I'm not really sure what happened a few weeks ago but suddenly I decided I wanted to go to Indonesia this season. I just woke up and thought. Let's go! So I e-mailed the Sail Indonesia Rally and thought "If they are still accepting boats this late in the game then we are meant to go." Turns out the Rally registration closed the next day but they gave me the weekend to think it through a little more. By Monday we were registered and ready to go which meant we needed to actually go.
Go 1500 miles (more as the crow flies than the shipping lanes run but you get the idea) from the Whitsunday Islands to Darwin in about 15 days that is. Somehow (God must have been on our side) we did just that. In fact we did it in pretty quickly (are days early!) especially considering we stopped and dropped anchor for two nights along the way just to get a break.
The crossing wasn't bad but it was a bit difficult. We were inside the Great Barrier Reef and I can tell you that there is a lot to watch out for in there. This is no open ocean sailing where a little cat nap will lead to nothing more than being startled awake by a waypoint arrival blaring on the Raymarine. This is big-boy, watch where you are going even though you can't see a damn thing in the dark sailing. Look through the dark night and hope you see the few flashing buoys that will guide you in the right direction. And lord please don't let a tanker run us over since we really are in THEIR way (I'm really glad Mark decided it was time for AIS - yes every boat should have it!)
We had a few rough weather days but we did get some perfect days. We were even out long enough that I had a few no sea-sickness days. As far as big passages go it really wasn't that bad and my kid really is a champ. His favorite part were his (good) daily pool parties in the cock-pit. Mark and I bought a little-tykes swimming pool for MM that we set up in the cock-pit and just let him chill-out and relax. He loved it! Wanted to be in it forever (probably because it was much cooler than being in the boat). And we loved it because it was so entertaining to watch him kicking and splashing and trying to swim (not sure how he figured out how to kick and paddle but he did). I'm so glad it looks like he'll be a better swimmer than I am.
As usual we though the hardest part of the crossing was over. Little did we know that getting into the Marina was going to be the biggest challenge. The tide here can be really crazy so the marinas are behind locks. That's right, they are gated. You move your boat in, it fills up with water and then you motor on out. Not that big a deal. We did it in Panama right. Wrong! First they have all sorts of crazy rules so rather than being able to just schedule our time to enter I had to call pest control so they could tell me that we were okay to enter. I had to wait over an hour for a call back so they could ask me two questions that apparently the marina couldn't ask. "How long had we been in AU? and Had the boat been hauled out while we were here?"
We asked the Lockmaster how long it would take us to get up the river. She drastically under-estimated and we were terribly late. We tried calling her to let her know but they have no VHF in the locks (why?) and she didn't answer her phone. Finally after getting up this crazy river which our charts told us had less than a foot of water under us but really it was 30 feet (I said big tides didn't I) and had boats literally moored in the channel, she gives us a call as we are outside and tells us she won't let us in for 45 minutes. Now what? We turned around and had to go back down the river and then come back up because there was no room to circle.
Now the story gets good. When we were making the appointment for the locks Mark was very clear that we didn't know what to expect and that we needed to know the procedure. She told him prepare for a port-side tie-up and that was it. Okay no problem. We put all the fenders and lines out on the port side and pulled-in. She put out a boat-hook and took my bow line. Great! I waited for her to tie it off but she wasn't. She just kept pulling on it which caused our backend to start swinging almost smashing the outboard into the wall. I'm waiting for her to tie off the bow so she can get the stern but she just stands there and after I've had to save the outboard a few more times, and Mark is fighting her with the bow thruster, we finally start yelling at her to tie off the line.
She tells us that she doesn't tie off the boats. What? How are you supposed to keep them from crashing into the other wall especially if she is tugging on them (she said she was keeping us from going forward...no she wasn't). Finally, I just lost it and told her to tie off the line and do what she needed to do to get the water filled. We'd worry about keeping the boat in place. And yes, I used some choice language (luckily MM was asleep below during all of this). At this point we are literally inches from the Starboard wall with fenders all down the port side because that's where we were told to put them and I'm just standing there pushing us off the wall.
Finally the doors open and she yells at us that she isn't there to take orders from us. We agree. She was absolutely correct. She should have told us exactly what to do. Instead she just stood there in silence causing all sorts of issues. Seriously, she stood there in silence, tugging on a line and causing our backend to continually swing out almost bashing it into the wall multiple times. If Mark wouldn't have had the bow-thruster and/or there would have been more wind that I couldn't fight we would have smashed the entire side of the boat. A little direction would have gone a long way! Unfortunately we'll have to go back out that damn lock in a week or so but going down should be a little better because I'll be high enough that I can tie the back myself and do the job properly.
Alright, that's enough. I didn't mean to go off but this woman truly was one of the biggest idiots I've ever met and the fact is she just doesn't really give a damn or understand how to do her job. It would have been better to be tied off but if she wasn't going to that is really all we needed to know so that we could have prepared properly.
I have to say that over the last few months I've noticed that ALOT of the people in marinas have NO idea what they are supposed to be doing. We have pulled into a number of slips where we throw a line and rather than get it tied off they just stand there or put it in entirely the wrong place. Boat docking is not rocket science. Understand a few key things and it really can go very smoothly but I don't think they give dockhands ANY training and I don't think they understand just how fast a perfect docking job can go bad if a line isn't tied off fast enough.
Anyhow, we made it to Darwin and will had a busy 1.5 weeks to prepare. I did some serious provisioning. The rally is three months so I tried to provision for at least that plus an extra month or so on some things (baby items mostly) since we aren't sure of the plan after.
Our last night in Darwin was a little more "exciting" than we would have liked. The marina we were in was in the middle of a housing development. About a 100 yards across the water from us about 10+ very drunk guys decided they should set off fireworks which were going in all sorts of directions. We tried to yell at them and tell them to stop and that it was really dangerous to do that so close to boats (fiberglass burns very quickly and doesn't stop until it reaches the waterline) but they didn't want to listen. We explained that we have fuel on our decks (gas and propane) but they didn't care. I told them I have a six month old baby they were waking up... still they didn't care. Finally Mark and I called the cops and while it took awhile they did come out and go over to the house but a few hours later the guys decided to set them off again. Mark slept in the cockpit of the boat because we were worried one of them might swim over and do something to our boat for calling the cops. Needless to say it was a long night so we didn't get started very early the next day. We didn't leave Darwin till about 3:00. After a three day crossing from Darwin we are now in Indonesia. Hopefully the blog is about to get interesting again as I'll have lots to write about.
I have to admit. I'm a little nervous about this trip. The reason we weren't going initially is because of Malaria concerns and I am still very nervous about my baby getting sick. I will be taking every precaution I can. If we decide that the risk has become to much we will leave Indonesia early although I'm not sure where we will go. If I have to, him and and I will be on lock down in the boat at night (and day) if necessary. We have screens for all of our hatches and I purchased a screen for the cock-pit. I have a few citronella candles and lots of bug spray but I'm open to hearing any ideas on keeping MM safe!!!!!