Westbound on Flores

It takes five painful days for our visas to be extended in Maumere. With every night we spend in the rolly anchorage, I get a little more cranky – it’s really hard to get a good nights’ sleep, and the constant motion is a strain. I’ll take sailing through the big, (long period!) ocean swells ANY time over this discomfort.

We leave as soon as we can, and get to a small bay on the west side of the large bay where Maumere is located. We nose our way in carefully: charts here are terrible, and we have no other cruiser-reported knowledge of the anchorage. But it’s approaching evening, the water is flat, and a small group of fishing boats all the way inside suggest it’s a good place to stop and rest.

The hillsides are so vibrantly green, Jamie jokes that we must be in Scotland in the spring.

Where are we?

The fishermen leave as sunset approaches, out for a night of fishing off the FADs (Fish Aggregating Devices) that light the bay. We get few smiles and waves- and, of course, photographs. Check out the guy holding up his yellow mobile phone for a snap.

Fishermen wave

We have a blissful night, truly heavenly, in water so still it’s as though we were tied to a dock.

Our destination the following night is unknown- we’ll be trying to find a roadstead spot to anchor Totem. To ensure we find a place to park with sufficient time (light overhead is essential to see the shallows), we make a sunrise departure. As we pass this FAD, a lineup of bleary eyed fishermen wave us on our way.

sunrise and FAD

Hyo does some spotting from the bow to help keep us away from shoals as we pick our way back out of the nook.

Hyo helps see us through the reef

I wish I could say we had a great sail, but it’s another day of motoring for Totem. We expected contrary winds during the NW monsoon- hey, you can always go upwind!- but we didn’t expect so little wind. There’s rarely enough to make us move, no matter which direction we want to go.

Poking around the corner on our westbound leg for the day, there’s a dramatic view of an island we hadn’t seen before. It’s an ominous sign to see the plume from the top. As we watch from the cockpit, the plume grows rapidly to a large cloud of ash.

Paluweh erupts

At this point we realize there are some serious safety issues that come with sailing in Indonesia which we had not previously considered.

Paluweh erupts

For all our research into local security, this kind of natural event had not been on our radar. We’re about 3 miles from the island, which really is too close for comfort.

We have no internet connectivity, so send a radio message to our friend Tim in the States. He’s able to do some quick research, and finds out that this volcano has been at a similar level of alert to Mt St Helens before the big blast in 1980. We’re moving away from it. I decide not to even look up information on pyroclastic flow. I don’t want to know! Totem is soon upwind of any ash, leaving the very corrosive, acidic fallout behind.

Paluweh erupts

Tim helps us get up to speed. It’s another in a series of eruptions here that have been increasing. For all the drama and brief stress it gave us, it’s hard to ignore the powerful beauty of this natural force.

8 Responses to Westbound on Flores

  1. Tom & Carolyn Camping April 25, 2013 at 3:43 am #

    Another eye opening episode …in a day with Totem.

  2. Anonymous April 25, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    You guys need to be alert to the volcanism over there as well as tectonic activity. Its been increasing steadily over the past couple of years.

    • Behan Gifford April 25, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

      Hey there Anon, it’s really true. This was a wakeup call for us. We’re paying more attention now!

  3. Erik April 25, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    That’s some serious green! And some serious volcano action. Stay safe.

    • Behan Gifford April 25, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

      Innit though? We’ll try- thanks Erik.

  4. Desire Gralton April 25, 2013 at 10:46 am #

    Wow!

  5. Dan Sears April 29, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    That totally reminds me of watching from my back deck in Portland in May 1980 as Mt St Helens blew out. Everything was covered in fine dust volcanic ash and we were forced to wear face masks to school. All motors with an air intake clogged up. That stuff is insidious. Though it is quite useful for scrubbing pans and exfoliating the skin.

    • Behan Gifford April 29, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

      Man, remember that? We were living in the midwest then, but my grandmother sent me a jelly jar full of ash from her backyard in Bellingham. Jamie didn’t have quite the same experience as a New Englander, but St Helens did blow on his birthday, so he never forgets!

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