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Singapore to Gove Bali (2 - 14 October 2007)
2000 900 nautical miles


Day 1 (2 October 2007)

Caro: We nearly made it yesterday. But by the time the awning was packed away and the boat shipshape enough it was already starting to get dark. We were also very exhausted. The better thing to do was have a nice meal at the club to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary and have an early night. So, we finally left on the morning of the 2nd. John had already checked out ashore, but we still had to do immigration at Sister Island. Fortunately, that is very close to One15 marina and didn’t take long. The little immigration boat was already there and came by to pick up our papers and passports that were sitting in a waterproof folder in a fishing net held out over the side. They returned them a little while later. Then we could set out and make our way across the busiest shipping channel in the world to Nongsa Point Marina on the corner of Batam Island to fill up with diesel. We were in for a very rude shock. Nongsa Point was closed down for renovation. Now what?! A little boat came by and told us we could perhaps get diesel at a place called Batu Ampar, about 6 miles west. Nothing for it but head back. We motored past, but the place did not look promising, certainly not the kind of place that takes visa and we did not have Indonesian Rupia. So, what did we do? We crossed the shipping channel again and went back to One15 and filled up with diesel there. By this time it was nearly 6pm and we finally really, really went on our way. It was very frustrating. We crossed the shipping channel for the third time in a day and headed around the corner of Batam and down the Riau Straits. Finally we felt we were on our way to Gove.
John: You know how, for a big trip, there’s the day you tell people that you’re going to leave, then there’s the day you really think you can leave, and then (after all the unforeseen last-minute hitches that an optimist like me always fails to give due weight to) there’s the day you actually leave. Well, for us, this trip, those dates were the 24th September, 28th September and 01 October. Knowing this is how it goes, this time we went one further. We could have left on 1 October, really we could have. But did it make any sense at 6:30 in the evening with the sun setting, exhausted and putting to sea for 24-7 watches? Actually, it would have been a complete disaster, given that Nongsa marina was closed. So we left early on 2nd, at least feeling like we hadn’t lost a whole day. That was before we spent it commuting back and forth across the Singapore Straits. Funny how Caro always sees the big picture somehow. I’m, like, focussed on the depth, the leading marker buoys to make our way in and that kind of navigational safety stuff. Caro simply says ‘I don’t see any boats in the marina’. And with that, our whole reason for going in there went out the window. Whoever heard of closing a marina for renovations? That’s something hotels do, not marinas!

Day 2 (3 October)

Caro: Night watches are so much easier with our new Ray Marine navigation system. I can see exactly where we are on the chart and all the other ships because the radar is overlain on the same screen. On top of that we have this AIS system whereby we have all the information about the cargo ships. When you click on a symbol for one of those ships you can see what their closest point of approach will be and how long before it will be there. So, it’s a lot more relaxed. The weather, however, is not. As we get out into open water the wind picks up and there’s a fair chop. Of course, the wind is on the nose and there’s more of it than we expected, about 20 knots. It’s uncomfortable and we’re not used to it anymore and feeling rather sick. I’m just trying to keep it under control, only going inside when I have to, mostly sitting in the cockpit staring at the horizon or lying down to try and sleep. Then when John asks if I can pump the bilge pump because we’re flooding the boat I forget all about feeling sick and just pump as hard as I can. We’re being flooded again! How is this possible? John quickly finds the cause, some mysterious hose that’s falling into the bilge, and stops the water coming in. It takes a while before the bilge is dry again, but we’re lucky we haven’t flooded the alternator and starter motor again. Phew, that was a close one! Again!
John: Once out of the channel between Batam and Bintan we find that the sea and wind Gods have been lining up some fun and games for us, just a little slap and tickle to see what we’re made of and whether they can send us scurrying of home to a safe port and a cozy bed. Which is just about what I feel like doing, with the boat crashing and gyrating, stuff breaking (like the manual bilge pump when I tried to use it ‘in anger’) and only being able to make a few knots good into wind at the end of it. Caro had just gone to bed, so exhausted she fell asleep almost immediately (which is saying something) and I was doing my usual rounds when I saw the forward bilge pump light was on. Mmmmm. So I pumped the manual pump a few times, expecting it to draw air soon enough, maybe the automatic pump’s just aerated and stuck in a cycle, right?. 10 pumps, no air. 20 pumps, still no air. That’s it, time to check the bilge. When I did, I saw (oh no! Not AGAIN!) seawater sloshing around the shaft, maybe 40 cm deep in the bilge. That’s about half a ton of seawater the wrong side of the hull. Now, there are very few acceptable reasons for waking your watch partner when sailing short-handed and they’re drop-dead exhausted. Potential sinking is one of them. I woke Caro as nonchalantly as I could with “Caro, we’re taking on water”, you know, trying to keep my voice from squeaking up an octave from its normal baritone calm. Caro, bless her heart, lept out of bed without a word and began pumping the aft manual bilge pump. I pumped the forward. Caro was all for finding the leak, stopping it, then pumping her dry. A good strategy. I was concerned that we might not find the leak UNTIL we’d pumped her dry to see where it was coming in. Problem with that idea is that, at least to begin with, you have no idea whether you can even keep up with the inflow, let alone pump her dry. The forward automatic pump had already been overwhelmed. Then I broke the new forward manual bilge pump. A silly plastic fitting. As usual in these things, Caro had the right idea so I followed her advice and started checking through-hulls and other potential sources. I suspected it could be the stuffing gland. If you don’t know what this is, it’s not what you’re thinking. It lies in the bottom of the ATF swamp (more formally known as the aft bilge) at the point where the propeller shaft exits the boat and is supposed to let the shaft out and stop the water coming in. To get to it, I have to move the stairs, with half the world’s supply of stainless steel fittings in their storage chests. Once in the swamp, I see the problem immediately. There’s an open fitting on the port cockpit drain of unsurpassed uselessness that has a short hose connected to it. The hose was tied up and has now fallen into the bilge. On starboard tack, the fitting is under the waterline and the sloshing of the boat has managed to fill the hose and start a siphon to fill the bilge. Phew!

Day 3 (4 October)

Caro: Getting awfully tired now and still feeling sick. This is no fun. We have only just started and can expect wind on the nose the whole way. How am I going to cope? I know I will find my sea legs and things will get better, but right now I wonder why I’m doing this. John isn’t feeling well either, but he just gets on with doing jobs anyway. It does get easier when we are sailing as close to the wind as we can and the wind eases. Jocara is moving as well as can be expected.
John: I keep focussing on the idea that things will look a lot brighter when we have our sealegs and our minds rise above the functional level of vegetables, which is about where we are in our current state. We can’t sail within 60 degrees of our desired course with the wind at this angle. A reefing block on the second leech reef parted and was lost to sea. The engine overheated - I think the intake is too far forward and sucks in air when in choppy seas power-tacking. The pump belt is wearing out fast, and I only have two spares (two spares should be enough, right?). Pounding into weather in choppy seas and with 20 knots on the nose is no fun, especially when you know it’s not likely to get any better for the next 1800 miles!

Day 4 (5 October)

Caro: Today is much better. I’m finding my sea legs. I can now cook a nice meal inside without wondering whether I’m gonna make it. When I’m not on watch I sleep quite well. This is quite unusual for me so early in the trip. I think it is the fact that I feel safer with the Raymarine system, but perhaps also the fact that we don’t have the kids on board. I always feel that as such a huge responsibility. Progress has been a bit slow but we have reached the area where we should take the first water sample. John has to crawl head down into the bilge to set it up. We have a hard time getting the air out of the hoses, but in the end we get our samples. It is calm sunny weather and we can now enjoy being out here and sitting down with a gin and tonic seeing the sun go down.
John: We did a bit of sailing today, albeit in the ‘wrong’ direction (meaning with a heading far off our desired course) and Jocara moves much more gracefully under sail than motoring into weather. Back into the ATF swamp to rig the water sampling system, which finally works so we took a sample for Oliver. I really, really love this Raymarine navigational system, especially the ‘MARPA’ (which is an automated tracking system for collision avoidance using radar) and the ‘AIS’ (which automatically detects all large vessels and tells you where they are and where they’re going). These two things, together with being able to overlay radar images on the electronic chart with positions, make short-handed sailing in vessel-infested waters so much more possible without driving ourselves into dangerous levels of exhaustion. With the AIS and MARPA we can take cat-naps on watch. It makes all the difference.

Day 5 (6 October)

Caro: Another calm sunny day. John is working all day on jobs. I’m definitely into the passage routine now. I make 2 good meals a day and keep up with the dishes. I did some laundry and started updating this log. I even read a little bit in a magazine today. It’s just frustrating that we’re having to motor all the time to make headway. The fuel isn’t going to last this way. But if we don’t motor we’ll be so much off course. Maybe we can make it to East Timor to fuel up. That would be an interesting place to stop. In the meantime we are leaving the South China Sea behind and entering the Java sea. There’s not much life to see here. Every now and then a flying fish lands on the boat, one actually flew right through the cockpit window and landed on the seat! We sometimes see a few terns flying around looking for schools of little fish to catch. One little bird, no idea what kind, but incredibly agile, skimming the waves at great speed, circled the boat 5 or 6 times chirping some comments about her and then left again. I hope when the water gets deeper there will be more to see.
John: Today felt like a day worth living. I worked like a dog on some running rigging jobs, but got something useful done, then Caro and I showered and relaxed with a light G&T at sundown. We’re still motoring, but the sea has eased and we’re making more progress. the wind has not turned to the East as predicted by the NOAA forecast. Bah! In the evening we arrived at the SW corner of Borneo, with it’s interesting sand bars and, as we were to discover, lines of squalls brewing up like hooligans waiting to mug us at a street corner. I was aiming to thread our way though an inside passage, but when I saw a depth of only 12m in an area supposed to be over 20m, and the squalls looming with thunder and lightening, the prospect of being caught in heavy, unpredictable wind over shifting sand bars suddenly seemed less interesting than before. I spent 5 hours dodging the bruisers (meandering squalls with mean intent) and watching the depthsounder. Of course, the forward-looking sonar chose this time to quit with an obscure error ‘F003’ (I have the delight of looking up what that means later), the AIS decided to go on strike for hours on end (I am so PISSED that my treasured AIS should do this to me, I feel like a jilted lover) and the centre shaft bearing started making the most horrible grinding racket, so that I fear it may be breaking up... Sigh...

Day 6 (7 October)

Caro: When John wakes me up for my watch I take one look at the Raymarine screen and I know there’s not going to be any dozing off on this one. Squalls everywhere and John has been weaving his way between them. I continue to do so, but I’m constrained by sand banks just off the corner of Borneo. I’m glued to the screen for hours watching the squalls grow and dissolve. I am really pleased that we miss nearly all of them.
John: The shaft bearing is making less noise now, so maybe something got ground up and spat out of it. I’ll have to pull up the floor and check it out sometimes today. Oh joy! More grovelling about in the bilge on a gyrating boat. By 11:00 Caro is sleeping and we’re clear of the sand banks, so I turn south and get Jocara under sail. It’s so good to shut down the engine and feel her get in the groove, sailing she’s a different boat than under motor. This is what she was made for, and she loves the new rig and sails. We can head as high as 35 degrees apparent if we want to, though there’s more speed and less leeway if we drop back to 40 or 45 degrees. I think that’s pretty good for a full displacement cruising boat! If only we could steer a course under sail a little closer to our destination... At this rate we’ll be landing in north Java, not even in Bali.
Caro: When I got up from my morning sleep I noticed there was water sloshing around under the chart table. NOT AGAIN! I ran to the galley and lifted the floor board to check the bilge. Dry. Then I checked the aft bilge. Also pretty dry. What is going on now? Turned out it was fresh water from our tank. It’s the first time we’re sailing on starboard tack and heeling over that side. During the refit in Phuket somebody had drilled holes in the top of our fresh water tank and just left it like that. It took quite a while though before John spotted where the water was coming from. He later also discovered that the porthole above the chart table is leaking a little and that was adding a bit of salt to the water mix. Do other people have these kinds of problems? It’s so tiring. John is really amazing about sorting out all these problems and staying optimistic. I don’t know how he does it. It’s stressful and the load of having to fix it is all on him. I can mop up the water, but I haven’t got a clue about fixing engines or navigation systems. Anyway, it’s nice to be sailing, to not have the sound of the engine for a while. She moves so well with her new rig. If only we could go in the right direction. We have lamb with green beans and potatoes for dinner and it’s delicious. I have noticed that all the food we eat on board seems to have a more intense flavour than normally on land, or at least I’m more aware of the taste of it. I wonder how that works. Mealtime is very important on passage. It’s something to really look forward to and usually you’re pretty hungry by the time you eat. It’s a lot harder to prepare too on a moving heeling boat. Maybe it’s the greatly increased appreciation of the food. Or perhaps it’s because we are in an environment where your senses are not continuously overloaded with smells, sights and tastes. There’s the sea and salty air and sometimes some smelly diesel fumes. You become more attuned to small nuances. I know that when you’ve been at sea for a while and you come near land you can smell it before you see it, even upwind of it. Interesting stuff.

Day 7 (8 October)

Caro: Today we learned to not take the autopilot for granted. We have 2 and are absolutely reliant on them. They do a much better job of steering than we, as we found out after they both quit. It’s a continuous effort to keep the boat on course. If you loose focus for a minute you’re way off your heading. This gets tiresome very quickly and today we had a few hours to contemplate what it would be like to have to hand steer the boat all the way. We were enormously relieved when John got at least 1 of the autopilots working again. I have been feeling steadily worse throughout the day with an increasingly painful urinary tract inflammation. Fortunately, we have antibiotics on board and I have started a course. I’m completely wiped out. Couldn’t do more than an hour watch. Not much sleep for John.
John: Unbelievable! The sons of bitc#es drilled holes in my water tank (to fit a manual bilge pump), then realised they’d better mount it where I asked them to and decided not to tell me about the little holes, let alone plug them. They probably thought it would upset me, and that might be unpleasant. Better to let him sail away and hemorrhage his fresh water supply all over the inside of the boat in the middle of nowhere, where he won’t be able to touch us. Sigh! Then there’s the ‘Rolls Royce’ of autopilots, the Cetrek. No wonder they went out of business. One has a delusional psychosis and the other seems to have fried it’s brain and the hydraulic pump. That’s what you get for having systems with too much intelligence. They get depressed if you don’t use them and commit suicide.

Day 8 (9 October)

Caro: I have been sleeping lots and are feeling much better already. John on the other hand is a bit tired. He’s taking it a little easier today, and I have even seen him read a book for about half an hour, the slacker! Early morning there were a few hours where we could sail in the right direction, the first time this trip. Then the wind completely died, turning the surface of the water almost oily. At least that is easy to motor in. It’s hard to believe we’re already 8 days on our way. On the other hand it feels much longer somehow. Life at sea is just one day at a time. It’s the here, now, the weather and the boat. Taking things as they come. I feel very different from when we left. Then I felt a huge pressure to have Jocara in Cairns on time and worried about how we were going to do that. Now, I’ve become accepting of whatever happens, it’s not a struggle anymore. Sure, I still want to be there in time, but we do what we can and that is that. Such is life at sea.
John: Now what? How come we don’t seem to be getting the speed we should out of the engine, and it seems to be guzzling fuel more than before it was rebuilt?... we’ll never reach Gove at this rate, better get used to the idea of an in-promptu visit to Dili, East Timor. That is going to be interesting! Have what you have...

Day 9 (10 October)

Caro: I got really pissed with the wind this morning. It was in a very teasing mood. The wind would start to pick up at a great angle and convince me it was time to put out the foresail and stop the engine. We would be sailing along nicely in the direction we wanted. For about 5 minutes. Then the wind would back and become weaker and the sails would start to slap. No choice but to winch in the foresail furler and put the engine back on. It did this twice in the space of a couple of hours. Getting the Genoa furled up is a major exercise for me. When John does it, it looks easy. I’m winching it in endlessly. I winch and I winch and when I feel I must be getting there by now and have a look I’m about halfway! I’m exhausted when it’s finally done. When John was up the wind picked up again and this time stayed for most of the day. I cannot think of anything that went wrong today. It was a great day sailing. We took our gin and tonic sundowner on the bowsprit watching the water splash away from the bow and the sails being full. Just feeling happy to be where we were, in the middle of nowhere. Blue sky, calm blue sea with here and there a big jellyfish floating by.
John: There are times, really there are, when I seriously wonder why we do this. It can be so hard. Think of all the wonderful things there are to do in the world, given the time and money we pour into cruising and the boat. How can I maintain any pretense of being sane and admitting to choosing this? Then a magical day comes by, something so special you know that no amount of money, no 7-star hotel or cordon-bleu feast could come close to the experience. That’s the time we live this life for, because it’s really living, and the soul appreciates the gradients, not simply the highs and lows. Even in the hard times, there’s the sense of truly being in touch with life, the vitality of it, the immediacy of existence that is missing and anaethetised in the urban world.

Day 10 (11 October)

Caro: I was in high spirits during my watch. There was a clear sky full of stars above and the bioluminescence looked like stars in the sea. I had my iPod on and listening to some good music. Being on a sailboat at night, slicing a fluorescent path through the water with music in your ears is magical. Until you get really tired and it’s still not the end of your watch. I started feeling my bladder again and I’m still taking the antibiotics. Now I’m getting seriously worried. I take a double dose, but I’m running out of pills. All night we’ve been fighting to get around this island that looks like a shrimp and has a sheltered bay that looks good to anchor. We were expecting very light winds but we’re beating our way into weather. We think we are too slow on the engine and want to stop to clean the propellor. We also need some rest and decide what we are going to do. The double dose of antibiotics is making me feel better again, but what when the pills run out. The only option, it seems to us, is to go to Bali, which is 125 nm south.
John: Now I’m worried about Caro. I thought that the anitbiotics had it under control. Now that she’s had a ‘reminder’ flare up, and given how virulent the infection was when it sprang it’s attack, I am not looking forward to our options if it flares up badly while we are out here, far from medical help. We decide to make for an island that looks like it has some protection from the SE, to give Caro a chance to get a good night’s sleep and also so I can check out the propeller to see if it needs cleaning up. It turns out to be quite a hard haul to work our way round the island, driven down to 1.4 kt against wind and current at one point. I hate pounding to weather. Unfortunately, that’s the main item on the menu for this trip. Finally, we reach the anchorage and put the hook in. I get a tank filled and jump over the side to check out the propeller. Guess what... it has a big ball of fishing net and rope wrapped around the shaft. No wonder it doesn’t give us the thrust we expect! We also get to tension the forestays, something that has been worrying me since I saw how much the top third of the mast flexed under pitching drive. We put 4 of our 6 jerry’s of diesel in the main tank (keeping 2 in reserve as our last-ditch emergency fuel for getting into port) and fall into bed at 8 p.m., exhausted.

Day 11 (12 October)

John: Caro thought we had more antibiotics on board. We don’t... so there’s really no choice but to make a direct shot at Bali and get her to a clinic. The last pill went down this morning. I was up at 5:30 prepping the boat for the southerly push to Bali, it’s going to be ugly. The sea coming in here was nasty, with the wind around 20 kts from the south. We up anchor around 6:30 and motor out. The swell and steep waves are crazy across the entrance, and finally we work out that there are big waves coming in from the south and colliding with the rapid decrease in depth at the reef’s edge, coupled with an opposing current, creating a crazy breaking sea. Once out, it’s tough but doable. We elect to sail a SW course. Jocara is much smoother sailing hard on the wind than being motored directly into it. Amazingly, as the day wears on, the wind backs and eases so that we can make a better and better heading. The day turns out to be just an amazingly great sail, Jocara romping through the waves under a bright sun and crystal sharp glittering whitecaps. Just when Caro and I were looking at each other and asking, ‘how can it get any better than this?’ a huge pod of dolphins showed up. they mobbed the boat and cavorted around us for 100m in all directions. They jumped clear of the water, they played under the bowsprit, they twisted and turned and surfaced in breathtaking unison in the most exuberant, joyous explosion of life. And all this as the sun was setting, casting a golden light over everything. Just amazing. What a day!
Caro: The highs and lows are following each other in rapid succession during this trip. Often several times in a single day and totally unexpected. That’s what I like about cruising. Makes you feel really alive. Of course, it’s rather stressful a fair bit of the time, but when a high comes along you enjoy it so much. It was amazing to be surrounded by so many dolphins. They were on their way to somewhere, but took a little break checking out the boat and surfing in the bow wave. To top it off we have a clear view of the towering mountains of Bali in the background. The dolphins were everywhere around us for the longest time and then, quite sudden, they were gone. A couple of hours later it was dark and I was worried about the fish attracting devices we had seen in the afternoon, but were now totally invisible. Then the wind started gusting up to 30 knots and coming from where we needed to go.

Day 12 (13 October)

John: Well, of course, things can turn on a diamond tip at sea. One moment you’re basking in the munificence of the sea Gods, the next they’ve lined you up for a fall and are laughing like drains as you scramble to hold it together in the face of the latest blast from their shotgun of adversity. We really fell for this one. By the time it was dark the wind had picked up and things were turning ugly. By the middle of the night we were seeing up to 30 knots of wind on the nose and battling our way by (much-reduced) sail and engine to make it round the NE corner of Bali in one piece. Then the engine quit. We were getting pounded so neither of us could get any rest, and making no more than 4 knots towards our goal. And then, just when things looked like they couldn’t get any worse, they didn’t. Caro had finally collapsed and went to lie down. The Gods threw me a couple of favours. I tacked, and Jocara not only held a course 25 degrees better than I had calculated would be possible, but she took off like a scalded cat at 6.5 knots. Not only that, but the wind then eased and, as we entered the mouth of the gap between Bali and Lombok, the current picked us up like a loving midwife and cradled us into the channel. The current turned out to push us along at 5-7 knots, so that after all, we arrived in Benoa harbour at about 10:00 a.m., exhausted but still standing.
Caro: From thinking we wouldn’t even make Benoa before dark today we took off with the current and suddenly it was only a few hours away and still early morning. We were doing 10 to 11 knots, it was very impressive. We had asked friends who live on Bali for recommendations to a good clinic. So when we tied up in the Bali Marina, we found Chris’ driver waiting for me to take me to the SOS clinic. The doctor was very understanding and gave me 2 antibiotics courses. One for now and one for on the way if needed. The results of a culture won’t we known for another 5 days. At first I thought we would wait in Bali to hear the results, but with these antibiotics I feel it’s safe to go on. It wouldn’t exactly be a hardship to spend 5 days in Bali, but we are on a mission and I want to continue. We did a little shopping for fresh produce and now the only thing we absolutely need is fuel. We plan to leave tomorrow.

Day 13

Caro: I woke up with a migraine. We are not leaving today.

 

 
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