Thursday, June 8, 2017

Toilet Troubles and Anchoring Aches...

You may recall in a previous post that, prior to all hell breaking loose with the spinnaker, Dave was trying to fix our blocked toilet. We have 2 toilets on board, one electric, and one manual. The electric toilet is a dream, and was a “must have” for me to go cruising! Unfortunately, it was the electric toilet that was no longer working. Over the last year or so, the suction was getting poorer and poorer, and eventually, stopped all together. This is what Dave had been starting to investigate when I had called him to the helm to untangle the spinnaker. He had not gotten back to the toilet issue since then, because we had then arrived in Kupang, had to check in, and then spent a day touring. So, fixing the toilet was high on the list of priorities…but more on that later!!

I love our electric toilet...😀
We left Kupang early on Friday morning, June 2nd. We had a great sail with nice wind for most of the way up the coast of Timor, and only near the end of the afternoon did we have to start the engine. We pulled into a small bay called Tanjung Gumuk, and anchored off the beach. We were still setting the anchor when an old man with a young child came rowing up to us, in a wooden dug out canoe, the grandfather pointing us out to his grandchild, whose eyes were wide with amazement. What was this spaceship that had landed in their backyard? Who were these strange looking people?! I asked permission to take his photo, and he willingly obliged. "Terimakasi", I said, holding my palms together and bowing slightly. He smiled broadly, obviously thrilled that I could at least say “thank you” in his language!

The grandfather and grandson who came to check us out!

The anchorage at Tanjung Gumuk
We had a peaceful night’s sleep and woke up early the next morning, ready to tackle the toilet!! Well, I will spare you all the gory details, but the task took us all day, and we eventually had to remove the entire pipe that leads from the toilet to the holding tank, which involved removing part of the shower compartment!! It’s never easy, is it?! However, we were happy to discover it was a blocked pipe, and not a part of the toilet that had failed. A pipe we could unblock, but a toilet part would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get in Indonesia. What had actually happened was that the constant salt water in the pipe caused layers of calcification, which eventually completely blocked the pipe. We finished our task at about 4:30pm, thrilled to have our toilet back, better than ever! It was like having a new toy on board!! It’s the small things in life that are important when cruising!!

Our bathroom torn apart in the big toilet fix

We had to beat the pipe into submission to remove the rock-hard calcification!
We quickly jumped in the water, did a cursory clean of the hulls, and then pulled up anchor at about 5:30pm as the sun was setting. We had decided to travel overnight across the Savu Sea to reach the island of Adonara in the morning and get through the Boling Strait to our next anchorage. With the wind being so light, we knew we would be motoring, burning our precious diesel, but we had little choice. It made for an easy night shift and it was a pleasant change from the winds we had to deal with on the way to Indonesia!

A spectacular evening sky captured by Gaby as we set off across the Savu Sea

The night was peaceful and uneventful, bar a close encounter with 2 ships early on in the evening.  Benjamin was on watch, and he saw the ships coming closer on the AIS.  He woke Dave up, who was snoozing in the cockpit, and together they radioed the one ship, to let them know that we were there (they would have seen us on AIS too, but just to be sure!), and to let them know that we would pass on their stern (behind them).  We came within half a mile of them...they were huge, brightly lit tankers, very cool to see at night.

The morning brought us just to the south of Adonara and Solar islands, and we had planned to pass between them, to reach Kroko Atoll, on the north side of Adonara.  To get there, we had to go through the Boling Strait, which could aptly be re-named "Boiling Strait" due to the strong currents and eddies we had to pass through.  We had up to 4 knots of current against us, and at one point, while doing 6 knots boat speed, we were actually only moving through the water at a speed of 1.9 knots!  It made for a long day, but we enjoyed the scenery, in particular identifying the volcanoes in the area.  Unfortunately it was quite overcast, and we never had a clear view of the mountains, but their sheer size was impressive nonetheless!

Early morning at the southern end of Kawula

Volcanoes in the mist
Boleng volcano rises 5,440 meters above sea level.  This picture also shows the tide ripping through the strait

The anchorage we were heading for was reachable via a channel in the reef, and it was all hands on deck to identify it, and to make sure we didn't run aground on the reef!  We had read, and had also noticed, that our navionics charts were not that accurate in these more remote areas, so it was back to navigating by using our eyes and watching the depth on our instruments.  We made it safely through the pass, happy to be seeing turquoise water again!  We anchored in about 48 feet of water, with a sandbank on one side, and a reef on the other.  We have discovered that Indonesia is either very deep, or very shallow (reef!), making anchoring a challenge at times.

Entering the pass to reach Kroto Atoll

There is a little sandspit at Kroko atoll, and we could see a couple of people on it.  Just after we'd anchored, we heard an almighty "BOOM!" and the boat actually shook!  At first I thought our anchor chain had caught on something and snapped, or ricochet off something, but then we realized that a fisherman had thrown some dynamite into the water, a quick and easy (and in our opinion terrible) way to catch fish!!  We were on our way to the sandspit when we saw them do it again.  This time, we saw the actual explosion in the water, and then watched how they just scooped the fish out of the water.  Never mind what it does to the coral...

Once on the sand, we were, of course, welcomed by the family, and the usual photographs had to be taken!   We settled down to chat with them, which proved to be difficult as our Indonesian is practically non-existent, and their English was only a touch better than our Indonesian!  But, thank goodness for the 21st century, because the high school student, who was the one who spoke the most English, after a short while whipped out his iPhone, downloaded a translation app, and soon we were communicating, if not fantastically, certainly capably!

The little sand spit at Kroko Atoll

Just before sunset, the family packed up (Mom, Dad, Aunts, Uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters - there were at least 12 people), and hopped in their wooden boat and off they went to the other side of the island.  We were alone, and quickly walked around the small island, collecting some beautiful shells.  We headed back to the boat and realized that there was such a strong current where we were anchored, that it was stronger than the wind, causing standing waves to occur (wind against current), making the boat rock and roll quite a bit!  We decided that we needed a peaceful night's sleep, and would find a better place to anchor.  Easier said than done.  Actually, it was a little dangerous to do what we did, but desperate times call for desperate measures!!  We headed across the bay to what looked like a good spot on the chart, but remember, our charts were not that accurate.  Our choice was either 100+ feet, or coral reef.  Neither would work.  So we headed back to where we had come from.  We tried again, a little further from our original spot.  We dropped the anchor in what looked like sand, but we couldn't get it to bite.  We had to move on.  By now the sun was setting, and it was getting difficult to distinguish the coral from the "safe" areas.  We tried two more times, without any luck.  It was either too deep, or there was coral.  Our only other option really was to give up, and sail overnight.  Not another night!!  I think Dave was so tired, and so determined, that he willed the anchor to hold!!  We tried one more time..."Drop the anchor!"  he shouted.  "Now?" I asked,  "Yes, just drop it!".  So I did.  And it held!  I think everyone had said a little prayer, and our prayers were answered!!  It was, after all, our 23rd wedding anniversary, and I wasn't about to spend it doing nightshift!!

Drop that anchor!!!

Another visitor comes by

Leaving Kroko Atoll at dawn
Early the next morning we left our anchorage and began the journey over to Flores, the biggest island in the East Nusa Tengarra province.  We had no wind, and had to motor the whole way.  Sometime in the morning, I noticed a bunch of black shapes in the water.  I saw one of the infamous Indonesian FAD's  (Fish Attracting Devices - a real hazard to navigation), and close by, these black shapes.  At first I thought they might be buoys, but they were moving.  I grabbed the binoculars, and realized I was looking at a pod of pilot whales!  What a treat that was!  We inched closer to them, and then cut the engines and just drifted.  They came really close to us, and the sound they made when they blew their blowholes was so powerful!!  Some of them were just resting on the surface of the water.  Some were gently playing in the calms.  There were so many of them, they would appear and disappear and we could have watched them all day!  Then, just as we engaged our engines again, along came a couple of dolphins to play!  They played in our bow wake for just a little while and then dashed off again!

A little hard to see, but this is one of the FADs with a boat in front of it

The whales just wallowed on the surface most of the time

This fisherman also came to see the whales

The dolphins playing in our bow wake

Later that afternoon, just before we were rounding the tip of Flores, heading to our next anchorage, I saw an AIS signal for another sailing vessel!  I was so excited!  We had not seen another cruising boat since the Great Barrier Reef, and certainly no-one in Indonesia!  They were coming towards us, which meant they were going in the opposite direction, but it was great to know there was another boat out there!  It was about 2:30pm when we entered the bay at Tanjung Gedong.  We watched our depth sounder and had our lookouts on the bow again, as we inched closer to the water's edge.  Depths rose very suddenly from hundreds of feet to 25 feet and then 13 feet.  At least the water was crystal clear, and we were able to find a patch of sand amongst the coral where we could drop our anchor.  After Dave had dived to check the anchor, we all donned our swimming and snorkeling gear and jumped into the water!  There was some beautiful coral and lovely, colorful reef fish, and it was a pleasure to be able to swim again, and not worry about crocodiles, sharks or deadly jelly fish!!  Dave and I cleaned the hulls, which was not a difficult task at all, since they looked really good, and were hardly dirty at all!  The local kids came paddling out in their dugout canoes, and we traded 4 pencils and 4 lollipops for 2 lovely looking papayas!

They had such lovely smiles, but the minute they realized I was taking a photo, all I got was these solemn faces!

About an hour after we had anchored, we saw the mast on the horizon.  At first we thought s/v Popeye, the boat we'd seen on AIS was going to pass on by, but then we saw they were heading for the anchorage!  Yay! We would have some company tonight!!  We chatted with them briefly on the radio, and once they had settled in, we invited them over for a drink.  Sundowners on Cool Runnings!  We had a lovely evening with Kate and Sean Collins, who were delivering "Popeye", a beautiful Beneteau First 47 racing boat to Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays.  Luckily for us, Kate and Sean had already sailed the way we were going, and they provided us with a wealth of information on anchorages, places to go, things to do and contacts in various places to get fuel and supplies.  Thanks, Kate and Sean for all your help, and for a wonderful evening!!

At anchor with Popeye in the background

Selfie with Sean and Kate from Popeye

It was after getting all this info, and especially info on Bali, that we had previously not really considered spending much time in, that we decided we had to come up with a better plan for our time in Indonesia, as it was actually shorter than we realized, considering what we wanted to see and do.  So we decided to focus on a couple of places, and spend our time in those places, rather than just aimlessly day hopping until we reached Bali.  And so it was with this new found knowledge, that we decided to do an overnight trip to reach Labuan Bajo, on the other end of Flores, where we are now.

Arriving in Labaun Bajo.  Yes, it's time for some sunshine, don't you think?!  We actually had SUCH a downpour right after we anchored!  It is hot and humid and constantly grey and overcast!!
Labuan Bajo is the jumping off point for the Komodo National Park.  It is a bustling little tourist town with tons of backpackers.  The people, while still very friendly, are not jumping out at us, trying to take photos with us!  There are some nice little restaurants and we have finally been able to eat out without it costing an arm and a leg!!  We've met another boat (yay!), Aerial IV, with Eric and Birgitta on board.  They are from Sweden, and this is their 2nd loop around our beautiful planet!!  They first did it with their kids when their boys were 6, 9 and 11 (I think).  Since we have discovered that we are on a same timetable (both heading to Bali, both having to check out at month's end, both heading to South Africa), we've decided to at least for now, head off together, and keep each other company.  Today we managed to get diesel, and while it took all day to get organized (we ran each of the 8 jerry cans through our filtering system 4 times!!), we have plenty of fuel to get to Bali, where we can top up once more before heading off to Cocos Keeling.

House boats anchored in Labuan Bajo

Overlooking the harbor
Dodging cars and mopeds!
Very sad to see tons of trash in the water here
A view down onto the main street.  There are lots of dive shops here taking guests into the Komodo National Park

Main street Labuan Bajo

Tomorrow we head off to the island of Rinca, where the Komodo National Park Headquarters is located, and where we hope to see these giant, ancient creatures!

I don't think they'll look quite as friendly as this fellow!

My apologies for a rather long post, but I wanted to make sure I was up-to-date before leaving the cell phone signals and relatively fast wifi behind us and enjoying a couple of days in the Komodo National Park!

Sunset over Labuan Bajo, Flores


  1. It was a pleasure to meet the Hibbard Family and have sundowners aboard Cool Runnings. Thanks for the kind words and we hope to spend time with you again. Safe Journeys! - Kate and Sean aboard S.V. Popeye.

  2. Belated happy wedding anniversary guys.

  3. You had me on the edge of my seat the whole time (of the post). For an anniversary, my present was a new, and greatly improved, toilet for our clunky old houseboat. I was thrilled beyond words, so you know I appreciated your toilet tribulations.
    As always, thank you for taking us along on your wonderful adventure.
    Mary Osterbrock