Alor to Flores island.

Esprit’s route from Darwin.

The rugged north coast of West Timor.

After the welcoming dinner and tours of Wini, midway up the north coast of West Timor and close to the border with the Timor Leste enclave, we set sail for Alor island, 69 nm to the North. There was a good breeze at 6:30am when we set sail, but this only lasted for two hours, when the wind dropped. The spinnaker was deployed to make the most of the 6-7 knot wind, but had to be taken down after 30 minutes when the wind veered north. The Yanmar cranked to life and we motored the rest of the way, to the south of Alor and dropped our anchor in a sheltered bay after covering 44 nm.

Drinks on Ocelot.

There were three other yachts anchored there, who decided to overnight, rather than arrive at our destination at around midnight. Jon and Sue from Seattle, invited everyone around for drinks on their catamaran, Ocelot. A pleasant time was had with the yachties, before heading back to Esprit for dinner and an early night. We set off again at 6:30 am the following morning to do the last 25 nm leg, but on activating the autopilot, the GPS reported “Rudder response failure”.

Not a bad spot to wait for the tide to turn.

We called the other yachts on VHF to let them know we were going to anchor in the next bay, to reconnect the rudder response unit arm. This requires unpacking the life raft, fenders and mooring lines in the lazarette locker, to get to the hatch, giving access to the steering quadrant. It turned out to be a good move, as we could hear the chatter on our VHF radio, reporting a strong 5 knot current slowing down the three boats already on their way up the channel between the islands of Alor and Pantar. We checked the tide tables for the channel and found that the tide would turn from low to high tide at about 10:45 am and assumed this might reverse the current.

Fish traps on the way to Kalabahi.

This bay was quite a pleasant spot, so we had breakfast, fixed the RRU and Annie went snorkelling in the crystal clear water, while I settled down with a book. We set off again at 10:30 am and had a 2 knot current in our favour, going up the channel to Kalabahi town on Alor island. We anchored at 3pm. Kalabahi was a smaller and dirtier (if that’s possible) version of Kupang. The harbour was particularly trashy as it’s at the end of a fjord and doesn’t flush as well as Kupang. The locals throw everything into the water and most of the trash these days is non degradable.


The harbour master of Kalabahi (and 4 assistants) checking our paperwork.

Children rehearsing for the Indonesia day celebrations.

Indonesia is a country consisting of 15,677 islands, including the western half of New Guinea. It has a population of over 260 million with the largest population of Muslims in the world, although it is not an Islamic state. The island archipelago stretches for over 3,200 miles from north- west to south-east, straddling the equator. Indonesia is located on the Pacific “Rim of Fire” and leads the world in many volcanic statistics. It has the largest number of historically active volcanoes (76), and has a total of 1,171 dated eruptions since European arrival.

Two of the most devastating volcanic eruptions during historical times, took place in Indonesia: the enormous eruption of Tambora in 1815 – the largest known eruption in the world, had such far-reaching effects on the climate, that for instance Europe was to experience 1816 as the year without summer. In 1883, the disastrous eruption of Krakatau was followed by severe tsunamis that killed about 30-40,000 people. The first volcano we sailed past after leaving Alor island, was Lewotolo on the island of Kawula, where we anchored overnight at the town of Balurin.

Lewotolo volcano on Kawula island. 

When we reached Wodong on the island of Flores, we were able to travel overland to see the Kelimutu volcano, now dormant. It has a caldera of three lakes with different colours due to minerals such as copper and tin. Flores island stretches more than 300 nm from east to west, so we day hopped from Wodong to the west coast over four days in the company of 4 to 7 other yachts. There wasn’t much wind, so we had to motor quite a lot. Another reason for only travelling during the day, are the great number of floating fishing platforms off the coast, which are unlit during the night.

Annie admiring the caldera.

The lakes from the highest point. We are above the clouds.

Two old guys at the top lookout.

Lunch on the way back.

Our next stop will be the Komodo island National Park where the famous Komodo dragons and two other species of giant lizards live. We will report more in our next post.


Crossing the Timor Sea – exploring West Timor and Roti islands.

The start – Darwin in the background.

The Sail Indonesia Rally started at 10am off Fannie Bay in Darwin on the 29th July 2017. There was a good 13-18 knot S-E sending us off on a cracking reach. Barely an hour out and Annie caught a 1.2m shark which put up quite a fight before she landed it and then released it.

Sunset day 1.

After sunset the wind died down and we had to motor through the night. Sunday morning dawned clear and a light wind kicked in, allowing us to hoist the asymmetric spinnaker for a lovely downwind sail on a flat sea. The Timor sea was a vast improvement on the Torres Strait. Annie was gobsmacked when she landed a 1.8m marlin about midday. This fellow also put up a good fight, but we released it as the fridge and freezer were filled to capacity. No photos were taken as both the shark and the marlin required all our hands, to land and release them.

Spinnaker run.

A light wind night followed as we sailed poled out past the West Timor gas wells and platforms. The third day continued as a poled out run, which lasted until 9pm when we entered the passage between West Timor and Semau islands. It was quite unnerving to motor through numerous fish traps and fishing boats at night, before anchoring off Teddy’s Bar at Kupang beach at midnight. The 488 nm passage took us a slow 3 days and 14 hours.

Poled out downwind.

Customs and Quarantine boarded Esprit at 9 am for their inspection. They were a friendly mob and took photos and swabs of everything. We were then able to launch the dinghy and go ashore where the CIQP registration was done in a special venue to deal with the number of yachts and crew. All very efficient, with reams of paperwork, many stamps and signatures. We were asked where our ships stamp was. Not having one, a local assisted in having one made for us within 24 hours.

Indonesian customs officers.

Lunch of Nasi Goreng and Bintang beer at Resto 999 followed, in the company of other yachties. A yacht rally provides the opportunity to meet very interesting people from the four corners of the world. On this rally there are sailors from Norway, France, Canada, Japan, USA, Malaysia, Poland, Burma and the UK, amongst others. We are able to learn a wealth of sailing information with these people. Best part is, they are mostly of our vintage, some with kids, and they are very relaxed and friendly.

The Rigney family from Los Angeles with their yacht Kandu at sunset.

Thursday was a busy day with the welcome ceremony at 10 am with traditional dancing and music and the start of the Koepan festival in the evening. We went to the fish market for dinner afterwards with some of the yachties on Burmese Breeze and Vadana.

Welcome by the mayor and his interpreter.

Traditional dancing by the children.

With the outgoing Mr and Miss Koepan Festival 2016. Beautiful people.

Thant Zin from Burmese Breeze selecting dinner for our Japanese, Australian and French sailors.

A city tour with visits to the museum and traditional weaving centre was arranged for us the following day, with the welcome dinner in the evening. More speeches by dignitaries, followed by traditional music and dancing. Saturday was spent recovering after the splendid meal and lots of drinks the previous night.

The yachties at the museum with their English speaking guides.

Traditional weaver.

Traditional music group.

Kupang street scene.

With all those antennae, the passengers should have great mobile phone reception.

At 7:30 am on Sunday we lifted the anchor and had a relaxed 69 nm spinnaker run to Nemberala on the west coast of Roti island, where we anchored at sunset. This is a lovely spot, famous for the huge waves the south current generates and visited by countless surfers. We met up with Steve Friedman from Darwin who has been relaxing here for the past 3 months. He has since lost his razor and is sporting a handsome beard. We also met Marco, Julie and their two young kids from Cape Town sailing on their catamaran. Burmese Breeze and Kandu on the rally, were also anchored here.

Steve and Annie at Nemberala beach. Steve originally from Durban and my vintage, has been sailing for the past 25 years.

View from the cafe where we had breakfast.

Nemberala fresh food market.

Innovative palm tree frond fence.

Main street shop with resident pig.

After 3 days we lifted the anchor again and had a wet and windy beat upwind to Semau island where we anchored in a beautiful bay in the lee of the island. Annie replenished our freezer with a big Spanish mackerel she caught on the way. Then followed two day hops, first to Naikliu and then to Wini, over a total distance of a 100 nm to our next festivities. At Naikliu there was a soccer match just off the beach with a very vociferous crowd in attendance. Here we were again reminded that even the smallest of villages, have dozens of 50 to 100cc mopeds roaring around without silencers – presumably to give the impression that they are actually 1,300cc Harley-Davidsons.

Ten meals from this beauty.

Our next stop will be Alor island 68nm to the north of Wini on Timor – we will keep you posted.