Sunday August 30

A morning spent waiting for our washing to come back. Brian off New Views took me into town again. We both needed more cash and a haircut. The town was really humming and we were approached by a taxi driver looking for business outside the wet market. I explained with sign language that we were looking for a barber and we were soon heading in the right direction. Picked up more cash on the way. You can only withdraw about $100.00 AUD at a time over here and we went through a lot at the market and restaurant yesterday. Enjoyed a great cuppachino at a local cafe. The restaurants here look good.

Kalili came in about 1230 and the boat boys were straight onto her but without our laundry. We told them we were waiting for it. They took Lloyd, Mandy and Heidi into town together with their washing. We asked about some benzine for the outboard but they wanted to charge us over twice the pump rate so we declined. . They did, however, soon come back with our 4 kg of laundry. and wanted to charge us for 8 kg. I was pissed off and set up a set of scales with a snatch block, 2kg of flour, 2 kg of vinager and 1 kg of water. I showed them that our laundry was close to 4 kg. We paid for 5 kg and left. I rang Lloyd to make him aware of the scam. My only worry was that the boat boys were being ripped off by the laundry. Left it all in Lloyds hands.

We were quite glad to leave, that sort of confrontation is not nice. Headed out to Sebayor Kecil about 10 Nm away following New Views. No moorings available so tried to anchor. Did it 3 times in 14, 22 and finally 26m. Poor anchor winch worked hard and the difficulty did nothing to improve our mood. The local Hawker got very short shift. Lesson learned was a clean bottom at 26M is better than trying to anchor in shallower coral rubble.

A couple of beers later all was good and an invite for dinner on NV with chocolate cake for desert was gratefully accepted.

After dinner the boys got stuck into Backgammon while the girls played cribbage. It was a blast from the past for me as I used to play a lot with my accountant, Jim during our Uni days.

Monday August 31

Morning climb up Sebator Besar. Great views.

Nice channel cut through the coral reef into a lagoon in front of a small village.

Then coffee followed by a snorkel. Great fish life but the coral was not as colourful as Gili Bodo.

We then headed off south to The Northern Ranger Station on Rinca Island. It was the hardest 14NM we have ever done. The moon was full and the transit between 1030 and 1530. the result was up to 5 kts against us with the wind on the nose up to 20 kts. We tacked down the Selat tucking in behind small islands and occaisionally finding a countercurrent to whisk us on our way. Then it was back into the main channel sometimes only making 1kt. SOG. It was a wild ride with whirlpools and pressure waves pushing us everywhere.

The last part was a good beat into the anchorage where we joined Andy and Sue on Spruce (out of Portsmouth, England) who had watched our tacking duel and wrestle with the current on AIS.

Sundowners on Gemini Lady. Great to catch up with Andy and Sue who we haven't seen since Kalabahi. They had just completed 9 dives over 3 days with a tour operator out of LBJ and had thoroughly enjoyed it.

Tuesday September 1

Up early to be onshore by 0630 to find some Komodo Dragons. We got a good group rate of 470,000/couple and set off with our guide Ramli. We saw a heap of dragons near the Ranger living quarters and were told that they congregate there because they smell the blood of the chickens the Rangers kill and cook. Apparently the dragons can smell blood 5 km away.

Awesome reptiles that harbour high levels of bacteria in their saliva. If they don't kill and eat you then you die of infection. The local village on Rinca has finally got a wall around it after 12 years of asking as people, especially kids, are taken every year. This same village got no compensation when the NP was promulgated and fishing banned. All the money goes to Jakarta. Our guide was a volunteer, the uniformed Rangers got 40,000Rp per tour. Throughout the park moorings are not maintained despite hundreds of dive charter boats paying big fees. All the money is siphoned off. Our guide actually asked a visiting Minister for Parks about where the money goes. He was told in no uncertain terms that that was not his business. Ramli also told us stories of working with David Attenborough and Steve Irwin. Look for the man in the blue shirt in the films about Komodo Dragons.

We learnt about dragon feeding, nesting and reproduction. How the young live in the trees for a year or 2 and how they make decoy nests to protect the real ones. How they eat everything but the skull of prey and prefer fresh food so that they get the blood, which saves them having to drink. We were lucky enough to find a dragon out in the bush. They are very hard to spot due to their camouflaged colourings.

Hard to believe these creatures can take down a water buffalo. We also saw some native deer and monkeys.

Very enjoyable morning with the crews of New Views and Spruce.

Then it was off to Pantar for a snorkel before heading to Pink Beach. Again by 1000 we were pushing close to 3 kts of current so we abandoned Pantar and head across to Pink Beach sailing at 8.5kts but making 3.8 to 4.8kts SOG. Fortunately this will be our most southerly destination so it should be easier from here on.

Anchored just around the corner from the beach and found Marathon Lady already there. Quiet afternoon then dinghied around to the Pink Beach for Sundowners. However, it was cold on the beach as the wind hadn't let up. We abandoned our plans for snorkel, so as soon as the sun dipped behind the hills and the light showed up the “Pink” we were back to the boats.

The pink colour is from small broken pieces of red coral.

Wednesday September 2

Off to snorkel with the Manta Rays this morning at Manta Ray Alley off the East side of Makassar Reef on the East side Komodo Island. No early start as we were waiting for the current to turn North and help us for a change.The dew was heavy so we used it to give Gemini Lady a fresh water wipe down.

Took the inside passage through the reefs but didn't like the anchorage area recommended so we continued up another 1.3Nm and found the 2 moorings shown in the Navionics community layer. New Views and Gemini Lady rafted up on 1 and left the other for Marathon Lady. Someone who saw us rafted commented if we were now called New Lady or Gemini Views.

We took the dinghies across the lagoons to the Eastern border of the reefs. Here we did a drift snorkel with the dinghy tied around my waist. The current was running about 2 kts. We spotted a Manta on the surface and dropped out of the dinghy close by. Lea's anxiety disappeared to be replaced by excitement, as a large graceful Manta glided by. We followed for while but soon lost him. We got back in the dinghy and motored back upstream until we saw some more Manta's flapping about on the surface. We dropped in and swam across only to have another one enter stage left right in front of us. Lea did a quick grab and scurry over my back to get me between her and the Manta. No photos unfortunately as we had forgotten the camera but the water clarity was not good enough for photos anyway. An unforgettable experience.

On the way back we stopped in the lagoon of Makassar Reef and had another snorkel over the beautiful coral gardens.

Back at the boats we moved on while the current was still flowing North and headed for the NE tip of Komodo Island, Loh Gebah Bay. Here we found another 6 of the rally boats.

An entertaining night with Russel and Rob off Marathon Lady joining us for a Roast Beef dinner. Beef turned out well. Big thanks to Brian and Marcelle off Simply for showing us how to use our BBQ for roasting.

Good red wine courtesy of John & Jo's “Six in the City” vintage followed by Fruit cake and custard courtesy of Russel's wife Dee. On FB she told us she couldn't believe Russel had shared the Fruit Cake.

Thursday September 3

We planned an excursion over to Gili Lawa Darat to hike the mountain and drift snorkel the “Shotgun”, the pass between the 2 islands. It was a tough climb especially while feeling the after effects of a big night. Russel and Rob put us to shame by going on and climbing the higher peak. Lea and I declined.

The drift snorkel was fun with the current increasing as time went on. We first went down the side of the island reef then dinghied back and did each side of a large bommie near the centre of the pass. Fish life and coral were good but we didn't see any of the big fish others had seen the day before.

Calm afternoon so I went off with the SUP while Lea went off with Sue off Ocelot and a bunch of others for another snorkel. Social afternoon catching up with New Views, Kalili and Blue Sky. Blue Sky's laptop to AIS unit connection had failed so I sorted that out for them. Lea did some cooking.

Finished the day watching the last episode of Downton Abbey Series 5

Friday September 4

Left after the morning sked with New Views and motored through the pass we snorkelled yesterday. Current was against us and depth of 6m was less than we anticipated so heart rates were up.

We then had a lovely 6.4Nm Screecher run up to Toro Batu Montjo. We parted from New Views here, as they elected to keep sailing with the nice breeze and we went into the bay to catch up with Cattiva and Pedro3. Talked to Rick on Pedro on the radio as we entered and he described the anchorage as one of the best with great coral, manta rays and Komodo Dragons on the beach. It was a stunning bay with a good sand patch close in. We dropped anchor and then dived over the side to check the anchor and snorkel the surrounding reef.

Rick was right, the coral and fish life were fantastic. We snorkelled for a while with Rick and Carol then swam over to Cattiva. Coffee and catch up with Grant and Leslie. They had been travelling along in company with Pedro 3 and thoroughly enjoying themselves.

Heard the story of Poppycat's grounding and temporary repairs. Apparently, while on the reef, the rudder tube pulled away from the bulkhead near the top bearing and the tube cracked below the waterline causing leakage. Fortunately the bottom bearing area survived so the actual hull was not breached. If I've got the story right sleeving in a new section of rudder tube and reinforcing the top bearing bulkhead attachment should do the job although I'd be looking for damaged fibreglass around the bottom bearing area as well. Another story I've heard indicating Lagoon catamarans are not built strong enough. But also a reminder that catamarans in general are lightly constructed, delicate and better kept off reefs if possible.

Cattiva and Pedro3 left after lunch leaving us to enjoy the beautiful calm afternoon with this delightful bay all to ourselves. I think it is the first alone time we have had since the Kimberley trip. Not even a “Hello Mister”. Another snorkel, a close encounter with 2 young Manta Rays and a fire on the beach completed another magic day.

This time we got photos.

Great Sunset over Palau Sangeang Volcano, Gunning Api

A great finish to a wonderfull time in Komodo NP.