Coffee Grounds In Our Diesel: September 20 2008
By Noon on August 26 we were fuelled (duty free at $4/gallon was wonderful) and on our way from Darwin to Indonesia. The distance of approx 700 miles can be nicely broken up with a stop at Ashmore Reef...but only in light winds. That was not a problem for our passage because winds were so light that we ended up motoring the entire way (one engine at a time at low revs). The lack of wind made for smooth seas and a wonderfully dull passage. Casseroles made ahead for dinner were tasty but seemed overkill on the preparation front...oh well, we never know what we'll get. Chicken Divan was compliments of Grandma Winston's recipe box...not a morsel remained for leftovers...marvelous. Scalloped Sausage and Potatoes was an inaugural attempt. The ingredients sounded pretty wacky but it was creamy and delicious...and would be good for breakfast, too. Chicken Divan: Layered in a casserole dish; 2.5 cups broccoli cooked until just tender, 2 chicken breasts (cooked, skinned and chopped into bite size pieces), sauce (one can cream of chicken soup, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and 1 heaping teaspoon curry powder) spread onto chicken layer, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs (2 Tablespoons melted butter and 1/4 cup breadcrumbs) sprinkled evenly. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Scalloped Sausage and Potatoes casserole (from James Villas' Crazy for Casseroles): 1 stick butter (melted; 1 cup soft bread crumbs; 8 medium red potatoes (boiled until tender, drained and thinly sliced); 3/4 lb smoked sausage like kielbasa (thinly sliced); 8 large hard-boiled eggs (thinly sliced); salt and black pepper to taste; 1 cup sour cream; medium-hot paprika. Spoon 3 teaspoons butter into 2-qt casserole and sprinkle with 3 teaspoons bread crumbs; arrange layer of sliced potatoes evenly over crumbs; then layer sausage and eggs; season with salt and pepper; spoon 4 teaspoons bread crumbs and 4 teaspoons butter over eggs; continue layering with remaining ingredients ending with crumbs and butter; spread sour cream evenly over the top; sprinkle with paprika; bake at 350 degrees F till golden brown (approx 1 hour).
We had an adorable hitch-hiker for the night on Aug 28. Chris had just gone to bed when a small bird (no bigger than a lime) flew through the cockpit and into the salon...attempting to perch on just about everything as he banged into windows. He seemed a bit loopy and likely pretty tired...we were very far from land at this point. Finally, he collapsed and tucked into a corner of the cockpit beside the helm...not moving again until the sun came up. Lil' bird was nice company during night watches with his head tucked beneath his wing. Every now and then there was a bit of excitement when the wind thought about making an appearance and sails were unfurled but inevitably the sails could not be kept full...so sails were again rolled in and the engine was back on.
Four nights of watch schedules later we arrived at Ashmore Reef (Aug 30)...roughly 450 miles from Darwin and roughly 300 miles from Indonesia. Ashmore is a palm studded island oasis in a desert sea. We picked up a mooring ball and waited for the Aussie Coast Guard to arrive. Over they came in a black zodiac with jet boat type engines...very flash. The Coast Guard is stationed here (on a boat) 365 days per year...Australia takes her borders quite seriously. They reminded us that Ashmore is a Nature Reserve (no shell collecting) and gave us a few tips for good snorkel spots. (Chris - I asked about diving spots - perhaps outside the pass? The answer, "It's great diving there - but just to let you know, we have seen some really big tiger sharks in the pass .. " Hmm.... no diving for Chris!!) The Coasties were gone and we scrambled ashore stretching our legs and looking for shells (only iron clad willpower kept Erin from anything other than photographing them). Spectacular...the shades of blue from the sky and water were endless. There is a fresh water pump ashore but the Coasties said it was contaminated by cholera at some point...it is supposed to be "fine" now but they do not drink from it...thank heavens for Barefeet's water maker. There was supposed to be loads of turtles, birds and sea snakes...but we thought the populations were a bit light...maybe they were all on the backside of the island...where we were not allowed to go (aren't we spoiled?!).
Dinner that first night at Ashmore was steak, potatoes and Greek salad with fresh margaritas...aaahhhh. The winds are forecast to remain light for awhile but we are not in a big hurry. The next couple of days were slow and easy. We straightened up Barefeet after the passage and explored the clear water aquarium of the Reef...snorkeling, dinghying and kayaking. But the calendar does keep progressing. One more night then we need to move on regardless of wind...but we do not have enough diesel to last until Bali (the next gas station that we know of)...hhhhmmmm. Luckily, the wind did arrive (Sept 2)...just enough for the spinnaker but it was a great two-day run to Indonesia (no engine)...just a couple of sail changes of the spinnaker as the wind shifted sides...no dramas. We are now in the Indian Ocean.
We arrived at the Lehok Ginggo anchorage off of Rinca Island Sept 4 and who did we see but s/v Gitano (Chris and Linda)?! The last time we saw them was Cairns...awesome. They took us ashore and gave us the lowdown on spotting Komodo Dragons (large monitor lizards), monkeys, deer, bintang (buffalo). Holy cow...monkeys scurried from the rocks and into the trees as we dinghied ashore! Amazing! It was great to have such a warm welcome from critters and old friends. The catching up kept on throughout the day and into a night of grilling on Barefeet.
Confident with our Komodo Dragon 101 course from Chris and Linda we headed ashore on our own the morning of Sept 5. The land is covered with dirt walking trails that were created by the dragons as they lumber around in their chain mail-type skin. The trails make for good footing but were made by short critters...which means sticks and branches are constantly batted away from the waist up and there is a lot of bending to duck under low branches. We have learned that the dragons have some curious characteristics...for one, their poop is white...okay, not a big deal. The reason, however, is the interesting bit...it is because they eat every bit of the animal that they kill...bones and all...hence the white. Maybe Jimmy Hoffa met his end via a Komodo Dragon?! And how does the dragon kill? Well, they wait at a watering hole, bite their prey (such as buffalo or deer) and walk away. Seems their mouth and saliva has so much bacteria that an infection rapidly occurs and in literally 2-3 days the prey is dead....and the dragon simply follows the smell to its ready meal. The dragon is a pretty vicious hunter with most things on the menu, including its own young. The baby komodos hatch from eggs and immediately scurry up trees where they feed on birds and eggs until they are large enough to defend themselves against adult dragons. Only then do they climb down the tree.
We continued taking walks at different times during the day to spot critters. In the evening we modified the traditional sundowners on deck with a bit of National Geographic. We went ashore with two other boats (s/v Street Legal and s/v Dream Weaver) and sat on a bank above a watering hole to see who would came down at dusk. Wow - that was one giant bintang...beautiful black beast with horns resembling the moustache of a Barbershop Quartet singer. Of course the fact that we had cocktails and were chatting might have scared some critters off...but we did see a Komodo Dragon imperiously walk down to the watering hole, take a few sips and saunter off. We headed off the next day for Montjo Bay on the Northwest corner of Komodo Island (24 miles away). Arriving in the late afternoon we were immediately greeted by souvenir sellers. They had carved wooden masks and dragons plus strings of pearls. We decided on a dragon with a bit of attitude and threw in sodas, too. Everyone seemed happy and we settled into sundowners followed by hamburger and jalapeno pizza...a real sentimental favorite on Barefeet.
The water clarity here is amazing with gorgeous coral gardens...in 20-30 feet with loads of soft corals such as flower soft coral that sways in the light current. We even spotted a pair of giant wrasse...beautiful. The hillsides are less golden than Rinca but equally stunning with a tint of green blanketing steep, orange rock faces. A family of deer periodically come to the seashore and seem to drink...can they drink salt water?! And we think we hear the bellow of a bintang within the trees...wish he'd come out so we could have a look at him. We took a walk ashore and were amazed to have startled not just five deer but nearly 40...including a stag with a stunning rack of antlers. They ran further inland in the blink of an eye.
In order to make some miles we did an overnight hop almost the length of Sambawa Island. We stayed 4-5 miles offshore in the hopes of avoiding the plethora of unlit fishing boats and fish traps. All good and we anchored off Medang Island at 1:30pm Sept 10. Medang is a small sand island fringed with palm trees and mangroves. There was no village visible from the anchorage but Anton came over in a wooden outrigger and asked if we wanted to see the village with him. Off we went and there was quite a village...nearly 10,000 people nestled inland. It is very neat and clean but definitely a poor place. Seaweed farming is the primary industry. The homes are mostly wooden and built on stilts with ladders for a front walk. We sat and chatted with Anton's uncle (a teacher in the local school...average class sizes were 40 students) after climbing the ladder...chickens ran and cackled below the floor boards. The town has a single generator (about the size of a VW bug) that only runs at night...we think refrigerators are out of the question. We traded three magazines for coconuts which made for great sundowners aboard Barefeet.
Sept 12 was an early departure for a 42 mile run. Usually, this would be a very reasonable day hop; however, the currents are crazy around here and boat speed often plateaued at 4 knots. Happily, we arrived with good afternoon light to navigate the coral entrance to the anchorage at Gili Lawang. This was a tight fit for six boats but the calm conditions made it seem easy. We had sundowners with s/v Seventh Heaven...munching pizza and getting acquainted...then all of a sudden...thousands, hundreds of thousands of bats exited the mangroves and began a night of hunting. It was amazing! There must have been 20 minutes of solid bats overhead. Quite a nice floor show. Sept 13 was a repeat of the day before with all boats up and off by 6am. Smooth seas and light air prevailed. Arrival at Gili Air was a fun change. Dirt roads with only pony carts for transportation...and loads of Indonesian style cabanas lining the beach. Simply make yourself comfortable in a covered and raised platform filled with pillows and tables...drinks and food provided as desired and cool off with a snorkel in the coral gardens. Quite relaxed and casual to be sure.
Just arrived in Gili and we spotted Tove and Finn of s/v Xanadu in a beach cabana (Sept 14). They filled us in about the place and introduced us to Mustafa...elementary school teacher and organizer of all things....from barbeque and bonfire on the beach to diesel delivery. In the afternoon we snorkeled the coral gardens and fed the fish with bread. No kidding, they ate right out of your hand...dozens at a time. The water was bathtub warm and visibility was okay. A quick trip back to Barefeet for showers and we returned for an evening barbeque and bonfire on the beach. There were guitars, maracas and singing as a bonfire blazed at the waters edge. Gili Air is quite a place.
An early morning fish feeding frenzy under the boat attracted a couple of local fishermen...tying right to Barefeet for the best spot. But we could not dawdle and left them to their trade...we had work of our own to do...fill up Barefeet's diesel tanks (Sept 15). At 420 litres this was a lot of jerry cans. We borrowed cans from s/v Xanadu, used our own and borrowed cans from the gas folks. This ended up being a tie for our worst fill-up ever...tied with the cement wall rope drop in the Marquesas. At 8am we delivered empty jerry cans to the beach and picked up full cans at 11am...in 25 knot winds and crashing surf. Chris held the dinghy afloat in the surf (after Erin was swamped by a wave that sent her and the dinghy spinning) and Erin schlepped the cans down the sand. Thank heavens Chris of s/v Gitano lent a hand with the bigger cans. The cans then had to be lifted out of the pitching dinghy onto Barefeet...aaaggghhh. It was a bit of chaotic disaster. All the while we tried to keep salt water from getting into the cans...especially the one with a "cap" of saran wrap held on with twine...yikes! Transferring the diesel and it looked like clean fuel...too bad we cannot say the same about the gas folks jerry cans. At one point the filter was completely plugged with dirt resembling coffee grounds...Chris removed it by the fist full. The load was emptied into the tanks and we were all cleaned up by 4pm...second load arriving the next morning. We were beat and rested in a beach cabana after the second load was collected and emptied the next day (Sept 16). So pooped, we did not even have the energy to snorkel...just sat in the shade of the cabana and read with a Bintang beer.
Lombok is just across the strait from the Gilis and we arranged a one-day tour with Mustafa (Sept 17). We left Barefeet anchored at Gili Air and took the "publix" across...8,000 Rp per person. No, not really a crazy price just lots of zeros...actually just over $1. Starting with a drive along the coast we were amazed by the hundreds of spider boats out fishing. They are usually a one-man operation and out from 6am - 5pm. They use long lines studded with numerous hooks and are moved along by a single, colorful sail. It is a lovely sight but a tough way to make a living. Many fishermen wear ski masks for sun protection which did unsettle us at first...until we learned the practical nature of the mask. We visited a pottery showroom where egg shells are used to create designs on brick red plates, bowls and vases. A real highlight was the weaving village. Everyone must weave...if you do not, you must move out. Women learn the intricate traditional art of "songket" at the age of 10. From 10 years until 16 years they weave their own songket sarong and one for mother and mother-in-law. If they are not able to complete the task they must leave the village. Men work on larger looms and make "ikat." Ikat places the design in the cotton via dye rather than thread (like songkat). Erin had a lesson in songkat but was not asked to stay-on at the village. We both bought some lovely items...a songket shawl for Erin and an ikat shirt for Chris (Dharma Setya hand woven and handicrafts www.dharmasetya.com).
Lunch was atop a mountain with a breathtaking view of the ocean and coastline...fresh salad and noodles with flaky potato somosas and a slice of yogurt banana cake for dessert. Reinvigorated we drove around to see more of the island. It is a collection of jam packed towns with scooters and cars and pony carts scattered between rice, corn and soybean fields. It is a real combination of the traditional and the modern. Rice is still harvested by hand but helmets are worn when riding scooters (up to 5 on one scooter at a time). A quick stop along the road in the forest and out scampered monkeys. They were amazing! As we held out a peanut they gently reached out and accepted it from us. It was clear when the alpha male showed up...an elegant, powerful gate with an easy manner with us...but distance from all the other monkeys. On the way back to the publix we stopped and met Mustafa's wife and 5 daughters. Beautiful girls with lovely big eyes. The return trip on the publix was halted when the outboard suddenly stopped! Eeeeek...quick action by the driver and the engine was tilted up, plastic bag removed and engine was going again. It was a full day and we hibernated on Barefeet for the evening.
The wind has really picked up and made for a night of bouncing usually reserved for an ocean passage...aaaggghhh. The anchor haul was a bit of drama...75 feet of depth, 280 feet of anchor line (50 feet nylon rope and 230 feet anchor chain) with 25 knots of wind and current as the "rope to chain windlass" chewed its way through the rope and bent the chain gripper...leaving metal shavings below the gypsy. Erin worked to keep the boat in a position such that the anchor line was slack as Chris and a good Samaritan neighbor pulled up the rope by hand and then used the spinnaker halyard to pull up the first bit of chain. Yikes, Erin had visions of the mast being pulled down...fingers getting tangled...all sorts of mêlée. The anchor was finally aboard and off we went to anchor at Pamenang just across the strait. It was a peaceful night's sleep before we were off early to Bali (Sept 19).