  That said, diving in Lembeh isn’t for everyone.  If you’re looking for blue water or coral, go to Bunaken instead, on the other side of the peninsula.  But I’d definitely recommend a day or two of diving in Lembeh for any diver.  The creatures are amazing.


As a 10th Wedding Anniversary present to ourselves, we had Bastianos arrange a visit for us to dive at Bastianos Bunaken.  We got the transfer to and from Bastianos Lembeh to Bastianos Bunaken, 3 nights in a superior a/c room on the water, all meals, and 7 dives for two of us for around $1,500 USD.  It was a great short getaway for us.  Bunaken is the exact opposite of Lembeh…big coral walls, lots of (small) fish (some big), turtles, etc.  We enjoyed diving both places equally, for different reasons.

Photos to follow soon.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Bitung Check-in And Other Notes for Cruisers

Before you leave the Philippines, make sure you have a boat stamp. Customs especially reminded Dave 4 times yesterday when they were onboard to bring the stamp with him when he came to the office to collect the final signed, stamped piece of paper that signifies our Customs clearance (and substitutes for the CAIT). He couldn't find it in his backpack and thought he'd forgotten it, and he is sure that they would have made him go back to the boat to get it before they would have issued the paper. On the other hand, not having a proper rubber boat stamp last year, we used the one we had previously made for the old Soggy Paws, with the wrong hailing port and wrong registration number, and no one seemed to notice.

If you do not have a boat stamp, we had a nice self-inking one made in Davao, Philippines at Stamp Haus, a few doors toward the water from the Davao Famous Restaurant, I can't remember what it cost, but not much.

Here is what we did... not sure it was all exactly what we should have done, but this is it. There is another boat clearing in today that came directly from Palau who does not have a Social Visa (no Indo representative in Palau to procure one from). And I don’t think they even input their stuff in the Yachters site in advance. We will pass on their experiences later
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We had our AIS on, and I am pretty sure we were listening on Channel 16 (which is very quiet here), when we arrived around 5:30pm. We did not call in though, and no one called us. (The big ships seem to go around Lembeh Island and approach Bitung from the south, and we came in from the north, through the strait).

We came in the north entrance to Lembeh Strait and went direct to the Serena Besar anchorage (the little island in the middle of the strait at the north end of Bitung). There is a LOT of trash in Lembeh strait, including massive plastic accumulations and lots of logs / tree branches, etc. There are also scattered FADs. At dusk there are tons of fishing boats headed out. Best to try to time arrival during daylight.

There is space on the south side of Serena Besar in about 50-65 ft for at least 2-3 boats. It is a decent anchorage except quite a bit of current, and the fishing boats coming and going at all hours. It is swimmable at the right time of the tide. At the wrong time, the tidal debris is hanging about and would discourage going in the water. The water is clear enough to see the reefs in good light.

Dinghy 1: We went ashore the first day at the Water Police station that is on the mainland coast just a short dinghy ride almost due west of the Serena Besar anchorage (usually a big boat labeled Polisi there). We went around the end of the big boat and into the inner harbor, in the left hand corner there is a ramp, and you could either wheel your dinghy up the ramp, or put a stern anchor out and tie to shore. The police guys keep an eye on your dinghy. The tidal range here can be as much as 6 ft, so you need to consider tidal issues. We went in at nearly low tide, so coming back at high tide, one of us had to wade out to where the dinghies were. Bring a stern anchor!!

This is a short dinghy ride but a long taxi ride into town.

Transportation: We were told that from the Water Police station, you have to take a motorcycle (ojek) from there into town and once in town, the blue mini-vans (bemos) are shared route taxis and go all over. A route taxi costs between 3000-5000 rupiah in town, and maybe as much as 10000 on a longer haul. We were told different amounts by different people on the same route, so it's same as in the Philippines, once you know what it should cost, you try to have exact change and just hand it to the driver and walk away. That way you avoid the tourist markup.

In our case, however, we were fortunate on our first day to be offered a ride in to Immigration by one of the policemen. They were all very nice. It is quite a long way, so we gave the driver (unasked–for) 40,000 rupiah (about $3) for taking the 4 of us quite a long way into town. Later, we took a bonafide taxi (an English speaking guy hanging around the taxi area outside the port gate) and he asked us for 100,000 rupiah, but accepted 50,000, for the trip back which included picking us up at the grocery store and a short stop at a public market for veggies. (note about 13,300 Rupiah per dollar)

Dinghy 2: Later, on our other 2 trips in to finish the formalities, we opted to dinghy into the Fishing Pier (Perlabuhan Perikanan Aertembaga on Google Maps) (I will give a couple of lat/longs at the bottom). Here, we put our dinghy in a protected niche in the NW corner of the harbor, squeezed in between the small fishing boats, again with a stern line out and the bow line on a big bollard. We asked a couple of the fishermen working on nets nearby if this was OK. They said they’d keep an eye on it. (We ended up paying one guy when we came back, a “tip”—had planned on 4,000 but ended up giving him 10,000, less than $1, because we didn’t have change). This location is a longer, and usually wet, dinghy ride, but much easier with land transportation.

Transportation: From the fishing harbor, we walked out through the gate, and hung out in the shade at the intersection until a blue mini bus went by in the right direction (west). The guy took us to the end point for his route, which is at the corner of Jalan Sam Ratulangi and Jalan Sam Ratulangi/Jalan Desa Simalong. (this intersection is marked by the Summer Hotel on Maps.me, but Summer is located in a different place on Google Maps). I will call this intersection, the "main intersection", and use it as a reference point for the rest of the locations. A lady on the bus told us it was 4,000 per person. Later going back the other way, someone else told us to only pay 3,000.

Once at the main intersection, it is about a 5 minute walk west along that Sam Ratulangi street to Immigration. You could perhaps get your bemo to go the whole way, we saw some going past us as we walked, but our guy stopped at the main intersection and insisted we get out. Immigration is on the left hand (south) side of the road. You know you are going in the right direction if you soon pass a roundabout with an Eiffel Tower-like monument. In this stretch of street we saw several ATM's and cell phone stores. A Google Map search for Immigration came up with the correct place. Maps.me unfortunately has streets here but not much on information. So I recommend you pre-download the Google Map for the area and locate Immigration (or make your first stop a stop at a cell phone store, so you have a working Google Maps). I also recommend that you get the Google Translate app, and pre-download the Indonesian dictionary for offline use, before you leave leave internet for Indonesia. It is incredibly helpful, because no signs are in English. If you are online you can even point the camera at a sign or document, from within the app, and it will (usually) translate for you.

Immigration: (Kantor Imigrasi) We went inside, the lady at the Customer Service desk spoke good English, and told us to sit in the waiting area. About a minute later, we were called up to the desk, they took our passports and we showed them our visas. We waited about 5-10 minutes in a semi-air conditioned waiting room, and they gave us our passports back with a stamp in them, on the visa page, with that day’s date. I can’t remember if they asked for a crew list. No charge. We have 60 days (not 2 months) from that date. They told us clearly to begin the visa renewal process one week ahead of the end of the 60 days.

Customs: (Kantor Pabean) Walk back to the main intersection and turn right, heading south toward the water. At the end of that street is a gate area with a sleepy guard. Just inside that gate, to the left, is the Customs building. (remind me to say something about pre-arrival notices). Inside, we asked at the desk, and they directed us into an air-conditioned “waiting area”. This area includes a computer terminal to make adjustments to your Yachters Yacht Declaration.

The first problem we had was that the printed copy of our declaration had our only crew member (me) repeated 4 times). Apparently there was a bug in the system that when you edit some things, each time, it adds a duplicate of the crew member (I am told this is now fixed). At this point in time, the ONLY way to resolve this, I was told, was to delete the entire “yacht” from the system, and start with a new “yacht”, and go through the whole process again. There is no delete capability for the crew lines after a certain point in time. Fortunately the captain’s info is not deleted, but all the yacht info is (sorry Evan!). What a PITA!! Also, the photos of the yacht and the registration that I had uploaded were on my laptop, which I didn’t bring. So we agreed that I would go back to the boat and re-enter the information from my laptop, print a new copy there, and give them the printed copy when they came out to inspect the boat. This would only work for you if you had internet aboard, and had a printer.
Ariel IV (a) forgot to bring their printed copy and (b) and somehow there was NO crew on their crew list, though it had been there when they applied for their Visa! And they had entered the “Port of Origin” as their original location in Europe, not “Davao”, which had to be corrected. They got those corrected using the computer at the Customs office (don’t forget to bring your username and password, or maybe wise to bring your own laptop), and were able to print a copy for Ariel IV. We signed and stamped the respective printed copies of the Declaration form, waited a bit (for someone to look them over and make sure they were correct). And then we set up a time for the Customs inspection onboard. As we were in the office in the morning, they wanted to come that afternoon. Another boat that went in in the afternoon, had them come the next morning. They did show up more or less on time.
No charge at all for Customs, or Immigration.

Quarantine: The Quarantine office is in another building down the road toward the water from Customs. You have to go outside the Customs compound, turn left and down the road and turn left into the Quarantine compound. This is where you take the MARITIME DECLARATION OF HEALTH form you downloaded from the last page of your Yachters entry, which we had filled out, signed, and stamped.

There was a very nice lady in the first office who spoke English. She organized the whole procedure. Since we did not already have a “green book” (Ship’s Health Book), which we apparently require in Indonesia, we had to get one of those. (Though Noonsite.com’s updated regulations says this is no longer required). A few minutes waiting, and the lady brought us to a wall that had all the charges for Quarantine on it, indicating we had to pay 35,000 for one thing (our Certificate of Pratique) and $15,000 for the Green Book. (A total of about $4.50 per boat). After paying that, we waited a few more minutes and were presented with a Certificate of Pratique stapled inside our new Green Book. No boat visit required (we didn’t ask, they didn’t mention it).

The very last word the nice lady said to me was “You know that you have to return and get cleared out of Bitung before you leave for your next port.” (we didn’t know). It’s unknown whether you can get by without going to Quarantine at all. Had we not asked the question, nobody would have told us to do it. But you may run into problems down the way somewhere if you do not have the Certificate of Pratique. I know that in Sorong, clearing out of Indonesia last year, Quarantine was a mandatory stop in the clearing-out process. Customs would not give us our clearance document without it.
We didn’t ask if they would come to the boat…and they never mentioned it. So we got our paperwork without having to hassle with a visit from a Quarantine officer.

Port Captain: Nobody at Customs or Immigration or Quarantine mentioned the Port Captain. We should have gone there on check-in, but didn’t. On leaving Bitung, we did “check out” of the port, and basically did a check-in, check-out at the Port Captain at the same time. (Since we hadn’t checked out with the Port Captain in Davao, we made a copy of our Customs “Port Clearance” and gave that to the Port Captain in Bitung, which was accepted without question). Port Captain is on the main road that runs parallel to the waterfront, about a block back towards the Fishing Pier from Customs, next to a big mosque.

Customs Inspection: At the end of your visit to Customs ashore, you will negotiate with them for a time to have them visit your boat. This is absolutely mandatory in Indonesia both arriving and departing the country. We managed to put them off for a couple of hours so we could shop a little and get lunch. They came out in their own small launch with 4 or 5 young people (they were all still in, or just barely out of, Customs school). A couple of them spoke very good English, and the rest spoke a little. They circled the boat and took a couple of exterior pictures and then came aboard. They have a detailed checklist for the inspection, and they faithfully went down the list item by item asking if we have this, and if so, taking a picture of it. There were at least two guys with cameras (not sure how they split up who took pictures of what).

When asked about liquor, I showed them my 2 cases of beer and 4-5 open liquor bottles, which they faithfully photographed. When asked about drugs, I showed them our medicine cabinets and the prescription meds for blood pressure etc, and our prescription antibiotics (these were already listed in the “do you have drugs aboard” question. They photographed both cabinets. They wanted engine serial numbers, and they wanted to SEE them (we didn’t actually know where they were, so that took a little time). I had listed a gas generator on our list of equipment, they wanted to see that. Dive compressor (wanted to see and photograph). Dive tanks (we had 4 in the cockpit and 2 stowed, they took pics of the 4 in the cockpit). I had listed 2 personal computers and one nav computer. They took pictures of the Nav station. Finally, the AIS, he wanted to see the AIS Transmit screen… to prove that our AIS was actually transmitting. I said “you can see us on MarineTraffic.com, right?” but he still wanted to see the transmit screen on the AIS, and he took a picture of it. Our Vesper has an AIS Status screen that shows it’s transmitting. I guess they have gotten wise to the scam of having an AIS receiver only and using a cell phone app to post your position on AIS.

All in all, they were very pleasant, and professional, and thorough. I offered them some cold water and was declined. The whole visit took about 30 minutes per boat. After the visit, we then had to return to Customs the next morning to receive our clearance paperwork, and “make sure you bring your stamp”. Part of the Customs clearance paper is a half-page list of things the Captain is agreeing to, and the Captain has to sign and stamp that he agrees to this list.

Cell/Internet: We bought simPati Telkomsel sims with 12GB emblazoned on them for 85000 Rupiah (note, the 12GB is split into several different applications so it's not quite 12GB usable, but it only costs $6.30). Make sure you download the MyTelkomsel app, it's the best way to manage "loads" on the device and buy packages, because all the text messages and the sim card built-in menus are in Indonesian. Best to bring your device with you, so you get the right sized sim card and get it all activated. You will need to specify when buying whether you want a phone sim (phone/text only) or phone sim with data. The simPati is a phone sim with data. We got that one for both phones and for our wifi device. (Note, if you have a PH wifi device and want to use it here, I suggest you try to get it opened up in downtown Davao vs waiting til you get here to try to use it--to check whether you need it opened up, just put a different carrier's sim card in it). All my notes on simPati sims and recharging are in the Cell Phone section in the Indonesia Compendium (http://svsoggypaws.com/files/).

Cash / ATMs: There seem to be ATM’s all over the place. Max withdrawal at the ATMs has been 1,250,000 Rupiah (about $100) but you can do multiple w/d. ATM’s seemed to be everywhere. I found Mandiri worked best for me, but Ariel IV also used a different one (BRI, I think) that didn’t work for me. There is a Mandiri ATM at the big hospital building across the street from Immigration and back toward the main intersection a block or so. Mandiri sign out on the street.

Groceries: The largest supermarket that we have found is called Citi Mart (Citirumah Makanart Swalayan). It is on the road that the Customs gate is on (Jalan Yos Sudarso), about a 5 minute walk west of the Customs gate, on the north side of the street. They sell beer and some liquor there. Being well stocked, we didn’t even ask the prices of the liquor. The Bintang beer was 373,200 Rupiah ($28) for a case of 24 330ml bottles. They also had Bintang in cans by the 6-pack.  We also saw Heiniken there, probably a little more. Bintang is pretty good beer. They had a reasonable array of food, including potatoes and big onions. Some green veggies (the usual stuff), but I didn’t buy any because we were planning to stop at a market. Some sliced American cheese. I saw chicken products for sale (didn’t really look closely at the meat because my freezer is full). Boxed milk. Half of the building was a department store, and upstairs, a fried chicken restaurant with a menu in English.

There are several other smaller stores we saw in the taxi rides further out of town.

We went by taxi to the small veggie market (on our way back to the boat the first day). Probably can get there by blue bus, but can’t tell you how. I have a pushpin for it in Maps.me but no real location I can point to on Google Maps, the road layout doesn’t look identical.. Somewhere in the general vicinity of Pondok CafĂ© Three Putra (search for it on Google Maps) (due NW of the Fishing Pier, inland, several blocks up and several blocks west).

There is a much bigger market in the town of Girian to the west of Bitung along the coast road. The blue Bemo’s do go to Girian.

Fuel: We “hired” a bemo near the fishing pier to take us to the Pertamina gas station that sells un-subsidized fuel—We pooled our resources and sent 3 guys with about 10 fuel jugs. This is apparently the only station in town that will sell you (foreigners) fuel. And it's good clean fuel. It is west of the main area of Bitung on the coast road, about halfway to Girian. While 1 guy was filling fuel jugs at the pump, the other two took the bemo to the fresh market nearby in Girian. We paid the bemo driver 100,000 for the whole deal.

Though there are guys that will bring you fuel in their boat, the one cruiser who used a guy in Bitung ended up with TERRIBLE fuel (frothy emulsified stuff). Fortunately he looked at it before putting it in his tanks, and refused it. But the guy still wanted payment! Big argument ensued. So best to do the jug thing into town, or very carefully negotiate ahead of time with the “boat delivery” delears, and make them understand that you will refuse anything that is less than perfect fuel.
There is a fish market nearby the fishing pier—the big blue building. But at 10am there was no one there selling fish. The next day at 6:30 am there were tons of people buying and selling fish!

Boat Parts: Right near the “main intersection” is a wonderful store with an amazing array of boat stuff, including Icom and Garmin products (a few), stainless steel screws, etc etc. This would be the first stop if you were looking for something. The name of the store Ud Karya Mentari and it’s on Google Maps in approximately the right place. They will take a credit card with a surcharge. There are lots of smaller hardware stores on the street going away from the Fishing Pier. We also saw a big Yamaha sign somewhere when in the taxi.

Pre-Arrival Notification: Before we went ashore the first day, I was re-reading what I could find on my computer about completing the formalities in Indonesia. The newest Indonesia Guidebook says something about having your agent do the required pre-arrival notification. So I emailed Ruth, asking her how a yacht that didn’t have an agent would do the pre-arrival notification, and whether it was required. Her response was something along the lines of “your Yachters entry is your pre-arrival notification” but she had also texted Customs in Bitung that we had arrived. I again asked her if there was an email address to email to, and I never got a straight answer to that question. So I would make sure your Yachters arrival date is as accurate as possible. (I guessed right and we actually arrived on the day we said we would). But, if it were me, I would also try emailing or texting a pre-arrival notification. Here are some email addresses: pkcdt.btg@gmail.com and kppbca4_bitung@yahoo.co.id Cell # +62 0877 5165 6225

Bastianos Anchorages: While anchored at the Serena Besar anchorage, we went over by dinghy to Bastianos Dive Resort on Lembeh Island and saw that the anchorage area there would be much cleaner and quieter, plus less current. We talked to the manager (A Swiss guy named Thomas) and he was welcoming to us. So we moved over there. We had several waypoints from others, but ended up at 01-26.89N / 125-14.374 This was fairly deep (60-75 ft), but a much nicer anchorage (if you go further in the bay toward the east, it gets shallower).

We had several dinners ashore at the resort—-it is buffet style for Rp150,000. Their bar has a nice overlook to watch the sun go down and they serve beer and mixed drinks at typical resort prices. We also negotiated a group rate for 6 cruisers to go out diving in Lembeh Strait, and they were happy to come pick us up on the boat. They have a fairly attractive dive rate if you make 5 dives with them (about $35 per person per dive).

We ultimately left our boat for 3 days in front of Bastianos to go dive Bunaken (the other side of the N Sulawesi peninsula). The anchor waypoint right in front of Bastianos that Thomas wanted us to use (so his guards could keep an eye on the boat) is 01-26.79N / 125-14.25E. This was deep, about 75 ft, but Thomas didn’t want us in any closer/shallower because his “house reef” is just inshore of that.

Other Anchorages: If you have a small dinghy, or just want to be closer to town, you can anchor off the fishing pier. One boat we talked to spent a week anchored there with no problems while the captain went on a visa run. I also noticed that Screensaver went right down next to the main commercial pier and anchored for the day for clearance out.

Serena Besar anchorage: 01-27.545 / 125-13.862 E
Water Police Dock (approx.): 01 27.58 N / 125 13.30 E
Fishing Pier (approx.) 01 26.84 N / 125 12.57 E
Dinghy Tie Up (northerly sector winds): 01 26.80 N / 125 12.53 E
“Main Intersection” 01 26.66 N / 125 11.43 E
Small Fresh Market Near Fishing Pier: 01 27.00 N / 125 12.00 E
Citimart Supermarket: 01 26.58 N / 125 11.15 E

Sightseeing in the Bitung Area: We met a taxi driver in downtown Bitung that spoke good English. He offered to take us on a “tour” for Rp1M for the day. There are a number of taxi drivers hanging about in downtown and around the waterfront areas offering their services. One boat hired a driver with no English skills for 500,000 pesos for the day. We ended up going with Hamid, our English-speaking driver. We had scoured the Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor information and had a few specific places we wanted to see (lakes, mountains, and waterfalls). Hamid picked us up at the dock at 7am and drove us around all day in a nice car big enough for 4-6 people. We split the tour fee between two boats, and bought Hamid lunch. We thought it was a good tour for a good value. Hamid can be reached at 0812-4484-202. He has several businesses, but with a day or two notice could be hired to do pretty much anything you need (provisioning, etc).

Note:  all of this info has been put in the Indonesia Compendium, which can be downloaded here:  http://svsoggypaws.com/files/

Monday, March 27, 2017

Day 6 - Siau Island to Bitung

Par for the course, I was up at 2am with an anchor alarm going off in my ear. When I turned on the GPS in the cockpit, it was obvious we were still stuck to the bottom, but swinging in the rising wind and swirly current more towards shore. The sounder mounted on the starboard (outside) hull was saying 35 feet. (When we first anchored, we'd been hanging in 100 ft). It's no telling what the port hull would have been reading--we don't have a transducer there. But I envisioned the reef top right there... I cranked the rudders to starboard to let the current take us out a bit, and that helped. It was high tide, so with our 3' draft and a 6' tidal range, we probably could have swung completely over the outer reef without a problem. But still... I dozed in the cockpit until it was time to wake Dave at 4:30.

So we were up at the crack of dawn again. We had 77 nm to go to get to Bitung. We motorsailed all day in light conditions, with both engines going at cruise speed, to make the 77 miles from Siang to Bitung. With our tiny 27 Hp Yanmars, we only motor at about 5-5.5 knots.

And we made it! With .5-1.5 knots of helping current, wind from the NNE-NE at 8-12 knots, and all our sails flying, we finally dropped anchor in the lee of Serena Besar next to Ariel IV and, another boat (Making Time), in Bitung Harbor at 6:15pm.

Ariel IV got into Bitung early yesterday, as they had continued to sail through the night. We have only had a brief conversation, but they have talked to Making Time and already gotten lots of diving and check-in advice. Eric & Birgitta from Ariel IV were going over to the other boat for drinks and info, so we're sure they'll have the full scoop this morning.

As usual in Indonesia, the anchoring dance has to do with finding someplace to anchor in less than 100 feet where you won't swing into a reef. Here it was made a little more complicated because there's a pretty stiff current, and we're not sure whether it reverses or not. We also wanted to anchor a good ways away from the two monohulls--cats and monos behave very differently in wind/current situations.

We must have done a good job because the anchor alarm didn't go off once all night! But at 5:30am, the intruder alarm in the cockpit went off...fortunately it was just a flapping towel. It's daylight enough now that I can see that we did a good job anchoring--we are positioned perfectly, and this is a pretty little spot, though there is quite a bit of current at times. Bastianos Dive Resort is about a mile south of us. After we get cleared in and talk to Making Time, we'll decide exactly where and how we'll go diving and whether we'll move to the "Bastianos" anchorage.

Serena Besar Anchorage: 01°27.47'N 125°13.83'E

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Day 5 - Sangihe to Siau Island

We had another long day hop planned, so we had to be up early. We planned a 5am departure. However, at 4am the drag alarm went off, and we were underway, with the mooring still tied on!! We had gusty winds to 20 knots in the harbor, coming in from the saddle in the mountain. I had put an anchor alarm with a very short radius. When we got the Garmin fired up, we could see that we were dragging the buoy along the shore, out to deep water. Fortunately our boat wasn't in immediate danger. We got the engines started quickly and the nav computer fired up. We were worried about dragging into another buoy behind us, and getting tangled up in that, but managed to avoid that.

The biggest problem was getting Dave's $50 fancy stainless steel clip off the mooring buoy. 45 minutes later we had finally backed towards shore and managed to drag the damned buoy back up the slope, so we could get the buoy hauled high enough to get the clip off. Otherwise, Dave was going to make me dive for it in the dark!! Fortunately, our Garmin chart was both detailed and accurate, which made the whole process easier.

But, it's a good thing we got underway early. Today's target was Siao island, about 55 miles away. We are hustling along trying to meet up with Ariel IV in Bitung (just had a radio contact with them... they are at sea, about 26 miles away from us, expecting landfall tomorrow morning for Bitung).

We had wind today from every point of the compass and from 0 knots to about 20 knots. We had helping current and adverse current. We were able sail for a few hours without the engines on, but because we were trying to keep our speed up, going dead downwind in light air, we ran one or both engines most of the day. We did make about 100 gallons of fresh water in 3 hrs of motoring...

Unfortunately a big squall hit about the time we arrived at Siao. So the spectacular view of the volcano was hardly visible through the rain.

We ended up anchoring in the lee of the two little islands on the SE side of Siao. We motored up to the big pier and tried to ask for suggestions on anchoring, after we found that the fishing boats we had thought to be anchored were really on moorings in 90 ft of water. They invited us to come in to the dock, but with a 6 ft tidal range and a concrete dock, we weren't doing that. The guy then said "right there". So we anchored just off the pier. There is a pretty good current running in the slot between the two islands. I'm not crazy about the anchorage, but it's getting dark and there's just no time to find an alternate spot. I tried to convince Dave to head out before it got full dark, and just make an overnight to Bitung, but he wouldn't budge. We could just sail slowly along and arrive in daylight. "Too much debris in the water, too many fishermen with unlit nets and FADs". (Yeah, but, you're not the one who will stand anchor watch all night...)

But it WAS nice to have a quiet dinner-and-a-movie without worrying about running over some poor fisherman.

Anchor position: 02°40.54'N 125°27.08'E

We are hoping for a quiet night, and plan an early departure at "first sparrow fart" (a British sailing term). We have 77 miles to go to the Bastianos anchorage at Bitung... another VERY long day. Most likely we will get in after dark.

Lessons (re-)learned today: (a) Never pick up someone else's mooring, no matter how new and hefty it looks. And no matter how badly you want to avoid anchoring. (b) If you want to sail, go on the windward side of the island!!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Day 4 - Kawio to Sangihe, Tahuna Harbor

We had a great sail today from Kawio to Tahuna Harbor, Sangihe. No internet :p but great sailing conditions! Wind abeam mostly, seas reasonable, fast sailing (in a catamaran).

The last 10 miles along the west side of Sangihe were a bit challenging. The wind did its "cape effect" thing and accelerated. Fortunately we pulled in the Code Zero (our 10 kt sail) before the winds got over 15 knots. We clocked 27 knots several times. After we were a few miles south of the NW corner, we finally had to start the engines to maintain a consistent speed.

We weren't sure what we were going to find in the deep harbor of Tahuna. But as we motored in, we could see a few bright yellow moorings available. These are big yellow barrel-like moorings--yellow tarp wrapped with ropes around a big styrofoam barrel. The one we picked up was off the new dock (new 2016). It looked new--no slime and no barnacles, and the rope looked sturdy. But no idea what is on the bottom. We probably could have found a deep spot to anchor (70-80 ft), but Dave was convinced we'd be OK on the mooring overnight.

We probably could have gone into the dock had we been inclined. There is one boat on the dock, with enough room for another (dock is on N side of harbor, probably so new that it doesn't show in Google Earth), but just in from this waypoint.

Mooring 03-36.43N / 125-29.42E

Our plan is to head out in the morning, however, so we picked up the mooring vs trying to dock. No idea what's on the bottom, but we held fast in 5-20 knot winds, with a tight anchor alarm set. There are 3 other similar moorings further in the bay.

Our plan is to head out early tomorrow AM for Siau, and be in Bitung late on Monday

We heard Ariel IV on the radio tonight (only just). I think we bounced between 4143, 4054, and 6224. The loud signal wiping out 4143 was gone, and we just had harbor noise.

Not sure exactly where Ariel IV is... only heard "8kts" clearly and something about Sangihe, but we couldn't determine if they are sailing east or west of Sangihe. We expect to meet them in Bitung on Monday evening for a Tues am check-in party.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Day 3 - Sarangani to Kawio

If we had planned to make one overnight hop the last 100 miles to Sangihe, as we did the last two times we made this trip, we would have left late morning for a short overnight to Sangihe. However, Dave decided that he wanted to try to do this trip all in day-hops. So we decided to try to stop at Kawio Island, one of the first small islands south of the Philippine-Indonesian border. We had hove-to in the lee of this island last year, waiting for Soggy Paws Australia to catch up with the catamarans. But that was in the middle of the night. We had a good Google Earth picture of the island and felt we had pretty good anchoring options, if we arrived in daylight. So we got started from Sarangani at 6am. Thankfully no bad coral wraps, and we were away on time.

I was amazed to find that the strong Globe Cell signal persisted to almost 20 miles south of the southern tip of Sarangani. They must have that antenna mounted high up on the island with a good antenna!

Waves were choppy for the first 20 miles due to funny currents and wind. Same as every time we've been in this stretch of water.

We had a pretty nice sail, and helping current, and so arrived in the middle of the afternoon. We had good light and calm winds in the lee of the islands. We motored around and checked out two possible anchor spots. We ultimately decided to drop in a nice sand spot mostly in the lee (basically the sand spot between the two islands on the west side). It was a bit rolly at high tide but will be fine for an overnight stay.

We took a short snorkel late in the day (too late for much visibility). It was good to get in the water and get some exercise, but nothing worth shouting about, underwater-wise.

Dave was happy that we were spending the evening of our 10th wedding Anniversary at anchor, so I could serve him a nice dinner! We had a nice happy hour and a beautiful sunset, with even a little green flash.

Anchorage position: 04°39.60'N 125°25.86'E

We'll get up at 5am again tomorrow and make a day hop into Sangihe. Not sure whether we're going to spend one or two nights there.

We have been trying to keep a radio schedule with another boat, Ariel IV. The are in Samal and headed south to Bitung a few days behind us. We set the schedule up without much thought--around convenience vs best propagation. 7pm on 4143-49 has NOT been working out. There is a loud broadband signal on that freq that wipes everything out. 4054 sounds much better, so we'll stay on 4054 for 5 minutes and then switch to 6224. (Once Ariel IV got out of the marina, from behind the big island, we were able to talk to them on 4054).

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Day 2 - Tubalan Bay to Sarangani Islands

We left Tubalan bay around 4:30 am and motored in calm winds and seas for a bit. Lots of fishermen and floats (looked like floating long-lines, not nets), but at 4:45am it was light enough to start seeing things. The wind started out light W and gradually clocked all the way around and picked up to an exhilarating 15-20 out of the ENE by the time we were approaching Sarangani. We detected no adverse current and some significant helping current after we rounded the hump in the west side of Gulf of Davao.

Dave Eating Breakfast and Reading Email In Sarangani


Because of wind direction, we opted to try a different anchorage than the two we've been in. We used the "Sarangani SW" waypoint that's in Terry's list (I think), from Shiralee. We dropped anchor in 20-30 ft (with some coral nearby to about 15 ft) in a sand spot. There are several nice looking spots along the west coast of Sarangani. With darkness fast approaching, we didn't have time to explore much.

There is a fair north-bound current where we are right now, holding us sideways to 7-9 kts of wind. It's fairly decent snorkeling here (clear water, sand and coral).

Clear Water!


We dropped our anchor at 05-25.084N / 125-27.547 E.

Decent Globe coverage here. I do see a Smart phone signal but no data.

As we motored in to the anchorage at Sarangani, the Philippine Coast Watch station on the southern tip of Mindanao called us by name (because we had our AIS on) and took us off to Ch 14 and asked us a few questions (this is normal, they call all passing ships they see on AIS). But now anyone with a VHF within 50 miles knows we are somewhere nearby, and that we are 2 Americans on an American boat, headed for Indonesia. On the other hand, we know the Coast Watch station can hear us from here, if we have an issue.

We spent another day anchored in this spot. Dave puttered around fixing things and Sherry took advantage of the last wisp of internet (at good speeds in our anchorage) to take care of business before we lost internet for about a week.

In the afternoon, we noticed a Philippines Navy Ship in the shipping lanes between Mindanao and Sarangani. We felt they were "guarding" us. The were sitting NW of Sarangani Islands and calling passing ships (like the Coast Watch station does), we saw them pretty much all day there.

We had another quiet night in the nice anchorage with great internet. (Globe Only).

Monday, March 20, 2017

Day 1 - Samal to Tubalan Bay

We finally escaped from Samal. Bittersweet, as we really love the marina, and are leaving some good friends behind.

Goodbye Holiday Oceanview Marina!!


We motored south with just the jib up until we passed the ferry terminal, then put up the bigger light air Code Zero. Still had to motor since wind was light behind us, and we needed to make a minimum of 5 knots to get in Tubalan (43 miles away) before dark. Even though we left at nearly exactly high tide, and expected a little helping current, it seemed we never had any favorable current...all day. We went on the west side of Samal, close in to shore.

Ahhh! It's great to be underway again!!


Almost on schedule (same as we experienced last year in May on this leg), around 2-3pm, near the south end of Talikud Island, the wind abruptly switched to SE and picked up. By late afternoon it was blowing 15-18 out of the SE, and we were sailing at 7.5 knots with no engines. Because the wind was from the SE and our course was due south for Tubalan Bay, we couldn't quite make the harbor at Tubalan with the wind from that direction. So we just kept up our best VMG, and sailed fast as close hauled as possible, ending up about 5 miles west of Tubalan Bay. Then we put down the jib and motorsailed close in along the coast in the lee as much as possible. Unfortunately, our Port engine starter wouldn't engage (Dave hasn't yet figured this out yet, but we do have a spare), so we were on one engine, going slowly (about 3.5-4kts into the 15-20 kts of wind, thankfully not much sea!)

Note: Today's spot forecast (GFS) shows a SE wind in the Gulf of Davao every afternoon for the next 10 days. So be forewarned to expect a strong land-induced SEly wind in the afternoons, maybe, going down the Gulf of Davao. It seems to die off to almost nothing at night, though.

So we ended up coming into Tubalan bay at dusk, racing darkness. Then we had a problem with the windlass/chain which took about 10 minutes to resolve. Now it was full dark, the wind was still blowing a little, even in the lee of the land, and we only had one engine. It is very difficult to close-in maneuver at slow speed in a cat with only one engine. We abandoned the idea of anchoring in our old (2014) anchor spot in the SE side of the bay, on a very narrow shelf, and headed for the SW side of the bay, where we had anchored last year with the Rally.

We had been in the bay enough times to feel OK motoring around slowly in the dark, with Dave on the bow, and me with the computer and OpenCPN, with both our 2014 and 2016 tracks in the cockpit. There is a large fish farm structure in the middle of the bay to the west side... just about where our CM93 charts show an anchor on the chart. But the spot we ended up anchoring, you could come to in a straight line from any part of the entrance (slowly, carefully, watching depthsounder and with a lookout on the bow) and clearly avoid the hazards of the fish farm to the west and a coral shelf coming out from the dividing point of the east and west lobes of the bay. (Note that the coral shelf on east side of the entrance extends a LONG way out from land. It is more or less correctly shown on the CM93 chart). Heading straight SSW into shore at 2 kts, when our depth sounder went abruptly from 120 ft to 35-40 ft, we dropped anchor. Probably in coral. We can see stakes to our south about 100 meters that probably mark a very shallow coral ledge.

Both Globe and Smart cell phone coverage here.

Anchor wpt: 06 30.0796 N / 125 34.2857 E

This anchorage wouldn't be good in the strong northerlies we've had this past week--might be better in the eastern lobe of the bay then. But it is OK for NE-S-NW. We are getting a little swell this morning that we think is probably related to tidal issues (I remember same thing last year). No wind overnight and we were drifting around in circles--there is a slight along-shore current here. Right now, wind is NNE about 7 kts and a little chop, but still fine.

There were two bars or houses ashore that we could hear music from about 7pm to 9:30 pm. One was Karaoke and another was techno music, both loud. But thankfully they shut down before 10pm. We locked up and set our cockpit movement alarm and slept well last night.

We were visited by a couple of guys in canoes about 9am this morning. They are fishermen in the village of Malita here (lots of small fishing boats and FADs all over). Neil Davis (one of the guys) spoke reasonably good English. We asked him about safety and Abu Sayyaf. He said this is a Christian village, a Christian area. And even when there are Muslims, they are good Muslims. He said the Jolo/Basilan area (SW Mindanao) has Muslims that came from Malaysia. These are the bad guys (he gave us what seemed like a tribe name, but I didn't write it down). The Muslims from Davao to Sarangani are different tribes--they are good guys. They migrated from Indonesia. He said we should not fear stopping along this coast. He asked if we wanted any food or water or "coconut wine". He also offered help from the village if we needed help with the starter problem. (Note, there is a bus that runs along the coast between General Santos and Davao, if you needed to hitch into Davao in an emergency).

If Dave can get the Port engine starter issue fixed today, the plan is to stay here today and head out about 4-5am tomorrow for the next day's hop... 67 miles from here... to Sarangani. We have a spare starter, so if the problem isn't fixable, we'll just swap in the spare starter and fix the problem later. Then we'd leave Sarangani about mid-morning on Wed for a Thursday arrival in Sangihe.

I contacted Jeffry Gaghana today via Facebook Messenger. He was the head of the Sangihe tourism department, and responsible for our Rally coordination, in 2014. But had been deposed by changing elections when we visited last year. He speaks good English and we met with him when we were back in Sangihe in 2016, plus have been FB friends for 2 years. I asked him if we stopped in Sangihe on our way to Bitung, would it be OK. I said nothing about staying on or getting off the boat. He thought it would be fine. Since we know where the ATM and the sim card shop is in Sangihe, I may convince Dave to sneak ashore and get some cash and a couple of sim cards, without bothering with any formalities. But even so, since we have the YachtERS cruising permit application and an Indonesian visa in our passport, I would think that even if an official approached us, we'd be OK by showing these and just stating that we're on the way to Bitung to do our formalities.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Painting the Deck with Not Really Kiwi Grip

It all started when Dave heard while hanging out on "The Balcony of Knowledge" at Oceanview Marina about this local product that was "the same as Kiwi Grip but MUCH cheaper". (Kiwi Grip is a deck painting product made and marketed out of New Zealand. It has a great reputation, but is very expensive).

Almost Like Kiwi Grip


First, let me explain about The Balcony of Knowledge. There is no bar or restaurant at Oceanview Marina. However, there is a nice balcony and an "honor bar"--a refer stocked with beer, water, and sodas. And there's a killer view of the sunset (and a welcome breeze) from the balcony. So cruisers hanging out in the marina tend to congregate for a cold beer and a little breeze to watch the sun goes down. You can learn some amazing things on this balcony. Cruisers from all over the world are working on their boats in the marina, and they are happy to share their knowledge and their opinions.

The way I heard it, some cruiser had painted his deck with this stuff 10 years ago and was very satisfied with it. He told Marcel on s/v Mintaka San about this locally-available, inexpensive deck paint. Marcel went right down to the hardware store, bought the stuff, and put it on his deck. (Later, I directly queried the original guy, and he hadn't really used the Philippine product, but something very similar, in the general category of an "elastomeric roofing sealer".) Dave took a look at the job that Marcel did with it on Mintaka San, and liked what he saw. Meanwhile, he told another cruiser about it, who also put it on his deck.

Dave's favorite "deck shoe" is a pair of fancy Croc-like flip-flops. These are easy-on shoes, and comfortable on the foot. But deck shoes they ain't. And our deck on the new Soggy Paws isn't very grippy. When it gets wet, it's a little slippery, especially with Dave's favorite slick-bottomed shoes. So Dave has been wanting to do "something" with the deck. He had previously re-done the decks on the old Soggy Paws with epoxy and "sand", and he knew how much work it was to get a good finish and an even layer of sand. He did a little reading about Kiwi-Grip and how easy it is to apply, and he was hooked on the idea. I wasn't so sure.

I Googled for hours, trying to find someone else who had used THIS product on his deck. I couldn't find one. I did find out a lot of information about Kiwi Grip, which did sound like a wonder product.

The key to the whole process is a thick, latex-based "elastomeric" paint, and a special "loopy" roller that gives the paint texture. (If you buy the kit from Kiwi Grip, you get paint made for marine deck paint, the loopy roller, and detailed instructions). Basically, you goop on the paint, let it dry until it's almost tacky, and then roll it with the loopy roller, which makes a nice textured surface. By varying how thick the paint is and how long you let it dry before rolling it with the loopy roller, you can control how aggressive the textured surface is. Kiwi Grip strongly recommends practicing on something non-critical to get the technique right before starting on highly visible parts of your deck!

So we started stockpiling the Primero brand Elastomeric Roofing Sealer. The hardest part was finding enough white to mix with the light grey "Cosmic Sand" color to make the color a very very light grey. (Too dark, even a little dark, and the deck is blazing hot on bare feet). We scoured every hardware store and paint shop in Davao to accumulate enough paint (8 gallons in all) to do our deck. We were looking for a 3:1 mixture, so we had 6 gallons of white and 2 gallons of Cosmic Sand, at a cost of about $20USD per gallon. The loopy rollers were fortunately in stock at Citi Hardware (though we'd been offer the loan of a pair of Kiwi Grip rollers by another cruiser). (We ended up having to run down to Ace Hardware at the end and buy another 3 gallons of paint--and we could only find 2 gallons of white, so we ended up with about 1/3 gallon of Cosmic Sand left over).

Since the paint is so thick, there's no tedious deck prep. You just have to make sure there's no greasy residue and no flakey bits on your old deck paint. Our helper Alex and another painter prepped our deck in one day. They scrubbed the whole deck on hands and knees with a stiff brush and soap and water. Then, with socks on to keep from making greasy spots on the deck, they taped off the non-nonskid areas with painters tape. Then they applied the paint in 3ft x 3ft sections. With the exception of one unexpected rain shower, the actual painting was complete in 3 days (port side, starboard side, cockpit area).

Clearing the Decks for Painting


Alex and Kim Each Working on Small Sections of Deck



See the Goopy Wet Section, Unrolled, in the Foreground


Alex Feeling Good About the Job


The rain shower... we were waiting for a couple of dry days to do the painting, and we were antsy to get going, so we got started a day early. The guys had just finished the 2nd section aft of the starboard bow, and a little rain cloud popped over the hill. It poured for about 15 minutes. Since it is latex-based (water based), all the paint they had just applied just washed off!! Once things dried out again the next morning, they just painted it again--no problems.

Finished Deck


Our "Aggressive" Finish Up Close


It took a week for the deck to dry fully, since the paint was applied so thick. It IS grippy! Thank God Dave decided not to paint the actual seats in the cockpit area--it's much too "aggressive" for sitting on in a bathing suit.

We'll report back in a year to let you know how it has turned out.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Launched!

As usual, I'm way behind in the blog.  Too much work, too much fun!

However, we did manage to extricate ourselves from the cruiser-friendly boatyard at Oceanview Marina on Samal Island.  On Feb 27th, we were finally launched.  Since I was onboard, we didn't get any launching pictures.  The picture below was actually taken in April 2016, by a friend.  We haven't changed much on the exterior on this haulout, except to raise the waterline 2".

On the Launching Ramp, Finally!


We were dismayed to find that after raising our waterline by 2", we were still a bit low in the water. Later we moved a few heavy items (spare parts) from Starboard to Port and got things balanced up. Fully loaded with full fuel and water and 6 months worth of supplies, we are still a bit low in the water, but that will correct itself as we consume some of the weight.

A Bit Low in the Starboard Bow!


Needless to say, we are happy to be back afloat. The only remaining major project is to paint the deck. We expect to be able to complete that within the next week (weather permitting). The plan is to leave within a week or so after that for Indonesia.

So Happy to Be Back In The Water




Sunday, January 8, 2017

Why We Came Back to Mindanao, Again

A few cruisers (mostly on Facebook) have expressed incredulity that we have returned to the marina where 4 of our fellow cruisers were kidnapped a little over a year ago.  I know a lot more have been thinking the same thoughts without saying it out loud "What on earth are they doing there?".

For us the major accomplishment of 2016 was getting our sweet old Soggy Paws, our CSY 44, fixed up and sold in a matter of months.  Once we settled all the bills with the marina, we couldn't believe how little it cost us to do all that work, and how good the outcome was.  Here is the list of things that we had the marina do for us on the CSY:
  1. Prep and varnish all interior floors
  2. Rebuild V-berth woodwork
  3. Rebuild Aft cabin bunk woodwork
  4. Repair damaged woodwork at Nav Station
  5. Repair woodwork on the port settee
  6. Replace shelving in the engine room
  7. Repaired part of the caprail
  8. Repaired damaged toerail (cyclone damage from 2011)
  9. Removed stern rail and replaced damaged sections of stainless steel
  10. Varnish approx. 50% of interior woodwork
  11. Paint all white spaces on boat, including in the bilge, engine room, walls, ceiling, inside all lockers, etc
  12. Varnish the cockpit teak
  13. Prep and paint toerail
  14. Recover all cushions on the boat (mattresses & salon area)
  15. Fiberglass work to repair/rebuild leaky closed chocks
  16. Prep, tape off, and paint deck (without having to remove all the deck hardware)
  17. Prep and paint sides
  18. Prep and paint bottom
  19. 4 days of a cleaning lady to clean up interior after work completed

Since the yard management was in flux while we were having the work done, and we were in a hurry to get things done, we pretty much had to be on site almost every day overseeing the work being done, and making sure the yard workers had the supplies they needed to keep working.  So there is a lot of our supervisory time that is not included in the billing.  We did MOST of the procurement for paint and supplies, with once a week trips into Davao.  (Some supplies the yard already had, but most we sourced ourselves, including paint, epoxy, tape, paintbrushes, and cloth for the cushions).  We were able to source mostly Philippine-made supplies that were equivalent in every way to the "name" US marine brands, at a lot lower price.

Here is what we spent to get all that work done:

1.  Labor:        $1,965 USD
2.  Materials:  $1,640 USD
3.  Yard Fees (4 months) & Launching: $1,612

This was at the then current exchange rate of 44 pesos to the dollar.  Now the rate is 49 pesos to the dollar, so everything is even 10% cheaper.  The current labor rate at the marina is $10 USD per DAY.  That includes work for skilled carpenters, skilled painters, welders, fiberglassers, etc.

We dropped off an alternator at an alternator shop in Davao, and had it repaired for $12.  And you can find almost any service a yachtsman would need, including liferaft repacking, in Davao. What you can't find in Davao, you can find elsewhere in the Philippines.  With very cheap shipping rates, it's easy to ship stuff in from Manila, or ship something to Manila or elsewhere for repair.  There is a sailmaker in Cebu who can repair sails or make new sails.

There are several mechanics available--at least one cruiser came in to the marina with a dead engine and had the engine removed, taken to Davao, and completely overhauled.  Others are available to do minor repairs or servicing at the marina.

There is at least one whiz marine electronics guy, but he's hard to get scheduled, as he is much in demand for repairs for all the big ships that frequent Davao's harbor.  But we have taken small electronics into Davao and gotten repairs done for very reasonable prices.  I had the USB/charger socket on my Samsung phone replaced, while I waited, at a repair shop in downtown Davao, for $10.  That included the part, which they had in stock.

Davao has numerous modern malls with multi-screen movie theaters (in English), large grocery stores, hardware stores, etc.  And the Davao airport is literally only 10 minutes from the ferry dock, with connections to the world through Singapore and Manila.

This marina has a nice environment, with a concrete slab in the hardstand area, solid docks, and a good electrical system.  When variable power was interrupting work (and pleasure) in the marina, the marina installed two huge generators which are sized to run the entire marina and workyard.  This was invaluable when power to the entire island was out for 3 weeks during our refurb.

The marina clubhouse is open 24x7, with clean hot-water showers and an "honor bar".  The marina furnishes a bar-b-que and charcoal for the Friday night pot luck.  Plus there are two freezers available for cruisers to keep frozen food if they need to shut down their refrigeration.

The marina is theft-free.  We have been in and out of here for 2 1/2 years, and have never heard of an incident of cruiser stuff going missing... in spite of the fact that everyone leaves their "stuff" all over.  I would worry more about leaving tools around underneath our boat at a first world yard.

After the kidnapping incident in September 2015, the marina had a security expert come in and do a full security review.  They have substantially increased security.  They added two guard-houses out on the outer seawall, added a lower gate, doubled their security guards at the front and lower gates, and invited the local militia to man one of the breakwater guard houses with 2 guards 24x7.  Plus they offered the Davao Coast Guard free dockage for their off-duty Coast Guard boat.  They replaced all of the security cameras with higher quality cameras, as the cameras that they had in place were a little too grainy to accurately identify the perpetrators after the kidnapping.  They also put pressure on the cell phone companies to increase cell coverage in our area, so we had more reliable communications in case of an emergency.

Finally, we really love the Philippines and the Filipino people.  I am sure there are some nasty fellows around, but so far, thankfully, we haven't met them.  The people we meet on the street are nice and friendly and helpful, and happy that we are visiting their country.

No matter how cheap it is to get work done here, we wouldn't be here if we didn't feel welcome, and fairly safe.  In light of the sad incidents making world news, from as far away as Germany and as close to home as Ft. Lauderdale, we feel as safe here as we would anywhere else in the Philippines, and in the rest of the "civilized" world.

Though we do take advantage of the twice a month marina van, that takes us on provisioning runs, we do most of our shopping in Davao on our own.  Most cruisers use the EXTREMELY cheap public transportation, called "jeepneys".  It costs 12 pesos (25 cents) to go all the way across town, and they run constantly.  Since the jeepneys go a little slower (because they are frequently stopping to pick up passengers) and aren't air conditioned, we often opt to take an air conditioned taxi, which costs us about $4 to go all the way across town.

So, that's why we're here, again.  Getting work done on the new boat, and gearing up for our next adventure.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!

One of my New Year's resolutions is to blog more!!  The problem is as always when I'm not blogging regularly, that there's so much to catch up on, I don't know where to start.  I may back post a few things if I don't get "re-prioritized" by Dave today.  But I'm just going to plunge right in and write about today.

Update:  I have back-posted 3 more posts in December, so make sure you scroll down, if you haven't visited in awhile.


Dave Hanging with Some Of Our Marina Workers

We had a pretty low-key New Years. The marina threw a party for the workers on Dec 30, and they invited us to participate.


Pig Finally Arrives


Lechon!

No Filipino party is complete without "Lechon"--the big roasted pig.   Ours came wrapped in cardboard from somewhere else on Samal.  And of course no Filipino party is complete without "selfies" of everyone and everything.


Selfies with the Pig

They let the workers quit early and started partying about 3pm. After a number of drinks, lots of socializing, and some dancing, we staggered home (back to the boat) at about 8pm.

I am fighting a cold, so have not been much in the party mood.  We ended up skipping any socializing last night, New Years Eve. We watching a movie on the computer--something we haven't done in months--and got to bed at a reasonable time.

To follow up on the last post about our passports--I did finally get the call from Air 21, and took a taxi out to drop our passports off at the Cargo Terminal at the Davao Airport.  The fee for "2 day" delivery was only about $5, and I got a tracking number that confirmed that our passports arrived at the Embassy on Dec 1.  Then complete silence.  I had expected to get an email or something with progress reports "received passport renewal application" etc.  But didn't get anything.

Around Christmas, not hearing anything, I was starting to get worried. So on the Monday after Christmas, I started trying to contact the Embassy Consular Services Section.  They only take phone calls 3 days a week for a 2 hr period and they say the line is always busy on those days (I got the recording).  So I emailed them with an inquiry at the suggested email address.  I never got any response to the email, but our passports showed up a few days later, so I guess they were on top of it. Out of the blue, we got a call from Air21 that our package was at the airport and we could come pick it up. It took about 4 weeks without "rush priority".  And now we are good for another 10 years!

I spent half a day scanning the new passport pages for our boat papers file, and updating our crew list with the new passport number and expiration dates.  I also made new "Passport ID cards"--print the main passport page on a piece of cardboard and laminate to carry with us.  Plus I loaded digital copies of the passport page on our cell phones, so we have them always handy.

Now we can start working on our Indonesian visas.