Monday, January 28, 2019

A Few Days in Biak

January 18-21, Biak

So we arrived in Biak, the far eastern check-out port for Indonesia, on Friday mid morning. But we couldn't check out yet, as we hadn't checked in to Indonesia yet (had been coast hopping down from the Philippines in remote areas). So our first job was to get checked in.

We dropped anchor off the port, and were the 4th boat to be anchored there. It was deep, there wasn't much room left, and the conditions were not nice, with an onshore breeze opposing current, and the offshore reef not breaking much of the wave action. But we had been told that this was the designated anchorage for dealing with officials, and best for doing town business like groceries, fuel, and laundry.

We had a quick lunch aboard and beached our dinghy on Julius's beach (first small beach and houses northwest of the Ikan Pasar (Fish Market)). From here it's a short walk to Immigration and Customs, plus a gas station that will pump good diesel into your jugs (not always easy to find in Indonesia). Julius speaks pretty good English and is helpful. Look for the Dive Biak boats on the beach.

Immigration was easy--we didn't plan to stay in Indo for more than a few days, so the 30 day non-extendable "visa on arrival" worked for us. That is all you can get in Biak, unless you have previously arranged for a Social Visa (see procedure for doing that prior to your arrival in Indonesia, in the Indonesia section of our Files page).

Customs was easy also--we had (after 4-5 attempts) successfully completed our arrival information online on the Yachters website maintained by Indonesian Customs, just before we left the Philippines. We just had to confirm that info on their computer, and then have them come visit the boat for an arrival inspection. We made an appointment to pick them up off the Fish Market pier at 4pm.

Quarantine (Health) was a bit of a problem... they used to have an office at the Port, but now they are most of the time only found in their office out of town. Someone had told us to go to Quarantine (Plants) and they would call them for us, but ultimately we ran out of time to deal with Quarantine because of our approaching appointment with Customs.

It was getting rougher in the anchorage, and when the Customs and Immigration guys showed up, after the dinghy ride out, they were looking a little green. That enabled a quick inspection, with the Customs guys taking pictures of all the boat equipment listed on our arrival paperwork (they then are supposed to verify the equipment is still aboard when we leave, making sure we have not sold anything while in Indonesia).

Just at dusk, Dave ferried the guys back to the pier and we pulled anchor immediately to move to a more protected anchorage, 2 miles north of the town pier. Fortunately we had several cruiser's tracks and good satellite charts, so we had no trouble finding our way to the northern anchorage in the dwindling light. This anchorage was WAY better than the town anchorage.

Unfortunately, by morning, the wind had switched to W-SW, and the reef that protected us when the wind was NW was no longer protecting us, and the winds were up to 25 kts. It didn't take us long to search the satellite imagery and find a spot that looked better protected in west winds. We were the first to move, but our friends on Berserker and Indigo soon followed us as their anchorage got worse and ours was better. (Anchorage details are in the Indonesia Compendium, Biak section).

We had planned to head out first thing in the morning on a diesel run, but opted instead to hunker down and wait for the weather to get better. By late afternoon, things had calmed down enough that we decided it might be possible to drop people at the ferry pier just behind us. Indigo, avid "birders" had been talking to a recommended birding guide, and asked if he would taxi us in with our jugs to get diesel. I dropped Dave and Indigo on the pier with the jugs--they had to scrambled up to the high pier over the back of a (derelict?) fishing boat. On their return, I positioned the dinghy under the pier and they lowered the jugs down with a rope. Diesel-done! Dave also dropped our laundry off where Indigo was picking theirs up.

We had heard there was a WWII-era Catalina airplane that made a nice dive. Dave contacted Julius, the guy recommended to guide us, and arranged for a Sunday dive on the Catalina for 5 of us. Fortunately the weather was nice by Sunday morning, and Julius turned up on time with a fairly decent dive boat and 10 tanks. We had 2 nice dives (pictures to follow later).

When we were discussing logistics for Monday--we needed to go check out of Indonesia, and the others needed groceries and diesel--Julius offered to be a water taxi for us. So Monday morning, he picked us up at our boats (not so promptly on time), and brought us to his house. From there we started the rounds of officials... Quarantine, Immigration, and Customs.

We ended up having to hire a shared taxi to take us out to Quarantine, as the Q office on the docks were closed. Looking at the Google Map for their location, I mistakenly told the taxi driver "near the airport". Well, it's NEAR the airport but on a completely different road, and not near the main airport terminal. A half hour and 2 stops for direction discussions (in Indonesian, and we don't speak any), we finally got dropped off at the Quarantine (Health) office. We had 3 boats' worth of paperwork, all with different plans of when they were actually checking out, plus a fourth boat (Indigo, who was on their birding tour) who was planning to check out but wasn't there. So it took an hour to sort out all our paperwork. The end result was that Quarantine had to pay us a visit on the boat before they could process our paperwork. *sigh*

Immigration was again easy, as we had just checked in on Monday. All they had to do was stamp our passports and put another stamp on our crew list.

Customs--we visited our now good friend Noel in the Customs office, and he said they needed to visit the boat to check us out (they had just been there on Friday!!). So we arranged for Customs and Q to come out at 4pm for a boat visit. We convinced them that conditions up at the ferry pier at the north end of the reef were much better, and arranged for them to meet us there, rather than on the Fish Market pier.

Then we made a mad dash for the grocery store, picking up our laundry on the way. For cruisers familiar with Sorong, the grocery store, Hadi, is similar to Saga in Sorong, but not quite as well stocked. Imported fruits, frozen chickens, cases of beer, and typical Indonesian dry goods were what we were after.

Then we rushed back to Julius's place with all our stuff (3 boats' worth of shopping, laundry, and some diesel jugs), so we could be back aboard in time for Customs and Quarantine's visit.

It was an exhausting but productive day. Though, we found out when the officials visited, that their visit was not the end of our formalities. We needed to stop back in town the next day to get our final, signed paperwork before we could leave.

The next day, Soggy Paws left Biak. We had a date on a nearby beach at low tide to fix one of our saildrives.
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Sherry & Dave

Cruising SE to PNG, Solomons, Vanuatu
At 1/28/2019 2:15 AM (utc) our position was 01°13.32'S 144°17.96'E
http://svsoggypaws.com/currentposition.htm

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