Wednesday September 25
The weather was proving difficult to interpret and each Captain in our little fleet chose their own course. Psycho Puss headed over to the main island of Halmahera to explore the islands and reefs around Tobelo. Here some boats easily got an early visa extension done. Go figure!
Sharman, Kittani and Gemini Lady headed further east. We had forgotten to change our clocks so we woke in the pitch black. Enjoyed a cuppa and breakfast while waiting for daylight. Underway the breeze was light but the current favourable. We sailed close to Kittani and passed over a rat trap as they had discovered and unwelcome stowaway onboard.
We motor sailed hard on the breeze for the day. A large Northerly swell become more pronounced throughout the day. At the NE headland of Halmahera a large reef comes well out and the big swell was throwing up some serious big waves. We assumed the swells were being generated by a Typhoon in the Philippine’s. The sea was like a washing machine and we were tossed about. We were quite pleased to arrive at Tanjung Telek and find it calm enough despite the swell.
The forecast was again messy and all 3 boats came up with a different plan. Kittani was heading south to the southern islands of Halmahera, Sharman was going to bulldoze the rhumb line direct to Raja. We hoped to take a middle course via Yiew Island and planned to depart at 0200.
Neither of us could sleep so when the SW’ly kicked in at 2230 we up anchored and left. It was a very dark night with only a waning moon that didn’t come up until the early hours.
Thursday September 26
The current was as significant as we expected and we held full sail on a heading direct to Yiew 65Nm away. We got the motor off as the breeze freshened. A persistent SE swell bounced us around a bit. Not much fishing boat traffic made for a stress free night. A favourable current was helping us but standing the waves up a bit too.
As we approached Yiew Island near sunrise I downloaded a new GRIB file via the HF and we decided to continue on to Wayag with an ETA just on sunset. We had set up an HF Sked with Kittani but his radio mike was not modulating and although we arranged for a code of clicks to utilize the carrier wave we couldn’t make contact after the first night.
The breeze freshened and went more Easterly. We were glad we had pushed south as we could still keep the sails full. We had 1 motor assisting us to get in before dark but 10Nm out we switched it off and enjoyed a good sail. Sharman appeared mid morning from the north and we converged to arrive at the same time.
We arrived with plenty of light left and the bumpy sea state soon calmed as we entered the archipelago. Stunning scenery every which way we looked with limestone karst islands with undercut waterlines making them look like they were floating.
Very similar scenery to Phang Na Bay, Phuket without the hoards of tourists and noisy long tail boats. As we motored in the sense of peace and tranquillity deepened. The deeper water was easy to follow and we anchored up surrounded by islands. Only one other boat was in the anchorage.
Tried the radio sked again with no success. Pete later said he heard us both times. I checked the antenna and found some corrosion and put that on the job list to fix.
Friday September 27
We were woken up by Kittani talking to another vessel so we knew that they weren’t far away. In fact they were just waiting for daylight to enter.
Lea used the saved shower water to get rid of as much salt off the boat as possible while I repaired the HF antenna. Kittani arrived as well as a boat full of 10 Irishmen that we had waved to back in Moratai.
Next was a dinghy exploration of the maze of Islands. We tried to go outside to a good snorkelling spot but the tide was too low so we stayed inside zooming around all the little islands and waterways. Lovely sandy beaches and secluded little coves with pristine water and no rubbish to be seen.
We found the start of the hill walk but decided we needed better shoes so we enjoyed a great snorkel on a nearby reef featuring many large giant clams over 1m in size. Water temperature was a little cooler than we had become used to.
The sun came out in the afternoon and soon had us all hot and sweaty again. We invited everyone over for a roast lamb dinner but found that one of our lamb roast was beef. Never game to roast beef from Indonesia we made a casserole in the pressure cooker to go with the roast lamb. Lea made some paleo chocolate moose from avocados and bananas for desert. We started the night with a Martini. Charmaine hopped off the wagon for a night and a great night was had finishing off with a game of cards.
Saturday September 28
A very slow morning after a big night. we planned a walk early but delayed it a few hours. Charmaine was not to be seen all day and Geoff stayed back to nurse her. So it was just the 4 of us, Pete and Mariann of Kittani and us left to climb the mountain.
It was a steep and tough climb. At the top we met 5 of the 10 Irish lads who had bought a yacht and gone sailing through SE Asia for 4 months. They were all university students studying Engineering.
At the top the vista was stunning, we could even see a couple of sharks swimming in the lagoon below. The colours were amazing. This is the quintessential Indonesian Cruising destination and we had finally got here.
Sunday September 29
Off early again to use the high tide to get around to the Ranger Station and some recommended snorkelling sites.
Gemini Lady looked good in the morning sun.
All 3 dinghies set off. Charmaine was functioning again. The snorkelling was excellent with great visability
Psycho Puss and Fiddler arrived in the afternoon. I worked on the blog while Lea went off with Marian for more snorkelling.
Monday September 30
An overcast morning and a few drops of rain. We went over to Fiddler to check out the boat and catch up with Gary and Julie. After lunch Sharman, Kittani and Gemini Lady left and motored south to Kawe Island. Mariann did the naked swim on the equator as it was her first time across.We all enjoyed a toast to Neptune. We had a hard time finding a suitable anchorage. Eventually Kittani and Gemini Lady settled in a northern bay but we certainly didn’t feel secure with coral bommies just behind us. However, it was a beautiful spot and the wind soon died and the water glassed out.
Sharman left to find a better anchorage which was a shame as we were soon visited by about 6 manta Rays.
Lea, Pete and Mariann went in the water with them but the water was not as clear as we thought. As the tide dropped we saw that a few bommies were a bit close so we up anchored and moved a further 20 metres into the bay
Dinner and cards on Gemini Lady with Kittani. Flying ants everywhere as soon as it was dark so the screens went in.
Tuesday October 1
We awoke to the sound of birdsong and total stillness on the water. It was Mariann’s birthday and she was already in the water checking out the underwater world when we emerged. We spent some time cleaning up the carnage of kamikaze flying ants stuck in the heavy dew.
On to the next anchorage all of 8Nm away picking up Sharman on the way. White water tide lines appeared ahead of us and looked ominous but just rocked us a little. Pete had chosen our next anchorage on a triangle of clear sand north of Dentrecastreaux Island. Aptly named as the scenery resembled Tasmania only 20 degrees warmer. Initially the anchorage surged with cross currents and the boats swung everywhere but soon we all settled. The snorkelling at the southern end of the narrow passage was amazing. Thousands of fish of so many varieties and 3 massive hump head wrasse.
a great day finished with a lovely sunset over Kittani.
Wednesday October 2
Another beautiful morning with blue skies and calm seas. Kittani and Gemini Lady motored down through the narrow channel while Sharman went the long way around the island. Neptune gives and takes. Yesterday we had a great current going our way and today on the same tides and travelling in the same direction we had it against us. Go figure! It was a perfectly flat seas as we motored the 15Nm to the lagoon at Palau Mutus. We enjoyed a surprise sighting of a pilot whale breaching nearby. We stopped and it breached again right in front of our bows.
Again the anchorage was beautiful and while a Marine reserve, the neighbouring Island is home to about 300 people.
We went ashore and were instantly swamped with kids that then shadowed us and tried to communicate as we walked. some were in school uniform but all were clean and well presented. The kids took us to and Elder who spoke some English. As usual everyone was very friendly. The village was very clean and tidy
We spent a bit of time at the school and delivered a package of books and pencils. One teacher spoke a little English and she was keen to have us visit again the next day to talk to the kids.
Storm clouds were building up so we said our goodbyes and headed back to the boats. An afternoon game of cards on Sharman while we watched the weather. Fortunately the dark clouds passed us by.
The fridge is starting to look pretty empty now. time to find a market.
Thursday October 3
Yesterday we committed to going back to the schools and the kids were waiting on the beach in their crisp clean uniforms. Pete, Mariann and Lea went ashore equipped with a dictionary, picture books of Australian Wildlife and big smiles. The kids didn’t speak much English and they were very shy but they were very eager to spend time with the foreigners. In the classroom they borrowed a world globe and pointed out Australia, America and their home, Mutus Island. They used the chalk board to write the alphabet and numbers and sang the ABC song for the young class. The teacher was very appreciative and excited about the visit.
We had noticed a house on the beach that seemed to be full of kids. It was explained that a group of 21 kids from neighbouring Islands lived there by themselves. They cook their own food, do their own washing and take care of themselves. They are aged 12-15 and only go home on school holidays.
Back on Gemini lady we bought a nice Mackerel from a local fisherman. Sharman had an engine issue that delayed our departure but we soon had it sorted.
We had a good breeze but as there was only 8 Nm to go we didn’t bother with the main. Pef Island is privately leased by a swiss lady and she runs an upmarket dive resort called Raja4Divers. We entered their “hidden bay” via a narrow gap in the high limestone cliffs and made our way into the fjord type anchorage. On the cliffs were ancient art works as it was an ancient burial site of significant archaeological significance. At the head, the bay opened up large enough for 3-4 boats in 17m of water.
Apparently there are crocs about so swimming is not recommended. At the jetty we were warmly welcomed by staff.
At the resort we were met by Marcel who introduced himself and invited us for a cuppa. He explained to us the history and running of the resort and eventually got around to the charge of 20Euros per day per person. He was happy to give us a discount of one person and not charge for the boats. tea, coffee and home baked cookies free, use of resort facilities, island walks and rubbish disposal. meals and drinks extra.
We had a good wander around and admired the many wood carvings, all done by the resident wood carver. We then settled in at the bar for a few beers. Back to the boats for dinner. We did think about going back for the live band but it was passed our bedtime.
Friday October 4
We woke up to a cacophony of birds and mirror glass water. We went ashore to do a couple of the island walks before breakfast. Up to the top of a karst pinnacle with a lookout giving a 360 degree panorama over the lush tropical island.
The next walk took us to the north side of the island and lagoon. We finished up back at the resort for a cuppa and some of those delicious home baked cookies. Next stop was Kabai Pass. We could not get information on which way it flowed so arranged to meet with Kittani at the entrance at high tide.