March 28, 2013

In search of pottery, we find a fort


At the Siwa Lima museum in Ambon, our docent showed us old pottery that was still made at Ouw village at the southeastern corner of Sapaura island. We don’t often hang our destination choices on much information, so that was enough to peg Pulau Saparua for the next stop. Besides, we need to break up our trip to the Banda Islands, and waiting there for gentler conditions to make the overnight run sounds perfect.

Our last night in Ambon was sleepless: we moved to the outer harbor, Amahusu, where the rally boats congregate in August. I don’t know how they tolerate it: rolly anchorage, no bemos, just one hotel/restaurant ashore. Chalk up another tick against going with the crowd. We had a motorboat ride going to Ouw in the morning. Unfortunately, we haven’t don’t a lot of sailing happening in Indonesia… winds rarely crack 10 kts. But there was plenty of garbage in the water to watch floating by.

No wind, but plenty of trash
Scant wind ripples but lots of trash, our typical Indonesian water view

It was a relief to find a large anchorage area with depths of 20-30’ just off the village- no more of the crazy depths from Papua!

Walking ashore and asking around, it was pretty easy to find a potter- literally, the first place we stuck our heads in for directions turned out to be making pottery in the back. It’s neat to see that pieces just like those we’d seen in the museum were still very much in modern day production- and apparently using techniques that haven’t changed for centuries.

Ouw village traditions
shaping clay bowls is an entirely manual process

Besides the museum pieces, we’d seen these bowls used for Pepeda (for serving gooey sago mush) and evidence of them in the market (where rectangular sago bricks to dunk in your coffee are fired in clay baking dishes).

The home that welcomed us to see pottery work in progress was built against some old ruins, sharing an exterior wall with a crumbling structure of limestone/coral brick. I thought it was a little strange that nobody knew the history. Was it 200 years old, or 400? Was it Portuguese or Dutch, or even English? A standard-issue, rotted out government sign in front identified it as “Benteng (Fort) Ouw” and bade visitors not to damage the creeper-covered walls, but offered no clues to the history.

Benting Ouw
The old fort at Ouw village

Back on Totem, it was “sweaty hour”.  Every afternoon we seem to reach a point where if we don’t hose down or jump in the water, we’ll succumb to heatstroke. It’s not hard to be enticed into the pretty water. Underneath is a different story. No pretty fish, no healthy corals, just the gray rubble of blasted reef. Dynamite fishing is illegal, but still practiced.  A few straggling soft corals grow, but they just serve as a counterpoint to set off the wasteland of the rest of the bay. It meant our anchorage wasn’t great, either, gravel not being the best holding. With stronger winds forecast, we decided to move farther inside Saparua’s harbor.

March 27, 2013

A quick trip home to the USA

In just a few weeks, I’ll be back home on Bainbridge Island for the first time in almost five years. It’s only for a few days, but I’m so excited!

 

IMG_2468

 

Most important is the chance to see and hug and catch up with friends. I also want to see our house. We didn’t sell it when we left in 2008; instead, it’s been under the watchful care of a dear friend (without Tracey’s help, I really don’t know how we would have managed this). I’m glad to have the chance to see it again meet the family who lives there now.

 

Jamie and the children will be staying behind in Indonesia, on a mooring in Bali’s Serangan harbour. They keep trying to tell me how jealous they are. I keep trying to remind them they’ll be in Bali. At the moment, we’re at an impasse.

 

The impetus for the trip is to help my parents move out of a house they’ve sold after more than three decades. It’s not on Bainbridge, though- it’s in northern Michigan. Whether there’s mud or ice waiting, I’m sure it will only take a few minutes to remind me why the tropics are so heavenly and just how lucky we are! But I’ve missed seeing my family, and it will be special to be with them and lend a hand. Hopefully I’ll be able keep myself from getting lost in the nostalgia and offer some meaningful assistance, since the purpose is to get the place packed up.

 

Traveling will give me a chance for a little blog catch-up. Over the last couple of months, our lack of internet access put the blog a bit out of sync with real time. I still write pretty much every day, but only schedule posts when we can get online- until recently, those were often big gaps. The time away will give blog and life a chance to get re-synced again, since we’ve now reached “connected Indonesia”- every hilltop seems to have a cell tower.

 

Although I can’t wait to be stateside, I’ll admit to being a little apprehensive. How much has the place I call “home” changed? How much have I changed? I considered trying to surprise a few old friends by just showing up, but had the horrifying thought that they might not recognize me. I’ll try worry about things that are a little more in my control, like whether I can stuff three weeks worth of cold weather clothes into a carry-on backpack. I suspect I’ll be looking for luggage when we get to Bali...

March 25, 2013

More underwater loveliness

We had a lot of comments on the underwater photos, so I thought I'd share a few more. Raja Ampat was simply breathtaking. Several people asked what kind of camera we use- ours is a Canon Powershot D20. It's just a nice point-n-shoot, not a fancy setup (but I learned that if you're fancy you probably use "lights"!). But we were lucky to be in Raja Ampat at the best time of year, and enjoy sparkling water clarity.

Our friend Dan took some really spectacular photos. These are a few of my favorites (thank you Dan!). He's a pro freediver, so was able to get down and hang out with some of the really cool stuff that we didn't see closer to the surface. Freediving isn’t just about getting down deep- it’s about being able to stay below the surface, and look around for a while. We weren’t in any crazy depths, so the photos are all done with natural light- it's not super deep. But the difference is that Dan can hang onto his air and take the time to explore when he’s down, and as a result saw some really beautiful things. As these show, his specialty is macro.


First, my favorite: just look at this amazing thing! I can’t remember (and maybe we didn’t know?) for sure if it’s eggs or an anemone. I think the conservation crew saw this and speculated that it was a clutch of cuttlefish eggs. Whatever it is (anyone? Buehler?), it’s gorgeous.



After an expedition underwater, we liked to sit with our field guides and look up the plants and animals we’d seen. This one took some hunting: what we thought was a sponge turned out to be a variety of clam. Makes sense once you know it, but puzzled us at the time.



The variety of anemones was incredible… this is just one variant.



These feathery fans are graceful, but don’t touch, or you’ll be in for a shock! I grazed one by accident, and that was enough to make sure it didn’t happen again. We usually wear stinger suits (for sun protection as much as anything), but the water was so warm here that we were sometimes just in skins.



These beautiful organ pipes stretched up to the sun. This group was covered in worms. To give you a sense of the scale, I believe those worms are as big around as my index finger. Yes, that thing is really big!



A folded crinoid, captured with beautiful delicacy.


March 22, 2013

Eating our way through Ambon

We’re told that Ambon is looking for a moniker. We met a woman who had worked to promote Ambon as a tourist destination, who said there was some tension between the candidate slogans of “city of music” and “the waterfront city.” We’re not sure how well either of those apply, because for us Ambon will be remembered as “the city of delicious food”.

There was plenty of time to find local haunts, and we had incredible meals at the little rumah makan (restaurants) near the city market.

Rumah Makan Padang 'Ayah'
Arranging fish servings for the window display

I seem to have a lot of photos like this one, capturing the a great spread just before we attack it. These restaurants actually put all of their dishes on your table, then only charge you for those you eat. Dangerous.

Oh yes
Indonesian food is amazing. Oh my goodness, it is just delicious.

We had to try the Muluku staple called pepeda, a porridge goo made from sago (which is made from the pounded heart of tree trunks- hungry yet?). Our new shoreside family made dinner for us one evening so that we could try it along with a range of regional dishes. It’s a good thing we had the other dishes, because pepeda- as one of our shoreside fam referred to it- has all the eating qualities of glue. But the rest? Amazing. Fresh fish with a spicy soy sauce, a heavily spiced fish stew, and more.

Dinner with Pak Hani
Local treats from pepeda (sago mush) to ikan kuah kuning (fish in a turmeric/almond stew)

Here's a charming image of the glue pepeda. Mmmm. Trees.

Jamie tries pepeda

Some indulgences were decidedly less local. At the fancypants mall, the kids inhaled bowls of frozen yogurt. Mmmm…. And then we discovered that the Indonesian restaurant upstairs made chocolate milkshakes and French fries. Trouble!

I was lucky to have another very memorable cooking lesson on board Totem. A conversation with a new friend about how nutmeg is used for savory cooking turned into a lazy weekend afternoon extravaganza on Totem (with their extended family, natch) so they could provide hands-on instruction. Our recipe: Babi Kecap, pork in a rich sauce. It’s somewhat unusual in that pork is less commonly eaten in this predominantly Muslim country, but this region has a significant Christian population...although it took some work to track down the pork. I did the grocery shopping, they brought the knowledge (and their families), and we made a day of it. More, please!

Babi kecap
My fantastic cooking teachers, Ina and Erlyna 

Babi Kecap

2 kg fatty pork (you do not buy "cuts" in the public market. You get a lump of meat)
~ 1/3 c kecap manis (sweet Indonesian soy sauce: sorry, no substitute)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
Salt, oil
~20 cloves garlic
1 med yellow onion
1 bunch green onions / scallions
1 to 2 whole nutmegs

Wash pork, drain well, and cut it into bit-sized pieces. Set aside in a bowl. Add about a tablespoon each of kecap manis and soy sauce, a generous pinch of salt, and about 10 cloves of minced garlic. Stir and let stand for 15-30 minutes.

Chop half of onion and mince 10 cloves of garlic. Fry in a bit of oil (we used coconut) until fragrant, then add pork. Grate in lots of nutmeg- we used about half of a large nut- than splash on a couple of tablespoons of kecap manis. Eventually this will color the sauce to a dark brown color.

Stir over medium heat. My cooking teachers periodically added a bit more kecap manis until they were satisfied with the color and quantity of the sauce. As the pork cooked and rendered fat, this became like a very dark runny caramel.

When pork is nearly done, grate in more nutmeg- we used almost a whole clove. When it is tender and nearly complete, add the other half of the onion (rough chopped into crescent slivers) and scallions (chopped). Cook until these are wilted and mixed in. Cool slightly, then serve with rice.

We ate the entire batch before I could get an "after" photo, and trust me, "before" photos of raw pork just aren't that exciting. I’m told this is even more delicious the second day, but we haven’t made it last that long yet!

New friends
Ina, Erlyna and relatives heading home after our afternoon on Totem

March 20, 2013

Time for a break: parking in Ambon

Sunset- Ambon inner harbor
Peaceful sunsets from Ambon's inner harbor

We've been pressing to keep Totem moving for months. The pressure started before we left Australia: trying to sort out paperwork for departure, making sure we had everything we needed, and then the constant need to make progress so we wouldn't be caught in the adverse conditions of the changing monsoon season. For the first time in many moon, we didn't have to be somewhere, and didn't have the pressure to put miles under the keel in any particular direction.

And so we parked, happily, and enjoyed Ambon for a while. They have two rainy seasons per year, and one ends in January, so we had nice timing to enjoy calm conditions and sunny days.

Ambon was a big cruising destination for years, but the number annual visiting yachts diminished after religious riots started in 1999, dragging on for several years of chaos and senseless deaths. It’s entirely peaceful now, and a handful of boats still do the annual race from Darwin, but the bulk of the international fleet follows the rally path- and their route through Indonesia now goes elsewhere. It’s too bad, because we found a lot to enjoy about Ambon.

We had a sweet anchorage in the inner harbor, off the village of Lateri. Unlike the anchorage off Amahusu used by the rally, in here it's flat as a pancake, good holding, easy depth, and lovely sunset views.



Totem
Totem in the board-flat anchorage of Ambon's inner harbor 

A family on shore let us use their waterfront for a dinghy landing, and became friends in the process. Returning from jaunts to their peaceful neighborhood became like homecoming. They have a "American style" dinner on Totem one evening, and we are treated to a smorgasbord of local dishes at their home on another.



Pak Hani and family
Pak Hani and family on Totem


The market was an easy ride into town. OK, I didn't take these becaks shown below, I took the standard-issue minivan public transportation known as the bemo. But wow, they were awfully photogenic.

becaks

I love the public markets, which are a riot of super fresh produce, sweet smells of overripe fruit, people and vehicles going in every direction at once. This stall is pretty typical, although the staff is usually a little older.

Pasar Mardika

A new-ish mall was a short bemo ride in the other direction. It’s complete with air conditioning, a Starbucks knock-off, and overloud music blasted from clothing stores. A little jarring, and a little welcome. The children loved getting frozen yogurt at J.Co, I loved finding muesli at the supermarket. Something for everyone.

ACC shopping
A counterpoint to the public market

We played tourist, and tootled around the island with a car and driver hired through our new shoreside family: visiting the restored ruins of a Dutch fort, a very old (ca 1400) mosque, and hiking to what we thought was a caldera... but turned out to be a natural dam project.

Sweet ladies at the mosque 
Snagged for photos again...with military wives at the historic mosque

It was a break. We didn't keep a schedule. There were days we lazed around the boat reading instead of tackling things we could/should do. But the decompressing? check. Catching up on life? check. Happy family? check.

March 18, 2013

Misool Eco resort: a slice of heaven

The Misool Eco Resort is nestled in another string of islands below our nook in the karst maze. We’ve heard about this beautiful place from other cruisers who stopped by in the last few years, and were excited to spend a few days here and see it for ourselves.

Misool Eco's dive center
The beautiful Misool Eco Resort

We hoped to arrive at slow time when there would be a mooring available (they have several used for their supply boats and dive tenders). Some email attempted to coordinate but it really came down to luck that our arrival timing coincided with a week of fewer guests, so we could visit and enjoy some of the facilities without feeling like a burden.

Totem on a resort mooring
We could snorkel their fantastic house reef by just jumping over the side...


The resort has been instrumental in establishing conservation practices in the area and funding much of the work. It’s impressive to learn about their commitment to the healthy reef- if only more places could be like this! If the underwater grandeur of the area weren’t enough, the resort itself is aesthetically stunning and staffed by a sweet crew. We joined their guests for a “Manta Masterclass” presentation by the dive master, and learned so much about these spectacular creatures.

Dan treats us to dinner, so we get a beautiful meal (our veggies are thin after a week) and no dishes. The restaurant staff completely charms us, and the children are completely charmed by Darwin- a resident bird, who will happily steal your chips. I am already putty in the hands of the director’s babe, who in addition to being deliciously cute is the first wee one in a while that doesn’t cry at my scary white skin.

Darwin tries Siobhan's hair
Darwin: cute but naughty


Evening relaxing
Relaxing before dinner at the resort


We only had three days to enjoy this magical place before timelines required us to press on for Ambon for Dan’s flight home, although I think Dan was at least a little tempted to look at changing up his travel plans to try and squeak out an extra bit of time here. Somehow, his 10 days with us have flown by. It was really tough to depart, and we left very seriously thinking we might make a U-turn from Ambon and sail the 2-3 days back to Misool.

Our prior anchorages in Raja Ampat were conservation areas, but not no-take zones. Here there is no fishing at all, and the difference is immediately apparent. The fish weren't skittish of us, more often they were even curious. The average fish size was significantly larger than anything we have seen in a very, very long time. And oh, the turtles. So many turtles I lost count! Finally we had the routine appearance of sharks as well. They may make many people uncomfortable, but they are the essential hallmark of a healthy reef environment. Even if that one blacktip was a serious PITA and chased us out one day...

There were other pretties to enjoy. Like this gorgeous nudibranch. I love nudibranchs.

The awesome nudibranch

Also gorgeous, but evil: the crown of thorns

Evil incarnate

I swear I did not order this image. It just happened.


Idolize Moorish


You never get tired of turtles

So pretty

More underwater awesomeness on the Totem Flickr stream.

March 15, 2013

Southern Raja Ampat’s underwater drama


Sunflower?
Raja Ampat underwater is one stunning tableau after another


Raja Ampat is famous for its marine life: it is alleged to be among the most biodiverse in the world. Every time we put our heads underwater we are reminded of the incredible drama below the surface. Finally, I can share some of it here! After our new underwater camera died the first time we used it underwater in PNG, we have a replacement. In the big duffle full of goodies that Dan has brought us from the states is a new underwater camera, a gift from my brother. I cannot stop taking photos with it and am so happy to finally have an underwater camera in hand again. Dan has brought his as well, and between us we are truly snap-happy.

Dan is a freediving instructor, so he’s been helping us with tips and information to safely improve our diving. Are we lucky or what? Don’t worry Mum, I’ll still probably never get much below 30 feet, even with professional help! Niall can manage over 40 now, confirmed he retrieved a lost piece of gear from the bottom in another anchorage. The girls are getting more comfortable, but have no depth ambitions, which is fine. We are never going to be hardcore freedivers, but since Totem doesn’t have the room or budget for scuba gear, it’s great to learn more about how to get down and enjoy beauty of the world underwater.

Like this.

A feather grabs the light.

more pretty

Dan hovers behind a free-swimming crinoid.

free swimming crinoid = COOL

The turtles never get old. Never, ever, ever.


Turtles never get old


Clownfish are adorable. #fact

Clownfish are adorable

Have I mentioned the adorable anenome fish?

Clownfish are adorable


It's just that they have so much personality! Yes, they are fish. Yes, I said personality. TRUST ME.

Clownfish are adorable

March 13, 2013

Moving aboard your floating home

There is no “right” way to move aboard and go cruising: the books and blogs are full of different stories that reflect individual approaches and circumstances. Our story is based on a joint dream, years and thousands of miles in our starter cruising boat before buying Totem, delaying our move aboard until shortly before departure, and introducing our plans to most mostly to ourselves until a couple of months before we left.


We might have been a little busy re-configuring down below
By the time we cut the docklines, we had logged so much time in the Salish Sea between the two boats that our little family felt very much at home afloat. What we nearly missed, though, was making sure our boat really felt homey.

It took a little knock upside the head for me to realize how important this was, too. During the couple of years before we each left to go cruising, every now and again my friend Toast and I would duck our day to day responsibilities and sneak off to talk Boaty Stuff together. We were both counting down our timelines for embarking on the cruising life, and since I wasn’t terribly public about our plans, it was invaluable to have a friend to chew through whatever pre-departure questions or challenges loomed largest.  So we’d head for our favorite Thai hole-in-the-wall, and hash it out.

I remember talking over pad sie ew one afternoon about a recent experience she and Dr C had. They we joined another family of prospective cruisers on a daysail on their boat to talk about mutual plans to head south and frolic in warm water for a while. After a few hours together it was her assessment that they weren’t getting far. Cruising is a partnership, but it was clear that the partnership was not in accord on the game plan. The marker? A sterile boat that had all the charm and personalization of a band-aid.

It made me think: what effort was invested to make Totem into home? Our land-house was full of personalization- in the room colors, the artwork, the custom pieces or family that made it unique and special for our family. But Totem… Totem had none of these things.

She nailed something I hadn't considered. Maybe it’s because Jamie and I both come to cruising from a racing background. Fitting out a cushy cruising boat was a bit of an adjustment! Some families, like the very interesting looking Anasazi crew, make stripped down racing boats work. More likely, though, it's because we were so  focused on functional specs and adaptations. Jamie reconfigured the aft cabin berth (so our bed could accommodate snuggly little co-sleepers without getting too cramped). He rebuilt the portside seating, so we could fit five people comfortably without having to extend the table to the starboard side (which blocked all through traffic to the forward cabins). Somehow in the midst of all our improvements we were missing an essential element: you can’t make a boat into a home on practicalities alone. And the truth was, I simply hadn't thought about it.

We found our way, of course. Some very personal artwork. One of our antique maps. Pretty fabric in cabins, new settee covers in the same color scheme.

decking the halls

We figured it out: familiar art, stockings from home, tinsel from Mexico

Of course, more things come over time- I love looking at the gorgeous nautilus shells we found in PNG, the triton we traded for, the pandanus mats on the cabin sole. You’ll add things over time: artwork from places you’ve visited- I love looking at Ceilydh's collection in their main cabin.

With 20/20 hindsight, thank goodness for being prodded to remember the softer side of moving aboard, and thank goodness for Girlfriend Time.

Click on the monkey's fist to read others bloggers on this topic.
The Monkey's Fist  

March 11, 2013

Crazy anchoring in Raja Ampat

Anchoring in most of Raja Ampat has been challenging to say the least. Depths of 100 feet and more are common; so are strong currents. We experienced this both in the island north of Sorong, and south near Misool. The deep water plus strong current is a difficult combination, especially when you throw in the squalls that this equatorial zone mixes into daily weather. But as a friend of ours likes to say- if this were easy, everyone would be doing it!

When the conservation team we met near Misool offered to guide us to a secure spot with good protection- and a mooring- we happily accepted their offer.

Misool conservation crew
They took pictures of us on their cameras & phones, so I had mine taken with them

The entrance is so wedged between tall limestone islets that we wrote it off as being much too small when we passed it by previously. The tiny channel does open up more than we realized, and under their guidance we find ourselves inside a maze of karst (limestone) islands. It is absolutely stunning.

Misool conservation crew
You want us to go in there?

The recommended mooring turns out to be inadequate- we might use it for our dinghy, but not Totem. The anchorage they have in mind is also very deep- the best we find is still about 130’. Then, the area is so small, that even putting out all our scope (and still being just shy of 3:1) doesn’t makes sense - we’d risk hitting the rock walls of the islets around. So it’s lines to shore: two from the bow, one from the stern.

No anchor- just lines to shore
Too deep to anchor, we only have lines- with chafe gear- holding Totem to shore

This little nook proves to be a haven. It’s a safe place where the kids can run a cycle of jumping off the boat to swim for hours while we explore the reef nearby…a haven from the wind and seas just a short distance away, outside our little karst maze.

Tucked away
Totem tucked into a little nook. Reefs prevent passage between the visible islets

We are just a few boat lengths away from reef walls where the karst islands plunge straight down into the water. During the days to come, we range around the small archipelago by dinghy to explore for more places to stick our heads underwater. Again and again, we keep coming back to our little parking spot to snorkel. EVERYTHING is good, but you can't beat just jumping in off the mother ship.

March 8, 2013

Misool’s conservation crew

Balubulol fishing camp
This little island is home to camps for itinerant fishermen and a resident conservation crew

We’re anchored for mere minutes before the dinghy is splashed and we head out for our first round of exploration in southern Raja Ampat. Beaching on the island we’ve anchored adjacent to, the girls take off finding cuttlefish bones and shells. There are signs that fishermen overnight here- a rough platform that could double as a table, and the remains of a fish smoking setup. Along the beach are turtle tracks. We follow them eagerly to a large divot in the sand. Are there eggs below? The tracks are visible, but not perfectly fresh- it’s rained at least once since they were made. How many weeks could the eggs incubate? We resolve to do our homework on the boat and revisit the site.

Underwater, the eelgrass gives way to coral heads, and little gems begin popping out. A seahorse as it bumbles along near the bottom. I’ve wanted to see one for years- one that wasn’t behind aquarium glass, anyway. Finally, here it is! It is trailing seaweed and seems unwell, so we give it peace instead of stressing it further. We find out later that this kind of “playing dead” is a survival technique… the seahorse was fine, just trying to shake us off. Mission accomplished.

We hear the high pitched whine of an outboard from underwater, and pop up to see a fiberglass boat speeding heading towards us. It’s a little unnerving. This turns out to be full of the local conservation staff. They’ve been to Totem and met Jamie, but the language barrier was too great to accomplish whatever they wanted, so he’s come to collect me to translate. OK, no problem- we all head back to Totem.

It turns out they’re just checking up to make sure we all have the park fees paid for Raja Ampat and needed to see our paperwork from Sorong. The team alternates staff in the islands with staff in a village back on Misool, and monitors the conservation area. Once we establish that everything is in order and answer their survey questions they lighten up a little. We hadn’t seen many smiles at first, but now they’re pleasant and curious about us. Where are we from? How long have we been sailing? Where else have we been? They offer tips for where we should go in the mass of surrounding island, and tell us where to find a mooring nearby. The mooring sounds like a good alternative to our somewhat exposed, deep anchorage. We will stay the night but plan to move the next day.

During the following days, we get to know this crew and see them morph from the grim officials we met to a bunch fun-loving guys stuck out in the sticks. They invite us to their camp for dinner. It’s a rough setup of plastic tarp lean-tos (how do they manage with the torrential squalls?) on a small island with a fishing camp. We bring rice, vegetables and chocolate cake- they procure and barbeque some delicious fish. It’s a sweet and memorable evening.

Misool conservation crew
Dinner at the crew's camp

We reciprocate, and the next day they’re invited to Totem for dinner. This gets a little comical. At first, there are seven who will come. Late in the afternoon, one of the guys arrives with a bunch of fish for us to fry up, and he tells us there will be a few more- maybe eleven? Then another boat of conservation staff arrives, and the numbers swell to seventeen by the time we have dinner! They have brought a bucket of fish, we cook up a small mountain of rice, and everyone gets to try “American” apple pie. Somehow there is enough food for all.


We give them tours on the boat and I try to answer questions. They are not the usual questions, but with a lot of dictionary references, I learn how to describe our engine properly in bahasa. We run through photographs of things we’ve seen underwater, and they help us identify the more mysterious sightings (squid eggs- I would never have guessed) and learn the Indonesian names. By the end of the evening, I have blown a mental gasket with all the attempts at rough interpretation and can barely speak.


We're only around the crew for a handful of days, but it's time for group photos by the time we move on. Great memories!

Fast friends with the conservation crew


March 6, 2013

South to Misool

Our route is planned to take us through islets in the southern portion of Raja Ampat. We have a week and a half before Dan flies out of Ambon, 350 miles to our southwest, and want to make the most of it. First, though, we simply have to get away from New Guinea and down to the islands! Because charts are terrible and all navigation must be visual, the trip is divided in two parts: our first day takes us through the channels of waterways south from Sorong; the second day will open up into the Seram Sea and take us across to the islands off Misool.

Motoring through the windless channel that runs south and west from Sorong, we skate cleanly through a line of afternoon squalls. The kids wait very, very patiently but they know they have a host of goodies sent from the states in Dan’s luggage. Finally- we are through the rain and tackle the duffel. It’s like Christmas, but bigger! Their grandparents have sent a treats from books to games to clothes.

Gifts from home
Dan's here! Southbound from Sorong, hanging out in the cockpit

The charts are bad and the nights are inky, so towards the end of the day we pick a spot to anchor overnight. There's a quiet spot well outside the channel, although the one or two fishing boats that pass by per hour don’t constitute much in the way of traffic. Some of them swing closer to Totem to check us out.

South of Sorong
I'm the king of the world!

Every once in a while, a village emerges from the mangroves. I’m so curious to know more about them. Who lives in there- are they Papuan, or transmigrated populations? Are they primarily subsistence lifestyles or is there some commercial work here? It’s hard to imagine what, other than a few signs of the (un)natural extraction occurring.

South of Sorong
The occasional small village with homes like this on the water...but not many people

The current through here gets strong: thankfully, we haven’t had too much against us yet. Unfortunately, we expect foul current for most of the next the morning. It’s a new moon, but even if we had full moonlight we wouldn’t travel through here at night. There are no navigation lights and the charts are inaccurate. With the shallow bottom and shifting shoals here, it’s not worth the risk. Rows of subtle buoys strung by the hundreds from a pearl farm around the bend remind us why we only want to continue on with good visibility! So we drop the hook, and enjoy a sunset while current swirls in whirlpools next to Totem.

South of Sorong
On the move in the morning, we manage to avoid the worst of the current by staying toward the sides of channels. Back eddies sometimes even give us a little push. We worried that the distance we need to make before our rather uncertain anchorage could start to push daylight hours, so it’s a relief not to face much foul current.

It turns out we are grateful for the extra daylight hours to anchor. We explore several islets and bays before finding a manageable depth. It’s frustrating to see a picture-perfect bay, with the crescent curve of gorgeous white sand beach - fronted by tropical blues of the reef, backed by the lush green mountainside. But it’s very deep, too deep to anchor- until the bottom comes up rapidly to… much too shallow! It’s a challenge to find a spot but the exploring is fun, and we scope out several spots to return to by dinghy…and rest.