Thursday 13 October
Departed Darwin at 14:15 after filling up with duty free fuel at Fishermans Wharf, an experience in itself. Some yachties don’t like the rough and readiness of a commercial quayside but we don’t mind. Get your fenders slung horizontally to cope with the piles and be prepared for a bit of “post hugging” as you thread the mooring lines around the big pillars. It helps to not suffer from vertigo on the open ladders that are usually provided to get to the top. In this case steep steps with sturdy handrails made it easier. Baileys Marine Fuels were very friendly, they don’t get many yachts filling up and had to change the nozzle to one small enough to fit in Temptress’ filler cap, they usually deliver thousands of litres at a time to fishing boats and harbour tugs not the mere 275 litres we required. When the jerry cans and tank were full Mr Bailey himself gave a Kevin a lift across the hot quayside to the office to pay. Everywhere we have been in Darwin everyone has been extremely helpful and friendly, it’s a lovely city with a small town heart.
Another big fish…. Just as the first watch of the night was about to start the trolling line went speeding out almost unnoticed as I’d forgotten to put the noisy ratchet on, oops! Some while later Kevin trotted off for a pre-bed shower to wash off the eau de wahoo- another four-ish kilos of fish are now in the fridge! I’ll process them in the morning into portion sized bags and freeze it. Looks like having literally eaten the last of our previous big wahoo for lunch earlier today, the crew of Temptress will be eating more of the same for the next few weeks too.
First thing the navigator flogged the clocks from Darwin time, the awkward UT+9:30 to the local time zone of UT+9:00. In another sixty or so miles west Temptress will be in UT+8:00. We will wander back and forth through time zones as we journey northwards for the next few months as the north-most islands of Indonesia are another hour closer to Greenwich whilst both Singapore and Malaysia further north again keep to UT+8:00. This time zone switching induces nothing more than hunger pangs at odd times when you travel as slowly as we do.
Talking of travelling slowly, the tides off the Northern Territory coast are strong slowing us down to four knots at times, giving us a boost to just over six at others. There is little breeze so Temptress’ engine is on; from the forecast we expect to motor most if not all the distance to Kupang on the western end of the island of Timor.
And as if the weather heard me by ten thirty am we’d sufficient breeze from the south to sail; probably induced by the storm clouds rolling past a couple of miles off to starboard (north east) of us. Once the sails were up I headed off to the galley. Six fishy suppers for two bagged up and in the icebox plus a bag of bits that will make a curry for four, one loin of wahoo curing and a couple of chunks to flour and fry for supper tonight – yum! Not bad for a couple of hours trolling yesterday afternoon; no more fishing required for a week or two though.
After lunch our final farewell from Australia was made in much the same way as we were welcomed all those weeks ago – a Border Force aircraft flew low past us before climbing and calling us up via the VHF for details on our our passage. They wished us a pleasant sail to Indonesia as they signed off. Our Indonesian courtesy flag is now sewn ready to be hoisted on Sunday, we’ll be taking the Aussie one down in a few hours.
The afternoon was a frustrating one of periods of productive sailing sandwiched by periods of little or no wind. As the sunset we decided to take the main down for the night as a precautionary measure, not wanting to experience a repeat of the thunderstorm mêlée we went through enroute to Darwin and seeing the cloud building on the horizon behind and ahead of us. If there is sufficient breeze to sail rather than motor the jib will be fine overnight.
The cockroaches put in another unwelcome appearance just after dark; half a dozen tiny scurrying baby beasties trying to get into the low cupboard just behind the galley sinks. They were sprayed liberally. Then had to wash all the dishes and glasses in the cupboard as they had been liberally coated in roach spray so gave the cupboard a good spray and a clean whilst it was empty. We must have some of the cleanest galley lockers, this in the third time recently I’ve cleaned out this one after spotting roaches heading towards it. They don’t seem to be eating the bait we’ve put out in various nooks and crannies though and we only ever see them in the area around the sinks, no idea where they hide.
Temptress motored all night. The morning found us roughly half way. Then we motored all day and again through the night as scarcely more than a handful of breeze. The only event of note was spotting the installations of the Bayu-Undan oilfield some ten miles to the east as Temptress motored across the Sahul Banks. The latter would seem shallow if approaching from the Indonesian side where the Timor Sea is several thousand metres deep but the continental shelf of Australia means we’ve been in soundings since Darwin, mostly in water 50 or 60 metres deep.
Land ho! Not only is the water deeper but the land is higher too than northern Australia. The mountains of the Indonesian part of the island of Timor are over 2,500 metres high so visible through the hazy morning light at some 40 nm. In Timor Leste, the other half of the island, according to the Admiralty the mountains reach almost 3000m, very different from the mangrove swamps and sand dunes of recent weeks.
We’ve 75 nm to motor still to the western point of the island Tajung Oisina or Oecina, depending on which chart scale you view. From there we turn north then north eastwards through the strait between Timor and Palau Semau for another 15 or so nautical miles to the anchorage off Kupang.
The early morning tasks included putting some laundry to soak and flogging the clocks to the local time zone of UT+8. As we close the land floating rubbish – plastic bottles, polystyrene fish boxes, sticks, bits of plastic bag – begins to appear and our noses detect a whiff of woodsmoke, a sure sign we are off Indonesia which has the world’s largest carbon footprint thanks to deforestation by burning and some say is also the source of around a third of all plastic debris in the oceans. The amount of plastic debris we saw piled up on some of the remote Aussie coastline inside the Barrier Reef was a very sobering testament to western lifestyle over the past fifty years or so – plastic “oil” drums, fishing net and buoys, bottles and more, none of which will decay. Temptress does her bit to try to reverse this trend; we do not dump plastic rubbish into the sea, we do not buy bottled water, though we do buy tonic water and ginger beer in bottles and try to avoid plastic bags and packaging when shopping. And of course now we have a metal tender, though we still have the old one on board until we find some way of either repairing it or disposing of it.
A school of porpoises are a brief diversion, for both us and for them though sadly they quickly return to fishing after just a few minutes of play in our bow wave as we pass. To see them jump and spin in the air is a delight. There are also suddenly large numbers of flying fish skittering away from us as we motor along. A light breeze ripples the surface but is still not sufficient to sail. The laundry is drying slowly without any assisting breeze.
Late afternoon as we close the coast a sea breeze slowly builds and finally almost at our passage’s end we can unfurl the gennie and sail, with a bit of favourable tide or current Temptress makes almost four knots. One gybe in towards the shore then the other out again as the course is predictably dead down wind, nothing is ever easy. Down below the boat is hot from running the engine, lack of breeze and the full heat of the sun, we hope it will cool quickly now there is a breeze blowing through otherwise it looks like the off watch will have an uncomfortable time of it. Or do we need watches at all? With less than thirty miles to Kupang at five knots we should be at anchor before midnight.
In fact with wind and tide for once both in our favour we had a fast up Selat Samau just west of Timor in the early evening. Off the port of Tenau we had to resort to motoring so as to be able to pick our way around several lengthy fishing nets lit only by huge sodium search lights from a boat at one end. The fishing boats themselves tended to remain unlit until we approached, it was a bit of a shock to spot net floats from the bow and then suddenly have a blaze of light appear off our beam. As the numbers of boats increased and the channel narrowed it seemed a bit hairy but once we got close enough to understand mid channel or the coast of Pulau Semau to the west was a better option than the coast of Timor life became easier. By ten o’clock we had dropped the hook just a few metres away from SY Why Not, our neighbours from Darwin and just a few hundred metres west of the spot where Captain Bligh landed after his epic 3000nm journey in an open boat following the mutiny. We drank a toast to Indonesia with the last of couple of cans of our Aussie beer then it was time for bed in a new but familiar part of the world.